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February 17, 2008

Meanwhile, Back In Middle Earth

Samantha "Understand Frodo, I Would Use This Ring From a Desire To Do Good" Power is an adviser to Obama's presidential campaign. Here she is being interviewed by Salon:

SALON: You recently wrote in Time magazine that the U.S. needs to "rethink Iran." What did you mean?

POWER: We lunge between two extremes, neither of which is helpful. One is the Bush-Cheney saber rattling -- hyping of the threat, alienation of international stakeholders because of the sense that this is about ideology rather than about problem solving. In saber rattling we're ultimately strengthening Ahmadinejad's base, because the one thing that will unite Iranians -- whether secular, moderate, Islamic or nationalist -- is the idea that we're going to come and attack their country.

On the other hand, there are people who are so disgusted and disillusioned with the Bush years that they romanticize in some way this wily Iranian head of state instead of acknowledging that the Iranian government is by all accounts a supporter of terrorist acts, or that Ahmadinejad is a head of state who denies the occurrence of the Holocaust and has made no secret of his militant animosity toward Israel. My feeling is that we need something in between the extremes...

Uh, who specifically are these "people" who have "lunged" to this particular extreme? Could she name some politicians who've been romanticizing Ahmadinejad? One or two political writers? Who?

Power barely clings to the furthermost edge of the acceptable political spectrum in the United States, and even she is completely bonkers.


—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at February 17, 2008 10:59 PM

Huh. Yeah, you have a point. Great post.

Posted by: Seth Roberts at February 17, 2008 11:31 PM

Wily? Like Wile E. Coyote!

Chavez is a bit of a sneaky guy.

Putin, make that cunning.

Assad, heavy on the foxy side.

What's a sole superpower to do with people who hide behind trees?

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at February 18, 2008 12:54 AM

The trouble is, a whole lot of folks in the liberal-ish part conventional wisdom band think this way. They see nutsos to the right of them and so assume there must be an equal number of equally nutso people to their left and if necessary turn every statement rejecting the original nutsos into proof of the nutso-ism of the speaker.

Thus in this case, suggesting it would be A Bad Thing to attack Iran becomes "romanticizing" Ahmadinejad - because, seeing as how in this mythology "truth" is inevitably found in "the center," the obviously proper course is that we must be resolutely hostile to him, seek the isolation of his nation, and desire the overthrow of its government. We just don't actually nuke Teheran.

Posted by: LarryE at February 18, 2008 01:21 AM

Filed under: stuff that must be believed in public to keep AIPAC on side.

Posted by: Creeping Coin at February 18, 2008 01:59 AM

Samantha Power is a fraud. She blathers about Human Rights because she wants to service that Niche Market Segment. All the other segments of Market have been saturated. So she decided to concentrate on this segment.
Her concern for Human Rights is as genuine as Bush Cheney's concern for Democracy and Human Rights and International Law.
Edward Herman has dismantled her in some essays.

Posted by: Ajit at February 18, 2008 03:07 AM

The people who "romanticize" the "Iranian head of state"... No wait. This doesn't make any sense. I was about to go on a tirade about people who romanticize Ahmadinejad's power in Iran who had been, not a few years ago, bitterly complaining about President Khatami's lack of power. The "moolahs" this and that, remember?

But the "Head of State" - just read, say, any State Department human rights report on Iran - isn't the President, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Supreme. Leader. Really hard to figure out how that works.

The threat of Iran's nuclear program has long been exaggerated out of all proportion - nevermind the nutball president's rhetoric about Israel - but that's rendered kind of irrelevant here if our Pulitzer Prize winning hoopleheads don't even know who the fuck runs the country. Brav-fucking-O.

Threat? A middle management domestic advisor to the regime said naughty words. Somebody protect me, please.

Posted by: buermann at February 18, 2008 04:50 AM

Shorter me:

who specifically are these "people" who have "lunged" to ... romanticizing Ahmadinejad?

Samantha Power, just for starters.

Posted by: buermann at February 18, 2008 04:55 AM

So in 2018, when Powers' "reasonable" policy of sanctions doesn't topple the Iranian regime, Kristol can come around and say that he had hoped we could do this peacefully, but it's time to send in the stealth bombers. And all the liberals will nod their head sadly and sagely.

I say let's give the Ring of Power to Jon! Only he can resist the Ring's temptation long enough to make it to Cheney's undisclosed location. Then all we have to do is tell Richard Perle what Jon is up to so he can snatch the Ring away at the last moment and dance into the volcano.

