Just Above Sunset
August 22, 2004 - Sensitivity and Madness (Cheney and Keyes)

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Item One:

On the matter of the Republicans jumping all over John Kerry for saying this – “I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history.” – see Sensitivity and its Limits
from 15 August 2004.

Yes, Vice President Dick Cheney ridiculed Kerry’s call for a “more sensitive” war on terrorism and said it would not impress the terrorists who took down the World Trade Center or the Islamic militants who had beheaded Daniel Pearl.  Cheney said, “Those who threaten us and kill innocents around the world do not need to be treated more sensitively.  They need to be destroyed.”

Clear enough, although we see that the family of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded in Pakistan two years ago, has requested that his name not be used in a political context.  Pearl's father, said that the request was a general one and was not directed at Mr. Cheney in particular, and that it was intended to prevent the stoking of moderate Muslim ire.  "We don't take sides between Bush and Kerry," Judea Pearl said.  "I don't even know who I'm going to vote for."

One assumes Cheney is angry beyond belief about this request that he be a bit more sensitive.  If Cheney is more sensitive then the terrorists will have won?  Something like that.

And yes, Bush uses the word all the time, with no problem.

Joseph, my expatriate friend in France commented -


A bit or real irony here: "Sensitive" has many meanings - a sensitive document, to be compassionate and so on. But if the way Kerry meant it was in the sense "to be aware of other's perceptions of ones words and actions," then Kerry wasn't nearly sensitive enough. I knew these words would come back to haunt him the moment I heard them. This is the big-time. This is what politics has become in America. Deal with it.

Bush used the same word? So what. He's entitled. He's dropped a lot of ordinance. When he uses the word, he's speaking softly and carying a big stick, no? Kerry's people should have known better.


Okay, I get it.

Then again, Juan Cole, the professor of history at the University of Michigan, the middle-east expert on Iraq who travels down to Washington to testify before congress now and then, and pops up on the PBS “News Hour” every month or two, here adds some historical perspective.


Many pundits pointed out that George W. Bush had used exactly the same language about a sensitive approach to the war on terror, so that Cheney was implicitly criticizing his own superior.

But as a historian, I have to say that Cheney's statement is bizarre and uninformed. Let me just give one example. The practice round for World War II was fought in North Africa, then controlled by the Vichy French. Dwight Eisenhower developed Project Torch, involving the landing of US troops in Morocco and Algeria.

It was essential to the US effort that the French colonial soldiers be quickly won over and convinced not to put up stiff resistance to the invasion. The original plan would have explicitly used British naval power. But the Free French objected loudly to this plan, since they did not want the British Empire's ships anywhere near their North African possessions. The French and the British had old rivalries in this regard. Moreover, there were still French bad feelings about the British attack on the French fleet at Mers al Kabir in Algeria in 1940.

So Roosevelt and Eisenhower asked Churchill to keep the British navy in the background off Gibraltar and out of sight of the Moroccan coast. Churchill agreed.

That is, Roosevelt and Eisenhower had their successful landing in North Africa precisely because they were entirely willing to bend over backward to be sensitive to French feelings.

And that is the big difference between Cheney and Bush as wartime leaders on the one hand, and on the other Roosevelt and Eisenhower. Cheney and Bush are diplomatically tone deaf, projecting nothing but arrogance and being all too willing to humiliate traditional allies. They have no sensitivity. And it is for that reason that they have the U.S. stuck in Iraq with only one really significant military ally, the U.K. ...


So is it really true that at one time we actually cared what the French thought?  Roosevelt and Eisenhower asked Churchill to be sensitive?

Well, in that context it made tactical sense.  I’m not sure that Kerry wasn’t saying the exact same thing.  It’s just common sense.  You don’t piss people off needlessly, and expect them to love you for it.  Sometimes being sensitive, and, as in this historical case, diplomatic, is just common sense.

