The Pro-Total-War Left

Brownie at Harry’s Place really is a nasty vindictive loon.

Article highlight: his boast that he’s never encountered a antiwar liberal argument that he hasn’t been able to destroy in ‘a thrice’. Second highlight: the story of the antiwar chap who has the misfortune to sit next to Brownie on the Tube, and leaves before his stop because (Brownie believes) his arguments have been destroyed. Not because, for example, there’s an authoritarian fanatic sitting next to him telling him that he’s evil.

The most telling bit, though, is this paragraph: "So when I hear people whose most important decisions each day are what to play on the iPod lecturing the country’s most senior policeman about the rules of engagement for suicide bombers, telling him how his men are ‘executioners’… I want to be sick, have a shower, scream… do anything in fact, but speak."

Yes. It would be outrageous if citizens were allowed to hold the police to account for their behaviour. Instead, we should ensure the police have total freedom of action unconstrained by liberal concepts such as "accountability" and "not killing innocent civilians". To do otherwise would be a revolting insult to these great men of the police, whose boots the rest of us are not worthy to lick.

"…the rights and privileges between those who served in the armed forces and those who haven’t, therefore called citizens and civilians…", and so on.

Update: Eric seems to have a similar perspective. They’re *our* fucking servants, for Christ’s sake! Unless someone is breaking the law, the police should not be telling them what to do…

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48 thoughts on “The Pro-Total-War Left

  1. I think we finally have a definition for the Decent Left though: "All things being equal, who will choose to pontificate atop a mound of corpses?"

    And I must see if I can find again a review of Starship Troopers I saw on the web that didn’t like it because they thought Verhoeven hadn’t glorified violence enough.

  2. the gall of these ‘huamnitarian interventionists’ is mind blowing. I challenge Brownies to show one pre war statement he made about Iraq that has proven true. They are so smug they are just not prepared to admit they are wrong.

  3. Quite right. Let’s give our whole-hearted support to Ba’athists (=Arab Fascists) and Islamists (=Muslim Jew-Hating Fascist Mass-murderers). Then we can really stick our self-righteous little noses up in the air and claim to occupy the moral high ground. Democracy? Bollocks to it. How dare we shove the freedom to choose their government down the throats of all those irrelevant little brown people who don’t realise their only role in life is to get murdered so we can whinge about Blair and Bush. Honestly, to hear some of these right-wing loons go on you’d think the little brown folk had some kind of basic human rights or something. Tossers, eh?

  4. I don’t know why Harry has Brownie posting on his site – he churns out exactly the same apologetics for Sinn Fein/IRA fascism that Harry and co all denounce when used to defend Islamofascism. In a way, it’s even more feeble. At least there’s some sort of global sweep to the aims of people who support Al Qaeda, some revolutionary ambition for the planet. Ditto Hitler fetishists, although it’s rather retrospective. But to be an apologist for the pathetic little men who join terror gangs and their representative parties in Ulster – groups responsible for most of the most cowardly and senseless acts of murder in the history of terrorism – is just pitiable. Sticking up for the IRA is more like supporting a gang of football hooligans, and I suspect Brownie’s pathetic "Ahhh you must support loyalist terrorists, then" whenever someone calls him out on his views is exactly how football hooligans would act if someone said the Millwall hooligans were scum: "Ahhh you support the West Ham crew kicking the shit out of our fans, do ye?"

  5. is that it is it? If I worked out the war couldn’t achieve its stated goal I suddenly become a Bathist supporter and hate democracy?

  6. If you worked out the war couldn’t achieve it’s stated goal, that would be one thing. Deciding a priori that it can’t because it musn’t, which is in fact what the Bush-haters are really doing, puts you without question among the enemies of democracy. Just a shame none of you have the guts to be honest about it.

  7. "which is in fact what the Bush-haters are really doing"

    I’m sorry, but this seems to be an underhand rhetorical technique of refuting an opponent’s argument by refusing to engage with it, but instead engaging with a half-baked psychological analysis of the speaker.

  8. But what argument is not being refuted? That the war ‘[can’t] achieve its stated goal’? That’s not an argument, it’s a claim unbacked by evidence and arguably incapable of proof. What other type of explanation would one offer for such air-based certainty than the psychological, half-baked or not? The underhand rhetoric lies in trying to pretend otherwise, I would say.

