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Wednesday
Jan282015

There is pervasive cultural consensus on the value of childhood vaccines in the U.S.; so why do people *think* that being anti-vaccine reflects any particular cultural predisposition?

A reporter who was covering the current measles outbreak asked me a question about the connection between vaccine hesitancy—the reluctance of parents to get their kids vaccinated—and the contribution cultural or political predispositions make to vaccine risk perceptions. 

In the background of the question were a couple of facts that this reporter gets but that a lot other reporters and people generally don’t: first, that parents in the US along with rest of the general public in this country are overwhelmingly pro-vaccine; and second, that the people who belong to the small segment of the population that is anti-vaccine are big time outliers in all the social groups—cultural, political, religious and so forth—that make up our basic inventory of “who” people are.

Someone didn't get the memo ... click to see whoOn the first point, briefly: Despite the media din to the contrary, the US has enjoyed impressively high childhood  vaccine rates—over 90%, the public health target, for all the recommended universal vaccinations, including MMR—for going on 15 yrs.  The percentage of parents not getting their kids vaccinated has remained below 1% that entire time.

Fortunately, the Wakefield affair, which did have a significant impact on vaccine behavior in the UK (maybe other countries, too, but the truth is, many European countries have lower vaccine rates than they should have had for a long time), didn’t have a comparable effect in the US.

Vac rate trends? Ask the CDC...On the second: As documented in various places including the CCP  Vaccine Risk Perceptions and Ad Hoc Risk Communication study, there is no meaningful correlation between vaccine risk perceptions and the sorts of characteristics that usually indicate membership in one or another cultural group.  

The correlation between such risk perceptions and political outlooks, e.g., is close to nil.

What's the correlation between vaccine risk perceptions and political outlooks? Click & see for self

Likewise, contrary to the empirically uninformed, illiberal, counterproductive "anti-science trope," the cultural groups whose members are divided on climate change and evolution are in fact in overwhelming agreement that vaccine benefits outweigh their risks. 

Still, the reporter wanted to know, given all this, how come it appears to him and others that there is a correlation between anti-vaccine, or concerned about vaccine risks, and a cultural style that is, I guess, left-leaning in politics, anti-industry or –capitalist, highly “naturalist” etc.

What's the relationship between non-acceptance of global warming or human evolution and belief that vaccines are unsafe? Click for answerVery reasonable question.

What’s more, I don’t have an answer that I’m particularly confident in! 

I do have some conjectures, and so I thought I’d share them here & ask others what they thought.

Also, at about the time I was writing this email, Chris Mooney was addressing this same question in thoughtful essay that I encourage others to read—I think my views are pretty close to his!

My thoughts on this question:

I'm really not sure what to say, but my hunch is that there is a huge sampling bias risk here when we try to draw on own experience to figure out vaccine risk perceptions.  

It's clearly the case -- just no arguing w/ it, really! -- that the vast majority of people in US, including parents, are not hostile to but in fact very favorable disposed to childhood vaccinations.  This is true across all the sorts of cultural groups that normally come to mind when we think of risk issues like climate change etc. where there really are very deep & strong cultural divisions.

Yet some people are clearly anti-vaccine. If we see them, what are we to make of them?  

It's hardly a surprise that they will have integrated their views into their cultural understandings generally.  That is, there will be coherence, for them, in their positions on vaccines and their ones on various other issues.  

So if they happen, say, to be the kind of person who has an egalitarian, collectivist style & is anxious about environmental issues & suspicious of corporations and the like, then their positions on vaccines will likely be of a piece with that.

But then if we were to say to ourselves, -- "a ha! Being anti-vaccine coheres with being that sort of person!," we'd be making a mistake.  At a minimum, we'd be making a mistake b/c we'd be neglecting to consider all the people who share that person's cultural style -- and indeed hold the standard collection of risk perceptions that go along with it -- but who don't have anxieties about vaccines!  Those people would outnumber the anti-vaccine mom or moms we are talking about -- by orders of magnitude.

We'd also be at risk of making another mistake.  

That particular anti-vaccine group of moms you ran into -- they might not even be representative of all the other anti-vaccine folks.  Indeed, if you met them at whole foods (I have no idea if this applies to you, but you'll get the idea), then likely your sense of what the anti-vaccine people are like is undercounting all the anti-vaccine people who don't shop there.  They don't shop there b/c doing so would be contrary to their cultural style.  They might be very conservative -- maybe they are religious fundamentalists of one sort or another.  Those might be people you never happen to run into!  As a result, the people who are like that who are anti-vaccine will be missing from your mental census.

Of course, so will all the people "like that" who are not anti-vaccine.  They will, just as in the case of the moms at whole foods, outnumber the anti-vaccine members of their groups by orders of magnitude.  But possibly b/c they are more likely to encounter anti-vaccine types in the community in which they interact w/ people most of the time, they might also have a misimpression that anti-vaccine people actually are more likely to hold values like theirs!

Now one more really really important thing:  I actually am pretty convinced that most of the parents whose kids miss vaccinations are not part of any movement.  

The "movement" is there, but it is small & gets way more attention than it deserves precisely b/c it is loud, in people's faces, and really good at provoking hysterical denunciations of them.  

But more importantly, there's every reason to believe that most of the parents whose kids are not getting vaccinated don't belong to any movement at all.  These are parents who are just nervous, not agitated.

They aren't loud and obnoxious.

They aren't demonstrating or getting in anyone's face.  

 They are not wearing buttons saying "vaccines give kids autism! McCarthy for President   in '68 '16!"

And for that reason it's actually hard to find them--which is very unfortunate b/c almost certainly they could be reassured by a good public health professional trained to give them sensible, evidence-informed risk counseling.

The best work being done on vaccine hesitancy is the research to develop a screening instrument for new parents to identify which ones are likely to end up w/ kids who miss vaccination.  With that sort of instrument in hand, ongoing empirical research to develop an effective risk counseling protocol targeted at these very parents could be carried out much more effectively too.

Rather than propagating the misimpression that a “growing crisis of public confidence” among “a large and growing number” of “otherwise mainstream parents” has generated an “erosion in immunization rates”  in the U.S. (these are in fact demonstrably false claims), those who truly want to make universal vaccination in this country even more effective should be calling for more resources for the scientists doing this excellent and vital research.

It's fine to criticize the small cadre of attention seekers who are spreading misinformation about vaccines. They are a bunch of idiots & a menace etc.  

But engaging in relentless, self-important, attention-grabbing displays of denunciation in return is itself dangerous for the vaccine science communication envirionment, and distracts us from what's really needed: the development of valid, reliable methods that practioners can use to identify the much larger group of parents who are merely anxious and supply them with tailored risk counseling that would give them the same sense of relief & happiness that everyone else gets from knowing that their kids won't get the horrible disease that were our grandparents’, great grandparents’, great-great grandparents’ et al’s biggest nightmare.

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Reader Comments (45)

I keep looking at the data, and it really is hard to reconcile with the experiences I've had. For example, I attended a CDC meeting on vaccines in my city. It was a fairly small meeting, but it was swamped with organized opposition to vaccines. I wrote about it here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/08/29/774141/-The-belly-of-the-anti-science-beast .

I talked to the public health people there, and they were surprised by the registrations. They had hoped for a local cross-section of the community. But all the spaces filled up with anti-vaxxers and troofers. It was really dispiriting. And it was loud and obnoxious. And they were in our faces.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMary Mangan

@Mary:

Why does this surprise you? Most people aren't worried; the meeting just creates a forum for the very people you are describing. And what you are describing *is* an example of the sampling bias I'm writing about here.

The data we need can't be gained by casual personal observation.

If we don't keep that in mind, we'll blunder, horribly.

