Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Blogging Foreign Policy: Bereft of Credentials, Left Strains to Shift Debate

I argued in a recent post, "Diminishing International Relations: Left Bloggers and Foreign Policy," that most of the left's hardcore antiwar bloggers possess little knowledge of international relations theory.

While I would not say netroots antiwar types can't debate foreign policy, I would suggest that their arguments are mostly unhinged rants driven by post-Vietnam knee-jerk reactions to any and all considerations of U.S. military force deployment. As such, there's little that the antiwar netroots can add to the serious analysis of America's international relations.

For example, I recently took down Josh Marshall, the publisher of
Talking Points Memo, for his disastrously shallow attempt at foreign policy analysis (see "Uninformed Comment: Josh Marshall on American Military Power"). Not only that, I've discredited Glenn Greenwald numerous times, although I must admit he does try hard.

To be fair, I do see some skills in
Spencer Ackerman and his journalism, although he's so over the top in his blogging (which largely discredits his otherwise mainstream reporting), that he's a card-carrying member of the megalomanical blogging-fringe cohort under consideration here.

A good example of the substantive and theoretical shallowness among hard-left foreign policy bloggers can be found in this entry from Cernig at Newshoggers, "
Hyping The Chinese Threat."

Cernig fancies himself as some modern
Edward Murrow of the blogosphere, but there's little to sustain a self-appreciation of any such sort.

In "
Hyping The Chinese Threat," Cernig uses recent debates over China's international standing to argue that "China's threat to American global military superiority has been greatly exaggerated by Pentagon planners," and thus fails to justify increased defense spending.

I'm not quibbling with Cernig's attacks on the Defense Department, variations of which are
the staple of Chomskyite America-bashers going back decades. No, my point is just to indicate his total lack of credibility as a serious analyst of foreign affairs.

Cernig's "evidence" for his claim that the Pentagon is "desperate to justify billions on big-ticket development of new warplanes, ships and weapon systems" is
a Newsweek commentary essay by esteemed Princeton University political scientist Andrew Moravcsik.

a leading scholar of European integration and theories of liberal internationalism in world politics. Prior to his Princeton appointment, Moravcsik was a Professor of Government at Harvard.

This biographical point is not insignificant, although one would have no any idea of the importance of Moravcsik's backgound in the Newshoggers post. In citing him, Cernig writes, "
Newsweek's Andrew Moravcsik breaks down the figures," on China's great power status. It appears as though Moravcsik's just another journalist to Newshoggers, but he's obviously much more than that.

If you'd like, check the Newsweek piece for Moravcsik's argument against the China threat, for Cernig quotes him at length.

But what's really noteworthy about
the Newshogger entry is its conclusion:

Admitted, China has done some amazingly reprehesible stuff [sic] - such as the recent crackdown in Tibet - but it's all part of a mainly domestic and entirely regional focus on preserving its own status as the biggest fish in the local pond rather than a threat to American national security. Hyping the threat is partly about a "need to justify R&D and procurement" and thus just yet another example of propaganda in support of corporate welfare schemes. Of course, it's also about a conservative need to keep fearmongering, both for political purposes and to assuage their own psychologically disturbed sense of "threatened tribalism".
This link to the right's "psychologically disturbed" sense of "threatened tribalism" is a reference to Glenn Greenwald's recent allegations of racist fearmongering against Glenn Reynolds.

The problem here?

Well, if Cernig knew a little bit more about whom he was writing he'd realize that Moravicsik's married to Anne-Marie Slaughter (who is Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton, where Moravcsik's appointed), who Greenwald himself mercilessly attacked in
his recent post on academe's liberal war enablers. I can't resist quoting Greenwald's screed against liberal academics who "enabled" the Bush/Cheney war in Iraq:

Slaughter in particular has been an establishment pioneer in voicing this nakedly self-interested demand [in a long-term Iraq deployment]. Last July, she wrote an Op-Ed for The Washington Post praising the Bush administration for "reaching across the aisle" - seriously - and said that, as a result, "some sanity may actually be returning to American politics." By sad contrast, she complained, elements in the blogosphere - those "on the left" - have "responded to the foreign policy failures of the Bush administration by trying to purge their fellow liberals" - meaning those, like her, who supported the Iraq War and who constantly enabled the worst aspects of the Bush presidency. Everything would be perfect if all the mean partisan people stopped harping so negatively on their war cheerleading and started treating them again as the Wise and Serious Experts that they are.
Now, I'm not - I repeat - I am not engaging in any guilt by association, so lefty critics on this post can forget about that line of attack. Moravcsik and Slaughter are obviously distinct individuals, and the opinions of one cannot be used to impugn the views of the other (although there are always questions of associational judgment, for example, as is found in Barack Obama's Wright controversy, but not in this case).

