Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another one bites the dust

When it comes to foreign policy issues related to the Middle East, one of my "go to" sources has always been Juan Cole. Its not that I always agree with him. Its that he knows legions more about that topic that I do. So I pay attention to what he says.

That's why I am so terribly disappointed in him - much like I am in so many other reporters lately. You want hyperbole? Take a look at this headline from Cole.


And then his opening statement makes it even worse.
How to turn a democracy into a STASI authoritarian state in 10 easy steps:
Since "Greenwald's partner" was detained by the UK government, its interesting that his "10 steps" are focused completely on the US - not the UK. But what's a little omission like that when you're talking about a "STASI authoritarian state?"

Then he goes on to make several outrageous claims:
  1. Classify all crimes and violations of the Constitution as secret. What would those crimes and violations be? Japanese internment? Secretly sponsoring coups in places like Iran and South America? Gulf of Tonkin lies? Nixon's lies?  Iran/Contra? Bush's torture? Oops, we know about all that so they're hardly secrets. I suspect he's actually talking about our current intelligence programs...more on that in #2. 
  2. Spy on the public in violation of the Constitution. Yeah, we know Bush did that by refusing to get warrants. But show me where the Obama administration is continuing that practice. Specifically, what violations of the Constitution is he talking about?
  3. Sharing of NSA info on drug trafficking is only to protect pharmaceuticals and liquor industry against pot. Whaaa??
  4. Criminalize the revelation of government crimes and spying as espionage. When has spying NOT been classified as espionage and what government crimes?
Anyway, there's 10 of them. Some have merit but should lead to policy discussions and not hyperbole about dictatorships and STASI authoritarian states. 

This is why we can't have a rational discussion these days about this topic. The entire conversation has been overtaken by the latest iteration of Godwin's Law. Juan Cole just jumped that shark.

9 comments:

  1. same issue as when krugman takes excursions into pure politics - outside of their field of expertise, they are just as bad as anyone else.

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    1. Good point. But given that Cole's "beat" is foreign policy, he should know better.

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  2. I keep wanting to ask whether during WW II the American public should have been privvy to plans for D-Day, the breaking of codes, etc. when we were fighting Nazi Germany and Japan? When did security plans become fit topics for cocktail parties?

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    1. I am tempted to reply that state secrets always were fit topics for the kind of people who went to cocktail parties! Put more seriously, there are significant and important related questions about elitism, and part of what makes them interesting is that the democratic impulse, which I share, runs smack up against the realities of justifiable security work. Finding that balance is always difficult. Obama has consistently shown awareness of that issue, though in my view he has not (till now) responded to it forcefully enough. Note that this is a position (O neither awful nor perfect) that seems to put me in opposition to almost everyone! Except, perhaps, our host here, for whose analysis I have a lot of respect.

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    2. Pete

      Obama has consistently shown awareness of that issue, though in my view he has not (till now) responded to it forcefully enough.

      This is exactly what makes me feel like I'm losing my mind lately. Just when Obama is starting to make some historical movement on this issue, we're hearing folks I once trusted talk about a STASI authoritarian state. WTF is up with that?!

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    3. SP: My highest hope for Obama was that he'd be the FDR for our time, reforming the system for a couple of generations; my deepest fear was that he'd be the Gorbachev, presiding over the collapse of the previous system [by which I didn't and don't mean the US fracturing like the SU into multiple smaller nations, more the formal establishment of plutocracy]. Neither seems to happening, exactly, but the mindblowing freak outs on both right and left do seem to be related to deep shifts in the nature of modern governance and the renegotiated social contract. I see the GG/JA position as riven with internal contradictions [liberty for me and thou art not me, except to you; oops], and their supporters all too often burying their awareness of this, refusing to acknowledge it, and bursting with surface anger to cover deep uncertainty, sometimes amounting to hidden guilt. And then there are the idiots. You're not losing your mind, but an awful lot of folks are. They will come around. Most of them, anyway.

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  3. Juan Cole is long past caring what the NSA actually does inside our borders. This is about defining the US government as illegitimate.

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  4. As a man, the reason I much prefer reading your blog on NSA matters rather than Drum, Booman, Cole, Benen, Sargent, et.al is best explained in this old Belafonte tune: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTDvCLAT8hg

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    1. Thanks. That's lovely. But the name Sarah Palin would cause anyone pause in going too far with that generalization. LOL

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