Sunday, February 15, 2015

You keep using that word

Let's just go ahead and assume that Judge Jeanine's reference is to Sunday morning's top story at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network:

Islamic State has reportedly seized al-Baghdadi, in Iraq’s Anbar Province, 5 miles from an air base staffed by U.S. Marines, as the terror group continues its push beyond its bases in Syria and Iraq in an attempt to establish militant affiliates in other countries.

Things tend to get a little less sexy when people return your emails:

On Sunday, a U.S. Central Command spokesman refuted reports that ISIS had taken al-Baghdadi. "Al-Baghdadi has not fallen to ISIL or been seized by them," said U.S. Central Command, in an email to Fox News. 

... but taken together, the two items still make the same point: We're in trouble, and we sure could use a cowboy --- rather than a feckless, dithering usurper -- to get us out of it. This presentation is part of a larger securitizing move: to borrow a concept from the Copenhagen School, the declaration of a crisis so severe that if we don't fix it now, there won't be a "we" to fix it in the future. That's the "existential threat" that Average Joe is identifying, and his prescription is clear from the photos (if not from the column itself): More Reagan, less of this dithering-in-the-name-of-prudence.

It's worth remembering, you'd like to think, that the cowboy era wasn't always healthy for US interests abroad.** The Marines might have particularly sharp memories of Reagan's bumbling in the Middle East, but the news outlets that have been having such sport lately with "Hillary's War" on Libya might also want to pause and think about the outcomes of Reagan's own Libya intervention. Passing the ammunition while the Soviet Union shot itself in the foot in Afghanistan had its moments, but it too wasn't without long-term consequences. Should things go deeply awry in the eastern Mediterranean, requiring someone Fox News detests to go in and negotiate with the evildoers for the release of a captured pilot or something, remember that it's been tried.

Because this is also the sort of time in which all sorts of charlatans take up the banner of realism, it's worth quoting old Hans Morgenthau*** at some length:

The lighthearted equation between a particular nationalism and the counsels of Providence is morally indefensible, for it is the very sin of pride against which the Greek tragedians and the Biblical prophets have warned rulers and ruled. That equation is also politically pernicious, for it is liable to engender the distortion in judgment which, in the blindness of crusading frenzy, destroys nations and civilizations -- in the name of moral principle, ideal, or God himself.

* I've made them closer than they actually appear at The Fox Nation; there was originally a story between them vertically, and now there are more
** Conveniently, things were largely in the hands of adults by the time the Warsaw Pact actually started to fall apart.
*** "Politics among Nations," 1985 edition

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