  9. If the argument that the war cannot achieve its stated goals is "a claim unbacked by evidence and arguably incapable of proof", then how do you look at the statement that the war CAN achieve its stated goals? This statement can only be supported by evidence gathered after the war has been fought – and the war that is being fought is of indeterminate length, a condition that allows supporters of the war to constantly argue that its success, or otherwise, cannot be assessed as it is still unfinished. This being the case, launching the war involves pusuing a course of action that will lead to tremendous death and destruction on the basis of nothing more than ‘air-based certainty’.

    But, in fact, you seem to be doing a traditional Geras here – reducing your opponents arguments to statements, which can then be dismissed. There are arguments for the war, and there are arguments against the war. And these must be assessed using our human faculty of imperfect reason. If you demand certainty from your arguments, then do not move. The world may very well cease to exist if you do. The fact that it has not done so so far is not certain proof, but rather is knowledge we have acquired by the imperfect process of induction (and this is an over-rationalisation of the process of believing).

  10. Brownie understandably expresses contempt for stupid and ignorant attacks on the police; John B wilfully misreads his words as expressing contempt for intelligent and informed criticism of the police. Par for the course.
    Then Peter weighs in, with all the wisdom of his many years as a (hoho) unbiased observer of British and Irish politics, to libel Brownie (yet again) as a supporter of the IRA. Par for the course too: the convergence between the moronic section of the right and the cretinous section of the left continues apace.
    Finally, Andrew Bartlett, all unknowing, explains what both John and Peter are up to: “refuting an opponent’s argument by refusing to engage with it, but instead engaging with [he means in] a half-baked psychological analysis of the speaker”. But why be surprised? What else does anyone on this silly blog ever do?
    What with John the Tourette’s victim, Peter the Tory Boy and Andrew the Very Solemn Bore, you people could re-make The Harry Enfield Show all on your own. It wouldn’t be as funny or as perceptive as the original, but it would at least be honestly presented as light entertainment, rather than dressed up as relevant comment on anything that matters.

  11. I have more sympathy for your position than for that of most contributors to this site, SIAW – especially the host – but it’s best for adult Trotskyists now to talk too loudly about "relevant comment on anything that matters".

    I didn’t say Brownie is a supporter of Sinn Fein/IRA. I said he is an apologist for the organisation, which is not libel but something no reasonable person who has seen his commentary could deny. Certainly – which was my point – Harry and probably Brownie himself would recognise anyone who said what Brownie does about Sinn Fein/IRA about Islamism/Al Qaeda as an apologist. And as I said, every time someone condemns the IRA, he refers to their "loyalist" equivalents as if the decency that would make someone loathe terrorists of all stripes – loathe football hooliganism of all football clubs – is quite beyond him. Such ‘whatabouterry’ is classic sectarian rhetoric.

  12. That the war ‘can achieve its stated goals’ is obviously a true statement in logic, whereas that it can’t is not. It’s clear that perhaps it won’t, but pretending you know it won’t is dishonest – you don’t – and pretending that saying we can win is the same as claiming with certainty that we will is also transparently dishonest. You are – wilfully? – misrepresenting your opponents position. Again, your phrase ‘underhand rhetoric’ seems to apply more perfectly to your argument than you realise.

  13. And, by the way, I suspect the reason Brownie is given a spot on the site is the same reason that for all the noise the pro-Bush/decent left makes in the blogosphere – so much of it sensible and right – your numbers are so small that there just aren’t enough to fill two slots of comments in any Question Time. You might ask why that is and reflect on the departure from reason and from a sane understanding of human nature that the left you belong to is determined to uphold.

  14. Charlie, I concede – the analogous statement to "can’t achieve its goals" is "will achieve its goals". Both are statements to knowledge that cannot be known.

    However, to make a pro-war argument you need to do more than argue that it is not logically impossible for the war to achieve its stated goals. You do actually have to argue that it will. You can, if you want, acknowledge the uncertainty inherent in all arguments of this sort – fine. My point that if we reduce the pro-war argument to ‘the war will achieve its stated goals’, and refute it on a point of logic, we are not actually engaging in the argument. The same is true of refuting the pro-war argument by a reduction of the case aganist war to a single statement.

    But to reduce it to a single statement, to disengenously refute it on a point of logic (actually irrelevant to the argument at hand – see below) and then to offer a mock-psychological explanation for why your opponents have made such a case is dishonest un-reasonable and, yes, is underhand – if you realise it. You are not underhand if you are acting honestly – so your suggestion that "’underhand rhetoric’ seems to apply more perfectly to your argument than you realise" is more than a little silly. My argument can be stupid without me realising, it can be wrong, but it cannot be underhand by anything other than design.

