Montana Politics

A Tale of Two Glenns

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I am not sure that anyone lacking a strong background in Norwegian culture and politics can really make heads or tails of the senseless violence in Norway, though D. Gregory Smith makes a worthwhile effort. I’m certainly not going to try.

What is illuminating, though, is what our response to this tragedy says about our own political discourse. Both Glenn Greenwald (charging that, contrary to popular reality, Norway is in fact responsible for violence in some way comparable to what it has suffered) and Glenn Beck (comparing the Labour Party camp that was the scene of most of the violence to a Hitler Youth camp) responded in the ways that were callous, self-serving, and inaccurate.

They don’t need exhaustive responses. Glenn Beck is being himself; his allegation that he finds indoctrinating youths in politics ‘creepy’ makes a lot less sense when considering his own status as a misguided culture warrior who attempts to press politics into every part of our lives. As to Greenwald, well he’s smarter than Beck so he takes some knowledge to refute, but here goes – Norway is indeed involved both in the Afghan and Libyan conflicts, but he would be wise to consider that in both cases, there was a state of war before NATO became involved, and in both cases, NATO forces have been responsible for far fewer civilians deaths than those of their adversaries, and have been in Afghanistan responsible for broad increases in human rights and living standards.

But the bigger point isn’t that these two Glenn’s are wrong or mean-spirited. It’s that it took so little time for American commentators on different sides of the political spectrum to cheapen 76 innocent lives to ever so slightly push their pre-conceived political notions. D. Gregory Smith points out that whatever the motivation, terrorism is possible when ideology defeats humanity. I don’t think either Glenn is likely to resort to violence any time soon, but if they are indicative of American political culture, the lens of ideology seems to be obscuring our perceptions of our common humanity to a troubling degree.

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The Polish Wolf

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  • Norway is indeed involved both in the Afghan and Libyan conflicts, but he would be wise to consider that in both cases, there was a state of war before NATO became involved, and in both cases, NATO forces have been responsible for far fewer civilians deaths than those of their adversaries, and have been in Afghanistan responsible for broad increases in human rights and living standards.

    and i think you are cheapening the civilian deaths you casually refer to in this quote, which sort of makes it look like you’re being a hypocrite here.

    • False – that fact doesn’t cheapen civilian deaths, it points out their paramount importance.  Entering into a conflict where civilians are being killed quite mercilessly by the other side in order to defeat them and therefore end the civilians deaths is eminently moral.  When a state of war exists without your intervention, and you intervene to support the side showing greater respect for innocent life and offering better results for the people, then the action you are taking is not promoting violence but rather decreasing its likelihood.  

      • NATO has unleashed a civil war; their actions ensure there will be more violence and more death, and this was done without exhausting all diplomatic channels.  

        here’s a few questions to ponder:  are the rebels the good guys just because NATO is backing them?  what happens when they engage in retribution killings?  rapes?  kill their own general?  how many children need to be blown up to save Libya from Gaddafi?

        if there’s a common humanity being obscured by ideology here, like you are accusing the two Glenns of, then you should practice what you preach and move beyond the Gaddafi is evil and must be taken out meme to see the tribal warfare the west through NATO is now exacerbating.

      • Lizard – can you imagine why the rebels would rebuff a political solution that didn’t involve Gaddafi leaving? Can you imagine why it might be considered a bad idea to put down your weapons and re-submit to a man who ordered the deaths of thousands of people whose crimes were far less than open revolt?

        Lets not forget, Lizard, that no one was talking about compromise until NATO intervened (an act which you opposed). So, if you really support political solutions, then you should be thanking NATO for making that even possible; without it the war would be over already, that much is true, but with the complete failure of the rebels, sending a strong message – the biggest mistake that Egypt and Tunisia made was not starting to shoot the protesters right away. But then, it would make an important theoretical problem for you and Mark go away – how could there be a populist revolution in an anti-American country, when supposedly the font of all Muslim anger is the United States?

        So, yes, NATO extended the conflict, in the same way the US extended WWII by helping Britain and the USSR. Did NATO act in the best way possible? That’s up for debate, but they certainly didn’t start the conflict.

        It’s comments like that, claiming that the US is causing problems by getting involved with problems that already exist, that paralyze foreign policy. If the US had tried to intervene in Rwanda, and people had continued to die, you and Mark would claim that we stoked ethnic conflict and even genocide.

        By the way, I find it funny that emboldening the rebels in Libya would be bad, but emboldening the rebels in any pro-American state is recommended.

      • if NATO had stopped at establishing a no-fly zone instead of mission creeping toward regime change, i would have less of a problem. but that’s not how it’s gone down.

        as for your Egypt/Tunisia example, you think they made a mistake by NOT shooting protestors? that’s interesting. i think Egypt played it pretty well. oust the Mubarak, give some crumbs to the protestors, and continue along as usual with the police state.

        and you conclude with this:

        “I find it funny that emboldening the rebels in Libya would be bad, but emboldening the rebels in any pro-American state is recommended.”

        have i said this? listen, i think the US should stop meddling in lots of countries. our leaders are too busy destroying America from the inside out to be able to spend much time focusing on fucking up other countries.

      • Lizard – if Syria and Libya can bring the military in to deal with protests without fearing the consequences, whereas the leaders of both Tunisia and Egypt, who didn’t, are deposed and charged with crimes, the better reaction seems apparent. Seeing the results in Libya, Syria seems to be slightly more cautious – employing the military where necessary, but at the same time implementing substantial political reforms to keep the West hoping that this can all end peacefully.

  • So you admit the the Libya conflict is a “state of war.” Does that mean you would admit that our president is acting illegally because he doesn’t agree with you, hence he doesn’t believe the War Powers Act applies?

