Jack Wakeland

Tracinski on the coming election

76 posts in this topic

My good friend Robert Tracinski just published his election recommendations for 2006 in yesterday's TIA Daily. I called him up this morning and asked him if I could post them on this discussion board and he agreed. You've probably read similar comments on the election from me, but Rob addresses the topic with a more precisely cast context.

TIA Daily, October 31, 2006

"D" Stands for "Defeat"

The Democrats Stand for Defeat, Not Just in Iraq, But in the War on Terrorism

by Robert Tracinski

Shortly after September 11, I wrote an article titled "The Three Wars of World War III," in which I predicted that the War on Terrorism would involve three levels of conflict: a military conflict, a political conflict, and an ideological conflict. What I didn't realize is how closely the military aspect of the war would be tied to its political aspect.

This strange war has been moved forward, directly and immediately, not by breakthroughs on faraway battlefields, but by the results of our own elections here at home.

The pattern is persistent: a period of action moves America forward, followed by a frustrating period of inaction before an election, followed by another burst of action. We saw the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, followed by months of diplomatic lip-flapping in 2002, followed by an election—and then the invasion of Iraq in 2003. We suffered through another period of inaction in the face of the Sunni uprising in Fallujah in 2004, followed by an election—and then the crushing of the Sunni insurgency as a significant military force in late 2004 and 2005, with all of the dividends that this paid in Iraq and Lebanon. For the last six months to a year, we've been stuck in another period of inaction in the face of sectarian violence fueled by Shiite militias. The result has been the loss of all of America's momentum in Iraq and Lebanon. But President Bush is once again making the election a referendum on the war.

Perhaps this is the lesson President Bush took from the Vietnam War: that a war requires the support of the American people—a lesson he is taking too literally, seeking direct approval every two years in an election. And he has a funny way of going about it. At every election, he goes in promising to fight the war, while taking no significant new initiatives on the ground. Bush would be much better off asking the American people to support the war while the tanks are rolling and the enemy is being put on the defensive. Instead, he asks us to approve a vigorous war policy just at the point that he is offering us the opposite.

This is a great frustration to those of us who advocate voting for Bush and for the Republicans, and it might be tempting to wash our hands of the whole process—if the Democrats didn't insist on offering a far worse alternative.

The Democrats are consistently campaigning on policies that would lead to a disastrous defeat, not just in Iraq, but in the entire War on Terrorism, from Lebanon to Afghanistan.

That's true whether or not the Democratic candidate in your own particular district advocates withdrawal from Iraq. With control of both houses of Congress at stake, a vote for any Democratic candidate is a vote for a Democratic leadership in Congress, with the power to set the legislative agenda, hold hearings, issue subpoenas, and, crucially, control the Pentagon's purse strings.

This last is particularly crucial. If the Democrats gain control of the House, for example, the new head of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee will be Jack Murtha. The man who writes the Pentagon's budget will be an advocate of immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The House Ways and Means Committee, which writes the federal budget, would be chaired by Harlem Democrat Charlie Rangel—who has already warned, "You've got to be able to pay for the war, don't you?"

To be sure, Democrats are divided on how they would prefer to lose the war. Some want an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, while others want a phased withdrawal. A recent New York Times story surveys the alternatives.

Nineteen House members sponsored a bill to cut off funds for the war. The Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania opposes a deadline for ending American involvement in Iraq. The Democratic candidate for Senate in Ohio wants all the troops out within two years. Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the current minority leader who is likely to be the next speaker of the House if Democrats win back the chamber, is calling for immediate steps to begin to remove American forces, with all of them out of Iraq by the end of 2007…. [Richard] Holbrooke said that it was the administration, not the Democrats, that was in disarray on Iraq. The Democrats, he said, are united in their desire for disengagement. Disputes over when and where the troops would go are merely technical, he said.

Even worse, the Democrats have started a campaign advocating negotiations with Iran and Syria, the two main sponsors of the insurgency in Iraq, over what these dictatorships would do to "stabilize" Iraq after we leave.

This, then, is the Democrats' strategy in Iraq: declare defeat, and negotiate with Iran over the terms of our surrender.

If you imagine that this disaster will be limited to Iraq, think again. The Democrats have tried to portray Iraq as the bad war they oppose, while Afghanistan is the good war they support. But will the battle in Afghanistan get any easier if we surrender in Iraq? In the September 28 edition of TIA Daily, I indicated the much more probable result:

Ask yourself: what would happen if the jihadists achieved a victory over the American infidel in Iraq? Flush with victory and confirmed in the assumption that the Americans, for all of their technological superiority, don't have the moral fortitude to fight a war, where would they go next?

A lot of them would go to Pakistan and Afghanistan and launch an even bigger war against us there, which they would be confident of winning. And what would the leftists do then? They would throw up their hands and declared that Afghanistan was a mistake, too. Indeed, many on the left have
reached this point. Then all of Pakistan, along with its nuclear weapons, would fall to the Islamists, and Afghanistan, cut off from the support of the civilized world, would be doomed (again).

But don't worry. Maybe Pakistan's new Islamist rulers wouldn't go after us first. Maybe they would start a nuclear war with India, instead.

