"Anticipatory self-defense." What is it good for? Absolutely nothin'

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new "Think Again" column called "You Call That News?" here.

With the death of Arthur Schlesinger, here -- with whom I became both a friend, though I won't pretend to be a close one, and enthusiastic admirer during his last decade -- we are, I'm afraid, going to read a lot of tributes from folks like David Brooks and William Kristol wherein they try to appropriate Arthur's life and work for some neocon argument or other, or, at the very least, take potshots at contemporary liberals. This is what neocons do when people die. They say their enemies secretly thought they were right. They tried it with Lionel Trilling, here. Norman Podhoretz once wrote an article for Harper's on why Orwell would have been a neocon, and it will happen with Arthur too. I didn't spend a lot of time on it this morning, but let's be clear about a few things. While Arthur was catholic in his social tastes -- a champion partygoer, in fact -- he had no more use for neocons than he did for commies. And he was particularly contemptuous of this president and the men who manipulate him. For instance, he wrote: "The strategic doctrine of containment and deterrence that led us to peaceful victory during the Cold War has been replaced by the Bush Doctrine of preventive war. ... The president has adopted a policy of 'anticipatory self-defense' that is alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl Harbor." You read that right. The neocon doctrine of war is "alarmingly similar" to that of our enemies in World War II.

There was also this:

There stretch ahead for Bush a thousand days of his own. He might use them to start the third Bush war: the Afghan war (justified), the Iraq war (based on fantasy, deception and self-deception), the Iran war (also fantasy, deception and self-deception). There is no more dangerous thing for a democracy than a foreign policy based on presidential preventive war.

I also came across this review of Arthur's last book, together with mine. In it, he's quoted saying:

Now, "the imperial presidency is born again" -- in its most dangerous incarnation yet, thanks to a threat perceived as uniquely dangerous and a war on terror that by definition has no end. "The impact of 9/11 and of the overhanging terrorist threat," Schlesinger argues, "gives more power than ever to the imperial presidency and places the separation of powers ordained by the Constitution under unprecedented, and at times unbearable, strain."

[...]

Our response, if it is to do more good than harm, must be forged by democratic deliberation, not presidential diktat. And thus, Schlesinger tells us, "history illuminates the true meaning of patriotism in wartime."

I'll try to say more about Arthur in the future, but I just wanted to get that on the record before the forthcoming orgy of Orwellianism commenced. In the meantime, I wrote about Arthur and John Kenneth Galbraith here, when both men were still with us.

Time Political Columnist Statistics, March 12 edition:

Columnists:

  • William Kristol of The Weekly Standard
  • Richard Brookheiser of National Review
  • Walter Isaacson of The Aspen Institute
  • Charles Krauthammer of The Weekly Standard

Number of Time political columnists in the March 12 edition who had the good sense to oppose the Iraq war: 0 (unless Walter did and I'm unaware of it, which is possible since Walter's a pretty sensible fellow)

Number of Time political columnists in the March 12 edition who not only did not have the good sense to oppose the Iraq war but have impugned the intelligence and integrity of those who did: 2 (Kristol, Krauthammer)

Number of Time political columnists in the March 12 edition who did not have the good sense to oppose the Iraq war but have not, insofar as I am aware, impugned the intelligence and integrity of those who did: 2 (Brookheiser, Isaacson(?))

Number of liberal columnists in the March 12 edition: 0

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Bush Administration Style, continued, here.

This, I'm afraid, is all too exemplary of everyone involved. Andy sucks up to Marty by writing: "He gave many people their first start in journalism: Mike Kinsley, Rick Hertzberg, Leon Wieseltier ..." Actually, he's one for three. Charlie Peters gave Mike his first start, and William Shawn discovered Rick, so it's 33 percent accurate from the git-go, which is about right. And Leon, well, does anyone think Leon needed discovering? And does anyone think that The New Republic would have had trouble attracting talent if it had been owned by someone else? Come now. And not a word about Marty and the Arabs. Hey, bub, he doesn't own anything anymore. You can tone down the suck-ups. (I hear that Mr. Bradley is a man of exquisite wealth and taste ...)