What? You got a better idea?

Posted by: Carl at February 18, 2008 05:01 AM

Well, she seems like a lot of people I've met from Wilson School, JFK, Fletcher. A veneer of sophistication masking lack of real insight. But she's a geo-political genius and historian of the first order compared to you dumb bunnies. What she doesn't understand, nor you, is that the problem isn't Iran nuking yee old Jerusalem, it's the regional balance of power. And the NIE is not the last word on this subject. For all manner of historical and domestic political and strategic reasons, Iran is a rival power of the US. And on balance, it's certainly to US advantage, but probably the world's advantage, for the US to check any substantial advance in Iran's power. And just as the right wing nutcases demonize Iran, you DBs have a tendency to blather about how the US shouldn't be in the Middle East. Of course the US should, albeit in a responsible manner. As for Iran's internal affairs, well, that's not US business, agreed.

Posted by: xyz at February 18, 2008 07:12 AM

Sorry for the length of this. I would have just posted a link, but the site requires you to log in. It's Chomsky on Powers, from Znet.

"By Noam Chomsky at Jul 31, 2007

The following exchange took place in the ZNet Sustainer system, where Noam hosts a forum...

ZNet Sustainer: Noam, Would you be willing to comment on Samantha Power's review essay in the 29 July NYT Book Review? The Times presents her as the very model of the liberal academic -- a columnist for Time, adviser to Democratic presidential candidates, etc. The article is a good deal more than a book review.

Noam Chomsky: It was an interesting article, and her work, and its popularity, gives some insight into the reigning intellectual culture.

There are many interesting aspects to the article. One is that "terrorism" is implicitly defined as what THEY do to US, excluding what WE do to THEM. But that's so deeply engrained in the state religion that it's hardly worth mentioning.

A little more interesting is Power's tacit endorsement of the Bush doctrine that states that harbor terrorists are no different from terrorist states, and should be treated accordingly: bombed and invaded, and subjected to regime change. There is, of course, not the slightest doubt that the US harbors terrorists, even under the narrowest interpretation of that term: e.g., by the judgment of the Justice Department and the FBI, which accused Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch of dozens of terrorist acts and urged that he be deported as a threat to US security. He was pardoned by Bush I, and lives happily in Florida, where he has now been joined by his associate Luis Posada, thanks to Bush II's lack of concern about harboring terrorists. There are plenty of others, even putting aside those who have offices in Washington. Like John Negroponte, surely one of the leading terrorists of the late 20th century, not very controversially, so naturally appointed to the position of counter-terrorism Czar by Bush II, with no particular notice.

Even keeping to the completely uncontroversial cases, like Bosch, it follows that Power and the NY Times are calling for the bombing of Washington. But -- oddly -- the Justice Department is not about to indict them, though people are rotting in Guantanamo on far lesser charges. What is interesting and enlightening is that no matter how many times trivialities like this are pointed out -- and it's been many times -- it is entirely incomprehensible within the intellectual culture. That reveals a very impressive level of subordination to authority and indoctrination, well beyond what one would expect in totalitarian states.

A little more subtle, perhaps, is her observation that "if you continue to believe (as I do) that there is a moral difference between setting out to destroy as many civilians as possible and killing civilians unintentionally and reluctantly in pursuit of a military objective, you will indeed find "On Suicide Bombing" disturbing, if not always in the way he intends." Let's accept her judgment and proceed.

Evidently, a crucial case is omitted, which is far more depraved than massacring civilians intentionally. Namely, knowing that you are massacring them but not doing so intentionally because you don't regard them as worthy of concern. That is, you don't even care enough about them to intend to kill them. Thus when I walk down the street, if I stop to think about it I know I'll probably kill lots of ants, but I don't intend to kill them, because in my mind they do not even rise to the level where it matters. There are many such examples. To take one of the very minor ones, when Clinton bombed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical facility in Sudan, he and the other perpetrators surely knew that the bombing would kill civilians (tens of thousands, apparently). But Clinton and associates did not intend to kill them, because by the standards of Western liberal humanitarian racism, they are no more significant than ants. Same in the case of tens of millions of others.

I've written about this repeatedly, for example, in 9/11. And I've been intrigued to see how reviewers and commentators (Sam Harris, to pick one egregious example) simply cannot even see the comments, let alone comprehend them. Since it's all pretty obvious, it reveals, again, the remarkable successes of indoctrination under freedom, and the moral depravity and corruption of the dominant intellectual culture.

