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March 05, 2005

Assad Blinks?

I don't trust him for a minute, but...

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is expected to announce a redeployment of Syrian troops in Lebanon when he addresses his parliament today, say Lebanese politicians.

Mr Assad's speech, which the Syrian press agency said would deal with "current political developments" follows unprecedented international pressure on Damascus to withdraw its 15,000 troops and its secret services from Lebanon.

After talks with Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, in Moscow yesterday, Walid al-Muallim, Syrian's deputy foreign minister, said Damascus would soon reveal what he called "an agreement between Syria and Lebanon" which he said would meet the approval of the United Nations Security Council.

Via Instapundit, who apparently thinks the way to illustrate peaceful pro-freedom revolution is to post a bunch of pictures of comely, flag-waving lasses.

Which I find to be outrageously heteronormative.

No, wait. That's not the right word.

Arousing. That's the word I was looking for.

Do We On the Right Have to Make the Left's Arguments For Them?:

More -- much, much more -- beyond the jump. But I've been told that people don't like very long pieces, as they like to be able to quickly scan headlines. So I've put the meat of this piece into the extended entry.


As the stampede continues -- I gave up documenting it; suffice to say that the amateur leftist webzine Slate and another idiot from the Guardian UK started making "maybe we wuz wrong" noises -- I'm just wondering why the left hasn't made the following argument:

Far from vindicating Bush, the Cedar Tree Revolution repudiates him, as it demonstrates that diplomacy and a concerted world effort can force dictators to free populations. The support of the French and the UN, it turns out, is every bit as powerful as a division of American troops, and a much less costly and bloody way to achieve freedom and security.

I don't know. They've made practically every other lame argument; what makes this one any dumber?

Actually, it's not entirely dumb. Certainly, having the world speak with one voice is a very powerful lever with which to move tyranny. The trouble is, of course, that this option was entirely foreclosed to us with respect to Saddam Hussein; we would have loved to have the Germans, French, Russians and Chinese join us in demanding full and unrestricted inspections in Iraq -- and to stop supporting terrorism -- and to allow open and free elections --- but those countries were in fact largely on Saddam's side.

So yes: In fact, where possible, it would be preferable to lead a nearly unanimous world coalition of condemnation and ultimatums in order to rattle tyrants.

But it's not always possible. And when it's not possible, the left needs to stop dodging the question and answer: Is it better to act with fewer partners to achieve a good result, or to act along with the entire world to preserve the status quo and leave tyrants unchecked?

In my earlier days I did some teaching, and some of that teaching concerned the essay portion of the SAT. And the standard SAT essay question was "Do you support Option A which has these advantages and these drawbacks, or Option B which has different advantages and different drawbacks?" And a lot of students, who just weren't keen on that whole "critical thinking" thing, would answer, basically, "I choose Option C, which has all of the advantages of Options A and B, but none of the drawbacks."

Except, you know, the question did not mention an Option C. It mentioned an A and a B. Period.

I don't know if the SAT graders thought much of that sort of answer. I know for a fact that I didn't. Because it doesn't take too much critical thinking at all to conjure up some dream-world Option C which has no drawbacks whatsoever and claim that's what you support.

Who wouldn't? If you suffer a tragic accident, and a doctor asks you, "Would you like us to amputate your leg and nearly guarantee that you will live, or attempt to preserve your leg with the very high likelihood that you will die in the process?," what human being doesn't have the first impulse of saying, "Actually, I'd like to both keep my leg and have the guarantee of survival."

Well, yes; of course. But sadly, sometimes that's not an option on the table.

And people do this in politics all the time; and call me a hack, but it seems to be a tactic especially favored by the left.

In a radio debate (actually, not much of a debate at all) between Katha Politt and the once-relevant Andrew Sullivan shortly before the invasion of Afghanistan, Sullivan repeatedly asked Politt if she didn't support an invasion and explusion of the Taliban, but also agreed that "something should be done," what, on earth, was she suggesting that "something" be? And she continuously dodged the question.

