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He Kept Us Out Of War?

I.

Some of the best pushback I got on my election post yesterday was from people who thought Trump was a safer choice than Clinton because of the former’s isolationism and the latter’s interventionism. Since I glossed over that point yesterday, I want to explain why I don’t agree.

Trump has earned a reputation as an isolationist by criticizing the Iraq War. I don’t think that reputation is deserved. He’s said a lot of things which suggest he would go to war at the drop of a hat.

— He says he will “bomb the s#!t out of ISIS” and calls for sending 30,000 troops to destroy them. His campaign website says he will “pursue aggressive joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS”.

— He is ambiguous about whether Obama should have intervened in Syria to depose dictator Bashar Assad. He complained “there is something missing from our president. Had he crossed the line and really gone in with force, done something to Assad – if he had gone in with tremendous force, you wouldn’t have millions of people displaced all over the world. ”

— Back during the rebellion in Libya, Trump seems to have been in favor of even more dramatic intervention than Obama eventually allowed. He said on his video blog “I can’t believe what our country is doing. Qaddafi in Libya is killing thousands of people, nobody knows how bad it is, and we’re sitting around we have soldiers all have the Middle East, and we’re not bringing them in to stop this horrible carnage and that’s what it is: It’s a carnage. You talk about things that have happened in history; this could be one of the worst. Now we should go in, we should stop this guy, which would be very easy and very quick. We could do it surgically, stop him from doing it, and save these lives. This is absolutely nuts. We don’t want to get involved and you’re gonna end up with something like you’ve never seen before. But we have go in to save these lives; these people are being slaughtered like animals. It’s horrible what’s going on; it has to be stopped. We should do on a humanitarian basis, immediately go into Libya, knock this guy out very quickly, very surgically, very effectively, and save the lives.”

— He thinks we should have “kept” Iraq’s oil. When pressed on how exactly one keeps billions of barrels of petroleum buried underneath a foreign country, he said he would get US troops to circle and defend the areas with the oil. The “areas with the oil” are about half of the country. This sounds a lot like he wants US troops to remain in Iraq indefinitely.

— He also wants to to keep Libya’s oil. As per National Review: “I would go in and take the oil — I would just go in and take the oil. We don’t know who the rebels are, we hear they come from Iran, we hear they’re influenced by Iran or al-Qaeda, and, frankly I would go in, I would take the oil — and stop this baby stuff.”

— He suggests declaring war on Iran as a response to them harassing US ships. During the debate, he said he would “shoot their ships out of the water.”

— In 2007, he he suggested “knocking the hell out of [Iran] and keeping their oil”, though in his (sort of) defense he might have been confusing them with ISIS at the time.

— In his 2000 book The America We Deserve he suggested a preemptive strike on North Korea: “[If I were President], North Korea would suddenly discover that its worthless promises of civilized behavior would cut no ice. I would let Pyongyang know in no uncertain terms that it can either get out of the nuclear arms race or expect a rebuke similar to the one Ronald Reagan delivered to Ghadhafi in 1986. [Reagan bombed Libya]. I don’t think anybody is going to accuse me of tiptoeing through the issues or tap-dancing around them either. Who else in public life has called for a pre-emptive strike on North Korea?”

— During a town hall meeting, when host Chris Matthews asked Trump when he would use nuclear weapons, he answered “Somebody hits us within ISIS — you wouldn`t fight back with a nuke?” When Matthews reminded him that most people try to avoid ever using nuclear weapons, he answered “Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?”

II.

Some writers have called the period since World War II the “Pax Americana”. Although there have been some deadly local wars, there’s been relative peace between great powers. A big part of this is America’s promise to defend its allies. This both prevents other countries from attacking America’s allies and prevents America’s allies from building big militaries and launching attacks of their own. The whole system is cemented by America-centric trade organizations which make war unprofitable and incentivize countries to stay in America’s orbit.

Trump wants to destroy this system because it costs money, even though it doesn’t really cost that much money compared to anything else we do and Trump intends to increase the defense budget anyway. It’s possible a post-Trump world might find some other way to maintain peace. It’s also possible that it wouldn’t, or that the process of finding that alternative way would be really bloody.

— In March, Trump said “I think NATO may be obsolete. NATO was set up a long time ago — many, many years ago when things were different. Things are different now. We were a rich nation then. We had nothing but money. We had nothing but power. And you know, far more than we have today, in a true sense. And I think NATO — you have to really examine NATO. And it doesn’t really help us, it’s helping other countries. And I don’t think those other countries appreciate what we’re doing.” Although this isn’t the worst opinion, most foreign policy scholars think that our policy of defending our allies is necessary to prevent global arms races and random regional wars.

— In July, he publicly admitted he wasn’t sure he would protect the Baltic states if Russia attacked, something we’re currently obligated to do. The Atlantic calls this “a marked departure from the security policy of every presidential nominee from either of the two major parties since NATO’s founding in 1949”. It’s especially worrying because even if you’re not going to protect the Baltic states from Russia, you shouldn’t openly say so where Russians can hear you!

— And throughout the race, Trump has campaigned on a platform that would effectively end American participation in the World Trade Organization. Trump understands that this would probably start a global trade war, but asks “who the hell cares if there’s a trade war?” I care for two reasons. First, because free trade has produced decades of sustained economic growth and the most successful poverty alleviation in human history. Second, this would probably crash the world economy, creating exactly the sort of depression that tends to produce instability (most famously Hitler’s rise during Germany’s interwar stagnation) or which drives countries toward regional hegemons willing to trade with them or just plain bribe them.

III.

Hillary’s foreign policy isn’t great either, but it doesn’t seem as bad as some people are making it out to be.

— Hillary will probably continue US intervention in Syria; here she is more interventionist than Obama. But her intervention would probably be smaller-scale than Trump’s. She wants to arm “friendly” rebel groups and enforce a no-fly zone, but she has ruled out sending ground troops into Iraq or Syria, something Trump has promised to do. Likely she would focus on keeping enough of Syria safe to protect some civilians and prevent more refugees, then use indirect methods to make life miserable for Assad. This seems like as good a plan as any other.

— The main concern I’ve heard is that the no-fly zone might lead to conflict (war?) with Russia. Declaring a no-fly zone would mean a commitment to shoot down any plane that flies through the zone. Russia is currently flying planes through Syria, and if they tried to call Hillary’s bluff she would have to shoot down Russian planes or lose credibility; shooting down a foreign plane could obviously lead to war. Many different news sources make this point (1, 2, 3, etc). But the clearest description she’s given of what she wants suggests a no-fly zone with Russian cooperation and support. Last October, she said of her no-fly zone proposal that “I think it’s complicated and the Russians would have to be part of it, or it wouldn’t work.” There’s some good discussion of this on Reddit (see especially this comment) where most people end up agreeing that this is the heart of her plan – something like the US agreeing it won’t bomb Russian allies if Russia doesn’t bomb our allies.

— Hillary has said she will “treat cyberattacks just like any other attack”, which could mean that if Russia launches a cyberattack on the US (for example hacking the DNC’s emails) Hillary would treat it as an act of war. I think this requires a stretch. She did mention the possibility of a military response, but only in the context of possible “serious political, economic, and military responses”. My guess is we should interpret this in a non-crazy way – if Russia hacks our emails, we condemn them and maybe hack some of their stuff. If Iran hacks a dam and causes it to fail, then maybe we start thinking airstrikes. Shooting down an airliner is an act of war, but countries have shot down other countries’ airliners a bunch of times and usually people posture a bit and then let it slide. I don’t think it makes sense to think Hillary will treat cyber-attacks more seriously than that.

IV.

A lot of this has a lot of room for interpretation. I’m totally ready to believe that when Trump said he would shoot any Iranian ship that annoyed US vessels, he just meant generic macho posturing and expected everyone to hear it that way. He might even be cunningly pursuing a North Korean – style “mad dog” strategy where he tries to sound so dangerous and unpredictable that nobody dares call his bluff, and so his enemies never mess with him in any way.

Or he might mean everything he says. After all, a lot of it has been pretty consistent since long before he was running for president. There’s no point in saying things to send a game theoretic signal to Iran if you’re a random New York real estate developer and Iran isn’t listening. If he understood the theory behind sounding trigger-happy to intimidate our enemies, he probably wouldn’t have openly admitted he wouldn’t respond to a Russian invasion of the Baltics. And he does seem kind of 100% like a loose cannon in every way, to the point where trying to explain away loose-cannon-like statements as part of a deeper plan seems overly complex.

(Actually, I have a theory which I think explains a lot about Trump’s foreign policy positions: he doesn’t like losers. He supported the Iraq War and the Libya intervention when it looked like we would probably win. Then we lost, and he said they were stupid and bungled. He supports counterfactual invasions of Iraq and Libya where we “kept the oil” because that would have counted as winning. He supports invading ISIS because he expects to be in charge of the invasion and he expects to win. Under this theory, Trump’s retrospective non-support for failed wars doesn’t predict that he won’t start new ones.)

In the end it all comes back to the argument from variance. Maybe Trump is secretly a principled isolationist, and he’s only saying he’ll shoot at Iran and invade Libya and first-strike North Korea and steal oil from Iraq and send troops against ISIS and remove Assad in order to scare people into cooperating with him. Or maybe he’ll actually shoot at Iran and invade Libya and first-strike North Korea and steal oil from Iraq and send troops against ISIS and try to remove Assad. Who knows? He’s said a thousand times now that he’s totally different from the usual politicians, and I believe him. He could do pretty much anything.

(I’d like to think his advisors would rein him in before that point, but when asked which advisors he would consult before a major foreign policy decision, Trump could only think of one person, and he does not exactly inspire confidence.)

I am not qualified to judge Hillary’s work as Secretary of State, but I expect her to play by the book. I’m not sure if Hillary will be more aggressive or more peaceful than the last few presidents, but I don’t expect her to be a wild outlier totally beyond comparison to any previous president. I expect her to consult the foreign policy community on anything important she does, and take some advice relatively within their Overton Window. If she comes to the brink of nuclear war with Russia, I expect her to de-escalate for the same reason I expect Putin to de-escalate; they’re both rationally self-interested people who want to continue being alive and ruling their respective countries, and they value that more than any particular principle or any opportunity to prove their machismo.

I think she remains the low-variance choice for president.

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1,241 Responses to He Kept Us Out Of War?

  1. E. Harding says:

    “— He says he will “bomb the s#!t out of ISIS” and calls for sending 30,000 troops to destroy them. His campaign website says he will “pursue aggressive joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS”.”

    -Nothing wrong with that, though I’m pretty sure a mere 5000 combat troops would do the job. Meanwhile, Clinton said she’d send no ground troops, and pointed to the existence of ground troops currently, but didn’t say what she’d do with them.

    ““there is something missing from our president. Had he crossed the line and really gone in with force, done something to Assad – if he had gone in with tremendous force, you wouldn’t have millions of people displaced all over the world. ””

    -He is, of course, right on this, that was one option. But it wasn’t the best option. Trump came out against the Syrian airstrikes trial balloon in August 2013 (check his tweets).

    “Trump seems to have been in favor of even more dramatic intervention than Obama eventually allowed.”

    -No; Obama did everything Trump described then except keep and protect the oil.

    “He suggests declaring war on Iran as a response to them harassing US ships. During the debate, he said he would “shoot their ships out of the water.””

    -Meanwhile, Bush I shot one of their civilian planes out of the air and, in a spirit of Trumpism, never apologized for it. Did that lead to war with Iran? Iran’s not a nuclear power. It’s not gonna risk it.

    “He thinks we should have “kept” Iraq’s oil. When pressed on how exactly one keeps billions of barrels of petroleum buried underneath a foreign country, he said he would get US troops to circle and defend the areas with the oil. The “areas with the oil” are about half of the country. This sounds a lot like he wants US troops to remain in Iraq indefinitely.”

    -Pretty smart.

    “In 2007”

    -The link’s from 2015.
    In 2016, after Trump got four presidential terms’ worth of years to think about these issues, he suggested China and, to a lesser extent, Iran, pressure North Korea over their missile testing. It was “sane” (not really) candidates Bush and Kasich who suggested pre-emptive strikes on North Korea. Not Trump.

    “Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?”

    -Good answer. In another interview, he suggested he’d support nuclear disarmament if it was truly multilateral. Have I heard that talk from Clinton?

    “It’s also possible that it wouldn’t, or that the process of finding that alternative way would be really bloody.”

    -How possible? Be Bayesian, man. Don’t use arguments from fictional evidence.

    “Although this isn’t the worst opinion, most foreign policy scholars think that our policy of defending our allies is necessary to prevent global arms races and random regional wars.”

    -Didn’t NATO effectively result in a global arms race which only ended with the end of the Cold War? Getting allies to pay for their defence is hardly a stupid idea.

    “It’s especially worrying because even if you’re not going to protect the Baltic states from Russia, you shouldn’t openly say so where Russians can hear you!”
    -Why not? In any case, the intended recipient of the message is the Baltic States, not Russia. It’s a wise message to send. In any case, Russia isn’t gonna do anything to the Baltic States (if it wanted to, it could have done something in 2003) and Trump is right to bring up a debate as to the proper extent of US defence obligations.

    “Second, this would probably crash the world economy, creating exactly the sort of depression that tends to produce instability (most famously Hitler’s rise during Germany’s interwar stagnation) or which drives countries toward regional hegemons willing to trade with them or just plain bribe them”

    -Ridiculous. What does a trade war even mean? What was the actual (i.e., not imaginary) effect of the Tariff of Abominations, Lincoln’s tariffs, and similar measures, on the U.S. economy? Remember, Trump is simply parroting standard 1860s-1930s Republican and 1980s Democratic economic dogma. Would President Mondale have caused another Great Depression? And AH didn’t rise during Germany’s interwar stagnation, but during the Great Depression, something which would certainly be averted by central banker action today.

    “She wants to arm “friendly” rebel groups and enforce a no-fly zone,”

    -Worse than anything Trump has proposed. The “moderate rebel” areas in Syria have, thanks to Obama, existed for years, and are not places you want to live.

    “Likely she would focus on keeping enough of Syria safe to protect some civilians and prevent more refugees, then use indirect methods to make life miserable for Assad.”

    -Contradiction in terms. There is no way of making life miserable for Assad without making life miserable for the Syrian people. Check out Edward Dark’s twitter account sometime.

    “no-fly zone with Russian cooperation and support.”

    -Putin, unlike Medvedev, isn’t stupid. He knows a trap when he sees it, and will not cooperate. He understands Clinton is incapable of keeping agreements.

    “something like the US agreeing it won’t bomb Russian allies if Russia doesn’t bomb our allies.”

    -This is a one-sided and unequal agreement just begging the Syrian rebels to do what they did in August. It is well-known the SAA has an air power advantage and a manpower disadvantage in this fight.

    “admitted he wouldn’t respond to a Russian invasion of the Baltics”

    -He didn’t definitively say he would or wouldn’t. He admitted he mightn’t respond, not “wouldn’t”. Classic example of strategic unpredictability to benefit the US.

    “And he does seem kind of 100% like a loose cannon in every way”

    -I.e., unlike Clinton, he changes his mind in response to new evidence. I prefer that to changing your mind about the benefit of any foreign policy intervention you helped out in, whether directly or indirectly, only a decade after it has passed (as is true for Clinton).

    “and take some advice relatively within their Overton Window”

    -Thus Her Iraq War vote. In her speech on that vote, she said she didn’t want unilateral action, but trusted the president to make his choice. LOL. At least Trump has some critical thinking skills (e.g., on Russia) and is a puppet of noone.

    “Actually, I have a theory which I think explains a lot about Trump’s foreign policy positions: he doesn’t like losers.”

    -Bingo.

    “they’re both rationally self-interested people who want to continue being alive and ruling their respective countries, and they value that more than any particular principle or any opportunity to prove their machismo.”

    -Even more the case with Trump and Khamenei. Fundamentally, Trump wants everything he does to look good. Clinton has never showed such instinct.

    In short, Scott ignores the necessity of critical thinking in evaluating foreign policy advice. Trump clearly has it. He’s not simply a puppet of his incompetent advisors. Does Clinton? Is Clinton? Does Scott know?

    • E. Harding says:

      Cross-posted from the other thread, as I do not think there are nearly enough straight answers to a question of similar vein ( http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/09/28/ssc-endorses-clinton-johnson-or-stein/#comment-416688 ) and would like for it to take center stage here.

      Guys, this is a pretty important question that must be asked, but so far hasn’t been: what would it take for you (including our good host) to change their minds about whom to vote for? For me, it would be Trump advocating something more evil than what Obama has actually done. So, something more evil than “let ISIS take out Assad” (Trump meant it both ways, then said “let Russia take out ISIS” in the course of the same interview a year ago). If the dangerous Christie has gotten to him (so far, he hasn’t, though the less dangerous Pence clearly has), it’s time to consider a vote for Clinton. I do not expect Clinton to change Her mind on the Supreme Court, the NSA, e-mail practices, https://twitter.com/mcurryfelidae07/status/776101739300786176 , and Russia-baiting, but if she does, and Trump does not change his positions, to me, they’d be more comparable candidates than they presently are.

      How ’bout you?

      • herbert herbertson says:

        Absolutely nothing. The changes in his personality and approach to thinking about things would have to be so sudden and dramatic–compared not only to his campaign, but his entire life in the public eye, including but not limited to actions such as creating a sham university, direct bribery via a personal foundation he didn’t even have the grace to donate to, years of promoting a conspiracy theory to delegitimize a president without reason, several bankruptcies, two divorces, raping one of his wives, bragging about his daughter’s bangability, taking out a full-page ad in the NYT using charges against people later found to be innocent as a basis to advocate for the abrogation of civil liberties, destroying architectural treasures out of avarice after promising not to, discriminating against black tenants, and shaving off poor Vince McMahon’s beautiful tresses–that I’d only believe they could come from dissembling or a brain tumor.

        What of it?

      • Alsadius says:

        My support in this election is based mostly on my belief that Trump is literally mentally ill(he’s a narcissist and a pathological liar at minimum), that he is running for the Presidency just to spite his critics without any concept of what the job entails, and that he’s a loose cannon who cannot be trusted with control of a military. Until those beliefs have changed, or the candidate has, I cannot in good conscience support him. It’s not about policy at this point – maybe a year ago I’d have said that he could win me back with policy changes, but at this point, he can’t. The Presidency sees too many unforeseeable events, and I don’t trust him being in charge of any of them. The only way I’d consider supporting him is if he was terminally ill and was going to die before January 20th – Pence is a perfectly acceptable candidate, even if he’s keeping poor company these days.

        Let me put this bluntly: If Hillary Clinton strangled someone with her bare hands on live television the day before the election, I would still vote for her. Again, and I know I need to say this a lot when discussing Trump, I mean that literally – it is not hyperbole. I already know Clinton is a crook. I want her to win despite that, because Trump is still worse than a criminal who hates everything I believe in. And I’m the sort of person who’d be a diehard Republican in any other election, I am not a lefty.

        (Two caveats. 1: I am not a US citizen, and thus I cannot vote in this election, so my discussions of who I’d vote for are hypotheticals. 2: I love Gary Johnson, and would support him in a second if I thought he had a chance of winning the state where I hypothetically had a vote, but at this point he’s out of serious contention)

        • cassander says:

          >(he’s a narcissist and a pathological liar at minimum

          and hillary is not?

          >he’s a loose cannon who cannot be trusted with control of a military.

          what does this mean, exactly? what do you think he will, or might, do?

          >Trump is still worse than a criminal who hates everything I believe in

          again, can you expand?

          • Alsadius says:

            No, she’s not. She lies, certainly, but she lies for the sake of having other people believe her as part of a plan to advance her interests. She’s rational about it. Trump lies about stupid, worthless things, just because he enjoys lying, or because he redefines truth in his head to be whatever suits him most at this particular instant. When I say “pathological”, I don’t mean that he does it a lot, I mean it’s a genuine illness. Likewise, Clinton is self-interested, certainly, but she’s nowhere near the level of actual narcissism. She understands that a world outside of her desires exists, if nothing else.

            I think the most likely failure mode of Trump is a trade war. Given that the last serious trade war caused the Great Depression, this is not a small concern. I’d put odds of that around 60% if he’s elected, though a majority of those cases will leave the rest of the world with functional free trade and thus mitigate the harm. The next most likely failure mode is abandonment of NATO and other similar alliances, which have kept the world safe for generations. This gives a free hand to expansionist foreign governments, and that sort of thing leads to arms races, wars, and general chaos. I’d put odds of NATO functionally dying around 40%, though the worst effects of that probably won’t be felt until after he leaves office. The least likely, but worst, failure mode is an overreaction to a foreign crisis leading to a war with a major foreign power. Odds of this are maybe 15%, but it could kill hundreds of millions if things get really ugly.

            Note that none of these failure modes are risks with Clinton – the worst she can really do is set US jurisprudence back a couple decades with bad SCOTUS nominees. She’s awful, but if she ever nuked someone, you’d at least know that she did so intentionally.

          • cassander says:

            >Likewise, Clinton is self-interested, certainly, but she’s nowhere near the level of actual narcissism. She understands that a world outside of her desires exists, if nothing else.

            That trump has been as successful as he has been seems to a pretty good argument against him being as delusional as you portray.

            >I think the most likely failure mode of Trump is a trade war. Given that the last serious trade war caused the Great Depression, this is not a small concern. I’d put odds of that around 60% if he’s elected, though a majority of those cases will leave the rest of the world with functional free trade and thus mitigate the harm. The next most likely failure mode is abandonment of NATO and other similar alliances, which have kept the world safe for generations.

            I agree on both of those failure modes, though not their likelihood. The permanent state will fiercely resist trump on both of those fronts. That same state will exacerbate clinton’s worst tendencies.

            >Note that none of these failure modes are risks with Clinton – the worst she can really do is set US jurisprudence back a couple decades with bad SCOTUS nominees.

            THe court only moves one direction. Any damage clinton does there will be permanent.

            >She’s awful, but if she ever nuked someone, you’d at least know that she did so intentionally.

            See my post below for my assessment of hillary clinton’s foreign policy. It’s not pretty.

          • Civilis says:

            She lies, certainly, but she lies for the sake of having other people believe her as part of a plan to advance her interests. She’s rational about it.

            “I dodged sniper fire in Bosnia”? “I was named after Edmund Hillary”? “I wanted to join the Marines”? “That ‘C’ in front of the paragraph isn’t an indicator it’s classified”?

            If those are rational lies, I’d hate to see what irrational looks like.

          • E. Harding says:

            “Given that the last serious trade war caused the Great Depression,”

            -No. What caused the great depression was everybody trying to grab gold for themselves in order to maintain their credibility as a debtor, thus causing the real price of gold to soar and nominal GDP to consequently collapse. Trump is, if anything, more likely to prevent this than Clinton. No, Smoot-Hawley didn’t help. But the Tariff of Abominations, the McKinley tariff, and Lincoln’s tariffs did not lead to economic disaster in the U.S. Trade in duty-free goods collapsed during the Great Depression just as badly as trade in goods with duties on them. Tariffs don’t help much, but they’ve done a lot less institutional damage to the U.S. from the 1810s onward than the mere appointment of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg.

            “The next most likely failure mode is abandonment of NATO and other similar alliances,”

            -That’s a success mode.

            “This gives a free hand to expansionist foreign governments, and that sort of thing leads to arms races, wars, and general chaos.”

            -“General chaos” is what NATO caused in Libya and Syria. It’s also what the breakup of NATO would prevent in the future.

            “The least likely, but worst, failure mode is an overreaction to a foreign crisis leading to a war with a major foreign power.”

            -Much more likely under a Clinton presidency. Remember, Clinton does not change Her mind in any period of time less than a decade. She waited until 2013 to endorse same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, Trump apparently had no problems with Elton John’s marriage in 2005.

            “She’s awful, but if she ever nuked someone, you’d at least know that she did so intentionally.”

            -No. Just the reverse.

            Armchair psychologizing does not make you credible.

            “which have kept the world safe for generations.”

            -NATO is little more than an Islamist terrorist organization. If it is destroyed, it would be a great achievement for the cause of world peace.

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t think a trade war caused the Great Depression, though the Smoot-Hawley Tariff probably deepened and lengthened it unnecessarily. My view is it was more a result of inflation to pay for WWI, resulting in a bubble in the late 20s, and subsequent collapse due to an attempt to restore monetary discipline without awareness of how much the piper still hadn’t been paid for WWI. There are other interpretations, of course, but it’s certainly not a settled issue.

          • Alsadius says:

            Cassander: Trump’s success has mostly come from investing with massive leverage in New York real estate in the 80s, when it was going through the roof as the city recovered, and from being a blustery publicity-obsessed reality star. One of these was effectively luck, and the other is perfectly compatible with him being a delusional fool. Everything else he’s ever touched has gone straight to the dogs.

            Also, I strongly disagree that the court only moves in one direction. It has been moving appreciably to the right in recent decades – ever since Scalia joined, really. Heller would have been inconceivable in the 70s. It’s not perfect, but there’s actual competition now.