It should be unnecessary to comment on how Western humanists would react if Iranian-backed terrorists destroyed half the pharmaceutical supplies in Israel, or the US, or any other place inhabited by human beings. And it is only fair to add that Sudanese too sometimes do rise to the level of human beings. For example in Darfur, where their murder can be attributed to Arabs, the official enemy (apart, that is, from "good Arabs," like the tyrants who rule Saudi Arabia, "moderates" as Rice and others explain).

There's a lot more like this. It's of some interest that Power is regarded -- and apparently regards herself -- as a harsh critic of US foreign policy. The reason is that she excoriates Washington for not paying enough attention to the crimes of others. It's informative to look through her best-seller Problem from Hell to see what is said about US crimes. There are a few scant mentions: e.g., that the US looked away from the genocidal Indonesian aggression in East Timor. In fact, as has long been indisputable, the US looked right there and acted decisively to expedite the slaughters, and continued to do so for 25 years, even after the Indonesian army had virtually destroyed what remained of the country, when Clinton, under great international and domestic pressure, finally told the Indonesian generals that the game was over and they instantly withdrew -- revealing, as if we needed the evidence, that the immense slaughter could have been easily terminated at any point, if anyone cared. The implications cannot be perceived.

But in general US participation in horrendous crimes is simply ignored in Problem from Hell. Few seem to able to perceive that a similar book, excoriating Stalin for not paying enough attention to US crimes, would very likely have been very highly praised in the old Soviet Union. What better service could one provide to the cause of massacre, torture, and destruction -- by the Holy State and its clients, of course, whose only fault is that they do not attend sufficiently to the crimes of others.

I don't think, incidentally, that it would be fair to criticize Power for her extraordinary services to state violence and terror. I am sure she is a decent and honorable person, and sincerely believes that she really is condemning the US leadership and political culture. From a desk at the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Kennedy School at Harvard, that's doubtless how it looks. Insufficient attention has been paid to Orwell's observations on how in free England, unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. One factor, he proposed, is a good education. When you have been through the best schools, finally Oxford and Cambridge, you simply have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things "it wouldn't do to say" -- and we may add, even to think.

His insight is quite real, and important. These cases are a good illustration, hardly unique.


Posted by: anonymous at February 18, 2008 08:09 AM

I don't know about 'romanticizing' (whatever it means), but one might be opposed to demonizing the guy. Is that her definition of 'romanticizing'? I suspect it is. When an official enemy is being demonized - just shut up and get on with the program.

Posted by: abb1 at February 18, 2008 08:17 AM

Of course,neither was (is) Iraq's internal affairs the business of the US. American interference there was (is) a mistake which has substantially advanced Iran's regional power.
I think most of us here are probably familiar with the strategic reasons you feel it's important we confront Iran,but feel free to elaborate on any historical or domestic political reasons for it's importance that aren't themselves predicated on American interference in Iran's internal affairs or an ignorance of that history on the part of those who participate in the domestic political process.
By the way,xyz,one of the mistakes you make when you show up here is assuming that your audience is as ignorant as yourself about most of which you profess an expertise.Try not talking down to the crowd here once in a while,even if your humility is feigned-it's what smart people do.

Posted by: BobS. at February 18, 2008 08:28 AM

When people say stuff like:
"so I got into journalism to try to change the world,"
the interviewer should fall off his or her chair from laughing so hard.
It's right up there with the corporate funny found in almost every Annual Report: "Our people are our most important asset."

Right. People, actually, came in 9th on the assets list, just beating out paper clips.

Posted by: donescobar at February 18, 2008 09:15 AM

Interesting. She seems factually mistaken about the status of Ahmadinejad. By her wikipedia bio, her focus seems to have been Darfur and the Armenian genocide, so her error about his status, and the reality in Iran in general is understandable. Her opinions outside her areas of study will by necessity be based on the received opinion of her peers, and like everyone else, the remainder will come from the hyperrealities constructed and selected by the beneficiaries of corporate rule.

You have a broad knowledge of foreign affairs, Jon, but how many other assumptions are you making in what you take to be the case by their acceptance by your peers? I suppose it depends on how much study you do, in her case outside her formal remit. Operating at the top level as she does, I suspect that is not very much due to her primary workload.