Actually, she kept answering she wanted Option C: the option where there is no invasion or military action (or even sanctions!) and yet the Taliban agrees to not only turn over all Al Qaeda suspects within the areas it controls but also peaceably departs to start a new organizational life as travelling hookah merchants.

I don't remember any such "Option C" being readily available in October 2001.

And the left continues to choose Option C on Iraq. Given that the French and Russians (and to a lesser extent, the Chinese and Germans) were Saddam's patrons and protectors (and business partners), we had only two options.

Option A: defy the wishes of the pro-Saddam coalition of the unwilling; destroy a corrupt and brutal regime, freeing millions, but with limited support, and at the expense of alienating world opinion and bearing most of the costs of war ourselves.

Option B: join with the coalition of the unwilling, united in opinion, and speak with a single voice, telling Saddam "You can pretty much keep doing what you're doing and we'll do absolutely nothing at all about it."

It's been two years since the process which led us to war in Iraq began, and the left keeps refusing to answer the question.

They still want that goddamned Option C, and they're not going to shut up about Option C until the sun flickers and fades and the earth freezes into a gray and lifeless rock.

Action Movie Tie-In Update: The funniest and most charismatic young actor alive, Seann William Scott, attempted to choose Option C in the surprisingly well-done The Rundown, and look what it got him.

He said, "There's always an Option C," but it turns out he was wrong. The Rock kicked his ass unholy, which was just the Option B he'd offered. So, by refusing to accept Brutal Reality (here embodied by The Rock) and make a choice, and insisting on a dream-world Option C, Seann William Scott had one of the real world choices forced upon him by External Events (also embodied by The Rock, in a Peter Sellars-like double role).

Which I think is also a perfect illustration of Geddy Lee's admotion, "And if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice (ba-dum-dum)."

The left needs to start listening to Rush and The F'n' Rock: There is no Option C, guys. Get over it.

A Little Help?: There was a minor academic fooferal over this some time ago. Behavioral psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg did a test to see how different subjects reacted to hypothetical moral dilemmas. Like: If your kid is sick and you can't afford the medicine, should you steal it from the pharmacist or not?

He found -- sorry about the sexist implications here -- that while men tended to reason according to a "ladder" or heirarchy of moral imperatives (i.e., to preserve health is more important than the injunction against theft), women tended to avoid the hypothetical and answer that the father should just "talk to the pharmacist" and see if he could get the medicine for free.

Based on that, he concluded, a bit controversially, that men had a higher capacity for moral thinking than women, who tended to avoid moral dilemmas by wishing them away rather than confronting them directly and choosing the most vital moral imperative. On his own six-point scale of capacity for moral reasoning, he found the average man scored something like a 5, and the average woman a 4. An entire stage of "moral development" lower.

One of his researchers -- a feminist lefty named Carol Gilligan -- was outraged by all this, and wrote a big essay called, I think, "Jacob's Ladder and Amy's Web," and later a book called In a Different Voice, arguing that this tendency of women was not indicative of a lesser capacity of moral judgment, but rather some sort of different-but-superior way of viewing the world. An interconnected web of complexly woven interrelationships of caring and sharing and snuggling and huggling and that sort of bullshit.

I actually wonder if this indicates a difference in male and female thinking so much as it illustrates the gulf between conservative and liberal thinking. Conservatives, it seems to me, tend to display (or be gulity of, depending on your orientation) "hard thinking," and are willing and able to make difficult moral choices.

Liberals tend to deny the necessity of choosing between imperfect options and seek to postulate some poorly-defined "Third Way" that yields a perfect outcome but, alas, is also as fanciful as a pink unicorn wearing bunny-slippers. "Soft thinking," I would call it.

Stukom tipped me as to how to find all this stuff, and I'm looking through web-hits to see if I can find a good essay about it that I can post.

digg this
posted by Ace at 06:02 AM

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