Differences without distinctions

According to Robert Kagan, the Democrats are the same as Republicans, er “fundamentally”:

>Although [the Democrats] pretend they have a fundamental doctrinal dispute with the Bush administration, their recommendations are less far-reaching. They argue that the United States should generally try to be nicer, employ more “soft power” and be more effective when it employs “hard power.” That may be good advice, but it hardly qualifies as an alternative doctrine.

What’s one reason there isn’t much of a difference?

>Even today leading Democrats who oppose the Iraq war do not oppose the idea of war itself or its utility. They’re not even denouncing a defense budget approaching $500 billion per year.

That’s setting the bar for substantial difference so high that only avowed pacifists will qualify for being the opposition party. At bottom, rhetorical strategy consists in his claiming for the Republicans every foreign policy view short of radical anti-american opposition. This strategy at once demonizes and trivializes sensible opposition to this administrations disasterous policies.

3 thoughts on “Differences without distinctions”

  1. Kagan certainly errs in saying that the only distinguishable alternative position is opposing “the idea of war itself [and] its utility.” I’m not sure why you quoted the second sentence though; the fact that little has been said about the outrageous military expenditures (which, by the way, don’t include the Iraq war budget) does point to a major problem, and lends good support to the less extreme position Kagan should have argued for.

    Current popular sentiment in the US leads to the situation where war is unquestionably patriotic. Any talk of cutting military spending sends poll numbers into the ground. (“I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it!”) Perhaps there is enough anti-war (NB, not “anti-Iraq-war”; I abandon Kagan’s argument here) sentiment out there now, but the Democrats seem to have decided that there isn’t. Therefore, if they want to be elected, the only sensible thing for them to do is be moderate on war.

    The nature of our two party system is that the relationship between propaganda generators (politicians) and propaganda soaker-upers (electorate) is dialectical. Voters are swayed by rhetoric, but within limits, while the two parties have to pick out their actual positions from somewhere within the range of current public sentiment. (Rove’s corollary: pick positions which sum up to 51% of the electorate.) Under winner-take-all election rules (cf proportional representation), there’s no opportunity for views outside the dialectical consensus to surface. The only alternative is for Democrats to stand up for what they believe (if they can figure it out), lose the election on principle, and wait for the right-wing to hit bottom.

    So, M. Casey: do you agree — or don’t you support the troops? (The catch-all false dichotomy)

  2. i agree with jeremy’s last line. there is a sort of “catch-all false dichotomy” being set up here. kagan simply fails to address the broad spectrum of political views on the iraq war, or war, period, and essentializes the political discourse in this country to pro-war vs. anti-war.

  3. Dialectical consensus?

    Also, I think some democrats are denouncing the defense budget. They just can’t do anything about it.

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