January 28, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

I am becoming more and more convinced that human beings are essentially generalizing-from-unrepresentative-sampling machines.

I guess that for a long time, it served as a generally effective survival mechanism. I think it's interesting to speculate about whether that might ever change.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua:

Is that an inference from your own personal observations, though?...

January 28, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

You got me again, Dan!

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

If the anti vaccine folks are so deeply alienated from the American mainstream that the don't think the difference between liberal Democrat and conservative Republican is meaningful, you would miss that, right? But one does bump into such people, and they seem vaguely more Left than Right. That could explain the perception.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAn Igyt

Dan Kahan said:

...how come it appears to him and others that there is a correlation between anti-vaccine, or concerned about vaccine risks, and a cultural style that is, I guess, left-leaning in politics, anti-industry or –capitalist, highly “naturalist” etc.

Two groups, and for diametrically opposite reasons, have an interest in engendering and perpetuating this perception:

1) The anti-vaccine zealots. They want to create the appearance that they speak for, and they do in fact frequently claim to speak for, the entire cultural group. It's a numbers game.

Furthermore, my own personal anecdotal experience (being part of the left-leaning in politics, anti-industry or –capitalist, highly “naturalist” etc. cultural group) is that the anti-vaccine zealots attempt to excommunicate any person from the cultural group who doesn't march in lockstep with their anti-vaccine fanatacism. Anyone who doesn't march in lockstep with them must be, by defninition, a card-carrying member of the John Birch Society.

2) People who don't like those in the left-leaning in politics, anti-industry or –capitalist, highly “naturalist” etc. cultural group. They are interested in stigmatizing everyone in that cultural group as being "a bunch of idiots & a menace etc."

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

You see a similar phenomenon between noecons, Jews, and those who hate Jews.

Two groups, and for diametrically opposite reasons, have an interest in engendering and perpetuating the perception that all Jews are neocons:

1) The neocons. They want to create the appearance that they speak for, and they do in fact frequently claim to speak for, the entire cultural group. It's a numbers game.

Furthermore, the neocons attempt to excommunicate any person from the cultural group who doesn't march in lockstep with their militarism. Anyone who doesn't march in lockstep with their neoconservatism must, by defninition, hate Jews, or be a self-hating Jew.

2) People who don't like Jews. They are interested in stigmatizing everyone in that cultural group as being a bunch of idiots, a menace, of being the cause of all of the US's disastrous military adventures in Afghanistgan, Iraq, etc.

Polls reveal something entirely different. For instance, polls show that at no time before or during the Iraq war were a majority of Jews supportive of the war. There were times, however, when a majority of the general US population were supportive of the war.

I hardly believe it realistic to portray Jews as being disproportionately neocon.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

Glenn - another factor is that prior to the invasion, a fairly high % of the neocons who were in the public limelight were Jewish - with history connected to Commentary Magazine and Strauss.

But again, people do like to generalize from unrepresentative samples.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Sorry if this is circling back to something previously discussed, but in the Vaccine Report, did you look at the small group of people who expressed moderate or high concern about vaccines (I think there were close to 100 of them, no?) and see how they compared to the full sample? They're such a small group that it wouldn't surprise me if they wash out in correlations (any differences in the lower-concern numbers might dominate), but if those few people at the top are 75% communitarian, or significantly more concerned than others about nuclear power or GMOs, that might be worth knowing, no? Or is this not a good way to ask the question? Thanks!

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMW

@MW-- Actually, the "interpretive community" framework used in the CCP study can pikc up some of the variance in outlooks.

But my view is that they can't be explained in any systematic way by surveys or by experiments that use general population samples. Report recommends using appropriate field-based research *in areas* where the phenomenon is observe to explain.

But I also think it's not clear that "explaining" anti-vax mentality is a very important contribution to improving vaccine uptake. Especially since the "metnality" is, if one uses general population surveys, in a group of people most of whom don't even had vaccine-age kids.

My sense, from discussios w/ public health officials & from some basic math, is that percentage of non-vaccinated associated with segment of population who is highly vocal & agitated is modest; a screening instrument to identify simply anxious parents & evidence-based counseling protocols would help more.

January 29, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@An Igyt

It's possible that people who are part of conscious anti-vax segment of population have a common, coherent worldview that defies left-right & even more fine grained measures like the cultural cognition scales & the "interpretive community" framework used in the CCP study.

But it's also possible -- & in my view more likely -- that they have eclectic variants of all the familiar "worldviews" & the like, ones into which they've integrated into those worldviews but in ways that most others who subscribe to those outlooks would think is odd. That would also be consistent w/ seeing no correlation at population level.

January 29, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@ Joshua

The Information is Beautiful blog has several different names related to the phenomenon, indicating it can be either the result of faulty logic or of deliberate and intentional manipulation of content:

• Anecdotal evidence
• Composition
• Division
• Hasty generalization
• Jumping to conclusions
• Biased Generalizing
• Confirmation bias
• Misleading vividness
• Suppressed evidence
• Spotlight
• Sweeping generalization

I would say "were in the public limelight" falls more into the "misleading vividness" or "spotlight" categories.

I put all of the above under the rubric of Platonic realism, which when it went too far triggered the nominalist revolution of the 14th century, which provided the philosophical foundations for modern empirical science.

CNN has three new stories on their webpage this morning about the anti-vaccination movement, and the reporters cite what they call the "Jenny McCarthy" effect. The names they use to describe "the communities" who refuse to vaccinate are:

1) Liberal
2) Well-educated, and
3) Wealthy

So are the CNN reporters playing to populist sentiment, demonizing those "limousine liberals" which Ronald Reagan summoned up and made an object of derision?

The reporters also cite an unnamed empirical study which they claim reveals that the most affluent areas of Los Angeles County, California have "immunization rates that rival south Sudan."

Why Parents Refuse to Vaccinate

California measles cases still increasing

Mom: Family that refused vaccination put my baby in quarantine

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

For those interesting in the nuts and bolts of the debate, I offer up this evidence from an email server list:

• From: "Boyle, Francis A" <fboyle@ILLINOIS.EDU>
Subject: Re: [RPA-LIST] Latest post to SftP listserve, re: Measles
Date: January 26, 2015 at 8:48:06 AM CST
To: <RPA-LIST@LISTSERV.UTK.EDU>
Reply-To: Radical Philosophy Association <RPA-LIST@LISTSERV.UTK.EDU>

Merck behind the HPV shots for kids has a long history of doing offensive biowarfare work for the USG. Ditto for other Pharmas. So why should we trust these Doctors Mengeles with our children?

Fab, author, Biological Warfare Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, passed unanimously by both Houses of the US Congress and signed into law by President Bush Sr.
Francis A. Boyle


• From: Radical Philosophy Association [mailto:RPA-LIST@LISTSERV.UTK.EDU] On Behalf Of Boyle, Francis A
Sent: Monday, January 26, 2015 7:28 AM
To: RPA-LIST@LISTSERV.UTK.EDU
Subject: Re: [RPA-LIST] Latest post to SftP listserve, re: Measles

These HPV shots are expensive. Doctors, hospitals and clinics get kickbacks from Pharma for giving them and poisoning our children. So how can we trust them on measles shots for our kids? The biggest hospital/clinic here in town is pushing HPV shots on every kid and parent in town with the Merck et al scaremongering campaign. So how can we possibly trust any of these people on measles shots for our kids ? Or flu shots?