            Civilis: The biggest difference with those is that they’re all fairly minor incidents(except classified documents), and all years later. It’s easy to have false memories on that stuff. In particular:

            * The Edmund Hillary thing felt like an honest mistake to me. It’s not like she was aware of the world at the time – it could easily have been a misunderstanding or a cutesy story her mom said that she remembered and never checked.

            * Sniper fire, that’s certainly more suspicious. Maybe she got warned of it and then embellished, or thought it was something else? That one feels the most like a Trump-esque lie to me of those four.

            * The Marine thing I hadn’t heard of before, but from a quick Google, it sounds like it’s not obviously a lie. It seems like a weird thing for her to have done, but in the 70s, military service was still seen as a big plus for seeking political office, so perhaps she thought of a stint with the military lawyers as a way to advance her career. There’s also some suggestion that she did it as a feminist test, to see whether women were actually able to get into certain careers as easily as they were officially supposed to be able to. It could also be a total fabrication, but if so, it serves an obvious purpose as well – it paints the military in a bad light, which an anti-war(at least somewhat) Democrat has some obvious interest in.

            * C for classified, that one’s obvious. When you’ve been caught with your pants down, you throw out whatever excuse you can, because it’s better than taking the hit. Your supporters will eat up whatever BS you care to feed them, so you might as well at least get a few people in your corner.

          • cassander says:

            @Alsadius

            >Trump’s success has mostly come from investing with massive leverage in New York real estate in the 80s, when it was going through the roof as the city recovered, and from being a blustery publicity-obsessed reality star. One of these was effectively luck, and the other is perfectly compatible with him being a delusional fool. Everything else he’s ever touched has gone straight to the dogs.

            I was referring more to his success in the campaign.

            >Heller would have been inconceivable in the 70s. It’s not perfect, but there’s actual competition now.

            There has been rightward movement in criminal policy and gun control over the last 3 decades. You can make get a half issue on welfare reform in that it was a rightward shift, but other areas of the welfare state have moved left. That’s it. On every other dimension, we’ve either stayed put or moved left.

            >* Sniper fire, that’s certainly more suspicious. Maybe she got warned of it and then embellished, or thought it was something else? That one feels the most like a Trump-esque lie to me of those four.

            I believe her official story is that she “misspoke” and really meant to talk about the security briefing they got on the plane. That version of evens is disputed as well.

          • Alsadius says:

            Cassander: Success in a campaign depends only on convincing people to like you. That requires no particular lucidity. And again, once her Bosnia story had been revealed as a lie, what better story did she have to give? It may be true, but even if it was false, she’d still say it.

        • Alexandre Zani says:

          “-NATO is little more than an Islamist terrorist organization. If it is destroyed, it would be a great achievement for the cause of world peace”

          In what world is an alliance led by the United States and composed primarily of Western European countries “an Islamic terrorist organization”? It has exactly one majority Muslim country as a member and it is a country which historically has been fighting for secularism more than pretty much any other. This a truly absurd statement.

          • Anonymous says:

            He’s alluding to the results of NATO interventions.

          • E. Harding says:

            “It has exactly one majority Muslim country as a member”

            -Wrong; there are two. Turkey and Albania.

            “and it is a country which historically has been fighting for secularism more than pretty much any other”

            -And now it’s one of the largest state sponsors of Islamic terrorism on the globe and is unable to have a competent pro-secularism coup with the support of the general public.

            Anonymous is correct.

        • Pathologizing people you dislike as the explanation for their negative traits is often a sign that you’re interacting with an imaginary world, rather than the real one.

        • LPSP says:

          I’m pretty sure the lowest common denominator of all arguments, the hallmark of steadfast refusal to even consider someone with opposing views as a human, is to label them “mentally ill”. It’s a bigger threat to reasoned debate than reductio ad hitlerum.

      • blacktrance says:

        At this point, nothing. He’d have to change so many of his positions that he’d either look extremely dishonest or prone to massive shifts on a whim.

        • Ali Baba says:

          Considering Trump’s wild flip flopping of positions, this is hilarious.

          • Jill says:

            I guess some people have been getting their news from Hannity on Fox, so they don’t realize that Trump has been wildly flip flopping in his positions plus lying constantly.

      • Cord Shirt says:

        I kinda went into that in my top-level comments on this and the earlier thread…

        Someone might convince me to change my “heavy emphasis on policy positions” to something else by giving good general arguments for this. “Character is both important in a candidate and reliably detectable by the average voter and here’s why (and how to detect it),” for example. Or, perhaps, “Here’s proof I’m really not just falling victim to fear-mongering, and that this specific candidate truly is uniquely bad.”

        I haven’t decided who to vote for, but I have ruled out Clinton. Now, I don’t like her platform, and I weight that more heavily than anything else…but I do have less specifically policy related reasons too. In fact I have a long ah “chain of inferences” leading me to believe that the USA is an empire or hegemon in decline, the establishment is not coping well, establishment leaders of empires in decline tend to lash out…and Clinton represents the establishment.

        At this point, even if she changed her positions and announced that she’d seen the light and would no longer listen to the New American Century people and so on, it would be hard to believe she’d *really* changed her mind.

        And me? Could someone make me “see the light” and change my mind about the current state of the USA and the likely future and so on?

        …probably not in time for the election. 😉

        It’s a long chain of inferences. Took me years to come to this conclusion, and would probably take me years to rethink as well.

        Anyone who’d like to is welcome to try, though. 😉

      • boy says:

        If somehow I became very confident that some form of the vast conspiracy theory was true, i.e. that the president is a puppet of sorts with little real power who is controlled by an arcane system outside of the public’s eye, then I would probably vote for Trump because he wouldn’t have the power to do anything catastrophic and could expose this system a little bit. Other than that and other very far-fetched scenarios, I can’t think of anything.

        • cassander says:

          >i.e. that the president is a puppet of sorts with little real power who is controlled by an arcane system outside of the public’s eye

          You mean like the courts, civil service, military services, legislature, and the influence of other countries? granted, they don’t control the president, but they drastically limit him.

          • Gabe says:

            All of that limits the president mainly because the president consents to it. Do you really want to see what happens when he decides that, as commander of our military, he’d rather not?

            We simply have never had a president as crazy as Trump.

          • E. Harding says:

            “We simply have never had a president as crazy as Trump.”

            -What’s crazy about border security and getting along with Russia? You have a huge double standard here.

            The most crazy president was probably FDR.

          • John Schilling says:

            The most crazy president was probably FDR.

            Yeah, stopping the Nazis from taking over the world; what was he thinking? Should have just focused on securing the borders and getting along with Hitler.

          • E. Harding says:

            “Yeah, stopping the Nazis from taking over the world; what was he thinking?”

            -Any president would have declared war on Germany as a result of Germany declaring war on the U.S. It’s nothing complicated. I meant mostly the huge rash of government programs resulting from FDR’s presidency.

            I kinda understand what you tried to do there, John, but it wasn’t effective.

          • cassander says:

            >All of that limits the president mainly because the president consents to it. Do you really want to see what happens when he decides that, as commander of our military, he’d rather not?

            I’m not sure why you think Hillary has any more respect for law than trump does. Both clearly treat it with contempt.

          • John Schilling says:

            Any president would have declared war on Germany as a result of Germany declaring war on the U.S.

            Would any other President have offered Lend-Lease and signed the Atlantic Charter?

          • E. Harding says:

            “Would any other President have offered Lend-Lease and signed the Atlantic Charter?”

            -Those were not good ideas, as they went outside the boundaries of America’s national interests before Germany’s declaration of war on the US. Britain had the capability to fight off Germany without U.S. aid.

          • John Schilling says:

            The most crazy president was probably FDR … Britain had the capability to fight off Germany without U.S. aid.

            Well, at least one of you (E. Harding and FDR) is clearly delusional.

          • E. Harding says:

            “Well, at least one of you (E. Harding and FDR) is clearly delusional.”

            -Why do you think I’m “clearly delusional”, John? England had the whole British Empire to help defend itself.

        • E. Harding says:

          Can you name a Republican presidential nominee you’d vote for? If so, what distinguishes him or her from Trump to make him worthy of your vote?

          • Alsadius says:

            I can’t speak for him, but since this question seems to be a generic one aimed at #NeverTrump in general, I’ll answer for myself. I’d have supported the Republican in every election since certainly 1952, and most of them before that as well. I’d happily have supported most of the other candidates in the nomination – maybe not Carson/Huckabee/Santorum(I’m no bible-thumper), but even then I’d probably have taken them over Clinton. The rest were certainly all tolerable.

            I never got the impression from any of the aforementioned people, from Ike Eisenhower down to Jim Gilmore, that they were anything other than serious people who intended to treat the nation’s problems with respect. Many had and have the usual vices of politicians – being power-hungry, dishonest, egotistical, amoral, and so on – but they took the responsibility seriously, they thought about issues, and they cared about the nation. I don’t think any of those things are true of Trump. He cares about very little besides himself, he has no observable interest in or expertise with public policy, no externally observable ideology or principles, and by all accounts he ran mostly to spite his opponents and show off a bit. Someone who is that cavalier about the job of being commander-in-chief of the most powerful force in human history should not have the job.

          • E. Harding says:

            “but they took the responsibility seriously, they thought about issues, and they cared about the nation”

            -I think the same is true of Trump.

            “He cares about very little besides himself,”

            -I think Trump cares at least a bit about the country. He suffered a great deal financially from running, and has talked about America being a losing country that needs to start winning since forever.

            “he has no observable interest in or expertise with public policy,”

            -Clearly not the case; his remarks are peppered with unconventional thoughts about public policy.

            “no externally observable ideology or principles,”

            -Same for Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, and George H.W. Bush.

            “and by all accounts he ran mostly to spite his opponents and show off a bit.”

            -What accounts? Given the fact Trump is the Republican nominee, I’m pretty certain he ran to win.

            “Someone who is that cavalier about the job of being commander-in-chief of the most powerful force in human history should not have the job.”

            -I don’t see Trump as particularly cavalier about the job of President.

            You focus entirely on stylistic issues here.

          • blacktrance says:

            I’d enthusiastically vote for Gary Johnson, if he counts – he started out as a Republican in 2012. I’d also vote for Ron Paul (with some reservations) and Rand Paul (with strong reservations). The differences between them and Trump are relatively obvious.

          • E. Harding says:

            Why Gary enthusiastically, but Rand with strong reservations?

          • anon says:

            I can guess why some people (generally left-libertarians of a squishier bent) have reservations about the Pauls, compared to Gary.

            First, Gary is genuinely socially liberal in a way the Pauls are not, to the point where it sometimes brings him into tension with actual libertarian beliefs (gay cakes, etc.) I’m not sure what Gary’s stated position on abortion is, but I think he’s probably pretty far — in his heart of hearts — from either the elder or the younger Paul.

            Second, Ron Paul’s published skepticism about the Civil Rights Act (which I think is actually a well-thought out and quite possibly correct position, and maybe even correct from both deontological *and* consequentialist philosophical perspectives on libertarianism), together with his decades-long presence on the political fringes, has given the Paul brand an undeserved association with racism.

            Third, liberaltarian-types are mostly insufficiently radical by nature to question the very foundations of modern monetary policy, so Ron Paul’s Fed-skepticism makes them uneasy. (This is a case where I am personally divided. I’m very skeptical about the Fed’s actual performance, but for some reason when it comes to macroeconomics I am instinctively more open to a “variance-based” argument of the sort SSC attempted to make in the OP regarding foreign policy. I think this might be simple irrationality on my part, though.)

            Finally, for some left-libertarians, the fact that Rand Paul has chosen to work firmly within the GOP (while still fighting them on a number of libertarian-important issues, especially civil liberties) sullies his brand. Even Ron Paul is less damaged by GOP-association since he was never really cooperative with the party leadership on anything.

            Suffice it to say, I personally think most of these arguments against the Pauls actually aren’t that convincing. If Rand had chosen to run on the LP ticket it would have been risky for his future career int he GOP, but he’d probably be polling considerably higher than Gary right now.

          • blacktrance says:

            Not a complete list, and not in order of importance: Rand Paul is pro-life, wouldn’t pardon Snowden, is too anti-Fed, opposes same-sex marriage, and favors a more restrictive immigration policy than Johnson. In general, he’s too conservative, though still much better than most Republicans, and preferable to Clinton.

          • boy says:

            Literally any of the other Republican nominees would be vastly better than Trump and I would seriously consider voting for Jeb or Kasich because of the shady stuff going on around Hillary. Trump is probably the worst presidential candidate it’s possible to have. He appears to be completely incompetent, ignorant and totally lacking a moral compass. He does not seem to be a rational actor with any sort of understanding of reality.

          • E. Harding says:

            “I would seriously consider voting for Jeb or Kasich because of the shady stuff going on around Hillary”

            -Unlike Trump, these people actually advocated for pre-emptive strikes on North Korea not over a dozen years ago, but this year. Both of them also advocated overthrowing the Syrian government and “punch[ing] Russia in the nose” (Kasich’s phrase) not hypothetically, but in reality. Are you really comfortable with that? Or do you just hate their substance, but love their maternal style? I find this modal college-educated focus on style over substance to be truly childish.

            “He does not seem to be a rational actor with any sort of understanding of reality.”

            -His understanding of reality led him to win the Republican nomination with massive competition. I say that’s a sufficient understanding. Trump also seems a reasonably rational actor in foreign policy, more so than any other GOP candidate.

            “incompetent, ignorant and totally lacking a moral compass”

            -That fairly describes most politicians. What’s your point?

          • Jill says:

            Almost all of the “shady stuff going on around Hillary” never happened. There is no evidence for most of it. Most of it is just accusations made by Right Wing media to smear her. She’s been bashed by Right Wing media 24/7/365 for decades, as well as by supposedly Left Wing media like the NYT. Because Left Wing media is actually media that contains a few articles/programs that are Left Wing and lots of Right Wing ones.

            Even an actual criminal, which Hillary certainly is not, couldn’t provide that much material for bashing. So most of it had to be made up.

          • E. Harding says:

            I repeat my call for Jill and TheWorst to be banned. They are blind partisans who have shown no respect for reason and evidence.

            How many pro-Trump editorials and op-eds has the NYT published this year? One? Two? How many pro-Clinton editorials and op-eds has the NYT published this year? Several dozen.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            That’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

            You’re not a bad poster most of the time, but you’re the last person who gets to label others as blind partisans. You do the same thing Jill does: go into turbo-overdrive posting mode, repeating the same points over and over, until people are sick of responding.

            It’s really annoying even to those who agree with you. Once you’ve gotten first post, you don’t have to worry that other people missed your point. It’s literally at the top of the page.

            Edit: Ok, see E Harding? That’s you right now ↓↓↓↓

          • Jill says:

            “How many pro-Trump editorials and op-eds has the NYT published this year? One? Two? How many pro-Clinton editorials and op-eds has the NYT published this year? Several dozen.”

            True. I don’t deny that. But Trump has gotten billions of dollars of free media coverage. How much has Hillary gotten? And the Trump free media coverage just lets him spout off however he wants, almost never challenging him on his constant lying. So it’s basically giving him free advertising and acting as if his lies are true.

            http://politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/

            And the NYT probably has published MORE articles critical of Clinton than articles that are positive about her. The NYT, like everyone else, publishes articles about rumor and innuendo, with no substance and no evidence. Hillary has gotten far far more negative coverage from the press than Trump has. The NYT publishes numerous Right Wing editorials and articles, as does just about every other media outlet.

            There is virtually NO Left Wing media.

            http://www.mediaite.com/online/msnbc-now-openly-bragging-about-abandoning-its-liberal-brand-in-new-ad/

          • E. Harding says:

            “but you’re the last person who gets to label others as blind partisans.”

            -You may call me chronically wrong, but I do not think you can ever fairly call me a blind partisan. I supported Kerry in 2004, Clinton on the Democratic and Paul on the Republican side in 2008, then McCain because I thought he would result in endless gridlock, Paul, then Obama in 2012, and Trump in 2016 (there’s a greater than 50% chance I would not have supported Rubio had he been the nominee). I’m considering voting for the Democratic representative in my congressional district because I don’t like the establishment Republican who’s currently occupying it. I do agree, though, that every Trump supporting Republican or Republican-leaner should support the Republican candidate in every U.S. Senate race this year, no matter if he or she is a serial child rapist or worse. The House is much less worrisome, and Ryan deserves to be pressured.

            “You’re not a bad poster most of the time,”

            -Thanks.

            @Jill

            “But Trump has gotten billions of dollars of free media coverage.”

            -Do you understand that quite a bit of this was free negative advertising against him?

            “And the Trump free media coverage just lets him spout off however he wants, almost never challenging him on his constant lying.”

            -Just the opposite. When has Clinton been called out for lying for saying trickle-down economics led to the housing crash? CNN is notorious for its chyrons which say that Obama didn’t found the Islamic State (fact-check: he did).

            “And the NYT probably has published MORE articles critical of Clinton than articles that are positive about her.”

            -Go ahead; check.

            “Hillary has gotten far far more negative coverage from the press than Trump has.”

            -Fact-check: false.

            “Ok, see E Harding? That’s you right now ↓↓↓↓”

            -[shrugs.] Better to have gotten my point across fully than not have gotten it across at all.

          • “They are blind partisans who have shown no respect for reason and evidence.”

            Not a sufficient reason for banning.

          • Jill says:

            “They are blind partisans who have shown no respect for reason and evidence.”

            If everyone was banned who someone else characterized in this way, the comment board would be completely empty. LOL.

          • Jill wrote:

            “supposedly Left Wing media like the NYT. Because Left Wing media is actually media that contains a few articles/programs that are Left Wing and lots of Right Wing ones.”

            E. Harding responded:

            “How many pro-Trump editorials and op-eds has the NYT published this year? One? Two? How many pro-Clinton editorials and op-eds has the NYT published this year? Several dozen.”

            Jill responded:

            “True. I don’t deny that. But Trump has gotten billions of dollars of free media coverage.”

            Or in other words, confronted with the evidence, you admit that your claim (“contains a few articles/programs that are Left Wing and lots of Right Wing ones.”) was false. But instead of saying so you replace it with a different claim.

            Incidentally, an irrelevant one. Trump is good at getting media attention. That says nothing about whether the media are right wing, left wing, or neither.

          • Jill says:

            LOL, E. Harding. Next you are going to say”

            We live on earth.

            Fact check, FALSE

            Where do you get your fact checks from– Hannity on Fox?

          • Jill says:

            Or in other words, confronted with the evidence, you admit that your claim (“contains a few articles/programs that are Left Wing and lots of Right Wing ones.”) was false. But instead of saying so you replace it with a different claim.

            No, my original claim was true. That was an additional claim, not a replacement claim. If you don’t think the NYT has lots of Right Wing economics and other Right Wing articles, then you must not read it. I do.

          • Jill says:

            “incompetent, ignorant and totally lacking a moral compass”

            “-That fairly describes most politicians. What’s your point?”

            That’s a false equivalence. That doesn’t describe Hillary in the least. She’s highly competent, knowledgeable, and has a moral compass, though she is not perfect.

            People who are not fundamentalist believers in the First Church of Trump find it obvious that Hillary is at least 10X more competent, knowledgeable, and moral than Trump, with respect to matters of economics and politics.

          • E. Harding says:

            “She’s highly competent, knowledgeable, and has a moral compass, though she is not perfect.”

            -I’ve seen zero evidence for even the least bit of any of this. She has a high IQ and is good at debate. That’s it. No competence (look at Her handling of healthcare reform, Her refusal to renounce Her Iraq War vote in 2008, etc.), no real knowledge, and absolutely no moral compass known to man. Trump may not have a moral compass, but he is fairly competent for his lack of knowledge.

          • Stav says:

            Evidence for HRC’s competency:

            “Of course, as Colin Powell and Cordell Hull learned, a secretary of state without presidential support has trouble getting much done. How successful was Clinton in winning and holding the confidence of her chief and in persuading Obama to accept her ideas as the basis for foreign policy?

            While she did not win all the battles she fought — the president resisted her counsel on Syria, and she failed to persuade him to back Richard Holbrooke’s diplomatic efforts in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region — she managed the relationship successfully and won his trust, to the point that the president wanted her to stay on the job well into his second term. This outcome was not a given; Clinton’s association with Obama began in their bitter 2008 Democratic nominating contest, and her success at building a strong relationship with a president not known for embracing new friends or Washington insiders testifies to her formidable interpersonal skills.

            Similarly, her strong ties with former defense secretary Robert M. Gates and former CIA chief David H. Petraeus ensured that the State Department was rarely isolated in the policy process. And while other Cabinet departments sometimes resisted her efforts to assert State’s primacy on issues of interest to them, she was more successful than many of her recent predecessors at ensuring that her agency had a voice at the table for key discussions on economic diplomacy and counterterrorism.” (WP, “Was Hillary Clinton a good secretary of state?”)

          • E. Harding says:

            So, competent at increasing Her influence? That’s very much a double-edged sword, and I meant something a tad more concrete than something so broad. I’m not feeling any increase in confidence in Her potential presidency by reading that.

          • bean says:

            @Jill:

            But Trump has gotten billions of dollars of free media coverage.

            How much free media coverage did Nixon get during Watergate?

          • LPSP says:

            So, competent at increasing Her influence? That’s very much a double-edged sword

            I’ve been largely aligned with your stance in these last two threads, but uh, isn’t this largely one of your props for why Trump is rational and sane, that he competently increased his self-influence in business and the Republican nomination?

          • E. Harding says:

            “I’ve been largely aligned with your stance in these last two threads, but uh, isn’t this largely one of your props for why Trump is rational and sane, that he competently increased his self-influence in business and the Republican nomination?”

            -Yes, but I’ve never denied Clinton is “rational and sane”. I still strongly doubt Her competence.

      • Theo Jones says:

        I think Trump has opinions on a wide range of issue (military policy, trade,immigration, domestic economic policy…) that fundamentally contradict what I think good policy is. So, it would take a lot of convincing on those issues. Plus Trump has been pretty good at demonstrating erratic behaviour, so , you would have to demonstrate that he actually has sufficient self-control and restraint to effectively govern.

        • E. Harding says:

          The test is multiple choice, man. Politics is the art of the possible. The question is, is any other candidate’s policies superior? Scott casts Trump as the worst of the four significant party nominees. I consider him to be the best of the four significant party nominees.

          BTW, Scott should have been doing this during the primary.

          • Theo Jones says:

            “The question is, is any other candidate’s policies superior? ”

            Yes. Hillary wants to keep with the current trade policy (although, unfortunately she backed away from the TPP during the primary), making her policy preferences on this issue better than both Trump and Stein. She wants to keep largely the status quo on immigration instead of radically tightening policy. (making her policy positions better than everyone except Johnson. She hasn’t had the erratic behaviour of Trump that would make him ineffective at best at diplomacy. Nor does she have the extreme anti-war at all cost isolationist views of Stein or Johnson.

          • E. Harding says:

            Theo, are you some kind of parody? Your supposed views seem like a stereotype of DC insider viewpoints made up one Saturday evening by Ricky_Vaughn99. In any case, Clinton does not want the status quo on immigration; she explicitly rejects it. She says illegals should be considered Americans, too, and that she would only deport the most violent criminals. She also supported Obama’s executive action.

            “She hasn’t had the erratic behaviour of Trump that would make him ineffective at best at diplomacy.”

            -I’m sure calling Putin the great godfather of Brexit and Trump, as well as saying she’d call the 1980s and the 1940s and ask for their foreign policy back, is not exactly the most diplomatic language as it relates to the second-largest nuclear power on earth.

      • (I agree with you)

        White people refuse to love anyone except for Blacks and Hispanics, and as soon as the broad asian diaspora realizes that left-wing white people refuse to protect any one except for the “bad kids”, there will be a mass defection. Hopefully war,

        (small minority of politically powerful leftist whites holding down every one, we have a common enemy, hopefully a war is en route, they are too old to fight a war)

        I’m voting for Trump because he is not Anglo-Saxon(moms) politically, and he refuses to put the priorities of the ‘bad kids’ before the good kids. It’s well known in the bay area among asian kids that they say “Don’t hang out with white people,” or “White people only care about themselves”, “White people are just using us”, there’s already tons of resentment.

        At least he will equalize racial relations. I have high hopes for him invigorating a reinvigorated movement. I wish he would just say Leftists just prefer black people over asian people, and he could potentially win all asian states. For god fucking sake if only he would do this.

        Trump would reduce the demand for anti-white racism from POV of asians (Loyal allies) as opposed to the bad kids that say they want to kill you, actually dislike you, DO try to kill you, and physically intimidate, and riot against white people. White progressives are losing the only allies they had.

        • Anonymous says:

          You could have just said you are voting for Trump because NOWAG. It would have saved a bunch of typing.

          • I’m not attracted to white girls at all. How to defeat white people (notice they’re too old to fight a war)

            A) Protect jewish/southerners/irish people B) All non-white ethnic groups will side w/ each-other with us making deals for the honest white races who have been genuinely left out.

            C) Let jewish people use propaganda & be special forces , max asymptotic damage
            D) European states will ally with us against their degenerate progressives anyways. /done deal.

