New on NewsReal – Ex-Carter Official Blames Neocons for "Trapping" Obama Into Acting in Libya

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

The Left has a problem. Attacking countries that haven’t attacked us first is a major no-no, but the president who’s initiated the latest campaign in Libya, Barack Obama, is their standard-bearer, not a warmongering right-winger. What to do?

On the Daily Beast, Leslie Gelb, Assistant Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter, has an analysis of the situation which liberals eager to give Obama cover might find useful: the neocons made him do it!

Neocons and liberal interventionists stampeded Obama into imposing a no-fly zone against Libya—despite the absence of vital U.S. interests there […]

The manufactured crisis in Libya is a prime case in point. No foreign states have vital interests at stake in Libya. Events in this rather odd and isolated land have little bearing on the rest of the tumultuous Mideast region. Also not to be dismissed, there are far, far worse humanitarian horrors elsewhere. Yet, U.S. neoconservatives and liberal humanitarian interventionists have trapped another U.S. president into acting as if the opposite were true.

Obama’s been “trapped” into ordering airstrikes? How?

Once this terrible duo starts tossing out words like “slaughter” and “genocide,” the media goes crazy. Then, the chorus begins to sing of heartless inaction by the U.S. president, blaming him for the deaths. White House common sense crumbles into insanity. The reason why neither President Obama nor his coalition partners in Britain and France can state a coherent goal for Libya is that none of them have any central interest in the outcome there. It is only when a nation has a clear vital interest that it can state a clear objective for war. They’ve all simply been carried away by their own rhetoric.

The drama usually starts when leaders and thinkers are seduced by the feeling they must do good. Sometimes, they essentially ignore the killings, even as deaths climb into the hundreds of thousands, as in Rwanda and millions as in Congo. Other times, the deaths number in the hundreds or so, as in Libya—and the guy doing the killing is someone they have good reason to dislike, and so they want to do good and stop him. It was just so with the irresistible trio of Senators—John McCain, John Kerry, and Lindsey Graham—and with their counterparts in foreign-policy land.

And just like that, interventionists insist there’s “no time to deliberate,” and the president helplessly complies with their calls to arms.

There are a couple problems with this theory, though. First, polls show that, on the whole, Americans approve of the action now that we’re in it, but their support is far from overwhelming. On Capitol Hill and among the Tea Party, the battle lines are similarly muddied, with politicians of Obama’s own party blasting him for intervening while his sworn enemies in the Tea Party are more open to the idea. So if Obama really thought getting involved was a bad move for the United States, there’s certainly enough political cover for him to withstand interventionist condemnation for staying out.

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

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A Word of Advice to the Non-Insane Paulites (if You Exist)

I’ve been in lots and lots of arguments about Ron Paul over the past several months, in which serious doubts as to the congressman’s credibility have been raised.  In response, I’ve been treated to all sorts of inane lectures of varying literacy on non-interventionism, blowback, history, progressivism, the Constitution, and, of course, those darn Jews.

What I’m almost never treated to are serious attempts to refute the facts backing up my claims (despite the fact that Paulites are pretty adamant that I’m “slandering” their prophet).  For instance, when I argue that Paul presents a biased, misleading view of the Founders’ foreign policy views, they don’t bother to explain why my read of the evidence is incorrect, or put forth new evidence that would change the picture.  When I reveal that Ron and Rand misrepresent the facts surrounding Iran (as well as other facts about the War on Terror), they’re similarly silent on the details.

Here’s a tip: If you guys wanna be taken seriously as anything other than blind cultists, evangelizing with pre-scripted talking points isn’t gonna cut it; you have to honestly consider and respond to what people actually say about your guy.  When you try to change the topic, you’re not making dents in anything but your own credibility.

Strauss Derangement Syndrome?

There’s a discussion thread on Free Republic about one of my recent Paul-centric NewsReal posts, in which commenter Conimbricenses notes my background as a Hillsdale College student and concludes: “I bet he’s also one of Tom Krannawitter’s lapdogs…er…lapcats?”

