Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Devil Can Cite Scripture For His Purpose


Baghdad to the Future.

As longtime readers know, I have made a semi-regular feature of noting cases in which America's Truest True Conservatives -- especially Messrs. David Brooks and Andrew Sullivan -- practice what I call Pineapple Ice Cream Conservatism:
If Mr. Sullivan suddenly developed a taste for pineapple ice cream, within a week he would be penning columns about how "Liking Pineapple Ice Cream" is a cardinal Conservative value because of something something Edmund Burke.  If he got sick on bad Thai food, we would suddenly see a spate of columns discussing bad Thai food and how it is something that only extreme Christianists or Left Liberals would ever put in their mouths.
See, however their dorm-room-bong-a-thon Conservatism may sound in grandiloquence theory, in practice it is both meaningless and bears virtually no resemblance to the actual Conservatism as practiced in this country by the other 99.999% of their tribe . 

Like Grandma's nightshirt, their Pineapple Ice Cream Conservatism covers everything.  It can be stretched in any direction depending on whim and momentary passion.  

For example, take a good, close look at how effortlessly and eagerly Andrew Sullivan deployed the authority of his Number One Conservative hero and ideological godfather, Michael Oakeshott, just a few weeks ago in order to argue that No True Conservative could possibly think going into Iraq is anything but blind madness:
Today David Brooks waxes lyrical about Kagan, just as he might have before the Iraq War – while completely ignoring the core conservative insight that these foreign and alien cultures and societies are simply beyond our ability to control or direct with any real practical wisdom. No admirer of Oakeshott can possibly believe that the US’ attempt to coax and mold other countries into our political model would lead to anything but tears. What staggers me is that, after Iraq, this point still hasn’t been absorbed by the neocons. There has been no chastening. There is no humility. And there is precious little conservatism.
Simple, right?  Because  Michael Oakeshott, No True Conservative.  Because No True Conservative, David Brooks.

Now wind the clock back to the glory days of the Bush Administration.  Those days of blood and thunder and shock and awe.  And take a good, close look how effortlessly and eagerly Andrew Sullivan deployed the authority of exactly the same Michael Oakeshott to make precisely the opposite case:
From the hammock, I’ve been monitoring the latest twists and turns in the debate on war with Iraq. It’s been a deeply revealing month – both because of what it has revealed about those who oppose war with our enemies under any circumstances and those who have merely spent the month taking no position themselves but quibbling at every possible element of a pre-emptive strike. The good news is that sooner rather than later, the anti-war left will actually have to take a stand – against war with Iraq, against preventing Saddam from getting nukes, against continuing the war against terror to its sources in the terror-sponsoring Islamist states of the Middle East. So far, very few have had the cojones to take such a stand, especially in Congress. (There are some honorable, principled exceptions among traditional pacifists, leftists and hard-core foreign policy ‘realists.’) But soon, even Howell Raines will have to take responsibility for backing a passive policy of leaving America and our allies vulnerable to massive destruction. Far from ducking this vital debate, those of us who believe our national security is at stake should embrace the discussion enthusiastically. And each side should be held accountable for the difficult and unknowable consequences of our respective stands. After all, what is at issue is the possible future murder of thousands of American citizens, nuclear blackmail from a rogue state, or chemical warfare waged in American cities by agents in close contact with the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Saudi axis. It’s hard to think of a graver moment in recent American history. For my part, I’ll leave you with a quote from an unpublished piece of writing by Michael Oakeshott. He wrote it in 1943, and I discovered it in a new doctoral dissertation on Oakeshott’s work:
“No settlement with our enemies will ever be satisfactory unless it arises from a real confidence in our civilization.”
That’s the rub, isn’t it? Do we believe in the fundamentals of Western civilization? Or do we think they can bartered and appeased away?
And once Mr. Sullivan had loaded up the True Conservative Canon as a piece of Neoconservative artillery, look who was only too happy to help roll it into battle:
Arguing With Oakeshott
Published: December 27, 2003

This is a good time of year to step back from daily events and commune with big thinkers, so I've been having a rather one-sided discussion about this whole Iraq business with Michael Oakeshott.

One of the most important philosophers of the 20th century, Oakeshott lived and died, in 1990, in England. As Andrew Sullivan, who did his dissertation on him, has pointed out, the easiest way to grasp Oakeshott is to know that he loved Montaigne and Shakespeare...
Mr. Brooks then proceeds with an imaginary discourse with the late Michael Oakeshott in which he allays his imagined concerns about the invasion and conquest of Iraq.  As a matter of context, Mr. Brooks was conducting his little Oakeshott puppet theater at the New York Times at around the same time Bill Kristol was paying him to crank out a series of infamous "Now that the war in Iraq is over, don't those stupid. hateful Liberals look exceptionally stupid and hateful!" pieces over at his Neocon abattoir:

Mr. Brooks ends his shadowboxing like so:
I remind Oakeshott that he was ambivalent about the American Revolution, and dubious about a people who had made a sharp break with the past in the name of inalienable rights and other abstractions. But ours is the one revolution that worked, and it did precisely because our founders were epistemologically modest too, and didn't pretend to know what is the good life, only that people should be free to figure it out for themselves.

