Debate Notes

As Dave Weigel puts it, “John Edwards, excruciatingly, speaks truth to power by calling Hillary and Obama wimps. Obama kicks him in the groin and slices his throat with a rusty garden trowel.” Indeed he did. Edwards was being truly pathetic, attacking Hillary and Obama, not because he actually, you know, disagreed with them, but because they voted too late or something. Edwards ’08: take a stand for punctuality! Anyway, Obama responded by pointing out the inconvenient fact that Edwards got Iraq totally wrong when it mattered whereas he (Obama) didn’t. He pulled the rug out from under Edwards, and it was awesome.
It wasn’t the only time in the debate when Obama pwned Edwards. A little later on, the two got into a fight about health care. Edwards, predictably, attacks Obama for not including a mandate in his plan. Obama responded by pointing out that California mandates car insurance but still has a 25% uninsured rate, that Edwards’ plan would force people to buy coverage they can’t afford, and that this won’t result in universal coverage any more than California’s policy has. Edwards was reduced to inane sputtering. The world was as it should be.
In other news, Richardson didn’t look quite as out of it as usual, though he was still awful, Biden was very forceful and eloquent on Darfur (though I disagree about the need for ground troops; it was nice to hear Obama interject that “no one opposes a no-fly zone”), Dennis “I’d Let bin Laden live” Kucinich and Mike Gravel were still crazy after all these years, and Dodd and Hillary didn’t do anything noteworthy.

13 thoughts on “Debate Notes

  1. I can’t imagine any non-superficial solution in Darfur without ground troops.
    Paul Krugman, for one, seems to like Edwards’ health plan better than Obama’s, although he is much happier with Obama now that he has revealed specifics.

  2. I can’t imagine any non-superficial solution in Darfur without ground troops.
    Yeah, because that Kosovo thing didn’t work out *at all*.
    Paul Krugman, for one, seems to like Edwards’ health plan better than Obama’s, although he is much happier with Obama now that he has revealed specifics.
    The whole mandate quibbling is beyond ridiculous. Just imposing a mandate isn’t going to ensure universal coverage; providing the means to get everyone covered first, which Obama does, makes much more sense.

  3. Yeah, because that Kosovo thing didn’t work out *at all*.
    That’s a really shallow analogy, of the same sort that led Bush-men to conclude that Iraq would be as easy as Afghanistan. Both the Serbian government and Serbian society are completely different from what Sudan has. Even if they were similar, your argument wouldn’t work, because there are NATO troops in Kosovo.
    The whole mandate quibbling is beyond ridiculous.
    I don’t know if Krugman is right, but his arguments certainly aren’t “mandate quibbling”. The man is an unofficial pillar of expertise of the Democratic party. He also isn’t anti-Obama.

  4. That’s a really shallow analogy, of the same sort that led Bush-men to conclude that Iraq would be as easy as Afghanistan.
    Actually, Iraq and Afghanistan have unfolded in rather similar ways: easy initial invasion, tough reconstruction. Of course, Afghanistan has done better (mostly because NATO’s running the show), but the conditions there are still awful.
    Both the Serbian government and Serbian society are completely different from what Sudan has.
    Explain to me why this means that a no-fly zone and air strikes on Janjaweed convoys would not substantially hinder, if not stop, the genocide. Also, given that Sudan’s government is far less stable than Serbia’s in 1999, explain why Omar Bashir would be able to stay in power any more than Milosevic was.
    Even if they were similar, your argument wouldn’t work, because there are NATO troops in Kosovo.
    No one opposes UN peacekeepers, Greg. Air operations would force Sudan to accept them, or else make way for a new government that would.
    I don’t know if Krugman is right, but his arguments certainly aren’t “mandate quibbling”.
    Of course they are. Providing the subsidies that Obama does would allow anyone who wants insurance to optain it, which should be what everyone wants. A mandate only forces those who don’t want insurance to get it or, worse, serves as cover for not providing adequate subsidies.
    The man is an unofficial pillar of expertise of the Democratic party.
    Huh? I mean, sure, I like him on trade, and he’s easily the most popular neoliberal pundit, but he’s never worked in a high-level position in a Democratic administration. The only campaign he’s worked for (Clinton ’92) fired him just as soon as they won.
    He also isn’t anti-Obama.
    It pisses me off that someone who gets trade as right as Krugman does is willing to shill for a protectionist charlatan like Edwards.

