Re: Who Thinks This Way?

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Hasn't John McCain been pushing an idea like this (or, more generally, national service, not necessarily military) for a while now?


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 6:27 AM
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I... don't quite know about your plan.

I feel like the whole "have a bunch of Americans in your country fucking everything up" thing might be annoying without the "they're killing us", especially if the Americans were, say, insufficiently respectful of your desire to have everybody getting a purely religious education. I also worry that you get a couple Americans taken hostage and there the wingers go, agita, agita.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 6:32 AM
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Eli Lake

Neocon. I forget for whom he wrote before the Sun. Someone evil.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 6:45 AM
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2: I can't think offhand of any countries which are hated because of their bumbling foreign aid programs. Quite a few hated because of their idiotic wars, mind.

I think McCain liked the idea of compulsory non-military national service not because it was less militaristic than WAR but because it was almost as militaristic as WAR. Not better, but second best, if you see what I mean.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 6:53 AM
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Bloggingheads... blech.

it's fantasy camp for people who really like CSPAN2.


Posted by: cleek | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 6:54 AM
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Yet another unintended consequence of victory in the Cold War is that we no longer have any sense of rivalry for the "hearts and minds" of the global masses (although the Chinese might soom emerge to fill that role, thanks to Yuan diplomacy in Africa and Latin America).

Think back to Kennedy's inaugural address:

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required--not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

Kennedy's praeteritio notwithstanding, there could have been no political consensus for the Peace Corps and USAID without the Cold War rivalry, and in particular the sense that the Reds were seducing the global masses with their calculated generousity. Eugene Burdick's The Ugly American (1958) was a best-seller for a reason.

The irony here is that it does no good, from the perspective of motivating the U.S., for Sweden or Norway or Japan or Germany to step up and offer this kind of development assistance. If anything, such aid will give the U.S. an excuse to do less. There has to be a nefarious rival power--Hamas in the occupied territories comes to mind--before the U.S. sees the point of attracting flies with honey.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:04 AM
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The irony here is that it does no good, from the perspective of motivating the U.S., for Sweden or Norway or Japan or Germany to step up and offer this kind of development assistance.

And yet it merely reconfirms that Americans - not Westerners - are the ugly ones. Stupid, stupid Americans.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:11 AM
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Bloggingheads is a horrible waste of time. And Eli Lake is just a vile glistening turd of a man, an absolutely evil piece of human sewage. Ackerman's apparent friendship with him forced me to seriously question Ackerman, and reinforce my belief that pundit- and reporter-types should never be allowed to socialize.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:22 AM
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Bloggingheads is a horrible waste of time.

I like it. But, then, I like Fresh Air.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:24 AM
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Who Thinks This Way

The same guy who wrote this:

I bet at least half of the netleft are failed professors, over-educated literary theory PHDs, who make themselves appear more numerous than they are through their anonymity and deliberate manipulation of google. Their real audience are the technocrat staffers for Dems on the Hill, who agreed with them that their bosses were pushovers during the Bush presidency.

What if the netleft, that has created the impression that there is a rising plurality that would like to abandon Iraqis to Qaeda, Quds and the Ba'ath, are just a few thousand committed Marxists in their pajamas? What if the Dems have strategically miscalculated? What if their over-compensation is to appease a vocal 1 percent of the electorate that actually draws contempt from the rest of the country?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:31 AM
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Shorter 10: 8 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:32 AM
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OT:

Here's a piece my my old partner Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest which explains one of the biggest things wrong with the Democrats.

The Democrats put all their energy into campaigns every two years (mostly every four years) and go dormant in between. The Republicans have a continuous every-day every-year message machine at work which is not tied to specific candidates or campaigns. Some of these groups are research oriented and some are mostly propaganda, but they're all keyed to the Republican Party. They both work to get the Republican message out to the public, and work to get the Republican Party to move in specific directions.