Fab.
Francis A. Boyle


• From: Boyle, Francis A
Sent: Monday, January 26, 2015 7:06 AM
To: RPA-LIST@LISTSERV.UTK.EDU
Subject: RE: [RPA-LIST] Latest post to SftP listserve, re: Measles

Merck had to pull Vioxx from the market because it was giving everyone heart attacks. It was one of Merck’s biggest sellers. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Merck announced that it had developed an HPV shot that was so successful that it was going to terminate the standard testing protocol and rush it into market. The FDA, which is in Pharma’s pocket, went along with this nonsense. An Agency “captured” by the Industry it is supposed to regulate it. Yet another one. How can we trust FDA to approve anything? In any event, Merck rushed its HPV vaccine onto the market and immediately tried to impose it upon every girl and then boy in America, which they are still trying to do. How can we trust Pharma now on their measles shots for our children. You saw this latest unexplained outbreak of epidemic proportions on school age children of an unexplained virus. I think there is an explanation: Defective back to school shots. No one is even looking into that—on purpose. But if you want to trust your children to Pharma, go right ahead. I told all my kids to stay away from HPV. And I don’t think they get flu shots either. These young kids are smart.

Fab, author, Biological Warfare Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, passed unanimously by both Houses of the US Congress and signed into law by President Bush Sr.
Francis A. Boyle


• From: Radical Philosophy Association [mailto:RPA-LIST@LISTSERV.UTK.EDU] On Behalf Of Boyle, Francis A
Sent: Monday, January 26, 2015 6:55 AM
To: RPA-LIST@LISTSERV.UTK.EDU
Subject: Re: [RPA-LIST] Latest post to SftP listserve, re: Measles

I only praised polio shots which I had as a youth. I have condemned the HPV shots which you can read all about on the web-site for them on Judicial Watch. If Pharma is currently trying to poison our children with HPV shots that are dangerous and unnecessary, then why should we trust them on measles shots? I agree with Mitch. We have to go shot by shot.
Fab.
Author, Biological Warfare Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, passed unanimously by both Houses of the US Congress and signed into law by President Bush Sr.
Francis A. Boyle


• From: Radical Philosophy Association [mailto:RPA-LIST@LISTSERV.UTK.EDU] On Behalf Of Mitchel Cohen
Sent: Monday, January 26, 2015 2:50 AM
To: RPA-LIST@LISTSERV.UTK.EDU
Subject: Re: [RPA-LIST] Latest post to SftP listserve, re: Measles

Rich,
With all due respect, I submitted the actual ingredients in the measles vaccines. Some of those are very dangerous. I don't think your standard of comparing measles in the U.S. to polio is valid or .... scientific.

Mitchel

At 01:02 AM 1/26/2015, you wrote:
As one who has some knowledge of public health, which neither Mitchell nor Francis seems to know much about, relying as they do on anecdotes and hearsay, and also as one old enough to have lost three years of my early life to infantile paralysis (polio) and seen its ravages on others--hospitals full of them-- before there were vaccines, and remembering from my childhood how serious measles was for so many children, and on and on, I'm just plain amazed at the ignorance these emails reveal. Health care in this country is overly complicated and expensive, etc.--I think we all know the riffs on this--but those are no good reasons to simply trash whatever science doesn't suit one's fancy or to play political mind games with the suffering and welfare of countless other human beings. Rich

• From: "Francis A Boyle" <fboyle@ILLINOIS.EDU>
To: "Radical Philosophy Association" <RPA-LIST@LISTSERV.UTK.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, January 25, 2015 6:50:10 PM
Subject: Re: [RPA-LIST] Latest post to SftP listserve, re: Measles

Agreed Mitch. It is the long-standing and repeated greed and arrogance and lethality of Big Pharma that has sacrificed any good will it might have had with the American People starting with when they developed the polio vaccine for my generation. I would rather have my kids get measles than take any of those vaccines. My brothers and sisters and I all had measles and come through it all right. How can you possibly trust Big Pharma here with your children. Better to let them have measles. Of course parents have to decide this for themselves. But the dangers of HPV that they and the medical profession (so many on the take) are trying to impose on America's kids have already been exposed by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal organization that I do not usually agree with. Since they are trying to poison our kids with HPV, why should we trust them on measles? As for me, I have not had a flu shot in years and I have not had the flu in years. Just another dangerous rip off by Big Pharma, Doctors and Hospitals and Clinics. So if they are all ripping us adults off with dangerous and worthless flu shots, why should we let them tinker with the measles shots when it comes to our kids?

Fab

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

@Glenn

I agree w/ your first post except that you are ignoring the symmetry here -- those on "right" want to stigmatize too. Conflict entrepreneurs plague us all; betray us all, even, since they typically pose as friendly agents for groups of people who have special concern, based on values, in particular issues & who essentially rely on these actors to pay attention & apprise them of what is going on.

The second post is quite intersting & sounds plausible. I wish I knew more about link between Jewish & Neocon; it certainly seems like there are many Jewish intellectuals in "Neocon," yet they also are clearly reacting *against* a Jewish intellectual tradition that is more socialist rather than neo-liberal in economic orientation & stridently anti-militarist. There are figures, like Max Eastman, who jumped to former from latter. I don't know anything about how this figures in anti-semitism or Jewish stereotypes, I must admit

January 29, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Glenn -

=> "So are the CNN reporters playing to populist sentiment, "

CNN? But it would be so uncharacteristic of them to do that! I mean look at the great care they take to not play to populist sentiment on issues like terrorism or Ebola. Why would they suddenly do a 180 in their coverage with vaccinations?

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@ Dan Kahan

As a gay male who will turn 63 years old next month, I have experienced more than my fair share of those who, with both tar brush and gold leaf in hand, seek to stigmatize and stereotype, either negatively or positively.

And the sad thing is that LGBTs are every bit as guilty of this behavior -- what Rogers Brubaker in this paper calls "groupism," as their avowed ideological enemy: the radical religious right.

Economic and political entrepreneurs who want to balkanize the general population into discreet groups are ubiquitous.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

@Glenn--

I just looked up Max Eastman b/c I realized maybe I was wrong to think he was Jewish .... He wasn't in fact! Part of a milieu that included many Jews and was important part of intellectual/political history in US.

I will substitute Sidney Hook, and add others as they occur to me

Joshua is right, though, about Leo Strauss's (cult-like) influence in US Jewish neocon

January 29, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Of course, sometimes generalizing from unrepresentative sampling pans out... :-)

Growing up, we always said that Cadillac drivers think they own the road - whenever one of them would cut us off or do something else obnoxious.

Well:

Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals....

Actually, I am reflexively inclined to think there must be flaws in the research (haven't looked at it in any detail)...and I have to wonder about the relative scale of diversity within groups than across different groups. but it is fun to think about this article in relation to this post

http://www.pnas.org/content/109/11/4086.full

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"The second post is quite intersting & sounds plausible. I wish I knew more about link between Jewish & Neocon; ..."

There isn't one, really, except that the neocons support Israel.

The neocons started out as anti-Stalinist left-wingers who got frustrated with the support many on the left give to the various totalitarian groups around the world and therefore switched to the right. It now seems to be used to refer to that group that calls for more active measures (including military action) to support and spread freedom/democracy and overthrow totalitarians. They argue that when you see somebody being mugged, it's wrong to walk by on the other side of the street, and this applies even to foreigners who are not part of 'your own community'.

And to the extent that this is considered the definition of the category, people who don't believe in fighting for freedom tend not to get included.

Israel/Palestine is just one example of such a conflict between a liberal, secular, democratic state on one side, and a set of totalitarian theocratic terrorist states on the other. So the neocons support Israel, and think we should be a bit more active and less 'diplomatic' about that support. However, neocons apply the principle to other conflicts while the support of Jews for Israel is more parochial. There are Jews who don't support Israel, there are Jews who do but only by peaceful/diplomatic means, there are those who believe fighting is necessary in Israels case but are not interested in anyone else's conflict, and there are those who believe in freedom generally and would help others fight for freedom and against totalitarianism as they hope others would support them. Only the final category fit the definition of 'neocon'. Conversely, there may be neocons who support the fight for freedom but who don't think Israel is a good example. I've not met any, but it wouldn't surprise me.

