Monday, April 02, 2007

"They Might Whine, But You've Got To Be Firm!"

Oh please, Americans of all stripes, please, please, would you not construct arguments about foreign policy by refering to your own childcare philosophy? I know you think it makes you sound "homely" and "grounded," but really, it just makes you seem ignorant.

For one thing, most of your interlocutors are in the wrong conversational mode or lack the professional qualifications to tell you that you're raising your children wrong. What the hell is an reporter in the middle of a call-in segment supposed to say? "Hmm, Mrs. Krabopple of Wisconsin, I can't say that I approve of spanking your children for that mild a retort! Therefore, what you have to say about the Iranian hostage issue should be ignored.----Next caller?" No, they'll be polite to your face about your private life, and you should respect that restraint by not making your private life into foreign policy arguments.

For another thing, nation-states aren't remotely like children, and people living in these foreign nation-states resent being compared to children. There's a long and disgusting history of that sort of thing. Since the US is so powerful, people in other countries do watch our media and read our blogs and whatnot. When you play parent to the world, these foreign watchers aren't thinking "oh, that's so paternalistic---but in a good way!" At best, they're worried that our country is going to blunder flat-footed all over yet another delicate situation, like some overeager St. Bernard. That's probably too optimistic a projection, though. It's more likely that most foreigners see us as both incompetant and malicious.



(I'm not going to link to what set me off in this particular instance; it wasn't that interesting.)

17 Comments:

Blogger CharleyCarp:

I don't disagree with you, but the childraising competence of these folks is even scarier than their foreign policy acumen. 'They only understand force' or 'don't try to understand them, it only shows weakness' aren't ideas fit for a parent.

4/02/2007 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Oh, I agree, but a discussion of FP is hardly the arena in which to debate childraising philosophy. And of course a reporter doesn't have the liberty here to say "well, I think you're crazy; next caller?"

4/04/2007 12:07:00 AM  
Blogger Charles Bird:

Ahmy! Put down that uranium enrichment program right now or go into time out!

In other words, I have to agree with you, Jack. Athough once said you wouldn't show the link, now I want to see it. :(

Be well.

4/08/2007 09:26:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Hi Charles! Good to see your name around here. I noticed you've taken back up duty at The Fvrum with some good posts.

I'd try to find the comment that set me off, but it really was just the last straw, not interesting in itself. It's the callers into the radio shows that really abuse the childrearing fallacy.

4/09/2007 05:58:00 PM  
Anonymous I don't pay:

I think people's child-raising philosophies are often worse than their practice. Those who say "They only respond to force" in either situation are more likely venting than examining their own actual practices or those of others.

It occurs to me that every president I've ever heard of, at least since WWII, has heard hair-raising proposals in council. There's that exchange Galbraith recorded where someone came up to him after a presidential conference and said "Ken, I've noticed something about you. You're always against the use of force." Think about that for a second: it means that everybody else was for the use of force at least some of the time. Now there must have been a lot of gamesmanship going on in these meetings, and then as now there was a perceived need on the part of advisers to be "tough," so that they needed to favor force at least some of the time to retain credibility.

This puts a huge burden on the president to say no, to be able to say to a table of advisers who for their own personal reasons have just collectively advised invading Slobovia, "Not this time."

And a president who lacks character, who is a hole in the air, will be presented with bad choices as all presidents are, and will take them.

4/10/2007 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Well, that's the thing about abstract arguments: it's much easier to take truly extreme positions. The Libertarian Party is coming to mind, here.

I've been reading Tom Ricks's book Fiasco, and one of the points he discusses really well is how Rumsfeld's neutering of the Joint Chiefs shortcircuited what should have been a source of pragmatic counsel to the President.

4/10/2007 05:34:00 PM  
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