            E) Import Dutch/Germans people (my favorite white people)

          • Your best white men decided to love me, a foreigner, over you. They would rather die for me, than their own middle class, I love them too. girls, are just a bunch of hoes, your best men sold you, your country, your traditions, your descendents, your hopes for a better life out, and all your ancestors out for me. I love them.

            If it makes you feel better, gay white men, which their are shockingly a lot of, are attracted to middle eastern men the most. The sad reality is that every gay male are attracted to middle eastern men, so the sad look of these white men as they strike out with those damn middle easterners. What a shame. If you argue that standard sexuality has higher % so your argument wins out, I would argue that gay white men are proportionally that much more powerful than the quantitative ratio preferring your argument, in fact it just might put me in the lead.

            White women sold their own men out and destroyed their country by attraction to socialism, feminism(destroying white families), communism, marxism, and other B.S. destabilizing the white family. They might be attracted to you sexually, but they weren’t mentally, they chose us too. Now immigrants make your women into sex slaves. Good job retards, but you’re getting laid(not). It’ll all be over soon.

          • Skef says:

            @SanguineEmpiricist: “gay white men, which their are shockingly a lot of, are attracted to middle eastern men the most. The sad reality is that every gay male are attracted to middle eastern men, so the sad look of these white men as they strike out with those damn middle easterners.”

            I dunno, a lot of the studies establishing primary attraction to middle easterners were retrospective, so …

          • Sandy says:

            Ok, I am finally onboard with the accusation that Scott has let too many crazies in here.

          • Clearly a left winger this pretending to be crazy to smear Trump supporters…

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I have no idea what SanguineEmpiricist is saying, but fine, whatever, banned for three months

        • Sandy says:

          I wish he would just say Leftists just prefer black people over asian people, and he could potentially win all asian states.

          There is a grand total of one Asian state.

          • That state tends to be an important one, and even better, we’re willing to kill them to just move on, and we’ll cut the deal to protect all white people who have been left out of the current discourse. Unbelievable we would have to protect their own lower/middle class from their own treasonous elite, but white people never cared too much about family anyways.

        • You’re trying way too hard to mash up some heterodox sentimental/ethical argument with modern racial dynamics. Just because you’ve read very non-PC (but perhaps true) outlines of current race dynamics, and are also smart enough to put together crafty moral arguments unrelated to mainstream views, doesn’t make you right. It’s fun to concoct strange clever arguments no one else holds — it’s often unrelated to reality.

          The way you casually write about white men, Jews, Asians, gay men, competing sexual interests, and a desire for war, as though it encompasses and captures the primary parameters of our current nation, issues, and future, is absurd.

      • Galle says:

        For me? Trump would basically have to say “Psyche!” and then start openly mocking his supporters for thinking that any presidential candidate could REALLY be as terrible as he was pretending to be before I could even consider it.

      • TheWorst says:

        Remember in 2012, when Trump ran for president but everyone–including yourself, I strongly suspect–noticed that he is a clown?

        Nothing has changed outside of the tribal signalling complex. Anyone who’s even mildly rational won’t have changed their opinion about him since then, because he hasn’t changed in the slightest.

        • E. Harding says:

          “Anyone who’s even mildly rational won’t have changed their opinion about him since then, because he hasn’t changed in the slightest.”

          -He’s substantially changed his mind on the Libya intervention, has become a big immigration hawk, ended his friendship with Mitt (in fact, he became an enemy), helped crush political correctness, and has stopped his birtherism. That’s enough for me.

          • TheWorst says:

            There’s no evidence he’s done any of those; the details of the flimflam he’s marketing are slightly different, but I was talking about the man, not his marketing ploy. Since he’s the same person now that he was in 2012, there’s no reason to support him now that didn’t exist in 2012. Did you do so?

            If so, can you provide some evidence of it? If not, will you admit that everything you’re doing here is empty tribal signalling?

      • LPSP says:

        What I think the response to this indicates is that – at least for this demographic – Trump has already converted everyone who can be converted. All that’s left are those innately unamenable to what he stands for.

      • Titanium Dragon says:

        There’s nothing that could make me vote for Trump. Actions speak louder than words, and his actions and words are both absolutely awful.

        Same goes for Johnson and Stein.

        Clinton is competent and close to my political stances on many things. She isn’t perfectly aligned with them, but she’s as closely aligned as I can reasonably hope any president to be. And again, Clinton’s actions inspire confidence that she’ll be a boring-but-effective president.

    • E. Harding says:

      Overall, I think the summary on Trump at least attempted to be thorough and skeptical (though sometimes it did have some misleading omissions). Hillary’s foreign policy is under-analyzed here (only three bullet points for Her; 12 points for Trump) and it often veers into

      I am not qualified to judge Hillary’s work as Secretary of State, but I expect her to play by the book.

      -Which sounds a lot like

      Just replace the assumption that everything will work itself out once power is in the hands of the workers, with the assumption that everything will work itself out once power is in the hands of “people who play by the book and consult the foreign policy community”. Just replace the hand-waving lack of plans with what to do after the Revolution with a hand-waving lack of plans what to do after the election.

      -Of course, that’s assuming the “foreign policy community” is not systemically erroneous, or that it’s something that’s worth listening to without a sound Trumpian, or at least Obamaite skepticism (personally, I’d prefer if Trump had an even greater level of skepticism of it). It assumes Hillary Clinton does not have advisors this shockingly ignorant (she does):
      https://twitter.com/rosenbergerlm/status/773684010526601216

      All in all, it ignores too much of the Obama administration’s and the foreign policy establishment’s past failures and present dubious ideas. It expects the “foreign policy community” to somehow behave differently once they have a president who’s far more ready to listen to them than Barack Obama (who has repeatedly ignored them, preferring to go by his own version of Trumpian/Putinist realism) has. It puts far too much faith in it, and does not thoroughly examine the accomplishments and failures of the Obama administration. It has a reasonable standard for Trump, but a much lower standard for establishment thinkers.

      And it omits the crucial issues of Ukraine, the South China Sea, Her plans for North Korea, and only touches on Clinton’s roles in Libya and Syria as Secretary of State. It doesn’t even discuss U.S.-Iranian relations under a potential Clinton presidency or the candidates’ statements on Cuba. So I think this post should have been more focused on Clinton and have covered more than three foreign policy issues on her side.

      • Jiro says:

        And let’s count some non-foreign policy issues. TPP (actually, I guess that’s foreign policy, although not military foreign policy). Citizens United (and the general question of nominating another Supreme Court justice). Immigration. And I’m far more ready to believe Trump is better on gun rights than Hillary, no-fly list notwithstanding.

        I also think that Scott is too quick to say “sure, it could be macho posturing, but Trump is a high variance candidate so I have to worry about it just in case.” It fails to take into account differences in speaking style between both 1) lower-class and upper-class, and 2) reds and blues. Scott needs to take that into account and discount the variance.

        • herbert herbertson says:

          Is Trump lower class? Does he have any Red State bonafides beyond some involvement in professional wrestling and the overwhelming hatred he receives from the Blue?

          • The Nybbler says:

            He also used to own the Miss Universe pageant. Given his background, it certainly makes no sense for Trump to be culturally Red or even anti-Blue. But he is. If it’s mere affectation, it’s one he’s been maintaining for decades.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            And yet Mr. Dilbert tells me that the reason Trump sounds like a crazy prick to me is that I don’t understand the particularities of New York City’s culture.

          • Jiro says:

            Actually, Trump has struck me as acting like what a lower class person would act if he came into a lot of money.

          • Fahundo says:

            As an uneducated red-stater, I resent the insinuation that we speak like Trump does.

          • LPSP says:

            Trump is a pretty even mix of Reaver and Cavalier in style (to use these labels very broadly – Trump is notably german in descent, which probably deserves further division in analysis than the British migrants did). Reavers outnumber Cavaliers and thus Trump shapes his rhetoric to them, but his lifestyle is cavalier-core.

      • Alsadius says:

        The foreign policy community has made some blunders over the years, but they’ve generally been in charge of American foreign policy since at least WW2, and they haven’t blown up the world yet. They’re a known commodity – you’ll get a major local war every couple decades, a brushfire intervention every few years, and nothing worse. I can live with that. Preemptive strikes on nations that can wipe major parts of important allies off the map in an hour or two? That’s not a mistake that the mandarins would ever make.

    • Alsadius says:

      > Nothing wrong with [destroying ISIS], though I’m pretty sure a mere 5000 combat troops would do the job

      You know that the last time the US fought a serious campaign against ISIS, we had 150,000 troops on the job, they were weaker than they are now, we had more public support and better logistical agreements with the Iraqis, and it still took years to destroy them, right?

    • Ryan Beren says:

      > -I.e., unlike Clinton, he changes his mind in response to new evidence.

      LOL. Given how disconnected this statement appears to be from reality, I’m inclined to reject the points you had made up to that howler as likely suffering from the same disconnect. But I’d like to verify. Is there some justification for the idea that Trump changes his mind in response to evidence?

      • Alsadius says:

        Well he changes his mind in response to being asked exactly the same question a second time, so presumably he does it for evidence too…

      • E. Harding says:

        Yes. First he said that, as a result of the start of the Iraq War, the stock market would go up like a rocket. A few days after that, he expressed doubt about the success of how the Iraq War was going. By the 9/11/03, he was saying “It wasn’t a mistake to fight terrorism and fight it hard, and I guess maybe if I had to do it, I would have fought terrorism but not necessarily Iraq.”, which is far less supportive of the Iraq War than most Republicans at the time, certainly less supportive of the Iraq War than Mike Pence.

        http://www.factcheck.org/2016/02/donald-trump-and-the-iraq-war/

      • cassander says:

        He radically re-organized his campaign a month ago after losing a lot of ground post convention.

        • Alsadius says:

          Fair point – he’s certainly done well with reorganizing his campaign, at least by comparison to where it was before. Does raise some questions about his ability to hire “the best people” that he had to sack two campaign managers in the space of a few months, of course, but Conway seems to actually be doing well for him.

          • Alraune says:

            Paul Manafort was very much considered a “best person” by political insiders. (Also not uncommonly compared to Mephistopheles.) Apparently they were wrong, at least once the convention was over, but he was following best practices in making that hire.

          • cassander says:

            I think the likeliest story is that he assumed what worked in the primary would work in the general. Sure, plenty of people said this was wrong, but they were the same people (and I was one of them), who said he’d never get the nomination in the first place. So he didn’t change, it didn’t work, and so he re-organized. No one hires the right people every time, what’s important is the ability and willingness to replace people who don’t work out.

          • Alsadius says:

            Alraune: Of course he tries to hire the best people – everyone tries. But given that a big part of his self-described brand is hiring the best, the fact that his first campaign manager assaulted a reporter and his second was in the pay of a foreign dictator is hardly a great sign of his skills in this field. It’d be one thing if these were random minions, but these are the campaign managers, the #1 most important spot he can hire at this point. Just how bad are his down-ticket picks?

          • Alraune says:

            Oh for christ’s sake. Manafort is a snake and was working to subvert democracy in the Ukraine, but he was working to subvert democracy on behalf of the US government. Enough with the red-baiting.

          • E. Harding says:

            “was working to subvert democracy in the Ukraine”

            -[citation needed]

    • MugaSofer says:

      “Trump seems to have been in favor of even more dramatic intervention than Obama eventually allowed.”

      -No; Obama did everything Trump described then except keep and protect the oil.

      In what way is “maintain a permanent military presence across most of the country, with the explicit purpose of looting them” not “more dramatic” than what we did?

      In any event, given that Trump now claims that removing Gadaffi was a massive mistake and blames it on Clinton (which is reasonable), it follows that he would have made the same massive mistake – hardly a ringing endorsement of his peaceloving ways.

      • E. Harding says:

        Ah; but he would have kept the oil, and, presumably, in order to protect the oil, protected the post-Gaddafi Libyan democratic government (which was surprisingly successful for its year and a half or so of rough control over the country) from falling into instability. So he might have made different mistakes, but not the exact same ones as the Clinton/Obama team actually made.

        • Julian says:

          Why is the oil so important?

          The US is the third largest producer of oil in the world (and essentially tied with Saudi Arabia who is number 1).

          Oil’s importance on the global stage has never been lower since human started using it for fuel. Every time you or Trump bring this up I imagine you have been transported fr0m 1978 to 2016.

          • John Schilling says:

            Be fair; he could have been transported from as recently as 2007. But I agree that the current round of crises all occurred in an environment where we’d be perfectly fine with all of the affected oil left inaccessibly buried under a permanent war zone.

          • TheWorst says:

            Every time you or Trump bring this up I imagine you have been transported fr0m 1978 to 2016.

            I think the simpler, likelier answer is that he is either stupid or lying… or just so heavily invested in the right-wing fever swamp that he’s panicking when his false beliefs are called into question.

            A wiser person would think the proper response was to adopt non-false beliefs, but I guess panicking is more human.

        • Jon D says:

          On “keeping the oil”: this is a point I’ve seen made many times in these comments, but “taking the oil” is “pillage” which is a war crime. Not that the US military involvement in the Middle East since 2003 has been free of war crime (both Bush and Obama Administrations are guilty), but hey. Let’s not add another one to the pile.

          • E. Harding says:

            Another example of what our host claims may be the worst argument in the world:

            http://lesswrong.com/lw/e95/the_noncentral_fallacy_the_worst_argument_in_the/

          • Fahundo says:

            Invading and taking the oil strikes me as a central example of pillaging. Unless you mean to say that pillaging is a particularly inoffensive war crime? Might need to show the work on that one.

          • Jon D says:

            Another example of what our host claims may be the worst argument in the world:

            http://lesswrong.com/lw/e95/the_noncentral_fallacy_the_worst_argument_in_the/

            Fair! To make long-hand what I had presumed, incorrectly, was adequate in the short:

            1. Taking Iraq as case-study here, and taking as assumption that the majority of oil fields in the country are leased to private corporations (they are), then forcibly taking the oil from the ground as an invading and conquering force constitutes what is internationally agreed upon as “pillage”, which is internationally agreed upon to be a “war crime”. I’m not saying this for emotional effect, i.e. “taking the oil would be racist”. I’m saying that an international court would be well within its legal bounds to call such an action a war crime, which would be a violation of multiple international agreements, including the Geneva Convention and the Charter of the International Military Tribunal of Nuremburg. I believe that these international agreements do global good, and explicit American support for these international agreements to that extent is valuable. I believe that openly advocating pillage undermines these institutions, which I believe does more harm globally than the degree to which whatever recompense we would find in “taking the oil” would be of global benefit. If we disagree here I’m afraid we’ll be at an impasse. I will admit here again that previous and recent Administrations have committed war-crime in the very same region, but I stand in opposition to these cases as well.

            2. I will admit to an appeal to emotion in equating “taking the oil” to “war crime”, but I do not believe that is out of bounds. As Fahundo points to, pillage is a fairly central war crime. I understand the appeal of liberating the oil fields of Daesh and using those funds to scour out the nihilist insurgency. However, if we are to cling to whatever shred of purpose we have for being in the region in the first place — stabilizing the region — then that oil rightfully belongs to the Iraqi people. To reach an agreement with the Iraqi government to subcontract those oil fields for American extraction would be one thing; but to take the oil by force directly from the cold dead hands of ISIL would be a betrayal of the Iraqi people, whose lives we are ostensibly there to improve.

      • cassander says:

        >In what way is “maintain a permanent military presence across most of the country, with the explicit purpose of looting them” not “more dramatic” than what we did?

        At the very least, there would be one group in charge of the country, not several fighting for control.

        >In any event, given that Trump now claims that removing Gadaffi was a massive mistake and blames it on Clinton (which is reasonable), it follows that he would have made the same massive mistake – hardly a ringing endorsement of his peaceloving ways.

        Clinton is still claiming it was a successs.

        • radmonger says:

          Relatively speaking, Libya _was_ a success; which out of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria would you rather live in?

          Pretty sure it was cheaper than Syria in terms of cost to the taxpayer too, and certainly several orders of magnitude under the other two.

          Is there some objective, fact-based argument to the contrary? Or it is a matter of abstract principles being correct leading to a party that supports those principles being correct leading to whatever they do being correct?

          • anon says:

            One point to make is that your accounting might be leaving out the European migrant crisis, which has certainly cost lots of money and political headaches. (Hard to imagine that those add up to anything approaching Iraq, but still. Also I grant that Syria and Turkish politics play some role in the migrant crisis as well. But some part of it is genuinely Libya-related.)

            Another point to make is that even if Afghanistan, Syria, and (some parts of) Iraq may be worse places to live right now, Libya is still not a place you want to live right now.

            Your arguments are damning the policy with *extremely* faint praise.

          • cassander says:

            >Relatively speaking, Libya _was_ a success; which out of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria would you rather live in?

            No, it wasn’t. A country was destroyed. the international non-proliferation regimes was undermined. the syrian civil war was exacerbated. Tens of thousands are dead in a civil war that shows no signs of ending. chaos and refugees have spread. Nothing useful was accomplished. That it was relatively cheap is irrelevant. Libya today is as bad off as Syria, just on a smaller scale because there are fewer people.

          • radmonger says:

            > Libya today is as bad off as Syria,

            Sorry, this is simply an indication you are either using strongly motivated reasoning, or have utterly no idea what you are talking about. Over the period of the war, Syria has dropped in population from 22 million to 16 million. Heavy military air strikes that destroy all the hospitals in a (former) city of 2 million barely make the news. And if someone said they had a plan to bring it to an end within 3 years they’d be an optimist.

            Meanwhile, in Libya there was a ceasefire late last year, which has held since. It might break, and 3 sets of foreign powers might back 4 different factions trying to massacre their way to power. If that happens, and keeps on happening for 5 years, then Libya would be as bad as Syria.

          • cassander says:

            @radmonger

            >Sorry, this is simply an indication you are either using strongly motivated reasoning, or have utterly no idea what you are talking about. Over the period of the war, Syria has dropped in population from 22 million to 16

            Of a population of 6 million, Libya had internal displacement of at least a million 2 years ago. More accurate numbers are had to come by because libya receives much less international attention, the sheer size of the size and, and the low population density. There is a multi-sided civil war going on that has killed tens of thousands. Fewer than in syria, true, but from a much smaller population

            >Meanwhile, in Libya there was a ceasefire late last year, which has held since. It might break, and 3 sets of foreign powers might back 4 different factions trying to massacre their way to

            a ceasefire that doesn’t actually stop the fighting is not much of a ceasefire.

            Libya is a less important country than syria, with fewer important neighbors, and fewer people. But it’s just as fucked up as Syria is.

    • Vilgot Huhn says:

      “Unlike Clinton, he changes his mind in response to new evidence. I prefer that to changing your mind about the benefit of any foreign policy intervention you helped out in, whether directly or indirectly, only a decade after it has passed (as is true for Clinton).”
      When saying stupid things Trump has often responded with denying having said the stupid things he has previously said. On confrontation on him saying that “climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese” he has not responded with “I used to believe that, but now I have changed my mind”, he instead responded with “I never said that”. There are several other examples. I am convinced you, E. Harding, would be able to name 15 if you actually tried.

      • AnonBosch says:

        An simpler question would be to ask: where has Trump explicitly changed his mind and discussed his reasons for doing so? As far as I know (and I would seriously welcome correction, as it’s one of my largest worries about the ~25-40% probability he gets elected) he simply adopts a new position and denies he ever held the old one, while waiting for his surrogates and the Red Tribe to crowdsource a rationale for why the two are totally consistent + a false equivalency for Hillary.

        • Jill says:

          You are correct. That’s what he does. If we weren’t immersed in Right Wing propaganda, everyone would be aware that Trump does this. But we are immersed in Right Wing propaganda that keeps telling us that the media is overwhelmingly Left biased.

          I guess it helps convince people to believe your propaganda, if you convince them that the other side is lying and is also overwhelming in its size and power.

        • TheWorst says:

          I don’t know of any time when he’s admitted to changing his mind, but it’s certainly true that he’s been for and against basically any position you can be for or against.

          Which is why, I suspect, talk about his “policies” is senseless posturing–I don’t think that, in reality, anyone has any idea what his personal policies as President would be. The safe bet seems to be that he’d attempt to swindle as much of other people’s money into his own pocket as possible–it’s essentially the only thing he’s ever done in his life, whether as a candidate, head of a fraudulent charitable institution, or a fraudulent college, or as a real estate developer.

          What would Trump do as president? Aside from trying to spend lots of money on Trump properties, no one has much evidence in any direction. It seems unlikely that he has any idea, either.

          • mtraven says:

            Amen. Scott is being charitable in giving serious consideration to Trump’s alleged policy preferences, but there is such a thing as too much epistemic charity.

    • JShots says:

      E. Harding is inferring a lot of nuance from a person who so incredibly lacks any understanding of nuance. Also this line – “unlike Clinton, he changes his mind in response to new evidence”. How many times have we heard Trump defiantly hold his stance on topics that he was unequivocally proven wrong about? Or there’s also the times where he tweets out statements or “facts” when there is an absolute lack of evidence. All it should really take with any sane voter is to go into google and search “dumb Trump tweets” to realize he’s unfit. I feel like I need to state that this is no defense of Clinton, just a rebuff of Trump. Anyways, I can hardly think of this post as being the new vein of critical thought on foreign policy advice that is hinted at the end.

  2. Richard says:

    I’m less worried about going to war than about going to war incompetently.

    By all means, I think the US would have been better off without all the wars after 2001, and that one should only go to war for extremely good reasons, but when you do, you need to leave it to the professionals and not mess it all up with political interference.

    Trump has a long history of hiring the best people for the job at hand and leaving the details to them, Hillary has not.

    • Zombielicious says:

      Trump has a long history of hiring the best people for the job at hand and leaving the details to them, Hillary has not.

      Can you provide some credible evidence for this? I would think the opposite is true. As pointed out previously, look at stuff like his campaign and charity, which seem to be consistently incompetent and with high turnover rates. Without even getting in to stuff like Trump University – why resort to borderline (or actual) fraud when you have a talent for “hiring the best people” and can create a business producing actual value?

      I’ve seen no evidence that Trump actually has a talent for surrounding himself with a network of talented people. He simply repeats the statement often. But I’m willing to reconsider if I’ve simply missed a boatload of evidence that this is his talent.

      • pku says:

        More generally, something that bothers me about assuming Trump’s business success will make him a good president (and in particular, a good negotiator with other countries) is his manner of business: His businesses all seem to rely on selling to poorer people (often selling scam goods or unrealistic dreams, like casinos or reality TV. Even in his buildings, it seems like half the value is in the brand.) His money doesn’t come from making profitable deals with other rich people. Actually, other rich people (and definitely other politicians) seem to despise him.
        If we assume that he presides (presidents?) like he does business (which seems a questionable assumption at best), we would expect his marketing to voters to be significantly better than his actual quality as president, and have no reason to expect he’d be effective at negotiating good trade deals and the like.

        • Chalid says:

          I feel like the only reason to think he surrounds himself with good people is that people assume that

          a) he is successful in business
          b) the only way to succeed in business is to surround yourself with good people

          (and to a lesser extent, you can make similar statements by substituting “politics” for “business”)

          I don’t think we know that either of these is true. For a) he’s certainly rich but given our lack of information about his finances it’s hard to tell to what extent this is because he started off rich (he did not build everything from a $1 million loan) versus that he was lucky versus him being skilled. For b) I’m willing to believe that running a real estate empire successfully requires good people. But if his wealth comes primarily from self-promotion (TV shows, branding) then I’m not so sure that that’s the case.

          • mjg235 says:

            Trump’s wealth isn’t really primarily from branding. He gets a good bit of royalty income from branded products, but he is still raking in a few hundred million a year from his real estate income (which definitely involves selling to rich people, unless somehow poor people are buying condos on Fifth Avenue). No matter how you value his brand, he still has billions in solid real estate assets. You can look them up on the Forbes or Bloomberg writeups and do the basic back-of-the-envelope valuations.

            I am actually of the camp that Trump is a very competent businessman. He seems to have successfully used leverage to multiply his assets a few orders of magnitude through the mid 80s. Then he farted around on vanity projects, like owning USFL teams, the Plaza, and the Miss Universe pageants. The vanity projects were predictable money losers, but the initial surge to get him there was definitely masterful.

          • Chalid says:

            Given what has happened to NYC real estate prices, I’m not sure that we should say that making money as an investor in NYC real estate over the past few decades is due to skill rather than being lucky enough to be in the right market.

            No matter how you value his brand, he still has billions in solid real estate assets.

            But we don’t know the full extent of his debts. The NYT sums up what is known, putting a lower bound of $650 million in debt by companies he owns.

            One thing that I keep coming back to is Trump steaks. It’s hard to imagine a guy worth several billion messing around with such a penny-ante BS scheme.

          • TheWorst says:

            As a real estate developer, Trump’s success came from ripping off his contractors, figuring that–after doing the work out of their own pocket, expecting to be paid later–the small businesses he was destroying wouldn’t have enough money to sue him for it.

            There’s a reason banks won’t loan him money, and a reason for the “Trump Tax” (where Atlantic City’s contractors decided, since Trump only paid half of the stated price, to just state massively-inflated prices up front, so that he only thought he was ripping them off).

            His shtick wasn’t about being good at business, it was about being a defect-bot in a place with cooperative norms… and then being too well-connected to be prosecuted for it.