In passing, I'd note that "militarist" is probably the wrong word for it. Many of their opponents are firmly militarist in their support for the other side, but anti-militarist with regard to us intervening in their dispute. For example, supporters of the Palestinian militarism are definitely not classed as neocons. And I think most neocons would support non-military measures over military ones if there was thought tot be a reasonable chance they would work. "liberal Interventionist" might be a better term.

"And the sad thing is that LGBTs are every bit as guilty of this behavior"

Some are. Some are not. There are both totalitarians and libertarians in both the LGBT and the LGBT-phobe communities. There are totalitarian LGBT supporters who are simply seeking to reverse the direction of te persecution, so that the 'phobes get persecuted, harassed, outlawed, and their lives made a misery in the same sort of way that gays' were. There are libertarians who recognise that a homophobe cannot help the way they feel any more than a homosexual, and so long as people don't physically hurt one another, people ought to be able to say what they like, believe what they believe, and be free to trade and associate with whoever they choose. The same limits and freedoms should apply to homophobes as to homosexuals.

There are quite a few on the 'religious right' who have a degree of sympathy with homosexuals, and strongly believe in tolerance for them, but who are at the same time strongly opposed to the way the pro-LGBT agenda gets rammed down everyone else's throats. The LGBT campaign thereby makes a lot of enemies unnecessarily.

However, it is the nature of campaigns that they don't stop when they've won, since a lot of careers now depend on keeping the conflict going. They also tend to get 'taken over' by those of a more illiberal mindset, as they tend to be the most vocal and the most demanding, and eventually the original issue is lost in the general push towards social control and political correctness. I know a lot of women now actively dislike the hard-line feminists, thinking their extremism risks an eventual backlash, and I wonder whether the same is true of the LGBT people.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

=>> ", people who don't believe in fighting for freedom tend not to get included."

Yeah. All those people who don't believe in fighting for freedom." I alway love how NiV explains what reality is (bias free, if course).

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

" I alway love how NiV explains what reality is (bias free, if course)."

In much the same way that white men don't get counted as black men, cat's don't get counted as dogs, and men don't get counted as women. I can see that's unfair and biased, but that's how the terms are defined, unfortunately.

There is a point of view that says words can be redefined to mean just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less. There's another that forbids certain meanings - newspeak, as it was once called. Personally I prefer the middle way.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Consider, NiV, that the distinction is not with who believes in "fighting for freedom," but with who or what is identified by various people as a freedom fighter or fighting for freedom.

So who is it, btw, that you think doesn't believe in fighting for freedom? How about Palestinians? Tamil Tigers? Members of the IRA? Xinjiang separatists? Kurdish separatists? The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola? Was Gandhi a freedom fighter? MLK? The Freedom Riders? The leftists and communists who supported the Freedom Riders? Timothy McVeigh? Randy Weaver? Posse Comitatus? Do they all believe in fighting for freedom?

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@ Joshua

When I see how the neocons try to flog their quest for world conquest and domination -- "full spectrum dominance" in the parlance of many promient neocons -- under the guise of doing good, I am reminded of what Cortes's devoted companion and historian, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, said of Cortes's merry band of conquistadores: "We came here to serve God and the king, and to get rich."

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

Glenn -

Indeed. I wonder how many Iraqi civilians view the Neocons that orchestrated the invasion of their country as people who believe in fighting for freedom.

"Ex-neocon," Francis Fukuyama:

Fukuyama: We believed we could do this because of our notion that US motives are better than other people's and that we can be trusted with this sort of power. Neo-conservatives argued in 2000 for exactly this form of benevolent hegemony. The question posed was: 'Are other people and countries going to resist and resent this assertion of American power?' Their answer was no. America, they thought, was more moral than other countries and other people would recognize that our hegemony is much more benevolent than other empires of the past. That is something they were wrong about.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/interview-with-ex-neocon-francis-fukuyama-a-model-democracy-is-not-emerging-in-iraq-a-407315.html

Reminds me of the thread from downstairs, where I discussed with NiV about what I consider to be a self-serving notion of "moral probity."

January 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Glenn -

Perhaps of interest:

In retrospect, things did not have to develop this way. The roots of neoconservatism lie in a remarkable group of largely Jewish intellectuals who attended City College of New York (C.C.N.Y.) in the mid- to late 1930's and early 1940's, a group that included Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, Irving Howe, Nathan Glazer and, a bit later, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The story of this group has been told in a number of places, most notably in a documentary film by Joseph Dorman called "Arguing the World." The most important inheritance from the C.C.N.Y. group was an idealistic belief in social progress and the universality of rights, coupled with intense anti-Communism.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/19/magazine/neo.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

January 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@ Joshua

I've always admired the way John Adams put it:

Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service when it is violating all His laws. Our passions, ambitions, avarice, love and resentment, etc., possess so much metaphysical subtlety and so much overpowering eloquence that they insinuate themselves into the understanding and the conscience and convert both to their party.

January 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

"So who is it, btw, that you think doesn't believe in fighting for freedom?"

How about Palestinians?
No, that's not freedom they're fighting for.

Tamil Tigers?
Unsure, probably yes. Although the way the Tamils ran the place previously isn't a good sign.

Members of the IRA?
No. The Irish troubles were about the Catholics wanting to suppress Protestantism and the British not letting them.

Xinjiang separatists?
Unsure - probably not. Replacing Communism with Islamism isn't an improvement.

Kurdish separatists?
Yes, probably.

The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola?
No.

Was Gandhi a freedom fighter?
Yes.

MLK?
Yes.

The Freedom Riders?
No.

The leftists and communists who supported the Freedom Riders?
No.

Timothy McVeigh?
No.

Randy Weaver?
Yes.

Posse Comitatus?
No.

Do they all believe in fighting for freedom?

No. A lot of them believed in fighting for their own privileges, or for some system that would suppress the freedoms of others. Separatists fighting for an independent state are fighting for a freedom, but if their intentions for the way that independent state will be governed are predominantly anti-freedom, then they can hardly be said to be 'fighting for freedom'.

However, a number of cases are ambiguous - people fighting for a mix of demands some for and some against freedom, and most conflicts are complicated. In others, I don't know what sort of state people were fighting for - how things turn out is not always what people intended, or said they did. I've tried to give you helpful answers, but I don't think it's possible to answer all the complexities in a reasonable amount of space, let alone a one word answer. So this is probably not going to work.

"Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service when it is violating all His laws."

I'd certainly agree with that!

Although I'd have asked Mr Adams whether he thought the same applied to God's power?

"I wonder how many Iraqi civilians view the Neocons that orchestrated the invasion of their country as people who believe in fighting for freedom."

Many of the Kurds and Shia did. The Sunni who profited under Saddam's tyranny and the theocratic Islamists who invaded from neighbouring countries probably saw it rather differently. Totalitarians tend to view freedom instead as corruption - allowing people the freedom to sin.

"Are other people and countries going to resist and resent this assertion of American power?' Their answer was no."

I think it was pretty much assumed by all that the answer was 'yes'. We had enough experience from history to know that there are always plenty of people who support the totalitarians. It's pretty much a given that the enemies of freedom will resist and resent it, and fight back, and would do so for decades at least. The question was always whether they could plant a seed and hold things together for long enough for something better to take hold, and be able to survive on its own, before the political will to intervene ran out. I think even the neocons themselves considered the answer uncertain, but unlike most others thought there was a good chance of it. Or at the least, that it was the right thing to do to try.