I guess the crucial question is how wide ranging is her foreign policy advice? She's not his only adviser, clearly. Is she advising on the subject of Iran? The Time article suggests so, unfortunately.

She does use the term terrorist, which is a very bad idea. Worse, she uses it in the frame that the US cannot commit or cause to be committed terrorist acts. (BTW, do you think Ahmadinejad doesn't harbor militant animosity towards Israel? I know it's inconsequential given his political status, but still...)

But discussing US crimes is a good way to end a political career, for a simple reason. The Republicans can easily tar you or your candidate as anti-American. That works, and loses you elections. So why do it? Seriously, there needs to be more general support and understanding before it can be used to get votes. Politicians run on popular platforms, or lose. That's my understanding. What do you propose as an alternative?

Does the following count as romanticization?

Of Ahmadinejad: "As a Black man I know that whenever they try that hard to keep you out you must be saying something right."

Posted by: me at February 18, 2008 09:21 AM

Oh you know, sometime after losing the war in 1999, Yugoslavia decided to swallow its pride and move on. They actually joined NATO's PFP program, and aside from some symbolic squawking, will meekly accept Kosovo independence. Vietnam hosts US warships and gives tax breaks to US companies. And both countries are growing economically, fast. Iran is stuck with stagflation because it has an inefficient economy, riddled with corruption. And their incessant squawking about yee old 1953 and the Shah is part of the regime's permanent revolution strategy to keep power. Your average well -educated Iranian doesn't believe this crap, but the peasants do. And you people. Look, the CIA did not install the Shah. They may have facilitated his hold on power. But the 80s war demonstrates pretty well just how much raw religious fanaticism was just below the surface in Iranian society. Honestly, Iran would be a lot better off if the SAVAK had been a more rigorous. The other factor, historical, is simply that the way rivalries and alliances have worked out over the last few decades, the US and Iran are political and military rivals.

Posted by: xyz at February 18, 2008 09:58 AM

Politicians run on popular platforms, or lose. That's my understanding. What do you propose as an alternative?

Here's what I propose: that those of us who are not running for President try, as best we can, to understand the world, call things by their true names, and call bullshit when we see politicians or their advisers dispensing bullshit.

No, it won't bring about the revolution tomorrow, or even the day after tomorrow, but if we all constrict our thinking to the "ideas" considered safe for Presidential candidates, then what hope is there?

Presidential politics is the last place you look for new ideas. All new ideas get tried out by social movements first, and then, when those movements have done all the hard work needed to win broad public acceptance for their ideas, politicians swoop in adopt these now-safe-for-politics ideas. And what holds for politicians generally holds to the nth power for candidates for President.

No one who reads ATR is surprised to see that Obama and his advisers are apologists for empire. We're not disappointed in Samantha Powers, we know she's just doing her very well-paid job. Our job, which is not paid at all, is to continue to point out just how full of shit she and her candidate are.

Posted by: SteveB at February 18, 2008 10:38 AM

I asked you for something to back up your assertion that "For all manner of historical and domestic political and strategic reasons,Iran is a rival power of the US" that aren't themselves a result of US meddling in that part of the globe.Your answer was a lot of barely coherent rambling displaying your somewhat superficial understanding of history and a "well,you know,cuz that's the way it is".
Thanks,xyz,you bring a lot to the table here.

Posted by: BobS. at February 18, 2008 10:46 AM

well, you clod, you miss my central point so let me repeat it in different words. There is no particular inevitability to the ridiculous and pathetic blathering by either Iranian conservatives or American jerk-off parlor intellectuals about 1953 or the Shah blahblahblah. It's ancient history, and a lot of it is contorted and contrived "history" at that. Countries like Serbia and Vietnam, with whom we've been at war with, have figured out that joining multilateral institutions i.e. WTO, NATO PFP, EU and getting along with the US are pretty key to economic and social progress. Iran's leadership has decided that whipping up nationalistic sentiment over decades old complaints, and publicly acting like a bunch of monkeys, is good for domestic consumption. And Iran pays a heavy price for this, I doubt any of you have any sense how many young educated iranians are trying to get out of the country. I think that's actually a quite observant conclusion, and not one I lifted from some other source, something you people do all the time. I form my own opinions, while you DBs, although you have tony educational pedigrees, tend to repeat received wisdom you picked up at some jerk-off website, seminar or cocktail party.

