Defending the Blacklist

In response to calls for a boycott of Mel Gibson, in light of the actor’s now-confirmed anti-Semitism, David Bernstein equates such a boycott with the notorious Hollywood blacklist of the 1950s, stating:

I’m not going to shed any tears over Mel Gibson’s self-destruction, but I haven’t shed any over those poor unfortunate Stalinists who temporarily lost their jobs in the 1950s, either.

I know that mocking Bernstein is like shooting a very large fish in a very small barrel, but this is patently ridiculous. As Julian Sanchez notes, being a Stalinist in the early 1950s is a whole lot less reprehensible than being an anti-Semite today. But more to the point, the vast majority of blacklisted artists were not members of CPUSA. In fact, I undertook the laborious task of researching each and every member of the blacklist listed at Wikipedia, and seeing if they were ever a member of either CPUSA or the Young Communist’s League. Of the 93 artists listed, only 14 were ever members of either organization. Of those 14, only one – Paul Robeson – didn’t quit in disgust. Ejecting Stalinists from public life is indefensible, but the blacklist did far more than even that. As anyone who knows anything about the period knows, it was little more than an excuse to purge leftist ideas from the American mainstream. And, of course, Bernstein would have no problem with that.

America the Omnipotent

A few weeks ago, Matt Yglesias wrote an excellent post about how neoconservatives seem to think of the US as some sort of all-powerful superhero. It was funny, with a lot of truth to it, but part of me doubted that even neocons are that delusional. Now it seems that that self-proclaimed realist, Niall Ferguson, is outdoing even PNAC:

Like Superman, the United States has vast potential strength. If it wants to be, it really can be “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” It is richer by far than the other countries. It has mind-boggling firepower, enough to incinerate Iran and North Korea in an afternoon.

Is he serious? He really thinks that wars with Iran and the DPRK would be pieces of cake? An invasion of Iran would obviously be a disaster; we would have to pacify 70 million people, fight an insurgency far larger than any we’ve faced in Iraq, and muster the troop strength needed to not lose within a day. None of that is possible. In North Korea, we wouldn’t have the occupation problem (we could just reunite it with the South), but the invasion itself would be horrendous. Kim would probably use his massive artillery installments against the South (these alone can level Seoul). He might use nuclear weapons against the South or against Japan. In any case, he would cause such significant damage to America’s allies (and to American troops in the South and in Japan) as to make the whole endeavor extremely costly, even if we did succeed in conquering the country.
I really don’t know what Ferguson is smoking, but I have a feeling I could make a fortune selling it.

The Risks of Overreaction

Matt Yglesias has tallied up the victims of Hezbollah attacks on northern Israel since the Israeli withdrawal, and found that thirteen soldiers and seven civilians died, while twenty-seven soldiers and seven civilians were wounded. All of which brings to mind John Mueller’s excellent piece, “Six Rather Unusual Propositions About Terrorism” (which you should all read, of course). The first of those six propositions is that “terrorism generally has only limited direct effects.” This is obviously the case with the Hezbollah attacks. But the second proposition is that “the costs of terrorism very often come mostly from the fear and consequent
reaction (or overreaction) it characteristically inspires.” As Mueller’s essay shows, this is clearly the case with 9/11. And as all international observers now realize, this is equally the case in Lebanon.

A Deal in Progress?

Is it just me, or does this suggest that Condi Rice might be open to Hezbollah and Lebanon’s peace proposal?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returned to Israel on Saturday evening to press for a substantive agreement that could lead to a more rapid cease-fire and the insertion of an international force along the Lebanese border with Israel.
Ms. Rice, on her way back from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, praised the Lebanese government, which includes two Hezbollah ministers, for agreeing on the outlines of a possible cease-fire package.
As she spoke of “fairly intense” negotiations to come with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel, there was a sense here that President Bush, after his meeting in Washington with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, had suddenly decided to give Israel a shorter period in which to hammer Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon.
Ms. Rice is working to draft a United Nations Security Council resolution that would allow for the insertion of 15,000 to 20,000 international peacekeepers along the Lebanese border with Israel and along Lebanon’s border with Syria, to prevent the rearming of Hezbollah. The force would also work with the Lebanese Army to enable it to begin patrolling the border itself.

While Hezbollah is obviously not going to accept its own disarmament, this is encouraging. It suggests that Washington is willing to accept the UN, European, Arab, and Lebanese consensus: that an immediate ceasefire be put in place, followed by the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to neutralize the militia. If this is the case, then it means that Israel stands alone as the only party of significance opposed to this measure, and that it might be forced to cave under the pressure. If that happens, our not-so-long international nightmare would be finally over.

It’s Liberal Democracy Promotion, Stupid

As much as I appreciate Steve Cook’s attempt to dispel the notion that the Lebanon conflict invalidates democracy promotion, he seems to equate simple democracy with liberal democracy:

[P]articipating in a free and fair election does not necessarily imply that an organization is democratic. While Hamas and Hezbollah may have embraced the procedures of democracy, there is no evidence that they have embraced the rule of law, the rights of women and minorities, political and religious tolerance, and alternation of power.

Well, yes, but that doesn’t make Palestine or Lebanon non-democracies. It makes them illiberal democracies. What was effective about democracy promotion in Eastern Europe in the late ’80s and early ’90s was that liberal institutions were established along with democratic processes. That hasn’t happened in the Middle East, and that’s one of the many reasons that Bush’s gunboat democratization effort has been ineffective.

NYT for Lamont

Well, this is interesting:

The editorial page of The New York Times on Sunday endorsed Mr. Lamont over Mr. Lieberman, arguing that the senator had offered the nation a “warped version of bipartisanship” in his dealings with Mr. Bush on national security.

It’s somewhat weird that this was announced in a straight news article about the race, rather than when the editorial itself came out (which, apparently, it will tomorrow). But in any case, I don’t particularly like their reasoning. The whole debate about the primary, about Lieberman’s rhetoric, that of the blogosphere, and the effect on bipartisanship, etc., etc., is pretty useless. As in all primaries, the debate shouldn’t be about the sociological impacts of this outcome or that outcome. It should be about which candidate’s views are more in line with those of primary voters. In this case, I think it’s fair to say that Connecticut Democrats are more in line with Lamont’s fairly leftist platform than with Lieberman’s right-of-the-DLC stances. Thus, it seems only fair that Lamont should win. But the endless bloviating about the effect of this race on the national climate and all should end. It gets us nowhere.