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Dec 18, 2004 7:36 pm

Recommended Reading ...

At Mode for Caleb, Caleb McDaniel has the first of a two part series which compares Frederick Douglass' Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave (1845) with his My Bondage and My Freedom (1855).

Otherwise, I recommend two pieces from the Boston Globe:
James Carroll's"Afraid to Look in the Moral Abyss," looks at the horror that Iraq has become; and Matthew Price's"Weary of the Leisure Class" meditates on the way Thorstein Veblen's ideas help us understand contemporary America.

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Richard Henry Morgan - 12/15/2004

I see your third and fourth points. The inclusion of innocents and international relations in a calculus is not morally unreasonable, yet doesn't necessarily touch the entirely strict question of the effectiveness of taking down al Qaeda (without assumptions about international relations and their role in taking down al Qaeda). On the fourth, I don't think we're going to suppress terrorism in Iraq. It will be there after we leave, and the Iraqi people will endorse it or suppress it as they see fit. On the general question of popular terrorist groups, I agree -- nobody will ever entirely suppress popular terrorist groups.

On your first point I was remiss in not making clear that I was responding faithfully and accurately to Carroll's own words (rather than a construal of a policy expressed in those words) expressed elsewhere, and which he extends to Afghanistan: "If we had pursued al Qaeda in a strictly defined context of law enforcement, we would be much further along in dismantling al Qaeda ..."
I think one has to advance a long way toward general paresis to buy the notion that a strictly defined law enforcement model (that is, one that left the Taliban and al Qaeda intact in Afghanistan, pending the law arm of international law and sanctions, with their dubious efficacies) would have hastened the dismantling of al Qaeda. I thought I was being charitable in attributing that particularly clueless view of Carroll's to the effects of bong-water.

On your second point, it is a possibility that we failed to gauge the size of the problem, and act accordingly, and that that accounts for the failure of the law enforcement approach. In any case, our failures surely don't count as evidence for the efficacy of law enforcement.

Jonathan Dresner - 12/15/2004

I disagree, but I think we're talking about different things.

I think you're exaggerating the case against the law enforcement model in two ways. First by using the "exclusively law enforcement" label, which dramatically understates the importance (and intent on the part of its proponents) of intelligence and the appropriate use of force (e.g. in Afghanistan against the incontrovertibly guilty Taliban regime). Second, while I would agree that our anti-terror efforts before 2001 were flawed, it's also the case that the extent of the problem was still unclear. Third, it's unclear to me that our "non-law enforcement" response has been as effective as it needs to be to justify the harm being done to innocents and our international relationships, both of which would be minimized under a law enforcement approach. Fourth, and I'm going to stop here just because I don't have time to go on, the British experience in North Ireland suggests to me that even a war model with an efficient an aggressive state at the head is unlikely to succeed entirely in suppressing terrorism, or even a specific terrorist group if it is sufficiently popular.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/15/2004

I don't, in fact, think there was a "religious values" question on the exit poll. In fact, the significant role attributed to "moral values" stems from the fact that "moral values" was one of several options offered the people polled -- in other words, it was an artifact of the polling method.

As I understand it, in the final analysis the religious right voted in the same proportion as previously (whatever the appeal made), just as the youth vote was the same proportion despite the Dems' emphasis on it. How one gets from that to "religious values" were "the key" is beyond me -- much as I agree that Repubs made appeals on that basis. Certainly those appealed to on that basis were a key constituent of the Repubs, but "the key" to the election? I'd say underdetermined by the evidence -- nearly as underdetermined as the view that an exclusively law enforcement approach would have been optimal in taking down al Qaeda.

Jonathan Dresner - 12/15/2004

Mr. Morgan,

While you're right that the "religious values" question on the exit polling has been overrated, to reject religion as a key issue in the campaign is to ignore, among other things: the Bush campaign's coded and overt messages to the religious right (which have already been matched by post-election decisions favoring this constituency); the Kerry campaign's decision to override the candidate's longstanding public reticence about his own faith and practice; the use of gay marriage as a wedge issue and voter-turnout device; the intense public perception of the religio-political divide, which makes public identification of party and religion a matter of fundamental identity resulting from the constant drumbeat of red/blue comparisons centering on religion, but not on values.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/15/2004

Karl Rove seems to be in agreement with James Carroll about the "religious values" thingy; and the White House of your choice seems far more receptive sermonically than you seem to be -- this morning, at least.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/15/2004

There are respectable criticisms of the decison to go to war. There are respectable criticisms of the way the war has been conducted. There is no evidence whatsoever (and in fact, evidence to the contrary) that an exclusively law enforcement approach had or would take down al Qaeda. The fact that Carroll is anti-war doesn't somehow magically transform his invention of efficacious "religious values" or his invention of effective exclusively law enforcment approaches into fact. I hope that is so clearly stated that you can't twist it into something it isn't, nor change my subject. If you choose to dispute what I've said, by all means go ahead. Otherwise spare me the sermon.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/15/2004

Richard, If you must defend the administration's misappropriation of resources from a war on terrorism to regime destruction and "nation-building" in Iraq, which we were promised in 2000 wasn't on Bush's agenda, that's _your_ heavy burden.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/14/2004

I thought my point was so clear it couldn't be misconstrued. I'll be clearer yet. There is no basis for the claim that "religious values" were the key to the election. That is a fabrication from the febrile mind of Carroll. Moreover, I'd say that with the African Embassy bombings, the Cole attack, and 9/11, the law enforcement approach to al Qaeda was a demonstrated failure. That Carroll somehow thinks there is evidence that a law enforcement approach was working, or would work, is merely evidence that he is clueless. I did like your attempt, though, to transform my criticism of the sufficiency of law enforcement to take down al Qaeda, into a criticism of the importance of law enforcement.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/14/2004

It isn't clear what your point is here, Richard: Your objection is to Carroll's anti-war stance, his observation in re "religious values", or the importance of law enforcement? Surely you're not still bong-high on the administration's peculiar combination of enthusiasm for war and chronic underpreparation/understaffing of it.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/14/2004

I've never got quite the kick out of Carroll that anti-war types seem to get. His latest article has it that we've just been through an election where "religious values" were a key. Where did that come from? In a previous interview, he offered the counterfactual conclusion that we would be farther along in dismantling al Qaeda had we restricted ourselves to the law enforcement approach. This is the kind of analysis you get when you mix bourbon with bong water.

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