        • Chirag Neb says:

          Selling to poor people is akin to selling to poor countries/ less strong countries. In that way it works perfectly since America is the most richest country still!

      • Corey says:

        I’ve seen no evidence that Trump actually has a talent for surrounding himself with a network of talented people. He simply repeats the statement often. But I’m willing to reconsider if I’ve simply missed a boatload of evidence that this is his talent.

        The stuff I’ve seen suggests the reverse, that he tends to surround himself with yes-men and/or ignore any advice he doesn’t like, e.g. this article.

    • BBA says:

      The “best people” running the Trump Foundation can’t even fill out a form properly and risk the foundation being dissolved as a result.

    • Nicholas says:

      It was Trump’s Atlantic City misadventures that convinced me that he’s actually in the habit of ignoring his advisors.

  3. The Voracious Observer says:

    How is Trump differing from Reagon in his bravado? In particular, I am thinking of the “We begin bombing in five minutes” moment with Reagon, in addition to Reagon’s policies to outspend the USSR on STAR WARS, etc. In negotiation, there is an advantage to being seen as the unstable force that needs to be appeased, instead of the other way around. There does not seem to be much evidence that Trump has personally done crazy things in his real business dealings. Sure, it’s silly to outsiders and I find it off-putting, but the venn-diagram of the actions that are effective, and the actions I prefer be effective are separate entities. I hate networking too, but humans are social creatures, and we have social weaknesses.

    On the Libya & Iraq Oil – if we were going to invade, we should take their resources. Why should America protect the world for free? I don’t agree with the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, nor our interventions in Syria and Libya, but if they have to happen, the US should annex countries too broken to run a government. Iraq should be a US territory now, not the war-torn wasteland it has collapsed into. Iraq would be significantly better off with American soldiers, American laws, American justice, and American taxes there, permanently.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      Reagan brought us way too close for comfort to World War 3 – Able Archer 83 led to a pretty serious war scare. Trump not being worse is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

      • Deiseach says:

        The whole system is cemented by America-centric trade organizations which make war unprofitable and incentivize countries to stay in America’s orbit.

        Oh, banjos! Trump is right in this much*: why are you (or any other country) making nuclear weapons just to sit there? There has to at least be the appearance of threat: attack us and remember what we did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, friend?

        I very much doubt any potential enemy sat down and said “Well, if we attack America, they won’t sell us shiny gadgets any more, so we’d better not”. They said “The so-and-sos have 22,217** nuclear weapons deployed or in storage, they have military bases in Europe, they demonstrated in 1945 that they’re willing to use them”.

        I didn’t and don’t think that’s any kind of strategy to prevent some nutcase from going “Well, I’m going to gamble they won’t because they’ve gone soft!” and I very much dislike hawkishness of whatever era, but I’m damn sure trade was less of a deterrent than things that can go “boom”. And I’m old enough to remember the “Evil Empire” and the Star Wars Missile Defense Initiative and Russia in Afghanistan, and thinking that this would be it, this would be the moment the rhetoric had ramped up to the level that somebody would push the button and launch at least one missile. I genuinely did not expect that we’d get out of the late 80s/early 90s without a lead-in to the Third World War.

        *Obligatory disclaimer: this does not indicate support of Trump’s warmongering rhetoric, anybody’s warmongering rhetoric, or Trump in either general or particular. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, as they say. You only make such weapons to at least appear as a threat; if everyone knows and is fully confident you are never, ever under any circumstances whatsoever going to use them, you might as well fill the silos with Chupa Chups.

        **1989 figures according to Wikipedia.

        • Iain says:

          If you are old enough to remember Russian in Afghanistan, then surely at some point you have encountered the principle of mutually assured destruction. You make nuclear weapons because there are other countries out there with nuclear weapons, and you want to be clear that they can’t get away with using them on you. If you ever have to launch a nuke, your nuclear program has already failed.

          • Deiseach says:

            Which only leads to escalation: we’re the only country with nuclear weapons! Ha, that’s what you thought – we have them now, too! Well, we have more! No, we do!

            And you end up with more and more of the “we’ll never use these but we need them anyway” sitting around. And the possession of a weapon makes its use more likely than if you don’t have it. And if the threat is not perceived to be a genuine threat, what use is it? “Yeah, the next time you steal the money out of my pocket, I’m going to punch you in the nose! Unlike the last ten times I said I would and then didn’t!”

          • baconbacon says:

            “Yeah, the next time you steal the money out of my pocket, I’m going to punch you in the nose! Unlike the last ten times I said I would and then didn’t!”

            I am not in general in favor of nuclear proliferation, but this isn’t much of an argument, it is easily countered by building both nukes and a conventional army. Use the army to “punch people in the nose” while keeping nukes in your back pocket should you ever decided to also burn down their house.

          • John Schilling says:

            Use the army to “punch people in the nose” while keeping nukes in your back pocket should you ever decided to also burn down their house.

            Except that everybody else does the same thing, and the difference between “punch people in the nose” and “burn down their house” is not so clearly defined in the reality of international relations as it is in the imagination.

            You wind up staring at the smoking, radioactive craters that are San Diego, Seoul, Tokyo, and Pyongyang, whining “…but I just gave Kim Jong-Un a well-deserved punch in the nose; how did it come to this? It’s NOT MY FAULT!”

          • “You wind up staring at the smoking, radioactive craters that are San Diego, Seoul, Tokyo, and Pyongyang, whining “…but I just gave Kim Jong-Un a well-deserved punch in the nose; how did it come to this? It’s NOT MY FAULT!””

            If what you are imagining is an exchange between the U.S. and North Korea, I think you are considerably exaggerating how much damage Korea’s current arsenal could do.

            Of course, if you somehow pull in China or Russia it’s another story.

          • John Schilling says:

            If what you are imagining is an exchange between the U.S. and North Korea, I think you are considerably exaggerating how much damage Korea’s current arsenal could do.

            North Korea’s current arsenal can almost certainly destroy Seoul and Tokyo, and probably half a dozen or so other cities in the region, despite the limited missile defenses presently deployed in the region. Possibly also the US territory and critical military base of Guam.

            By the end of the next US president’s term in office, the North Korean arsenal will probably also be able to destroy US west coast cities (and they’ve specifically called out San Diego), and possibly Washington DC, in spite of the missile defenses we are planning to deploy in that period.

            This is something I do professionally. Applying the Buck Turgidson “ignorant peons” threat assessment to 21st-century North Korea is a common annoyance, but a dangerous one. More so for Korea and Japan than for you or I, but Los Angeles and San Francisco are probably on North Korea’s secondary target list and their missiles might not actually have the range to reach all their primary targets.

          • @John Schilling:

            I gather you do rockets professionally. Also nuclear weapons?

            I ask, because my impression is that taking out all of a large city requires more than the sort of atomic bomb that a country relatively new to making both atomic bombs and delivery systems can expect to deliver. Am I mistaken?

          • cassander says:

            @David Friedman

            You are correct n. North Korea is still in the fission weapon stage with most estimates putting their maximum yield around that of a Hiroshima sized bomb. My understanding, though, is that the step from fission to fusion is considerably smaller than the step to fission.

          • John Schilling says:

            North Korea has demonstrated weapons of Nagasaki-esque yield but almost certainly greater technological sophistication, e.g. levitated composite pits. They will probably be able to build deliverable weapons of 100+ kilotons yield by 2020 if they want, though I believe that for defense and/or “liberation” of the Korean peninsula they genuinely prefer 5-10 kt weapons targeted at specific military and logistics facilities. Still, they really hate the Japanese, they aren’t too fond of us, and high-yield weapons for deterrence or vengeance are probably somewhere on their wish list.

            You can play with the effects of a hundred-kiloton warhead, or a 5-10 kt one, here. Against a city like San Francisco, you can point to the outlying residential districts where the buildings are still standing and unburnt; I’ll leave it to the professional economist here as to whether what is left would be an economically viable city.

            Any foreign policy based on “Ha ha! Your puny atom bombs are no match for our mighty hydrogen bombs! You could barely kill a million of us!”, is IMO a sign that we have chosen our president very poorly indeed.

          • @ John Schilling:

            What you wrote was:

            “You wind up staring at the smoking, radioactive craters that are San Diego, Seoul, Tokyo, and Pyongyang, ”

            To which I responded:

            “I think you are considerably exaggerating how much damage Korea’s current arsenal could do.”

            You respond with:

            ” They will probably be able to build deliverable weapons of 100+ kilotons yield by 2020 if they want”

            Not their current arsenal

            And:

            “Against a city like San Francisco, you can point to the outlying residential districts where the buildings are still standing and unburnt; I’ll leave it to the professional economist here as to whether what is left would be an economically viable city.”

            Possibly not. But neither is it a “smoking, radioactive crater.”

            I was not offering an opinion on the wisdom of provoking a nuclear exchange, merely on the accuracy of your portrayal of the consequences.

          • John Schilling says:

            @David Friedman:

            We are in this context talking about events that could plausibly occur in the years 2017 through 2020, not right this instant. And if literal crater dimensions are really the nit you feel is worth picking, fine, I apologize for using the term “smoking craters” when I should have said “burnt-out wastelands constituting the mass graves of a million pointlessly-slaughtered innocents”. I guess you really put me in my place on that one.

          • ” I apologize for using the term “smoking craters” when I should have said “burnt-out wastelands constituting the mass graves of a million pointlessly-slaughtered innocents”. I guess you really put me in my place on that one.”

            Both Tokyo and Seoul have populations of over ten million. The difference between killing some of them and killing all of them matters.

            My reaction goes far back, to the “nuclear war is the end of the world” meme which was and is still widespread. A Hiroshima sized bomb is more powerful than any single weapon that existed before it but it isn’t infinitely powerful and comparable amounts of damage can be and have been done by the use of conventional weapons.

          • Tibor says:

            @David: I had a discussion on this topic with a friend recently. He basically used the same argument as you do. I think it is partially true – people care about Hiroshima because it was spectacular, they care much less about the allied carpet bombing of Dresden which had a death toll comparable to Nagasaki. Also, one could at least argue that the Japanese atomic bombs helped end the war which would have otherwise dragged on thus indirectly saving some lives as well. As far as I can tell Dresden was a pure act of revenge which did not help anyone (I heard some theories that since Dresden was to become a part of the Soviet occupation zone, Churchill wanted to destroy it so that the Soviets don’t get anything good. I don’t know how true it is, although Churchill did do a lot of questionable stuff in India for example where he disregarded the local population entirely, so it is at least possible). The same holds true of chemical warfare. Way more people were killed by machine-gun fire during WW1 than by chemical agents. And while I’d probably prefer to be shot than to be killed by a poisonous gas (I image it is faster and less painful), I’d rather have one person killed by poisonous gas than two people by gunshots.

            But I think there is a reason behind the view of these weapons. They are particularly nasty and kill quickly (nuclear weapons especially) on a large scale. But most importantly, they seem to have only a very limited use against the opponents military. After a nuclear strike cannot send your troops to the area afterwards for some time…unless you are Russian and don’t care that some of them die of radiation poisoning (Warsaw pact WW3 plans actually counted with preemptive nuclear bombing of western Europe followed by a Blitzkrieg spearheaded by the East German and Czechoslovak troops who were pretty much expected to die…but to get to Paris first). With chemical weapons the problem is that it is hard to use them in any directed way, so even when you plan to hit the enemy’s military, if the wind turns you might end up either killing your own troops or some unlucky civilians.

            And so these weapons’ main (non-determent) uses are anti-civilian and that is I think what makes them uniquely scary. I think the argument is a bit stronger in the case of nuclear weapons than for the chemical ones.

          • “And so these weapons’ main (non-determent) uses are anti-civilian”

            Isn’t that largely true of aerial bombing, especially high altitude bombing, as well? I’m not sure to what extent that provoked the same reactions.

          • Tibor says:

            @David: I guess that Dresden would have been a much bigger story worldwide had it been hit by a nuclear bomb like Nagasaki, keeping the number of casualties and the level of destruction the same (not hard, because Dresden was almost completely destroyed by the carpet bombing, the only thing missing was the radiation poisoning). So that is evidence against my claim.

            Maybe it is a combination of two factors First, nuclear weapons (just as chemical weapons) are somehow more scary. First, one bomb that erases half of a city has a stronger emotional impact than hundreds of bombs released on the same day with the same effect. And then there is the radiation poisoning. That is scary because it cannot be seen (even though it can be measured) and has effect which are similar to a disease. Again, more scary than just explosions, even if the explosions are just as deadly.

            And secondly, even though you can cause the same amount of destruction with conventional weapons, it is harder to pull it off and it takes more time to do so. So there is the MAD scenario where using a nuclear weapon simply starts a quick chain of nuclear strikes which kill a lot of people before everyone gets a chance to cool down. The same thing cannot happen on the same scale with conventional weapons.

          • John Schilling says:

            And secondly, even though you can cause the same amount of destruction with conventional weapons, it is harder to pull it off and it takes more time to do so.

            This, I think, is critical. We’ve had the ability to destroy cities since the invention of the firebrand, and we’ve done so since there were cities to destroy. But the logistical requirements were always such that it couldn’t be done without deliberation, and it couldn’t be done without giving the target a reasonable chance to either disrupt the attack or surrender. And, psychologically, you needed people who were willing to look at a half-ruined city and the corpses of half its population and say “yeah, I’m going to help finish the job” even at risk of their own life.

            Nuclear missiles are a qualitative transformation on all of those fronts.

          • keranih says:

            If we’re going to be talking about relative destruction, let’s not forget to remember that the Tokyo fireraids were more destructive than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki – both in terms of materials and deaths.

            This is something that is frequently glossed over in popular culture – one of the worst examples was in the otherwise exceptional Daredevil mini-series “Born Again”, in a series of pages centered on Captain American – where Cap who went into the ice long before Fat Man & Little Boy were constructed – thinks of choppers as having an evil sound, unlike airplanes, and thinks of bombers as good, unlike the nukes that killed “millions in atomic flame.”

            (/soapbox)

            What we remember is not what happened, it is what we tell ourselves, that happened.

          • SUT says:

            > You wind up staring at the smoking, radioactive craters that are San Diego, Seoul, Tokyo, and Pyongyang, whining

            I want to smugly add in here that this is not the conversation we’re currently having about Iraq.

            Specifically, how to counter a nuclear armed anti-American nation led by a dictator operating under extreme moral hazard. Post nuclear weapons the baseline scenario becomes a THEATRE of warfare – the pacific ocean. All coming from the already most isolated, United Nation condemned and sanctioned into impoverishment nation on Earth.

            Now the cost of regime change is 3-4 orders of magnitude greater in lives[0] because we waited and will continue to wait for their nuclear arsenal to develop however clumsily. And this is all done without hundreds of billions of oil revenue available every year to put into R&D.

            Our refusal to intervene cost us 1,000X the severity in the case of an event that pulls the trigger. That is not say it increased the likelihood of the trigger-event, infact it decreased as the west has rationally pulled back and sought to appease. But that reduction in likelihood is nothing close to offsetting 1,000X increase in severity. And every year, we have to occur that non-zero probability, with a running cumulative time-to-ruin probability distribution.

            When arguing about X-risk probability increase/reduction of a particular president, as Scott does, it is naive to focus mainly on the time during his tenure. No president, not even the character Morgan Freeman plays could diffuse every scenario and agenda that comes out of Pyonyang in the next decade.

            I’d argue as in the example case of NK that a president’s ultimate contribution to 1st world security is to the landscape of nuclear proliferation he leaves to his successors. And that success there does come at the cost of conventional military forays, frayed alliances and brinksmanship with Russia/China.

            [0]: ~5,000 allied conventional casualties vs. 50,000,000 for worst case Korea + Japan + West coast strike which is worst case, but 5,000,000 just Seoul and Tokyo isn’t implausible.

          • Tibor says:

            @keranih: Yeah, that was the example my friend made when we were talking about this (I forgot it and you just reminded me of it). Still, I think the point holds that this is still logistically more complicated and takes more time than nukes. It is probably as close as you can come to it with conventional weapons though.

        • baconbacon says:

          I very much doubt any potential enemy sat down and said “Well, if we attack America, they won’t sell us shiny gadgets any more, so we’d better not”. They said “The so-and-sos have 22,217** nuclear weapons deployed or in storage, they have military bases in Europe, they demonstrated in 1945 that they’re willing to use them”.

          The point about Pax Americana is not about “no one attacked the US”, it is the observation that quite a few places that had historically a good amount of infighting (Like Britain/France/Germany/Italy), took a long break from their wars.

    • E. Harding says:

      Kennedy also had a fair deal of bravado, which I don’t think helped the cause of peace.

    • Anonymous says:

      On the Libya & Iraq Oil – if we were going to invade, we should take their resources. Why should America protect the world for free?

      Even if you were, burning the oil would be preferable to just leaving it there so it can fuel the next mess.

    • John Schilling says:

      In particular, I am thinking of the “We begin bombing in five minutes” moment with Reagan

      You understand that was a stupid joke made before what he thought was a dead mike, right?

    • Alsadius says:

      The biggest difference is that Reagan was joking when he said that he had passed legislation outlawing Russia. I’m not convinced Trump has ever intentionally said something funny in his life.

      • E. Harding says:

        Donald Trump is very self-aware about his funniness, though he pretends not to be:

        http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/trump-motorboats-giuliani-insane-clip-unearthed-late-show-article-1.2763880

        • Alsadius says:

          Huh. Well, I can’t say I was ever expecting to see that, for all sorts of reasons.

          • Anonymous says:

            Trump is a crypto-liberal when it comes to all that, we don’t like saying it too much because it spooks the retrograde voters… It should be obvious for anyone who isn’t a rabid SJW or is kind of brainwashed by their ideology. He made the red tribe cheer for homosexuals in the convention, has been employing women since before it was cool, drops lines like “Women are smarter than men these days, they haven’t figured it out but they will, they will.” etc.

            He’s ultimately a good man, not unlike Obama.

          • Alsadius says:

            Accusations of racism is one of the few things I will defend Trump against. I really think he doesn’t care about race, religion, etc. – he doesn’t subscribe to modern leftist notions of strict identical equality, and will happily talk of how group X is different than group Y – but he doesn’t seem to really think any group is meaningfully better or worse. I will say, his efforts to make Republicans less likely to be jerks on those particular topics are good.

          • anaon says:

            @Alsadius

            This is utterly wrong. Trump is substantially more racist than e.g. every other republican candidate in the Primaries. If you want to make that he was denying black people apartments and accusing a Mexican-American judge of bias because of the judge’s Mexicanness as cynical appeal to other people’s racial animus, you can do that. But he’s still doing that shit. Trumps personal opinions on minorities aren’t any more important than George Wallaces. What matters is what he says and does.

            Like, there’s a reason why Daily Stormer endorsed Donald Trump and it’s not because they think he’s going to make the Republican party less racist.

          • SpoopySkellington says:

            That Mexican-American judge you mentioned (Curiel) is a member of a latino ethnic politics organization (San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association). Trump is not a member of any white ethnic politics organizations, unless you’re arguing that the implicitly white Republican party counts. White people are becoming increasingly aware that they are not allowed to practice ethnic politics, while every other group is, and they’re starting to get pretty pissed off about it, and I think Trump is aware of that growing sentiment and was playing to it with his comments about Curiel.

            The main reason that white nationalists like Trump is because he’s offering them a chance to keep the U.S. from becoming a majority non-white country, rather than the typical cuckolded GOP “non-white immigrants offer the answer to a declining population” platform. WNs are looking to eventually turn Trump’s implicitly white civic nationalism into ethnic nationalism, something they cannot do using the political process if it’s not a majority white country. They don’t see Trump as Hitler 2.0, but as a stepping stone to something like that (eventually).

            And for what it’s worth, the arguments WNs put forth to justify their positions are not without merit. They argue that living in an ethnically and culturally diverse place is profoundly alienating. They have data to back this up, too. Ever hear of Bowling Alone? It’s a case of a liberal sociologist coming to grips with his own research shows that trust and social capital declines sharply in ethnically diverse communities.

            http://bowlingalone.com/

          • Anonymous says:

            denying black people apartments

            Nothing wrong with that, communities like that should be possible for any race or configuration, it’s not racism really.

            Mexican-American judge of bias because of the judge’s Mexicanness

            Everybody accuses people of bias because of their whatever, they are especially fond of doing it to white people. Maybe he was right and the mexican judge was biased?

          • Theo Jones says:

            “‘denying black people apartments’ Nothing wrong with that, communities like that should be possible for any race or configuration, it’s not racism really.”

            These Trump threads have really brought out the high-quality anons.

          • anaon says:

            These Trump threads have really brought out the high-quality anons.

            It is always nice when you make a claim and someone comes along to provide evidence for you immediately afterwards.

          • Anonymous says:

            I see so many comments angry at the amount of rightists, conservatives etc daring to voice their opinions, sneering at them… The red tribe isn’t doing that for some reason, just talking about stuff.

            Please consider being more civil.

          • TheWorst says:

            Defect-bot demands that other player cooperates. Shocking.

    • Julian says:

      I thought we didnt want all those crazy muslims in our country! If Iraq was a US territory then all those moolams would have US passports and be free travel here!

  4. tcheasdfjkl says:

    This is a really informative and useful writeup, thank you.

    • Zombielicious says:

      I agree – I was already pretty anti-Trump, but this has made me raise my confidence for Clinton votes in swing states (versus third-parties) more than yesterday’s post. Particularly the explanation of the advantages of providing military support to the rest of the world, which I’d previously thought of more as subsidizing their economies at the expense of our own.

      • E. Harding says:

        “which I’d previously thought of more as subsidizing their economies at the expense of our own.”

        -It is.

          • E. Harding says:

            What’s your point?

          • Autolykos says:

            Any theory based on the assumption that every single US government since WW2 was subsidizing the other NATO members without gaining anything in return is very likely wrong. Nobody is stupid that consistently and yet manages to remain a superpower.

          • E. Harding says:

            “every single US government since WW2”

            -Since 1992. Try starting from there.

        • Andrew says:

          You seem to think it a bad thing that we’re making it profitable for other economies to divert their money from swords to plowshares.

          I call it some of the best money our government spends, because it makes for a world with a hell of a lot less war.

          • E. Harding says:

            “I call it some of the best money our government spends, because it makes for a world with a hell of a lot less war.”

            -Baseless statement is baseless.

            “You seem to think it a bad thing that we’re making it profitable for other economies to divert their money from swords to plowshares.”

            -Countries should be responsible for their own defence, especially if they can afford it. Why should the U.S. subsidize the defence of so many countries that are of no help in the defence of the U.S. itself?

          • Zombielicious says:

            @E Harding:
            Massive military spending is one of my least favorite things the U.S. government does, but you’re pretending like you didn’t even read Scott’s post. The advantages are stuff like preventing the world from becoming a pre-WW1 style web of twisted alliances between different militaries, economies of scale from having one country managing a disproportionately large military, and increasing the U.S. influence and negotiating position by providing such a valuable service. See Scott’s entire paragraph on Pax Americana. Plus the part where Trump wants to, for some inexplicable reason, increase U.S. military spending but still give up all these advantages of doing so. It’s irrational.

            Personally I’d still rather see the military budget drastically reduced and the savings funneled into scientific research, social welfare, and infrastructure, but there’s at least a decent argument for why we do what we do. That’s what I meant above about “policy debates shouldn’t be one-sided.” It’s the mark of simple-minded, conspiratorial thinking to think large, complex issues have simple explanations like “my opponents are evil and want to hurt people” or “I know better than the tens of thousands of policy wonks and scholars who spend most of their lives debating this stuff” while refusing to acknowledge there are even reasonable counterarguments against your own position. That may be true for very simple issues, like “this rider to this obscure bill only benefits this one company that donated a bunch to incumbent’s campaigns,” but not for massive stuff like “what’s the optimal distribution of military spending” and “what should America’s place in NATO be?”

          • E. Harding says:

            “See Scott’s entire paragraph on Pax Americana.”

            -The Pax Americana doesn’t disappear just because Europe gets to pay for its own defence, man. In fact, there are numerous European countries that haven’t ever been part of NATO. The very risk of failure is what keeps European countries from fighting each other these days.

            How’s NATO different from a “web of twisted alliances between different militaries”?

            “It’s the mark of simple-minded, conspiratorial thinking”

            -I care if I’m right. I don’t care the least bit whether my thinking is marked by anything other than incorrectness, least of all simple-mindedness and conspiracy theory.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @E Harding:
            It’s possible that NATO could collapse and something similar or better would replace it which would be a better option for the U.S. and the rest of the world as well, but it’s basically wild speculation that that would actually occur. Hence the “high-variance vs low-variance” argument. Just because it’s hypothetically possible a better result might materialize, in a reasonable timeframe, without things getting a lot worse first, doesn’t mean everyone should gamble global stability on it.

            NATO is a single military alliance largely reliant on the backing of the world’s largest superpower and with more or less common goals. That gives the U.S. a lot of room to act as global hegemon and force its influence on everyone else, but at the same time prevents a lot of the infighting that would occur in a group of 28(?) separate states of approximately equal power all forming separate systems of alliances and constantly threatening to pull out or compete with each other because there’s no central leadership for them to orbit. The Pax Americana argument is that one situation is inherently more stable than the other (with pre-WW1 as an example of the worst possible outcome of a big decentralized web of military alliances holding each other in check – what could possibly go wrong? And that was before nukes and bioweapons).