The Democrats have nothing like this. The blogosphere tries, and things are getting better, but there are a lot of sharp people who are still self-financing or getting by on blegs. Completely mediocre hacks get cushy jobs with the Republicans while very sharp people do much less well with the Democrats.

During campaign years hundreds of millions of dollars are raised, which is all spent on the immediate campaign, and none on the long term. Much of this money goes to buy media advertising, fattening up media corporations which are basically hostile to us.

Obama's a great fundraiser, but it's all going to Obama 2008. Clinton's money all goes to Clinton 2008. MoveOn seems to spend most of its money on immediate campaigns, with not much going to message development. At least they do do between-election issue advocacy.

My friend has been trying to help develop a Democratic (left-liberal) message machine for five years or so, and he's found it very discouraging. There's money out there, but little of it goes to the between-election long-term message development.

The Democrats look as though they'll do pretty well this year, but that's because they've given Bush an entirely free hand for six years (2006 dind't change anything) and Bush has hanged himself with his own rope.

The Clinton faction of the party is still basically saying that in order to win, you have to run as Republican lite, at least on foreign policy. I find Obama harder to read, but I think that's a real possibility that we'll be as disappointed by the next Democratic President, whoever he or she is, as we were by Bill Clinton. And that will be at least in part because the American people have not been prepared for anything better.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:32 AM
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I bet at least half of the [ unfogged commenters ] are failed professors, over-educated literary theory PHDs, who make themselves appear more numerous than they are through their anonymity and [ endless commenting ]. Their real audience are the [ lurkers ], who agreed with them [ in e-mail ].

Hm!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:37 AM
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It flows in the opposite direction from the Peace Corps, but I recently learned that the country with the largest Fulbright scholar program is Pakistan. The person who told me about it attributed the recent increase in funding (Pakistan sends the US about 150 Fulbright scholars a year, compared to as few as 5 or 6 in other countries) to Bush's warm relationship with Musharref.

I don't have any more data than that, but I have to say I was cheered to think even a small slice of our foreign aid goes to a program that encourages smart young people to come experience the U.S. for themselves. Even if the corner they experience is sometimes Arkansas.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:53 AM
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13: They are their own lurkers in e-mail.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:58 AM
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10: hey, if there's one thing I learned from the Vietnam War, it's "never underestimate the damage that can be done to America by a few thousand committed Marxists in pyjamas".

("Last night I shot a Marxist in my pyjamas. What he was doing in my pyjamas I'll never know.")

I actually rather like the idea that the entire liberal blogosphere is an immense jeu d'esprit maintained by the fiendish google-manipulations of Michael Berube and his ilk. (Does Berube have an ilk? Hell, yes. He had an ilk before Andre the Giant had a posse, dammit. He's an Original Ilkster. He's got Ilkmentum.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 8:06 AM
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Speaking of right-wing loons, I watched Spiderman III last night with Riff Trax - featuring James Lileks of all people as "special guest".

He's not as funny as Mike Nelson, by a long shot, but he got in a few good lines. I assume he had at least some role in writing them.

And Spiderman III is a genuinely awful movie. Even worse than Daredevil, which I would not have expected.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 8:25 AM
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And Spiderman III is a genuinely awful movie. Even worse than Daredevil, which I would not have expected.

Michael Chabon didn't do the script, for one thing. A Thomas Haden Church-centric plot that focused more on the underlying ethical quandry of the comic (vague handwaving in the direction of Jim Henley's "comics are a literature of morality" arguments here) could have been good, but they didn't have a script with the chops to bring it off. (Spiderman 2 was shockingly good, as was X-Men 2, and the sequels to both of them stunk on ice.)

Eugene Burdick's The Ugly American (1958) was a best-seller for a reason.

Worth reading. So, so worth reading. I've can see the quasi-suppressed sequel, Sarkhan, on my bookshelf from where I'm sitting.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:05 AM
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Dear Mineshaft: Someone keeps leaving free promotional copies of the New York Sun outside the door to my apartment. I get maybe thirty or forty free copies a year. How do I make them fuck off?


