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Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Friday, February 18, 2005

Imperialism and Treason: The Debate Continues

ChefJef continues our conversation of the last several days:

While an intelligent person may reasonably infer from my comments that I was saying a direct comparison of a U.S. President and Hitler is okay, I did not imply it. I believe I mentioned that that would be insane. I also believe that, in Monk’s quote of the newspaper article that covered the “art” story, the article stated that the “art” display did not draw a comparison between Bush and Hitler. This is why I limited the scope of my comments to a discussion of certain tactics, and why I said “grain” of truth, not simply truth. I’ll admit, to us lawyers adjectives and adverbs are important; maybe too important. Perhaps linguistic nuances to the legally educated are, rightly so, hollow verbage to the sane world. Accordingly, perhaps the preceding has clarified, with my apologies, any erroneous, yet reasonable inferences drawn but unintended from my previous comment.
Counselor, you have me there. I do not think YOU intended even an inference that Bush = Hitler. I do not think you believe this; I sincerely believe that you, like me, think a serious comparison of this nature is a) nuts—carpet-chewing, tinfoil hat stuff—and b) stupid—thoroughly ignorant of history and the nature of evil in the world.

That said, I DO think that the boy and, more to the point, his teachers in Rhode Island, DID intend a direct comparison, even if the boy represented this disingenuously as a comparison between the tactics or operational art of the Wehrmacht and US forces. This is not how the comparison was taken and is not how it was intended. Whatever the words that accompanied the mobile said, a depiction of Hitler giving the Zeig Heil in front of toy soldiers of one (wrong) color directly next to W holding his arms up in front of his own goosestepping toy army cannot reasonably be taken any other way. Many learned treatises (some of them mine) have compared the doctrinal and technological revolution represented in Blitzkrieg with the current transformation of military practice. This is a valid—and values-neutral—line of research. It carries no implied comparison of Hitler’s ideology with that of the Bush administration. The Rhode Island kid’s project did. Period. Regardless of your own opinion on the subject, Chefjef—a reasonable one, I think—this is what the kid and his BlueState betters meant to be taken from his efforts. Any wordy protests and demurrals on their part are just legalese.

ChefJef continues:

I understand Monk’s aversion to the use of the President’s name in same sentence with Hitler. I’ll admit, reading your argument I can “feel” how it offends you. I’ll also admit that I did fully understand it until now. But having read your post, I understand your position, and concede it; so much so that I will avoid doing it, and make the point to anyone who may do it in my presence.

Us RedStaters ‘presheate that. Gitrdone!

That being said, perhaps some on the Right will understand that some on the Left and in the Middle – yes, I consider myself in the Middle, stop laughing Monk! – find objectionable the “looseness” with which some on the Right use the terms traitor and treason. Not just in the legal sense, either, but also, as Monk stated, in the qualitative sense. For example, I have had people in the recent past question my patriotism for my criticism of President Bush, the Iraq war and my suggestions that the war (particular the Wolfowitz, et al, ideology behind it) is somewhat imperialistic – imperialistic de facto, not de jure; just because a person thinks they’re actions are benevolent doesn’t mean they actually are (after all Don Quijote thought himself sane!). Benedict Arnold was a traitor. Me, I served 8 years in the Army, 2 in the Infantry – not a rear unit, the Infantry. Then, after the start of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, I voluntarily enlisted in a highly deployable M.P. unit in the Army Guard, even though I disagree with the current war, because our forces are a tad low on qualified leaders and I can’t sit by watching my American brethren go off to the desert like that. Oh yeah, I serve my city everyday at work, too. I KNOW I am a loyal American. I have served and continue to serve my Country, State and City. Thus, when I, or someone like me, is accused of disloyalty because of our sincere political analysis, (someone like Michael Moore may be different – there is a sincerity and honesty issue there) I find it beyond offensive. Let’s not forget that this boy we are discussing is in fact just a kid, and one who is clearly, I think we all agree, surrounded by less than objective educators. I truly doubt he is a disloyal traitor.

