Tag Archives: matthew yglesias

Examples of blind allegiance to tribal truths, keeping us weak & ignorant

Summary: Truth has become a tribal thing in America. Scores of posts have documented this on the Right and Left. Today we have two fun examples by the Left, with sublime but blind confidence in their tribe’s truths. Our tribalism divides us, making us weak. Our blinders keep us ignorant. The combination probably makes reform impossible for America.

Spirit Of Truth

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Contents

  1. Matthew Yglesias indicts Bush, defends Obama
  2. Tribal truths about climate vs George Will
  3. For More Information

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(1)  Yglesias indicts Bush, defends Obama (blindly)

An analysis by Matthew Yglesias  VOX, 16 June 2014 — Excerpt:

The US military is the finest military in the world, the sharp spear of the mightiest empire in human history. But the considerable virtues of America’s fighting forces do not give it any particular expertise in micro-managing Afghanistan politics.

And the fundamentals in Afghanistan have simply never been very good for a peaceful and democratic settlement. The country is not only divided between sectarian groups, but sandwiched between two rival regional powers … and neither power having any particular interest in democracy and pluralism. Throw in the well-known phenomenon of the resource curse and the country’s lack of stable institutions, and you’ve got a recipe for problems, problems that a bunch of heavily armed young people — no matter how well-intentioned or well-led — are not capable of solving.

This is a searing indictment of Obama’s war policy. During the 2008 campaign he advocated boosting the war effort in Afghanistan, despite 7 years of futile but expensive effort. Which he did starting in early 2009. Now our failure is obvious to all who look (although many prefer to see with closed eyes).

Surprise! This was in fact a defense of Obama, and by implication an attack on Bush Jr, titled “The mess in Iraq proves Obama was right to leave“. In this excerpt Afghanistan was swapped for Iraq, and resources for oil. Yglesias writes it with no sign of awareness that his logic defending Obama’s Iraq withdrawal also condemns Obama’s Afghanistan surge.

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A note about practical propaganda

Summary:  A brief note foreshadowing the next post.

Propaganda has become a powerful tool used by both Left and Right to shape American’s views about the world.  Slowly we recognize this.  Republicans do so by their adoption of it as a primary policy tool, as seen in the health care debate.  Political commentators do so by evaluating the efforts of opinion-manipuators, and their effect on the American people — as Yglesias does here:

{C}overage of the actual content of the bill is by necessity more favorable to the bill than the hokum that’s dominated the conversation thus far. After all, most of what people have been talking about is either straight-up lies — death panels — or hystical mewling about the death of freedom and the gulag. Any time you have medical doctors on television talking about new insurance rules, or newspaper writers drawing up charts showing what kinds of people will be impacted in which ways, you’re into the universe of sober-minded discussion of an importance series of tweaks to people’s existing care, and the expenditure of a bunch of money to make insurance affordable to those who don’t have it.

Now realistically, the evidence suggests that once misconceptions get into people’s heads they’re hard to dislodge. So I wouldn’t count on enormous changes in public opinion ensuring from this shift in coverage. But it’s bound to help at the margin.

— “The changing tide“, Matthew Yglesias, posted at ThinkProgress, 22 March 2010

The next post discusses this theme in greater detail.

A real-time example of the birth and spread of climate propaganda

Summary:  In our weak condition, America has become unusually susceptible to propaganda.  Accepting of it, so long as it confirms our views.  Loving lies.  If we become sheep, don’t blame the wolves for preying upon us.  This post traces the evolution of  science research into propaganda.  Real science, exaggerated into propaganda, a doomster story that will circulate for years.  People questioning it will be derided as ignorant — the story is science.  These techniques are effective because sheep are easily ruled by fear.

Contents

  1. Real science:  the original journal article
  2. Accurate summaries of real science for a general audience
  3. Exaggeration of science to create propaganda
  4. Result:  ignorant fear
  5. Articles about using these methane deposits as a problem — and a solution
  6. More information on the FM website

(1)  Real science:  the original journal article

Extensive Methane Venting to the Atmosphere from Sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf“, Natalia Shakhova et al, Science, 5 March 2010 — Abstract:

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Updates about hot issues discussed on the FM website

Some articles about themes discussed on the FM website.

  1. Demographics, shaping our world
  2. India
  3.  Japan
  4. American’s greatest enemy
  5. America’s rotten boroughs — States with 2 Senators, but few people

(1)  About Demographics

Excerpt from “Falling fertility“, The Economist, 29 October 2009 — “Astonishing falls in the fertility rate are bringing with them big benefits”

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More about Iran, things you know that might not be so

Some things you might find of interest about Iran, as drift towards war.