It took the Western democracies centuries of fighting and arguing to build the institutions and protocols by which we created freedom. The idea that you could recapitulate all of that in a couple of years and build a fully-functioning Western style democracy from the rubble of a corrupt tyranny is ridiculous. That doesn't mean the journey isn't worth starting.

January 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

As Farley Mowat said: "I never let the facts get in the way of the truth."

I'll say one thing for you, NiV, you are never shy about equating your opinions with fact.

==> "I think it was pretty much assumed by all that the answer was 'yes'."

Fukuyama was at the table with them, spoke with them, was allied with them, and then broke with them because they failed to adjust their analysis in light of subsequent developments.

==> ". It's pretty much a given that the enemies of freedom will resist and resent it, and fight back, and would do so for decades at least.

So all those Iraqis who resented the invasion and didn't agree with the neocons that the American military were "freedom fighters" in the vain of neocon ideology, were "the enemies of freedom?"

==> " We had enough experience from history to know that there are always plenty of people who support the totalitarians. "

The point is that the neocons saw themselves as "exceptional." It's right there in their documents, if you take the time to read them.


==> "The question was always whether they could plant a seed and hold things together for long enough for something better to take hold, and be able to survive on its own, before the political will to intervene ran out. "

Here we go again, where you translate the obvious or me, as if somehow the knowledge of what their arguments were is somehow only known by those who share your special insight.

There were many experts in the region who told them that their answer to that question was based on poor understanding of the region. Their statements about their expectations about what would happen were laughably wrong. Their whole foundation of "American exceptionalism" was ill-conceived. The reality is what it is. Did you even read the NYT article?

==> "I think even the neocons themselves considered the answer uncertain, but unlike most others thought there was a good chance of it.

What you think they thought the answer would be, is entirely different what what they said the answer would be, and entirely different than what Fukuyama said they thought the answer would be. But why let the evidence get in the way?

January 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

==> "I think even the neocons themselves considered the answer uncertain, but unlike most others thought there was a good chance of it. "

Actually, I have more respect for them because I think that they were highly certain about the wisdom of their ideology (although wrong) - as they said and as Fukuyama describes - than that they advocated for the invasion of a country because they thought there was a "good chance" that it might work out well.

January 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"I'll say one thing for you, NiV, you are never shy about equating your opinions with fact."

Who here isn't? ;-)

"Fukuyama was at the table with them, spoke with them, was allied with them, and then broke with them because they failed to adjust their analysis in light of subsequent developments."

And therefore isn't actually a neocon, now, is he? Is it possible, do you think, that he's giving a 'simplified' version of events to rhetorically support his own opposition to them?

I was involved in a lot of conversations with self-avowed 'neocons' at the time. I never met one who believed that there would be no opposition. It would be a blatantly stupid position to take, since there was already such resentment and resistance from a wide variety of countries and people even before the war started! Several European countries, Russia, and China opposed it in the UN. And the Islamists and Saddamites in the region were obviously never going to support 'The Great Satan', now were they?

I can't imagine how you could think it was true, unless you think all neocons are idiots.

"So all those Iraqis who resented the invasion and didn't agree with the neocons that the American military were "freedom fighters" in the vain of neocon ideology, were "the enemies of freedom?""

No. There's no problem at all with being sceptical of American intentions. The ones who were "enemies of freedom" were the ones fighting to preserve or restore Saddam's tyrannical rule, the ones fighting to disrupt and destroy the fledgling Iraqi government or the American forces defending them, the ones bombing market places and assassinating politicians for cooperating with the Americans, the ones trying to set up a totalitarian Islamic theocracy, and so on.

The aim of any freedom-minded individual who maybe thought the neocons were not working for their freedom (although I can't imagine what else that thought they might be working for) should have been to peacefully set up a liberal democratic state as quickly as possible despite the Americans, so they would have no excuse to stay. Then when the Americans were gone, rearrange things to remove any remaining issues they had left behind. Fighting the Americans just prolonged the occupation - but of course the totalitarians had to fight because allowing a liberal democratic state to form at all would have been a defeat.

"The point is that the neocons saw themselves as "exceptional.""

That makes no sense. How would the neocons being "exceptional" imply anything at all about what their opponents were going to do?

What does it even mean? "Exceptional" in what way?

"There were many experts in the region who told them that their answer to that question was based on poor understanding of the region. Their statements about their expectations about what would happen were laughably wrong."

That depends on what you think their answer to the question was.

"Did you even read the NYT article?"

Since when is the NYT an authority on neocon policy? From what I understand of their political slant, I'd expect them to be opposed to neocons. Are we judging people now by what their enemies say? :-)

"But why let the evidence get in the way?"

So who am I going to believe - Fukuyama or my own lying eyes...? :-)

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The idea that anyone thought there would be no opposition to the Americans is a pretty extraordinary claim, and contrary to my memories of extensive conversions with a lot of people on the pro-war side at the time. Why do you suppose Fukuyama (or the NYT) would know them any better than I do?

January 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

==> "And therefore isn't actually a neocon, now, is he? Is it possible, do you think, that he's giving a 'simplified' version of events to rhetorically support his own opposition to them?"

Dude, seriously? He was a key player in the neocon network.

Fukuyama's relationship with neoconservatism dates back to the 1970s, when he studied under the prominent "Straussian" political philosopher Alan Bloom at Cornell. (For more on the relationship between Strauss scholars and neoconservatism, see Right Web's Leo Strauss and Intelligence Strategy.) Then, in the 1980s, Fukuyama joined Paul Wolfowitz's hand-picked staff at the policy planning office of the Reagan State Department. According to James Mann, many of those chosen by Wolfowitz would over the next two decades form "the heart of a new neoconservative network within the foreign policy bureaucracy."

Years later, in the late 1990s, Fukuyama signed his name to the founding statement of principles of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a now defunct letterhead group that called for a "Reaganite" foreign policy and rallied neoconservatives and other foreign policy hawks in support of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Fukuyama signed a number of subsequent PNAC letters as well, including a 2001 letter issued after the 9/11 attacks that endorsed an expansive "war on terror" and called for the invasion of Iraq "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack." Despite the letter's indifference to whether Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, it warned that failure to invade the country would "constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism."[


==> "I was involved in a lot of conversations with self-avowed 'neocons' at the time."

Dude, seriously? You're comparing some dudes you talked to to Wolfowitz, Fukuyama, and the other members of PNAC?

==> "I never met one who believed that there would be no opposition."

Top grade straw man.

==> "It would be a blatantly stupid position to take, since there was already such resentment and resistance from a wide variety of countries and people even before the war started!"

So you think that the neocons that lead the invasion of Iraq were lying? Bush, Cheney, on down?

==> " Several European countries, Russia, and China opposed it in the UN. And the Islamists and Saddamites in the region were obviously never going to support 'The Great Satan', now were they?"

NiV - your after-the-fact rationalizations don't explain the before-the-fact reasoning of the neocons.

==> "I can't imagine how you could think it was true, unless you think all neocons are idiots."

Have you ever heard of a new theory, called motivated reasoning/cultural cognition? Check it out sometime. A dude named Dan Kahan, I think, has written some stuff about it.


==> "That makes no sense. How would the neocons being "exceptional" imply anything at all about what their opponents were going to do?"

You know, NiV, you really should read some of what they wrote if you're going to speculate about what they thought.


==> "That depends on what you think their answer to the question was."

I think that their answer to the question is what they said their answer to the question was. Crazy as that seems.


== "Since when is the NYT an authority on neocon policy? "

Wow! The article was written by Fukuyama.

==> "From what I understand of their political slant, I'd expect them to be opposed to neocons. Are we judging people now by what their enemies say? :-)"

Wow! The article was written by Fukuyama.


