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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This is a small example of the Bush is Hitler, Obama is fine for doing the same things syndrome. Imagine what the Left would have said if Bush had employed the almost-defunct Espionage Act of 1917 to suppress leaks and whistle-blowers — and boasted about his assassinations, even of US citizens.

Of course we see similar “thinking” on the Right. Their maniacal pursuit of Obama for things like the Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi scandal. Their indifference to the bloody toll of guns, while trumpeting the far fewer legitimate acts of self-defense (see here and here).

Here Yglesias gives us a fine demonstration of one aspect of the 21st century American partisan mind. Other posts here provide a fuller outline: confident in their beliefs; closed to opponents’ arguments; blinkered to avoid seeing inconvenient facts; amnesic to awkward history. Truth is tribal. Ideal pawns for the 1%, with little ability to form inconveniently broad political alliances against them.

Reflecting on Truth

Let’s do another example.

(2)  Tribal truths about climate

The sad, sorry decline of George F. Will“, Damon Linker, The Week, 11 June 2014 — “The longtime Washington Post columnist was once an intellectual force to be reckoned with. No more.”

It’s become a classic of political commentary: a center-left lament about the decline in the quality of conservative intellectual life. … In most cases, this shift has been generational: an older, more thoughtful group of conservative thinkers and writers has been replaced by a less deeply educated and more baldly partisan cohort of ideological foot soldiers. But there is a notable exception to this tendency: George F. Will.

Will has been an opinion columnist for four decades, writing highly literate commentary for The Washington Post, Newsweek, and many other outlets in syndication. Holding a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University, Will has often brought a rich knowledge of political philosophy and history into his columns — erudition that was recognized by his fellow journalists when he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1977.

Will has also shown an admirable independence of mind over the years … one wonders what the author of that book would make of the George Will of today — peddler of Tea-Party-approved libertarian bromides, promoter of know-nothing climate-change denialism, serial spewer of bile against the all-purpose bogeyman of “progressivism.”

Linker purports to give a politically-neutral, even objective, take-down of Will. The first and last of the three critiques look like boilerplate partisan whining, as in I don’t like his politics, and he doesn’t like mine. The second is more interesting. The link goes to “George Will, Anti-Climate-Science Loon, Strikes Again“, Jonathan Chait, NY Magazine, 29 April 2013.  Here is the centerpiece of Chait’s analysis:

George F. Will … uses the last occasion to share his favorite statistic: There has been no global warming for fifteen years! … would Will be correct in asserting there has been no global warming for fifteen years? No, of course not.

This is a core tribal truth of the Left, endlessly repeated. With lavish insults for any who dare disagree. Unfortunately, climate scientists disagree (broadly speaking, as the duration of the “pause” or “hiatus” varies from 14 – 18 years, depending on the surface atmosphere temperature data set used). Several years ago the pause was controversial. Now it’s a commonplace mention in the peer-reviewed literature, with several reports about it by major climate agencies (e.g., The recent pause in global warming: What do observations of the climate system tell us?, UK Met Office, July 2013). Climate scientists have moved on to determining the causes of the pause, and forecasting its duration.

For those who like their science straight up, these posts provide abstracts and links to a wealth of research.

  1. Still good news: global temperatures remain stable, at least for now., 14 October 2012
  2. Scientists explore causes of the pause in warming, perhaps the most important research of the decade, 17 January 2014
  3. One of the most important questions we face: when will the pause in global warming end?, 25 August 2013

Meanwhile the Left demonstrates there is no reality-based community. They cite each other as authorities (playing climate scientist has become a favorite Leftist cosplay). They firmly hold their tribal truths like the most fervent creationist.

Polar Ice Caps are melting

(3)  For More Information

(a)  For more information on the FM sites:

  1. The important things to know about global warming
  2. Posts about gun rights
  3. About politics in America
  4. Information & disinformation

(b)  Posts about  George Will:

  1. The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation, 18 February 2009
  2. George Will: climate criminal or brave but sloppy iconoclast?, 23 February 2009
  3. Apologies are due George Will, vindicated from charges that he is a climate criminal, 22 April 2010
  4. 5 years later: checking up on the 2-minute hate at George Will about melting of the polar ice, 10 June 2014

(c)  Posts about tribalism:

  1. At the Tampa Convention Right & Left display our great illness: Tribalism, 2 September 2012
  2. Swear allegiance to the truth as a step to reforming America, 24 November 2013
  3. Facts are the enemy of both Left and Right in our America, 12 May 2014
  4. The story of America: what’s wrong and how to fix it, 9 June 2014

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Truth by Nietzsche

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12 thoughts on “Examples of blind allegiance to tribal truths, keeping us weak & ignorant

  1. Until the collective “we” take responsibility for the entire mess, then we have no hope of learning.

    For example, if we had followed our initial plans and retrograded from Iraq in 2006 and transitioned to FID in Afghanistan, then we probably could have saved one trillion dollars and achieved the same results.