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:06 AM
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I once told Eli Lake over at Yggles to STFU prick or something equally rude.

WTF did y'all think my infamous plan of "5 million to the ME" meant, torturers and snipers? It meant, plumbers, lawyers, physical therapists, litcrit academics, whatever. The idea of the quantity was to provide some protection in numbers, and internal synergies. 1-5 guys in uniform with guns in a neighborhood, even if well-intentioned like AO, of course will get shot at. But add fifty civilians to those 5 and the natives start thinking "what's the point?" (among other thoughts). Ahh, there were a lot of factors.

It may have been insane, but it was benignly insane, or paternally imperialist, if you want.

But 1)We were going to Iraq and the ummah after 9/11. Discussions like "bad idea" are pointless. We are also staying in Iraq. We are the Iraqi economy now and possibly indefinitely.

2) Bush & Republicans were going to go as cheap & brutally as possible. Jesus, how is America represented in Iraq? Half are contractors. Checkpoints, patrols, helicopter gunships. You think a slow withdrawal will leave a more attractive presence? Not in your lifetime.

3) You don't like it, the Iraqis don't llike it, I don't care. We are stuck with each other. We can try to look away while the place stays in anarchy or we can try to do something decent there.

I am so tired of nationalist sentiments. I have said I would invite 5000 Swedes & Germans here to investigate Bushco. Palestinians & Israelis want their own state? Get over it. Move 5 million Filippinos to Palestine & call it Paraguay.

Rauchway said yesterday the Post-WWII Consensus might be the centerpiece of liberal identity. I think he is right.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:24 AM
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We are stuck with each other. We can try to look away while the place stays in anarchy or we can try to do something decent there.

Pshaw. The United States can leave whenever it wants.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:28 AM
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Move 5 million Filippinos to Palestine & call it Paraguay.

This may be my favorite thing bob has ever said.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:46 AM
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I'm not sure that putting idealistic young people at risk in the service of American hegemony is the best use of idealistic young people.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:53 AM
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21: and not only that, the United States has no ability to make it better. And not only that, if we leave it has a good chance of sorting itself out, eventually. And not only that, if we stay we'll be presiding over an increasingly entrenched series of fiefdoms which, eventually, will destroy any possibility of Iraq existing as a unified state.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:54 AM
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I have trouble reading any comment that contains the word "y'all". in fact, it makes me lose all respect, though only momentarily for the person who typed it.

Don't type that word, people.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:57 AM
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Get stuffed, peter.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:59 AM
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momentarily,


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:59 AM
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Eli Lake is weirdly popular among the rising press/internet cognoscenti, for reasons I do not for the life of me understand. For example, he is good friends with Spackerman.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:01 AM
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25: You should get over it. Among other reasons, y'all is the only nominative or objective second person plural we have in English.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:05 AM
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Pwned by 8, in a more colorful fashion too.

I think of Eli Lake as a sort of weird performance artist who loves to get exactly the sort of reaction he is getting here. Kind of Anne Coulter-esque.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:06 AM
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"Anyway, I've said what I think on the matter. I think drowning Pakistan in idealistic young Americans in some sort of Peace-Corps-ish but more risk-accepting program would be the best thing we could do for national security. It might do some actual humanitarian good, but the main benefit for us is that it's really hard to get a strong dislike on for the bumbling idiot who's trying to teach your kid to do long division."

I think this is dangerously naive. If you did this a lot of them would be killed which would just reinforce the nuke them until they glow school of thought about how do deal with Muslims without accomplishing anything positive.

Even putting that aside, more contact would just remind both sides of all the reasons they hate each other. Better to have as little to do with each other as possible.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:06 AM
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more contact would just remind both sides of all the reasons they hate each other. Better to have as little to do with each other as possible

...because that philosophy has served the cause of peace so well over the ages.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:16 AM
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Even putting that aside, more contact would just remind both sides of all the reasons they hate each other.

Really? You've never found yourself tending to like individual members of groups you dislike (especially for reasons as irrelevant to personal characteristics as national fervor)? I mean, our very own liberal flophouse denizens frequently consort with glibertarians because they're pretty socially pleasant people who bake good cookies.

Now, I do think we'd probably want to stick with almost all male volunteers for some countries like Iraq (but particularly other areas of the Middle East) where the gender politics could be a real source of friction. Or try to set up specific programs for US women to work with the other country's women, and really emphasize the importance of "look these things may be annoying, and they are sexist and patriarchal, but they're also very deeply held beliefs in these places. If we want to make a good impression and genuinely help the perception of the US, we have to somewhat toe the line and respect that."


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:17 AM
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Shearer has a good point, though. The American belief that "to know us is to love us" has not been a good thing, it's a form of naivete that has helped blind us to our faults. It's also helped prop up military expansionism. The Peace Corps and especially AID were explicitly part of the Cold War effort. Rather different from how e.g. Sweden/Norway does foreign aid.

I like the Peace Corps as a limited program, but that's it. Drowning Pakistan in Americans = bad idea.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:23 AM
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Au contraire, Sifu. Youse guys should know better.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:30 AM
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31
I think this is dangerously naive. If you did this a lot of them would be killed which would just reinforce the nuke them until they glow school of thought about how do deal with Muslims without accomplishing anything positive.

Well, switching abruptly from our current foreign policy to Lizardbreath's would be risky, sure, but believe it or not, there are some Muslims who aren't filled with bloodlust. In 1999, probably anyone but the Taliban would have accepted Americans on a humanitarian mission as long as there wasn't a quid pro quo.

And young Americans who are willing to join a Peace-Corps-ish program are likely to be liberal, so people with the "nuke them until they glow" school of thought don't care much about their welfare anyway. While those who come back alive, and their friends and families and so on, would have a much greater investment in preventing war with the country. Overall, yes, I think it would be more effective than isolationism.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:30 AM
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35: yinz can try to bring non-standard options into this, but "y'all" has transcended reionality in a way that none of the others have.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:32 AM
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The American belief that "to know us is to love us" has not been a good thing

That's the naive form of the argument. The more subtle form is that the bonds of respect are built in both directions: more Americans gain an appreciation for the hopes and struggles of the average Pakistani, and more Pakistanis learn that Americans are not all sons of dogs and apes.

The Peace Corps / AID model is admittedly of limited utility in this regard, because the political agenda is a little too blatant. In more general terms, support for NGO's, cultural exchanges, educational exchanges, and commercial contacts are all potential seeds for peace. It isn't foolproof--sometimes familiarity does breed contempt, especially when there is an asymmetry of power--but the historical record is not very supportive of the alternative.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:35 AM
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If you did this a lot of them would be killed

Evidence?

OK, I don't actually want cites. LB is proposing something unlike what is done now, whereas a modest number of American missionaries and NGO employees get killed/kidnapped each year. But I think "a lot" is a really exaggerated term. There are thousands of Americans in Pakistan right now, and none of them have been killed. Mostly Americans get killed by being right in the middle of the action - Danny Pearl meeting with terrorists, or Rachel Corrie playing peacemaker in a war zone. A village math teacher is really not in that category. In a truly failed state, that person would be a target, but in anyplace with a semi-functioning gov't, you would really get very few incidents like that.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:39 AM
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I embrace y'all (I did live in Miami for 7 years), and deprecate yinz. I don't know what the hell peter's problem is.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:40 AM
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Exactly how does "hey, ignorant brown people, watch and learn how whitey does it" not reinforce negative stereotypes on both sides? There is more than a little white man's burden paternalism in the Peace Corps. (Not the members, but in the program.)


