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Sunday, September 26, 2004

Josh Marshall's history PhD seems wasted

As today's New York Times Magazine has helpfully reminded us, liberal blogger Joshua Micah Marshall is capable of writing "like every other overeducated journalist," referring no doubt to his PhD in American history from Brown University.  But as the Times also notes, as a blogger, Dr. Marshall "has become an irate spitter of well-crafted vitriol aimed at the president."  A current example of how all of Dr. Marshall's learning and education is overwhelmed by his instinct for partisan snark:

Don Rumsfeld said yesterday that elections in "three-quarters or four-fifths of" Iraq might be good enough.

In other words, run the place on Florida rules.

Partisan snark is fine — I'm both a fan and a practitioner — but I'm amazed that Dr. Marshall can't (or won't) recall a more apt comparison from American history (boldface mine):

We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us. The strife of the election is but human-nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case, must ever recur in similar cases. Human-nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.

But the election, along with its incidental, and undesirable strife, has done good too. It has demonstrated that a people's government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility....

The speaker?  Abraham Lincoln, on November 10, 1864, after an historically pivotal election, conducted in the midst of a civil war, that determined the fate of a nation — ours.  Lincoln won with 212 electoral votes, as against 21 for McClellan.  But fully 80 electoral votes — just over one-third of the national total — were never cast because, of course, they represented votes from states then in rebellion against the Union.

Lincoln was right, of course, that the "incidents" of the 1864 election were "philosophy to learn wisdom from"; Dr. Marshall, by contrast, seems fixed on perceived "wrongs to be revenged," to the exclusion of wisdom.

Posted by Beldar at 04:44 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink

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Comments

(1) Eaglespeak made the following comment | Sep 26, 2004 6:41:08 PM | Permalink

Ouch! Good one.

(2) F15D made the following comment | Sep 26, 2004 6:50:42 PM | Permalink

Excellent bit of perspective on your part regarding a watershed event in our history that was somehow missed by the guy with the PhD. in American history. Makes me wonder... Has anybody checked the font on his diploma?

(3) Roundguy made the following comment | Sep 26, 2004 7:41:03 PM | Permalink

Der Riguer. The Democratic approach to all arguments. Eliminate the obvious, suppress the facts and argue an opinion based on conjecture.

(4) tvd made the following comment | Sep 26, 2004 9:20:29 PM | Permalink

An irrefutable argument. Cheers, O Mighty Beldar.

(5) rob made the following comment | Sep 26, 2004 9:26:31 PM | Permalink

PhD.'s in (American) history aren't what they used to be. I'm ABD in European intellectual history from the early '70s with a secondary field in modern American history. The high point in the quality of scholarship in American history was probably the two decades on either side of the Second World War. The decline in the quality of scholarship in American history was well underway by the late '60s and in full flower by the end of the 1970s. Think of glowing reception of Howard Zinn's meritricious A People's History of the United Stats as an indicator of the triumph of the left ideologues.

Your civil war analogy is strikingly apt, but haven't been made by professional historians because it simply wouldn't occur to them:

The civil war is so little studied, and less understood, by leftist historians that the average high school wargamer probably has a better understanding of the war than most professional American historians. Any 'buff' who's read Douglas Southall Freeman's Lee's Lieutenants, and. R.E. Lee, Bruce Catton's The Army of the Potomac trilogy (Mr. Lincoln's Army, Glory Road, and A Stillness at Appomatox), The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, and The Memoirs of William T. Sherman, certainly has a far better understanding of the civil war than most American historians trained after 1975.

(6) Birkel made the following comment | Sep 26, 2004 9:59:15 PM | Permalink

I said this very thing to my father a couple of days ago. He's an avid history buff and he was surprised not to have thought of it himself. And, lo and behold I get to read it better than I'd've ever written it. Thanks Beldar, as always, for providing a bit of perspective.

As an aside, Dems seem to act like "Democracy" with a capital 'D' is an easy thing to achieve. They seem to forget the fits and starts we had from "The Articles of Confederation" to "Marbury v. Madison" and one four year civil war. That and the civil rights movement, the temperance movement, enfranchisement, Native American issues. It's an interminable list of wrong or near-wrong turns that were righted at great cost.

America now provides the blue print but it is not an easy charge to marshal small-d democracy into capital-D Democracy. The option is death and destruction spread, as it has been these last thirty years, to the rest of the world. Dems should belly up to the bar and pay their half of the tab.

/love me some metaphors

(7) narciso made the following comment | Sep 26, 2004 11:17:47 PM | Permalink

Another example, is the reason behind the supposed 'stolen'election of 1876. Then as
now, a region was under occupation, under
assault by local insurgents, tied to the
previous regime. The area, where the supposed
voter fraud occurred, was the same place where
same insurgents, were actively 'discouraging'
the franchise, among people who had never had
the vote. The effect, was such, that the 'occu-
pying power,' was undermined, and troops were
pulled out

(8) Dave Schuler made the following comment | Sep 27, 2004 11:10:41 AM | Permalink

Not to mention that the Florida snark is a lie.

