Yes, I Like Killing Bad Guys: A reply to Duncan Black

The problem with Duncan "Atrios" Black is that he believes he knows what the real motivations of Conservatives are. For instance this from his blog today:

But, the more interesting question is why conservatives aren't jumping up and down about [Egypt's announcement that they will allow multi-party Presidential elections] . I think it's pretty obvious -- most aren't particularly concerned with spreading Democracy around the world. George Bush might actually be sincere in his new mission, though I don't think he has a deep grasp of what "democracy" is, but most of the rest of them aren't.

Republicans have never stopped being isolationist and anti-nation building (true of most of the US population, actually). They don't think tyranny leads to terrorism (nor am I claiming there's necessarily a strong connection), and don't really want to expend any treasure helping out "the other." What they do like is killing bad guys, and when George Bush says "spreading freedom and democracy" what they hear is "killing bad guys." They like killing "bad guys," and they're a bit lost without an enemy, so the actual spreading of democracy just doesn't excite them that much.

Duncan has caught the 'I know you better than you know yourself' disease so often seen on the hard right and hard left. He believes that we on the Right have ulterior motives--which is not so much different than my Buchannanite friends who believe the real motives of our Middle East policy is in bolstering Israel.

In fact, many of my friends on the Right think the same thing about the Left. They have ulterior motives--communism, world-government, whatever.

I suspect that Atrios is right to some extent. The ulterior motive for the war in Iraq was not the spreading of democracy, it was protecting national security. But arguing cause is not the same thing as arguing affect. Spreading democracy was never a reason to go to war, it is only the affect.

Further, unlike our friends on the Left we do like killing bad guys. That is to say, unlike Atrios I believe it is a moral imperetive to distinguish between killing bad guys and good guys. Kill all the bad guys, that's fine with me.

But asserting that the Right needs an enemy is a little weird. The Right no more needs and external enemy than the Left needs an internal enemy. Yes, the Right thinks that there are external threats to our national security--but to assert that we need them is to assert that these threats are not real.

Worse than that, it is to assert that they are made up for the sake of political expediency. That is paranoia.

As for Duncan's claim that the Right is not overly happy about the announcement that Egypt may hold multi-party elections, he makes that assertion based on a claim made by Matthew Yglesias in a post which praises Bush. Had either of them been paying attention they would have seen that a lot of Right bloggers had noticed and were engaged in some pretty heavy patting themselves on the back. Take for instance Glenn Reynolds and the moderate Jeff Jarvis.

Today's Right of center blogosphere word is: domino effect.

As far as I can tell, they really believe that Democracy will lead to less terrorism. Personally, I'm not so optimistic--but I have been wrong before.

The present stance of the Bush administration is, as far as I can tell, the same as that of Natan Sharanski. (ht: the semi-retired Allah)

Last, had the 'realitity based' community actually bothered to read what the Right's reaction was they would have seen that we too are cautiously optimistic about the success of democracy in Egypt. Today's Right blogosphere is abuzz with self-congratulations, I told you so's, and celebration as if the Berlin wall was coming down.

Unlike the Left, though, we are willing to give credit where credit is due. To imagine that the events unfolding in the Middle East would have happened without the Iraq invasion is to create a counter-factual devoid of all historical context.

Our motive in invading Iraq was not to begin the domino effect of democracy, however that is the result of our actions. Bush is responsible for this. And for this the neo-cons are celebrating--and rightly so.

Perhaps Duncan and Matthew ought to listen to what the Right is really saying, rather than doing a quick scan of The Corner for all things right-of-center as proof positive of what we are up to. If anything, the reason that the buzz over Egypt is so mild is that events in Lebanon and Syria have overshadowed them.

More importantly, the gang at Media Matters ought to rely less on the mind-reader Chomsky [who knows the real reasons why American foreign policy is what it is] for theoretical explanations into our motivations and and focus more on listenning to what we are actually saying. To do so might be a little more reality based.

Posted by: Rusty at 03:34 PM


1 Before Iraqi elections (let's just us that as a watershed mark): the Left says that democracy cannot be spread through illegal invasion, creating more enemies, more instability, it will never work

After Iraqi elections: the Left says that democracy is not what was intended anyway, and now it's about killing bad guys, which is impossible because we keep building instability by having democracies/democratic reforms

I admit it, I am confused. I have no idea where their logic is anymore, other than the need to build a tautology in which they can never be proven wrong.

Posted by: Wine-aholic at February 28, 2005 03:43 PM

2 And of course, everyone forgets about Afghanistan, unless it is about how we really knocked out the Taliban in order to build some oil pipeline. Because yeah, it had nothing to do with it being a safe harbor for al-Qaeda. I think the Left thought it would be a big graveyard for American forces and democracy would never work. And they are the reality based community?