    Instead, we were “All-In” to no ends with complete disregard for costs.

    I imagine that over the next week, it will finally be reported that the many of the ISIS were actually trained in Jordan by US Special Forces when we were calling them Syrian Freedom Fighters. These actions were due to the outcries by the neo-liberalist (notably Ann-Marie Slaughter) that we had a Responsibility to Protect the Syrian people.
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    FM Note: From Wikipedia

    Foreign internal defense (FID) is a term used by a number of Western militaries, including the United States, France & the UK, to describe an approach to combating actual or threatened insurgency in a foreign state called the Host Nation (HN). The term counter-insurgency is more commonly used worldwide than FID. FID involves military deployment of counter-insurgency specialists. According to the US doctrinal manual, Joint Publication 3-07.1: Foreign Internal Defense (FID), those specialists preferably do not themselves fight the insurgents. Doctrine calls for a close working relationship between the HN government and military with outside military, diplomatic, economic, and other specialists. The most successful FID actions prevent actual violence, although that is rarely possible. When combat is needed, it is best done by HN personnel with appropriate external support, the external support preferably being in a noncombat support and training role alone.

    1. FM,

      Ironically, if we followed that course of action, then we would have had more maneuver room at less costs.

      It was madness to send US troops to live in the villages and suburbs. I checked at my local VA this week, new TBI intakes are up 20% from last year. The true costs of this war have not yet been felt.
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      FM Note: TBI = Traumatic Brain Injury.

    2. Mike,

      I have followed this since early in the war (my wife is active in the Blue Star Moms), and written about Congress’ shameful refusal to grant the VA’s requests for more funding to prepare for the coming wave of vets (their current posturing is more of the same). The “tail” of disabilities from our wars will continue for decades to come — at a cost that I suspect will blow away current estimates. Past wars will not accurately predict the cost of partial disabilities from this generation.

      It’s too politically incorrect to say, but my guess is that the disability rate from female vets will be quite high.

    3. If it does come out that members of the ISIS were indeed Syrian rebels who received training in Jordan from US Special Forces (which would not surprise me one iota)…then this will only serve as further evidence for the argument that the United States is still relying upon the maxim “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” as the primary basis of its foreign/defense policy, and still refusing to learn from the failures (and the profoundly unfortunate consequences) resulting from its previous reliance on this strategy.

      What’s ironic is the fact that many of our current problems in the Middle East can be traced back to two specific examples of our dogged dependence on this policy — our support of Saddam Hussein during his war with Iran (which he repaid by invading Kuwait) and our support of Osama bin Laden and others among the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan (which was repaid by the creation of the Taliban and of al-Qaeda). Since there are at least hints that we’re choosing to continue relying on this same idea now, there’s reason to believe that this will create future problems which will encourage continued reliance on this tactic, etc., etc., ad nauseum, ad infinitum. It’s almost enough to make a particularly observant and perceptive individual wonder whether there might not be people at high-level positions in DC (either within the government or the military) who are engaged in a *deliberate* effort to create a never-ending cycle of disruptions in the Middle East in order to continue justifying the juggernaut that is the Military Industrial Complex.

      Someone please remind me…what’s one definition of insanity? Oh, that’s right…doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.

  2. If, in fact, the left and right are as delusional as FM asserts, then both can be defeated.

    At issue is who the victor may be. Domestic or foreign?

    1. Duncan,

      Vital to distinguish between delusional beliefs that keep the proles in line, and those that are operationally disruptive. We have much of the first. The prevalence second type is more difficult to assess (from the perspective that matters, that of the 1%).

    2. OK:

      You make reference to the “Bush is Hitler” business and the general smearing of disliked individuals with the Hitler brush.

      A recent article by Spengler:

      “The Russians have difficulty believing that no-one in the West, at least no-one in a position of influence, has the remotest idea of what Russian Orthodoxy might be and what its quarrels with the West might mean, although these are vivid, living issues in the minds of Russians. Russian President Vladimir Putin is not a new Hitler; he is what defeated Hitler, as well as Napoleon. It wasn’t congenial to the West in 1812 and it isn’t now, but it can’t be booed away. America shouted at the top of its lungs at Putin after Crimea and waved a toothpick, and the Russian leader cut a deal with Beijing. ”

      http://www.atimes.com/atimes/World/WOR-01-160614.html

      A long time ago, say 1994, there was an article in the New York Review of Books about all the Saddam Hussein as Hitler rhetoric, stating that actually he was more like Stalin.