But I guess that’s wrong now. Common sense and diplomacy, in the traditional sense where it means something like “sensitivity” for tactical and strategic ends, is now inappropriate.  See September 7, 2003 Opinion in Just Above Sunset for how we have redefined diplomacy.  It’s full of examples of how we have scorned diplomacy of this kind for the whole of the latest Bush administration.  Win points in the international community with ridicule and scorn?  Mock them and they'll deeply respect our power?  Could that really be the idea?  Many parents seem to feel they can shame their children into appropriate behavior by sneering at them and mocking them.  I don't think that works very well but I've certainly seen that applied quite a bit – watch the parents at any Little League game.  In regard to international policy, for the last three years the product we were being sold, and have bought, happily, is that, as Americans, we don't take crap from anyone, and we'll do what we want.


And if you don't like that?  Too bad.

John Kerry is going to change that dynamic?

In defense of his second amendment right to bear arms, even automatic weapons with armor-piercing cop-killer bullets, and as president of the National Rifle Association, Charlton Heston used to famously say of any gun control laws, “The government will have to pry this rifle from my cold, dead hands.”  Everyone would cheer.

I’m sure Cheney feels that same way about his right to be as arrogant as he wants, and to humiliate anyone he chooses. No one messes with us.  And Judea Pearl can go fuck himself.


Item Two:

Last weekend in Just Above Sunset - in Racial Identity: Who Gets to be Black? - the latter part of the item covered the race for the open senate seat in Illinois where Barack Obama is being challenged by Alan Keyes.

Much of the discussion centered on comments that Barack Obama isn’t really black – or is a new kind of black – or something.  The idea was that Alan Keyes – the guy the GOP just decided to run against Barack Obama – is the real black guy?  Whatever.

The item linked to and quoted many assessments of Keyes – and they were not flattering.  Since the item was published Keyes has added more fuel to the fire.  Keyes suggested it would be a good idea the we repeal the seventeenth amendment, so senators are not elected at all but, rather, appointed by each state legislature.  This has something to do with states rights, but that’s a bit confusing.  And he has moved to the Chicago area from Maryland, as he must be an Illinois resident on the day of the election to qualify for the office.  But he has leased a home, on a month-to-month basis.  One suspect he knows the polls are showing he cannot possibly win.

Too add one more touch of strangeness to the whole business we get this -

Keyes likens abortion to terrorism
Natasha Korecki and Scott Fornek, The Chicago Sun-Times, Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Does this make sense?


Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes said Monday that women who choose to undergo abortions and the physicians who perform the procedure are essentially terrorists because "the evil is the same."

The remarks came as Keyes was explaining why three months ago he said that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were a "warning" from God to "wake up" and stop "the evil" of abortion.

"Now, you think it's a coincidence that on September 11th, 2001, we were struck by terrorists an evil that has at its heart the disregard of innocent human life?" Keyes said in a May 7 speech in Provo, Utah. "We who have for several decades killed not thousands but scores of millions of our own children, in disregard of the principle of innocent human life -- I don't think that's a coincidence, I think that's a warning. … I don't think that's a coincidence, I think that's a shot across the bow. I think that's a way of Providence telling us, 'I love you all; I'd like to give you a chance. Wake up! Would you please wake up?' "

The speech and transcript of that talk appears on the Web site of a Keyes supporter.

Since he entered the U.S. Senate contest just over a week ago, Keyes has attacked Democratic rival Barack Obama for his support for abortion rights, saying the Democrat holds "the slaveowners' position."

Obama called it "deeply troubling" that Keyes is now evoking the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks in his anti-abortion arguments.


Deeply troubling?  Maybe it is, but only in the psychiatric sense.  Let him rave.  The percentage of potential votes swayed by such an argument is so small as to make no difference.  And psychotropic medication gets better all the time.  Not to worry.

Keyes seems to be burying himself politically, or trying out some sort of new stand-up comedy routine for his next career, which will be back in Maryland.

What to make of this man? If I remember my sub-atomic physics right, the four properties of the subatomic particle known as the quark are up-ness, down-ness, strangeness and charm. These are some times called the quark’s flavors.  (What you need to know about ultrarelativistic heavy ion physics might be found here.)  One thinks of Keyes, the human quark.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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