And for those of us who are concerned about the Iranian threat, a retreat from Iraq would be a green light to Iran to develop nuclear weapons with impunity (or to buy them from the North Koreans) and to achieve Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's goal of making Iran into a miniature superpower, ruling over an Islamist Axis that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Himalayas.

As bad as things are now, a Democratic victory is likely to make things much, much worse very soon. The Democratic plan, if it is enacted, would deliver America into a period of retreat, humiliation, and uncertainty that we haven't seen since the end of the Vietnam War—while delivering a glorious victory that would be seen as a historical vindication of the Islamist cause.

And after such a victory, how long will it be before the Islamists decide that the time has come to strike an even harder blow against America, attacking us again on our own soil, perhaps armed this time with a nuclear weapon? It is easy to debate the failings of the Bush administration at leisure, now that we have once again grown accustomed to the sense that our cities won't be blown up by terrorists. But it is not a feeling we should take for granted, and it is not an issue on which we should take our chances.

This is the choice we are being asked to make next Tuesday.

In the last week, I've linked to several reports (here, here, and here) about an Oval Office conversation between President Bush and a group of conservative journalists. What emerges from those reports is a sense that the president wants to win the war in Iraq and do whatever he can to protect America, but he's uncertain about how to do it.

That's why I cannot promise that a Republican election victory will lead to a glorious success on the battlefield. But with a Republican Congress, the Islamists will at least be denied an American defeat that vindicates their cause, and there will at least be a chance for some significant new action against the Islamists.

A report in today's New York Times makes the effect of the election on the Bush administration pretty clear. The US is considering sending more troops to Baghdad to take on the Shiite militias, but, the report continues,

it was unlikely that any announcements would be made until after the elections on November 7. Bush administration officials have said that any major changes in American policy will require bipartisan support, and they are clearly waiting to see which party will control the House, and possibly the Senate, before proceeding.

If Republicans maintain control of Congress, there will be a chance for another post-election American offensive, both in Iraq, and possibly against Iran.

The reason I regard this as a real possibility is because this president clearly understands that we have to fight the Islamists, and he now understands that Iran is our central enemy. Here is how he put it in a speech in early September:

[The Islamist] caliphate would be a totalitarian Islamic empire encompassing all current and former Muslim lands, stretching from Europe to North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia…. [The] Shia strain of Islamic radicalism is just as dangerous, and just as hostile to America, and just as determined to establish its brand of hegemony across the broader Middle East. And the Shia extremists have achieved something that al Qaeda has so far failed to do: in 1979, they took control of a major power, the nation of Iran, subjugating its proud people to a regime of tyranny, and using that nation's resources to fund the spread of terror and pursue their radical agenda.

Like al Qaeda and the Sunni extremists, the Iranian regime has clear aims: they want to drive America out of the region, to destroy Israel, and to dominate the broader Middle East. To achieve these aims, they are funding and arming terrorist groups like Hezbollah, which allow them to attack Israel and America by proxy. Hezbollah, the source of the current instability in Lebanon, has killed more Americans than any terrorist organization except al Qaeda….

Iran's leaders, who back Hezbollah, have also declared their absolute hostility to America…. [iran's president has] delivered this message to the American people: "If you would like to have good relations with the Iranian nation in the future… bow down before the greatness of the Iranian nation and surrender. If you don't accept [to do this], the Iranian nation will… force you to surrender and bow down."

America will not bow down to tyrants.

I couldn't have summed up the situation—and the proper answer—any better.

This is why there is reason to hope that President Bush will take more vigorous action after the election. A man who sees the picture this clearly and takes it this seriously will face, in his final years in office, the fear of being remembered as the leader who did nothing to stop the rise of a new Nazi Germany in the form of an Iranian dictatorship. And my judgment of President Bush is that he is not the kind of leader who will be content to leave this problem for a successor to solve.

This is not a certain hope, but it's not an empty one, either.

This, then, is our choice. It is not certain that, with a Republican majority, Bush will take vigorous action in Iraq and against Iran—but it is possible, and it is far more likely to happen if Republicans win next Tuesday's election. Nor is it certain that a Democratic congressional majority would have the power or the nerve to de-fund the war or plunge it into a permanent stalemate as we negotiate fruitlessly with our enemies. It is not completely certain that we will lose Iraq, surrender our interests to Iran, lose Afghanistan, and surrender Pakistan to the Islamists—but it is probable, and it is far more likely to happen if Democrats win the election.

On the one side is the possibility of victory, on the other, the near certainty of defeat. This is as clear-cut a choice as you are likely to find in today's politics.

So remember when you enter the polls next Tuesday: that "D" next to a candidate's name stands for "defeat."

Let's make sure that on Wednesday morning, we can say instead that it is the advocates of defeat who have been defeated.

For Objectivists, this is another fratricidal election season. I would much rather see us lined up in common opposition to the Islamo-facsist enemy without any internal disputes about the how and the why of it, but that has not happened. In yesterday's issue of TIA Daily Rob Tracincki also addressed the error in Leonard Peikoff's declaration of support for all candidates of the Democratic Party.