Because of that legacy, we stink at social engineering. Our government couldn't even come up with a plan for postwar Iraq — thank goodness, too, because any "plan" hatched by technocrats in Washington would have been unfit for Iraqi reality.

I tell Oakeshott that the Americans and Iraqis are now involved in an Oakeshottian enterprise. They are muddling through, devising shambolic, ad hoc solutions to fit the concrete realities, and that we'll learn through bumbling experience. In the building of free societies, every day feels like a mess, but every year is a step forward.
OK, a couple of things.

First, yes, in 2003 David Brooks was actually arguing that invading Iraq without the slightest fucking clue what to do once we took the place over was a Conservative Virtue. 

Because you know how stupid those "experts" are.

Except, second, there was a plan.  A really. really detailed plan that the U.S. State Department had spent years developing.  And whether or not it would have worked we will never know, because Mr. Brooks' neocon cronies tossed the entire fucking thing into the wood chipper.

Because Freedumb!

And so now we fly-fly-fly back to the present day, where we find that the Great Circuit of True Conservatism justification for whatever-the-fuck they feel like doing today has once again completed itself:
So what the Hell is Conservatism that its properties can prove a things, and then prove the exact opposite of that thing, depending on which way the wind is blowing?

Well, based on the avalanche of available evidence, I hope you'll forgive me this slight tweak of a Mad Men bit:
Peggy Olson: We thought that Samsonite Conservatism is this very rare element, this mythical substance...

Don Draper: Is this a substance much like bullshit?
Yes, Don.
Yes it is.


steeve said...

And Bush was against nation-building in the 2000 campaign. Directly, publicly, and repeatedly.

Anonymous said...


I don’t believe Conservatism has ever been about freedom, democracy, nation building or anything else, hell even the rule of law is seen as an impediment to their main tenets. Their main age old dogma is money/wealth grabbing, and power and control over others. And every time they get caught in broad daylight doing one of their little scams they start screaming “look over there, look over there” or one of their chief grovelers and boot lickers scribbles out some 800 word shake and bake explanation from the isolation ward at the insane asylum while screaming “I’ve just pissed my pants and nobody can do anything about it.” (My regards to the writers from the movie Dances with wolves for that last quote)

Montag said...

I would think that the guy who picked Scary Sarah as his running mate would have learned a little from that humbling experience and not immediately picked David Fuckin' Brooks as Iraq Clusterfuck Seer of the Day.

There's a reason why McCain very nearly didn't graduate from the Naval Academy--and it was not because nobody appreciated him for either his blisteringly fast intellect or his humility.

In a larger sense, though, conservatism has always been predicated on--at least from days of Bobo's favorite con artist, Edmund Burke--keeping the Empire rolling along for the benefit of Empire's fattest cats, and no matter the argument, that fact can never be admitted by any conservative, so their thinking is, of necessity, going to vacillate like an oscillating fan in Hell.

Robt said...

How does conservatism take a failed economic program as "Horse and Sparrow", rename it "Trickle down" hand it to Reagan and sell it to America for 40 years?

Hey I got an idea, Lets deregulate the big banks, it can only mean prosperity , right?

If bank robbery was deregulated and legal or for that matter all theft legalized. think of the prosperity and economic stimuli that would occur?
Marketing says, they have the time frame to roll out the selling of war with Iraq, who had nothing to do with 9/11.

In conversation with lunch box union worker republican; He tells me Reagan didn't fail with his economics and tax cuts. It is only because Government wasn't cut enough to drown in the bath tub.
So Reagan failed I inquired?
No it was those Liberal democts that spent.
If in a conservative mind, they are the only ones that can rule, make law, Govern, be the "decider".
It mirrors the master race, doesn't it?

UncommonSense said...

Sullivan wrote:

And each side should be held accountable for the difficult and unknowable consequences of our respective stands

I'm still waiing that to happen. But I'm not holding my breath.

Fred said...

Well thank goodness the war in Iraq was done and won by Dec 2003 so we won't have that mess to worry about no more. I'm still gorging on the candy and the flowers still look as fresh as the day they arrived. I keep that bouquet on the mantle next to my framed photo of Prezident Codpiece. It's so inspiring.

dan said...

Curious that the worshipers of Jesus Saint Reagan never mention his holiness 1986 AMNESTY program for illegal brown people. Reagan used that exact word. AMNESTY.
If we could harness the cognitive dissonance we could power the sun.

dan said...

I wonder if he knows how much Republicans hate Unions?

Cliff said...

I feel like the conversation with Oakshotte might have went like this:

I remind Oakeshott that he was ambivalent about the American Revolution

"Shut up," Oakshotte replied.

I tell Oakeshott that the Americans and Iraqis are now involved in an Oakeshottian enterprise.

"What the hell does that even mean?" Oakshotte asked. "Never mind, just shut your damned gob."

Hey, if Sully and Brooksy get to play Oakshotte Make Believe (AKA the Worst Game), then so do I.