  5. Actually, Iraq and Afghanistan have unfolded in rather similar ways: easy initial invasion, tough reconstruction.
    That’s true, but one big difference is the necessary ratio of troops to civilians. Since Afghanistan is much more rural, you don’t need as many troops to provide stability. The Iraq “planners” ignored this precept.
    Explain to me why this means that a no-fly zone and air strikes on Janjaweed convoys would not substantially hinder, if not stop, the genocide.
    What the US did in Kosovo was provide air support for an ethnically Albanian insurgency. They also threatened a manipulative, unpopular leader. Milosevic relented (because he was a coward at heart) and was overthrown soon after. Serbians in Serbia have a conception of constitutional order which is not quite up to Western European standards, but goes far in that direction.
    Given that Sudan’s government is far less stable than Serbia’s in 1999, explain why Omar Bashir would be able to stay in power any more than Milosevic was.
    I don’t know that Sudan’s government is unstable. But even if it were, Sudan’s tendencies towards despotism and civil unrest are more stable than those in Kosovo or Serbia. Milosevic was an evil detour for a country that has had a lot of political modernization (even if it still falls short). It’s like the difference between post-Nazi Germany and post-Hussein Iraq.
    Air operations would force Sudan to accept them, or else make way for a new government that would.
    The idea of air operations as a way to impose the West’s will seems no better in Sudan than in Iran.
    [Krugman] easily the most popular neoliberal pundit
    My impression is that Krugman is the most influential liberal pundit. It may be true that he has no high-level appointment, nor even a low-level appointment; but he has real outside pull.
    It pisses me off that someone who gets trade as right as Krugman does is willing to shill for a protectionist charlatan like Edwards.
    Well, he’s prioritizing, and he’s separating the issues. After all, what do you think that he sees in Edwards?

  6. What the US did in Kosovo was provide air support for an ethnically Albanian insurgency.
    Yeah, it’s not like there are any Darfurian insurgencies that the US could provide air support for or anything like that.
    They also threatened a manipulative, unpopular leader.
    Whereas Bashir is so beloved he’s had to battle back civil wars for his entire 20-year tenure.
    Milosevic relented (because he was a coward at heart) and was overthrown soon after. Serbians in Serbia have a conception of constitutional order which is not quite up to Western European standards, but goes far in that direction.
    I don’t disagree that Serbia’s transititon to democracy will go better than Sudan’s would. But I dispute the premise that a history of democratic rule would lead to him being deposed. If anything, a more superficial dictatorial system, like Sudan’s, would fall faster.
    I don’t know that Sudan’s government is unstable. But even if it were, Sudan’s tendencies towards despotism and civil unrest are more stable than those in Kosovo or Serbia. Milosevic was an evil detour for a country that has had a lot of political modernization (even if it still falls short). It’s like the difference between post-Nazi Germany and post-Hussein Iraq.
    Um, no. See, before Nazi Germany was Weimar Germany, a capitalist liberal democracy. Before Milosevic was Tito, a brutal socialist dictator who ruled the country non-stop from the end of WWII to around 1980. These are very different backgrounds.
    And I’m not sure I’d qualify a country with as many civil wars and coups as Sudan has had as “stable”.
    The idea of air operations as a way to impose the West’s will seems no better in Sudan than in Iran.
    Except for the part where a large segment of Sudan’s population would support intervention. In particular, the segment that’s currently getting slaughtered.
    My impression is that Krugman is the most influential liberal pundit. It may be true that he has no high-level appointment, nor even a low-level appointment; but he has real outside pull.
    Until he’s actually influenced policy, I’d challenged his “pull”.
    Well, he’s prioritizing, and he’s separating the issues. After all, what do you think that he sees in Edwards?
    But he shouldn’t be separating the issues. They each are parts of the two different worldviews held by Obama and Edwards. Obama is a social democrat who, like those in Scandinavia, believes that an expanded welfare state coupled with open markets is the way to prosperity (given Denmark’s record, this seems somewhat indisputable). On the other hand, Edwards is fashioning himself as an old-style populist, with all the nativism and crude economics that come along with that.