TIA Daily, October 31, 2006

Philosophy and Elections

What Do Elections Decide?

by Robert Tracinski

I have given my recommendation for next Tuesday's election above, but leading Objectivist philosopher Leonard Peikoff has stated a very opposite recommendation.

As a general practice, I don't like to directly address this kind of argument in TIA Daily. The main purpose of TIA Daily is to look outward at events in the wider world, not inward at debates and disputes within the Objectivist movement. But I have received enough inquiries from readers that I think it is necessary for me to comment on Dr. Peikoff's recommendation.

So readers know that I have included the whole context, I will reprint Dr. Peikoff's entire statement (presented in the form of a Q&A) in its entirety:

"Q: In view of the constant parade of jackassery which is Washington, is there any point in voting for candidates of either entrenched party? Throwing out the incumbents 'for a change' is to me an idea based on the philosophy that my head will stop hurting if I bang it on the opposite wall.

"A: How you cast your vote in the coming election is important, even if the two parties are both rotten. In essence, the Democrats stand for socialism, or at least some ambling steps in its direction; the Republicans stand for religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, and are taking ambitious strides to give it political power.

"Socialism—a fad of the last few centuries—has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades. Leftists are no longer the passionate collectivists of the 30s, but usually avowed anti-ideologists, who bewail the futility of all systems. Religion, by contrast—the destroyer of man since time immemorial—is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.

"Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter, and equally immoral to refrain from voting at all because 'both are bad.'

"The survival of this country will not be determined by the degree to which the government, simply by inertia, imposes taxes, entitlements, controls, etc., although such impositions will be harmful (and all of them and worse will be embraced or pioneered by conservatives, as Bush has shown). What does determine the survival of this country is not political concretes, but fundamental philosophy. And in this area the only real threat to the country now, the only political evil comparable to or even greater than the threat once posed by Soviet Communism, is religion and the Party which is its home and sponsor.

"The most urgent political task now is to topple the Republicans from power, if possible in the House and the Senate. This entails voting consistently Democratic, even if the opponent is a 'good' Republican.

"In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.

"If you hate the Left so much that you feel more comfortable with the Right, you are unwittingly helping to push the US toward disaster, i.e., theocracy, not in 50 years, but, frighteningly, much sooner."

This is not the first time Dr. Peikoff has put forward what I identify, on the sense-of-life level, as the Dominique Francon voting strategy, after the character in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. As with Dominique Francon, this approach seems to be grounded in a sincere disgust with the current state of the world and with how far short it falls from the ideal. But also as with Dominique Francon, it implicitly regards the good as doomed in this rotten world, and offers only a negative solution. We're besieged by "killers," and our only choice is how we will die.

Regular readers of TIA Daily will know that I disagree with this outlook in general, and with Dr. Peikoff's position on recent elections in particular. I have given some of my reasons in my recommendations for the 2004 and 2006 elections, both above and elsewhere.

In particular, though I am alarmed by the goals of the far religious right, I regard the assertion that the Republican Party is ambitiously moving America toward an Evangelical Christian "theocracy" in the next few decades as an immense exaggeration. No one, to my knowledge, has offered compelling evidence for such a conclusion, and TIA Daily has frequently presented evidence to the contrary. This claim is also an injustice, in my view, to the many commentators and politicians on the right who have explicitly stood up against theocracy and censorship in the face of threats such as the "cartoon jihad."

But Dr. Peikoff has framed the issue, in this case, as involving the "the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life." This is a subject on which I have a great deal to say, some of which I think is new and may well differ from Dr. Peikoff's views. But I would like to focus for the moment on exactly how I think the role of philosophy applies to elections.

My election recommendation is based on the premise that politicians are not philosopher-kings. Because they are not philosophers, they often hold a haphazard, contradictory mix of good and bad philosophical premises, and they rarely follow any one premise to its full, deductive logical conclusion. In this respect, they reflect the voters who elect them. Because they are not kings, they are constrained by the limits of their power and by the constant pressure of political opposition from enacting their entire personal philosophy into law.

In practice, a politician's ability to act is largely determined by what he campaigns on. If a politician or a party campaigns on a promise to fight a war, for example, and not on a promise to impose religious controls, it cannot easily overstep its election mandate—as the Republicans found out during the Terri Schiavo case, which was a political disaster for Congress and the administration.

All of this is a complex way of saying that elections are about the issues. A legislature is not a free-floating philosophical debating society. Its agenda is driven by the concrete demands of the day: budget deficits, inflation, taxes, immigration—and war. Those are the issue that voters are called upon to decide in an election, and they are usually called upon to decide these issues one at a time, to the extent that an election focuses on a single central issue, as this one does.

Of course, certain philosophical assumptions lay behind every political debate, but a nation's wider philosophical culture is not decided by elections. It is shaped by the writings and arguments of public intellectuals, from the best journalists and political commentators to those academics, artists, and philosophers who have something worthwhile to contribute to the debate. This intellectual contest is much wider and more important than any particular election. The mute, short-term "yes" or "no" of casting one's vote in an election affects what will happen in the next two years; it is one's action in the wider intellectual debate that affects what will happen in the next 20 years.