Posted by: xyz at February 18, 2008 11:12 AM

Oh, and I do plan a week vacation in Iran. I usually prefer to spend a few months or longer somewhere in order to get to know the place well, but in this instance a week is all I'll manage. But I assure you, it will give me a far better perspective on contemporary Iranian life than the sum total of all of your jerk-off pastiche assembled from silly parlor left websites.

Posted by: xyz at February 18, 2008 11:18 AM

Hey xyz --

Are you what the Dartmouth Review produces these days? Man, it's been a long slide downward since Greg Fossedal and Keeney Jones. At least cough up some AIDS or darkie jokes, y'know, for the Review old timers.

Posted by: clyde at February 18, 2008 11:40 AM

Took a while to diagnose xyz's problem. From his posts:

"jerk-off parlor intellectuals"
"jerk-off website"
"jerk-off pastiche"

I don't envy him his issue, but I do wish I'd get to meet some of those j-o parlor intellectuals he has come to loathe. The ones I meet in Northern VA tend to go on about housing values, the Redskins,who the VP nominees "I know" might be, and so on. But the food is yummy and the wine often from France.

Posted by: donescobar at February 18, 2008 11:43 AM

"A veneer of sophistication masking lack of real insight. "
As opposed your lack of insights masking a venereal sophistry?

"But she's a geo-political genius and historian of the first order compared to you dumb bunnies."
Fuck you, you pompous asshole.

"What she doesn't understand, nor you, is that the problem isn't Iran nuking ye old Jerusalem, it's the regional balance of power."
Between who and who?

"you DBs have a tendency to blather about how the US shouldn't be in the Middle East."
Why should the US be in the middle east? Be explicit.

Come on. Share some of your purported clever, if you have any.

Posted by: me at February 18, 2008 11:49 AM

funny you mention it, the DR had a lead editorial attacking me as a symbol of what was wrong with modern relativistic culture. Those kids are pretty silly and posturing, but nowhere near as bad as you folks.

Posted by: xyz at February 18, 2008 11:51 AM

a. the balance of power between, duh, Iran, Iraq, the Gulf States, and the US.

b. the world needs a guarantor of the security of global energy supplies. a reprise of some event like the Kuwait invasion could send oil to 300 a barrel.

and I'll note, if Iran goes nuclear, it's likely Saudi Arabia will go too, hardly a recipe for stability. And just because they've "suspended" some activities, they are proceeding on others, and in a few years will be close enough that they could break out in a short period of time. This is a reckless regime playing dangerous games, and while I am not for immediate military action, I don't buy your "well, they have an ancient and proud culture, and rightfully hate America for imposing the mean ole Shah on these noble Muslim-Persian oppressed peoples" non-sense.

Posted by: xyz at February 18, 2008 12:10 PM

CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT THAT OLE DEVIL, don't need JESUS or THE LORD, but you gotta have that devil---someone to blame.
(Here's who I'm blaming)IMPEACH GEORGE BUSH AND DICK CHENEY, call Nancy Pelosi @1-202-225-0100 and DEMAND IMPEACHMENT.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 18, 2008 12:15 PM

"funny you mention it, the DR had a lead editorial attacking me as a symbol of what was wrong with modern relativistic culture. Those kids are pretty silly and posturing, but nowhere near as bad as you folks."

Right. Do we need to out you here, so you can then spit up under your real name? Something tells me that once you are revealed, you won't be as silly and posturing, to coin a phrase.

Posted by: clyde at February 18, 2008 12:19 PM

No need to really ask him questions, since it's so easy to understand his core beliefs (I think this about covers it, but throw in some more items if I've missed anything):

1. Because I have done well off the current system, it is justified. (This one is fairly typical of Financial Times and Economist readers.) Relatedly,

2. My employment history demonstrates that I am wise. Indeed, why else would I have been hired?

3. My visits to foreign locales translate into an actual understanding of foreign politics and of history. In large part because of this,

4. I know the way things are; people like you who would like things to be different are therefore wrong.

5. American hegemony is all right. After all, it's the way it is.

6. Masturbation is wrong, as are parlors.

7. The rabbits must be stopped at all costs.

Posted by: StO at February 18, 2008 12:28 PM

well, go ahead, if you're too much of a coward to debate on issues, and can't stand a bit of sharp langauge. ugh, I am so not surprised.

Posted by: xyz at February 18, 2008 12:31 PM

Sto has it half right. But what he misses is this: an obligation to clarity and truth requires one to first seek to understand, as completely as possible, how things function,and why. It's pointless to want to change things if you don't know how they actually work in the first place.