Posted by: Wine-aholic at February 28, 2005 03:46 PM

3 As a liberal, I'll try to address some of your points:

"Our motive in invading Iraq was not to begin the domino effect of democracy, however that is the result of our actions. Bush is responsible for this. And for this the neo-cons are celebrating--and rightly so."

I disagree. It seems to me that the purpose of invading Iraq was to start a domino effect in the region. Most of the neo-cons (and people like Tom Friedman and Andrew Sullivan, who are sympathetic to the neo-con perspective) thought a democratic Iraq could serve as an example to the rest of the Middle East. For them, this- not the largely exaggerated fears of WMDs- was the major rationale.

Of course, to sell this to the American people, the Bush administration had to beef up intelligence assertions on Iraq's weapons programs beyond what was actually known. Nobody would have wanted to go war over some fruity "democracy promotion" scheme (see: Tom DeLay's reaction to Bill Clinton's war against Milosevic).

Posted by: Brad R. at February 28, 2005 04:32 PM

4 I should also add that some of the Administration's actions- notably its "revision" of the Geneva Conventions after 9/11- made me pretty skeptical of its sincerity in promoting democracy.

But since being re-elected, the Bushies have done a lot of things right: standing up to Putin in Ukraine, pressuring Egypt for more democratic reform, etc. So we'll see where this all heads. If Egypt becomes more democratic, if we see a separate Palestinian state emerge, if Syria leaves Lebanon... hell, I'll give credit where due...

Posted by: Brad R. at February 28, 2005 04:36 PM

5 "If Egypt becomes more democratic, if we see a separate Palestinian state emerge, if Syria leaves Lebanon... hell, I'll give credit where due..."

Why don't you buy a lottery ticket while you're at it?

Posted by: Venom at February 28, 2005 04:54 PM

6 Hey, I'm going with the liberal guy on this one . .

"Google" professor Tom Barnett, listen to his speech last year at the war college . . it's outstanding, but very insightful on the Middle East as well as long term views and policies.

GWB couldn't have sold the Democracy Domino thing if he'd had the salesmanship of a slick used car dealer . . it wouldn't have gotten to first base in Congress . . let alone get discussed or voted on! While I'm not saying anybody lied . . well, we are dealing with lawyers here! Probably just made the facts fit the sales pitch!

But it seems to be working better and faster than was expected . . Syria has one hand over it's ass now and if they can be kept on the defensive, things will change fast in that area. I believe Assad pissed in his Cherrios when they blew up that dude in Lebanon . . and it's a catalyst as well as the death of Arafat. But the footprint/domino thing is surely happening . . watch it happen!

Of course, you gotta know, those new democracies are going to be shaky as hell for years, and we're going to need to be there . . if we aren't, some other ashole will be!

Posted by: large at February 28, 2005 07:13 PM

7 I believe everyone is on track except, guess who as usual?
The master plan is working. Denying it is just hanging on with a losers mentality. Bush and company pulled this one out of the hat. Doesn't take a genius to see it. He won the election, he won the re-election, he won in Afghanistan, he won in Iraq. Lebanon will regain their freedom from Syrian oppression. He will soon take care of Syria and Iran. He and America has accomplished everything the liberal weenies said we couldn't. HAIL BUSH.
I get a kick out of loser mentalities. The latest, we couldn't take on Syria and Iran. We are spread too thin. News for you defeatists. There's a big difference between a police action and all out attack. We could take Syria in 1 day. Iran 3 days. The secret is to kick their asses and then pull back to Iraq. They start trouble again. You kick their asses again until they have no military machine left. The youth of Iran is begging to replace the idiotic moolas in charge. We wouldn't need to stay and make targets out of our troops. Just break the back of their government. If you call it that. Then the people of Iran will take care of the rest.

wine-holic, Brad R, large. All of you are correct. Sometimes the end justifies the means. We couldn't let the Islamofacists expand. The end would have been world war. If not tommorrow, then in 20 years when the moolas had nukes. The good guys are winning. It's obvious. Denying it is silly. The world will be a better safer place. If we Americans get a little richer, so be it. We paid the price. Why not?

Months ago I said a Mac Donalds in every city in the middle east. Skin tight jeans on Arabic teenagers and American music played on their stero's. Vemon said NO WAY. Time will tell. I believe I've got a winner.

Just think. Less than four years until these same losers will be shouting how great a president Hillary Clinton will be.
Ah, but the Jedi knights will again be here to turn back the forces of evil.
Vemon, I invite you to join the winners. Come on man, give it up. It's more fun on the bright side. The dark side always loses. Don't you go to the movies?

Posted by: greyrooster at March 01, 2005 04:51 AM

8 Oh yea, forgot. I like killing bad guys.

Posted by: greyrooster at March 01, 2005 04:54 AM

9 Brad R.,

Just curious how you think the Bush administration has revised the Geneva Conventions?