What I am arguing is that I find it odd that Cernig at Newswhoggers would cite Moravcsik as evidence for his claims on Pentagon threat inflation, while in the very same post conclude with a post by Glenn Greenwald, who regularly attacks "fellow liberals" for war mongering, one of whom comes from the same left-wing foreign policy milieu as does Moravcsik. (Such relationships should at least be identified, so that Cernig might be able to deflect criticism that he's daft.)

For example, Moravcsik, who is a regular contributor to Newsweek International, is a proponent of the thesis that the Bush administration's war policies
have badly damaged trans-Atlantic relations.

So, citing Moravcsik is good for bolstering a case for Pentagon war mongering, yet citing Greenwald in the same post at the least opens up Cernig to charges of analytical schizophrenia in his online posting.

But look more carefully: Cernig's got a conflict of interest in
Newshogger's reporting. On the one hand, Cernig supports root and branch Glenn Greenwald's antiwar opinions on politics and the war (for example, here, here, and here), yet on the other hand it turns out that Moravcsik is exactly the kind of "liberal academic war enabler" Greenwald excoriates. Indeed, Moravcsik, back in 2003, argued for a stronger European defense so as to "complement" U.S. military power during the Iraq war build-up and deployment. Wouldn't this be enabling "the worst aspects of the Bush presidency?" Cernig, of course, has no clue.

This is just one example of Cernig's pure online expediency and hypocrisy, and, frankly, in my view such practice destroys Newshoggers' credibility. Cernig's an implacable foe of the Bush administration, and if he'd have known that Moravcsik's a liberal interationalist who supported "complementing" the Iraq war, the last thing he'd do is boost the circulation of a scholar whose views could be seen enabling that which he hates the most.

In any case, I question the expertise of all these guys, Cernig, Gleen Greenwald, Josh Marshall,
Spencer Ackerman, and also Matthew Yglesias of the Atlantic.

Yglesias is a
beer-addled Flophouse antiwar blogger who's feted around the left blogosphere like some wise man of left-wing foreign policy circles.

He's got a book forthcoming, "
Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats," due out in April.

I normally don't tarry with "light" reading of this sort, but apparently
the left's antiwar commentariat's eating it up, which might mean I've got some work upcoming in rebutting more of the left's foreign policy retreatism:

" A very serious, thoughtful argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care."
Ezra Klein, staff writer at The American Prospect.

"Matt Yglesias is one of the smartest voices in the blogosphere. He knows a lot about politics, a lot about foreign policy, and, crucially, is unusually shrewd in understanding how they interact. Here's hoping that his new book will introduce him to an even wider audience. Once you discover him, you'll be hooked."
E. J. Dionne, author of Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right and Why Americans Hate Politics.

"Matthew Yglesias is one of a handful of bloggers that I make a point of reading every day. Heads in the Sandis a smart, vital book that urges Democrats to stop evading the foreign-policy debate and to embrace the old principles of international liberalism—to be right and also to win."
Fred Kaplan, author of Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power.

"Reading foreign policy tomes is seldom included among life's pleasures, but Yglesias has concocted a startling exception. Heads in the Sand is not just a razor-sharp analysis cum narrative of the politics of national security in general and the Iraq war in particular, it's also an enthralling and often very funny piece of writing. Though he administers strong antidotes to the haplessness of his fellow Democrats and liberals, there's more than a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down."
Hendrik Hertzberg, Senior Editor, The New Yorker, and author of Politics: Observations and Arguments.
Well, ahem ... that's some impressive testimonial ... one of "the smartest voices in the blogosphere." Oh, yeah, I'm sure.

I certainly hope something's worthwhile in the book, because Yglesias' blog posts aren't worth a damn.

As always, I'll have more rebuttals and take downs of the antiwar left in future posts.