Barack Obama Politics The Opinionsphere

The Future of the Tea Party (cont.)

Markos Moulitsas sees echoes of the rise of the progressive netroots in the Tea Party’s money bomb for Scott Brown (H/t Sullivan) – though he also sees its demand for ideological purity as different from the approach taken by Daily Kos and much of the rest of the progressive netroots. He seems to share with David Brooks the sense that the Tea Party Movement is here to stay.

I’m still not certain. This group seems so similar to the flare-up of similar sentiments from 1992 to 1994 – which was quashed finally by Bill Clinton’s fiscally responsible governance. The Obama administration – if the economy doesn’t enter into a double-dip recession – will try to steer a similar path.

My bet is that the Tea Party will only gain momentum – and have any relevance beyond 2010 if the economy doesn’t rebound.

Barack Obama Liberalism Libertarianism Political Philosophy Politics The Bush Legacy The Opinionsphere

The Libertarian-Democratic Alliance Will Survive

[digg-reddit-me]Jon Henke over at The Next Right scoffs now at Markos Moulitsas’s prediction – a few years back – of “an emerging brand of ‘libertarian Democrats.'” Henke makes two mistakes in his scoff: first, he equates the tea bagging movement with libertarianism; and second, he is extrapolating from the immediate post-election dynamics to more general party dynamics in the future.

In the first, he is certainly right that the Tea Bagging movement has adopted libertarian themes and rhetoric – and there are certainly libertarians among this group. But there are also many right-wingers of other sorts. And if the Tea Baggers truly were outraged by government spending, they had eight years to get excited before Obama took office. The Tea Bagging movement is an odd combination of right-wingers angry with Obama using libertarian rhetoric and libertarians who are fed up with everyone in American politics except Ron Paul. But I’d be pretty certain that the majority of people at these rallies decrying socialism and government interference also join in the right-wing’s attempts to demonize Obama for his modest steps in reining in the national security state.  Henke – in equating the Tea Bagging movement and libertarianism does libertarians a rather severe disservice.

Second, it was inevitable that the libertarians that were part of the anti-Bush coalition would not fit so well into the pro-Obama coalition, despite their support for Obama over McCain in 2008. It was always clear that Obama would not move fast enough on national security matters – and would not even attempt to go far enough for libertarians – and that Obama’s domestic agenda, especially health care, goes against libertarian principles. That said, there are significant areas of agreement between libertarians, progressives, and liberals – and these are considerably stronger than those between right-wingers, Republicans and libertarians. On economic matters, the Republican Party has done very little to embrace free market reforms – instead, embracing a form of crony capitalism; on national security issues, the party has embraced every accoutrement of a police state; on spending, Republicans have been far more fiscally irresponsible; on social issues, the Republican Party has abandoned libertarian principles and embraced a christianist platform. The Democratic Party – on the other hand – is for reigning in the police state (though not enough); and on social issues, it often sides with libertarians; on economics and spending, this gets more complicated. Obama’s positions do seem at first glance to be exactly what libertarianism stands against – but if I’m right about what Obama is doing – that he is adapting the Democratic Party and liberalism to a market-state in which the state seeks to provide the maximum opportunity to its citizens rather than providing for them (as socialist, Communist, and post-New Deal American capitalist states did), then the Democratic Party’s economic platform will be less of a threat to libertarian values and the party will be more or less aligned with the libertarians on every issue.

These first years of Obama’s presidency were always going to strain the libertarian-Democratic alliance. But it seems the long term trends favor this alliance.

[Image by Brian Buchanan licensed under Creative Commons.]

Barack Obama Liberalism National Security Politics The Opinionsphere The War on Terrorism

Why Liberals Must Embrace the Wars Against Terrorism (cont.)

[digg-reddit-me]Yesterday, I posed this blog entry on my Daily Kos account.

After my disastrous entry into the kosphere in which I was attacked as a “Republican in disguise”  a freeper and a troll back in 2004, my posts in the past year have been very well received. Markos Moulisantos, the founder of the Daily Kos, has linked to this site approvingly twice in his entries. One of my diary entries at the Daily Kos adapted from a blog post was linked to by a main poster there as an unheralded but interesting story generating a lot of traffic. My piece on “How the War on Drugs War Making America Less Safe from Terrorism” was well-accepted as well, even if it received little attention. Various other pieces have been positively received.

