Existential Threats

[The following is slightly adapted from a comment written for a Facebook post, based on this article about President Obama’s December 6, 2015 speech, which for some reason Facebook would not allow me to post. Possibly because, at nearly 3,500 words, it’s too long. What can I say? I felt inspired. The comment that inspired me basically expressed doubt that Obama has put as much thought into “ISIS and the implications of radical Islam” as the article’s author thinks. I have adjusted some formatting and added some links.]

You may be right about Obama not thinking through the full implications of radical Islam, but the exact same can be said for people on the right who posit radical Islam as a threat to “Western civilization” (a fluid and undefined term if ever there was one) on a par with German fascism or Soviet communism. Lest this seem like a tu quoque argument, I’ll even concede that Obama might underestimate the short-term threat posed by radical Islamism, but only because I believe the proponents of the radical-Islamism-as-mortal-threat viewpoint drastically overstate its dangers—furthermore, by arguing for such an aggressive stance against it, they paradoxically serve its aims. Continue reading


Still a Nation of Pants-Piddlers

Years ago, I wrote about how certain factions in this country were trying to turn us into a nation of pants-piddlers, fearful of some of the very things that makes America what it supposedly is. I’m sorry to say that, as the case of Ahmed Abu Khatallah demonstrates, nothing much has changed.

While the suspected mastermind of the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi is now on U.S. soil, the political fallout related to his prosecution may just be beginning.

The criminal complaint against Ahmed Abu Khatallah was filed nearly a year ago, and he was nabbed two weeks ago in eastern Libya. He appeared in a federal court in Washington on Saturday – much to some Republicans’ chagrin.

© Berkeley Breathed, via thecomicstrips.com

© Berkeley Breathed, via thecomicstrips.com

They’re afraid to entrust this guy—or any other alleged terrorist—to the criminal justice system of what they so often claim is the greatest country in the world. It’s a great country, I guess, for only so long as they control the narrative and the outcome.

Over at Booman Tribune, BooMan laments the cowardice shown by so many of our leaders:

I’m not a rah-rah macho kind of guy, but I do expect my government to demonstrate some testicular fortitude. It embarrasses me when American elected officials act scared of anything, even when it is in some way understandable. This country is known for its can-do attitude, and I like that.


On most political issues, I disagree with the Republicans because I have different values than them. But when it comes to folks who are afraid to hold trials for terrorists, it’s much more personal. I feel like these people are destroying my country’s reputation. They’re cowards. They’re cowards and they’re the face of my country. I have a really hard time abiding that. I don’t want anyone else in the world to see or even know that some of my countrymen are this pathetic because it shames me.


I want these people to shut up not because I care about whatever political points I think they might be scoring but simply because I am ashamed of them. I am ashamed that they are Americans.


My less-celebratory thoughts on the election results, as shamelessly stolen from this legal blog that I like

Because of this compulsive need I have to share my thoughts on things, I tend to write a lot. I also tend to delete much of what I write because it felt good to get it out onto a screen, but no one actually needs to read it. Every so often I type a response to someone’s Facebook post, decide the world will be just fine and dandy without my contribution to the discussion, and then hit Enter instead of Delete by accident.

Hilarity rarely ensues when that happens.

The internet is not short of celebrations today. It’s also not short on eschatological rantings, which should not be surprising. The internet does not need me whooping and hollering, and I need to be packing for my big move anyway (more on that later, I’m sure.) Fortunately, I frequent the blogs of people who seem to manage their time better than I do, at least judging my their published output.

Ken at Popehat, who you should be following if you are not already, offered his post-election thoughts Wednesday morning. I do not agree with everything Ken has to say there, but he hit the nail on the head for me in a section entitled “I’m not happy Obama won.” I’m borrowing the section that hit home for me, or at least that expresses the ambivalence I feel on certain issues:

Romney might have been somewhat more belligerent on the international stage than Obama, though their foreign policy differences seemed to be mostly matters of degree and recrimination for Obama’s mishandling of Benghazi. Romney would surely have continued the ruinous War on Drugs, the steady one-way ratchet of the insipid “tough on crime” mindset, the post-9/11 security state, and the unprincipled asterisk grafted onto the Constitution that is the open-ended War on Terror. My chief concern is that because Obama — a Democrat widely (but inaccurately) classified as a liberal — is doing those things, they will become even more firmly entrenched and normalized.

Guantanamo. Drone attacks. Surveillance. Bradley Manning. The list of matters where I diverge sharply with the Obama administration may not be extensively long, but it goes to the very heart of some pretty fundamental concepts of government checks and balances, not to mention big abstract nouns like liberty. These issues never came up during the election because, at least in that context, the two candidates barely differed at all. I cannot commiserate with Obama’s opponents on the right on any of these issues because these are the issues that make him look like a Republican.

I might also argue that his economic policies are really just Republican Lite, and that anyone who thinks he’s some sort of Marxist is either ignorant of actual Marxism, delusional, or a shameless liar, but it’s late and I’m tired. We have four more years to try vainly to explain that Obama cannot be a socialist and a fascist at the same time, or that he is neither at any rate.