Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pushback Pt. II

Since there are already loads of people engaged in assessing the honesty of the administration's case for war, and since I have nothing to add by way of reportage, I want to focus on the reverberations of the pushback speech.

Here is what Glenn Reynolds had to say, which I will take to be representative of a big slice of the pro-pushback* camp:
The White House needs to go on the offensive here in a big way -- and Bush needs to be very plain that this is all about Democratic politicans pandering to the antiwar base, that it's deeply dishonest, and that it hurts our troops abroad.

And yes, he should question their patriotism. Because they're acting unpatriotically.
Leaving aside the patriotism stuff for a moment, is it not obvious that Reynolds & co. (not to mention Bush and Cheney) are guilty of precisely the same sin they accuse the Democrats of? Namely, a variant of genetic fallacy, according to which citing the purported dishonest motivations of one's opponents is sufficient to discredit their argument.

Here's what I mean. In defense of the president's speech (and the right-blogosphere's defenses of the president's speech), Tom Maguire wrote:
In any case, I believe there is a substantial difference between "Your false charges are undermining the troops" and "Your criticism is undermining our troops".
(Again, let's table the "undermining the troops" bit for now.)To be fair to Tom, he does (sort of) try to give a substantive account of why the charges of Bush's critics are false (or at least acknowledges that such an account is necessary), but for Reynolds, it's enough merely to draw the distinction.

The critics of the administration are making a specific claim, let's call it (A). (A) is: The administration deliberately made a case for war on the basis of charges it knew to be false and evidence it knew was not credible.

The motivations, honesty, opportunism, etc., whatever, of the proponents of (A), is utterly irrelevant to the truth of the claim. Suppose that Reynolds is correct, that the only reason the Democrats are are asserting (A) is that they are "pandering to the antiwar base." So what? That does not mean that (A) is false. Suppose Bush is correct in claiming that many Democrats now accusing the administration of dishonesty voted for the war (true) on the basis of precisely the same intelligence and analysis that the administration had access to (false). Again, so what? Regardless of whether or not the Democrats are seeking to rewrite the history of their support for the war, the truth or falsity of (A) stands on its own, independent of the motives of politicians with regard to it.

One response of Reynolds and other Bush defenders, which I suggested be placed on the table, is that merely asserting (A) is dishonest, "unpatriotic," and (somehow) undermines the troops. Reynolds would counter that it is not simply asserting (A), but asserting (A) when (A) is false, that is dishonest. But the only reason Reynolds adduces for believing that (A) is false is the alleged dishonesty of Democrats in making the claim. A fantastic little circle he's drawn! It is dishonest to claim that the president lied because that claim is false. And that claim is false because the people making it are dishonest.

Now, about this unpatriotism and undermining the troops stuff. I can't do much better than the old boss and his commenters, so, take it away Matt Welch on unpatriotism:
So, if I'm getting the general vibe of the pro-Pushback crowd right, it's "fair" to declare that the U.S. media (and those who have the temerity, or should I say derangement, to believe that the White House manipulated pre-war intelligence), are deliberately (and again, monolithically) trying to lose the war by siding with America's enemies ... but it's "not fair" to print the headline "Battle Deaths Continue to Mount."

Or maybe it boils down to this -- it's OK to say that "Newsweek lied, people died," but don't you dare say such a thing about the guy who actually commands the world's most powerful military.
(For those interested in pursuing this line further, Reynolds responded to Welch, and Andrew Sullivan then responded to Reynolds, I hope, definitively.)

What about undermining the troops? I sure hope I'm not doing that. And I can't top the comment left by "Charlie" on this Matt Welch post:
Holy shit! how the hell are [the troops] going to survive actual *bullets*?!
You'd think the old sticks-and-stones adage would appeal to Republicans, but apparently not.

*UPDATE: The starred sentence originally read "pro-war." I think pro-war opinion is too diverse to be represented by Glenn Reynolds. "Pro-pushback" is a better term for what I'm getting at.


Post a Comment

<< Home

  • E-mail me: Dan Koffler
  • My YDN Column: Smashing Idols
  • The Reasonsphere
  • Hit & Run
  • Matt Welch
  • Julian Sanchez
  • Jesse Walker
  • Virginia Postrel
  • Tim Cavanaugh
  • Ringers
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Josh Marshall
  • Crooked Timber
  • Matthew Yglesias
  • Kevin Drum
  • John Cole
  • Leiter Reports
  • Pharyngula
  • Gregory Djerjian
  • Atrios
  • Mickey Kaus
  • Jim Henley
  • Radley Balko
  • TNR's Plank
  • Balkinization
  • Glenn Greenwald
  • Thomas Knapp
  • Justin Logan
  • Laura Rozen
  • Mark Kleiman
  • Print Culture
  • Arthur Silber
  • Tom Tomorrow
  • James Wolcott
  • OxBlog
  • Eric Muller
  • Majikthise
  • Pandagon
  • The American Scene
  • Daniel Drezner
  • Will Wilkinson
  • The Volokh Conspiracy
  • Intel Dump
  • Prequels
  • Johan Ugander
  • Dan Munz
  • Josh Eidelson
  • Future Less Vivid
  • Sequels
  • (not)Delino Deshields
  • Actual God
  • Hidden Hand
  • I am justice
  • Death/Media Incarnate
  • (not)Marquis Grissom
  • Yanqui At Cambridge
  • Beneficent Allah
  • Mr. Wrongway
  • The Hippolytic
  • Discourse Decision
  • Tight Toy Night
  • Mulatto Jesus
  • Sago Boulevard
  • Immortalized Stillicide
  • Nick's Corner
  • Dead Trees
  • Reason
  • Dissent
  • The New Republic
  • The New Yorker
  • The Atlantic Monthly
  • The American Prospect
  • Arts & Letters Daily
  • The Economist
  • The Nation
  • Yale Daily News
  • Virtual Reality
  • Wikipedia
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Symbolic Logic into HTML
  • Slate
  • Salon
  • The Huffington Post
  • Crooks and Liars
  • The Smoking Gun
  • The Smoking Gun: Bill O'Reilly
  • Romenesko
  • The Christopher Hitchens Web
  • Draft Russ
  •'s Library
  • Urban Dictionary
  • Homestar Runner
  • Planet Rugby
  • Flex Online
  • Card Player Magazine
  • Gawker & Such
  • News
  • Politics
  • Gambling
  • Gossip (NY edition)
  • Gossip (LA edition)
  • Cool Shit
  • Cars
  • Video Games
  • Photoshop Fun &c.
  • Travel
  • MacGuyver Yourself
  • Porn
  • Prepare For The Worst
  • Bull Moose Blog
  • The Corner
  • Instapundit
  • Reel Blogs
  • BathTubYoga
  • More TK
  • R.I.P.
  • Jamie Kirchick
  • That Girl