Are we talking means or ends?

May 31, 2006

Hi, DQ here.  Dagon posted a comment to another entry so interesting I thought I'd post a new entry on it.  In response to my question as to what he would do, Dagon said:

[C]omplete independence from middle-east oil; a consistent foreign policy which advocates human rights everywhere and not just where it’s financially or politically expedient; a cessation of the subsizing of american companies which employ slave labor abroad in places like indonesia and malaysia; reppelation of the policy of preemption; and a mandate to secure our infrastructure via port security, border stability and immigration reform.

Let's take these one at a time:

     Complete independence from middle-east oil — I doubt there is a reader of this blog, on the left or the right, who would disagree with this as an end goal.  Dagon doesn't suggest a single method of accomplishing this (in a later post he does suggest ethanol, though he doesn't say where he thinks we'd get enough of it to power a truly large number of vehicles), but it set me to wondering why we don't set this as a serious goal.  Rather than each side picking their favorite energy alternatives, why not do everything?  Why not nuclear and solar?  Wind and geothermal and shale and off-shore drilling and ethanol and hybrids and hydroelectric and coal and anything else we can think of to increase our energy supply?  [Note: we should also work to reduce demand, but increasing supply is more practical and can be done with very little sacrifice.]  Let's do it!

     [A] consistent foreign policy which advocates human rights everywhere and not just where it’s financially or politically expedient – it's hard to imagine anyone disagreeing with this statement, either.  The question is not whether we advocate human rights everywhere (we already do) but what tactics will best assure this outcome.  For example, Dagon takes America to task for supporting the current regime in Saudi Arabia.  I largely agreee, though I'm open to the suggestion that any conceivable alternative government in that country would be even worse than the current one.  But this discussion is about means, not ends.  It's not about who supports human right (we all do) but about how we get there from here.  Let's remember that the next time we are tempted to start throwing stones at each other.

     [A] cessation of the subsizing of american companies which employ slave labor abroad in places like indonesia and malaysia – Here again, one would be hard pressed to find a single soul who supports the use of slave labor.  The problem here is in the definition of slave labor.  Also, one needs to be careful not to impose an American view on the laborers.  If an American company builds a plant and hires people for 50 cents an hour who would otherwise be starving to death, both the American company and that worker benefit, even if the wage is woefully low by American standards.  By the way, this is one my father, one of the most conservative peopel I know, would agree with Dagon completely on, but as a way of protecting American jobs at high wages by eliminating the cheaper foreign competition.

     [R]eppelation of the policy of preemption – Don't know what to make of this one.  It looks like Dagon is saying we must be reactive, not pro-active, that we must always let the other guy have the first shot.  I disagree, but I'm open to discussion if I've not got Dagon's idea right.  Or maybe I'm misunderstanding the point entirely.

     [A]nd a mandate to secure our infrastructure via port security, border stability and immigration reform – Again, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would disagree with any of these ends, and Dagon doesn't suggest any means for accomplishing them.  Everyone wants secure borders, a secure infrastructure, port security and immigration reform.  The question, as usual, is what means we use to accomplish these worthy ends.

     Overall, I'm struck by how completely, or nearly so, Dagon's ends are unobjectionable.  Yet he presents them as if they are somehow controversial.  Let's have a dialogue that begins by recognizing that we agree on the above ends and discusses what means we use to get there.  Seems to me that will be far more constructive than questioning each other's commitment to obviously proper ends. 

Reasons for optimism

April 11, 2006

I must admit I'm a little down today.  I'm stuck on negative thoughts as the price of oil tops $68 a barrel, the price of gas at the cheapest pump in town hits 277.9, the Republicans look headed for disaster in November, thousands are marching in the streets in support of people who are breaking the law of the land, the killing of innocent Iraqis by other Iraqis continues unabated, the world is not a happy place. 

I need you, dear Bookworm readers, to tell me why we should be optimistic about the future of America and the world.  I suppose I'll get things started by noting that just about every generation of Americans has believed that things were going to hell in a handbasket yet America is still the greatest success story the world has ever known, almost no matter how you measure success.  The internet gives wonderful people like the Bookworm and all of her readers (and me, from time to time) a chance to meet each other and share ideas in a way never before possible.  People are living longer and better and science and medicine continue to astound.

I feel better already.  Okay, it's your turn.  Why should we all be optimistic in the face of so much bad news?  What are the signs that give you hope that we should continue the fight and the world will ultimately be a better place for our having done so?  Let's share some good news, for a chance.  

Proud to be an American

April 3, 2006

DQ again.  I'm a NASCAR fan, but I normally TiVo the races and skip the long opening ceremonies.  Today, there was nothing much else on, so I watched the race and the ceremonies live.  I was struck by the pure pride in America that infused those ceremonies.  It's sad that almost the only time we see real pride in America is in a time-eating ceremony before a sporting event that is televised mainly to provide time for more commercials.

We have so much to be proud of in America.  We have done more good in the world, by our actions and by our example, that any other nation in history.  We judge ourselves harshly, but only because we set a higher standard for ourselves than any nation ever has.  We make excuses for everyone else, but never for ourselves.  Others can teach hate and target innocent civilians, and we tsk-tsk but do not really condemn, because we do not expect more of others.  Others attack our most sacred institutions, and we sympathize rather than defend.  But let our soldiers or politicians misstep and we are unceasing in our condemnation. 

I'm proud to be an American.  I'm proud we hold ourselves to the highest possible standard.  I only wish we didn't act like we're ashamed of who we are and what we have accomplished.  And I wish we held others to the same high standard.

Let’s talk body count

April 2, 2006

Just a short note from DQ.  I saw a headline the other day which informed me that 14 people had died in a rebel attack in Afganistan.  Sounds like a really successful attack until you read the article, which reveals that 12 of the 14 were the rebels themselves. 

Now, it's pretty well understood that the main point of these attacks is to drive up the body count to levels that death-abhorent Americans will not tolerate.  The rebels are dying for headlines like the one I saw.  But should their deaths count in the totals?  It's one thing to report how many of our soldiers and allies died.  It's another thing to report how many of the enemy we have killed.  It is still another thing entirely to report on how many of our enemies killed themselves.

What offends me is that the headline written saw nothing wrong with lumping all deaths together and printing the total, as if there was no important difference between the deaths of the attackers and the defenders.  Our enemies are losing the war on the ground but winning the war in the press.  As long as all that matters is the body count, and we're not even very concerned about whose bodies we are counting, we have no chance of winning the war for the hearts and mind of Americans.   We badly need to reframe the debate into one about what, if anything, these deaths are accomplishing.  To do any kind of cost-benefit analysis, we really need to understand the benefits, as well as the costs.

So the obvious question is — what are we accomplishing, both in Afganistan and in Iraq?  And how do we spread the word?

Hello world!

March 18, 2006

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