(9) Zachriel made the following comment | Sep 27, 2004 11:23:24 AM | Permalink

So the claim is that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war and that the legally constituted regional governments of various sectors of the country are in open rebellion and don't wish to participate in the Federated elections -- even though these various regional governments had previously and voluntarily agreed to form that Federal union, hence justifying the war.

Just so we're clear.


(10) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 27, 2004 11:35:39 AM | Permalink

No, Zachriel, that's not what I said, or remotely close to it. Instead of making stuff up that you'd rather I'd said so it would fit your arguments better, try answering this question: Is it better to have an imperfect election in Iraq than no election at all?

(11) Zachriel made the following comment | Sep 27, 2004 1:28:24 PM | Permalink

Beldar "No, Zachriel, that's not what I said"

I was "paraphrasing". Nevertheless, your post was generally worthy, albeit oversimplified in order to advance your agenda. You made a comparison between today's Iraq and the American Civil War. In my previous post above, I noted significant points of comparison and contrast.

Civil war: Is Iraq in civil war? If so, you might want to inform the U.S. government. They contend otherwise.
Choice: Did regions that will not be included in the vote make a decision to not participate?
Federalism: Have the various regions made a voluntary decision to stay united, or are the current boundaries just a vestige from Iraq's colonial past?
Minority rights: Who is protect those who are excluded from a tyranny of the majoritary electorate?

Beldar "Is it better to have an imperfect election in Iraq than no election at all?"

Very good question, and the answer is very hard to discern. Generally, elections are preferable. However, success would also depend on whether the rights of the excluded are protected. Regional exclusion could very well increase the centrifugal forces at work in Iraq, resulting in secession and civil war -- the very result the U.S. government is trying so hard to avoid.

I'm not saying the comparison is not in some respects apt, just not necessarily clear-cut or without the possibility of a catastrophic result. Most importantly, any election without universal suffrage would have very little credibility within Iraq or with the international community.

(12) Birkel made the following comment | Sep 27, 2004 6:44:09 PM | Permalink

There is no such thing in physics as "centrifugal force," Zach. /snark

You wrote:Most importantly, any election without universal suffrage would have very little credibility within Iraq or with the international community.
You and John Kerry apparently know more than the Iraqis who would run their electinos within their own country. Thank goodness for the "Annointed" "Useful Idiots" who tell us what we need to know. (Except about physics.)

As a good liberal, shouldn't you be in favor of their self-determination?

You also wrote:However, success would also depend on whether the rights of the excluded are protected.
Isn't that a very Western way of thinking you're trying to impose on a non-Western people. You're such a Ameri-centric savage. Shame on you for imposing your way of thinking on a foreign land. AT LEAST PRESIDENT BUSH HAS THE GOOD SENSE TO ADMIT WHEN HE IMPOSES HIMSELF. THAT MAKES HIM MORE INTELLECTUALLY HONEST THAN YOU, ZACH!! This is fun. Post some more garbage. I'd love to take down some more of your tripe.

You wrote further:Civil war: Is Iraq in civil war? If so, you might want to inform the U.S. government. They contend otherwise.
Making the argument that elections can and have been run in spite of huge obstacles (Beldar's point, if I may be so bold.) is not undercut by your petty remark. SERIOUSLY, THIS IS FUN.

Does "I was paraphrasing" mean for you what it means for the AP and CBS. "Fake but Accurate" is not a good way to win an argument.

(13) narciso made the following comment | Sep 27, 2004 9:27:29 PM | Permalink

Let me clarify, I was making an analogy between
Reconstruction and the current Iraq situation,
not the Civil War. The link between the Southern
ExConfederates and the Sunni
militiamen/tribesman is very clear

(14) Lee Shore made the following comment | Sep 28, 2004 12:03:13 AM | Permalink

Though he has been deified since the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was the consummate cagey politician. He may well have believed what he said, but surely he was aware that the South was the stronghold of the Democratic Party except for a few places such as East Tennessee.

Remember, the Republicans were the party of abolition.

And of course there would be no voting in the South, since it was in rebellion. Thus votes for the Dems were greatly reduced. What better time to hold an election?

(15) Zachriel made the following comment | Sep 28, 2004 6:35:49 AM | Permalink

Zachriel "Most importantly, any election without universal suffrage would have very little credibility within Iraq or with the international community." I should have qualified that statement as "likely have very little credibility".

News Flash: "Jordan's King Abdullah says only extremists will gain if Iraqi elections go ahead as planned in January."

Birkel "There is no such thing in physics as 'centrifugal force,' Zach. /snark"" I wasn't speaking of physics, but of the current political situation in Iraq edging towards anarchy and disintegration.

Dictionary: "centrifugal, tending or directed away from centralization, as of authority"
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=67&q=centrifugal

News Flash: "The king also expressed concern that partial elections which excluded cities such as Falluja could isolate Sunni Muslims, saying that could create even deeper divisions in the country."
http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/09/28/iraq.main/index.html

My claim was not that Beldar's post was not worth consideration, only that the issues are not as obvious or clear-cut as he had implied.

