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December 15, 2011

Thank You, Tablet

A few days ago I apologized to Tablet Magazine for some of this post. After thinking about it, I realized that I should also thank them for several things:

1. Everyone tends to think the worst of people they already don't like. This often leads to mistakes, in which you jump to conclusions and misinterpret their behavior. In fact, this is one big reason why government intelligence agencies in every country tend to be wrong about everything all the time. So I'm grateful to Tablet for reminding me that, even though I'm conscious of this tendency, I'm still vulnerable to it.

2. Everyone makes mistakes, and it's often only your "enemies" who are paying close enough attention and care enough to tell you about them. This is why I think you have to listen to what your dastardly foes say—they're a much more reliable source of information about your flaws than your friends. If you don't do this, you run the risk of becoming a monster who perceives themselves to be a martyr.

3. The original article in Tablet by Lee Smith is much more honest than most writing about U.S. foreign policy. Smith doesn't bother with the standard garbage about our luv for democracy; he straightforwardly says that we own the middle east, and we have to kill lots of people to keep it. (I especially like the part about how "our inheritance includes the Persian Gulf," hence we must bomb the Persians.)

Most members of the U.S. foreign policy elite will tell you this is why we do everything, but they won't say it in public; it's usually only after they've had a couple of beers with you in a bar in Arlington, Virginia around the corner from the Pentagon. Lee Smith was the rare exception, as was Lyndon Johnson when he said this to U.S. soldiers in 1966:

There are 3 billion people in the world and we have only 200 million of them. We are outnumbered 15 to 1. If might did make right they would sweep over the United States and take what we have. We have what they want.

Just getting most discussions of U.S. foreign policy to this level would be a giant step forward. We could then move onto issues like:

A) If we have to kill and kill and kill to keep what "we" have, can we have a discussion about whether we'd rather continue slaughtering millions, or be somewhat poorer? And if we do decide we want to keep killing everyone, shouldn't all this stuff "we" have be more evenly distributed?

B) Is it in fact the case that we have to slaughter millions to remain a wealthy country? Maybe it's not necessary to spend our lives wading waist-deep through rivers of blood in order to have central air conditioning.

So thank you, Tablet.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at December 15, 2011 09:11 PM

As you say, Jonathan, error correction requires error detection, and only those willing to hear that they have made a mistake get a chance to correct their mistakes and made different mistakes next time.

Those who are so arrogant that they refuse to listen to criticism ensure their own gradual enstupefication.

I used to be conceited myself, but now I am so humble you would hardly believe it.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 15, 2011 11:16 PM

And if we do decide we want to keep killing everyone, shouldn't all this stuff "we" have be more evenly distributed?

that's a pretty fucking grim question.

if it is true that "we" have consciously made such determinations WRT killing everyone-- no, wait: if Presidents and profiteers gon' fuck up OUR Karma with all their "we" bullshit, then we should all get, what, some kind of petrodollar tax rebate? preferred candidate status for jobs in onshore drone factories? 40 acres of hot sand and a camel?

perhaps it would be more worthwhile to consider: who is this "we" "we" keep talking about?

Posted by: Montag at December 16, 2011 12:52 AM

another irony of johnson's quote is that it could accurately read "If democracy actually existed they would sweep...

Posted by: frankenduf at December 16, 2011 09:22 AM

I KNEW that was OUR oil, I knew it, damn it.
The "WE",the "US", the "OUR" is U&I, AMERICANS. When "WE" rob these people, when "OUR" bombs blow up their children, those people say "THE AMERICANS" did it. Unlike "US" they don't think in terms like "The Waltons did it, or The Rockefellers did it, or The Koch Brothers did it, or The President did it", they see an American Flag and American Soldiers,OUR Kids, American bombs, American planes, American choppers, American drones. They think that THE AMERICANS did it.
IF YOU want a cut, a piece of the action, YOUR share of the booty, then YOU'll just have to go up and TAKE it, same way it was gotten in the first place.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 16, 2011 12:27 PM

What we habitually call "our knowledge" is in actuality belief in what others say they know.

Friends tend to have more belief in their friends than they do in their enemies, however, enemies are enemies because they believe in what others say they know too.

Posted by: Dredd at December 16, 2011 12:52 PM

While we're loving on Tablet, let's raise a glass of Manischevitz to their review of Schindler's List as astoundingly stupid.

Posted by: Josh K-sky at December 16, 2011 07:55 PM

Just getting most discussions of U.S. foreign policy to this level would be a giant step forward.

I've always said the same thing. I appreciate it when someone just comes out and says, look, I'm glad we invade other countries and take their oil because we need it. At least then you can have an honest discussion (or avoid wasting time on a worthless disingenuous discussion, which is just as good). Sadly, with most people you never even make it past the outermost ring of rationalizations.

Posted by: John Caruso at December 17, 2011 12:23 AM

Well said.

Posted by: Batocchio at December 19, 2011 01:10 PM