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Bloggingheads
03-02-2008, 11:02 AM

Fuquier
03-02-2008, 12:29 PM
Morrissey going on and on about accountability and oversight is surreal. Talk about mental compartmentalization...

Bloggin' Noggin
03-02-2008, 02:43 PM
My first impression on looking at the screen shot of Ed and at the topics was that he was Eli's Mini-me. (But I'd better watch out, I'm somewhat follically challenged myself -- and that might be the main resemblance.) On watching him for about a minute, I realize that if he's Eli's Mini-me, then he's taking lots of Prozac -- much sunnier than the prematurely sour Eli Lake. I'm waiting to see whether he lights up a cigarette or two on camera.

Update: Ah! But now the similarities are coming through: interrupt at every point of disagreement and always give three arguments for the price of one (or, rather, less than one, since the other argument was interrupted.)

(Later) NICE ONE (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9144?in=00:13:28&out=00:14:15), Mark!

Final impression: Ed did well as a diavlogger and definitely avoided Eli's tendency to use contempt as an argument. On the other hand, Eli's wealth of detailed knowledge (too often slipped in without sufficient explanation to us viewers) throws me off my ideological balance more often than Ed did here.

I wish that conservatives of Ed's sort would look at a little game theory -- say the prisoner's dilemma and the value that may be gained by binding oneself. It can be in our overall long-term interest to adopt a system that constrains us from maximizing our interests in each individual circumstance. The mere fact that international institutions like the UN sometimes restrain us from pursuing our short-term best interest doesn't show that it is not in our interest on the whole. Yet all their arguments take that false assumption as their starting point.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-02-2008, 03:18 PM
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9144?in=00:21:56&out=00:23:36

Ed's follow-up reply doesn't explain how a concert of democracies could keep French officials from taking money from some future Saddam or how it could be kept out of the Concert of Democracies. The points go to Mark.

bjkeefe
03-02-2008, 03:55 PM
Morrissey going on and on about accountability and oversight is surreal. Talk about mental compartmentalization...

My thoughts exactly. It never fails to amaze me that the anti-UN side always trots out this talking point when so many of them simultaneously fetishize the theory of the unitary executive, support the abuse of signing statements and warrantless wiretapping, and chortle when Bush Administration officials refuse to respond to Congressional requests and subpoenas.

I was also struck several times during the diavlog by another inconsistency: half the time, the UN is feared by those on the right for its ominous tendencies to impose world government and to limit the US from acting in its own interests; in the next breath, the UN is belittled for being unable to accomplish anything.

Here's another one: why are the UN peacekeeping troops blamed en masse for a dozen individuals' crimes, while the torturers at Abu Ghraib are dismissed as "a few bad apples?"

And another: why do we always hear about how terrible it is that the UN contains diplomats from non-democratic countries, but never hear complaints about the US being in bed with, say, Saudi Arabia?

Are there real problems with corruption, bureaucratic bloat, structural flaws, etc., with the UN? Yes, I believe there are. But I don't think Ed made a very convincing case.

To be fair about it, I wasn't much more impressed with Mark, despite the fact that (or especially because) I agree with his general view of the UN. I understand that this is a debate, and so he was sticking to points that would support his case, but he came off as nearly equally obtuse in his sunny portrayal of the UN.

Overall, this diavlog sounded like the same argument over the UN that I've been hearing for decades: both sides sticking only to the talking points and carefully selected examples that support their view, neither side admitting any gray areas nor acknowledging fair points that the other side makes, and no movement toward proposing or discussing ideas that might actually address the problems. Sadly unenlightening, especially judging by the standards of BH.tv. The premature termination was, in the end, merciful.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-02-2008, 04:24 PM
To be fair about it, I wasn't much more impressed with Mark, despite the fact that (or especially because) I agree with his general view of the UN. I understand that this is a debate, and so he was sticking to points that would support his case, but he came off as nearly equally obtuse in his sunny portrayal of the UN.


I completely disagree. I think Mark acknowledged that there were problems but strove (as your other comments do above) to put them in context: Sure individual peace keepers have done some bad things, but what's the alternative -- American soldiers (who might commit some crimes of their own) in Haiti and every other hot spot? Having member states give up sovereignty over their own troops (quite inconsistently with Ed's overall message)?

Sure the UN is imperfect, but given the fact that states have conflicting interests (though also many shared interests), it doesn't follow that there's anything better available.

I hardly see him as obtusely presenting a "sunny portrayal of the UN" --just a realistic view of it.
He did quite well, I thought -- see my dingalinks in my other posts for examples.

bjkeefe
03-02-2008, 05:17 PM
BN:

Sure the UN is imperfect, but given the fact that states have conflicting interests (though also many shared interests), it doesn't follow that there's anything better available.

That's pretty much my view of the UN, too. I certainly think that for all its warts, it's far better than nothing, and that changes should be made within, rather than doing away with it completely and/or forming the "alliance of democracies" as a competing body.

As to whether Mark did a good job making this case, I guess it's entirely subjective -- you thought he did better than I thought he did. Your links do point to some of his better moments. I just thought, overall, that he wasn't particularly impressive. Given that almost everything Ed had to say sounded like the same old same old, I'd think a passionate advocate for the UN would have better responses available. A sharper debater might, as well, have pointed out the inconsistencies in the other side's reasoning.

Instead, Mark just seemed to respond to each example of failure with another example of success, or by quibbling over the details of the examples. That's an oversimplification, to be sure, but that was my general sense of the discussion. I'm not saying I'm right about this -- we're basically the same as two people, having watched a movie, disagreeing about which way to point their thumbs.

CPTb
03-02-2008, 05:22 PM
Lame arguments on both sides....

