PDA

View Full Version : Obama and the Millitary


uncle ebeneezer
11-14-2008, 07:25 PM
Good Spackerman piece:

http://washingtonindependent.com/18335/productive-obama-military-relationship-possible

bjkeefe
11-15-2008, 01:01 AM
Good Spackerman piece:

http://washingtonindependent.com/18335/productive-obama-military-relationship-possible

Thanks for the link.

I especially liked this view from one Pentagon official:

“It will be a refreshing change from recent years, when civilian political leaders have shirked off tough questions about — and responsibility for — their war policies by claiming, in effect, that they’re just taking directions from the commanders on the ground, in effect, hiding behind the skirts of the military.”

It always bugged me when I heard this "commanders on the ground" trope from the Bushies. I used to think of it as just a variant on the jingoistic Support Our Troops (tm) mantra, but this illustrates that there was more to it than that. It's another illustration of how the self-proclaimed Decider and his lackeys really spent most of the past eight years ducking responsibility.

cragger
11-15-2008, 06:30 PM
It always bugged me when I heard this "commanders on the ground" trope from the Bushies. I used to think of it as just a variant on the jingoistic Support Our Troops (tm) mantra, but this illustrates that there was more to it than that. It's another illustration of how the self-proclaimed Decider and his lackeys really spent most of the past eight years ducking responsibility.

It isn't just the Bushies, and although I agree about Bush ducking responsibility for decisions about a war he started, there seems to also be a real divide in understanding about how a democracy should work.

I live in a state that allows citizen initiative referrenda. I happened to pick up the local small town weekly newspaper while waiting for a pizza, and read the house columnist. He was arguing against an initiative that would change a matter of criminal law, and putting forth the proposition that law enforcement authorities should decide on matters of law, whether it should be changed, and if so how. This struck me as a complete failure to to understand the roles of citizens and law enforcement in a free democracy.

On reflection, a big part of the problem may be the unwillingness of people to take on the responsibilities that a democracy demands.

cognitive madisonian
11-15-2008, 07:03 PM
The idea that a man who refused to go to Iraq for years, then went and shouted down General Petraeus, stubbornly sticking to a position proven to be wrong, will have good relations with the military makes about as much sense as Dick Cheney winning a personality contest.

bjkeefe
11-16-2008, 01:42 AM
It isn't just the Bushies, and although I agree about Bush ducking responsibility for decisions about a war he started, there seems to also be a real divide in understanding about how a democracy should work.

I live in a state that allows citizen initiative referrenda. I happened to pick up the local small town weekly newspaper while waiting for a pizza, and read the house columnist. He was arguing against an initiative that would change a matter of criminal law, and putting forth the proposition that law enforcement authorities should decide on matters of law, whether it should be changed, and if so how. This struck me as a complete failure to to understand the roles of citizens and law enforcement in a free democracy.

On reflection, a big part of the problem may be the unwillingness of people to take on the responsibilities that a democracy demands.

There's a lot that I agree with here, especially the part about all citizens having responsibilities that all too few of us fulfill.

I do have somewhat of a problem with ballot initiatives, though, especially after living in California for a decade. At some point, we have to accept that not everyone is going to make the effort to become properly informed on an issue before casting a vote. In a lot of cases, it may even be unreasonable to expect them to do so. This is why we pay legislators to work as full-time employees and allow them budgets to hire staff.

Ultimately, we do not live in a pure democracy. We live in a republic, which means (ideally) choosing people who we think are best suited to make the decisions. We should of course stay vigilant, but to have every citizen voting on whether a specific bill should become law, or a specific bond issue should pass, strikes me as micromanagement from the bottom up.

cognitive madisonian
11-16-2008, 10:55 AM
There's a lot that I agree with here, especially the part about all citizens having responsibilities that all too few of us fulfill.

I do have somewhat of a problem with ballot initiatives, though, especially after living in California for a decade. At some point, we have to accept that not everyone is going to make the effort to become properly informed on an issue before casting a vote. In a lot of cases, it may even be unreasonable to expect them to do so. This is why we pay legislators to work as full-time employees and allow them budgets to hire staff.

Ultimately, we do not live in a pure democracy. We live in a republic, which means (ideally) choosing people who we think are best suited to make the decisions. We should of course stay vigilant, but to have every citizen voting on whether a specific bill should become law, or a specific bond issue should pass, strikes me as micromanagement from the bottom up.

