Or, the blog post I’d write if I didn’t have to leave in a few minutes for jury duty — take this quote about Senator Joe McCarthy:
“The McCarthyist fellow travelers who announced that they approved of the senator’s goals even thought they disapproved of his methods missed the point: to McCarthy’s true believers what was really appealing about him were his methods, since his goals were always utterly nebulous.” –Richard Hofstatder, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1962)
Update by substituting “Bush” for “McCarthy”; think “global war on terror.” Or make other substitutions that occur to you. Discuss.
Update: Let’s refocus this, because people are tripping a big too much on the words goals and nebulous. Let’s consider something specific, like Bush’s desire to trash the Geneva Conventions and conduct what many of us consider torture. Bush’s claims to the contrary, it is extremely doubtful that what little useful intelligence obtained from detainees was squeezed out by the “tough” means Bush favors. According to Ron Suskind, the “tough” methods mostly gave the CIA information on plots that did not exist.
Yet if you suggest to a rightie that maybe we should stick to interrogation methods that are less harsh but which have a better track record of obtaining accurate information, they get hysterical and accuse you of siding with jihadists.
THE BUSH administration has pushed aggressively for expanded surveillance powers, military commissions and rough interrogation techniques. When it comes to fighting the war on terrorism, just about anything goes. Except, that is, those routine steps with no civil liberties implications at all that might significantly interrupt terrorism — such as, say, reading the mail of convicted terrorists housed in American prisons. The federal Bureau of Prisons, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine wrote, “does not read all the mail for terrorist and other high-risk inmates on its mail monitoring lists.” It is also “unable to effectively monitor high-risk inmates’ verbal communications,” including phone calls. So while the administration won’t reveal the circumstances under which it spies on innocent Americans, the communications of imprisoned terrorists, at least, appear sadly secure.
Seems to me that Bush’s goals vis a vis the “global war on terrorism” are pretty damn nebulous —
- 1. Cloudy, misty, or hazy.
2. Lacking definite form or limits; vague: nebulous assurances of future cooperation.
3. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a nebula.
This is not to say that he doesn’t have goals, or at least intentions, and that those goals are not well served by “tough interrogation.” The point is that Bush’s real (or inner) goals have to be inferred, or guessed at. That makes them nebulous to us observers. For all I know they are nebulous to Bush as well.
However, for now I do not care about what’s going on in Bush’s head. I am asking about what’s going on in his supporters‘ heads — note that Hofstatder’s observation was less about McCarthy than about McCarthy admirers.
The fact that his stated or official goal of saving the world from terrorism is not at all well served by his methods ought to be obvious to most vertebrate species by now. But the consideration at hand is not Bush himself, but his supporters, or what’s left of ’em. These are the people who think it’s just grand that Bush suspends habeas corpus for detainees, including citizens, at Bush’s discretion. They continue to argue that our lives and our nation will be forfeit if the CIA has to give up waterboarding. And they still have some hazy notion that we can “win” in Iraq.
I’m saying that these people stick with Bush because of his methods and practices, including violations of the Constitution. They really don’t much care about the results. The goals are nothing but empty rhetoric, and that’s OK with the true believers.