Too funny for words:

Anonymous: Michelle Malkin has been loud, rude and wrong on just about any topic she has ever opined upon. Any chance you will ever profile any of the bloggers who have been serious, thoughtful and correct? Also, as the right-wing already dominates AM talk radio, cable news and other media, right-wing bloggers are seemingly marginalized. In contrast, real liberal points of view (Krugman and Dionne excepted) mostly are confined to the Internet. It seems as if these "new" voices are a far more interesting phenomena.

washingtonpost.com: Michelle Malkin's Conservative Fight Has Others Coming Out Swinging (Post, Feb. 16)

Howard Kurtz: Well, let's see, I've already done profiles of Jeff Jarvis and Andrew Sullivan, and written extensively about bloggers on both the left and the right.

"You must only ever write of us as a passive, powerless, historically oppressed minority, struggling to maintain our ancient identity in a world where all the odds are against us, poor helpless us, poor persecuted and beleaguered us! Otherwise we will smash you to pieces." The Jewcy.com debate on the Chosen People continues, here. (How like the Jews to get all this work out of Derbyshire for free, huh? Way to go, team!)

From TomDispatch:

The history of the sudden explosion of ultra-secretive vice-presidential power in the Bush years remains to be written. The trial of I. Lewis Libby, however, has recently offered us a glimpse into the secretive and powerful office of the Vice President and its interplay with the White House, State Department, and the CIA. Former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega in her latest piece points out the glimpse offered should be enough to trigger a Congressional investigation into the Plame case. As she makes clear any individual case in court has its limits when it comes to larger revelations.

De la Vega writes of the Plame CIA-leak case itself:

No criminal investigation, and certainly no criminal trial, is ever going to illuminate these White House machinations. In addition, as significant as the criminal issues that arise from the circumstances of the CIA leak may be -- and they are significant -- whether any members of the administration violated any federal statutes in conducting their attack on Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame has never been the most important issue raised by this whole tawdry affair.

The paramount issue is one of abuse of power by our highest executive branch officials and their stable of White House staffers, lobbyists, Republican operatives and other surrogates. The criminal justice system was never intended by the framers of the Constitution to be the sole, or even primary, means of investigating and redressing what the late Congresswoman from Texas Barbara Jordan described during the Watergate investigations as "the misconduct of public men." On the contrary, it is Congress that is both entitled and obligated to oversee the conduct of the Executive Branch.

It's time, she suggests, for Congress to investigate all the president's and vice president's men and women.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Daniel
Hometown: Brooklyn

I liked John from LA's point about seriousness, and it brought to mind something I heard from Henry Kissinger on NPR a few months ago. In responding to a questioner charging him with Vietnam-related war crimes, Kissinger dismissed the entire premise of the question, saying that everyone must understand that "serious people were making serious decisions about what was best for the country." I hear that frequently, including with respect to our distinguished current leadership. Since when does "seriousness" -- whatever that means -- get people off the hook for stupid or even evil decisions? Do you have to be Robin Williams, the comedian president, to be criticized for your decisions? Aren't most world leaders (other than Kim Jong-Il and other criminally insane dictators) serious -- and in some cases seriously bad?

Name: Don Collignon
Hometown: Chicago

Interesting that the subject came up on your site just after I saw Frontline on PBS talk at length about the pros and cons of your average citizen "committing random acts of journalism" and whether or not bloggers are journalists. Interesting debate on this; it can be seen, apparently, here.

Name: Terry
Hometown: Keremeos, BC

You may well find that the new ownership of The New Republic will ultimately have an impact on the political leanings of the publication.

CanWest Global, Canada's largest media conglomerate, owns the bulk of the country's metropolitan dailies, including the National Post, likely the furthest-right-leaning major daily in the country. It also owns a significant TV network.

The company is quite politically active, having donated nearly $50,000 to the ruling provincial Liberal Party over the past few years. (The Liberals are not so liberal as their name implies. It's really an uncomfortable coalition of centrists and conservatives, currently chipping away at the province's public health care system.)

And the Aspers, who own CanWest, are staunchly pro-Israel. Pick up a copy of the National Post if you need more proof of that.

Name: Jim Hassinger
Hometown: Glendale

Don't look for help from CanWest. They were founded by Izzy Asper, sort of the Canadian Peretz.

From Wikipedia:

CanWest is often cited as an example of how the ownership of Canadian media has become concentrated in the hands of a few individuals and large corporations. CanWest founder Izzy Asper was known as a strong supporter of both Canada's Liberal Party and Israel's right-wing Likud party, and of many laissez-faire policies in both countries. Observers have suggested that Asper's political views have had a significant impact on news coverage at CanWest media outlets."

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