First, some background: Thomas Krannawitter is a former Hillsdale political science professor, Claremont Institute fellow, and author of several books, most recently Vindicating Lincoln.  I have never taken one of his classes; hearing him speak briefly twice (once commemorating 9/11, another discussing the school’s DC internship program) and reading his latest book (which I thought was very good, though I would have liked more time spent on Lincoln’s exercise of executive power) are the full extent of my familiarity with him and his ideas.

Conimbricenses’s complaint sparks the following exchange:

EternalVigilance: And I’m sure you think it’s terrible that these kids would be influenced by someone who teaches respect for the Natural Law and adherence to the Constitution, right?

Conimbricenses: No. I think it’s terrible that kids are being misled about Natural Law and the Constitution by a pseudo-historian who has an amateur’s grasp of the subjects he purports to be teaching coupled with a near-religious affection for Straussian occultism.

Springfield Reformer: conimbricenses, would you kindly share with the rest of the class exactly what you think is wrong with the “Hillsdale” conception of natural law. That would, of course, require you to explain both their position and yours, and to render an academically sound proof that yours is the correct, “non-amateur,” version. And as the self-professed “professional” among us with respect to natural law theory, I fully expect your explanation to be completely free of ad hominem content. I wait with bated breath.

Conimbricenses: The “problem” with Hillsdale comes from the rapid growth of Straussian occultists there in recent decades. The current president, Larry Arnn, is a follower of this branch of thought and has regrettably populated the political science and philosophy faculties with many of his fellow travelers.

I call the Straussian variety they practice there “amateur” because it simply does not have what it takes to compete on a scholarly level at any place beyond the echo chamber of its own adherents. The stuff they peddle does poorly in the academic peer review process. It is justifiably shredded to pieces by scholars outside of the narrow Straussian occult whenever it pops its head over into the mainstream (witness this recent example, involving a very well known Straussian Hillsdale prof: http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jala/31.1/winger.html ) It doesn’t perform well in other universities – even sympathetic conservative ones – outside of an exceedingly small list of completely Straussian departments that are known for promoting their own from inside (Hillsdale and Claremont being the two prime examples). And in the practical sense, it tends to breed the very worst types of “conservative” government – the George W. Bush-style big spending neoconservative naively idealist “democracy building” variety that ruined the conservative brand name in the 2000’s and gave us our present state of affairs with Obama.

This isn’t the first time Claremont/Krannawitter/Strauss-phobia has arisen in response to my criticism of the Pauls; legend in his own mind “Marcus Brutus’s” complaints touched similar lines—though he couldn’t be bothered to explain how, I was supposedly a “golden-souled Straussian,” concerned “not for the good and preservation of our free society domestically, but instead, the Straussian’s ‘national greatness.’”

Of all the Paulites’ arguments, this one is among the strangest.  First, if sympathy for “George W. Bush-style big spending” exists among the Hillsdale faculty, I’ve yet to encounter it in my three years here.  Second, I have been exposed to the work of Leo Strauss (in particular, On Tyranny) in exactly one class (Classical Political Philosophy); if Straussian ideas—especially “national greatness”—are somehow coloring the school’s broader political science education, neither “Marcus” nor Conimbricenses has done anything to explain how (and the link Conimbricenses provides doesn’t seem to workUPDATE: link works now; hopefully I’ll get a chance to look over the essay over the next couple days). Third, in what I have read of Strauss (though I’m admittedly no expert), I have not encountered any sort of “national greatness” doctrine.

Thomas G. West (I know, another eeevil Claremont-ite) has an interesting look at Strauss’s foreign policy views, and the extent to which they impact “neoconservative” thought, here, in which West argues that “although there is some common ground, Strauss’s overall approach is quite different from that of Kristol, Kagan, and other prominent neoconservatives in and out of the administration.”  Whatever the truth about Strauss may be, this particular line of attack seems to reveal more about Paulite mindset than it does the rest of us.