      So misusing the “Hitler” rhetoric can get you into serious difficulties.

  3. First, let’s start with basic reality. The U.S. military is not “the finest military in the world, the sharp spear of the mightiest empire in human history.”

    The U.S. military is shit. The American military could be handily defeated today by the Tijuana police force. If I were a third-world insurgent, I would have no fear at all of the American military. a

    The U.S. military is a gang of rapists and gang members and misfits led by careerist incompetent cowards. The main concern of today’s U.S. army officer is to produce spiffy-looking Powerpoint slides for his commander. The main interest of the typical U.S army recruit is in raping female recruits, to the point where women in the U.S. military must now carry a K-bar with them when they go to the latrine.

    More American soldiers now die from suicide than by enemy fire. Is this an army to be frightened of?

    The sooner we realize that the American military is a piece of worthless shit, good only for slaughtering innocent civilians by mistake, the more clear our picture of the reality of American military power will be. The U.S. military has achieved full-spectrum impotence: we now boast the impressive capability of losing three simultaneous wars against much weaker opponents in different regions of the globe.

    America is not “the mightiest empire in human history.” If it were, nations like Russia and China would not laugh at our feeble threats. Every time America mouths some pabulum about “human rights” and “dictatorship,” the Chinese quite rightly retort with gibes about Abu Ghraib and accidentally murdered wedding parties in Pakistan and an American president who acts like Al Capone, ordering the murder of his own citizens without a trial or even charging them with a crime. That’s not the rule of law, that’s Chicago 1930s gangster behavior, and everyone in the world knows it. Every time America whimpers about Russia’s foreign policy maneuvers, Putin quite rightly reminds America that it chose to behave like a rogue nation first, lying its way into an illegal war of aggression in 2003, so America now has no moral high ground to stand on when condemning e.g. Putin’s invasion of the Crimea.

    Nations around the world treat America’s foreign policy and military blunders with the contempt they deserve. Real empires, like the British Empire or the Roman Empire or Geghis Khan’s mongol empire, inspired fear and obedience. America today in 2014 only inspires disgust and derision. And deservedly so — we took our immense moral stature (won at great cost in the aftermath of WW II with the way we loaned money and provided aid to Europe and Japan) and pissed it away, leaving nothing but an American military with a reputation for raping and butchering innocent civilians and torturing helpless prisoners (a practice Americans have engaged in, incidentally, ever since American soldiers started waterboarding Filipino insurectos in 1901).

    So the myth of America as a “mighty empire” or a “great military” is both pathetically and laughable false and foolishly ignorant and dishonest. Tom Englehardt’s most recent article does a good job of exploding the myth of America’s supposedly “great military”:

    1. No matter how you define American-style war or its goals, it doesn’t work. Ever..

    2. No matter how you pose the problems of our world, it doesn’t solve them. Never..

    3. No matter how often you cite the use of military force to “stabilize” or “protect” or “liberate” countries or regions, it is a destabilizing force..

    4. No matter how regularly you praise the American way of war and its “warriors,” the U.S. military is incapable of winning its wars..

    5. No matter how often American presidents claim that the U.S. military is “the finest fighting force in history,” the evidence is in: it isn’t.

    And here’s a bonus lesson: if as a polity we were to take these five no-brainers to heart and stop fighting endless wars, which drain us of national treasure, we would also have a long-term solution to the Veterans Administration health-care crisis. It’s not the sort of thing said in our world, but the VA is in a crisis of financing and caregiving that, in the present context, cannot be solved, no matter whom you hire or fire. The only long-term solution would be to stop fighting losing wars that the American people will pay for decades into the future, as the cost in broken bodies and broken lives is translated into medical care and dumped on the VA.

    Source: “An Unparallelled Record of Failure,” Tomdispatch.com.

    The fact that Iraq’s army turned and ran when faced with a tiny insurgent force only 1/20 of its size offers proof positive that America trained them. Because the U.S. army is a group of bullies — and like all bullies, they’re cowards. The American military looks formidable when they’re burning brown babies with napalm by pressing a button from 30,000 feet up, but when the U.S. army comes up against insurgents who actually fight back, they turn tail and run…as at Chosin Reservoir in 1950.

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