==> "So who am I going to believe - Fukuyama or my own lying eyes...? :-)"

You and Farley Mowat. Your lyin' eyes or one of the most influential neocons on the planet?

January 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"==> "I never met one who believed that there would be no opposition."
Top grade straw man. "

How so? The statement I was talking about was: "The question posed was: 'Are other people and countries going to resist and resent this assertion of American power?' Their answer was no."

What distinction are you making between "resist" and "opposition"?

"So you think that the neocons that lead the invasion of Iraq were lying? Bush, Cheney, on down?"

Hmm.
" Now, this war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat. Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen."

Is that a lie? Does it sound like he expected no resistance?

"You and Farley Mowat. Your lyin' eyes or one of the most influential neocons on the planet?"

Ex-neocon.

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@ NiV

You have an uncanny ability to re-write history so as to exculpate the neocons.

Andrew J. Bacevich, writing in The New American Militarism, makes a stab at setting the record straight:

As the 1990s unfolded, neoconservatives pressed their case for "a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity," emphasizing the use of armed force to promulgate American values and perpetuate American primacy. Most persistently, even obsessively, neoconservatives throughout the Clinton years lobbied for decisive U.S. action to rid the world of Saddam Hussein. From a neoconservative perspective, the Iraqi dictator's survival after Desert Storm exposed as nothing else the cynicism and shortsightedness of the realists who had dominated the administration of George H. W. Bush and who had prevented the American army from completing its proper mission -- pursuing the defeated Iraqi army all the way to Baghdad. Topping the agenda of the second-generation neoconservatives was a determination to correct that error, preferably by mobilizing America's armed might to destroy the Baathist regime. "Bombing Iraq Isn't Enough," declared the title of one representative op-ed published by William Kristol and Robert Kagan in January 1998. It was time for the gloves to come off, they argued, "and that means using air power and ground forces, and finishing the job left undone in 1991."

Neocons yearned to liberate Iraq, as an end in itself but also as a means to an eminently larger end. "A successful intervention in Iraq," wrote Kagan in February 1998, "would revolutionize the strategic situation in the Middle East, in ways both tangible and intangible, and all to the benefit of American interests." A march on Baghdad was certain to have a huge demonstration effect. It would put dictators around the world on notice who questioned America's ability to export its values. It would discredit skeptics who claimed to see lurking behind neoconservative schemes the temptation of empire, the dangers of militarism, and the prospect of exhaustion and overstretch....

"The road that leads to real security and peace," argued William Kristol and Robert Kagan, was "the road that runs through Baghdad."

Neoconservatives attributed 9/11 to a sickness infecting the world of Islam. They charged governments in the Middle East -- some nominally friendly to the United Sates, some not -- with being complicit in spreading the bacillus of anti-American radicalism. The only sure way of preventing further terrorist attacks was to cure the disease, through a massive, forced injection of Western liberal values into the Islamic world. As a group of prominent neoconservatives instructed President Bush in April 2002, "the surest path to peace in the Middle East lies...through a renewed commitment on our part...to the birth of freedom and democratic government in the Islamic world." And the place to begin the process of using American power to liberate and to transform the Middle East was Iraq. Why Iraq? First, because the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was "enormous" and was getting "bigger with every day that passes." Second, because, having endured decades of authoritarian rule, Iraq was "ripe for democracy." Third, because making an object lesson of Saddam would open the door for success elsewhere in the region. Once the Iraqi dictator was gone, the whole rickety structure of faux Arab nationalism, corrupt authoritarian government, and nihilistic Islamic radicalism would come tumbling down. For neighboring countries, the effect of democratizing Iraq was sure to be "stunning."

So how many of these Utopian neocon visions of transforming the Middle East have come true?

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

NiV -

Really? Quote mining?

Yes, there are some quotes from Bush like that. On the other hand, let's see what some neocons had to say, shall we?

"I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that."
--Donald Rumsfeld, November 14, 2002

"It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months"
-- Donald Rumsfeld, February 7, 2003

"I think it will go relatively quickly. Weeks rather than months."
-- Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003

"No one is talking about occupying Iraq for five to ten years."
-- Richard Perle, March 9, 2003


In the end, what is more useful is to read the collection of PNAC's documents that go into detail about their neocon philosophy. If you do so, you will see that Fukumama's (yes, the ex-neocon Fukuyama) characterization is accurate, no matter what some blokes down at the pub told you.

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I mean geebus, NiV - what does it take to get you to realize that their philosophy was based on an unrealistic notion of reality?

Should I did out the quotes where they made it clear that they had no in-depth knowledge about the sectarian tensions in the region?

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"You have an uncanny ability to re-write history so as to exculpate the neocons."

"Uncanny"! I like that! :-) But I don't think there's anything the neocons need to be "exculpated" for. They weren't the ones trying to destroy the fledgling Iraqi democracy with terrorism.

If you see a man kicking a dog, and you go try and stop him, so he pulls out a gun and shoots the dog, who is morally responsible for the dog getting shot? You? Or the man with the gun?

Or would you have just crossed over to the other side of the road and watched?

"Yes, there are some quotes from Bush like that. On the other hand, let's see what some neocons had to say, shall we?"

And you accused me of presenting straw men... :-)

"The question posed was: 'Are other people and countries going to resist and resent this assertion of American power?' Their answer was no."

Where in that do they say that other people/countries are not going to resist/resent American power? And what are the quotes talking about? The invasion? Setting up a free government? Or nation-building? Where's the context?

"I mean geebus, NiV - what does it take to get you to realize that their philosophy was based on an unrealistic notion of reality?"

Amnesia? :-)

Yes, it's true that the effectiveness of the resistance was badly underestimated - no plan survives first contact with the enemy, and all that - but that's a very different point to claiming that they believed there would be no resistance/resentment at all - which is what Fukuyama claimed.

It's quite common in war for army generals to discover there are flaws in their tactics, or they don't have sufficient forces, and to suffer reversals and unexpected losses. Dunkirk is a famous example. The British forces invaded Europe, got overwhelmed and cut off, and had to be evacuated in a risky operation from the beaches of Dunkirk. There were perhaps people back then who would have criticised Churchill for taking on the Germans, suggesting that he underestimated their military power and competence, and that we should have stuck with appeasement. Churchill's response was to argue the moral case: "I have only to add that nothing which may happen in this battle can in any way relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause to which we have vowed ourselves; nor should it destroy our confidence in our power to make our way, as on former occasions in our history, through disaster and through grief to the ultimate defeat of our enemies." The decision to go to war was not based on the belief that it would be easy, it was based on the belief that it was right.

Compared to Churchill, in a military sense, Bush had it pretty easy. But Churchill had better press. :-)

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@ NiV said:

If you see a man kicking a dog, and you go try and stop him, so he pulls out a gun and shoots the dog, who is morally responsible for the dog getting shot? You? Or the man with the gun?

Or would you have just crossed over to the other side of the road and watched?

How quixotic of you!

I wonder if the peasant boy in the fourth chapter of Don Quixote shared your single-minded focus on good intentions, or if the consequences of the good knight's actions, even though they were motivated by the best of intentions, concerned the boy as well.

"Moral acts often concern intentions and processes, not outcomes," Amitai Etzioni writes in The Moral Dimension. "This is not to say," Etzioni adds, "that outcomes do not matter."

John J. Mearsheimer elaborates here on the "good" intentions of the neocons:

The key to understanding why the neo-conservatives think that military force is such a remarkably effective instrument for running the world is that they believe that international politics operate according to “bandwagoning” logic. Specifically, they believe that if a powerful country like the United States is willing to threaten or attack its adversaries, then virtually all of the states in the system – friends and foes alike – will quickly understand that the United States means business and that if they cross mighty Uncle Sam, they will pay a severe price. In essence, the rest of the world will fear the United States, which will cause any state that is even thinking about challenging Washington to throw up its hands and jump on the American bandwagon.