And yes, I hate cheap moral or intellectual posturing. And yes, for example, working in Georgia for three months as an energy advisor to the government gives me some insights into Georgia and energy that I am sure all of you lack. And from my experiences, some fairly lengthy, in some two dozen countries, I am able to generalize about a lot more countries

Posted by: xyz at February 18, 2008 12:42 PM

Let me help interpret xyz's observations, which are serious and deserve consideration:

"a lack of real insight but a geo-political genius"

My grasp of the intricacies of international relations are beyond the reach of your shallow salon intellects.

"the CIA did not install the Shah"

The 50 years of internal documentation celebrating the success and decisiveness of AJAX was just bragging, with no substance in fact. The CIA didn't lift a finger to raise mercenary mobs and the US military never handpicked the Shah's muscle, nor did either ever have any role in establishing the subsequent police state. I also have some real estate in Phoenix to sell you.

"Iran would be a lot better off if the SAVAK had been a more rigorous"

Because Iran would never sell oil on the world market without the US managing the totalitarian institutions of internal order for them.

"the world needs a guarantor of the security of global energy supplies"

That's why it's essential to get off those boats that are securing the shipping lanes and occupy oil producing regions when we are unable to buy off their governments: drawn out civil wars, occupations, and bombing sprees have a proven track record when it comes to stabilizing world oil prices.

"a reprise of some event like the Kuwait invasion could send oil to 300 a barrel."

Except when they don't.

"I hate cheap moral or intellectual posturing."

I prefer incoherence, it is the wellspring of all true posturing.

Posted by: buermann at February 18, 2008 01:16 PM


I think you missed:

a) Unlike you effete lagomorphic types I have no need for education, rather I am a man of action and experience, the world has been by teacher.

b) Furthermore, I am an educated erudite man, holder of advanced degrees from elite institutions. Where nevertheless I knew more than even those that taught me and sneered at there misguided foolishness.

c) I am clearly a globe-trotting, world weary person who moreover is attacked from all sides for my ability to spout truth-filled banalities. Yet still am humble enough to spend significant time posting insults and self-love anonymously on the tiniest of blogs.

d) Actually speaking of self-love I seem to have some weird issues surrounding it. That and bunnies.

Though I guess d) was already covered.

Posted by: at February 18, 2008 01:23 PM

I know Senator Obama is really, really smart and taught at a law a school and has all kinds of cred to extinguish the notion that he "lacks experience" (personally, I find the whole "experience" thing a bit overrated in presidential candidates, but wev).

Could someone kind of take him aside and explain how the Iranian government works, because Ahmadinejad doesn't have as much power as Senator Obama seems to think, and is quite powerless when it comes to foreign policy and military decisions in Iran, and probably has little to nothing to do with any decisions Iran makes with respect to support or non-support for terrorist organizations. It's a small point, but it's worth noting. I know, I know. you lose votes when you seem to know what you're talking about and try to inject factual information into the discussion. Nuance killed the Democrat star, or something like that. The wonky types prefer candidates who know what they are talking about, but the wonks are few and the hoi polloi are many. Obama's greatest fault isn't his lack of nuance, but the fact that people would rather drink a beer with McCain. I'm aware of all that.

Anyway, Ahmadinejad is the wrong guy, but that doesn't mean anything to anyone but a very few of us who, like, read and shit.

Posted by: DBK at February 18, 2008 01:36 PM

That should be "Power", not "Senator Obama". There's my nuance error for the day.

Posted by: DBK at February 18, 2008 01:40 PM

"What's a sole superpower to do with people who hide behind trees?"

Bernard, the answer is simple. Show them the Monty Python segment entitled "How Not to be Seen."

And really, is the fear that a large rogue nation is going to come and attack one's country sufficient to unite disparate parties? That's all it takes? What odd people, those Iranians.

Posted by: catherine at February 18, 2008 01:42 PM

I must say that, after watching this exchange I am dismayed.

And here I thought that all along the solution to our problems was the lessening of nationalism and various flavors of cultural exceptionalism.

An ideal future situation where "us" and "them" wouldn't be so noticeable (or profitable), and we'd get to the point that power seeking demagogues wouldn't be able to stir up joe average based on weird notions of arbitrary lines separating one culture from another.

WTF do I care if the Saudis get the nuke because the Iranians got one? Are they immune to being humans, and they'd push the button just because and for no good reason? Treat them like humans, and they won't have a good reason. Aw shucks, but that would be cowardly appeasement.