I concede your point again. I have used the term too loosely at times, I admit. For that I apologize, especially if it has offended an obvious member of the loyal opposition such as yourself. I honor your service, as you have honored mine, and have no doubts whatsoever concerning your loyalty to your country and your community. I can think you a fine American—and I do—and still disagree with you, even on “first principles.” That is, after all, much of the point of this blog. Debating these issues with civility and intelligence is an art that has largely been lost in this age’s partisan fog. It is an art our founding fathers possessed, as you yourself have pointed out. Our founding age was remarkable for the open debate that took place between fine minds of differing points of view and the survival and prosperity of our Republic is in large part a reflection of the reasonable compromise on first principles they were able to achieve. I’m confident similar common cause can be found today; we just need to get past the kind of rhetoric that both sides have over-indulged in these last twenty years or so. The Civil War was an example of what happens even in a nation based on reasoned, moderate first principles when civil discourse breaks down.

I believe I made clear in my last post that there is a distinction to be made between the benevolence of intent and the fact of empire. Conquer, keep, and rule—you do those things and you are an empire. If you sweep away an army and government, set up civil rule of law, and ultimately withdraw all but your commercial interests, you are not an empire, you have a sphere of influence. The US sphere of influence today spans the globe. (I don’t consider that such a bad thing, either.) If we are an empire and if our motives are imperialistic, then the definition of empire has morphed to include the exercise of soft power as well as hard power. By this definition, the Vatican is an empire that spans the globe too. Wahabbi Sunni is also an empire that spans half a billion screaming muslims (scary thought, that). This may be reasonable, but it does not accord with the conventional definition of empire.

A note to veep…. Monk already dealt with the assertion that a democracy cannot be imperialistic. Also, you asked how spreading democracy can be imperialistic. Well, that’s depends upon how it is spread. If a democratic country invades, let’s say, a socialist country (okay…I’ll admit an invasion of Canada - excuse me Kannukistan - would be cool)…


…where the citizens actually desire and enjoy their socialist existence, and we do so for the purpose of “manifest destiny,” it is probably imperialistic. To simplify, if you have a piece of chocolate cake, and I say, “ sure do like cake,” and you give me a piece, you are a sharing person. If you have the cake and ask me if I want a piece, and I say “no, thank you,” and you say “but you don’t understand how good it is” and then forcibly shove it down my face, well then you’re not a sharer, you’re an assault and batterer. A simplistic example, I know, but the underlying moral and legal principle applies equally to cake sharing and war making.
Uh…..nice try, but no. We forced an end to Fascism on Italy and Germany, an end to militaristic imperialism (correctly defined) on Japan and an end to communism on Soviet Russia, but none of these actions were “imperialistic” per se. We conquered the first three of these countries, yes. But we administered them for several years (taking casualties from disgruntled insurgents the whole time) and we eventually restored or established the civilian rule of law and left them to their own devices. This WAS “assault and battery,” a point I readily concede (albeit they started it), but it WAS NOT imperialism. If I force you to eat a piece of my Napoleon against your will, it is a form of assault. If I then put a gun to your head, put you in a cage, and force you to do my bidding from now ‘til…whenever…that is imperialism. Again, America has done this in the past, even though the results were largely benevolent, but it is NOT doing so in Iraq.

ChefJef goes on,

That brings me to one small point to Monk. You mentioned that “how” doesn’t matter in the analysis of pre-emption vs. imperialism. Well, I think those on the receiving end may very much differ.
They may. And they’d be wrong. I’m sure the denizens of Dresden thought it was “imperialistic” of us and the Brits to turn them into 100,000 hunks of well-done steak in atonement for their nation’s genuine imperialism, but they’d be wrong, too. I’m sure the people of Hiroshima would have thought it similarly nasty of us to turn them into shadows and grease spots on the pavement, had they had time to think about it. Terrible? Perhaps. Assault? Certainly. Perhaps even murder in the strict sense. But imperialism? No. It was not. By the same token, I’m sure Slobodan Milosevic thought we were being bloody “imperialistic” when Bill Clinton ordered his cronies’ porn and stolen car parts factories bombed back to the Middle Ages, but, again, that was assault, not imperialism. One can wage war, kill, destroy, coerce, and impose one’s will in a multitude of ways and those you are attacking can curse you to heaven from now until doomsday, but none of this will be “imperialism” unless the attacker’s intent is to conquer, keep, and rule.

Lastly, and most importantly, as Monk pointed out I did vote with my feet. You got me there! Darn!
As the wise man said, young Grasshopper: GITRDONE!

By the way, I think your blog is swimming along splendidly. Kudos!

Thanks—and you are a large part of the reason it is. Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!


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