As for Dr. Peikoff's own views on "the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life" and specifically on how this applies to elections, I cannot comment on those views because he does not state them, either here or in any other publicly available form. (I am told that Dr. Peikoff's views on the subject have just been made available, in the past few days, in the form of downloadable audio of a fifteen-hour lecture series—which no one could reasonably be expected to listen to, absorb, and understand between now and November 7.) Whatever merit there may be to his views on this subject, they are not presented, explained, or proven in the mere 300 or so words Dr. Peikoff devotes to the argument. They are certainly not demonstrated sufficiently to demand the reader's agreement.

And that is the main reason I found it necessary to comment on this statement about the election. Dr. Peikoff's second-to-last paragraph states:

"In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world."

This is entirely inappropriate.

Bear in mind that Dr. Peikoff is addressing this statement to Objectivists, to those who have read Ayn Rand's works, accepted her philosophy as true, and who regard her philosophy and their understanding of it as a profound value. To tell them, on the basis of this brief statement, that if they don't accept his exact recommendation on how to vote in an election—and in a mid-term congressional election at that—that they don't understand Objectivism, is a form of intellectual bullying.

In The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand described the Argument from Intimidation as "an ultimatum demanding that the victim renounce a given idea without discussion, under threat of being considered morally unworthy." Dr. Peikoff's statement amounts to an epistemological Argument from Intimidation, an ultimatum demanding that the reader vote in a certain way, under threat of being considered epistemologically unworthy, incapable of understanding Objectivism "except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world."

One cannot make agreement on such a narrow, concrete, complex topic as an election into a test of anyone's philosophical understanding. On an issue that requires factual judgments about the ideas and character of politicians and tactical calculations about the likely results of different political outcomes, even the most accomplished philosopher is not guaranteed to come to the correct conclusion. A respect for the independence and objectivity of other people's minds requires that such issues be open to civil discussion and debate.

For that reason, I much prefer the attitude stated by a prominent Objectivist intellectual in the September 1992 issue of The Intellectual Activist:

"I want to stress at this point that the above is [my] recommendation for November, not Ayn Rand's or Objectivism's. A philosophy is a view of the universe; it does not back candidates. There can be legitimate differences among people of the same philosophy in regard to political tactics and strategy. So please think the issues over and judge for yourself. I have merely told you how (and why) I propose to vote in November."

The author? Leonard Peikoff.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

---------

In yesterday's issue of TIA Daily Rob Tracincki also addressed the error in Leonard Peikoff's declaration of support for all candidates of the Democratic Party.

Thank you, Jack, for posting this. I agree with Tracinski. His reasoning and logic on this issue are impeccable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I applaud Rob Tracinski for his detailed analysis and for the courage in standing up to the intimidations of many of those who oppose his view. I have no doubt that, as has been demonstrated repeatedly on blogs and in forums, that the opposition will characterize Rob's arguments as yet another one of the flurry of "concrete-bound objections" to Leonard Peikoff's statement. However, when concretes are bound to reality, as they are in Rob's arguments, it is the objectors that should be objected to, not concrete reality,

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Short Note from The Intellectual Activist, Volume 14, Number 1: January 2000

The Republican's Anti-Philosophy Campaign: In a December 13 debate between the Republican candidates for president, the moderator asked each debater to name the philosopher who most influenced him. Unsurprisingly, the answers gave one of the most revealing looks at the Republican roster.

....

The most revealing fact about these answers is not just their content--which largely reveals the stanglehold that Christianity still holds on our culture--but the fact that only one of the candidates actualy knew what a philosopher is. Nothing could better symbolize the hopeless intellectual vacuum on the right than a debate in which Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan are cited as originators of fundamental ideas- RWT

(p. 7)

(Bold is mine.)

D stands for Denial in this election. The essence of this election is choosing between LOYALTY for the Republican cause to bring 'Democracy' to Iraq versus HONESTY in recognizing the "fact" that the American people have been mislead into a quagmire. The 'War on Terrorism" is now being called "The Long War.'

Like father. like son. This is not the first time the Republican Party has found themselves in this type of a mess. Yes, this election is about America's 'Sense of Life." What do Americans value more?

LOYALTY vs. HONESTY

The election is not about Defeat it is about Denial.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In the last week, I've linked to several reports (here, here, and here) about an Oval Office conversation between President Bush and a group of conservative journalists. What emerges from those reports is a sense that the president wants to win the war in Iraq and do whatever he can to protect America, but he's uncertain about how to do it.
While I would desperately like to believe Robert's analysis, I wonder if he has actually listened to the recording of this conversation. The mp3 recording of it is HERE. The full text transcript is at the same url and it helps to have it available while listening to the conversation since at times it is a bit difficult to understand what is being said.

I agree that President Bush wants to protect us and wants to win. But the problem is not so much that he is uncertain of how to do it -- the problem is his allegiance to some very bad ideas.

