Sunday, May 30, 2004

fisking Totten fisking Buchanan

Michael J. Totten has a post fisking an article of Pat Buchanan's. Buchanan is an isolationist and noninterventionist. There are lots of things to criticize in this view, but that's not enough for Totten. Totten has to mislead us about what Buchanan says in order to make him into a monster. Buchanan's point in this piece is that Western values consist not only of political freedoms, but also of sexual libertinism, and that the second part is nothing to be spreading around the world. Totten changes this thesis into the thesis that we shouldn't care if Muslims mistreat women.

Honest debate is good. It clears the air and even if it doesn't convince anyone, at least it lets you know how the other person thinks, and probably makes you more respectful of the other person. Dishonest debate such as Totten engages in here does nothing but harm. Slandering people doesn't make the world a better place. To understand the deepening divisions in US politics, you only have to look at dishonest writing like this; it makes one side angry for being slandered, and misleads the other side into thinking the first side is a bunch of hateful monsters.

On to the fisk:
Pitchfork Pat has a new piece up at antiwar.com called What Does America Offer the World?
So, how do we advance the cause of female emancipation in the Muslim world?" asks Richard Perle in An End to Evil. He replies, "We need to remind the women of Islam ceaselessly: Our enemies are the same as theirs; our victory will be theirs as well."

Well, the neoconservative cause "of female emancipation in the Muslim world" was probably set back a bit by the photo shoot of Pfc. Lynndie England and the "Girls Gone Wild" of Abu Ghraib prison.

He’s probably right about the setback. But it’s funny he bills female emancipation in the Muslim world as “neoconservative.” Not that it’s totally wrong, mind you. The neocons are all for it. But there are plenty of people who think of themselves as liberals, feminists, independents, centrists, and just plain old conservatives (not of the old right variety like Pat) who think female emancipation in the Middle East is a cause worth supporting. Last I checked, the neocon cabal wasn’t the only crowd that thinks a burkha is just another kind of ankle iron.
Indeed, the filmed orgies among U.S. military police outside the cells of Iraqi prisoners, the S&M humiliation of Muslim men, and the sexual torment of Muslim women raise a question. Exactly what are the "values" the West has to teach the Islamic world?
...
The abuse has not a thing to do with Western values. None. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Zero.
While I agree with Totten that the abuse has nothing to do with Western values, Totten's other comments put words into Buchanan's mouth. Buchanan didn't say that only neocons don't like the conditions of women in the Muslim world, he said that only neocons think it is America's responsibility to do something about it. He's more right than wrong on that score. I haven't heard anyone in the mainstream of either left or right advocating war on the basis of the treatment of women in the Muslim world.
"This war ... is about – deeply about – sex," declaims neocon Charles Krauthammer. Militant Islam is "threatened by the West because of our twin doctrines of equality and sexual liberation."

But whose "twin doctrines" is Krauthammer talking about? The sexual liberation he calls "our" doctrine belongs to a '60s revolution that devout Christians, Jews and Muslims have been resisting for years.

Sexual emancipation is our doctrine. I couldn’t care less that he and his old-right reactionary pals here and in the Middle East haven’t even caught up to the sixties yet. The radical left may be stuck in the 60s, but geez, at least they got there. Maybe he just needs to accept that he’s a museum piece like the burkha will be some day.
Totten has dishonestly changed "sexual liberation" to "sexual emancipation" in order to help him change the clear meaning of what Buchanan said. The word "Emancipation" is connected with freeing slaves from bondage. It is intended to suggest things like letting women vote and own property and be treated equally under the law. That is clearly not what Buchanan had in mind. He was talking about sex, not women.
What does Krauthammer mean by sexual liberation? The right of "tweens" and teenage girls to dress and behave like Britney Spears? Their right to condoms in junior high? Their right to abortion without parental consent?
We all know what sexual emancipation means. There’s no point in playing dumb. It means women and men are equal under the law and in society. It’s lower-case-f feminism, something the Middle East desperately, urgently needs. Charles Krauthammer isn’t agitating for condoms in schools in Riyadh. And neither is anyone else.
It is Totten who is playing dumb here, and his underhanded change of wording suggests that it is deliberate. It is remorselessly clear what Buchanan means by "sexual liberation", just as it was clear what Krauthammer was talking about in the article. It isn't lower-case-f feminism, it is sexual liberation. Hence the term. It is turning sex into a form of recreation. It is making the practice of finding a mate, largely a sexual competition rather than the carefully controlled social structure it is in most successful cultures in history. It is adultery, easy divorce, and sexual perversion. It is abortion.

Totten is dishonestly changing some perfectly unremarkable conservative points into something else so that he can slam Buchanan for it.
If conservatives reject the "equality" preached by Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, NARAL and the National Organization for Women, why seek to impose it on the Islamic world? Why not stand beside Islam, and against Hollywood and Hillary?
Pat Buchanan thinks he has more in common with Middle Eastern sexual apartheid practitioners than he has with Hillary Clinton. Well, Pat, I’ll just have to take your word for it. And the next time I hear mention of the “Taliban wing” of the Republican Party, I might have to let the comment pass without a rebuttal.
Again, Totten's words take their edge from misrepresenting Buchanan's clear meaning. He wasn't discussing the mistreatment of women, he was discussing sexual libertinism.
In June 2002 at West Point, President Bush said, "Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time and in every place."

But even John Kerry does not agree with George Bush on the morality of homosexual unions and stem cell research. On such issues, conservative Americans have more in common with devout Muslims than with liberal Democrats.