Or is it because the more people get nukes, the less you can treat them like the "invisible ants" that Chomsky speaks of crushing further up?

And we can't have that, can we? Otherwise we'll spend all day pondering the ants under our feet, and never get anything productive done...

BTW, in the category of arbitrary lines, and going in exactly the wrong direction nationalistically, we have the new country of Kosova (or whatever it's called), and them being actively egged-on by you know who.

I'da thought that at least the Europeans knew better.

Posted by: Ted at February 18, 2008 02:08 PM

I want to speak up for moral and intellectual posturing, albeit not the cheap kind. Without it, even a cocktail party by untenured members of the Dartmouth or Smith English department would be impossible. Both Upper Sides, East and West, would fall silent. Jerk-off liberals and up-tight conservatives should unite to save classy, clever and learned posturing.

Posted by: donescobar at February 18, 2008 02:09 PM

What donescobar said. Posturing is lots of fun, especially in a structured format. I took Tai Chi for a few years and while I don't remember much of it now, postures like "jerking off with the monkey" and "arguing with a jackass" improves one's sense of balance, improves posture, lowers blood pressure, and lets you fantasize that you're a kung fu master, only in slow motion.

One I especially liked was "Don't feed the troll". What you did was sit at an imaginary keyboard and not type, while keeping a serene expression on your face.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at February 18, 2008 02:37 PM

Well, if you're gonna get all smart-alecky about it...

Posted by: DBK at February 18, 2008 02:59 PM

But I must, I must.

Posted by: donescobar at February 18, 2008 03:10 PM

Take it as you will, but I don't see why we should be deprived of an individual with a CV that reads like this, if he/she's willing to offer themselves up for our mutual benefit:

I, however, as a careful student of history and commerce, and having advised government and businesses, and having immersed myself in a variety of cultures, do have such a foundation.

This proposed enforcement of commentariat purity smacks of elitism (or HS cliquishness). How can one enjoy the absurd humor of Monty Python but fail to enjoy the quote above? Probably 3/4 of the content that JS responds to in blog posts fall in the category of responding to real world trollery. Does anyone take Bill Kristol seriously? No one I know -- it's just taken as good (and bloody) fun and performance art.

But here, the medium is different, so it appears uniquely annoying when done on the smaller, monkeysphere scale.

Posted by: Ted at February 18, 2008 03:15 PM

One I especially liked was "Don't feed the troll". What you did was sit at an imaginary keyboard and not type, while keeping a serene expression on your face.

That one's the hardest. Only the masters can achieve it.

Posted by: fookin' atheist at February 18, 2008 03:28 PM

We all have our trolls to ape.

Posted by: buermann at February 18, 2008 03:34 PM

OK, but who is the Smeagol in this scenario? And who are Frodo and Samwise? And is Obama Boromir or Faramir?

Posted by: fookin' atheist at February 18, 2008 03:38 PM

Ugh. Power is normally much sharper than this.

Posted by: Batocchio at February 18, 2008 03:56 PM

We are not a Democracy. Until we are...the present political state will be our oppessor, in both our civic lives as well as, along wwith the corproate autocracy, our working lives.

There is a way to a genuine democracy.

Posted by: Wally P. at February 18, 2008 04:07 PM

"And on balance, it's certainly to US advantage, but probably the world's advantage, for the US to check any substantial advance in Iran's power."

Well, gee whiz, we didn't "check" any substantial advances in Iran's power, WE AIDED AND ABETTED THEM BY PUTTING IRANIAN PROXIES IN POWER IN IRAQ!!!

As to "probably the world's advantage" that the US have the advantage in regional power in the Middle East, the rest of the world has definitely decided that this is not the case.

Our dollar has decreased by 1/3 of it's value in the last five years, and our trade deficit is higher than it has every been. If we were to stop giving "aid" to foreign countries for them to buy our weapons, our trade deficit would be a record - setting low.

Posted by: Susan - NC at February 18, 2008 04:18 PM

"It's ancient history"

It's not ancient history to my friends from IRAN or their relatives who still live in IRAN.

Posted by: Susan - NC at February 18, 2008 04:27 PM

Sitting placidly in front of imaginary keyboards, can result in madness (such as posting the same thing five times in a row by confusing the imaginary with the real). Apparently this should only be attempted by masters.

There is a way to a genuine democracy.

I should point out an alternate view. A slacker's approach to government, if you will.