    To understand why your point of logic is irrelevant to the argument over the war we must understand that saying that the war ‘can’ or ‘can’t’ achieve its stated goals is simply one way of looking at the question at hand. If we are to look at things from a different perspective, such as ‘regime change can/can’t be achieved through peaceful means’, then we see that the attempt to rule out one statement – the condensation of a much more complex argument – on a point of logic rests entirely on the misleading wording of the summation and the perspective from with the particular course of debated action is approached. And who is doing the condensing.

  15. That pigs ‘can fly’ is obviously a true statement in logic, whereas that they can’t is not. It’s clear that perhaps they don’t, but pretending you know they don’t is dishonest – you don’t – and pretending that saying they can do is the same as claiming with certainty that they will is also transparently dishonest. You are – wilfully? – misrepresenting your opponents position. Again, your phrase ‘underhand rhetoric’ seems to apply more perfectly to your argument than you realise.

    Nuff said, Charlie?

  16. I did know the war would be a failure. Thats why I was against it. The plan was so stupid it was almost laughable. Drive the second most hated army in the Middle East into Baghdad put Chalabi in charge dismantle the state support structure and them throw flowers?

    It was a stupid plan. The proponents were never about democracy and giving some Arabs a good kicking. There never was a plan for the aftermath. I knew all this with complete certainty before. It you were too stupid to see it because you dreamed of a right-wing Christian lunatic beinging peace and democracy to a country while bombing the crap out of its infrastructure don’t believe no one else could.

    If you had read one single history book on Iraq, like I had before the war, and worked out it was made up of three religious groups who hated each other you might have been able to predict religious violence post invasion.

    And if you didn’t remember that Hizbollah who bombed the Americans out Beirut are Shia either then don’t blame me. But I knew with complete certainty that Bush and Blair would screw this up.

    I repeat nothing you ‘liberal intervnetionists’ has come to fruition yet still you attack the messanger. I’m really sorry this puts your plan into doubt of invading everyone who doesn’t have a democratic government. But back to Telegraph boys.

  17. Peter: You’re making a habit of sloppiness, aren’t you?
    First, nobody at SIAW is now, or has ever been, a Trotskyist, although some of our best friends have been. But thanks for the “adult”.
    Second, we deny, as Brownie himself and his co-bloggers do, that Brownie is an apologist for Sinn Fein and/or the IRA. Does that mean that we – and they – are not “reasonable people”, in your view? Apparently it does. Pardon us if that makes us laugh.
    Third, as you’re clearly wavering between “supporter” and “apologist”, why not try “fellow traveller”? That’s a handy way of informally defaming someone without actually libelling them.
    Fourth, do you really believe that Brownie writes at HP simply to make up the numbers, or is that meant to be witty? Sorry, but it’s years since we listened closely to chortling Tories in student bars …
    Finally, the left that we and HP belong to is the broad, democratic left, embracing large swathes of the Labour Party, the trade union movement and numerous pressure groups; the reasonable (that word again!) anti-war but pro-democracy left (such as the AWL); and assorted groups and individuals who are probably entirely off your radar (the SPGB, for instance). Our numbers matter less than whether our arguments are right, but you’ll find that this left far outnumbers the unreasonable and insane pseudo-left that it would suit your purposes to align us with. One of the many ways in which your end of the political spectrum is converging with their end is through the tacit agreement to vastly overestimate your respective numbers and influence in the real world. The blogs bark, but the caravan moves on, as it were.
    Charlie: Your patience is admirable, but it’s wasted on these people.
    Andrew: “My argument can be stupid without me realising” – You got that right.

  18. SIAW: I said that it could be, but I am not making use of underhand rhetoric. But, just to clear up my confusion, can you explain to me why my argument is stupid?

  19. Third, as you’re clearly wavering between “supporter” and “apologist”, why not try “fellow traveller”? That’s a handy way of informally defaming someone without actually libelling them.
    As certain blogs have shown all too well, of course.

  20. Andrew – I’m not actually trying to reduce the argument about the war to a point of logic, I’m just objecting to false certainty. However, where we’ve got to now makes me realise that the real question is, do you want the war to achieve its stated aims? Personally I do, and somewhat angrily. I take the falsely certain statement that we can’t achieve that as a cover for a desire to fail, since it seems unclear to me that we can’t and I simply cannot understand how any decent liberal would want us not to. What in whichever deity you like’s name is wrong with democracy? Surely liberals should wish for the failure of clerico-fascism in Iraq now as they did in Spain in the 1930s. Is it the racial aspect that confuses things for people, or the Bush factor, or post-imperial guilt? Or what? Why are we shy of fighting for what we beleive in? To me the answer to that kind of question is always likely to be psychological, although as I’m sure you’ve divined, I have no particular expertise.
    As for Jeremy, you appear to believe the war is over and the result known. Wrong.
    Backword Dave – actually mate, pigs can’t fly in logic or anywhere else. Don’t know what you’ve been taking, but I suggest you stop.

  21. oh that’s priceless. I still think that the "Totten meets Hitchens" one is more embarrassing but Brownie is having a proper go at the title.

    I’m inclined to believe he’s being sincere about the efforts they go to in order to get a balance of opinion on the major issues of the day; although, you wouldn’t know it from the anti-war narrative that characterized this and most editions of the show since 9/11

    I do wish SIAW would post more on their own blog; for my money it is one of the best on the internet.

    Our numbers matter less than whether our arguments are right

    is a bit odd though as I’ve never seen SIAW make an argument ("god I hate dsquared, he’s such a wanker" is not an argument).

  22. Andrew: Charlie has already done his best to explain, to no avail. The Jesuits call it invincible ignorance.
    john: Can we have that fiver then?
    dsquared: There you go talking bollocks again. As we’ve tried to explain to you before, we don’t hate you – we don’t even know you. We think that your blogospheric output is total shite, and that you’re probably an idiot, but it’s possible that you’re a likeable one. As for our never making an argument, there are several hundred thousand words, on our blog and on our website, to prove you wrong. But, as ever, don’t let the facts get in the way of your logorrhoea, or your charming self-absorption.

  23. Backword Dave – you said

    "That pigs ‘can fly’ is obviously a true statement in logic, whereas that they can’t is not."

    And you think I need to learn something about logic? What would you suggest I learn? That any counter-factual statement I wish to make is logically true? I think you’ll find that’s wrong, actually. And just in case you’re still unclear, I’ll say it one more time. Pigs definitely can’t fly, logically or otherwise. Hope this helps, but if it doesn’t then I suspect nothing would.

  24. Charlie, you’re an idiot. It is logically true that "pigs can fly" in precisely the same way that it is logically true that "the war can succeed at its aims". In both cases, it’s rather unlikely but still conceivable (eg I could attach a hang glider to a pig and then throw it from a high building).

  25. ‘Pigs can fly’ is a logically true statement, if we use the word ‘can’ in such a way that demands that ‘the war can achieve its stated aims’ is a logically true statement. In these statements, the can means ‘may be able to’, and is a trivial truth in so much as their truth rests on the fact that one cannot prove beyond all doubt that this is not the case. Neither of these statements needs be assessed with any reference to what pigs or wars are in the real world – their ‘truth’ is simply a consequence of using the word ‘can’.

    Of course, with reference to a world existing outisde of these statements, but of these statements can be established to be false to the satisfaction of our imperfect human judgement – which does not rely on the proof of certainty (else we could know very little) but the demonstration of a likelihood (conceived intuitively).

  26. ‘Ello, ‘ello, ‘ello. It’s Siaw. Once, twice, three times a blogger.

  27. Pigs can’t fly in just the same way that blackbirds can, john b. It’s part of the definition of pig. Strapping a pig to a hang-glider, while perhaps amusing, is not the same as giving a pig the power of flight. Obvious, I would have thought.
    Interesting to note that the discussion rather stays away from my central question, which is ‘why would you want the war to fail in the first place?’

  28. Hello yourself, OP. What’s an intelligent and witty (if somewhat misguided) person like you doing visiting this particular rubbish dump?
    Charlie: "Interesting to note that the discussion rather stays away from my central question" – interesting, but no surprise. The whole purpose of SBBS is to stay away from discussing anything. The preference here is for foaming-at-the-mouth denunciations, uninformed speculation by experts on Vietnam (teehee), and sixth-form giggling.
    Just in case you hadn’t noticed …

  29. Part of the definition? Really? Perhaps in Blackadder’s dictionary

    Seriously, although it’s not physiologically probable that a pig capable of flight will evolve, ‘inability to fly’ is no more inherent in pigness than ‘inability to succeed’ is inherent in This War Now-ness. It is unlikely but not literally impossible that this war will succeed, or that a pig capable of independent flight will evolve.

    Re the latter: because it’s an utter strawman. Nobody, with the exception of AQ-sympathising fanatics and Ba’athist relics, doesn’t want this war to achieve its stated goals. We just differ on how likely it is to do so…

  30. Indeed, Charlie, you seem to be the only person who failed to get my point. Now what is it about the definition of the war which makes succeeding logically necessary?

    BTW, as I remain unclear what the goals of the war are, success or failure as such seem rather hard to recognise. Breaking of al-Qaida? Apparently not. Capture of WMDs? Er, no. Making the world safer and deterring terrorists? Nope. Installing democracy? Well if you don’t count dodgy elections, a police force which uses torture, the erosion of women’s rights, an occupying army on the streets, among many other consequences of the new regime, you may have a point.

    Siaw — "… there are several hundred thousand words, on our blog and on our website … your logorrhoea, or your charming self-absorption."

  31. for our never making an argument, there are several hundred thousand words, on our blog and on our website, to prove you wrong

    Can I have the password to the protected area where you store them please?

  32. john b – OK – so you actually believe it’s logically true that pigs can fly. There is nothing I can do to help you. But frankly, you’re quite quite mad. As for wanting the war to achieve its aims, you can’t both be in favour of that and at the same time take the view that the war should be stopped on principle. Or at least you can, but only as a particularly impressive piece of Orwellian doublethink.
    Backword Dave – success in the war is not logically necessary, and I for one never said so. Very clearly, as it were. Also I think that sneering at the Iraqi elections shows quite clearly whose side you’re really on, and it’s not that of the people who braved the threat of murder to vote. Let’s stop pretending.

  33. Is it just me, or is anyone else getting flashbacks to Alexandra Kollontai’s account of August 1914, wandering round the SPD headquarters, amazed at the utter collapse of internationalism in the face of the proposal for a sacred truce to protect civilisation from eeevvviiilll?

    On to Zimmerwald, comrades – although I must admit that that particular journey didn’t end too well.

    PS – MIAW, I’m wearing unfashionable trousers. Please feel free to take the piss out of them.

  34. Charlie, I think you’ll be surprised to learn that I don’t believe that pigs can fly. My point was to show that your statement (here) was logically empty.

    It is, of course, true that pigs cannot fly "just the same way that blackbirds can" but then neither can bats. It’s my turn to be baffled.

    You say, "Very clearly, as it were." Please don’t take this amiss, but is English not your first language? What do you mean, "as it were"?

    I was not "sneering at the Iraqi elections" I called the elections "dodgy" which, from where I’m standing, is an understatement. I was sneering at the ridiculous WMD claims, however, but you ignored that …

  35. Charlie, I want world peace. I don’t believe that a plan calling for you and me to quit our jobs and wander the world together using our kung-fu skills to defeat everyone who stands in the way of world peace will work. By your logic, my belief that this plan won’t work means I don’t really want world peace, and in fact sympathize with the war-mongers.

  36. Chris Williams: Your trousers are of no interest to us, but your fixation on 1914 continues to provide a few laughs. Do you realise that it’s now 2005, and both Alexandra K and everyone else you obsess on is long dead, or do you insist on calling it 1914+91? Having one idea and endlessly repeating it can be charming when infants do it, but it’s just a little sad coming from an adult.
    Still, it’s welcome light relief from Backword Dave, of all people, posing as an expert on logic.

  37. Having one idea and endlessly repeating it can be charming when infants do it, but it’s just a little sad coming from an adult.

    Oh if only you understood irony, we could laugh together at that one.

  38. Oh, but that really hurt. Thanks, though, for showing us what a sophisticated argument, backed up by evidence, looks like. John, Dave and Chris will be terribly impressed.

  39. Thanks, though, for showing us what a sophisticated argument, backed up by evidence, looks like

    I was actually showing you what a joke looked like but don’t worry, I didn’t have anything important staked on your getting it.

  40. WTF … You’ll have to try a lot harder for the Perrier Award, but you’re welcome to have the last word here. It clearly matters a fuck of a lot more to you than it does to us. TTFN!

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