I guess that’s true, too. Then again, gay people in the Middle East are tortured and executed. It’s a good thing for Pat that he only aligned himself with them on the issue of homosexual unions.
Buchanan said that moral conservatives have more in common with "devout Muslims", not with Middle Eastern dictatorships. There are plenty of devout Muslims in the world that don't torture and execute homosexuals. Just as there have been lots of non-Muslims who also tortured and executed homosexuals.
The president notwithstanding, Americans no longer agree on what is moral truth. For as someone said a few years back, there is a cultural war going on in this country, a religious war. It is about who we are, what we believe and what we stand for as a people.
Does Pat mean to say there is no such thing as Western values despite our arguments about the finer points? Or does he say that he doesn’t believe in them himself? I really don’t know because he really doesn’t say. Either way, that isn’t so good for him. Most of us have a notion of what Western values are, and most of us aren’t too cool with those who reject or don’t believe in them.
Again, Totten changes Buchanan's wording in order to obscure the meaning. Buchanan used the phrase "moral truth" and Totten changed it to "Western values". Totten's term brings to mind things like the Bill of Rights, Buchanan was talking about stem cell research and homosexual unions. Totten can't seriously deny that there is a huge national schism over these issues, so he changes Buchanan's meaning to something else. Something that everyone more-or-less pretends to agree on.
What some of us view as the moral descent of a great and godly republic into imperial decadence, neocons see as their big chance to rule the world.
Take out the word “godly” and Pat Buchanan sounds like a tin-foil hat leftist. Let me know when someone floats a bill to annex Iraq and I’ll change my mind about our “imperial” decadence.
Score the second good and fully honest point by Totten. It turns out there are only two.
In Georgia recently, the president declared to great applause: "I can't tell you how proud I am of our commitment to values. ... That commitment to values is going to be an integral part of our foreign policy as we move forward. These aren't American values, these are universal values. Values that speak universal truths."

But what universal values is he talking about? If he intends to impose the values of MTV America on the Muslim world in the name of a "world democratic revolution," he will provoke and incite a war of civilizations America cannot win because Americans do not want to fight it. This may be the neocons' war. It is not our war.

Everyone, and I mean everyone including Pat Buchanan, knows George W. Bush isn’t thinking of MTV when he talks about values and freedom, especially when he mentions “universal” values. He isn’t referring to the right-wing opposition to stem-cell research, and he certainly isn’t talking about left-wing bra-burners.

It may not be true that everyone in this world wants to be free. But you can’t find a single country ruled by a despot where everyone loves their chains. It just doesn’t happen. The desire for freedom is universal in that sense.

Although George Bush isn't talking about that, it is fair when someone starts talking about the superiority of his principles to bring up some that aren't so superior. And it is certainly likely, near inevitable actually, that if America succeeds in remaking Middle Eastern society to such an extent that it stops producing terrorists then sexual libertinism will follow. No one explicitly making that a goal (for the moment), but it is hard to see how the people of the Middle East can become free to view American movies, American pornography, and MTV without it having a dramatic effect on the culture.
When Bush speaks of freedom as God's gift to humanity, does he mean the First Amendment freedom of Larry Flynt to produce pornography and of Salman Rushdie to publish The Satanic Verses, a book considered blasphemous to the Islamic faith? If the Islamic world rejects this notion of freedom, why is it our duty to change their thinking? Why are they wrong?
Now that is just astonishing. A tyrannical fascist regime in Iran orders the execution of a novelist in Britain. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini sent death squads after a man who had never even been to Iran. And Pat Buchanan wants to know why that’s wrong.

It seems to me it ought to be self-evident to a man who writes books that it’s not cool if you’re executed by a foreign government because it doesn’t like what you’ve written. But I guess it isn’t self-evident if you’re a religious nutjob who can’t get past the word blasphemy.
Totten has a point here, if one is ignoring the principle of charity (reading the other person's words in the best possible light). Totten clearly has no truck with the principle of charity when it comes to Buchanan. On the other hand, one could assume that Buchanan didn't mean to endorse death sentences for writing blasphemous books or to endorse extra-national laws about books. Buchanan may have just been saying that Muslims have a right to ban books they find offensive. Some of us would think that makes Buchanan look bad enough, but Totten has to bring in the death squads.
When the president speaks of freedom, does he mean the First Amendment prohibition against our children reading the Bible and being taught the Ten Commandments in school?
I certainly hope so. Bibles and Korans can be read after school. Shuttering the radical Islamic madrassas would do more to stop terrorism than anything else I can think of.
Once again, a charitable reader might assume Buchanan was making a point here about how the left has distorted the foundational principles of this country. They did manage to successfully turn a freedom of religion into an assault on religion. Maybe Muslims have reason to be disturbed about these things.
If the president wishes to fight a moral crusade, he should know the enemy is inside the gates. The great moral and cultural threats to our civilization come not from outside America, but from within. We have met the enemy, and he is us. The war for the soul of America is not going to be lost or won in Fallujah.

Unfortunately, Pagan America of 2004 has far less to offer the world in cultural fare than did Christian America of 1954. Many of the movies, books, magazines, TV shows, videos and much of the music we export to the world are as poisonous as the narcotics the Royal Navy forced on the Chinese people in the Opium Wars.

A society that accepts the killing of a third of its babies as women's "emancipation," that considers homosexual marriage to be social progress, that hands out contraceptives to 13-year-old girls at junior high ought to be seeking out a confessional – better yet, an exorcist – rather than striding into a pulpit like Elmer Gantry to lecture mankind on the superiority of "American values." [Emphasis added]
Here is where the wave of Pat Buchanan’s idiotarianism crests: He actually used the language of the left to say people like me are possessed by the devil.

I do what I can to combine the best of the left and the right. No one does better than Pat Buchanan in fusing the worst of both into a unifying and idiotic morass.

Anyone else see anything the least bit hypocritical about a man who calls Buchanan the devil ("Pitchfork Pat") being offended that Buchanan suggests someone is possessed by the devil?

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