Thursday, June 22

A Wedge of Geese, A Trip of Goats, A Muddle of Goldbergs

Jonah Goldberg, "Woodrow Wilson's Curse", Jun 21

If somebody tried to feed you this hash you'd balk even if the social circumstance required you to be polite; absent such strictures you'd try to get a sample to the police lab ASAP. There are a few somewhat identifiable chunks; the weaker of stomach might want to steel himself. I'm told that rookie policemen forced to view an autopsy are sometimes urged to think of themselves as medical students; several stiff drinks might do as well.
We’re all Wilsonians now.

Try again. Jonah Goldberg, born March 21, 1969, has never known a day of his life when there was the slightest chance American sovereignty was going to be turned over to the UN. It's a Cold War fantasy.
President Bush is doing exactly what his critics have always said he should do: He’s playing nice with the international community on North Korea, Iran and, whenever possible, Iraq. He’s not getting much credit from the Bush-is-always-wrong crowd. But then again, they don’t call it the Bush-is-always-wrong crowd for nothing.

My question here is, "Is there a chance an all-out program like the one that put an American on the moon could, by 2010, teach Jonah Goldberg how to construct a paragraph?

Nevermind. Let's take this on its own terms, as a series of unidentified scat samples someone hurled against a convenient wall: 1) I don't recall Bush's critics saying he was insufficiently Wilsonian. If I were called on to make sweeping yet unfounded generalizations about that relationship it would be a) that Bush's critics think his relationship to Woodrow Wilson is that the former couldn't pick out a picture of the latter on a $100,000 bill; and b) that Bush's insufficiencies include intelligence and honesty. 2) Bush "playing nice" with the international community is a measure of how screwed up things have become. But be that as it may, let us try a brief thought experiment. Suppose you and I, Jonah, are traveling southbound on Interstate 65, intending to connect to westbound Interstate 80. You're at the wheel. I inform you that the off ramp is 1/4 mile ahead on your right. In response you stomp the accelerator, slam into a busload of senior citizens on their way to the Trump Casino, causing it to catch fire and plummet down an embankment, whereupon you swerve back and forth along the across the length and breadth of the Interstate System, winding up three years later by turning right into the main drag of Santiago, Chile in a rusted hulk with four flats, no windshield, and a strong odor of gas. You probably should not expect me to thank you for having gotten around to making that right.
Still, Bush is embracing the international system, which liberals consider to be Woodrow Wilson’s gift to mankind. Wilson was the guiding spirit of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations (though, according to liberal mythology, America itself was denied entry into the promised land by those evil isolationists). To liberals, Wilsonian internationalism means playing nice with others.

Dear reader, we are still in the first paragraph. It might be a good time to grab the Valium.

Apparently somebody, somewhere clued Jonah in to the fact that the standard high school history textbook oversimplifies the battle over the League of Nations. Apparently he thought this information ought to go in paragraph #1. Mission accomplished.
Meanwhile, some of Bush’s strongest supporters are starting to grumble that the president has gone wobbly by giving up on a different Wilsonian vision. One branch of neoconservatives defines Wilsonianism not as getting chummy with cookie-pushers from state departments around the globe, but as the heroic push toward the democratization of the world. The Bush Doctrine, until recently, was hailed or derided as the greatest resurgence of Wilsonianism since Wilson himself. These neoconservatives are understandably vexed by Bush’s sudden embrace of diplomatic nuance.

There's a time in any wilderness journey where the hiker can pull out his topographic maps and determine that he is at the farthest remove from civilization his journey will provide. It's a good point to make doubly sure he does not fracture an ankle tapdancing on an algae-slick rock.

No such woodcraft from Mr. Goldberg, of course, who's been circling the same cul-de-sac in his gated Republican community his whole life long. Note that the feigned Republican admiration for anti-Red Democrats like JFK has vanished in the hookah smoke of the delusional warm fuzzies who are so solicitous of other nations' feelings. Also vanished are the Democrat defenders of the "Bush Doctrine", who are mostly vexed not at Bush's embrace of diplomatic nuance but the bollixed execution of the Great Clash of Civilizations errand they sent him on. As for the neo-cons, if, three years after their big plans went up in smoke, they imagine that their Commander-in-Chief still holds a sabre he's capable of rattling they're more delusional than they were then. Six months tops, baby.
Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute and editor of Middle East Quarterly recently denounced this “Clintonian” turn in Bush’s foreign policy. By Clintonian he means caving into the insatiable lust for the endless argy-bargy that sustains the international community.

Well, thank God. For a moment there I thought that by "Clintonian" he might have meant "competent, realistic, and rational."
The central tenet of those who refer to the international community as if it were some holy communion of angels rather than a yammering maw of bureaucrats is that it is always better to do wrong in a big group than to do right alone. Sen. John Kerry, a high priest in the Church of Internationalism, always grounded his most passionate criticism of Bush in the fact that the president failed to form a “grand coalition” on Iraq like Bush’s father had. The upshot seemed to be that invading Iraq would have been a good idea if only Chad and Uruguay were on board.

Actually, the truth was otherwise. Bush did, in fact, build a large “coalition of the willing” (a terrible term since a coalition of the unwilling is a bit of an oxymoron, like a “team of non-team members”). Bush’s critics guffawed at our puny 48-member alliance, noting that there were few heavyweights among them. The prevailing attitude among Bush’s critics seemed to be, “Azerbaijan? Portugal? Romania?” These aren’t real countries! Germany, Russia, France — now those are real countries!