Which only made me more frustrated at the response my latest piece received: “Why Liberals Must Embrace the Wars Against Terrorism,” only loosely adapted from a blog post of the same name from yesterday. It was evident that many of the commentors did not find the time to actually read the article before commenting. The title itself was enough to set them off. Quite a number of the commentors went on to “criticize” my piece by reciting some of the very points I emphasized – for example how the Bush administration had done a poor job in it’s ‘War on Terror’. Others made great presumptions about what I meant – for example, presuming I was attacking Obama’s recent actions which I actually think are essential and which a close or even sympathetic reading of the piece would reveal.  Then there were the more substantial disagreements: Some commentors condemned war entirely. Some belittled the threat from terrorism. Some made the case that terrorism was blowback for America’s sins. A number of responses centered around calling the struggle against terrorism a war – asking when this war would be over; who would sign the peace treaty to end the war; how one can have war against a method.

Some of these responses raise points I intended to discuss in the piece, but instead shorthanded due to it’s length – specifically, the facts dealing with the seriousness of the threat of terrorism and the questions about the nature of this war, should it be called a war. This lead one commentor to say that the piece wasn’t thought out – when in fact they meant that it did not fully convey an entire worldview in a manner that could not be misconstrued. To that I plead guilty.

To give an idea though of what I think a liberal approach to the Wars Against Terrorism would be, where my thinking leads me to end up, here’s a partial list of some things Obama should do:

  • Close Guantanamo. Which Obama has already started on.
  • Stop torturing prisoners. Which Obama has already ordered.
  • Reach out to our allies. Which Obama seems to be doing.
  • Reach out to the publics of the Middle East. In which this is a good first step.
  • Kill or capture bin Laden. This is one of those, “Of course” things. But imagine the symbolism of Barack Hussein Obama finally bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.
  • Flip Iran. After September 11 and the invasion of Iraq, Iran sent America a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve bilateral differences. In an act of stupendous stupidity, the Bush administration ignored it. Since then despite growing rancor between American and Iran, Iran exercised it’s influence in Iraq to assist the Surge by tamping down Shia violence. Iran’s and America’s interests in the region can complement one another once an overall agreement has been reached. Obama has indicated he is willing to meet with the Iranian leadership within his first year in office – but elections are coming up in June of this year. Whether Obama should send an emissary to influence who the Guardian Council allows to run in the elections or whether he makes some sort of appeal to the Iranian people, he should work to flip Iran. It would be the biggest foreign policy coup since Nixon went to China.
  • Keep up the pressure on “the nexus” – or the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and Pakistan more generally. Pakistan now seems to be home to the resurgent Al Qaeda. Pakistan was also at the center of the international market in nuclear technology that A. Q. Khan ran until after September 11. Greater minds than mine will need to figure out exactly what needs to be done here – but it must be the focus of our international efforts to combat terrorism.
  • Engage in public and transparent debate about strategy in the struggle against terrorism – while maintaining secrecy about tactics when necessary.
  • Establish a new legal framework that acknowledges the unique threat posed by strategic terrorism, the vulnerability of our society, and weapons of mass destruction. Some things to take into account: The consequences of letting an ordinary criminal go are far less serious than letting a terrorist go; punitive measures that are supposed to deter crime (The death penalty, for example, doesn’t deter someone who wants to be a martyr like Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.); law enforcement focuses on prosecution and punishment rather than prevention, when counterterrorism measures must do the reverse.)
  • And finally, there must be a reckoning for the illegal activities and the attacks on the rule of law of the Bush administration. An independent prosecutor would be fine. (I like the suggestion of Patrick Fitzgerald.) A truth commission would be better than nothing. But in some way, these people must be brough to account – not out of a desire for revenge, but as the only way to preserve our way of life come another emergency situation like September 11.

This isn’t a complete strategy. This only a list of steps – and some of them are still vague. The overarching idea though must be to take seriously what I believe is the existential threat of terrorism to our way of life – to a system of open borders, open markets, free exchange of technology and information, civil liberties, and unprecedented opportunity. This war must be a war to protect a free state and a free system – which means that counterrorism measures can be as contrary to the war aim as much as terrorism itself.