Cue Don Quixote. When the peasant boy lamented that "the moment he gets me alone he'll flay me like a Saint Bartholomew," the good knight responds: "He will not do so. I have only to command and he will respect me and do my behest."

Don Quixote then warns the boy's master, the countryman, that if he mistreats the boy and doesn't pay him his due,

I swear by the same oath to return and chastise you, and I am sure to find you, even if you hide away from me more successfully than a lizard. And if you want to know who it is who gives you this command, learn that I am the valiant Don Quixote of La Mancha, the undoer of wrongs and injuries.

"With these words he spurred Rozinante and in a moment he was far away."

The countryman gazed after him, and when he saw that he had gone through the wood and was out of sight, he turned to his servant, Andres, saying: "Come here, my boy; I want to pay you what I owe you in accordance with the commands of that undoer of wrongs."

"So you will, I swear," said Andres; "and you had better obey the orders of that good knight -- may he lived a thousand years. He is such a courageous man and such a fair judge that by Saint Roch, if you don't pay me, he'll be back and he'll do what he threatened."

"And I'll swear I will too," answered the countryman, "and to show you my goodwill, I'll double the debt so that I can double the pay." Catching the boy by the arm, he tied him again to the oak and gave him such a drubbing that he left him for dead. "Now, master Andres," said he, "call out to that undoer of wrongs and you'll find that he won't undo this one. Indeed I don't think I'm finished with you yet, for I've a mind to flay you alive as you feared a moment ago." At last he untied him and gave him leave to go off and fetch his judge to carry out the threatened sentence. As for Andres, he went off sorely fretful, swearing that he would seek out the valiant Don Quixote of La Mancha and tell him all that had happened, and he would make his tormenter pay sevenfold. However, he departed in tears, while his master stayed behind laughing.

Don Quixote seems to have been the inspiration for the neocons. As Mearsheimer goes on to explain:

The neo-conservatives’ faith in the efficacy of bandwagoning was based in good part on their faith in the so-called revolution in military affairs (RMA). In particular, they believed that the United States could rely on stealth technology, air-delivered precision-guided weapons, and small but highly mobile ground forces to win quick and decisive victories. They believed that the RMA gave the Bush administration a nimble military instrument which, to put it in Muhammad Ali’s terminology, could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”

The American military, in their view, would swoop down out of the sky, finish off a regime, pull back and reload the shotgun for the next target.

Of course this was all mere fantasy, similar to Don Quixote's fantasies. As Mearsheimer goes on to explain:

Realists do not believe that we live in a bandwagoning world. On the contrary, realists tend to believe that we live in a balancing world, in which, when one state puts its fist in another state’s face, the target usually does not throw its hands in the air and surrender. Instead, it looks for ways to defend itself; it balances against the threatening state.

Thus, realists predicted that Iran and North Korea would not react to an attack on Iraq by abandoning their nuclear programmes, but would work harder than ever to acquire a nuclear deterrent so as to immunise themselves from American power. Of course, this is exactly what has happened.... Simply put, we live in a balancing world.

And Obama has followed the neocon logic to an even more frightful extent than Bush, believing he can browbeat Russia and China into submission.

This could all end very badly.

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

NiV -

==> "Yes, it's true that the effectiveness of the resistance was badly underestimated ..."

Master of understatement.

The effectiveness of the resistance was badly underestimated because philosophical underpinning of their ideology was was fatally flawed. Their policies were demonstrably ill-conceived. This isn't a matter of a few setback, as few tactics that didn't quite work out. This is about the driving vision they had that was not consistent with reality. Fukuyama, to his credit, was able to assimilate new information and adjust. Hence, the description of "ex-neocon." Others are, to this day, in spite of the evidence that makes it clear just how flawed their ideology was, still convincing themselves otherwise - apparently in hopes that no one else will notice.

Didn't Rumsfeld say something about dead-enders?

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"I wonder if the peasant boy in the fourth chapter of Don Quixote shared your single-minded focus on good intentions, or if the consequences of the good knight's actions, even though they were motivated by the best of intentions, concerned the boy as well."

The countryman who beat the boy bears the sole moral responsibility for beating the boy. Don Quixote bears the responsibility for making a promise of protection and then not stopping around long enough to make sure it was kept.

Once you start lifting the burden of moral responsibility for the crimes of others and carrying it yourself, you create the motivation for more crimes. "Do as I say, or I beat the child!" If you do as he says, then everyone will see how to make an easy profit and next time there will be ten of them, then a hundred. Eventually, you won't be able to meet their demands and a hundred children will get beaten, because you paid the ransom for one.

When somebody illegitimately threatens to beat a child, or behead a hostage, conditionally on your actions, you bear no responsibility for the consequences of not obeying them. They do. Only they carried out the threat. Only they set the condition.

"Don Quixote seems to have been the inspiration for the neocons."

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

I wonder - would you still "step forth"? Does America still think "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants"? Or does it now think tyrants are too dangerous to mess with, that it does not have the power any longer to defeat them?

"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last," as Winston put it. And there is indeed a crocodile. But I don't think that's what the international left are thinking, when they attack the neocons. The thing that has got them worried is the idea of America acting as an international policeman, because a lot of what they're up to is just the sort of thing that would attract such a policeman's attention. They don't fear North Korea or Iran - they fear a muscular America willing to back its liberal principles with force.

"Realists do not believe that we live in a bandwagoning world. On the contrary, realists tend to believe that we live in a balancing world, in which, when one state puts its fist in another state’s face, the target usually does not throw its hands in the air and surrender. Instead, it looks for ways to defend itself; it balances against the threatening state."

Wasn't 9/11 a fist in the face? And yet, contrary to your assertion, America has surrendered.

Iran and North Korea did indeed see what happened to Saddam, but then they saw what you did to Bush for doing it, and understood that you'd never have the will to do the same again. Bush certainly got a 'fist in the face' about it, with regard to his legacy and reputation, and more. What future president would want to take that risk? It took twelve years of sanctions and one of the biggest terrorist atrocities ever to make it possible, and even then America's will crumbled and collapsed within a few years. So long as they move more slowly enough, they now know you can't act. A threat has to be credible for people to act on it. You've just told everybody that you've got rid of all the neocons so you're not going to do anything like that again. What does North Korea or Iran have to fear?

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

"The effectiveness of the resistance was badly underestimated because philosophical underpinning of their ideology was was fatally flawed."

The philosophical underpinnings of their ideology were moral - just same as Winston Churchill's were. They said nothing at all about tactics, or whether people would fight back. The philosophical underpinning of their ideology was that tyrants are bad and we ought to try to do something to get rid of them. And if you think that policy is demonstrably ill-conceived...

"Fukuyama, to his credit, was able to assimilate new information and adjust. Hence, the description of "ex-neocon.""

I suspect the problem is that while neocons in general expected resistance, Fukuyama himself didn't. When things didn't go according to plan, he got cold feet and wanted to back down. When the other neocons told him not to be so silly, he broke from them. Hence "ex-neocon".

But that's speculation.

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@ NiV said:

The countryman who beat the boy bears the sole moral responsibility for beating the boy. Don Quixote bears the responsibility for making a promise of protection and then not stopping around long enough to make sure it was kept.

How chivalrous of you. Que Don Quixote once more, since you sound just like him, and make the same arguments and rationalizations he did.

The boy Andres was to see the man from La Mancha once more, “but the end of the business turned out just the opposite of what your worship supposes,” the boy told him.