    • I’m not sure I understand how NATO unleashed a civil war. There’s certainly an argument that NATO has failed, but how did they start the civil war?

      What would you have done once the killings started? What should have been American/NATO policy?

      • I’m assuming you’re responding to my comment, Don. back in June Cynthia McKinney talked about how those freedom fighting rebels were cleansing towns like Mistrata of blacks. here is the link: http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/06/26/cynthia-mckinney-nato-unleased-race-war-in-libya-house-votes-vs-funding/

        what NATO could have done was stop bombing once whatever human atrocity Gaddafi is alleged to have begun was stopped, then support diplomatic efforts, including the African Union. instead NATO has allowed mission creep, and the result is babies get blown up because they’re trying to assassinate Gaddafi.

        that, and the rebels have rebuffed attempts at reaching a political solution, because they know they got NATO firepower backing them up. so NATO has actually emboldened the opposition, and now it appears the lid is coming off of tribal/racial/ethnic divisions, kind of like what our country did in Iraq with the Sunnis and Shiites.

      • I didn’t say NATO started a civil war. PW said that “there was a state of war before NATO became involved.”

        Does the fact that it is a civil war that we became involved in make it any less pertinent to the War Powers Act?

        That’s the problem with the creeping of powers of the unitary executive in relation to wars. The power to wage war only ever increases, and when attempts to rein it in like the War Powers Act fall by the wayside when a complacent citizenry allows their President to thumb his nose at it.

  • The conflict in Libya is a state of war between between Libyan Rebels and the Libyan government.  As to whether the US is also at war, that’s up to congress whether they declare war or not.  Otherwise it is like most conflicts in US history, wherein the president acted as commander in chief without asking congress to declare war.  The president is merely sticking to the position of every man in his position since the WPA was passed, which is that the act itself is unconstitutional.   The WPA has been violated numerous times by multiple presidents, and has never been enforced, likely because it is in fact unconstitutional.

    • Then why doesn’t a president–any president–challenge the constitutionality of the measure? And why doesn’t Congress push the issue so as to force a clarification?

      Why have unconstitutional–if in fact it were ever declared such–laws on the books complicating foreign policy when thousands of lives are at stake?

      ps, the answer to Don above from “Name” is from me.

      • The president doesn’t have to challenge the law – someone would need to ask for an injunction to force a withdrawal of troops, and then the president could appeal to the Supreme Court to judge the constitutionality of congress limiting the powers of the commander in chief. The President is not going to take himself to court.

        I think that hasn’t been done for two reasons – one, relevant people are afraid that law is unconstitutional, and they feel it being on the books, even if it isn’t strictly enforced, will prevent another Vietnam. Two, as you said, thousands of lives are at stake. Inaction is the clearest way to avoid accountability. Congress wants to be able to passively oppose humanitarian interventions, especially, without taking blame for the consequences. Had Kosovo been a quagmire, congress could have said ‘we told you so’. But had a member of congress pushed for an injunction to prevent our actions in Kosovo, and it had turned into another Bosnia, they would have been open to criticism for, you know, doing something.

  • So, aside from putting words in my mouth (I’m pretty sure I didn’t call anyone”freedom fighting rebels”, for instance) how did NATO *start* a civil war again?

    • i was not intending to imply *you* called them “freedom fighting rebels”. CFS is right, i’m a sarcastic asshole. but you have to admit the packaging of the Libyan non-war war sort of depends on protecting the image of the rebels being the good guys in this fight. i put up a post tonight detailing why they’re not.

      but i don’t want to make waves here, and this is veering off topic from the Wolf’s scolding of the two offending Glenn’s, so i’ll just leave it at that.

      • I just think it’s factually inaccurate to suggest that NATO started this conflict. There’s certainly a debate that can take place about the way NATO and the US handled it, but it started on its own.

        Situations like this present incredible challenges for American foreign policy. While I’m also inclined to question our motives and results, conflicts like the one in Libya and the Balkans in the 90s seem to demand a response. We can’t watch it happen, can we?

        I certainly know that we pick and choose which conflicts we enter, but does failing to act in country A make choosing to ignore a conflict in country B right?

      • now you are putting words in my mouth. did i use the word *start*? no, i said unleash. i minor quibble, but important.

        and the selectivity of our intervention should lead critical thinkers to ponder what makes a country like Libya different than Bahrain? one was targeted by the US (including CIA on the ground before the bombs started falling) and the other gets a pass.

        are some civilians deaths more important than others? or is “protecting civilians” just a convenient cover for other ambitions.

      • Lizard – I’m going to repeat my first point about Bahrain, the first time you brought it up, which is that the violence in Bahrain, though deplorable, doesn’t match the violence in Libya. I’ve already given you the links that evidence this at 4&20.

        Secondly, Americans certainly aren’t going to work AGAINST their interests. We did nothing in Bahrain because we couldn’t afford to confront Saudi Arabia; the consequences thereof would have been disastrous for the world economy as well as our own. I do think we should have been more pro-active in Bahrain and Yemen. I’ve written on the topic before, our preference for governments to people. But I’m still glad we did something in Libya, even if we could have also done more in other areas.

        If someone smokes a pack a day and drinks a six pack, I’ll applaud them quitting smoking even if they still drink. Failing to completely reform oneself, or to always do the right thing, doesn’t invalidate occasionally doing what one ought to do.

  • You say: “NATO forces have been responsible for far fewer civilians deaths than those of their adversaries, and have been in Afghanistan responsible for broad increases in human rights and living standards.”

    I respectfully submit that you have no way of knowing this, as those operations are heavily censored. you only know what you ar e told. Unless this war is different, we’re being told nothing.

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