For most topics, yes, but there are specific areas that a proposition can be quite effective. Cultural issues, primarily. The voting public doesn't have the knowledge to make intelligent votes on economic matters, but getting a direct gage of the where the culture is at is easiest done through propositions.

uncle ebeneezer
11-16-2008, 02:00 PM
I think ballot initiatives should only be used when the public clearly wants one thing but the legislators refuse to act on it or are dragging their feet for political reasons. Otherwise, let the issues be settled through the representative process the way it was designed to function.

cragger
11-17-2008, 06:20 PM
we have to accept that not everyone is going to make the effort to become properly informed on an issue before casting a vote. ... This is why we pay legislators to work as full-time employees and allow them budgets to hire staff. .. (ideally) choosing people who we think are best suited to make the decisions.

So, how's that working out? A little snarky for my posting pleasure, but it goes to one of two major points.

Certainly, few citizens are going to read a 450-page bill, or understand it and the implications of all its clauses in their glorious legal speak. Very few legislators read the bills they vote on or understand them either. Its not as though there are any particular qualifications required to become a legislator, particularly at the state level. A picture of the family on a mailer, a few meaningless bromides about your love for family, education, healthy communities, and puppies, and in most cases affiliation with the locally appropriate political party pretty well cover it. Either of us could dig up a quick list of politicians and their and statements that don't just indicate views we might disagree with, but represent individuals so shockingly stupid that it is not only an embarassment that they represent our states or nation, but an offense to all that is right that they are using oxygen. But you get the point.

The body politic is subject to having an issue demagogued, but that process produces pressure on legislators as well. As do the party leaders, and wealthy and powerful interest groups that can threaten campaign retaliation to any politician that doesn't toe the line. I'm sure you are aware that most politicians wind up voting on any complex policy matter by following the lead of someone they hope understands the subject and whose views they defer to, whether someone on their staff or another politician or pundit. Or they just follow their party lines or the advice of whoever is in charge of getting them reelected.

A citizen has access to the same range of opinion, with the same range of validity and knowledge backing it, that a politician does. The citizen also has the considerable advantage of not needing to please those interests that can contribute to the next campaign, or some block of fanatics that a pollster or campaign strategist decide could swing a critical couple points in the next election.

Citizens can and do make mistakes and stupid decisions (those you or I disagree with) via initiative. But as often as enlightened politicians lead the way in making what we might consider progress, they also often are the anchor dragged behind the boat.

to have every citizen voting on whether a specific bill should become law, or a specific bond issue should pass, strikes me as micromanagement .

It is notable that in those states that have citizen ballot initiatives, the number of initiatives is tiny compared to the number of laws, or votes taken by the legislators. Its not a question of citizens "micromanaging" every issue that comes up in any of these states. Anyone can point to initiatives in which they disagree with the outcome, and I suggest you may be reacting, or in my view (hence the post) overreacting to those. I never had any trouble coming up with even more legislative outcomes to disagree with. I suspect you don't either.

Which brings up my second point, citizen initiatives are not micromanagement. They are democracy, its very essence. Meaningful democracy is more than picking between two names.

Ultimately, we do not live in a pure democracy. We live in a republic

There is how it is, and how it should be. We have the stupid and non-democratic electoral college too. Referrenda represent the power of the citizens to veto the legislators. Yep, I'm going libertarian here. Not the "economic libertarian" route which I tend to disparage as "promoting the freedom of the rich and powerful to screw whoever they like in order to become more wealthy and powerful still." Old school, protect your rights and civil liberties with tooth and nail, hang on to freedom with both hands because once you let it go its gone libertarian. Sometimes free men have to stand up and throw the tea in the harbor, not hope some future parliment is nicer to them.

The absolutely essential requirement for a free democracy is that the power reside with the people. You cannot give up that power and hope that those you relinquish it to will keep you free. Nobody else can keep you free, that is something each individual must do. Its the nature and the meaning of freedom. Once others hold the power you are not free regardless of what your current level of comfort may be. Others may grant you any sort of comfort or privilige at their pleasure, and withdraw it at their pleasure. I think that is an incontrovertable lesson of history. Citizens should and need to increase, rather than decrease, their power over their government. Only one of the two is ultimately in power.

And yeah, I probably do tend to go on in a screed like this. Nothing like a good rant to work up the appetite.

bjkeefe
11-18-2008, 01:50 PM
[...]

Thanks for a detailed and thoughtful response. I've thought about what I could say in response, and I haven't come up with anything besides rehashing what I already said. I concede a number of your points, but for whatever reason, I'm still against doing things by ballot initiative as a general policy.