Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ad Hominem Ad Nauseum

I originally started writing this observation on Monday morning, but fittingly came down with a bad flu, postponing completion until today:

I couldn't help but be struck by the memeorandum-capturing headline "A Liberal Intervention" Monday morning, which typifies much of the right-wing analysis available to the blogosphere. The adoption of the anti-intervention screed across the right is equally fascinating. The original article, a Ross Douthat brainchild, is an attack on the "liberal way of war." Throughout, however, Douthat fails to articulate a reason that of any the following: a) the intervention is bad or b) an alternative would be better. Yet the article smack of a decidedly negative, if not downright dismissive tone towards the prevention of mass murder in Libya. Douthat comes closest to making a substantive point when he acknowledges that the current intervention is in line with the modern American diplomatic and military practice of launching interventions supported by the international community, except for the Bush invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Weirdly, Douthat pretends that diplomacy is a purely Democratic tactic, ignoring entirely the international build-up towards Operation Desert Storm under Bush I or the UN-supported military action in Korea, attributing all prior American international interventions solely to Clinton.

As always, several possible explanations exist for Douthat's curious omissions. He could be an incredibly incompetent researcher and lazy writer. He may be attempting to construct a narrative where none exists. He may be wearing a groove into the media through which Republicans will attack Obama for the duration of his Presidency. Signs point to all three.

The unsettling aspect of the GOP line of attack is that it is focused solely on the fact that President Obama and his national security team launched the US involvement. And that makes the intervention bad... because they're bad people. The attack on the intervention relies purely on the ad hominem attacks on "liberals" in foreign policy.

Romney's talking-point-littered attack on Obama, Palin's usual substance-less invective, and the general Republican blather against letting reality into the room when making decisions with real-world consequences are predictable, and honestly, what Americans have come to expect from the conservative propaganda machine.

The broader problem for Ameican democracy is that this is all that Republicans have been doing since day one of Obama's term. "Obamacare" - bad because of Obama, not any realistic objections to the actual substance of the Affordable Care Act. Arguably, Republicans were responding to the Minimum Coverage Provision and the enforcement tax, but considering that the individual mandate was a Republican idea included in their House GOP's health care plan in 1993, the argument doesn't pass the smell test.

The substantive critique of the US involvement in the Libya operation is equally fractured. Either President Obama has diluted the decision-making process too much by gaining support from the UN or not enough by failing to subject the war plan to Congressional committees. The only thing Republicans agree on is that whatever President Obama or Liberals do, it's wrong. And that's the only reason that they need to oppose all government action.

The steady diet of ad hominem bullshit in which the right-wing chooses to indulge has poisoned the water of intellectual discourse, and I'm absolutely sick of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment