Two observations in the blogosphere caught my eye today as reflecting insights that are pretty obvious once you read them, but not so obvious that you hear them a lot.
The first, by Paul Waldman at TAP, is a meditation on the familiar quandry of progressives about how to deal with the venom and unreasonableness of the contemporary Right:
The venom can itself lead one to conclude that those with whom we disagree are beyond help and reason. But that doesn’t offer proof that one should get meaner in response. It’s possible to believe that one’s opponents are a horrifying band of moral monsters and simultaneously believe that calling them that out loud and refusing ever to compromise with them doesn’t do your side much good. There’s little evidence that the nastiest line or the most unrestrained questioning of motives produces more political victories. And no matter how much you hate the other side, they aren’t going anywhere.
Nope. You can only try to beat them and then hope they get a grip.
Meanwhile, at TNR, James Downie addresses a question much on my mind as a non-foreign-policy specialist trying to keep up with current events:
[W]hy should bloggers have to take positions, especially on issues as complicated as foreign interventions? Why can’t one offer opinions and observations without taking positions? Surely one can opine, for example, that the Arab League’s growing dissatisfaction with the no fly zone hurts the intervention whether or not he or she supported, or opposed, or supported then but now opposes, or is unsure about the intervention. Similarly, I can comment on the race for the GOP nomination without ever taking a position on any of the candidates.
No, bloggers do not have to take positions. There is no law or principle that requires writers to say, no matter how much or how little expertise they have, “This is what should be done. This is the right thing to do.” One could argue, perhaps, that taking no position is a position in itself, but then “no position,” “I don’t know what to do,” and “I am not too sure” are positions all too rarely taken.
I realize this site is devoted to helping Democrats think through strategic issues, and the question of whether they have a moral responsibility to oppose a military intervention carried out by a Democratic president is clearly worth asking. But as to the answer, “I am not sure,” in part because it’s so difficult to discern how the intervention is actually working out, and I am generally loath to add my own voice to the vast and perpetual chorus of the president’s critics without certainty.