            Again, this stuff was already a major point of Scott’s original post, so it really shouldn’t be necessary to have to re-explain it here like everyone just skipped or ignored it and went straight to arguing their own speculative version of reality in the comments.

  5. Thursday says:

    This post actually makes a lot of sense, but I’m wondering why you didn’t lead with this stuff yesterday. The stuff there came off as rationalizing an aesthetic judgment. I’m still not as confident as you are that Hillary can keep things from spiralling out of control with Russia, but Trump has made some troubling statements.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Because I didn’t realize that there was a big contingent of people who believed Trump was the less-danger-of-war candidate and considered that important.

      • Deiseach says:

        Because I didn’t realize that there was a big contingent of people who believed Trump was the less-danger-of-war candidate and considered that important.

        Trump bloviates, and American voters like the Tough Man approach. Would he really start wars if elected? I have no idea, and I’m not willing to gamble he won’t.

        Hillary in office as Secretary of State, however, has been quite happy to use force and be part of “track ’em down and bring ’em back dead or alive (preferably dead)” as we saw with the famous Situation Room photo of the bin Laden operation. Even peace-loving liberal dove President Obama was happy to garner the good public image of “I’m the Tough Man president who oversaw the taking out of our national enemy” with those pictures being released and his address to the nation:

        Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

        So if I am being asked my opinion: which of these two do you think more likely to go for the Armalite rather than the ballot box – Trump I don’t know what he’ll do but Hillary I do know from the evidence of her time in office, and she’s not been squeamish about the use of force before.

        • TheWorst says:

          So if I am being asked my opinion: which of these two do you think more likely to go for the Armalite rather than the ballot box – Trump I don’t know what he’ll do but Hillary I do know from the evidence of her time in office, and she’s not been squeamish about the use of force before.

          The only way I can make sense of this is if you’re from a universe where Hillary led an armed revolution when George W. Bush was inaugurated.

          You know for a fact that Hillary doesn’t go for the Armalite rather than the ballot box. That theory has been tested and found false.

          • I think it’s obvious that the comment was about foreign policy not domestic insurrection. See, for example:

            “Trump bloviates, and American voters like the Tough Man approach. Would he really start wars if elected?”

            I can’t tell if you were unable to follow the clear meaning of Deiseach’s comment or if you don’t care.

            You do a pretty good job of living up to your chosen name.

          • mtraven says:

            @Friedman, read the link at Armalite and the ballot box if you aren’t familiar with it, it is a clear reference to armed insurrection in the face of electoral failure.

          • TheWorst says:

            David, I think it’s clear you didn’t read the link, and either can’t follow the clear meaning of the comment or are pretending you can’t–or are indulging in a bit of motivated reasoning.

            I suspect it’s not that you’re unable to grasp the meaning. And yes, I understand that you’re offended when someone points out when your tribe is wrong about something, but I suggest either getting over it, or choosing a tribe less prone to being wrong.

            If you can’t handle having it pointed out that someone has made a false statement about Hillary Clinton, you have a lot of options. Whining about it is the wrong choice, as is endlessly reiterating your personal dislike for people who have the temerity to be right when you’d prefer to have everyone be wrong.

          • You are correct that I didn’t read the link and that it explains your interpretation, but I am not convinced by it. Perhaps Deiseach can tell us whether she was talking about the risk that one of the candidates would get us into a foreign war or that one of them would try to seize power in the U.S. by force.

      • Jiro says:

        Because I didn’t realize that there was a big contingent of people who believed Trump was the less-danger-of-war candidate and considered that important.

        If you didn’t mention it much before, that implies that you don’t weight it highly. Deciding to weight it highly now that you believe that weighting it highly will convince people seems disingenuous–you yourself think the danger isn’t great, and you would personally consider emphasizing it to be skewed against Trump by your own standards.

        Also, it’s hard to distinguish that from “oops, you caught me when I made my best argument and packed it full of flaws, let me try something else”. “Trump will be good for social justice” is a terrible argument. It is likely to be motivated reasoning, and it involves selectively picking plausible-sounding scenarios without even trying to claim they are more likely than other plausible scenarios that suggest the opposite course of action.

        • Tedd says:

          If you didn’t mention it much before, that implies that you don’t weight it highly.

          … No? When writing for an audience, you focus on things your audience cares about, not things you care about.

          • Jiro says:

            … and if you do that, and one audience tells the other audience what you said, or if it otherwise gets out that you tailored your argument for your audience, you deserve whatever loss in credibility you get.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Jiro, I am utterly baffled at the state of mind that could have led you to think that failure to address something because it was not considered an issue, being informed that it is an issue, and then addressing it, should result in a loss of credibility.

        • Aaron Brown says:

          Consider that if he didn’t mention it much before, maybe that’s because he didn’t realize that there was a big contingent of people who believed Trump was the less-danger-of-war candidate and considered that important.

          The worst you can say is that Scott showed a poor knowledge of Trump supporters’ beliefs. (I doubt, though, that Trump’s supposed dovishness is a strong reason that the median Trump supporter supports him.)

          • Jiro says:

            Having a major risk of starting a war is something that most people would consider a big strike against a candidate even starting from a position of neutrality, so Scott should be using that against Trump even if he doesn’t know that Trump supporters think he’s a lesser danger of war.

            The most likely reason not to do this is that he is aware that the argument is shaky, and its shakiness balances out its negative nature. Only if he has an additional reason to use the argument will he ignore its shakiness and use it anyway.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Aaron Brown
            The worst you can say is that Scott showed a poor knowledge of Trump supporters’ beliefs.

            It would make sense that Scott’s regular readers might have not mentioned their hawk/dove opinions here, till that issue got brought up just now.

            It would also make sense that some people who already had those opinions had not posted here before.

            Cf ‘entryism’.

          • TheWorst says:

            In fairness, I think his first assessment was correct: there is no one likely to vote for Trump out of concern that Hillary’s the one more likely to start a war.

          • AnonBosch says:

            Trump’s supposed dovishness is something I mainly see when Trump supporters pitch to libertarians or liberals. Realistically, it’s 100% immigration.

          • E. Harding says:

            “Realistically, it’s 100% immigration.”

            -A big reason I didn’t vote for Ted Cruz was his PC foreign policy.

            “There is no one likely to vote for Trump out of concern that Hillary’s the one more likely to start a war.”

            https://twitter.com/Sarah__Reynolds

            TheWorst and Jill should be banned. They have no respect for facts.

          • “TheWorst and Jill should be banned. They have no respect for facts.”

            Neither of them should be banned, nor should you. Respect for facts is not a requirements for posters here–and what the facts are is one of the things people disagree about.

            The Worst bothers me more than Jill does. As best I can tell she is a reasonably honest person living in a fantasy and doing her best to explain away contrary evidence.

          • E. Harding says:

            “Respect for facts is not a requirements for posters here–and what the facts are is one of the things people disagree about.”

            -So what is? Threats definitely seem to be out, but what else? After being confronted by a particularly reality-detached commenter at my Against Jebel al-Lawz blog, I made respect for facts a requirement of my comment policy. Then again, our good host Scott’s banning preferences almost never seem to line up with mine. I would not have banned most of the people that had actually been banned and I would have banned some people that remain unbanned.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            So what is?

            It used to be the whole gates thing in theory (and not being a massive dick all the time in practice), now it’s just not pissing Scott enough to get banned.

          • TheWorst says:

            Harding, that you’re still here makes it obvious that respect for facts isn’t a prerequisite–and that (since everything you say is unnecessary and untrue, and often unkind) the rules don’t really apply to you.

            In this case, you’re demonstrating your poor regard for facts again. My statement was:

            there is no one likely to vote for Trump out of concern that Hillary’s the one more likely to start a war.

            It was not that there is no one who claims they’re likely to vote for Trump out of concern that Hillary’s the one more likely to start a war.

          • LPSP says:

            Having a major risk of starting a war is something that most people would consider a big strike against a candidate even starting from a position of neutrality

            Hawkishness is the backbone of both the disgruntled Trump-supporting masses AND SJWs. These groups are neither small nor insignificant or irrelevent. I sincerely think it’s the sign of operating within limited or closed spheres that people can believe in this. Lots of people, for whatever reason or motive, are happy to start fights.

      • I was surprised that Trump supporters at ssc put so much emphasis on risk of war– I thought most Trump supporters were primarily concerned about loss of American jobs. Of course, ssc commenters may not be typical. When I phrase it that way, it seems obvious that they aren’t going to be typical.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          What surprised me was how many pro-trump people in these threads mention that they voted for Obama. E. Harding was a particular surprise on that point, given his rhetoric.

          • E. Harding says:

            I didn’t vote for Obama; I supported him over Romney in 2012 and didn’t vote since I hated my options. There were no Supreme Court seats up for grabs, Romney was totally bought by all the special interests in existence and was the guy who signed Romneycare (so the election was a false choice), gridlock in Congress would be reduced under him, leading to expansion of executive power, and his foreign policy was nothing to commend. I supported McCain over Obama in 2008 because McCain was so godawful, he’d guarantee gridlock throughout his term. Fortunately, Obama managed to flub up healthcare so badly, more Republicans gained seats in the House in 2010 than during the Republican Revolution. He didn’t do all that badly during his first term, pulling the U.S. out of Iraq, for one, and killing Bin Laden and revealing his birth certificate in one week for another (only later would we find out he only did so in order to take control of the global jihadist movement himself).

            BTW, if inferior Romney replica Rubio was the nominee, I may well be reluctantly supporting Clinton today due to Rubio’s dangerous foreign policy stances and his being totally bought by the special interests. I really hate bought robots; i.e., candidates whose support is heavily concentrated in Dallas County in the Iowa Republican Caucus.

          • Gazeboist says:

            only later would we find out he only did so in order to take control of the global jihadist movement himself

            Dang, man, you were on a roll. I was rooting for you.

          • E. Harding says:

            “Dang, man, you were on a roll. I was rooting for you.”

            -Do you have a better explanation for the events in the Muslim world during Obama’s second term? Obama’s clearly not an idiot and shows understanding of foreign policy I’ve never seen Clinton have.

          • cassander says:

            @harding

            >Do you have a better explanation for the events in the Muslim world during Obama’s second term?

            I do. Obama is not much interested in foreign policy and would rather not do it. While a fan of Wilsonian rhetoric, he’s a Jeffersonian at heart. He instinctively resists foreign engagement. Once in office he discovered that there is often great pressure for such engagement. When pressed hard enough, he gives into those pressures, and throws the pro-engagement crowd as small a bone as he think he can get away with. These bones are not enough to end the conflicts, so several months later the process repeats, and a new bone is tossed. This is a terrible way to run foreign policy, but the story Obama tells himself is not of ineffectual incrementalism, but of wisely and calculatingly holding back the tide of do gooders and warmongers that assails him.

          • E. Harding says:

            I think Obama ignores and accepts advice as he sees fit. I don’t see any real pressure on him that he can’t reject. If he was a Jeffersonian, he really didn’t need to start showy, but largely ineffective airstrikes on the Islamic State. And if you look at Obama’s various comments to the press, he clearly sees his foreign policy as wildly successful at making America’s foes weak. Because, in some senses, it is. I think he has the same basic understanding of foreign policy as Putin and Trump, but is simply much more subtle about achieving his goals. Where Putin would do a showy intervention with lots of cheering in Russia, Obama would do the same thing with layer upon layer of plausible deniability, thus being perfectly free of having to grapple with the consequences.

          • cassander says:

            @E. Harding

            >I think Obama ignores and accepts advice as he sees fit. I don’t see any real pressure on him that he can’t reject.

            Then you should read more about the administration. I’d start with Robert Gates’ account of the afghan surge or some of the more detailed accounts of the libya intervention. No president is immune to pressure, and both of those events show how obama was pressured into acting.

            > he clearly sees his foreign policy as wildly successful at making America’s foes weak.

            well he certainly isn’t going to say anything else.

        • E. Harding says:

          “I thought most Trump supporters were primarily concerned about loss of American jobs”

          -What loss of American jobs? Unemployment is 5%. It’s not certain to what extent a revival of 1950s-style manufacturing jobs can help with the alleviation of the very real problem of long-term unemployment in America. NAFTA was mostly a good deal and, hopefully, in the long run, manufacturing will be considered as irrelevant to the U.S. economy as agriculture (though automation in the US seems to have, for some reason, stopped in 2011). Trump’s proposed measures are just a way of distributing economic gains to loser industries. The real problem isn’t “loss of American jobs” -it’s sclerotic labor market institutions and 1970s-style productivity growth. Trump might help around the margins in reducing regulation, but ultimately, neither presidential candidate has proposed serious policies likely to restore both long-term unemployment and productivity growth to twentieth century historic norms.

          • Ralf says:

            Wait. … you supported McCain because you _want_ gridlock? What is your rationale for that? In my gridlock and subsequent nothinggetsdone/peoplegetdisillusionedbypolitics is one of the biggest risks of American politics.

          • E. Harding says:

            “What is your rationale for that?”

            -I support limited government. Gridlock is one of the best ways to keep that dream alive. When you don’t have gridlock, you get the PATRIOT Act, Omnibus spending bills, the Tariff of Abominations, the New Deal, the Great Society, and Medicare Part D.

        • Wency says:

          Death Eaters and sympathizers probably represent over 50% of Trump support on SSC and probably less than 1% of Trump support in the electorate, speeches from Hillary aside.

          “Muh jerb!” is not a core Death Eater talking point.

    • Thursday says:

      By this I mean that you spent a lot of time arguing that Trump was more millenarian than Clinton, which I don’t really buy.

      The argument that the best way to fight the SJWs was to elect an proSJW president was risible. Pushback against these people is going to need to be hard. Rational argument ain’t gonna cut it. So, at some point your going to need somebody fairly thuggish to do the job.

      The argument that millennials are more conservative was extremely misleading.

      The argument that we don’t know anything about what Trump will do was also overstated: he very likely will build a wall and push hard for more immigration restriction.

      Why lead with such dubious stuff?

      • Dyfed says:

        The argument that the best way to fight the SJWs was to elect an proSJW president was risible.

        That wasn’t his argument. His argument was that Trump’s obvious amiability with extremists was an obvious gift to SJWs and that a President Trump, successful or not, would drive many more Americans into their camp than would otherwise be there.

        Is Hillary the best choice for ending the SJW circus? No, she’s a bad one. Would a generic Republican nominee be better? Almost certainly. Would Trump be better? Certainly not: he’s one of their best recruiters.

        • Thursday says:

          Would a generic Republican nominee be better? Almost certainly.

          Risible. A generic Republican would do absolutely nothing.

          • Kala says:

            Absolutely nothing is good, in this context. You don’t pass new laws to increase the authority of SJWs, and you also don’t give them the international attention they desire by persecuting them openly. Mitt Romney or another semi-respectable republican is who I would pick, if anti SJ was my primary goal.

          • Wency says:

            Risible. A generic Republican would do absolutely nothing.

            A generic Republican would:

            — Not hand the Supreme Court over to the Left.
            — Not use the power of the executive to accelerate open borders.
            — Maybe not start a war.

            Which, in a sense, is nothing. But in truth, it would probably be the extent of what Trump could accomplish for conservatism, when all is said and done.

            If you expect any massive legislative successes from Trump, for good or ill, you are dreaming. Unless there’s a Senate supermajority, The Democrats will block everything he tries to do, just as the Republicans will do the same to Hillary.

            Either president will probably be among the most hated by the other party in U.S. history.

        • E. Harding says:

          “Would a generic Republican nominee be better? Almost certainly.”

          -The first wave of SJWry occurred during the presidency of Bush I (about as generic a Republican as you can get) and ended under Bill, a Democrat who could win Louisiana. I’m pretty certain Trump would reduce, not increase, SJW power. Obama’s re-election certainly caused it to soar to never-before-seen heights.

          • SpoopySkellington says:

            I’m pretty certain Trump would reduce, not increase, SJW power.

            Wasn’t Trump proposing to reform government-provided student loans so that they would only go to majors that give the borrower a snowball’s chance in hell of being able to repay the loan (e.g. STEM fields)?

            I know he opposes Common Core and the Dept. of Education as well. David Pook says “ending white privilege” was part of the reason he worked on Common Core, and K-12 education has been pretty turbo-leftist for decades.

            If Trump does that, he will be effectively countering the Frankfurt school’s long march through the institutions by cutting off their funding and creating a generation of children who grow up without exposure to cultural marxism.

            I’m hoping Trump smugly reduces the Dept. of Education’s budget to $1 a year if they don’t play ball with him, tbh. It functions as a reversal of participatory democracy; telling people what to think and (in the process) subverting what is ostensibly a bottom-up decision-making process.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Frankfurt school’s long march through the institutions

            Ahem.

            http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/cultural-marxism

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @TheAncientGeek – Cultural Marxism.

            Near as I can tell, the Conspiracy Theory is that “cultural marxism” exists and is effective. If is not hard to notice the basic framework underlying the various forms of Social Justice theory, and to note that they essentially match the basic framework of Marxism, just with the group names switched out.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Only, like, it’s not trying to destroy the economic and governmental systems by revolution, and magically start having incentiveless labor’s fruits fairly distributed according to need.

        • Anonymous says:

          His argument was that Trump’s obvious amiability with extremists was an obvious gift to SJWs and that a President Trump, successful or not, would drive many more Americans into their camp than would otherwise be there.

          Nonsense. SJWs can only be countered by actually being politically incorrect and fostering a narrative that makes that acceptable at every level. They’re going to get rabid if Clinton wins, intensify their bullshit a lot. They’re not a problem even for propagandistic purposes when they’re shaking and whining, far less damaging than what they do with the state behind their backs.

          Trump’s SJWs would do the same, of course, but the difference is that Clinton’s variety is already incredibly ingrained, a victory for the other side would just start to swing the pendulum in the other direction. Even if one is not anti-SJW in particular and merely desires balance, Trump would be the right choice imho.

        • Deiseach says:

          Is Hillary the best choice for ending the SJW circus? No, she’s a bad one. Would a generic Republican nominee be better? Almost certainly. Would Trump be better? Certainly not: he’s one of their best recruiters.

          What about the ones currently in office? The US Commission on Civil Rights released a Briefing Report on “Peaceful Co-existence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberty”.

          Statement of the chairman of the Commission, Martin Castro:

          “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” —John Adams

          The phrases “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.

          Religious liberty was never intended to give one religion dominion over other religions, or a veto power over the civil rights and civil liberties of others. However, today, as in the past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality. In our nation’s past religion has been used to justify slavery and later, Jim Crow laws. We now see “religious liberty” arguments sneaking their way back into our political and constitutional discourse (just like the concept of “state rights”) in an effort to undermine the rights of some Americans. This generation of Americans must stand up and speak out to ensure that religion never again be twisted to deny others the full promise of America.

          “Sneaking their way back in”, eh? Oooh, those cunning Christian supremacists! So much for the First Amendment!

          • Sandy says:

            Amazing how this sort of person embraced “state’s rights” as a cherished constitutional concept when blue states wanted to legalize gay marriage ahead of the federal government.

          • TheWorst says:

            Further supporting one of the key heuristics for American politics: Assign no weight to “states’ rights” arguments, because no one makes them in good faith. Everyone claims to support states’ rights when they think doing so will help them achieve some other, minimally-related goal; no one supports them in any other circumstance.

            There have been, as far as I’m aware, approximately zero instances where this would’ve caused someone to make an incorrect prediction.

          • John Schilling says:

            Everyone claims to support states’ rights when they think doing so will help them achieve some other, minimally-related goal; no one supports them in any other circumstance.

            I support states’ rights even when I think they will hurt my chances of achieving other terminal goals. I am not the only person here who does this. There are places where you can get away with that particular falsehood; this isn’t one of them.

          • E. Harding says:

            “There have been, as far as I’m aware, approximately zero instances where this would’ve caused someone to make an incorrect prediction.”

            -Wrong, as usual:
            https://www.amazon.com/Politically-Incorrect-Constitution-Guides-Paperback/dp/1596985054

          • TheWorst says:

            John Schilling: I did not assert that there was no one who claimed to care about states’ rights. That’s an entirely different assertion, and one I did not make. And I know you know this, because we’ve had this conversation before; then, too, you replied by falsely claiming that asserting a belief was dispositive of my claim that the belief is not sincerely held.

          • John Schilling says:

            I did not assert that there was no one who claimed to care about states’ rights

            I understand this. You assert that there was no one who truly cares about states’ rights. You assert that people who claim to care about states’ rights exist, but that all of them are liars and hypocrites. That assertion is false, and it will be false no matter how many times we have to discuss this.

          • TheWorst says:

            I’m not sure why you think repeatedly asserting this is convincing. I pointed out that assertion isn’t made in good faith, and that US history is full of examples demonstrating that no one gives a damn about states’ rights.

            You made the assertion again, and again with no supporting evidence. Has yelling “The sky is orange!” repeatedly ever convinced anyone who looked up and saw that it’s blue?

          • As best I can tell, both of you are simply arguing by assertion.

            Can John offer an example of someone who argued against doing something he was otherwise in favor of doing on the grounds that it would be a violation of states rights? One example should be enough to refute The Wrong’s very strong claim.

          • TheWorst says:

            I’m making a pretty broad claim, and I’m aware of it. It should be very easy to point to an action taken for states rights and against tribal interests, if any has happened.

            I’ll back up my assertion: The people who most loudly claim to support states’ rights also supported the Fugitive Slave Act, so that’s out. Then the Blues took their turn at pretending to care about states’ rights when doing so was useful for legalizing gay marriage. Does that leave anybody out?

            States’ rights is what people pretend to care about when they can’t control the federal government. As soon as someone’s party wins control at the national level, they suddenly start seeing states’ rights as a pointless inconvenience.

            I suspect that once demographics and changing culture mean that getting state-government support for bigotry becomes too difficult, we’ll start hearing about “county rights” or “town rights.”

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I think you’re holding “caring about states’ rights” to an impossible standard. A lot of people (most of them, perhaps?) are varying degrees of hypocritical and/or inconsistent about many of their views, yet >we manage to find a threshold of hypocrisy in which it’s still believed these people hold the views they claim to hold.

            How consistent would a person have to be in their defense of state rights for you to accept that they honestly care about them?

          • TheWorst says:

            There would have to be actions that looked like a concern for states’ rights that weren’t more easily explained by normal tribal behavior.

            Every tribe I’m aware of has enthusiastically demonstrated that this concern doesn’t exist, so when someone asserts otherwise, it’s most predictively useful to assume that they’re engaged in empty virtue signalling.

            All of the available evidence is that “States’ Rights!” is an argument of convenience, adopted when a given group can’t win enough support at the national level for the policy they want–or empty virtue signalling aimed at buying a tiny scrap of credibility for when they use it as an argument of convenience.

            Evidence of sincerity would look like a reluctance to trample these supposedly-important rights when doing so would further the normal tribal goals. As far as I’m aware, no such reluctance has ever been evidenced by any tribe which found itself (even briefly) in control of federal power.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I can’t think of an example on a tribe level, but I’d say Ron Paul, weird as he might be, has been pretty consistent on his defense of state rights, even against his stated views on abortion and gay marriage.

          • E. Harding says:

            This is a good piece on a topic relating to states’ rights:

            https://theanti-puritan.blogspot.com/2016/10/chapter-4a-exitocracy.html

          • TheWorst says:

            Has Ron Paul ever done anything that looked like valuing states’ rights over his object-level goals?

            My point is that empty posturing isn’t proof of commitment to an ideal. The empty posturing is extremely common; actually making good on that commitment seems to have never happened.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Has Ron Paul ever done anything that looked like valuing states’ rights over his object-level goals?

            http://www.ontheissues.org/TX/Ron_Paul_Abortion.htm

            Shows a distinct pro-life record, yet he also voted against federal restrictions on abortion, and against restricting people from going to other states to get abortions.

            I’d say that is fairly consistent with a “States Rights'” position, unless you think that he doesn’t really care about abortion.

          • TheWorst says:

            “I consider it a state-level responsibility to restrain violence against any human being. I disagree with the nationalization of the issue and reject the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states. Legislation that I have proposed would limit fe4deral court jurisdiction of abortion, and allow state prohibition of abortion on demand as well as in all trimesters. It will not stop all abortions. Only a truly moral society can do that.”

            Abortion became legal at the federal level, and Ron Paul later declared that abortion was a state issue. That’s consistent with deciding that “state issues” are issues where the national consensus is against you.

            Instead of admitting that my position allows the states to minimize or ban abortions, they claim that my position supports the legalization of abortion by the states. This is twisted logic.

            Ron Paul, in the link you provided, says that your interpretation is incorrect. He admits that his use of the “states’ rights” argument is a tactic to push his anti-abortion views, and that he’s using it because it gives him more space to argue for banning abortion, and he calls your interpretation “twisted logic.” He clearly does not think abortion should be legal in New York, which (among many others) is a belief absolutely essential to anyone who actually did believe in states’ rights.