For instance, in this conversation he reveals how committed he is to the notion of "self-determination" and its corollary notion that Iraq is now a "sovereign nation" whose wishes must be respected. Bush has no plans to allow our military to defeat the Iraq insurgency and destroy the death squads and armed militias. Those are tasks, in his view, for the Iraqis and since they are a sovereign nation, we have to respect their wishes on when or if such things are to be done. This includes, for instance, complying with the Prime Minister’s demand that we release a terrorist we captured, that we not conduct offensive operations without his knowledge and permission, etc. Perhaps it is all an act, perhaps after the election President Bush will authorize a more aggressive use of force in Iraq, but I certainly heard nothing in this conversation to justify that belief.

Mark Steyn asked Bush why we don't retaliate against Syria for their assistance to the insurgents in Iraq. Bush replied, essentially, that we are retaliating -- by working to isolate Syria from the international community. Bush firmly believes that international disapproval will pressure the Syrian regime into changing its behavior.

Another journalist asked why we are never told how many terrorists and insurgents we are killing. Bush's answer is that he is following the lead of the Pentagon, "not to be talking about the number we kill and capture on a weekly basis because it then begins to – they're just fearful. There's a culture over there. And I believe they're right." That is a quote from the transcript. Care to guess exactly what it is we are afraid of? Muslim disapproval, perhaps? Bush is following the advice of the same Pentagon that changed the name of our military campaign to avoid offending Muslims.

Regarding Iran and North Korea, Bush is absolutely committed to the use of international diplomacy to handle these kinds of crises. He is very explicit about it. No, he doesn't rule out the use of military force, but he says it is the "last option, not the first or even the second option, but the last". Bush believes in diplomacy -- with totalitarian dictators.

I have great respect for Robert Tracinski, but I am unable to summon any confidence that President Bush can lead us to victory. He has swallowed too many of the left’s ideas. I think defeat -- at least in Iraq -- is by far the most likely outcome. And I don't question Robert's analysis of the consequences.

So what is better in the long run? A defeat that is blamed on a war-mongering, go-it-alone, unilateralist cowboy who thinks military force is the answer to everything? (Bush is none of those things, but that is how he is depicted.) Or a defeat that is the result of a Leftist/Pacifist/Democratic pullout?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have great respect for Robert Tracinski, but I am unable to summon any confidence that President Bush can lead us to victory. He has swallowed too many of the left’s ideas. I think defeat -- at least in Iraq -- is by far the most likely outcome. And I don't question Robert's analysis of the consequences.

What do you mean by "victory" and "defeat?" For me, if victory means devastating the enemy, crushing them to the extent that they have no will to fight and they surrender their nation, then to be defeated is to be devastated, to be crushed, to have no will to fight and to surrender our nation. I can understand why one might think that Bush may not gain victory as we mean it, but on what basis can it reasonably be thought that we will be defeated?

So what is better in the long run? A defeat that is blamed on a war-mongering, go-it-alone, unilateralist cowboy who thinks military force is the answer to everything? (Bush is none of those things, but that is how he is depicted.) Or a defeat that is the result of a Leftist/Pacifist/Democratic pullout?

Well, like I keep saying, at least the Republicans are fighting our enemy. The Democrats want to let them in our front door.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In practice, a politician's ability to act is largely determined by what he campaigns on. If a politician or a party campaigns on a promise to fight a war, for example, and not on a promise to impose religious controls, it cannot easily overstep its election mandate—as the Republicans found out during the Terri Schiavo case, which was a political disaster for Congress and the administration.

Is this true? I've read that, in 1932, Franklin Roosevelt campaigned on reducing government spending, reducing the scope of government, and lowering taxes!.. But maybe this depends on how "easily" is being used. Personally, I'm unsure whether the goals of the neocons and compassionate conservatives are "easy," or quite frighteningly radical and ambitious, as compared to those of the current Democrats.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally, I'm unsure whether the goals of the neocons and compassionate conservatives are "easy," or quite frighteningly radical and ambitious, as compared to those of the current Democrats.

I don't mean for this part to imply that I've taken a side in the current disagreement... Since I haven't participated in the threads on this topic, I might should say that I don't know who I agree with just yet, or who I'll vote for, or if I should vote. I was surprised by Dr. Peikoff's uncharacteristically unclear choice of words, and the lack of argument and context contained in his statement. OTOH, I was surprised to learn from C Bradley Thompson's article in The Objective Standard, how bad the conservatives have become.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I can understand why one might think that Bush may not gain victory as we mean it, but on what basis can it reasonably be thought that we will be defeated?
If defeated means “loss of nation”, then no, I can’t see us being defeated, at least not any time soon. But if defeated means “loss of will to fight”, I can certainly see us being defeated. By failing to defeat a vastly weaker foe after years of fighting, thousands of casualties and billions of dollars expended, Bush has succeeded in thoroughly discrediting the use of military force to end states that sponsor terrorism – and he has certainly eroded the American people’s will to fight.

There is now virtually no public support for military action against Iran, North Korea, Syria or any other nation that threatens us. Bush has explicitly ruled out the use of military force to address these problems except as a last resort, which effectively means we won’t use military force until after we suffer a devastating attack. Bush is firmly wedded to appeasement, international diplomacy and working through the UN.

If this isn’t a recipe for defeat, I don’t know what is. The only question is who and what will take the blame for the inevitable consequences of these policies.