(16) Birkel made the following comment | Sep 28, 2004 7:47:54 AM | Permalink

Boy, so you evaded my comment that you were imposing your Western viewpoint on a foreign people by deferring to the King of Jordan. Wow. So now you're claiming not to impose your ideals on a foreign people by allowing a different foreigner to do it for you. Gosh, that's some powerful good Kool-Aid you got there.

I find objectionable your willingness to subjugate foreign people for your own political ends. SHAME ON YOU!

Seriously, this is fun.

(17) Thomas Hazlewood made the following comment | Sep 28, 2004 9:07:43 AM | Permalink

Would it be a stretch to mention that the Kurds, under the US, protection, managed to put together a functioning governing body without the benefit of universal suffrage in the rest of Iraq?

And, perhaps the majority of the Shiite and Kurd population would NOT think it amiss if the Sunni minority, having isolated itself, didn't participate in the election? After all, the Sunnis won all the elections previously, under Saddam.

It's baldly presumptuous to expect that Iraq, having zero experience with democracy (unless you wish to pretend that Saddam's elections were good training?) will now deliver a pristine election indistinguishable from, say, the US or other western democracies.

You could find quite a few western 'democracies' in South America that still can't deliver a fair election, though they've had decades more practice.

Anyway, why are we debating this? The real fear is not that an election will be illegitimate, but, that an election will be too successful and be regarded by IRAQIS as legitimate. Because, if the Iraqis accept it, the whole 'Bush's unilateral war is evil' argument gets flushed down the crapper, doesn't it? Can't abide that, can we?

(18) Zachriel made the following comment | Sep 28, 2004 10:59:49 AM | Permalink

Thomas Hazlewood: "Would it be a stretch to mention that the Kurds, under the US, protection, managed to put together a functioning governing body without the benefit of universal suffrage in the rest of Iraq?"

No, it wouldn't be a stretch. However, continued division could lead to anarchy and civil war. The petroleum reserves, in particular, are not evenly distributed geographically or ethnically. What about areas of mixed ethnicity? Is ethnic partition the "laudable goal" of U.S. policy?

(19) Al made the following comment | Sep 28, 2004 11:20:09 AM | Permalink

That's analogous to saying "The continued incompetence in Florida will cause Texas to decide to go it alone. Again. Only natural."

Continued incompetence in Florida _COULD_ lead to anarchy. And, well, this year it might even get dicey. Texas could certainly survive on its own resources for a long while - and they are being treated as a subpar ethnic group in the press. At least Alaska has a little oil.

(20) Birkel made the following comment | Sep 28, 2004 4:57:17 PM | Permalink

ZACH-

Stop avoiding me. You seem unable to counter my argument that you're an empirious Westerner willing to throw an entire foreign people to the wolves as judged by your own comments.

Oh, and what's with all the 'coulds' and 'mights' and such? THAT'S A COP OUT and you know it. It's dishonest to argue like that as nobody can prove your negative.

Either make an argument that's defensible or stop trying to rankle. It's not working.

(21) Thomas Hazlewood made the following comment | Sep 28, 2004 7:56:14 PM | Permalink

Zach...

I've been paying attention. The dissolution of Iraq into small, ethnically divided parts is NOT
US policy so, please, let's not drag that herring around.

It occurs to me that, after the US Civil War, the Southern states had little representation, yet, were required to obey the laws of the land. That's the loser' portion.

If the Sunnis want to stay outside the process and the overwhelming majority proceed without them, they (the Sunnis) deserve no more in consolation than did the losing rebellious states in America.

(22) Birkel made the following comment | Sep 28, 2004 9:10:18 PM | Permalink

Zach,

Charles Krauthammer said today that three states didn't vote in the American presidential election in 1968. I believe he said they were Texas, Mississippi and Virginia.

Wow, they missed two elections in a row. But they are, as I recall, still each represented by a star on Old Glory. Neat, huh?

Oh, and David Brooks column in the NYT goes along with Beldar's point too. Daggummed history!

/still snarking

(23) Radio made the following comment | Sep 28, 2004 10:12:41 PM | Permalink

Sorta like the idea of using Florida rules. But its gonna be embarassing when Iraqi voters prove more adept at voting than Florida Dems.

(24) Elizabeth made the following comment | Oct 3, 2004 3:50:00 PM | Permalink

Josh Marshall was simply pointing out (in a snarky way) that if we do not have all of Iraq voting, then we are going to have an election that is not viewed as a proper election, causing more problems for the Iraqis and ourselves.

(25) Birkel made the following comment | Oct 4, 2004 3:16:06 AM | Permalink

Yeah, thanks for adding so much to the debate Elizabeth.

Here's a link for anyone who passes this way:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A4782-2004Oct3.html

"We all make a common logical error that cognitive psychologists call the "availability heuristic." It means making judgments about the future based not on a broad body of historical evidence but on recent, vivid events that skew our perceptions."

Marshall ignores this common problem with *perception* to the exclusion of what he might have learned from history. That's why his Ph.D. might not be so valuable. That was(is) Beldar's point. Learning history and taking the 'long-view' CAN make one better prepared for judgments about the past.

(26) Birkel made the following comment | Oct 4, 2004 2:20:57 PM | Permalink

Correction:

The last word in the previous post should be present, not past.

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