            But he does at least consistently talk the talk, which just-now caused me to update in favor of Ron Paul. Huh. I wouldn’t have expected to say that today.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The idea that nobody really cares about states’ rights is obviously far too broad a claim to be accepted; however, the notion that, in general, people or movements don’t really care about states’ rights is far more plausible.

          • TheWorst says:

            At first, my point was that–as a predictive tool–your prior should be to dismiss all arguments based on states’-rights as insincere, and that doing the opposite would lead you to make false predictions.

            Since then, it’s become more clear that no one can find an instance of any person or group actually behaving as if they cared about states’ rights, which suggests that the (much) stronger claim is in fact true.

            Which makes sense, since the proposition that people care about states rights is absurd on its face, has extensive evidence against it, and no evidence for it.

            It’s the same as the proposition that the moon is made of cheese: The idea sounds silly–how and why would it be made of cheese?–and there’s extensive evidence for it not being made of cheese (i.e., we’ve gone there and checked, and found out that it is not made of cheese), and no evidence whatsoever that it’s made of cheese.

            The same applies to the issue of states rights. It’s absurd to think there’s someone, somewhere who thinks abortion should be legal in New York but not in New Jersey, or that gay marriage is a basic human right in one state but not in another, which is the only position on either issue that’s consistent with a belief in states’ rights. We’ve also put each tribe to the test to determine whether their belief was sincere, and in every instance we’ve found that it was not.

            So: Sounds absurd, plenty of evidence against it, no evidence for it. That’s an excellent proxy for “is false.”

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ The Worst
            It’s absurd to think there’s someone, somewhere who thinks abortion should be legal in New York but not in New Jersey, or that gay marriage is a basic human right in one state but not in another, which is the only position on either issue that’s consistent with a belief in states’ rights.

            * raises hand * Me.

            Laboratory of Democracy and all that. Also, if, for example, gay marriage is important enough to my partnership, I know which states we should choose to live in (it’s proxy for other things that make a state more or less attractive to gays, too).

            If anti-gay people gather in another state, that’s fine too. Both groups get the kind of neighbors and culture they like. Yay Balkanizing!

          • Iain says:

            @houseboatonstyxb:

            I agree that the laboratory of democracy point is the best argument for states’ rights. That said, I think you’re addressing a slight strawman of TheWorst’s argument (or else I am about to present a steelman). This is the key phrase:

            It’s absurd to think there’s someone, somewhere who thinks […] that gay marriage is a basic human right in one state but not in another.

            It’s very reasonable to have Kansas explore one end of the Laffer curve, and California the other. If you are personally ambivalent about gay marriage, or abortion, then it might also seem reasonable to have states vary on the issue. On the other hand, if you think that gay marriage is a basic human right (under the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause), then it doesn’t make any sense to allow that right to be violated in some states but not in others. Similarly, if abortion is murder, it is murder everywhere, not just in Texas.

            When it comes down to it, support for states’ rights is really just support for federalism. That’s an entirely respectable stance, as far as it goes, but limits the degree to which a states’ rights argument can be compelling in a controversial case. By arguing that states’ rights are important in a given situation, you are implicitly claiming that human rights do not come into play on your opponent’s side. (Assuming, of course, that you are arguing in good faith.)

            And from a completely different angle: one of the current problems in American politics is the significant gap between the leftmost Republicans and the rightmost Democrats, making it nearly impossible to work across the aisle and get anything done. To the extent that the states’ rights argument makes it easier to segregate like-minded individuals geographically, it risks further polarization, making the task of effectively governing the country that much harder. I’m not sure to what extent I think that’s important; I do believe that polarization is a big problem, but I’m not sure that states’ rights actually deserve any blame.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Iain
            That said, I think you’re addressing a slight strawman of TheWorst’s argument (or else I am about to present a steelman). This is the key phrase:

            It’s absurd to think there’s someone, somewhere who thinks […] that gay marriage is a basic human right in one state but not in another.

            I considered cutting the “basic human right” and the “murder” — because imo that’s a very dangerous level to make decisions from. It’s above anybody’s pay grade. All we can do on that level, is clash by night.

            A state’s voters can peacefully compromise (at least temporarily) on ‘No abortion after X weeks’ or ‘Gays can get a legal marriage certificate but no one has to bake cakes for them’. But if voters take too seriously the ‘basic human right’ or ‘don’t murder zygotes’ — well, that brings a lot more disagreements, which don’t stop at the water’s edge.

            You are drawing lines well. I see “segregat[ing] like-minded individuals geographically”, as a good thing for the individuals involved. You see it contributing to polarization which elects extreme congressmen who cannot agree across the aisle. (They may agree more on the golf course.)

            Back to cases. I agree that the term ‘states’ rights’ has been ruined, so we Ecotopians would need a new term if we use that idea.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And from a completely different angle: one of the current problems in American politics is the significant gap between the leftmost Republicans and the rightmost Democrats, making it nearly impossible to work across the aisle and get anything done. To the extent that the states’ rights argument makes it easier to segregate like-minded individuals geographically, it risks further polarization, making the task of effectively governing the country that much harder.

            That’s certainly a risk, but I think it would be largely (entirely?) offset by the fact that in a decentralised country the central government would do very little. If for example gay marriage were left entirely up to the states, it wouldn’t matter what your Congressman thought about the issue, because Congress simply wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I can’t stand Trump but I have to disagree. If you want to fight SJWs then electing Trump is clearly the better option. It’s like saying “if you want a more European government, Bernie Sanders is clearly the inferior option. You should vote Republican.” It was the weakest point in Scotts essays.

          • Fahundo says:

            The idea is that Trump is such an obvious buffoon he undermines anti-SJW positions by making them look worse than they are.

            I don’t think many people make similar claims about Sanders.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Any chance we could keep this thread from derailing into the SJWs? My personal preference would be for this one to stay on-topic about foreign policy and then see Scott answer the SJW concerns in yet another post.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Seems like a reasonable request. Deleted a reply elsewhere in the thread on the subject.

            I would be very surprised if scott wrote one of these specifically about SJWs.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I would be surprised too, which is shame, because I think that’s the much harder one to argue. But there’s still the previous thread for such things.

          • TheWorst says:

            I think the SJW concerns are likely the most interesting ones to the largest number of readers, but I’d be very surprised if Scott writes a post on that aspect–because I can’t imagine that the cost/benefit ratio works out to anything other than it being a really bad idea for him.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Jaskologist
            Any chance we could keep this thread from derailing into the SJWs? My personal preference would be for this one to stay on-topic about foreign policy [….]

            Well, about election-focused things, anyway. I hope the election discussion/s can continue through Election Day, one place or another. The more input from Scott, the better, of course, including any more top articles he feels like doing.

        • Jiro says:

          His argument was that Trump’s obvious amiability with extremists was an obvious gift to SJWs

          Then he should be arguing that SJWs ought to vote for Trump.

          Also, he’s ignoring scenarios. Yes, one scenario is that SJWs gain more power if they have an obvious extremist target. But another scenario is that SJWs lose power because they have a president who was attacked by SJWs, but managed to survive and get elected, and this demonstrates that standing up to SJWs is possible. Yet another scenario is that SJWs lose power because they no longer have a president on their side to rally around, and because it becomes harder to accuse their opponents of -ism in a way that they could with a black president and can with a female president. Or it may be that SJWs need to use their influence to stop some bad policy of Trump’s and are limited in other areas–if you’re not a SJW but don’t like some of Trump’s ideas it could be win-win; SJWs keep Trump from building a wall, which you don’t want anyway, but can’t do much else. It may also be that with Trump as president, some of the gifts to SJWs we have now may be cut down–I can’t imagine Trump keeping the Title IX “Dear Colleague” letter.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            I’m a liberal in the materialist sense. I have a good life and ultimately/honestly I’d rather not see it disrupted. Intellectually, though, I’ve found the hard left very appealing for a long time. More Marxist than SJW, but sufficiently anti-imperialist to be similar in a lot of ways relevant here.

            The liberal in me is absolutely terrified of Trump, but the leftist? Actually kind of ambivalent. For one thing, the leftist absolutely hates Hillary. But, moreover, if Trump wins, I’ll not only be able to oppose everything he does without any reservation or holding back, but all the nice liberals will join me–and with four years of that obnoxious asshole on our screens, I expect more than a few of those liberals will join me in being willing to embrace some very serious and unflinching critiques of the troops and the country they fight for.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >Then he should be arguing that SJWs ought to vote for Trump.

            Why? SJWs are defined as exactly the sort of people Scott wants to see fail on the Left. Why would he give them advice?

          • Jiro says:

            Why? SJWs are defined as exactly the sort of people Scott wants to see fail on the Left. Why would he give them advice?

            Scott wants to see the right fail, and he’s giving *them* advice.

          • wintermute92 says:

            Or it may be that SJWs need to use their influence to stop some bad policy of Trump’s and are limited in other areas

            There are quite a few political movements that I prefer maintain real-but-marginal amounts of power. Just about any well-intentioned movement can benefit the country by pouring all their social capital into stopping some blatant horror, even if they would be disastrous when actually in charge.

            Regardless of which groups you actually like, it seems reasonable to appreciate a fringe presence for all of ancaps, far leftists, sjws, radical privacy advocates, etc. Having those preexisting structures is quite nice when someone turns up a monumentally dangerous idea, but it doesn’t mean I want them to have mainstream control.

          • TheWorst says:

            Also, he’s ignoring scenarios.

            This part’s interesting. There are a lot of possible scenarios, but do we have evidence to believe any more likely than the others?

            Speaking as someone who’d prefer the “SJW” faction either become much less rabid or much less pervasive, I don’t really see a reason to think a Trump victory’s more likely to bring that about than a Trump defeat.
            The arguments for both outcomes seem about equally valid to me, which is usually a red flag for a situation where we don’t know any (enough?) of the variables.

      • Thursday says:

        I also have to note the argument that U.S. politics couldn’t get any more ethnically balkanized. Hell yeah it can!

        • wintermute92 says:

          That line, and the few other “it can hardly get worse” bits (e.g. on immigration, regardless of your stance) felt like the weakest part of these essays. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone argue from “nowhere to go but up” and not get badly burned by it.

      • Autolykos says:

        Please do not make this election about SJWs. They may be very annoying*, but they are far from an existential threat. Idiots shouting irritating nonsense on the Internet is simply a fact of life that is completely independent from the state of the world (as long as it contains an Internet). But they are way too engaged in infighting to get anything done. This whale will not die from cancer.

        *one of the articles here argues that they are even optimized to be maximally annoying by nameless, unseen forces

        • The Nybbler says:

          They are an existential threat. They represent an end to freedom of speech, an end to the antidiscrimination principles brought forth in the civil rights era, and in general an end to the Enlightenment (which they feel is racist, sexist, and homophobic just like everything else). They are not merely idiots shouting irritating nonsense on the Internet; they have influential positions in academia, in government, and in industry (at least _some_ industries). There’s even at least one on the Supreme Court. They engage in infighting but so far it isn’t nearly severe enough to bring them down or weaken them significantly.

          • What freedom of speech? The US have food libel laws, treat whistleblowers like terrorists, have legislation that make independent radio stations illegal in many places, and have generally always been fine with big oligopolies, powerful lobbies, large morality groups and angry lynch mobs harassing everyone else into shutting up as long as they were doing it on their own (rather through the government). Censorship exists and has always existed in the US. Just like it has everywhere else.

          • Agreed. Our best chance of avoiding an unfriendly AI apocalypse is to use genetic engineering to greatly enhance human intelligence and morality. Alas, SJWs greatly inhibit research into the genetic basis of human intelligence.

          • Anonymous says:

            ^^
            Poe’s law?

          • herbert herbertson says:

            I’ve actually received that exact line from Scott Alexander himself.

          • Zombielicious says:

            I’ve actually received that exact line from Scott Alexander himself.

            That’s, uh, depressing. Social justice -> limiting research into genetics -> slowing down human augmentation -> AI catastrophe seems like some serious conjunction fallacy. Two reasons it’s not a serious issue:

            I tend to think there’s a hierarchy of how change occurs, loosely something like: technological change > economic change > social change. Social movements are the weakest of the three. Women didn’t enter the workforce because everyone woke up one day and said, “Hey guys lets all stop oppressing women!” It was facilitated by larger technological developments like automation of household chores (washing machine, vacuums, etc), proliferation of jobs that didn’t involve stuff like working in a coal mine until you died of lung disease, rising productivity decoupling economic success from “how many kids can we produce to work the fields,” etc. To give another example, you might point to Communism as a place where social movements overpowered economic forces, except that Soviet-style Communism collapsed largely because it failed to overpower technological and economic forces in the long run.

            The other, somewhat related, reason: does anyone really think aversion to studying racial differences in IQ is going to be so strong as to completely outdo the financial motives for studying genetics? No one wants to study “is there a link between skin color and IQ,” but it hasn’t really prevented the entire rest of genetics research from going forward. Any influence the anti-genetic-basis-of-racial-IQ-differences crowd has had on limiting research in medicine and genetics pales in comparison to the limitations put on it by the religious right, but we don’t see the conservosphere at war with them because they’re going to limit stem-cell research and genetic engineering, thereby bringing on the AIpocalypse by failing to start embryo selection and related technologies soon enough. At the very least, it’s kind of weird to obsess over the hindrance possibly caused by SJWs when the elephant in the room is the religious right and anti-GMO/vaccines/anything-not-“natural” crowds.

          • keranih says:

            Women didn’t enter the workforce because everyone woke up one day and said, “Hey guys lets all stop oppressing women!”

            Of course not – and we didn’t shift to “middle/upper class women don’t work outside the home” because everyone woke up one day and said “Hey, guys, let’s all start oppressing women” either. There was a lot of tech and economic issues at play, there, too.

            Any influence the anti-genetic-basis-of-racial-IQ-differences crowd has had on limiting research in medicine and genetics pales in comparison to the limitations put on it by the religious right,

            Can you unpack this a bit? Just which lines of research are not being followed, regarding research into existing human genetics? And where are we actually doing trials of disease cures and preventions?

            Because we’ve had GMO insulin for decades now, and it seems at least monthly that someone is attempting another retrovirus trial on a child patient. Has some new rule come down that I missed?

            It’s also worthy of noting that the anti-racial-genetics crowd hasn’t been actually using destructive testing on racial minorities, as opposed to research into human embryo manipulations.

          • Zombielicious

            “does anyone really think aversion to studying racial differences in IQ is going to be so strong as to completely outdo the financial motives for studying genetics?”

            It is already happening. I’ve interviewed a few experts on the genetics of intelligence on my podcast Future Strategist.

          • James D. Miller:
            “Agreed. Our best chance of avoiding an unfriendly AI apocalypse is to use genetic engineering to greatly enhance human intelligence and morality. Alas, SJWs greatly inhibit research into the genetic basis of human intelligence.”

            Aside from the question of the genetic basis of human intelligence, as far as I can tell, practically everyone is opposed to increasing human intelligence, or at least everyone where I hang out. Maybe it’s different in China.

            SJWs aren’t *especially* a problem.

            This being said, research into the physical basis of intelligence would be a lot more savory if it focused on the differences between individuals which obviously exist rather than the differences between races which are rather vaguer.

          • Nancy,

            “as far as I can tell, practically everyone is opposed to increasing human intelligence, or at least everyone where I hang out.” Well, when couples seek donor eggs they pay more for eggs from women who attend colleges that have high SAT scores.

            “This being said, research into the physical basis of intelligence would be a lot more savory if it focused on the differences between individuals which obviously exist rather than the differences between races which are rather vaguer.” Agreed, but the political problem is that finding one would give you the other, if the other exists. I wonder if the people who most fear IQ research are liberals who place a very high probability on group differences existing.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @keranih:
            The ban on stem cell research (at institutions receiving federal funds, or was it just research actually using federal funds?) under Bush is the most obvious example. Also the opposition to savior siblings and similar scenarios, though I don’t know much about that. Same for abortion, which isn’t exactly genetics research, but imo sits in the same boat.

            I guess we can debate how much they’ve actually been successful holding back research that would have furthered medicine and genetics, but my point is that the core of the right’s base for the past ~35 years has been opposed to much of the kind of research that would have facilitated human augmentation.

            A lot of the stuff just has broad disapproval from most of society, even scientists – e.g. cloning-related technologies, and the recent calls for banning human germ-line modifications. Plus other stuff like anti-GMOs and anti-vaccines, which gets a lot of populist support from both right and left. I have trouble seeing social justice as being a uniquely threatening opponent of such technologies.

            It’s also worthy of noting that the anti-racial-genetics crowd hasn’t been actually using destructive testing on racial minorities, as opposed to research into human embryo manipulations.

            Sure, but this kind of comes down to your opinion on “is destroying a blastocyte equivalent to murder,” and similarly the stem cell research crowd doesn’t have a history of their research being used to justify stuff like colonialism, segregation, and force sterilization programs.

            @James D Miller:

            It is already happening. I’ve interviewed a few experts on the genetics of intelligence on my podcast Future Strategist.

            Which interviews are those? Do they actually provide evidence that the aversion to studying racial differences in IQ is holding back the field of genetics, particularly related to human augmentation, outside of that specific subfield? Because it seems kind of odd, since you’d think it’d be pretty easy to study the genetic basis of intelligence without having to first study it’s relationship to ethnicity. Meaning you can run a GWAS on a bunch of people to see which genes correlate with intelligence, and I don’t see where dividing them up by skin color to determine which group has a slightly higher average is a necessity in that.

            I wonder if the people who most fear IQ research are liberals who place a very high probability on group differences existing.

            It seems more likely that they think the potential dangers of it being used to justify disenfranchising various groups outweigh whatever potential benefits, especially since it’s not really required to develop medicinal therapies and such. Especially given the past history of it being used to justify such things, and contemporary support from a lot of less savory groups, it’s not like the worry is without basis. It’s not necessarily that different from the AI-risk discussion: even given a low probability of the risk being realized, potentially very large damage resulting from it (e.g. another Holocaust or 20th-century-style eugenics program) could make the research not worth the risk.

            Even more likely is just that people see hundreds of years of pseudoscientific research into racial differences in IQ being used to justify oppression of minorities, so have a high prior that any similar research chosen is likely to have the same lack of credibility and nefarious motivations.

          • I’m not sure that SJW’s are the most serious barrier to genetic research, but I think they may be hostile to it for a reason unrelated to concerns about human diversity.

            In trying to figure out what “social justice” means, one answer I have come up with is “that approach to justice whose first question, with regard to any issue at all, is ‘how does it affect the poor’?”

            One result is to be skeptical of any form of progress that doesn’t benefit poor people at least as much as others. The early stages of genetic research are likely to fit that.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Well, that seems to be one of the most common objections to human augmentation – the first people to afford it will have a huge productivity advantage, accelerate ahead of everyone else, and Gattaca ends up becoming historical fiction.

            I don’t think that’s really a social justice issue, though, at least not in the narrow sense of the term. For one, it’s an objection made by everyone, including the professional researchers using the technologies who are against near-term human augmentation (see my previous Nature link). For the other, the social justice and economic egalitarianism movements aren’t completely equivalent at all. See the animosity between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns – feminists and minorities pretty clearly chose Clinton, while the “eat the rich” and anti-war crowds seemed to lean pretty heavily Sanders. With plenty of infighting along the way.

            Then again I’m not really sure how “social justice” was intended to be used here. It gets kind of hard to have a discussion about what a broad, informal coalition of groups thinks or wants when it can mean anything from “people whose major priority is positive rights for minorities” to “anyone to the left of my own views.” It would be like talking about what “conservatives think” while failing to distinguish any difference between libertarians and ancaps, religious fundamentalists, neoconservatives, random small business owners, etc.

          • Wency says:

            @David Friedman

            As the term is used here, I think SJWs are more likely to ask, “How does this affect the portrayal of persons other than straight cis-gendered non-Hispanic white [insert 1 additional adjective per decade] males?”

            “Social justice” used to mean concern for the poor, including a focus on practical results rather than controlling speech, but that definition is fading, at least here on the Internet.

          • @Wency:

            I was talking about “social justice” not SJW’s. I’m a law professor, I see lots of references to “social justice,” most or all of which have nothing to do with online campaigns to stamp out bad thought and the like.

            The question I naturally ask is what “social” adds to “justice.” The closest I can come to an answer is either the one I offered above or “views of justice held by people on the left.”

          • keranih says:

            @ Zombielicious –

            The debate and limits of funding are pretty well summarized here at WP. In short, Bill Clinton had banned funding earlier, Bush actually allowed more research to be funded, Obama tried to increase the cell lines that could be funded but was overrulled by Congress.

            Private funding was never an issue, and states are able to raise funds to support embryo-destroying research if they so choose.

            So blaming Bush for stopping research seems a bit much.

            It also seems unreasonable to blame “the Religious Right” for stances that are commonly held by broad swathes of the population.

            similarly the stem cell research crowd doesn’t have a history of their research being used to justify stuff like colonialism, segregation, and force sterilization programs

            Why, certainly, you’re correct that a sector of research that would benefit from legal elective abortion isn’t being subjected to media scrutiny and isn’t being linked to various nefarious organizations who conducted other research or pursued other objectives in other eras.

            Odd how that happens.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I guess we can debate how much they’ve actually been successful holding back research that would have furthered medicine and genetics, but my point is that the core of the right’s base for the past ~35 years has been opposed to much of the kind of research that would have facilitated human augmentation.

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the record of discoveries made using adult stem cells much better than that of foetal ones?

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Please do not make this election about SJWs. They may be very annoying*, but they are far from an existential threat.

          That depends on who you are/what you believe, doesn’t it? Deiseach has already quoted the USCCR’s report on religious freedom. If I lived in the US I’d consider talk about how religious freedom “stand[s] for nothing except hypocrisy” and is merely a code for “discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance” to be an existential threat to me and people like me.

      • Urstoff says:

        If you’re voting based on who will fight the SJW’s, maybe you should spend less time on the internet.

        • Alexp says:

          Ha, exactly.

        • wintermute92 says:

          I’m constantly confused by this argument. Leave aside for a second how any of us feel about SJ(W), it just seems inaccurate?

          People widely avowed as SJ activists got to hold their own sessions on privacy and censorship with the UN. Hillary’s DNC speech called for advancing Social Justice (ambiguously distinct from the internet incarnation, but not unrelated). The most rabid, irrational progressive-left people I know I met in college, not on the internet. The only times I have ever appreciably self-censored for fear of “Teh SJWs” were in college, not on the internet.

          If SJW was going to determine my vote this election (it isn’t), time on the internet wouldn’t be a major factor in fueling that fire.

      • “We don’t know what Trump will do ” means some of his actions will be reckless and unpredictable, not that some of his actions will be predictable..

        On a different theme , I am not seeing the SJW thing s all that apocalyptic. It barely exists outside the campus and SV. Of course, the campus and SV are where the SSC readership congregate., so it seems big because it’s close.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ Thursday
        By this I mean that you spent a lot of time arguing that Trump was more millenarian than Clinton, which I don’t really buy.

        No, Trump is 70 years old.
        No, he does not expect Utopia.
        No, Trump does not live in a basement, nor support Sanders.

  6. pku says:

    On the one hand, I absolutely agree with everything you say in this post. Especially the “Trump doesn’t like losers” bit, which is a great description of him in terms of kolmogorov complexity.

    On the other hand, I worry when things get political. I really like this blog and the community here (except for the people who categorically hate liberals, immigrants/foreigners/eurotrash, and people with fancy ivy-league degrees, on account of my belonging to all three groups). And one of the most common failure modes for nice communities is that they get political and turn into giant flame wars. (Of course, there’s the optimistic option that the aforementioned people I dislike leave and everyone I like stays, but this seems risky).

    But it is your blog, and I don’t think I really have a right to criticize what you choose to put in it. Especially when it’s content I agree with.

    • This is *just* Scott’s blog, which I think will make it harder for a flame war to erupt too badly. If there are problems, then (temporary or permanent) bans can be handed out to the people who can’t be nice. Scott has shown a willingness to ban in the past, so I don’t think that we have to worry about a failure in that regard either.

      • Deiseach says:

        I would probably disagree with some of Scott’s political/cultural/economic views, and I certainly disagree with his rosy view of how nice Blue Tribe – and I’m extending “Blue Tribe” to mean similar views in my own country* – would be if only Red Tribe would play nicely with them. Then again, I disagree withthe other right-wing/conservative commenters here on some of their cultural/political/economic views, as well.

        But I very much appreciate what Scott is doing with this blog, and I don’t get this kind of stimulating conversation on a multiplicity of topics elsewhere. By expressing disagreement with what he thinks, I don’t mean any kind of personal attack on him and certainly not that he’s stupid, ignorant or mistaken (merely that I don’t interpret it the way he does). And I’d hate to see us all go down in a flame war.

        I think, if we can acknowledge we all have a range of very different and very sincerely held political/cultural views, without getting bogged down in “well, you’re stupid/you’re evil!”, then we can get the political hair-pulling off our collective chests and calm down after the election (elections are the worst, because they do fan the flames of partisanship).

        I’ve been a recipient of Scott’s mercy re: banning and I am grateful for it, and I hope nobody in these particular discussions trigger any more bans.

