After some delay, I think I’m ready to start posting here. I sort of got distracted by a wasteful little flame war in comments at IOZ
Before going further, I want to comment on that briefly. I don’t hold any real animosity towards those guys, despite the fact that they were real assholes to me. They are, after all, right on the big question, even though I (increasingly) disagree with their ideas about how to get to where we need to be. In fact, I think that the flames directed at me had a positive effect – it helped clarify my thinking, and ended a journey down a blind alley.
Now IOZ and I (mostly) agree on what I, at least, consider the central issue: that the vast majority of citizens and politicians of the United States have a distorted and actively harmful (to put it mildly) view of American’s role in the world (I’ll say “American Exceptionalism" as a kind of shorthand, but of course it’s much more than that) that has led to a series of horrific interventions in other nations, as well as a serious inroads in our civil liberties at home. We also agree that this mindset has become institutionalized in many harmful ways, and that both political parties are deeply implicated in it. We share, ultimately, a belief in the wisdom regarding foreign affairs articulated by George Washington in his farewell address.
We disagree about some of the details of that picture, but, more fundamentally, we disagree about what to do about it. While IOZ can be maddenly vague about what he thinks we should do about it, he is very clear that (1) he believes that there is no hope at all for the problem to be addressed within the context of the current major parties, and (2) any effort to do so is morally compromised, conferring upon the actor doing so responsibility for the negative actions of his or her chosen party (well, actually the actions of both parties, since he sees no meaningful distinction between the two).
I feel differently, for a number of reasons. I may talk about those reasons a bit later, but, for reasons which should soon become apparent, those reasons are not likely to be the focus of what I do on this blog.
Anyway, to get back to the IOZ dispute. I was accused of not “getting it’ on more than one occasion. That criticism was, I think, unfair, or at least unfair as it was articulated. I understood where they were coming from. What I didn’t get was that they had no interest in debating about
whether it made sense to try to work within the current parties. Now, lest you think that I’m accusing them of being “close minded” or “unwilling to look at the evidence,” I most certainly am not. The fact is, that, while all of us should be willing to question even core beliefs when the contrary evidence is strong enough, there are only so many hours in the day, and there are certain subjects where we have given a lot of thought already to the evidence and arguments on the other side, and have no interest in revisiting the issue on a daily basis. I know that I don’t feel the need to, for example, debate the corrosive neocon world view; I’ve examined the arguments and the evidence, thank you, and I reject their world view as (1) inconsistent with reality, and (2) monstrously destructive to the point of insanity. Similarly, the advisability of trying to work within the current parties is one of those areas for the IOZ crew. And that’s fine, though IMO it makes them pretty irrelevant and useless when it comes to actually doing something to change the way the United States looks at the world. In any event, as I said in my penultimate comment in that thread, I was wasting their time and mine by commenting there.
This dispute actually increased my faith in trying to deal with this issue through the current system, while still recognizing what a long way there is to go, and acknowledging just how bad both parties currently are on these issues. But it also clarified my thinking about what I want to do with this blog. I’m not going to spend much time trying to articulate why we need to work through the present parties, warts and all. Not that I don’t think that I have some pretty compelling reasons for doing so; I think I do. But, given my limited resources, I’d rather spend them constructively, which means (1) trying to convince people who still think in terms of American exceptionalism why we should adopt a radically more narrow view of our role in the world, and (2) how we should go about bringing that eventuality about. It doesn’t make sense for me to spend my time futilely banging my head against the wall and trying to convince the IOZ crew to change their tactics; ultimately, they aren’t the problem, and really there just aren’t that many of them.
With that out of the way, hopefully I’ll post something a little more substantive later today, a riff on this Glenn Greenwald post
: re-reading some earlier IOZ threads, I am still a bit mystified as to why things went so far south so fast in that linked thread; previously there seemed to be quite a bit more willingness to at least debate the issue of the wisdom of working within the current Democratic party. In retrospect, the turning point seems to have been my Nader comment. I suppose that that particular argument has so many negative connotations in some people's minds that it poisoned the rest of the debate.
But really this is neither here nor there - the bottom line remains the same. Engaging in arcane disputes on IOZ's blog isn't a productive use of my time.