No one takes seriously the UN attempt to impose gun contol on the US or the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). LOST will cede to the UN control of 75% of the earths surface and the air above it... as well as the ability to levy taxes on it's use. We also forget about the UN court which is trying to tell Texas it can't execute (and must free) someone who raped and murdered two teenage girls.

I also have a problem with an organization that give equal weight to nations with democracies and those with opressive thugs and dictators.

The UN has no teeth and cannot enforce anything. If there is an atrocity going on in the world, the UN is probably there... standing-by, doing nothing.

As a organization for diplomatic relations... it is a good thing. But we should not have to ask "mother may I?" to the UN for anything. I can't think of very many times service has improved when you move power further away from the people.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-02-2008, 05:47 PM
Brendan,
I just want to clarify that the bit you quote from my post was meant to be a summary of the kind of reasonable contextual approach I think Mark repeatedly made during the diavlog, not (merely) a summary of my own views.

Mark's approach was coolly rational rather than passionate, and I suspect that accounts for your feeling that he wasn't strong enough in his defense. But I really don't see the evidence for your claim that he merely took a "sunny" view of the UN or that his responses were, in effect, non sequiturs of the sort you describe ('well you may say that bad thing about the UN, but what about this good thing about the UN?"). Maybe you could point me to a case where he does this? In my recollection, his responses took Ed's points into account but repeatedly tried to put them in the context of "sure there are problems,but what else would you do instead in the real world?"

He dealt much better than I expected with Ed's tendency to interrupt and offer a thousand arguments at once. He made sure he interrupted back and made sure he got to complete his points. He wasn't another Heather Hurlburt, but I think he was pretty effective if you put aside the question of whether he should have been more passionate or more sarcastic or more rhetorically effective in some way. In terms of argument, I think he did a great job, and I'm not sure I would demand a different rhetorical treatment. I'd compare him to Jacob Heilbrun in the recent diavlog with Lake -- only he managed to be a bit more agressive about making and completing points than I think Heilbrun was (though Heilbrun did a very good job of choosing his moments to raise objections).

Bloggin' Noggin
03-02-2008, 06:07 PM
I also have a problem with an organization that give equal weight to nations with democracies and those with opressive thugs and dictators.

I assume you would have objected to the war time alliance between the US and the Soviet Union, and to allowing slave owning states into the Union -- as well as George Bush's alliance with dictators in Kazakhstan and Pakistan in prosecuting the war on terror.
In an ideal world, you wouldn't have to choose the lesser of two (or many) evils. Unfortunately, we live in the actual world.

The UN has no teeth and cannot enforce anything. If there is an atrocity going on in the world, the UN is probably there... standing-by, doing nothing.

I've been listening to George Packer's _Assassin's Gate_ on the Iraq war. As it happens, I just got to the part where he meets Sergio de Mello, who he mentions, occupied a UN role in East Timor rather like that of Bremer in Iraq -- doesn't sound like "doing nothing". In Iraq he was struggling to put together the governing council and make it more representative and legitimate in Iraqi eyes than Bremer would have. He was generally trying to open lines of communication between the notoriously insular CPA and Iraqis. Then, of course, he was murdered in a car bombing by al Qaeda, who were apparently afraid of his "standing by doing nothing"! Sorry, but in that context, your sniping from the sidelines just seems ridiculously unfair.

berger
03-02-2008, 06:56 PM
Oil for food! I love how the corrupt actions of a few Frenchmen get morphed into some sort of government policy for which the whole country is responsible. Anyone still going on about this is just clutching at straws.

Also...can we talk about the two microphones? I take it that one is for bloggingheads ... what's the other one for? The capt.'s style?

bjkeefe
03-02-2008, 07:01 PM
Also...can we talk about the two microphones? I take it that one is for bloggingheads ... what's the other one for? The capt.'s style?

The simplest explanation is that the one attached to the headset wasn't working.

The darker speculation would be that Ed wanted a separate channel for his own voice for purposes of documentation -- as a card-carrying Malkinite, he may well have been concerned that the liebrul media would scramble his words. I mean, according to his new overlord, we're already stealthily trying to make everybody speak Spanish, convert to Islam, surrender to the terrorists, and put up little children as human shields for our socialist health care agenda. Who knows what else we might be up to?

theis
03-03-2008, 02:52 PM
Ugh. As someone who's generally pretty sympathetic to conservative complaints about the UN, I couldn't have been more turned off by Ed Morrisey's style. He's overselling, and interrupting point by point when all he really needs to do is to express a couple of points. The UN is bad at implementation, so when you invest too much confidence in the UN, it hogs legitamacy from the people who are able to get things done. (Think the US Navy after the tsunami.) On top of that, the UN suffers from the same sickness that labor unions do, which is that the personal priorities of the people at the top often run at cross purposes to the goal of the organization as stated.

I've been watching old recordings of Bill Buckley on Firing Line, and he seems to be able to get his point across just fine without sounding like a whiny bitch. Take lessons Ed.

osmium
03-03-2008, 03:30 PM
it is highly likely that i am both misinformed and naive, but i've never understood the passionate feelings that (mostly conservative) americans can have about the united nations. the critiques given here are surely not without merit. but UN hatred seems out of proportion to them.

am i incorrect in assuming that some of the visceral UN hatred may originate from the popular series of religious novels (Left Behind, i think?), wherein satan is manipulating the world through the UN general secretary?

does life imitate art? or can a novelist write the UN as satan only because the feeling already exists?

bjkeefe
03-03-2008, 03:42 PM
osmium:

That's an interesting question. I hope we get some answers from those who don't like the UN. I think you're right that a lot of it seems overblown, especially in the context of what else if might be compared to, but I'm a lukewarm UN supporter, so it's hard for me to say.