        *We’re gearing up for a Repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution campaign in my country, and already all the national media are well in the tank for the pro-repeal side. Which means the anti-repeal side are going to be (in some instances, are already being) portrayed as knuckle-dragging Neanderthal mouth-breathing redneck religious zealot bigots who want to punish women for daring to be sexually active, lacking all compassion for hard cases, and forcing women to continue with non-viable pregnancies because they value a clump of cells over a woman’s life – sounding familiar? Oh, this is going to be so much fun! 🙁

        • LifeOnAFarm says:

          “Are You A Baby Killer Or A Religious Fascist?”

          • Deiseach says:

            Oh, it’ll be that level of dispassionate reasoning and appeal to principle, I have no doubts about it 🙁

        • TheWorst says:

          and I’m extending “Blue Tribe” to mean similar views in my own country*

          I thought the point was that they can’t really be extended that way–because our tribes consist mostly of the people you guys decided were just too odious to keep around. Which is why we have them (us?) and you don’t.

          I’m not saying you were wrong, to be fair. I might have evicted us too.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      On the other hand, I worry that by writing some conservative stuff I’ve made this community too conservative, so I’m making it a point that when I agree with leftists on something, I’m going to write about it, in order to drive some conservatives away and attract some leftists and restore balance.

      • keranih says:

        I’m going to write about it, in order to drive some conservatives away and attract some leftists and restore balance.

        It’ll be interesting to see if your efforts get the result you want…but I’d really like to see what metrics you’re using to define “balance.”

        • MugaSofer says:

          Probably “actually in the same area of the political spectrum as Scott” rather than, for example, acting shocked when he fails to endorse Donald Trump.

          • Theo Jones says:

            I’m thinking he means something like “has roughly the same partizan divide as the U.S population as a whole but with more rigorously considered opinions”.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Won’t work. Your righties experience intelligent disagreement as utility; it’s a fun opportunity to mix it up in the comments section. The tumblr communists will then look at those comment sections and tut-tut all the more.

        The solution is either to avoid all hot-button topics entirely or turn the blog into a series of reblogs of Daily Show clips.

        • Andrew says:

          Are all lefties tumblr communists?

          • Sandy says:

            If he’s talking about the disapproving comments on Scott’s tumblr, I believe some of those people literally are communists.

          • Theo Jones says:

            @Sandy

            As far as I know, Multiheaded is pretty much the only Marxist in rationalist tumblr.

          • Eli says:

            I’m a Communist and have a Tumblr. I don’t really spend a lot of time on it, though.

          • wintermute92 says:

            Depending on how you define “communist” and “in rationalist tumblr” there are between one and way more.

            If you broaden those to “radical leftist calling for revolution with state ownership of production, but unwilling to use the word” and “vocally hates, but relentlessly engages with and uses the terminology of rationalist tumblr”, you pick up several.

        • Spot says:

          Well, I do agree that centrist spaces that extend any sympathy at all to right-wing views tend to accrue an audience that swings rightward, especially if the culture wars are a frequent subject of discussion. To keep a healthy liberal audience, it seems like you have to more or less adopt a total or near-total allegiance to the Blue narrative.

          But I think you can derive different conclusions from this dynamic. Some might say that liberals are intolerant weenies who can’t deal with a space that doesn’t cater exclusively to them. On the other hand, some might say that conservatives are aggressive imperialists who will take a mile if you give them an inch. I think both of those are uncharitable ways of putting it, but they probably also both contain a grain of truth. The point is that it seems very difficult to have a genuinely “balanced” audience due to this asymmetry. In my opinion, this blog does it better than almost any other place on the Internet, though the dynamic seems to be exacerbated when the subject is the 2016 election.

          • Corey says:

            Reality bubbles make this difficult also; it’s difficult to productively discuss anything with someone from another reality, you’ll just talk past one another. I can’t give examples for obvious reasons.

          • Adam says:

            Therese the argument that lefties are spoiled for choice and thus can pick and choose their fora, whereas righties who want a good community are a bit starved and thus will take what they can get, but that’s probably also an oversimplification

          • The Most Conservative says:

            Well, I do agree that centrist spaces that extend any sympathy at all to right-wing views tend to accrue an audience that swings rightward, especially if the culture wars are a frequent subject of discussion.

            One (self-serving) explanation is simply that when right-wing and left-wing ideas meet on a level playing field, the right-wing ideas tend to win.

          • pku says:

            Inconsistent with our situation – the right-wingers here were all right-wingers before they came here. It’s not a case of convincing former left-wingers with the strength of their ideas.

          • TheWorst says:

            It seems as though, when confronted with someone who is so unconscionably rude as to mention facts that aren’t consistent with their (our?) (inaccurate) worldview, Blue Tribers tend to drift back to the spaces where no one would be so offensive (and it’s easy for them, because there’s no shortage of blue-tribe-compatible places with reasonably high standards of intellectualism).
            In the same circumstance, apparently, the Red Tribe response is to freak the fuck out (presumably because they’ve claimed this as the one “safe space” where smart people gather without driving out all the Red Tribers first). At least, that’s what seems to happen here (see: lefties performing The Flounce, and E. Harding’s vomiting up clouds of squid ink in these threads).

            This ends up meaning that centrist spaces–or paying-attention-to-reality spaces (they’re not quite the same thing)–tend to gradually lose all of the lefties, and draw a large group of fever-swamp-regurgitates.
            The sad thing is that the rightists in question come here because it’s essentially the only place where they can find intelligent discussion without being ostracized, but don’t realize that this means they shouldn’t defect from the norms–they cluster in the living room because it’s the only place where no one’s yet pooped on the carpet, but don’t realize that this means they should maybe not poop on it.

            A place where people can safely talk about reality without having to kowtow to popular myths is nice, but this also means you may need to just cope with the fact that it’s not going to endorse your myths either.

        • Harry says:

          I am proudly left-wing, but I am emphatically not a communist. I value rigorous, logical assessment of my own political ideas (though I think “rationality” as a movement is suspect) and I enjoy debate with people from the other end of the political spectrum.

          I’ve only recently started commenting on this blog – I read through the archives with interest and I’ve enjoyed most of Scott’s articles, but until now I’ve avoided the comment section because as far as I could tell it consisted entirely of very right-wing people. While I enjoy debate, I don’t enjoy being dogpiled.

          Obviously I am just one example, but we do exist. And I appreciate Scott extending an olive branch.

          • Ildanach says:

            I think this may be largely the case. Several times I’ve thought about commenting on an article, scrolled down to the comments and seen nothing but hard right-wing tedium, and thought better of it. At least one other person I know who reads this blog feels the same. I would predict that, like many places on the internet, the general readership veers left of the comments section. I do feel that Scott panders a bit to the right wing in his posts (e.g. the random unproductive jabs at left wing politics in the last two political posts) just to make them palatable and, I imagine, to stop the comments section from being drowned in complaints.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Which jabs are you thinking of in the previous post? If it’s about SJW, that’s not random for him at all.

            I don’t remember and didn’t see upon quick review any jabs at left-ish politics in this post.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        If the reply thread to your last post wasn’t what you want your comment section to look like, I think you should seriously consider a fairly thorough purge of the most frequent and prolific right-wing commenters. You can start with me, if you like. I wouldn’t take it personally, and there’s a fair probability that me being banned would be a net positive for my personal values. I think the current political situation is unhinging us more than a little, and we’re likely to get worse, not better.

        • anaon says:

          I’m going to toss in a request that if you do ban right-wing commenters you skip Faceless Craven. While right-wing, they’ve been a model of the kind of open-mindedness to differing beliefs that make this a interesting place.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            While very flattering, I don’t think you appreciate how much of my time this place burns. It’s basically a superstimulus. I’ve been thinking about requesting a ban anyway just so I can get more actual work done.

          • anaon says:

            @Faceless Craven

            Oh if being banned would be good for you then go ahead. I just wanted to point out that you weren’t one of the people making things worse.

          • Zombielicious says:

            I find just blocking the site in my hosts file every once in a while works well enough, and is less permanent than requesting a ban. The minimal level of trouble required to open the file and comment/uncomment two lines is enough to break the cycle of needing to read and respond to every new comment. Later when you have more time on your hands, or want to see what new posts you missed, you can just remove the block in < 15 seconds.

            There are add-ons that will accomplish the same thing, e.g. only let you access a site during certain times of the day.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:
            This space needs more of your approach, not less.

            EDIT: Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t do what you need from a time management perspective, just that I find your contribution valuable and enjoyable.

          • TheWorst says:

            Seconded. Purging the loudest and most-bullshit-prone rightists would dramatically improve the comments page without losing anything of value, but I don’t think FacelessCraven is one of those.

            Purging E. Harding basically seems like a necessity, banning anonymous (as opposed to pseudonymous–the hassle of having to set up a dummy email account would probably discourage the trolls from elsewhere) seems the same, but I think losing FC wouldn’t be a positive. In all honesty, I’d ban me before I’d ban him.

          • ” In all honesty, I’d ban me before I’d ban him.”

            So far as maintaining the quality of conversation, I would ban you before either Harding or Jill, let alone FC, since I think you contribute less than either of them.

            But I’m not in favor of banning people for merely lowering the average quality of discourse.

            I am a little puzzled by the combination of your choice of a label and your apparent blindness to how well others see you as fitting it.

          • TheWorst says:

            David, why do you think I don’t post on your blog? Why would I want to interact with only the people you consider tolerable?
            I’m quite aware that you and your fellow-travelers are wildly offended at seeing viewpoints that aren’t alt-right, yes. I’m mystified why you think I don’t know that; it’s not like any of you have been at-all shy about saying just how triggered your precious feeeeeelings are at seeing your safe space not being respected.

          • JHC says:

            Wife: What are you doing, hon.

            Self: Watching Machinations of the Friedman. He plays the manager of a computer forum of insanely-defensive millenial trump supporters.

          • “Why would I want to interact with only the people you consider tolerable?”

            Are you assuming I censor my comment threads? I don’t, aside from spam intended to direct people to car rental firms in Delhi and the like.

            “I’m quite aware that you and your fellow-travelers are wildly offended at seeing viewpoints that aren’t alt-right, yes. ”

            At various points on my blog I had extended and civil exchanges with Robert Frank and Robert Altemeyer. Presumably you think they are alt right?

            There is a real world out there. You don’t get to create it out of your imagination.

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            @various people about not wasting too much time here:

            I just use LeechBlock.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Leechblock is great, but it’s browser specific, the Chrome versions are pretty bad.

            I’d say the hosts file is the best approach, assuming you’re not entering from a work proxy.

      • Tekhno says:

        Another option is ignoring the comment section and just writing articles with yourself in mind.

      • Urstoff says:

        It might be a bit too late for that, Scott. Your anti-SJW tactics posts have seem to build a commentariat that view the culture war as a grand Manichean struggle. Your active involvement of the comments seems to moderate this place a bit, but I’m worried that it’s going to end up like MR.

        • Anonymous says:

          What a horrible mess that is. I don’t know why he doesn’t just shut them. Well I have a theory, but I hope it isn’t true.

          Is E. Harding still evading his ban there?

          • Urstoff says:

            I don’t know why MR still has comments. If you can’t moderate with an iron fist, it’s probably best just not to have a comments section at all. And I do think (((E. Harding))) shows up there from time to time, but I don’t check the comments much these days.

          • E. Harding says:

            How dare you call me a Jew, Urstoff? That’s uncalled for. I have, to my knowledge, no Jewish or Muslim ancestry.

            Thing is, Cowen, as in my case, in which he deletes every one of my comments when he looks at them, can moderate with an iron fist. He just doesn’t want to, as he cares much more about the commenter than the what any one comment says.

  7. tumteetum says:

    Agreed, excellent post.

    >failure modes for nice communities

    Dont they always eventually fail tho? I’ve been on the net since 19bow-and-arrow and I’ve seen it happen over and over again. It used to really get to me, now I just think of them as a kind of TAZ and try to keep an eye out for the next new place.

    Edit: Woops, this was meant to be a reply to pku above!

    • pku says:

      Yeah, I’ve been through a few (the worst was probably my time on the xkcd forums). This is my favourite one so far though, I hope it sticks around.

      Also, what’s 19bow-and-arrow? Googling it just led me to this, which, um… leaves some questions.

      • tumteetum says:

        >favourite

        Yes I like it very much too, another good place at the moment is soylentnews.org, a (mostly) technical/science news aggregation site run by volunteers, the discussion is perhaps a bit earthier than here but all views are allowed.

        >19bow-and-arrow

        A joke (sort of), it was something my father used to say when he wanted to indicate something in the distant past, but couldnt remember the exact date.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’ve seen it mostly in fandoms: starts off with people saying “This is the nicest community I’ve ever been in, everyone is so polite and supportive, it’s not like those other fandoms that get crazy!”

      And then three months later the ship wars start, or duelling interpretations of characters, and the whole place is up in flames 🙂

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        How were those groups moderated? Scott’s Reign of Terror with instant bans (some indefinite) and his sometimes putting a subject off-limits for a thread or two, may keep SSC cooler.

  8. Thursday says:

    I have to say though, that it’s a hell of a lot easier to occupy oilfields than it is to occupy areas with lots of people. Lots of troops would have to stay in Iraq, but they wouldn’t be in harms way to nearly the same extent as troops trying to keep the peace in populated areas.

    • Matthew says:

      Yeah, but you think this wouldn’t have an effect on the other 100 some nations where the US keeps forces?

      No one is going to want to host US troops if it means that the US has the right to take your national resources if they don’t like your government.

    • AnonBosch says:

      I have to say though, that it’s a hell of a lot easier to occupy oilfields than it is to occupy areas with lots of people.

      Occupying oilfields is useless without also occupying port terminals. These are usually located in or near major coastal cities.

    • John Schilling says:

      If what you want to claim is nominal ownership of oil buried underground, sure. If you want to sell and/or use that oil, you also need to control the transport infrastucture. T. E. Lawrence would like to have a chat with you about the sort of wackiness that ensues when you try to control transport infrastructure running through barren deserts and port cities populated with even a smattering of people who don’t like you and have guns. Well, guns, dynamite, and capable leaders.

      For that matter, you could just look at what is happening in Libya today, though I don’t think any of the factions have a leader quite in Lawrence’s class.

    • Thursday says:

      So, you’d have to build your own port, staff it with Americans and keep the locals away. Very doable. The only question is whether it is worth it economically. We also easily have the tech to defend transport through the countryside.

      • Julian says:

        This is not “very doable”. Building oil wells, pipelines, ports and other infrastructure is extremely difficult and time consuming when its done in Kansas and Texas. Add in a population of fanatical terrorists dead set on killing you and what you propose is damn near impossible.

        Your cavalier attitude to this demonstrates that you have no knowledge of the oil industry, foreign policy, or modern military strategy (just like Trump).

        Chevron recently completed the Gorgon gas project in Australia. It pumps 15 million tons of natural gas per year. Ground breaking occurred in 2009 and the first gas was pumped this year. The entire project cost $53 BILLION dollars. That is the scale of project you are proposing.

        Is it “do able”? In theory yes, as Chevron has just done it. But they didnt do in in a war zone or under the incompetent management of the federal government. The gorgon project pumps the equivalent of 2 million barrels of oil per year (not a perfect equivalent between LNG and oil). There are 140 billion barrels of proven reserves in Iraq. Are you prepared to invest tax dollars in multiple Gorgon size projects and pump oil from them for decades? Iraq’s current oil production is approx. 3.3 million barrels per day. It would take 116 years to pump all of its proven reserves at current capacity.

  9. Texas says:

    Part 2 in a 60 part SSC series on voting for Hillary Clinton.

    • Deiseach says:

      Hillary’s his preferred candidate, he’s perfectly entitled on his own blog to say why he thinks she’d be good in the job and why people should vote for her.

      And he’s letting us who disagree or are less than enthusiastic about how much better she would be put our views, instead of shutting down all comments for this (as I have seen other sites do when they anticipated something that would get very heated in discussion) or deleting comments disagreeing with him.

      Scott is putting his money where his mouth is in regard to free speech and I respect that.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m hoping by part 20 or so we can sway him to the anybody-but-Hillary camp.

      • cassander says:

        I don’t want trump to win, but I definitely want hillary to lose. Maybe we can arrange to have their campaign busses crash into each other? then fall off a cliff? Then nuke the site from orbit, just to be sure?

      • Deiseach says:

        In part 40 we get him to advocate for Jill Stein, because she’s a doctor, you know! A fully-trained medical professional who has been exposed to the best of science! No crazy ideas likely there! 🙂

        • Zombielicious says:

          There’s been literally no one in this race who didn’t have completely crazy ideas in some area or another.

    • sohois says:

      Whilst it is possible that Scott reply to every comment in the ‘SSC endorses…’ replies, it probably wouldn’t be the best use of time for him. Far better, I feel, to make some general purpose blog posts that address concerns addressed by a large number of people, than trying to answer everyone’s individual concerns one by one.

    • TheWorst says:

      I don’t recall Scott promising that this would be a safe space from having to hear political opinions that don’t consist solely of wingnut nonsense.

      Intellectual diversity doesn’t just mean alt-rightists. Sometimes it means you get exposed to viewpoints that aren’t 100% identical to your own. It’s like free speech: it protects you from being silenced for saying something unpopular, but sometimes it also protects other people when you want to silence them for doing the same.

      • “It’s like free speech: it protects you from being silenced for saying something unpopular, but sometimes it also protects other people when you want to silence them for doing the same.”

        A bit odd from someone who has repeatedly argued for purging someone whose views he dislikes.

        At a slight tangent, can you tell us how long you have read and posted here? I’m curious, with regard to both you and some of the other posters who seem interested only in the election battle, whether they are regulars, possibly posting under different names, or new additions attracted by the current controversy.

        I checked back in the archives for Harding, and he has been posting under that name at least since last year. I couldn’t find you in a few of the comment threads from then, but that doesn’t prove you didn’t post in others.

        It would be interesting if someone with more of the relevant skills than I have would figure out an easy way of searching the archives and producing something like a pattern of past comments for each name–not content but how many and when.

        • TheWorst says:

          A bit odd from someone who has repeatedly argued for purging someone whose views he dislikes.

          E. Harding started calling for banning everyone who admitted to living in a world where alt-right myths aren’t true, so I pointed out that if we’re calling for bannings, his name should be at the top of the list. He also posts prolifically, at great length, and seems unaware of any methods of holding a conversation other than the gish gallop. I see why he and his type are useful to you and yours, but I’m not fortunate enough to have the same incentives.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          I checked back in the archives for Harding, and he has been posting under that name at least since last year. I couldn’t find you in a few of the comment threads from then, but that doesn’t prove you didn’t post in others.

          The first time I’ve seen TheWorst commenting was around the Albion’s Seed review.

          Even if I agree with what they say often, they’ve been an asshole since the beggining, if that’s what you’re wondering.

          • Jiro says:

            The problem is that Scott is reluctant to ban left-wing posters because there are too many right-wing ones and this brings balance. Unfortunately, that means that right-wing assholes get banned, but left-wing ones don’t.

          • TheWorst says:

            The last two comment pages make it exceedingly clear that not all right-wing assholes get banned. If they did, there would be fewer of them. Some of them get banned, but not enough to put a dent in the population.

      • ChetC3 says:

        Since it’s well-known that alt-right viewpoints prevail wherever they’re allowed to meet other political views on a level playing field, in logically follows that all level playing fields must converge towards alt-right echo chambers over time.

  10. Alex Richard says:

    > Trump has earned a reputation as an isolationist by criticizing the Iraq War.

    This is flatly inaccurate; Trump did not consistently oppose the Iraq war before it began.

    > The main concern I’ve heard is that the no-fly zone might lead to conflict (war?) with Russia.

    The idea that a this scenario would cause a war with Russia is hilariously conjunctive; it relies on a long series of things occurring in a row, several of which are individually unlikely:

    1) Syria looks like it does today after Clinton takes office
    2) Clinton actually means to go through with her no-fly zone, even though her explicit justification for it was that it would help in negotiations with Russia, and even though this is all based on a single throwaway comment from one interview
    3) Russia will refuse any concessions, resulting in Clinton going through with the no-fly zone
    4) Clinton intends to include Russian planes in the no-fly zone (zero reason to believe this- Clinton never mentioned Russia, and per her publicly released emails, her briefings encouraging a no-fly zone were solely against Assad)
    5) Clinton will enforce a no-fly zone by shooting down Russian places, even though she’s never said anything like this, and even though no proposal for a Syria no-fly zone has proposed attacking Russia
    6) Russia will then respond by declaring war, even though they would obviously lose either a convention or a nuclear war, and even though they’ve already ignored a NATO country shooting down their plane

    ***

    I don’t see why you’re ignoring the general question of temperament. It seems obvious that the main factor in whether Trump would start a war is his tendency to respond to any opposition with an attack, whether or not it makes any sense.

    • pku says:

      1) seems pretty likely. 2) is a misconception he corrects later – so when raising this issue, he still assumes Clinton plans to unilaterally initiate a no-fly zone. 3) is unlikely but not totally crazy – Putin isn’t known for making concessions when threatened. 4/5) again, unlikely but not crazy – She might want to target Russian planes (to maintain authority), or accidentally shoot them down if they refuse to identify (which they have in the past). 6) is… very very unlikely, but getting to that position is bad enough that we should try hard to avoid significant risk of it.

      • Alex Richard says:

        > 1) seems pretty likely.

        My concern is the conjunction of these claims.

        > 2) is a misconception he corrects later – so when raising this issue, he still assumes Clinton plans to unilaterally initiate a no-fly zone.

        No sure what you mean here- who is he? If you’re talking about Scott, then I’m saying he’s wrong to assert that with any degree of confidence, i.e. his assumption is wrong. (Clinton doesn’t appear to mention a no-fly zone on the issues page of her website, or at least I couldn’t find it.)

        > 3) is unlikely but not totally crazy – Putin isn’t known for making concessions when threatened.

        Just talking about US military action, he gave assent to Libya, he support for previous/current Syrian ceasefires, and he proposed Syrian chemical disarmament. This was all under significantly less threat- mostly displomatic, or to his proxies.

        > 4/5) again, unlikely but not crazy – She might want to target Russian planes (to maintain authority), or accidentally shoot them down if they refuse to identify (which they have in the past).

        Not sure what you mean by refuse to identify.

        Your argument more broadly is basically my point- there’s zero reason to think that this is true. If you think Clinton would chose to start shooting down Russian planes for no rational reason, this specific scenario is irrelevant, your concern is Clinton’s personality, there will be war regardless of the specific precipitating factors. (Reminder: Clinton led the reset with Russia; out of every major US political figure, she is probably the least accusable of being irrationally anti-Russian.)

        > 6) is… very very unlikely, but getting to that position is bad enough that we should try hard to avoid significant risk of it.

        I disagree that there is significant risk of this scenario.

        • pku says:

          To clarify what I meant by 2: You said there was no risk that Clinton intended to go through a unilateral no-fly zone which may include shooting down russian planes. This is true, and Scott explains it later. But the people who raised the worry weren’t aware of this correction – so the right answer is to begin by explaining the misconception, which Scott did later.

          By refuse to identify, I meant the scenario where they don’t broadcast their russianness on the radio and get shot down because they’re mistaken for Syrian planes. I don’t know enough about AA weapons to tell how likely this is.

          • Alex Richard says:

            2) Gotcha, sorry for misunderstanding you.

            > refuse to identify

            Essentially all planes, including Russian ones, have IFF transponders. Modern US radar can differentiate between different types of aircraft. Russian planes fly from a their own airfield, and can be tracked. There are countermeasures to all of these (e.g. flying similar models close together), but it would take active effort on the part of Russia, and wouldn’t be guaranteed to succeed. This would also be obvious to US, making an accidental attack unlikely; the US attacking in this situation would have to be deliberate.

      • Deiseach says:

        Hillary would negotiate with Russia/Putin and agree a no-fly zone with Russian co-operation? Well, that would entail that the US and Russia are still talking to one another by the time she’s elected.

        This is part of why I am hammering Gary Johnson on his “Aleppo moment” (he seems to have decided to dig himself deeper: “Johnson then proceeded to say that just “because a politician can dot the I’s and cross the T’s on some geographic location” does not mean that he or she should be trusted on the question of foreign interventions.” Sorry, Mr Johnson, but geographic locations do matter, especially if it’s tricky things like five miles this side of the border we bombed murderous terrorists, five miles that side of the border we bombed civilians of our allied country!)

        I fully accept that Al Jazeera may not be the most neutral news source out there, but all the reports I’m seeing (at least on this side of the Atlantic) are pretty much “Russia is doing what the hell it likes in Syria and thumbing its nose at the Americans”.

        • Alex Richard says:

          Is there any particular reason to doubt that the US would still be talking to Russia? We had regular talks during the Cold War, and the Democrats have long supported diplomacy with American enemies.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ Deiseach
          Hillary would negotiate with Russia/Putin and agree a no-fly zone with Russian co-operation? Well, that would entail that the US and Russia are still talking to one another by the time she’s elected.

