Friday, July 12, 2013

Stephen Walt's Historical Illiteracy

People who achieve moral authority will be mercilessly exploited by extremists. Noah Feldman humiliated himself by comparing the rabidly anti-Semitic Rachid Ghannouchi  to Nelson Mandela! People who abuse history rarely offer an evidence to support arguments like suggesting that a demagogue of the week is just like Marty Luther King, Gandhi or any other secular saints that liberal arts majors fantasize about having dinner with.

Stephen Walt's execrable article in foreign policy magazine continues the imbecilic tradition of abusing historical figures for cheap points. Walt's claim to fame is his co-author credit on the notorious anti-Semitic text the 'Israel lobby.' Walt and his co-author believe that Israel controls the USA, so thats why Kissinger sided with Arab enemies of the Jewish state and why America supplies Israel's enemies like Saudi Arabia with cruise missiles.  Stephen's FP blog has a photo of himself staring intensely as if he's trying to unlock his telekinetic powers and take on the Israelis once and for all as Khaybar-man! Walt's blog includes support for neo-nazi Gilad Atzmon who thinks that the blood libel is historical fact.

Walt begins by explaining that he reads the declaration of independence every July fourth, which does not reflect well on his reading comprehension. He has the honesty to admit that the question of  "what would the founding fathers think about Snowden" is "absurd" the only time I have ever agreed with him. Its curious for Walt to invoke the founders since his ideological camp usually vilifies them all slaveholding evil white men, he's draping himself in patriotism to justify the actions of a man who has damaged American interests more than Phil Agee.

Stephen betrays his ignorance by treating 'the founders' as a monolithic unit. Many hated each other and held widely varying visions: the debate between federalists and anti-federalists was intensely fierce and foreshadowed the civil war. If Walt's non-arguments were confirmed via 30st century anti-death tech or dark sorcery that still wouldn't make any hypothetical pro-Snowden founder correct. Many were wrong about a number of things, recall Jefferson's cultish support for the French support.  Even men who were friends like Jefferson and Adams were politically at odds. Still its adorable that Walt's vision of the founders seems to be derived from a few episodes of Liberty's Kids (he must love the show's rap intro) and skimming Johnny Tremain.

"Found fathers hey! Founding fathers ho!  Founding fathers!  Founding fathers! Go! Go! Go!"

Stephen writes that "they could hardly have imagined something like the Internet, or even the telephone" no steampunk founding fathers?! Damn it! Though pamphleteers were the bloggers of their time, similarly its hard to read Roman graffiti and not think of facebook.

Walt states that the "Founding Fathers repeatedly warned about the dangers of standing armies, which they rightly understood to be a perennial threat to liberty." Stephen repeats his ignorant mistake of treating the founders as a cohesive group, federalists wanted standing armies.  The fact that a number of the founders believed that does not make the view that an army is a threat to liberty correct. Aside from how the American military has never threatened our liberty the Swiss have a military that spans centuries, a history that has never threatened its democracy. There are many cases where liberty was secured through military coups: Portuguese carnation revolution would not have occurred without the army's actions.

Stephen says that the "Founders also gave Americans the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because they understood that defending individual privacy against the grasp of government authority is an essential human right as well as an important safeguard of freedom." Doesn't that sound like an imitation of a fifth grade civics paper written by some tyke in the 4h? The supreme court determined in Smith vs. Maryland that metadata is not protected by the fourth. If mister Walt loves these United States of America then he should familiarize himself with its laws.

He argues that "large and well-funded government bureaucracies have a powerful tendency to expand, to hide their activities behind walls of secrecy, and to depend on a cowed and co-opted populace to look the other way. " A slate journalist made the convincing case that bureaucracy has continually curbed and corrected flaws in the American system. Is Stephen revealing his inner small government right winger side? The Ron Paulestinians and other assorted vermin are his allies whether he is aware of it or not.

To answer Walt's question the FFs would not have been BFFs with Eddie Snowden. They have a hatred of treason and broadly defined treason as "levying war against (the USA), or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." Greenwald defended Snowden by arguing that he leaked materials to ingratiate himself with the Chinese, he helped the PRC patch the great firewall of China. Many founders also despised any imagined treason as evidenced by the alien and sedition acts.

Another reason why the founders would have reviled Snowden would be the countries he has fled to: Russia, China and others. We look down on the 18th century but the truth is that our own time has eclipsed 18th century inhumanity and modern regimes are worse than the founders' enemies. They reviled European monarchies, most of those kingdoms never came close to the depravities of modern American adversaries. Imagine the horror with which they would react to a monstrosity like the PRC and someone like Snowden who fled to its blackened shameful shores.

 We can further banish thoughts that various founders would rally to Snowden's stained banner with fervor by looking at how the whiskey revolt was crushed which looks trivial compared to the damage inflicted by saint Eddie. Stephen suspects that "Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the rest of those revolutionaries might have understood." That is not an argument and has all the substance of suggesting that unicorn frolic on a planet in the andromeda galaxy and therefore must be dismissed.

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