  7. Yeah, it’s not like there are any Darfurian insurgencies that the US could provide air support for or anything like that.
    Yes, there are, just as the Shiites in Iraq were always available as a potential insurgency. The question is whether we want to provide air support to these people. I understand that the janjaweed are terrible marauders, but I have read nothing about the merits of these insurgents.
    Granted, the Albanian insurgents in Kosovo certainly weren’t saints. That has been a real problem in Kosovo since the war there. But you could expect the region to move in a better direction, because of its history of slow political modernization, just by virtue of thwarting Milosevic.
    I dispute the premise that a history of democratic rule would lead to him being deposed.
    That’s not the real argument. Serbia’s history of civil institutions — not just or even mainly elections, although it had had those — led to a tolerable outcome after Milosevic was overthrown.
    Yes, Tito was a long-time dictator. He was like Franco. They were bad, and they did not improve with time. Nonetheless, their countries improved while they ruled.
    And I’m not sure I’d qualify a country with as many civil wars and coups as Sudan has had as “stable”.
    I meant stable in the sense of entrenched. Sudan’s problems are much more deeply entrenched than Serbia’s.
    Except for the part where a large segment of Sudan’s population would support intervention.
    Yeah, I know, we would be greeted as liberators…

  8. Granted, the Albanian insurgents in Kosovo certainly weren’t saints.
    Exactly – they were brutal, but they sure as hell beat Milosevic. Such is the case with the Sudan Liberation Movement. They’re not terrorist-harboring genocidal despots, unlike Bashir, and they’re not Islamists, unlike JEM, the second largest anti-Janjaweed militia. Sure, they’re not democrats, but the KLA wasn’t either. The important thing is that the SLM and the KLA are/were both fighting the good fight with regards to their country’s genocide.
    Yes, Tito was a long-time dictator. He was like Franco. They were bad, and they did not improve with time. Nonetheless, their countries improved while they ruled.
    I would severely caution against validating Tito like this. While he held the country together, he hardly did so in a way that resulted in civil insitutitons or other enduring phenomena. Once he died, all hell broke loose in due time. And I think the correct analogy is not between Tito and Franco, but between Tito and other East Bloc leaders. Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria, like Serbia, didn’t exactly have grand histories of democracy in 1991, but emerged as republics then nonetheless. Serbia did the same about eight years later. Besides which, much of the democratic practices of post-Franco Spain are inspired by those of the Second Spanish Republic, which I seem to recall you despising.
    Sudan’s problems are much more deeply entrenched than Serbia’s.
    How so? Bashir’s always been a weak leader, far weaker than Milosevic.
    Yeah, I know, we would be greeted as liberators…
    You’re comparing an Iraq to a hypothetical series of air strikes. You do realize how insane that is, right?

  9. And I think the correct analogy is not between Tito and Franco, but between Tito and other East Bloc leaders. Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria, like Serbia, didn’t exactly have grand histories of democracy in 1991, but emerged as republics then nonetheless.
    I know people who were from all four of these countries when they were Communist. Both from talking to them and from other accounts, Ceauşescu was clearly the worst of the lot while Tito was the least bad. Tito died in 1980. The Balkan wars that began 11 years later were not his doing.
    I am no fan of Tito or any other Communist leader whatsoever, but let’s keep things in perspective.
    Besides which, much of the democratic practices of post-Franco Spain are inspired by those of the Second Spanish Republic, which I seem to recall you despising.
    It doesn’t matter what they are “inspired by”. What matters is to have a rising tide of trust in basic civil institutions: the local police, the tax collectors, etc. The Serbs could eventually recognize and admit that Milosevic was corrupt; and that they could expect better. That is why they overthrew him themselves, with minimal violence. The trigger was that he had cheated just too much in an election.
    Whereas most Sudanese (like most Iraqis) have little experience to distinguish an honest election from a dishonest one. Or an honest tax collector from a dishonest one.
    In fact here is one basic difference for you: The literacy rates in Serbia, Iraq, and Sudan are, respectively, 96%, 74%, and 61%. A revolution in any country with a literacy rate below 90% is a risky bet.
    You’re comparing an Iraq to a hypothetical series of air strikes.
    Iran, then. It’s a big mistake to feel that your side is so noble that a convenient military assault will solve everything. Sudan may well merit military intervention, but it would not be nearly as simple as a few months of air strikes.