By not according terrorists rights and protections which the Geneva convention implicitly denies them?

Posted by: The Colossus at March 01, 2005 07:14 AM

10 Grey,

I was just being sarcastic. Brad R. was musing about all these "ifs" that had just as much promise decades ago, if not more. Hell, it was only 15 years ago that the first Infada came to an end and we saw 10 years of relative calm in Israel and the Palestinian territories. That seemed more of a cause for optimism than now.

I'm optimistic about many things, but I choose to be realistic about others. I'm optimistic that we're making progress on dismantling al Qaeda and that this will mean we can breathe a little easier. I'm optimistic that the new leader of the Palestinians has more credibility and more of a desire for peace than what we've seen in the last 5 years. I'm optimistic that maybe, just maybe, the Iraqis will be able to take care of themselves in the next few years so we stop seeing all this bloodshed.

But, I'm also realistic in that it's no secret many of the problems over there are based on cultural differences. And many Westerners don't realize or appreciate that. You can't drop a KFC or a Levi's outlet store and suddenly all the problems vanish and people are "free." Freedom includes being able to choose your future, not just choosing which fast food outlet to go to tonight. If things stabilize over there and they say "thanks very much, but now we want you all to leave," should that be respected?

Anyhow, at the risk of losing everyone's attentions, all I meant before was that this comment by Brad R.:

"If Egypt becomes more democratic, if we see a separate Palestinian state emerge, if Syria leaves Lebanon... hell, I'll give credit where due..."

has a lot of big ifs attached to it, and he's only identified a handful. It's going to take a LOT of time and the potential to fail is pretty high. I was just pointing that out, and that if he's holding his breath for it to happen in the near future, it's a pretty tall order.

Anyhow, don't get me wrong. I hope you're right, greyrooster, because that will imply that peace has taken root over there. I'm just saying it's going to take a lot more work than I think most people realize.

Posted by: Venom at March 01, 2005 10:36 AM

11 Could be. I just think you complicate the process to much. Simple people, simple answers. I base my hamburger, tight jeans and music statement on what I have seen here in the states. Hamburger is usually the first word an immigrant preteen learns. Arab girls buy levis the day after they get here. Check out the local music store in an Arab neighborhood. Our culture is considered superior by young people everywhere. Only, the old backward terds slow the spread of western culture. Islamic schools and their brainwashing for example. The entire world is copying everything western. Food, music, dress. Our culture will win this war with fundalmentalist Islam as surely as our military will win on the battle field. Those in power now will be a different group in twenty years. Fundalmentalist Islam cannot stop modern ideals and technology from absorbing them. Personally, I believe Islam has peaked and will now experience a slow decline. It grew in uneducated, backward societies. Satellite TV, Computers, Levis, Western music, hamburgers and George Bush are the sure death of Islam. Poor dumbasses. You can't stop progress and western culture is progress.
Another thing. Have you noticed the war in Iraq is not now one of Islam against America as was 1st shouted. Now it appears to be Islamic group against Islamic group.
Things are beginning to turn. Lebanonese are shouting Syria out, not America out.
We will leave as soon as practical. Haven't we always?

The liberal news media is full of shit. My son and other marines that I talk to, tell me of grown men hugging them and begging them not to leave with tears in the eyes. My son's marines are surrounded by children at every street corner. Kids that cheer the marines, grabbing their legs and not letting go. Women nod with appreciation whenever some bearded old shit isn't looking. WHY AREN'T WE SEEING THIS ON TV.
My son's marines are going house to house. The occupants are more and more helpful everyday. As fear of reprisal leaves the populace opens up more and more. Now there are some who tell where and who the insurgents are. Soon this feeling will start to steamroll. I can see the time when marines and Iraqi police have to protect those accused of being terrorists from their neighbors wanting revenge.
The sun is starting to shine. Enjoy it.

When I asked my son about the 100,000 dead civilians he laughed and said they must have hid the bodies better than they hid the WMD. When they search an area it is searched. The bodies must have been sent to Syria.

Posted by: greyrooster at March 01, 2005 10:28 PM

12 Maybe I complicate things a little, but that's only because the Middle East is a complicated place. If it wasn't, there would be far fewer problems over there.

Western culture might be superior, but it will still take a lot of work. There are deep-rooted beliefs among the people in charge over there, and they're not going to give up that power willingly. Will we see an Eastern Europe-style change? Possibly. But people forget that the Middle East pretty much still operates on a tribal level, and even if some of these governments fall (such as in Iraq), you're going to have the kinds of conflict you see now with different tribes looking to be top-dog. It will definitely take a while. But, like I said, I hope you're right.

It's a fucked up part of the world, that's for sure.

Posted by: Venom at March 02, 2005 09:36 AM

13 I'll drink to that. And I already have. So must go.

Posted by: greyrooster at March 02, 2005 08:24 PM

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