Friday, September 05, 2014

A *very* excellent question

In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf asks "Why Do Newspapers Keep Publishing Op-Eds by John McCain?", noting
But McCain is not a prescient foreign-policy analyst, and newspapers should stop giving him a platform to confidently assert what will happen next in geopolitics. He thinks he knows his stuff. But his track record shows that he's emphatic in his pronouncements even when he is utterly, catastrophically wrong.
He's talking about Peter Beinart's Atlantic column about McCain and Lindsey Graham's NYT editorial, a column called "The Unbearable Emptiness of a New York Times Op-Ed". In that column Beinart notes:
What Obama was really saying in response to the reporter was that he doesn’t want to intervene militarily in Syria—where, as opposed to Iraq, the government is hostile and our allies are weaker—without a well-thought-out plan deserving of public support. McCain and Graham endorse that caution: “The president clearly wants to move deliberately and consult with allies and Congress as he considers what to do about ISIS. No one disputes that goal.” Then, two sentences later, they dispute that goal, slamming Obama for not displaying a “far greater sense of urgency.”

It’s a wonderful illustration of the emptiness of much Beltway foreign-policy-speak. McCain and Graham want Obama to act both “deliberately” and “urgently” because they’re both happy words. (As opposed to “lethargically” and “rashly,” which are nastier synonyms for the same thing.) But when you translate these uplifting abstractions into plain English, you see how contradictory McCain and Graham’s demands actually are. You can either demand that Obama not bomb Syria until he’s ensured he has a plan likely to win international and congressional support, or you can demand that he bomb as soon as possible. You can’t demand both.
Both columns are well worth your time.

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