What exactly are the odds that a rational person would, in June 2006, still be arguing over the Iraq Coalition? I mean a hypothetical rational person, of course. It's a theoretical question.
Well, we’re playing nicely with those guys now, and few in the Bush-is-always-wrong school are impressed.

"It's all in the timing," the man explained as he fell from the trapeze.
Of the many bad habits Woodrow Wilson bequeathed to America,

Your personal favorite is racism?
one of the worst was his penchant for talking about countries as if they were people. He used the rhetoric of “self-determination” as if he were talking about individual humans looking for justice, and he psychologized their actions with almost Freudian aplomb. This attitude stemmed in part from his faith that he and the people were one, so why not talk about other countries as if they were people too?

Now this is why I decided to write about this column, and it's an internet participation project: who really said this, and what exactly was he talking about? I must have looked at twenty-five pages from three separate Google searches, and I came up empty. "Woodrow Wilson psychoanalyzed other nations" cannot be original with Jonah. It occurred to me last night, between bouts of fitful sleep, that he might have peeked at some old love letters Mommy kept, but otherwise, I'm at a loss.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not really contributing to an internet participation project, but this strange rant smells to me very much of a completely wrong recall of Barbara Tuchman's essay "Woodrow Wilson on Freud's Couch".

Running google on "wilson tuchman freud" should give you enough hints to evaluate whether my suspicion is justified or not.

eRobin said...

Dear reader, we are still in the first paragraph. It might be a good time to grab the Valium.

I was thinking of acid.

harry near indy said...

doghouse, you plowed through that. for that, you get my thanks and congratulations. i know it was run on the editorial page of the local newspaper, but i tend not to read it except to note the hysterical christianity-is-persecuted columns.

and i always get a perverse amount of pleasure when i imagine that mr goldberg was the result of an assignation between his mother and ...

wait for it...

here it comes ...

r. milhouse nixon.

D. Sidhe said...

He's not smart enough, harry.

Doghouse, I know I say this a lot, but we need to fire his ass and get you a column.

Rell said...

Okay, this is the part that floors me:

He used the rhetoric of “self-determination” as if he were talking about individual humans looking for justice, and he psychologized their actions with almost Freudian aplomb. This attitude stemmed in part from his faith that he and the people were one, so why not talk about other countries as if they were people too?

I can understand why stretching Freudian metaphors would be a problem when applied to countries, and if I can stomach it, I will read his whole article to get context, but the tone is interesting. It sounds like he is ridiculing the idea that other nations have a right to self-determination. It would not surprise me that he would not think that other countries have that right, but he is such a piss-poor writer, who knows?

DBK said...

If you won't me to read through to the end, you can't quote that much Jonah.

Man, that was some nasty shit. Now that I read as much of that as I could stand reasoning (I had to leave it off when I got to "argy-bargy"...when a writer gets affected enough to write "argy-bargy", it's time to hang him by his scrotum...long past time for the Jonah), I'm going to grab a three foot long piece of razor wire and scratch my brain with it to get the memory of the Jonah's prose out of there.

Texas Jaye said...

May be the spawn of Satan is confused. Freud and William Bullet wrote an analysis--perhaps the first of its kind--about Wilson.

Wilson and Bush are alot alike. Rigid personalities with alot of religious bullsh*t mixed up with people like House/Rove telling them what to do.

Woodrowfan said...

As an acutal historian who has studied and written about Wilson (hence the nick) I couldn't get through Jonah's piece without doing a LOT of drugs first. Wilson would want to throttle *. To the RW "Wilsonianism" means "willing to intervene internationally" which just proves that they never took US history past 9th grade. Can you say "creating international law" vs "ignoring international law"? For a better analysis see "Lloyd Ambrosius "Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush: Historical Comparisons of Ends and Means in Their Foreign Policy" (Diplomatic History, June 2006).

BTW, no historian I know of takes Bullett's (2 "t"s) book seriously. He did an Ann Coulter job on Wilson because he hated him for being insufficently anti-communist, and Freud's family insisted that he never had anything to do with the book. Basically it's a Regnery book written before Regnery...

Rich said...

Woodrowfan is right. Jonah is an awful history writer (I was a history major back in college).
So Jonah thinks the "Coalition of the willing" is worth celebrating, eh? It might be of interest to know that the current coalition has lost 16 members since the invasion of Iraq commenced.
It's also incredibly sad that the mainstream media people completely missed the most critically important point about Bush's latest visit to Baghdad. That was that over three years after the now-infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech, the POTUS had to sneak itno Baghdad becase giving his host appropriate notification was a security risk that he simply couldn't take.

rimone said...

dbk: I'm going to grab a three foot long piece of razor wire and scratch my brain with it to get the memory of the Jonah's prose out of there.

ah, hahahahaha, i'm sure y'know he's not worth alla that--booze and the world of self-medication both work wonders.

Anonymous said...

Jonah's dissing of the U. N. reflects the fact that, as a man of the people, he knows heartland patriots have long bitter memories of those blue-helmeted devils desecrating their churches and women.

parsec

Anonymous said...

Nice of Jonah to gloss over the reason, people viewed the "48 member coalition of the willing" as less than genuine-- because "they're not real nations" , that's right up ther with "because they hate of Freedom" as the primary vector of terrorism. Good god and he has the audacity to criticize the isolationism explanantion for the LoN, does he even try to be internally consistent, I mean within the same article at least?