Rather than concentrating on leaders that grub power, we should be concentrating on bureaucrats that actively avoid responsibility and have little drive. We then distribute the working of government among them, -- and if they do show initiative, they should be booted straight out of government and into a reeducation camp.

That sounds disturbingly familiar, like it may have been the basis of a Futurama episode already.

The current (dystopic) system teaches us that Harrison Bergeron should be considered dystopic (even Wikipedia is in on that sham), but that just ain't so. The Handicapper General knew how to deal with ambition and exceptionalism, by gum.

Posted by: Ted at February 18, 2008 04:34 PM

Mike Meyer - Pelosi has a full in-box for phone messages.... but I tried.

Trolls are fun, they liven things up.

Posted by: Susan - NC at February 18, 2008 04:38 PM

"Sitting placidly in front of imaginary keyboards, can result in madness (such as posting the same thing five times in a row by confusing the imaginary with the real). "

I did start to reply to your post about trolls and cliqueishness, but I decided to let it go (that's another pose from cyber Chi). For a second I wondered if I'd accidentally hit post five times.

Anyway, if people want trolls, trolls they will have. They can be unintentionally amusing, and that quote you cited was funny, but I think the humor will go stale eventually.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at February 18, 2008 05:13 PM

The rhetorical device of inventing strawmen "extremes" that don't exist, is a specific symptom of barely clinging to the furthermost edge of the acceptable political spectrum. You must kick away everyone to your left to demonstrate your soundness and basic loyalty to the imperial consensus.

That said, Chomsky's comments fail in one respect to engage with Samantha Power's A Problem from Hell. I've had enormous respect for him and learned tons from his writings, but this is just too sweeping a statement: " general US participation in horrendous crimes is simply ignored in Problem from Hell."

She details the ways in which U.S. officials gave cover to governments conducting assaults on their people -- Cambodians, Kurds, Tutsis.

But his basic point is correct in that hers is a sin of omission: what difference it might have made had she included East Timor as a case study in A Problem from Hell? A: It would cut down on the glowing reviews and killed her chance to be an advisor to Kerry and Obama.

Posted by: Nell at February 18, 2008 05:27 PM

The current (dystopic) system teaches us that Harrison Bergeron should be considered dystopic (even Wikipedia is in on that sham), but that just ain't so. The Handicapper General knew how to deal with ambition and exceptionalism, by gum.

In a way you could say "Harrison Bergeron" illustrates a Taoist ideal of society.

Posted by: fookin' atheist at February 18, 2008 06:15 PM

You should get angry more often,zzzzzzz-you tend to write with more clarity.Not necessarily any more insight,but definitely more clarity.
It isn't ancient history when there's people alive who remember it(my advice:during your week in Iran,share your views about SAVAK and their lack of diligence with all of your casual acquaintances).And despite your alphabet spanning knowledge of various trade organizations and military alliances(not to mention the sex life of rabbits),you've yet to explain the rivalry resulting from "all manner of historical and domestic and political and strategic reasons" that apparently was simply destined to be and not a result of US meddling in "Iran's internal affairs" (which,truth be told,is only fair,considering Iran's persistent meddling in the "internal affairs" of the US).Also unique to you (and,of course,the dumbfucks who make American foreign policyas well as the dumbfucks who report it for the stenographic services known as ABC,CNN,the New York Times,etc.)is the contention that the current acrimonious relationship is unilateral on the part of Iran.
You've offered many clues as to your identity(ttenth grade dropout,well travelled,employed in the oil industry)-may I make a guess?You're a food service worker for Haliburton,right?And you've picked up your cursory knowledge of history,economics,and current events from conversations you've overheard waiting tables,right?What do I win?

Posted by: BobS. at February 18, 2008 06:28 PM

I'll admit it, I hate it when people lunge to romanticize somebody. In fact, I think lunging in general is very declasse.

And far as the balance of power goes, if you've got power, clearly you should balance it, say with the assistance of a clever sea lion.

Ok, I got nuthin'.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at February 18, 2008 06:37 PM

... can't burn the oil ...

Posted by: hapa at February 18, 2008 06:46 PM

Did I read that right?

Did xyz claim to have discovered American neocolonialism/"soft" power?

He's an original thinker/observer for sure.

Posted by: baldie mceagle at February 18, 2008 06:51 PM

Susan-NC: DC business hours only, call often, and spread it around.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 18, 2008 08:24 PM