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:42 AM
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especially when there is an asymmetry of power

I think that's one of the best things about the educational exchanges and stuff like the Peace Corps. You send over individual Americans who aren't part of some huge overarching organization, and they're in many ways less powerful than the locals they run into. They're in an unfamiliar new place and need to rely on the locals to learn how to get by day-to-day. I think that is part of what helps the goofy young Americans dropped into a new place with little backup the best ambassadors for general kindness and a "hey, we're just trying to learn here. Anything I can do to make myself useful during my stay?" sort of attitude.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:51 AM
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You mean I could have used "I went to Pakistan and lived to tell about it" to hook up with chicks impress people, on account of my courage in the face of near-certain death? If I'd only known.

The Ugly American was a huge eye-opener for me when I was 14 or so. Burdick's co-author, William Lederer, deserves credit as well. Incidentally, he lived in Vermont (my parents almost bought a house from him), where he also wrote a couple of books on cross-country skiiing.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:54 AM
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I think PGD makes more sense in 34, but "to know us is to love us" is a bit of a strawman. Or leaves a big excluded middle or whatever. I don't know much about Sweden and Norway's foreign policy, but LB's idea sounds a little bit like the Rotary Youth Exchange in intent, and that program began in Denmark.

I guess the biggest problem with Peace Corps 2.0 would be that its success would depend greatly on its execution. I mean, I think it would work great and I'd support it wholeheartedly if -- this is off the top of my head -- the volunteers got training in certain useful skills and diplomacy, and if it was entirely secular, and if the aid it gives wasn't redistributed by fiat based on the politics of the day, and so on. How likely all that is would determine whether I vote for it.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:58 AM
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36

"Well, switching abruptly from our current foreign policy to Lizardbreath's would be risky, sure, but believe it or not, there are some Muslims who aren't filled with bloodlust. In 1999, probably anyone but the Taliban would have accepted Americans on a humanitarian mission as long as there wasn't a quid pro quo."

"Some" isn't good enough, it has to be nearly all. That's how terrrorism works, a determined minority is sufficient to stop programs like this.

"And young Americans who are willing to join a Peace-Corps-ish program are likely to be liberal, so people with the "nuke them until they glow" school of thought don't care much about their welfare anyway. ..."

So what, they will still be quick enough to use them for propaganda. If some attractive young woman gets herself beheaded we will never hear the end of it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 11:11 AM
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Exactly how does "hey, ignorant brown people, watch and learn how whitey does it" not reinforce negative stereotypes on both sides?

Because it turns out that really desperately poor people are usually willing to accept help as long as the terms are at least nominally dignity-affirming. White college tutors for inner city schools sounds like an awful idea, too, but it works - as long as the tutors are trained not to be idiots.

The American phenomenon of hating on anyone who would deign to lend assistance is a product of the fundamental comfort of even (most) poor Americans. In the Depression, when people really were starving, they accepted the dole - as long as it was called something else. But there wasn't this whole rending of garments over the elitism of offering to help those who really need help.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 11:32 AM
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If some attractive young woman gets herself beheaded we will never hear the end of it.

...thus boosting the sagging ratings of television news. It's a win-win!

Exactly how does "hey, ignorant brown people, watch and learn how whitey does it" not reinforce negative stereotypes on both sides?

In all seriousness, there isn't a one-size-fits-all program that simultaneously satisfies every need. There is a role for highly skilled, career development experts, with expertise in technical subjects like setting up water purification systems or disease monitoring systems. Then you have nurses, public health specialists and agronomists. Then lower skilled roles like English teachers and construction volunteers, who might work abroad for only a short period of time. And then you have the non-professional exchanges: musicians, artists, garden variety students. The human-to-human contact that develops this way is at least as important as whatever practical service the exchange performs--provided the individuals are not actively dickish.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 12:02 PM
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Reading Lake's Heads In The Sand review (by the by, when is unfogged going to get one of those?), he is insane. He appears to be believe that he can counter a point about how armed invasion of Muslim nations helps Al Qaeda to recruit by noting that Bin Laden's goals include restoring a caliphate which stretches to Spain. As far as I can tell, this is as relevant to the recruiting point as my goal that Lake stop writing is.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 3:42 PM
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The human-to-human contact that develops this way is at least as important as whatever practical service the exchange performs--provided the individuals are not actively dickish.

I saw that movie!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090274/


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 3:56 PM
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armed invasion of Muslim nations helps Al Qaeda to recruit by noting that Bin Laden's goals include restoring a caliphate which stretches to Spain

Were some neuvo Aztlan activists to blow up the St. Louis Arch, I'm sure we invade Mexico to catch them. Pershing went after Villa, in what was then a 'failed state".
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/mexican_expedition.htm


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 4:10 PM
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If you did this a lot of them would be killed which would just reinforce the nuke them until they glow school of thought about how do deal with Muslims without accomplishing anything positive.

There are plenty of Americans overseas working in some of these countries in various ways not getting beheaded* right now. (Some even traveled under the Taliban, too.)

It's also not like the entire Muslim world is contained in Pakistan and Iraq, and it might be worth considering that more service in less troubled areas might help, too. We hear that many young men fighting in Iraq are from places other than Iraq, often poor, but not terribly radical Muslim countries nearby. Why not there? Not that long division keeps people from being terrorists, but surely anything that keeps the only impression of Americans as whatever our dickish government is up to can't hurt.

*I remember reading that beheadings proved to be costing the various groups support, and so they've stopped trying to kill people that way.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 4:18 PM
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I wasn't the only one to make the Pancho Villa OBL connection
http://www.aztlan.net/villabinladen.htm


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 4:52 PM
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If some attractive young woman gets herself beheaded we will never hear the end of it.

If some unattractive young woman gets herself beheaded, she will be played in the movie by Natalie Portman or Scarlett Johannson.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 5:49 PM
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And we've got attractive young American men and women getting killed now in Iraq, which doesn't seem to have made war out of the question. Sure, some people would probably get killed, but people take jobs where that's a possibility all the time (see, again, the military).

Obviously this wouldn't be a universal panacea, but I think people are overestimating the degree to which it would be resented by locals (viewed as a pointless boondoggle, maybe, but it's not the kind of thing that's easy to build up much actual resentment over), and underestimating the degree to which it would be a step toward regaining some respect internationally.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 8:21 PM
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"And we've got attractive young American men and women getting killed now in Iraq, which doesn't seem to have made war out of the question. Sure, some people would probably get killed, but people take jobs where that's a possibility all the time (see, again, the military)."

You are missing the point. The deaths of American soldiers in Iraq is increasing hatred for and distrust of Muslims by people in the United States. Thousands of American families now have personal reasons for hating Muslims. The jihadist beheading videos are constantly cited by war supporters as proof that war is the only way to deal with Muslims. This effect would be magnified if the victims were unarmed pacifist types. Each such victim would be a gift to the war party. Why give Americans new reasons to hate Muslims?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 8:44 PM
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54

"Obviously this wouldn't be a universal panacea, but I think people are overestimating the degree to which it would be resented by locals (viewed as a pointless boondoggle, maybe, but it's not the kind of thing that's easy to build up much actual resentment over), and underestimating the degree to which it would be a step toward regaining some respect internationally."

So a bunch of idealistic young Americans should die pointlessly so you can feel better about your country. This is the flip side of Bush. If we want to get along better with Muslims maybe we should stop meddling in their affairs.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 8:52 PM
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Yo, Shearer, why are you assuming that more Americans would die in LB's hypothetical expanded Peace Corps program than in the one that currently exists?

Or am I misreading you?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 8:56 PM
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I think being a Peace Corp type in Pakistan would be a lot more dangerous than in say Samoa. And no one is particularly interested in starting a war with Samoa so deaths there are less likely to be used to promote war.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:21 PM
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54 and 55: It doesn't shock me that James is occasionally right, but it seems as though some natural law is being violated when James is right about a matter in which he contradicts Liz.

58, likewise, strikes me as being insightful in response to Witt. Possibly I need to have an MRI done on my brain.

I will say, though, that in the more decent and sensible world of 10 years ago, Witt and LB would be right. And one might reasonably hope that in, say, another decade, Witt and LB might be right again.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:37 PM
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If some unattractive young woman gets herself beheaded, she will be played in the movie by Natalie Portman or Scarlett Johannson.

The very attractive Mariane Pearl was played by Angelina Jolie


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:47 PM
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I think you guys are succumbing to the politics of fear. Indisputably, the world can be a dangerous place and has been made appreciably more dangerous in some corners because of violent actions of our government. But the idea that Americans shouldn't go to Pakistan right now is, to my mind, dead wrong. And I use that term advisedly.

We should go, and we should learn, and we should teach, and we should talk, and live with people who will sometimes be horrified and sometimes delighted by the contradictions inherent in our culture, as we will be at theirs. And some people will get hurt and maybe even die, because that is part of what happens in life, but to suggest that the risk right now is so different -- well, that to me suggests a profound ignorance of history, and a delusional notion of relative risk.

The Peace Corps was 15,000 at its largest size ever. We've probably never had more than 100 in Pakistan. Sure, something high-profile and gruesome could happen to a PC volunteer, but the odds are tiny and I refuse to believe that it's so much worse than something equally high-profile and gruesome happening to some rich kid who flies there for skiing or golf (both current tourist initiatives in Kashmir, which is arguably not part of Pakistan but is next door). Or much more likely, some rich kid who is backpacking around Europe and hops on the Metro the day somebody decides to set off a bomb.

I'm very open to hearing that the Peace Corps model is not the best and that another should be tried. But when I hear "not so safe now, maybe in another ten years," I feel the echoes of every stupid "realist" discussion I sat through in political science class. Bah. You guys may be perfectly nice human beings, but I couldn't disagree with you more on this issue.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:08 PM
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Oh, and just to clarify, to 58's a lot more dangerous -- I probably agree with you. I just think that even if the risk increases from .00001% to .0001%* chance of death, that is not a compelling reason not to go.

*I am making up numbers.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:12 PM
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The first task would be to see if a place like Pakistan even wanted Americans. Can't very well go somewhere, however good the intentions, if they don't want us.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:20 PM
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And death is probably an exaggerated worry. Drawn out disputes over legal problems - arrests, trials, prison sentences - or accusations of espionage are more likely to be a high-profile problem.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:23 PM
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Per 64, this can be answered by looking at actual data. The Peace Corps has been in existence for 40+ years, and has included a great deal of work in countries that were not terribly happy with the U.S. How many incidents of that nature have there been?

OK, I'm getting cranky. Clearly it's time for bed.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:27 PM
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I was thinking particularly of the case of missionaries persecuted by the Taliban. 40 years doesn't mean there aren't risks specific to a place like contemporary Pakistan.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:29 PM
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Of course, the Peace Corps people would not likely to be in places not controlled by the government of the country they're in. I do believe the espionage accusations have been a problem at times. And there are some Americans doing time in Russia - which can be hostile to foreigners actually trying to do non-tourism things - for various minor offenses.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:31 PM
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looking at actual data

Here ya go.

And for assaults.

Looks like the main danger is motor vehicles, and the majority of violence is directed against young female volunteers. No surprise in either of those facts.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:40 PM
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Other relevant data would be the political conditions of the countries Peace Corps volunteers were sent to - or not sent to, if decisions were made against any particular places.