Contents

  1. I have here a statement by an obvious ally of Iran working at the highest level of the US government!
  2. Quote of the Day from Jack A Smith, “A Manufactured Crisis“, Asia Times, 30 September 2009
  3. Top Things you Think You Know about Iran that are not True“, Juan Cole, Informed Consent, 1 October 2009
  4. Our war-loving Foreign Policy Community hasn’t gone anywhere“, Glen Greenwald, Salon, 21 September 2009
  5. Comments from the peanut gallery about the Iranian Nuke Crisis
  6. Background Information about Iran
  7. Afterword and More Information on the FM Site

Excerpts

(1)  I have here a statement by an obvious ally of Iran working at the highest level of the US government!  Will the hawks, lusting for war with Iran, denounce this appeaser for his remarks about Iran?

Iran, of course, being, you know, in such proximity to Afghanistan and having significant influence inside Afghanistan, is a big player. They, in my view, they have a lot of very positive influence inside Afghanistan, some of it cultural, some of it financial, just things that any neighbor would have to try to build the stability. I think that if Iran takes a very mature look at a stable Afghanistan and support the government of Afghanistan, then we’ll be — we’ll be in good shape. If they were to choose not to do that, and they were to choose to support insurgents, I think that would be a significant miscalculation.

The culprit is General Stanley McChrystal.  He said this when asked about “Iran’s significance for the Afghanistan equation” after his speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London (see the text of the speech and video of the Q&A at their website here.  This is from Spencer Ackerman’s column The Washington Independent, 1 October 2009.  The parody of Joseph McCarthy is mine.

(2)  Quote of the Day from Jack A Smith, “A Manufactured Crisis“, Asia Times, 30 September 2009 — Excerpt (red emphasis added):

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A General explains how the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics will bring us victory in Afganistan

More exhortations to continue the course in “Losing the War of Exhaustion” by Mark T. Kimmitt (Brigadier General, US Army, retired), Foreign Policy, 21 September 2009 — “It’s not low troop levels that stand to defeat the United States in Afghanistan. It’s plain old public fatigue.”  Hat tip to Bernard Finel, who has some interesting comments about this article.  Excerpt:

As Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, awaits a response from the White House on his assessment of the war effort, some would suggest that doubt is growing on Capitol Hill and in towns and cities across the United States about whether America can win this fight.

This doubt is misplaced. The truth is that there are more than enough troops, civilians, money, and operational capability available between the United States, NATO forces, and our Afghan allies to defeat the Taliban and assist in rebuilding Afghan society. There is no reason to fear losing a war of attrition. The major danger in Afghanistan is losing a war of exhaustion.

… If this war is to be won, it will certainly require more capability: more troops, more civilians, more funding, and a coherent strategy. For that, we can depend on the Department of Defense to find the troops, on the Department of State and other cabinet agencies to find the civilians, and on Congress to find the money.

But capability is insufficient. Achieving success in Afghanistan will also require domestic will, popular support, and strategic patience. These are the most important weapons in a war of exhaustion. Congress, DOD, and State can help out, but only the president can achieve a popular mandate for Afghanistan. Only the president can ask Americans to endure years of sacrifice. Only the president can build support for a protracted struggle that, in his words, is a “war of necessity.” And, only the president can harness domestic will, popular support, and strategic patience — the indispensible elements for success — without which our efforts in Afghanistan cannot succeed.

The General never explains why the war is important, only that the war is important — and our willpower can ensure victory.  Perhaps he believes in the The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics (Matthew Yglesias, TPM Cafe, 10 July 2006):

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Ignatius proposes “A New Deal for The CIA” – perhaps they should sometimes obey our laws

I doubt that proposals for partial reform of the CIA make sense.  Not after reading the major histories of the CIA (e.g., Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes).  Even so, this specimen looks unusually daft:  “A New Deal for The CIA“, David Ignatius, op-ed in the Washington Post, 17 September 2009.

It opens with the usual romantic tales of daring spys.  The actual history is far more sordid, the actual results too often bad for both America and the nations subject to the CIA’s manipulation.  The second half returns to the real world.

Excerpt

What’s required is a new approach to intelligence based on the need for political sustainability. This, in turn, will require a degree of transparency with Congress and the public that may make the intelligence community uncomfortable. But frankly, after the torture debate, there’s no other way.

… When we read about waterboarding and other techniques that shock the conscience, it’s easy to lose sight of what intelligence agents like my friend Jeannie do most of the time — and their importance in protecting the country. The interrogation policies may have been directed by the George W. Bush administration, but it is the CIA and its people who have paid the price.

The question is how to put the pieces back together — how to restore public trust in intelligence. I heard powerful presentations on that subject last Saturday in Geneva by Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA director, and Sir David Omand, former coordinator of British intelligence. They were speaking at a meeting of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. (Full disclosure: I am a member of that group’s advisory council.)

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