Well, like I keep saying, at least the Republicans are fighting our enemy. The Democrats want to let them in our front door.
I agree and that is why I keep voting Republican. But when the Republican succeeds in discrediting the one positive thing that separates him from the Democrat -- namely, the willingness to use military force -- and when the Republican adopts all of the Democrat’s bad ideas -- appeasement, international diplomacy, UN resolutions -- then I start to question the wisdom of that vote.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I want to publicly applaud Mr. Tracinski for his courage in speaking up, specifically against Dr. Peikoff's charge that "anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world."

Observe that this charge does not "merely" mean that anyone who plans to vote differently from Dr. Peikoff has some sort of deficiency in his understanding of Objectivism, or has followed a rationalist methodology on this particular issue. Rather, Dr. Peikoff has made this election a test of one's understanding of Objectivism as such, and/or one's method of thinking as such and whether it has any connection to reality as such. Those who dissent have "no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life" (emphasis added).

This is so patently hyperbolic that to refute it is merely a form of pointing to the elephant in the room. I will only note, since I did not see anyone else bring this up here, that less than a month-and-a-half before Dr. Peikoff released his statement, Dr. Binswanger said on HBL that he will be abstaining this election season.

Thank you, Mr. Tracinski, for saying what needed to be said.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Those who dissent have "no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life" (emphasis added).

That should have been: "no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life" (emphasis added).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was surprised to learn from C Bradley Thompson's article in The Objective Standard, how bad the conservatives have become.

Assuming that Dr. Thompson is right, what follows?

  1. That these awful conservatives will institute a theocracy? Even if they want a theocracy, wishing won't make it so. They have too many obstacles to overcome: the checks and balances that limits their power or every government official, the Bill of Rights, judicial precedent, the Democrats, the non-religious Republicans, academia, the media, etc., and every American who doesn't want a theocracy.
  2. That we ought to vote against "good Republicans" who are not religious and don't want a theocracy?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree and that is why I keep voting Republican. But when the Republican succeeds in discrediting the one positive thing that separates him from the Democrat -- namely, the willingness to use military force -- and when the Republican adopts all of the Democrat’s bad ideas -- appeasement, international diplomacy, UN resolutions -- then I start to question the wisdom of that vote.

Then don't vote for the Republican and don't vote for the Democrat. Vote for the particular candidate who will best implement your political principles, regardless of party.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That should have read:

Assuming that Dr. Thompson is right, what follows?

  1. That these awful conservatives will institute a theocracy? Even if they want a theocracy, wishing won't make it so. They have too many obstacles to overcome: the checks and balances that limit the power of every government official, the Bill of Rights, judicial precedent, the Democrats, the non-religious Republicans, academia, the media, etc., and every American who doesn't want a theocracy.
  2. That we ought to vote against "good Republicans" who are not religious and don't want a theocracy?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If defeated means “loss of nation”, then no, I can’t see us being defeated, at least not any time soon. But if defeated means “loss of will to fight”, I can certainly see us being defeated. By failing to defeat a vastly weaker foe after years of fighting, thousands of casualties and billions of dollars expended, Bush has succeeded in thoroughly discrediting the use of military force to end states that sponsor terrorism – and he has certainly eroded the American people’s will to fight.

There is now virtually no public support for military action against Iran, North Korea, Syria or any other nation that threatens us.

I would amend your statement to read that, "Bush has succeeded in...erod[ing] the American people's will to fight the war as he is conducting it. That is what I read and hear from many, many Americans. They are not against fighting. They are against pussy-footing around, wasting men and means on the "sensitive" war.

I think it is a mistake to paint all Republicans as neo-con, compassionate Republicans. That is the only flaw I see in Dr. Thompson's excellent article. He is correct in his facts about what has gone on, but ignores the fact that there has been a huge discussion among Republicans about voting the neo-con, compassionate yahoos out of office. It is the reason why the Republicans in power are concerned about losing that power.

It has been hard to remain a Republican. After the country swept the Contract Republicans into office in '94, they were stunned to see them fold at the touch of pressure from the opposition. Now they have tried the neo-cons and compassionate Republicans, only to once again be disappointed, and disgusted, not only by the way the war is being fought, but by the domestic policies, as well. One guy I know recently expressed his disgust this way: "Faith-based initiatives! Call it what you want, I know socialism when I see it, and my first reaction is to check to make sure my wallet is still in my back pocket."

I guess what I am trying to say is that we must beware of falling into the collectivist trap of lumping everybody under whatever rubric being used at the moment. We are all individuals, and most Americans think of themselves that way, whatever their philosophical mistakes.

I want to add my appreciation for Robert Tracinski's stand against Dr. Peikoff. The whole sorry mess saddens me, not because there is disagreement, but because of the nature of the disagreement. I want to say, however, that I will always be grateful to Dr. Peikoff for the greatest body of his work. I will always respect him for that, even as I strongly disagree with his methods now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An especially important example of where Republicans should be strongly supported -- especially for those of you in California -- is the re-election of Richard Pombo, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. Pombo is extremely strong on private property rights and as chairman of the committee he has been able to do a lot of good and stop a lot of evil.

