The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Andrew, You Are Forgiven

Posted on | January 5, 2010 | 52 Comments

by Smitty

How can anyone muster anything but forgiveness for Sullivan at the sight of this? (Emphasis mine throughout.)

Charles Johnson explains his concerns here. He’s particularly right about the kind of proto-fascist love of violence against “the other” that you see pulsating in the writing of, say, Michael Goldfarb or Robert Stacy McCain.


We’ll see how you develop the term. However, as a friend of Stacy’s for roughly the last 18 months, I wonder if you’re experiencing a Bertha Lewis moment. You must have another Robert Stacy McCain in mind. RSM votes libertarian. Possibly you can help enlighten the readers as to how an independent writer who spends time covering small-government candidates could be construed as having a “love of violence”. Now, Stacy does write with style and panache. “Pulsating” sounds rather turgid, but that’s in character for you, Andrew. Fine.

I think proto-fascism is a better term than neo-fascism.

I am in awe of your terminological clarity, Andrew. Goldberg spent a whole book fretting over the inexact nature of “facism”. You prefix her and take her firmly in hand like an old girlfriend.

Cheney and Bush respected the outer limits of constitutional democracy. They obeyed a Supreme Court ruling that struck down their maximalist views of their own inherent power as the executive branch. They left office after an election. They are not fascists. But they do see the executive branch as a kind of fascist element within a democratic polity, an element that can simply ignore the law or hire lawyers to twist it into meaninglessness,

Wait a minute, Andrew. Either they “respected the outer limits of constitutional democracy”, OR, they “twist it into meaninglessness”. One begs a follow-up post wherein you resolve this apparent contradiction. I can’t tell if you despise the ground upon which Bush and Cheney walk, and are applying a gloss to your contempt in a show of pseudo-moderation, or if you like the guys.

an element that has the inherent power to seize anyone, citizen or non-citizen, in the US or not the US, detain them without due process and torture them, in the name of national security, meaning any government response to “active threats” of terrorism.

Oh. *Yawn*.  Another person lacking any grasp of the Law of War. I am not a lawyer, either, but I have actually taken a course or two on the topics of Space Law/Law of War/Law of the Sea. You might consider availing yourself, as well.  What that will help you to do, Andrew, is speak from the standpoint of history and customary international law on the matter. This will decrease the problem of your overwrought tone, and lend some intellectual heft to your argument.

You see, Andrew, short of the apocalyptic collapse, the upward failure of all governments into that final unholy beast, there are these things called borders. When citizens within the borders of the country commit murder, then the governing documents of the country within the border manage how the country handles those domestic law violators. When aliens cross a border and kill, that’s an act of war. A problem solved at a different level, by a different body of law.

It must be noted that this distinction has been eroding for a number of decades. The U.S., for example, hasn’t declared war since WWII. I’ve argued in the past that the War Powers Resolution of 1973 ought to be scuttled or at least overhauled, as that Constitutional declaration of war requirement would diminish the adventurism displayed by, well, everyone serving as POTUS since it was written, with the exceptions of Carter and Obama (but give the latter time: saber-rattling helps the opinion polls).

This proto-fascist tendency, proven chillingly in the last week as Cheney Republicans like Stephen Hayes called for the torture of the undie-bomber, is what worries me.

I would not advocate torturing anyone, Andrew. But what I would advocate is a thought experiment wherein YOU are put into an authority role, and have to make an Actual Hard Decision affecting the lives of others. Call it an Alan West experiment. Would you step up to the plate? This is not an attack on you Andrew; I can’t tell you if I’d acquit myself as bravely as Colonel West, either. Maybe you can understand the game theoretical aspects of ensuring the opponent understands you’ve the abstract capacity to take an extreme measure when necessary. I gather you’ll deconstruct what I’ve just written as proof of my own derangement. I forgive you that in advance, and also promise not to be an “I told you so” after The Incident which yanks you from your warm, Utopian happy place,  into the cold Darwinian reality of this fallen world.

It is the embrace of raw violence against the defenseless – not within the constraints of just war, but outside all constraints except victory against an ‘evil’ enemy.

Ah, so you do subscribe to the concept of a “just war”. Just not this war.  Yet, you imply that we’re operating “outside all constraints”. No. For example, how many nuclear weapons have been used? Still zero, Andrew. But we’ll forgive you the breathless hyperbole.  The thought of what could be done to make your assertion valid is not something casually put into words.

I do think partisanship has clouded conservative eyes on this question. I don’t think many on the right have yet absorbed the full ramifications of what Cheney asserted and what the GOP now holds as its view of the power of government – i.e. total power over the individual, to the point of torture, in the name of national security.

See previous “Law of War” points. Only by beginning from a flawed understanding of the Law of War is your wrong-headed conclusion even tenuously possible. But, still, we must thank the Left. It is possible that, without the relentless campaign of overstatement, the U.S. could have become the kind of monster State that you relentlessly paint. You, Andrew, and others have performed a valuable service as a feedback loop. Your relentless cries of “Wolf!” have served to diminish the threat of lycanthropy. Bravo. No, I’m not joking.

That’s why, in my judgment, Obama is essential. He is the barrier between us and a form of fascism, imbued with utter moral certainty, that now animates the core of the GOP. Until that core is defeated, real conservatives need to keep their distance from this kind of authoritarian thrill.

Concluding, you seemed to be as confused about the POTUS as Robert Stacy McCain in your opening paragraph, Andrew. I forgive you. I understand that you are a paid cheerleader. You’re a convincing actor. You assert these things about the President and about conservatives as though they were real. But do you really think that there is a relationship between moral certainty and fascism? Moral certainty is the knowledge of right and wrong. Common sense. Is that fascism? Would you say that Evan Sayet is off base?

At any rate, Andrew, there is work to do. You’re forgiven for your wrong-headedness, old boy.
Cheers,
Chris

UPDATE (RSM): My own reaction to this latest eruption of Sullyism is at The American Spectator blog. And, by the way, I’m now blogging from the Southern California home of notorious pro-fascist teabagger Donald Douglas.

UPDATE II (RSM): In a semi-related develoment, Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit calls Charles Johnson’s bluff.

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