I'm really not opposed to the idea but I suspect, as I said in 63, a number of countries would turn down the offer.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:53 PM
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Dude, of course this would be more dangerous than Peace Corps Samoa; Samoa was probably safer for volunteers than it was for the locals. PC has historically been very fast to pull people out of politically unstable areas, and I'm envisioning something that might not be. (But I'm pretty sure that it would still be safer for the potential volunteers than combat, if that's who we're worrying about. There just aren't all that many terrorist attacks; Witt's right about the general safety level. Wildly dangerous compared to golfing in Greenwich, but in the abstract not all that bad.)

On the PR effects of getting adorable young American boys and girls killed, assuming something gruesome did happen, it's all in how you play it. The "must kill more Muslims" reaction you anticipate isn't inevitable; if the US government wanted to play it that way "Those rat bastards want us to abandon the poor people we're trying to help; Bitsy and Chip [did I mention I envisioned making sure that risky assignments only went to preppies?] had made deep connections with the people of[some location in SW Asia], and would hate the thought of our not helping them just because of evil-doers who want to control those people. Let's stay in for Bitsy and Chip, who would have wanted it that way!!" is just as likely a reaction.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-24-08 5:49 AM
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69: Yeah, I expect lots would. I brought up Pakistan because the government likes us, but not enough of the people do; some genuinely non-political, non-military, small-scale humanitarian aid like lots of elementary schools with a combination of volunteer and local staff and plenty of textbooks would, I think, be the sort of thing Pakistan's government would turn down and would be a PR win.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-24-08 5:52 AM
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70: Wildly dangerous compared to golfing in Greenwich

Of course, golfing in Greenwich is wildly dangerous for somebody in the long run, just generally not the golfer (or the golfer's friends and family).

Let's stay in for Bitsy and Chip, who would have wanted it that way!!

This reminds me of the concern for "our" offshore medical students in Grenada before operation Urgent Fury.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-24-08 6:24 AM
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Well, right. If the US's government's real goals are to provide humanitarian aid (a) because it's a good thing to do and (b) because of the PR effects, anything that happens can be spun to support that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-24-08 6:33 AM
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If the US's government's real goals are to provide humanitarian aid (a) because it's a good thing to do

There aren't enough ponies to go round, sorry.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-24-08 6:39 AM
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Per 68, obviously the answer is to stay away from motor vehicles.

Back of the envelope calculations, using the most conservative possible estimates:
5000 PC volunteers every two years x 20 (assuming the program has been running for 40 years) = 100,000 people.

Link in Ogged's 68 says ~25 homicides or possible homicides. Risk of being murdered as a PCV: .00025

Right, or am I missing something?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-24-08 7:15 AM
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In 72, I was looking for (but could not find) the picture of med students kissing the ground as they got off the airplane on return to the US. Had not seen the one I linked, but given the circumstances it is a nice encapsulation of a number of elements of class, foreign policy and domestic politics.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-24-08 7:16 AM
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Shearer is conducting a scientific study of trolling, with the aim of collecting data on the probability of rejuvenating a dormant thread as a function of time since the last post. Apparently the best fit to the data is a quadratic function, where the minimum trollishness required to restart the thread varies with the square of the time since the last comment.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-24-08 7:24 AM
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70

"On the PR effects of getting adorable young American boys and girls killed, assuming something gruesome did happen, it's all in how you play it. The "must kill more Muslims" reaction you anticipate isn't inevitable; if the US government wanted to play it that way "Those rat bastards want us to abandon the poor people we're trying to help; Bitsy and Chip [did I mention I envisioned making sure that risky assignments only went to preppies?] had made deep connections with the people of[some location in SW Asia], and would hate the thought of our not helping them just because of evil-doers who want to control those people. Let's stay in for Bitsy and Chip, who would have wanted it that way!!" is just as likely a reaction."

This assumes the US government will be able to control the PR which is doubtful. The Iranian hostage situation destroyed the Carter Presidency. And now many administrations later Iran is still very unpopular in the United States as a result. Making war with Iran more likely.

Nor has Bush been very successful with similar attempts to spin his fiasco in Iraq.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-24-08 1:56 PM
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