For example, he is responsible for the bill that passed the House constraining the Endangered Species Act, but which has been blocked in the Senate by the Democrats with the help of the "moderate" Republicans. No one else in Congress has had the courage to even attempt to challenge ESA on this scale for decades, even though it has caused enormous heart-wrenching destruction of property rights and the natural resource economy.

Pombo's exemplarly record is precisely why he has been especially targeted for defeat in a massive smear campaign by the whole Democrat progressive left, environmentalist lobby. Their attacks have turned Pombo's re-election into a close race that is extremely dangerous. Pombo needs and deserves all the help he can get. If I could fly out there to help I would. This is a battle worth winning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a further indication of how good Richard Pombo (R-CA) is and the enormous resources expended by the viro progressive left to get rid of him for his defense of property rights, see this alert from the American Land Rights Association.

Land Rights Network

American Land Rights Association

Alliance Against Reservation Shopping

PO Box 400, Battle Ground, WA 98604

(360) 687-3087 ­ Fax: (360) 687-2973

alra@governance.net

Web Address: http://www.landrights.org

Legislative Office: 507 Seward Square SE - Washington, DC 20003

landrightsnet@yahoo.com -- (202) 329-3574

*****

Come To California And Help Chairman Richard Pombo

This will be great fun. You’ll have a terrific time.

Dear Defender of Private Property Rights:

No, you have not seen this letter before.

Your special help is needed for this election. This is a special request which, if you help carry out, you’ll love the experience and gain a great memory.

*****

Rep. Pombo is being ganged up upon by out-of-state political groups.

Richard needs our help, right now. A look at what he’s up against:

* Defenders of Wildlife has spent $410,000 against Richard to date, and just filed an “Independent Expenditure” report yesterday with another $500,000 for television attack ads.

* The Democrat National Campaign Committee (DCCC) just sent $250,000 to the 11th District to help Jerry McNerney, Richard’s liberal opponent. And intelligence informs us that more is on the way.

* The Sierra Club has already spent more than $250,000 against Richard, and more is on the way for the final two weeks of the campaign.

* The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has already spent $193,000 smearing Richard, with more on the way for the home stretch.

* And liberal billionaire George Soros’ Moveon.org has sent blank checks and armies of activists to Richard’s district to get out the vote.

*****

AND THEY'RE ALL BUSING HUNDREDS OF LIBERAL ACTIVISTS from Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Berkley and elsewhere into Richard's district to do poll watching, telephones calls, and precinct walking.

*****

The radical environmental left has taken notice of Richard’s ability to fight and win, ladies and gentleman, and they are pouring everything they have into defeating him on November 7th. That’s just 4 days from today. We cannot, and must not let this happen.

*****

This is it, folks. We cannot afford to lose everything we have gained or the man you help us achieve great things in the last decade. We must act.

I cannot overstate the urgency of this call to arms. PLEASE come out to the 11th district ASAP and help reelect Richard Pombo. We need volunteers to make phone calls, walk precincts and watch the polls. Again, we need all the help we can get, especially on Election Day.

Every volunteer is needed, and Richard needs a lot of them in the final push to beat back the hundreds of liberal activists being bused in to help defeat him.

Even if you can only make it for a day or two, please do so. Everyone needs to donate some time and take action to defend the one person who has been defending us.

Make no mistake: this attack on Richard is retribution for his work on behalf of every defender of private property rights, on behalf of the Constitution as the framers envisioned it, and against the radical liberals who have no respect for either one.

*****

Please call Kristin Schrader at (209) 808-8834 RIGHT NOW and sign up to help win this fight.

Again, call (209) 808-8834 and JOIN THE FIGHT!

If the line is busy, call Kevin Kennedy at (209) 956-3976

Sincerely,

Chuck Cushman

Chairman, League of Private Property Voters

Executive Director ­ American Land Rights Association

Please forward this message as widely as possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a TIA daily subscriber, I've been following Tracinski's analysis and agree with his conclusions.

Has Peikoff clarified his point yet, or responded to the controversy? The quicker he clarifies, the better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would amend your statement to read that, "Bush has succeeded in...erod[ing] the American people's will to fight the war as he is conducting it. That is what I read and hear from many, many Americans. They are not against fighting. They are against pussy-footing around, wasting men and means on the "sensitive" war.

I agree that this is true to an extent (it is certainly true of a lot of Republican voters in this forum). However, if, as you suggest, the net effect of Bush's approach has been merely to erode the will to fight sensitively, I wonder why the Republicans facing re-election this year are not calling for a more robust, less sensitive war? If you are correct, such a call should increase support from these disaffected Americans who are sick of us pussy-footing around. Senator McCain has called for more troops to be sent to Iraq, but I haven't heard any suggestion from him or any Republican running for office that we should take the gloves off and let the military do its job.

I did hear one Israeli commentator who agreed with you. He said the conventional wisdom about Bush -- namely, that Bush cannot fight harder or more aggressively because of his low approval ratings -- is exactly backwards. According to him, Bush's approval ratings are low precisely because he is not fighting more aggressively.