“How! the opposite?” said Don Quixote; “did not the clown pay thee then?”

“Not only did he not pay me,” replied the lad, “but as soon as your worship had passed out of the wood and we were alone, he tied me up again to the same oak and gave me a fresh flogging, that left me like a flayed Saint Bartholomew; and every stroke he gave me he followed up with some jest or gibe about having made a fool of your worship, and but for the pain I was suffering I should have laughed at the things he said. In short he left me in such a condition that I have been until now in a hospital getting cured of the injuries which that rascally clown inflicted on me then; for all which your worship is to blame; for if you had gone your own way and not come where there was no call for you, nor meddled in other people's affairs, my master would have been content with giving me one or two dozen lashes, and would have then loosed me and paid me whathe owed me; but when your worship abused him so out of measure, and gave him so many hard words, his anger was kindled; and as he could not revenge himself on you, as soon as he saw you had left him the storm burst upon me in such a way, that I feel as if I should never be a man again.”

“The mischief,” said Don Quixote, “lay in my going away; for I should not have gone until I had seen thee paid; because I ought to have known well by long experience that there is no clown who will keep his word if he finds it will not suit him to keep it; but thou rememberest, Andres, that I swore if he did not pay thee I would go and seek him, and find him though he were to hide himself in the whale's belly.” ....

“I have no faith in those oaths,”said Andres;“I would rather have now something to help me to get to Seville than all the revenges in the world; if you have here anything to eat that I can take with me, give it me, and God be with yourworship and all knights-errant; and may their errands turn out as well for themselves as they have for me.”

Sancho took out from his store a piece of bread and another of cheese, and giving them to the lad he said, “Here, take this, brother Andres, for we have all of us a share in your misfortune.” “Why, what share have you got?” “This share of bread and cheese I am giving you,” answered Sancho; “and God knows whether I shall feel the want of it myself or not; for I would have you know, friend, that we squires to knights-errant have to bear a great deal of hunger and hard fortune, and even other things more easily felt than told.”

Andres seized his bread and cheese, and seeing that nobody gave him anything more, bent his head, and took hold of the road, as the saying is. However, before leaving he said, “For the love of God, sir knight-errant, if you ever meet me again, though you may see them cutting me to pieces, give me no aid or succour, but leave me to my misfortune, which will not be so great but that a greater will come to me by being helped by your worship, on whom and all the knights-errant that have ever been born God send his curse.”

One wonders, how many Iraqis feel the same way about the neocons as Andres felt about Don Quixote?

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

@ NiV said:

The philosophical underpinnings of their [the neocon's] ideology were moral - just same as Winston Churchill's were.

This neocons = Churchill formulation is riddled with factual and logical errors. It is false equivalence at its worst.

To begin with, Churchill had the full support of the leading realists of his day (e.g., Niebuhr, Carr, Morgenthau, etc.). And in fact, Niebuhr renounced his membership in the Socialist Party in 1940 because of its antiwar stance. But, as Mearshiemer points out, "almost all realists in the United States -- except for Henry Kissinger -- opposed the war against Iraq."

Neocons, unlike realists, just can't get their heads around the fact that Saddam Hussein is not Adolf Hitler, and that while "the nation's life was at stake" in 1940, it was not at stake in 2003.

Secondly, the neocons fail to see that the roles were different in 2003 than in 1940. In 1940, Hitler was the aggressor and England was the defensor. In 2003 it was the other way around. England was the aggressor and Iraq the defensor.

"It is improbable that any terrorization of the civil population which could be achieved by air attack," Churchill said at the time, "would compel a great nation to surrender. In our own case, we have seen the combative sprit of the people roused."

"We are told today that the Germans believe Londoners, after a while, will rise up and demand a new governement, one that will make peace with Germany," Edward R. Murrow announced on his daily radio program on September 10, 1940. "It's more probalby that they'll rise up and murder a few German pilots who come down by parachute. The life of a parachutist would not be worth much in the East End of London tonight."

And so Hitler's air offensive -- the London blitz -- failed, just like the neocon's shock and awe failed some six decades later.

One can't help but be reminded of that Einstein quote about how "insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result"?

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

==> "The philosophical underpinnings of their ideology were moral..."

Why the binary construct, as if the philosophical underpinnings of their ideology could only have been moral and nothing else?

Maybe I should have used a different term than "philosophical" - but I was using the term in the sense of "a theory underlying a sphere of activity or thought" - in which case your convenient binary, mutually exclusive, restriction to only considerations of morality works from a different definition...

But even if for the sake of argument we take morality as the only underpinning of their ideology, within their view of morality we can see the reasons why the resistance encountered was badly underestimated. Their view of morality rested upon an view of American moral exceptionalism. They failed to take into account and operationalize the extent to which their projection of their morality onto the moral view of others wouldn't work just work because they believed it should be so. History shows this quite plainly. Just because their view of morality played into their tactics and strategies doesn't them mean that their tactics and strategies are therefore above being wrong. I won't say that their view of morality was in error, per se, because I don't view myself as being in a position to judge the morality of others in such a limited framework. But there view of morality played out in the real world in ways that just didn't work. Was their view of morality "wrong?" I won't say that. Did it project in the real world into failed policies? Absolutely. Would that view of morality necessarily have had to play out into those specific policies? No. There are an infinite number of ways that their view of morality might have played out in policies. But the policies they justified, on the basis of their moral views, failed. Spectacularly.


==> "just same as Winston Churchill's were."

I'm not particularly interested in your arbitrary construction of analogous situations. I think of analogies as useful when used to help illustrate or explain. Used as rhetorical tools, they strike me as nothing other than tautologies. There are probably 1000s of times more ways that we can identify dissimilarities between the neocons (particularly given important context) and Churchill (given important context).

==> "They said nothing at all about tactics,..."

??? Let's just take as few of many, many examples: the tactic of preemptive war, advocating with Clinton for "regime change," and the "shock and awe" that Glenn speaks of. Now we might get bogged down in differentiating between tactics and strategies....but it's not like they said "nothing" about either:

How about under the heading of "Tactics and Tools" (note the authors):

http://tinyurl.com/nkfkguq

How about this?:


While there are those who will counsel continuity, Israel has the opportunity to make a clean break; it can forge a peace process and strategy based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism, the starting point of which must be economic reform

Notice, btw, the notion of a "new intellectual foundation..." So much for the only underpinnings of their philosophy being "morality," eh?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Clean_Break:_A_New_Strategy_for_Securing_the_Realm

Of course, not all of the most important neocons were a part of that initiative, so how's about this?:

Google: Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For a New Century.


==> "The philosophical underpinning of their ideology was that tyrants are bad and we ought to try to do something to get rid of them. And if you think that policy is demonstrably ill-conceived..."

Once again, NiV - it seems to me that your rhetorical shaping of these issues leaves no room for actual discussion. You reduce their philosophical underpinnings to cartoon caricatures. There was more to their ideology than simply "we ought to try to do something..."

==> "I suspect the problem is that while neocons in general expected resistance,..."

Once again, the more interesting question, IMO, is whether their projections of resistance were flawed, and if so the reasons why. That they are fatally flawed is easily demonstrable. As to the reasons why, as a broad-scale explanation, I personally like "motivated reasoning."

February 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I read an article in the NYT, which I can't link, about this vaccination issue. The author pointed out that in those states which allow a personal exemption for vaccination of children, some parents are choosing that because they are too busy or careless or overwhelmed or don't have a doctor or whatever to get their kids vaccinations. My point is, this suggests to me that some people who are being counted as anti-vaxxers as they are selecting "personal belief exemption" are not anti at all. So the numbers of anti-vaxxers which you point out are small, may be exaggerated.

December 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterFaxon

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