  10. Both from talking to them and from other accounts, Ceauşescu was clearly the worst of the lot while Tito was the least bad.
    Granted. But given that Romania emerged more or less immediately as a stable democracy and that Yugoslavia burst into civil war as soon as the Eastern Bloc started falling apart, wouldn’t it seem that these things are irrelevant?
    Tito died in 1980. The Balkan wars that began 11 years later were not his doing.
    This is facile. Reagan’s tax cuts were implemented in 1981, but their aftershocks were more than present in 1991/1992. The fact is that Tito barely held the country together and that as soon as he died it gradually began to break apart.
    The Serbs could eventually recognize and admit that Milosevic was corrupt; and that they could expect better. That is why they overthrew him themselves, with minimal violence. The trigger was that he had cheated just too much in an election.
    And wide swaths of Sudan want Bashir dead. Are you somehow suggesting that the Sudanese don’t mind despotism, while the Serbs do?
    Whereas most Sudanese (like most Iraqis) have little experience to distinguish an honest election from a dishonest one. Or an honest tax collector from a dishonest one.
    Oh. I guess you are. But did the Taiwanese in the 1970s, the Fillipinos in the 1980s, or the Ukrainians in 2004 have that experience? No, no they did not. Everyone hates rigged elections.
    In fact here is one basic difference for you: The literacy rates in Serbia, Iraq, and Sudan are, respectively, 96%, 74%, and 61%. A revolution in any country with a literacy rate below 90% is a risky bet.
    Do you really think the Phillipines had a great literacy rate under Marcos?
    It’s a big mistake to feel that your side is so noble that a convenient military assault will solve everything. Sudan may well merit military intervention, but it would not be nearly as simple as a few months of air strikes.
    But the fact remains that the only two times the US intervened to stop genocide (Bosnia and Kosovo) air power was all that was needed. And given as the genocide in Sudan is very air-based, the method should work better, if anything.
    Here would be the plan: establish no-fly zone and shoot down any Sudanese helicopters/planes. Bomb Janjaweed supply routes and military centers. Attack Sudanese military bases/departments and possibly key government locations in urban areas. Continue until the Sudanese government agrees to accept UN peacekeepers.

  11. Are you somehow suggesting that the Sudanese don’t mind despotism, while the Serbs do?
    Of course they mind despotism. No one likes despotism and no one likes civil war. Yet they still happen. This is not about what anyone minds as an individual, this is about the structure of the civil order from top to bottom.
    Yes, I did say that Sudanese don’t have the experience identifying corruption in government. But I didn’t mean that either as an individual cultural trait. The problem is more a matter of defining honest government. If you or I lived in Iraq or the Sudan, we would also have a lot of trouble identifying corruption. To first approximation, I would say that the entire government is rife with corruption, because none of it resembles Western-style civil order. But simply blaming all sides is not a path to improvement.
    Do you really think the Phillipines had a great literacy rate under Marcos?
    According to the CIA factbook, the literacy rate in the Philippines is 92.6%. I doubt that it was all that much lower under Marcos. Besides, the Philippines has had elements of Western civil order for most of a century, first imported from the US but also evolving on its own. Another besides is that Marcos certainly wasn’t overthrown with a Western bombing campaign.
    Generally when a country is attacked, it makes the leaders more popular. The Serbs still resent the NATO war against them. That war weakened Milosevic, but only indirectly, because his rule could not tolerate the loss of Kosovo.
    But the fact remains that the only two times the US intervened to stop genocide air power was all that was needed.
    That’s an argument by definition rather than by implication. In other wars in which the US needed massive ground forces to stop genocide, such as World War II, it therefore also needed some other objective to justify the ground troops.
    Given as the genocide in Sudan is very air-based
    Actually, most of it is based on horses and jeeps. The Sudanese Air Force has a grand total of 94 aircraft. Admittedly, at least some of these aircraft are actually operational.
    Bomb Janjaweed supply routes and military centers.
    It would be like bombing ant trails with firecrackers.
    See this picture. The “supply lines” are expanses of desert, not roads.
    A serious operation in Sudan would have to be like the one in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of ground troops would have to use superior mobility, communications, and air support to patrol vast swaths of territory for many years.

  12. That’s an argument by definition rather than by implication. In other wars in which the US needed massive ground forces to stop genocide, such as World War II, it therefore also needed some other objective to justify the ground troops.
    I hate to break this to you, but WWII was not about ending genocide. If it was, we would have bombed the railways transported Jews to Poland. Hear that? Bombed the railways.
    Actually, most of it is based on horses and jeeps. The Sudanese Air Force has a grand total of 94 aircraft. Admittedly, at least some of these aircraft are actually operational.
    Those horses and jeeps are greatly assisted by the Sudanese Air Force, which uses planes for reconnaissance misssions to identify targets, followed up by helicopter gunship raids.

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