Robert Tracinski claims to have discerned a pattern regarding Bush, the prosecution of the war and American elections. According to Robert, Bush fights hard in the immediate aftermath of an electoral victory -- then goes into a passive mode during the run-up to the next election. If you and that Israeli commentator are correct, this is a suicidal electoral strategy -- it alienates part of his supporters when he needs them most.

But then again, if Bush and the Republicans in Congress know that they have your vote unconditionally, on the grounds that at least they are willing to fight, however ineffectually, then they don't have to advocate anything different, do they?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While I still disagree with Dr. Peikoff's assessment of the imminent Evangelical theocracy, I take an issue with Robert Tracinski's forgiving view of the way the war in Iraq has been mis-fought.

In a post on NoodelFood, Diana Hsieh writes:

In other words, 340 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan fighting for absolutely nothing. In Iraq, 2801 American soldiers have died for worse than nothing, i.e. in order to create yet another virulently anti-American Islamic regime. In both conflicts, over 10,000 American soldiers have been seriously wounded.

Yet in a recent (11/2) TIA Daily article entitled "Is Bush All Hat and No Cattle?", Robert Tracinski claims that "All of Bush's errors [in Iraq] could have been, and still can be, corrected." Did I miss something? Has Jesus granted President Bush the power to raise the dead and heal the wounded?

It's not mere "error" to kill over 3,000 American soldiers and seriously wound more than 10,000 for the sake of granting our Islamist enemies the power to vote in Islamist governments that will shelter, organize, and finance the terrorists who will attack America and other civilized nations in upcoming years. It's not mere "error" for an American President to pursue that strategy despite overwhelming evidence of its grossly self-destructive results.

So let's call a spade a spade: President Bush's foreign policy is active, deliberate, and blind self-sacrifice. That's not error. It's evil.

I agree with Diana's assessment. As I wrote in my comment to her post:

There was no error in the initial policy. The name of the operation, "Iraqi Freedom," indicates that the beneficiaries were to be the Iraqis. Furthermore, admission of an error on such a scale requires that those responsible resign, not given a second chance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"I wonder why the Republicans facing re-election this year are not calling for a more robust, less sensitive war?"

Some are. Mike McGavin in Idaho, for example. It's only one example, but I've read a couple of news stories that there is some dissaffection among Republicans over this and that they may be "changing leadership after the election, no matter who wins." I don't know yet how large or influential that group is or isn't.

And, of course, one has to consider that even McGavin's campaign rhetoric may be just a strategy to get votes. But then, when is what they say anything else? Rarely.

Jeff

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I wonder why the Republicans facing re-election this year are not calling for a more robust, less sensitive war?

Why waste precious election campaign resources trying to convince the voters of an idea they already accept?

In this context, the better strategy is to show why the Democrats are wrong and why the opponent is a schmuck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"I wonder why the Republicans facing re-election this year are not calling for a more robust, less sensitive war?"

Also, this is the kind of thing that he should do from within the party by trying to persuade the party leadership rather than the voters. If he gets elected, especially by a landslide, he will be much more influential in changing his own party.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In a post on NoodelFood, Diana Hsieh writes:
It's not mere "error" to kill over 3,000 American soldiers and seriously wound more than 10,000 for the sake of granting our Islamist enemies the power to vote in Islamist governments that will shelter, organize, and finance the terrorists who will attack America and other civilized nations in upcoming years. It's not mere "error" for an American President to pursue that strategy despite overwhelming evidence of its grossly self-destructive results.

So let's call a spade a spade: President Bush's foreign policy is active, deliberate, and blind self-sacrifice. That's not error. It's evil.

I agree with Diana's assessment.

What exactly are you agreeing with: that the foreign policy is evil or that Bush is evil? The former may be demonstrated by reference to fact. The latter is moralistic hyperbole.

Diana Hsieh's claim that it is "not mere 'error' for an American President to pursue that strategy despite overwhelming evidence," commits an error similar in nature to her supposed "justification" for Peikoff's codemnation that unless an Objectivist votes Democratic he has no understanding of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system divorced from reality. These are both pronouncements from on high, from the perch of knowledge held in an intrinsic manner. Bush cannot be simply mistaken -- he must be evil. The non-Democratic-voting Objectivists cannot be simply mistaken about this particular application of of ideas to a political election -- they do not understand Objectivism at all, except maybe rationalistically. These are religious pronouncements: a claim to special knowledge that the unanointed evil or ignorant masses do not process.

Maybe there is a legitimate concern about an impending theocracy after all; people were just wrong about where it may be taking place. B)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I wonder why the Republicans facing re-election this year are not calling for a more robust, less sensitive war?

Why waste precious election campaign resources trying to convince the voters of an idea they already accept?

I don't understand. Are you saying those voters frustrated with Bush's sensitive war will vote for a candidate who appears to agree with the sensitive approach just as readily as they will a candidate who argues for a more vigorous approach? It won't make any difference in turnout or their level of enthusiasm for the candidate?
Also, this is the kind of thing that he should do from within the party by trying to persuade the party leadership rather than the voters. If he gets elected, especially by a landslide, he will be much more influential in changing his own party.
But the landslide will only be persuasive to other members of the party if he won it by advocating a more aggressive approach to the war, right?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites