As of press time, civilians control the military

Peter Beinart, I think, has the best analysis on the McChrystal affair, at least in this first sentence:

The press is turning a story about policy into a story about penises. What matters isn’t what McChrystal said about Obama—it’s what he believes about Afghanistan.

I think this is partially true, but I think Beinart identifies reasons that are not precisely correct.  Later on, Beinart compares the issue with Truman’s handling of the firing of Douglas MacArthur.  And while he makes a fair point, namely that MacArthur believed in unlimited war in order to achieve total military victory, while Truman (correctly) discerned that such a victory would come at an unacceptable cost to real American power.  I don’t disagree with him, but I think there is another element to the whole affair that needs to be constantly repeated.

The civilian leadership sets military policy.

The “correctness” of a civilian decision regarding military is so immaterial that to even reference it in a praiseworthy fashion is to suggest that, had Truman’s decision been bad, he would have been at fault in firing MacArthur.  This is not true.  That “Truman kept the pursuit of military victory from destroying American power” is true, but even had it been reversed–had Truman been pursuing American victory at the expense of American power, where MacArthur was the one wanting to draw back and wage a limited campaign–Truman still would have been both justified in firing MacArthur and obliged to fire him.

Americans must realize that the central potential threat to freedom in any situation, no matter where you are, is force, weapons, armaments–it is hard to claim your rights in the face of those who have guns.  Whether or not the Athenian response to the Melians–that the strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must–is true as an ethical precept is immaterial.  It is true as a practical reality.  I worry about this a lot, because American military power is, quite frankly, overwhelming.  Not invincible–witness Vietnam–but overwhelming.  There is, essentially, nothing the civilian leadership could do if the military actually decided to pursue the policy it wished.  The military could, in fact, overthrow the civilian leadership and pursue the policy it wished; I’m sure the Tea Party would approve.  And so working on maintaining a political, social, and ethical climate in which it is understood that civilians–i.e., the representatives of the people of a democracy–make policy decisions for the military is paramount.

Truman fired MacArthur because his actions were consistent with an arrogant military perspective that assumed it had the right to set policy.  It had to be reminded that civilian leadership sets policy.  And now Obama must fire McChrystal.  It’s as simple as that; it has nothing to do with respect.  McChrystal’s preferred policy has nothing to do with it: whether he’s right or wrong, his error is in assuming that he has the right to pursue his policy preferences independent of civilian control.  That’s the issue here, and I’m just waiting for the news that McChrystal has joined the ranks of the unemployed.

…but it’s always been burning…

If you don’t stop me now, I’ll make Billy Joel references all night.  Another post on Mr. Steyn from Mark Adomanis at True/Slant.  Excerpt:

Given that Steyn has been withering, even fanatical, in his criticisms of the modern feminist movement (seriously, don’t take my word for it, go read some of the stuff he’s written), his recent embrace of it has to be among the most shockingly hypocritical and/or cynical bits of posturing I can remember. When Steyn pens one word apologizing for his shameful pimping of the Iraq war (and the hundreds of thousands of Muslim lives it snuffed out) or his disgusting apologetics for torture thenmaybe I’ll believe him that he’s been transformed from a neocon red in tooth and claw into a soft-cuddly and womens’-rights-defending bleeding heart liberal. Until then I’ll just assume that he’s being as dishonest and hackish as usual.

We didn’t start the flame war

So my post yesterday got linked by Mr. Steyn along with some drivel about how I was his “boring reader of the day,” or some such, for being disinclined to take his concern for other people at face value when the concern is expressed as a brickbat against everyone who dislikes his politics — and for feeling that if we were not engaged in protracted conflict with certain Muslim people, he would be far less interested in defending Muslim women from violence.

So I have about 15 comments pending moderation, all of them coming from the illustrious readership of Mr. Steyn’s hackfest.  *sigh*

I will go through them and approve the ones that aren’t obvious trolling, and seem to be posted by well-meaning people who disagree. [See Edit Notice] Some of the comments do raise points worth parsing, although the vast majority of them consist of “lolol you are such a decadent and weak pc liberal.”  Funny, I would have thought people tired of being called fascist would opt to less regularly deploy rhetoric used by Mussolini to attack Western democracies.  But it may take a bit of time, I’m still working on my final papers on God, Christ, and Spirit.

For now, a little trip through Wikipedia would benefit everyone.

EDIT: All comments, troll or non-troll, to the preceding article have been approved.

Mark Steyn’s opposition to honor killings

There’s this discussion going on between Mark Steyn at the NRO (who I will never, ever link to, ever) and Conor Friedersdorf.  Mark Steyn thinks he’s the champion of “brown women,” as he calls them, and that the librul media won’t cover honor killings because of multiculturalism.  I will leave aside refuting this point, because Friedersdorf does it admirably already.

But allow me simply to state that there have been honor killings going on in America for years.  It’s called domestic violence, and it happens to women every day: sometimes, though not always, because a man feels his privilege, his station, his honor, has been breached.  And for a great many years in this country — including today — these men get away with it.

Allow me to also state that there is a great deal of violence against people of color.  The violence against African-American and other dark-skinned populations is well-established, but there has also been a rash of violence against the muslim community in Jacksonville, Florida.

Since I have rarely, if ever, see a conservative dedicate excessive energy towards ending violence against “brown” people or women specifically, excuse me if Steyn’s protestations to be deeply, passionately committed to exposing honor killings against “brown women” to be disingenuous.

Honor killings are disgusting.  The men who perform them should be brought to justice.

But Steyn’s interest is not in supporting the end of violence against women: his interest is in encouraging and promoting vicious racism against a great many Muslims, especially those that are trying to immigrate peacefully and without violence into our country.  When Steyn cares about violence against more oppressed populations than one that can be conveniently exploited in service of attacking another oppressed population, I’ll be more inclined to believe his fulminations.

EDIT: Title changed to reflect a well-considered criticism, namely that “Mark Steyn’s beliefs” and “conservative” are not synonymous categories.