          Hm, by November 8? Who would stop talking first, and why? I’d think both leaders would keep options open til Nov 8 (unless Russia wanted to affect our election by some stunt).

          ETA. Maybe I’m numb to sarcasm at this point. I feel like the US has got into a Star Trek alt timeline written in the 60s. The ‘Better Dead than Red’ crowd, which now complains about Communists on Tumblr, is attacking Hillary for being insufficiently scared of annoying Putin?

          I mean, fresh popcorn is nice, but this is blowing my Suspension of Disbelief.

        • E. Harding says:

          “ETA. Maybe I’m numb to sarcasm at this point. I feel like the US has got into a Star Trek alt timeline written in the 60s. The ‘Better Dead than Red’ crowd, which now complains about Communists on Tumblr, is attacking Hillary for being insufficiently scared of annoying Putin?”

          No wonder:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QS2a44F5TgM
          Obama was right in that clip. Now it’s Hillary being all Russophobic, like the bought robot Romney, whom I did not support at any point in the 2012 campaign.

          Hillary Clinton explicitly wants to import the foreign policy of the 1980s:

          Trump himself heaps praise on Putin and embraces pro-Russian policies.

          He talks casually of abandoning our NATO allies, recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and of giving the Kremlin a free hand in Eastern Europe more generally.

          American presidents from Truman to Reagan have rejected the kind of approach Trump is taking on Russia.
          We should, too.

    • E. Harding says:

      “I don’t see why you’re ignoring the general question of temperament.”

      -Because it’s total BS, confusing, as Scott Adams points out, typical New Yorker verbal style with inability to control one’s thoughts.

      “This is flatly inaccurate”

      -No, it’s not; Scott didn’t say Trump was against the war before it started. Trump was, indeed, a huge critic of the war from 2004 onward, even calling for Bush’s impeachment by 2008.

      “Syria looks like it does today after Clinton takes office”

      -It will.

      “even though her explicit justification for it was that it would help in negotiations with Russia, and even though this is all based on a single throwaway comment from one interview”

      -Not the case.

      The latter steps are, if not likely, certainly much more likely under a Clinton presidency than a Trump presidency.

      • Alex Richard says:

        > Because it’s total BS, confusing, as Scott Adams points out, typical New Yorker verbal style with inability to control one’s thoughts.

        If Trump was able to control his thoughts, he wouldn’t have repeatedly picked stupid and self-damaging fights that no other politician would- Curiel, Khan, Machado, etc.

        > No, it’s not; Scott didn’t say Trump was against the war before it started. Trump was, indeed, a huge critic of the war from 2004 onward, even calling for Bush’s impeachment by 2008.

        Opposing wars that you initially supported after it turns they’re going poorly doesn’t mean that you’re isolationist. That’s doesn’t show he’s unlikely to support future wars.

        > It will.

        Are you really meaning to claim that there is a 100% chance that Syria looks that way it does today next year?

        > Not the case.

        Here’s Clinton’s discussion of a no-fly zone. The relevant quote is:

        RADDATZ: Secretary Clinton, I’d like to go back to that if I could. ISIS doesn’t have aircraft, Al Qaida doesn’t have aircraft. So would you shoot down a Syrian military aircraft or a Russian airplane?

        CLINTON: I do not think it would come to that. We are already de-conflicting airspace. […] I am advocating the no-fly zone both because I think it would help us on the ground to protect Syrians; I’m also advocating it because I think it gives us some leverage in our conversations with Russia […] The no-fly zone, I would hope, would be also shared by Russia.

        >The latter steps are, if not likely, certainly much more likely under a Clinton presidency than a Trump presidency.

        As I said, this argument is the conjunctive fallacy. I can give you really specific scenarios where Trump leads to global nuclear war too; that doesn’t mean that we should reason based on pretty stories.

      • herbert herbertson says:

        I know several born-and-raised New Yorkers, with a couple more from Long Island and New Jersey to boot. None of them sound or act like Trump.

        Similarly, Scott Dilbert is not an linguist, a historian or an American Studies scholar. He’s not even a New Yorker–according to Wikipedia, he grew up in a small town in the Catskills, moved to California when he graduated from high school, and has stayed there ever since. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong, but it does suggest his claims need additional evidence. So is there any? Are there any people at least claiming the above expertise who are backing him up on that point? Did Trump overperform in NYC in a way that’s difficult to otherwise explain? Are there significant regional variations in how focus groups describe his temperament and use of language?

        • Simon says:

          Who is Scott Dilbert?

          • herbert herbertson says:

            He is the author of a syndicated comic strip called “Dilbert” who has gained recent prominence through correctly predicting Trump’s primary victory and through an unorthodox analysis of contemporary politics based primarily on what he calls “persecution techniques.” His given name is “Scott Adams” but as he has heartily endorsed Trump’s practice of applying grade-school tier insulting nicknames calculated to highlight the flaws of his opponents, I prefer to refer to him by a name that highlights the fact that his only actual claim to fame is a corny G-rated comic about the foibles of white-collar office workers.

          • TheWorst says:

            Referring to him as “Scott Dilbert” seems–demonstrably–to have negative communication value. That’s worth noticing.

            but as he has heartily endorsed Trump’s practice of applying grade-school tier insulting nicknames…

            Do you think he was right to do so? If you think that’s the wrong choice, why are you doing it? If you think it’s the right choice, why are you criticizing him?

            Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

          • This may be the first TheWorst post yet that I actually enjoyed reading.

          • TheWorst says:

            Of course. Everyone likes it when I point out when the other tribe is contradicting its own stated values.

          • Luke Somers says:

            I am left. I liked it too. Our side should keep itself clean when possible, and it is definitely possible now. Especially when being clean is a part of the core message.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            Do you think he was right to do so? If you think that’s the wrong choice, why are you doing it? If you think it’s the right choice, why are you criticizing him?

            The former. I’m willing to take the hit against myself for using childish rhetoric–particularly in my capacity as a pseudonym–if it successfully highlights both the childishness of that approach and the utter lack of Mr. Dilbert qualifications.

            (Also, I’m not a liberal, I’m a leftist, so I’m not intrinsically opposed to that sort of argument. Emotional propaganda is a natural part of politics, as is ridiculing the emotional propaganda from opposing camps)

          • TheWorst says:

            if it successfully highlights both the childishness of that approach and the utter lack of Mr. Dilbert qualifications.

            The evidence is that it didn’t do that–it instead just made people wonder who you were talking about, and/or whether you knew who you were talking about.

            But if you really think he was right to do it, why are you criticizing him? Why do you want to demonstrate the childishness of that approach if you think it was the right approach?

          • herbert herbertson says:

            The evidence is that it didn’t do that–it instead just made people wonder who you were talking about, and/or whether you knew who you were talking about.

            But that suggests that the person asking didn’t know who Scott Adams was, either, which means it was a good idea to at least bring up the fact that he’s a comic strip author rather than some kind of respected intellectual.

            I’d add that the top result for “scott dilbert” and “scott adams” is the same blog, so I’m not sure how substantive/genuine that confusion was.

            But if you really think he was right to do it, why are you criticizing him? Why do you want to demonstrate the childishness of that approach if you think it was the right approach?

            Taking an action that simultaneously reduces the prestige of both my one-off pseudonym and of a moderately influential blogger and comic strip author who is vigorously advocating various things I dislike seems like a good deal for me to make. That’s doubly true when my viewpoint is in the minority here–my name is already mud. Triply true when you compare the implications of me, a random internet commenter who neither has nor is seeking power, indulging in a little bit of smarmy assholery vs. a presidential candidate or aspiring national-level political commentator doing so. Quadruply so when you add in the fact that “dilbert” isn’t actually a general purpose insult like “little/low-energy/crooked,” and its author is probably reasonably proud of his work even as he tries to rebrand himself as a “persuasion” “expert.”

          • TheWorst says:

            But that suggests that the person asking didn’t know who Scott Adams was, either…

            No, it suggests that the person didn’t know if you knew that Scott Adams’ last name is Adams, and/or if you were referring to some other person. I had a similar confusion myself.

            Taking an action that simultaneously reduces the prestige of both my one-off pseudonym and of a moderately influential blogger and comic strip author…

            What I was pointing out is that it only did one of those things, and made at least two people–which is, I should note, the sum total of the people who responded to you directly–somewhat confused about what you were talking about.

            The point here, though, is that if you think Scott Adams is doing something wrong, then obviously you wouldn’t want to be like him and you’d know that you shouldn’t do what he’s doing. And if you think he’s doing something right, then why on Earth would you want to reduce his prestige?

            Is Scott Adams a good person to imitate, or isn’t he? It seems like at least one of us is very confused on that subject.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            No, it suggests that the person didn’t know if you knew that Scott Adams’ last name is Adams, and/or if you were referring to some other person. I had a similar confusion myself.

            I don’t really understand this. If you know who Scott Adams is, then you know he’s the author of Dilbert, and if you know he’s the author of Dilbert, how could you be confused at someone talking about “Scott Dilbert” in direct response to a post referencing Scott Adams?

            The point here, though, is that if you think Scott Adams is doing something wrong, then obviously you wouldn’t want to be like him and you’d know that you shouldn’t do what he’s doing. And if you think he’s doing something right, then why on Earth would you want to reduce his prestige?

            I think that making up nicknames instead of calling people by their actual name is the move of a smarmy, arrogant asshole. I have a natural human inclination to sometimes be a smarmy, arrogant asshole. If I were a bodhisattva, I would completely suppress that impulse; if I were a sociopathic prick, I would always indulge it. Since I happen to be something in between, I mostly fight it but occasionally let loose on the targets who I feel deserve it by, e.g., outright advocating the behavior in question.

          • Artificirius says:

            Taking an action that simultaneously reduces the prestige of both my one-off pseudonym and of a moderately influential blogger and comic strip author who is vigorously advocating various things I dislike seems like a good deal for me to make.

            As would making a variety of accusations, or posing as him whilst behaving badly, doxxing, or any umber of similar tactics. Yet I think most people would argue this is something that should not be done. Why?

          • “but occasionally let loose on the targets who I feel deserve it by, e.g., outright advocating the behavior in question.”

            On you, for instance?

          • herbert herbertson says:

            Oh, for fuck’s sake, I’m not going to apologize for making extremely light fun of a mediocre cartoonist who is pretending expertise and accordingly supplying bullshit talking points to Trump’s internet defenders. Let go of your pearls.

          • TheWorst says:

            Is Scott Adams a good person to imitate, or is he not a good person to imitate?

            Flouncingly refusing to apologize and accusing everyone else of taking him too seriously is another of his routine behaviors.

      • Corey says:

        “I don’t see why you’re ignoring the general question of temperament.”

        -Because it’s total BS, confusing, as Scott Adams points out, typical New Yorker verbal style with inability to control one’s thoughts.

        Is this an argument *for* putting him in charge of a nation’s diplomacy?

      • neonwattagelimit says:

        Because it’s total BS, confusing, as Scott Adams points out, typical New Yorker verbal style with inability to control one’s thoughts.

        I am from New York and I know many other people from New York and none of them speak like Donald Trump, unless by “verbal style” you are simply referring to the pronunciation of the word “yuge.” As someone else has already pointed out, Scott Adams is not a linguist or historian nor does he have any particular connection to New York City and so it seems weird to cite him on this subject as though he were some kind of expert.

        • E. Harding says:

          So who does speak like Mr. Trump?

          • neonwattagelimit says:

            So who does speak like Mr. Trump?

            Donald Trump?

            Being a bit more serious, I think his “style” such as it is – including, but not limited, to his verbal style – is highly reminiscent of reality television. The bombast, the boastfulness, the disregard for decorum in the interest if gaining attention, etc. Although Trump was like this before reality television was a thing. He’s sort of like P.T. Barnum for the internet age, maybe?

            I’m really just speculating here, though. While I’m probably more qualified than Scott Adams to opine on the speech patterns of New Yorkers, I’m not really more qualified than anyone else to say who speaks like Trump or why.

    • Zakharov says:

      > This is flatly inaccurate; Trump did not consistently oppose the Iraq war before it began.

      It’s how he earned the reputation, even if the reputation is inaccurate.

      > I don’t see why you’re ignoring the general question of temperament.

      Scott covered that pretty thoroughly yesterday.

    • Urstoff says:

      Right. It’s probably not smart to elect a president who is more thin-skinned than a four year old.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Trump has earned a reputation for isolationism by criticizing the Iraq War today. I neither said nor implied he criticized it at the time, and I think later I mention offhand that he didn’t. I didn’t make a big deal out of this because his early support of it was weak and lukewarm and he didn’t talk about it much, so it doesn’t seem fair to make it into a big deal.

    • onyomi says:

      More general question re. “temperament,” since it seems to be pretty key for Scott’s argument here: can we point to any historical examples where a president’s bad “temperament,” as opposed to much bigger considerations and motivations on the part of many people (whether noble or nefarious) actually got us into a war? I’m not saying it’s never happened, just that nothing obvious comes to mind.

      Wars seem generally to be the result of long buildup of a bunch of rhetoric coming from a big political faction. Bush Jr, for example, had to make a big deal of WMDs for a time and with support from a sizable segment of his party (and in the wake of a terror attack which made Americans in general much more receptive to such things than normal). He couldn’t just get triggered by a mean tweet from Saddam and hit the “WAR!” button.

      I can’t think of any examples where a president, on his own initiative, and because of say, a personal sleight, just took us into war. Of course, it’s possible Trump will be the most uniquely unstable and awful president ever, but if it’s never happened before, it seems less likely Trump would succeed in doing it, even if he wanted to.

      • Sandy says:

        It’s not an American example, but Kaiser Wilhelm II’s poor temperament was considered one of the factors that aggravated the balance of power in Europe and tipped the continent toward World War I.

        • mjg235 says:

          But there is no historically credible explanation that Kaiser Wilhelm’s temperament caused it. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand, and the accumulated mutual protection treaties precipitated the whole thing. So his point still stands.

          • Sandy says:

            A lot of tension in Europe and the surrounding areas came about as a result of Wilhelm’s attitude towards the balance of power. He refused to renew vital treaties that Bismarck had established to keep Germany at peace with Russia and hold France at bay, both because he disliked Bismarck and also because he felt his personal diplomatic skills were sufficient. He antagonized France by trying to push German influence in French Africa, and a large part of his decision to openly encourage Austria to destroy Serbia was rooted in bluster about wanting to appear tough in front of the Russians.

            He did not cause World War I by himself, but he aggravated existing tensions.

          • neonwattagelimit says:

            I’m kind of repeating Sandy’s point here but it seems reasonable to argue that Kaiser Wilhelm’s temperament created the conditions in which a small disruption such as the assassination of Franz Ferdinand could trigger a massive global conflict.

            Also, modern military technology means that it’s possible for a leader to inflict significant damage without mass mobilization. Trump could launch a bunch of missiles toward somewhere that hurt his feelings without getting Congressional approval or undertaking significant mobilization of ground forces. It’s not too hard to imagine a scenario in which such an action quickly escalates into all-out conflict.

            Really, this is probably the single most important argument against Trump: Even if the odds of him doing something like this are only double those of Clinton (and that’s being conservative, in my view), it’s too much of a risk.

          • E. Harding says:

            “Really, this is probably the single most important argument against Trump: Even if the odds of him doing something like this are only double those of Clinton (and that’s being conservative, in my view), it’s too much of a risk.”

            -As I have repeatedly pointed out above, the odds of Trump doing something like this are less than a third of those of Clinton.

            “was rooted in bluster about wanting to appear tough in front of the Russians.”

            -Seems especially pertinent, doesn’t it?

            “Trump could launch a bunch of missiles toward somewhere that hurt his feelings without getting Congressional approval or undertaking significant mobilization of ground forces.”

            -Far more likely with Clinton, given the Republican House and Pence’s support for getting congressional approval for interventions.

            All you have, neonwattagelimit are arguments from fictional evidence. I have arguments from real evidence.

            http://lesswrong.com/lw/k9/the_logical_fallacy_of_generalization_from/

            Clinton is too much of a risk. Rubio is far too much of a risk. Tom Cotton is basically Hitler (and I mean it). Christie is very dangerous and ignorant. Trump is the safest pick the Republicans could have made.

          • neonwattagelimit says:

            All you have, neonwattagelimit are arguments from fictional evidence. I have arguments from real evidence.

            No, I don’t, and no, you don’t.

            1) Your standard for “fictional evidence” here appears to extend to “any hypothetical scenario which extrapolates from existing information.” This is what I was doing. The LW link appears to be a warning against using actual fiction, as in, like, a movie, as evidence in an argument. These two things are not the same.

            2) If we were to accept the “any hypothetical scenario counts as fictional evidence” standard, your argument makes no sense because Trump has no real foreign policy record. He has said some things, but he has never engaged in the development or implementation of foreign policy or diplomacy or war at all. He hasn’t carefully studied it. So if we were to apply that standard, this entire discussion is pointless because all evidence regarding Trump is, in effect, fictional.

            3) I know what you believe. I’ve read your posts here and in the other thread. The mental gymnastics that you have done to justify your support for Trump in this area are truly a thing to behold; you are quite intellectually creative. I don’t expect that I will be able to convince you that you are wrong. Other posters have successfully pointed out holes in your argument; you do not appear interested in considering them. You may want to consider why this is.

            4) What do I believe about Trump and foreign policy? Re-read Scott’s original post.

          • E. Harding says:

            “So if we were to apply that standard, this entire discussion is pointless because all evidence regarding Trump is, in effect, fictional.”

            -No.

            Stuff Trump has actually said:
            “The last person to use nuclear would be Donald Trump. That’s the way I feel. I think it’s a horrible thing.”

            Now here’s what you said:
            “Trump could launch a bunch of missiles toward somewhere that hurt his feelings”

            -Has Trump even remotely indicated that? Anywhere? You should cite evidence from this campaign season, not the Bush era. If anything, he’s been more cautious towards launching a bunch of missiles toward somewhere that hurt his feelings than Clinton.

            “Re-read Scott’s original post.”

            -I was the first person to respond to Scott’s original post and refute many of its points. I know what it says.

            “as in, like, a movie, as evidence in an argument”

            -And what do those sci-fi movies do? They invent hypothetical scenarios which extrapolate from existing information. Just like you did.

            “Other posters have successfully pointed out holes in your argument;”

            -What posters? What holes successfully pointed out?

            “you do not appear interested in considering them.”

            -Quite the contrary. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have commented so much here.

    • onyomi says:

      Re. opposing the Iraq War, this sort of video before the invasion seems to reflect his ambivalence prior to the invasion in a way which can’t be described as “Trump hates being a loser.” He wouldn’t yet know how successful an Iraq intervention would be at that time, and, as for a strong, consistent, principled stance, I’m not sure why one would expect that of him given he wasn’t holding or running for any office at the time.

      His main point seems to be “focus on the economy here at home and not on this war, which I’m not sure is a good idea.” He does, somewhat worrisomely, imply that the problem is the debate about whether or not to go to war is going on too long, which could be an argument for him being temperamentally inclined to rushing into war if he’s going to do so, but I think the whole “go in, win, leave,” is a very typical line since Vietnam, more typical of those less inclined toward intervention and nation building.

      Overall, to my mind, this 2003 video supports the “more interested in focusing at home, talking and trading with e. g. Putin, and not getting involved in unnecessary international imbroglio” interpretation of Trump than the reverse.

      • jsmith says:

        sad that the most informed comments get ignored, and instead everyone just argues with harding.

        • E. Harding says:

          Not true, my comments are well-informed, maybe the most informed, and I argue with everyone apparently more than the reverse.

          • TheWorst says:

            If you were an equally-vociferous Trump supporter in 2012, there would be a chance that your output here was anything other than mindless tribal cheerleading. And if you were, it’d be easy to link us to an equivalent amount of your pro-Trump posts from that time. Got any?

            Given that Trump is in no way a different person than he was in 2012, the only difference is that Red Tribe picked him as their figurehead. There’s no actual reason to support him now that didn’t exist in 2012. Did you do so then?

          • E. Harding says:

            “Given that Trump is in no way a different person than he was in 2012,”

            -Fact-check: false. In so many ways.

        • Jill says:

          Word. You are absolutely right, jsmith. What is it about his and other iron clad Trump supporters that makes us want to argue with him? What is it about ourselves that makes us want to argue with such a person? I did it a lot, and it got me nowhere.

          Maybe we can have a 12 Step group.

          “My name is Jill and I’m a compulsive arguer with iron clad Trump supporters. I have come to accept that I am powerless over my compulsion to argue with iron clad Trump supporters. I give myself up to my Higher Power or my Rationality or something, and ask for its help in overcoming this compulsion. Let go and let God, or let go and let rationality… or whatever.”

          • Corey says:

            SSC definitely activates my “someone is wrong on the Internet!” syndrome. I don’t know if there are any online support groups for SIWOTI; if there are they probably get bogged down in flamewars and interminable arguments.

      • Iain says:

        To the extent that Trump has a consistent stance in that interview, it is that the president should stop waffling and make up his mind. He is extremely non-committal about whether or not the war is a good idea. He does mention that perhaps it would be good to wait for the UN, which I would count as a point in his favour. On the other hand, he also asks why we don’t just pull a MacArthur and attack already. (I don’t think you can read much into his discussion of the economy; “We should improve the economy” is the safest thing you can say in American politics, and in any case the interviewer is the one who brings up the economy in the first place.)

        The interview is strong evidence for neither hawkish Trump nor non-interventionist Trump. I would argue that the main take-away here, in terms of Trump’s temperament, is his impatience. He wants a decision to be made, he doesn’t particularly care which way it goes, and – importantly – he does not provide any insight into the grounds on which he thinks that decision should be based.

        I would also point out that the only two pieces of information I can discern that he brings into the conversation that are not explicitly mentioned in the questions he is asked are a) waiting for the UN is one of the options on the table and b) polls show people are getting impatient. (I don’t even know whether the second one is true, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.)

        To be clear, I think almost none of this counts as a point against Trump. He is, as you say, not running for or holding office. But I don’t see much here that would count in his favour, either.

        PS: Viewed through the lens of not wanting to be a loser, you could see this as Trump hedging his bets in a way that will allow him to take partial credit, no matter what ends up happening.

    • akarlin says:

      6) Russia will then respond by declaring war, even though they would obviously lose either a convention or a nuclear war, and even though they’ve already ignored a NATO country shooting down their plane

      This is assuming that Russia will foolishly decide to try to fight a war in Syria, where CENTCOM is dominant, as opposed to Ukraine or even the Baltics, where the balance of forces is in its favor.

      The Turkish situation is completely incomparable because the Russian plane did violate its border however briefly. The US doing the same over the skies of Syria will be completely illegal and if Putin fails to credibly retaliate, his domestic position will be under threat.

  11. zz says:

    You can’t get paid if you’re dead.

    If Clinton is really in the pocket of big corporations, then she will do things that won’t lead to nuclear war, because big corporations can’t make money if they’ve been blown up.

    (No clue to what degree Clinton is in the pockets of big corporations; I’m pretty good about not coming within 100 metres of politics. But my understanding is that she’s the establishment candidate. The establishment has the most to lose from MAD.)

    • E. Harding says:

      “If Clinton is really in the pocket of big corporations, then she will do things that won’t lead to nuclear war, because big corporations can’t make money if they’ve been blown up.”

      -That’s what you might think, but, for some reason, the White college-educated generally tend to favor more risky candidates on foreign policy, like Goldwater and Rubio.

      “The establishment has the most to lose from MAD.”

      -Thus said the Englishman of 1913. Sometimes the establishment just doesn’t know it’s nuts.

      • Harry says:

        Don’t be disingenuous, please. The Englishmen of 1913 did not worry about MAD because MAD, as a concept, did not exist until nuclear weapons were invented. WW1 was a brutal and bloody war, but it killed fewer people than the Spanish flu a couple years later, and most of the dead were soldiers. The survival of entire countries and civilian populations was never at risk.

        Corporations worldwide ultimately profited from World War 1, and were never at risk of being destroyed. Conversely, corporations do not make a lot of money when their country is nuked into a radioactive wasteland.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          People didn’t worry about MAD specifically, but there were people who thought that any likely war between the great powers would be so big and costly that the powers would avoid going to war. Many people thought similar things during the inter-war period. So no, I don’t think E. Harding’s argument can reasonably be described as disingenuous.

          • Harry says:

            People were proved wrong about this once, yes. That was before nuclear weapons existed. Now that nuclear weapons exist, we have had a 70-year era of peace unmatched by any before it.

            MAD is very different from “big and costly.” The war in Iraq was “big and costly,” but it didn’t involve 1-2 billion deaths, the collapse of Western civilization, and a century of winter. The slightly more sensible (read: not Trump) parts of the establishment have proven themselves entirely willing to embark on “big and costly” military ventures, but not ones that involve MAD.

            Citing an example from over 100 years ago is absolutely disingenuous when it’s not backed up by any additional context or attempt to make it relevant to 2016.

        • >Corporations worldwide ultimately profited from World War 1

          I bet British corporations didn’t. And even if they did many sons of British corporate executives died in WWI, and many daughters of these executives died from the Spanish flu. I doubt you believe that Russian corporations benefited from the war.

      • Wrong Species says:

        That comparison doesn’t do you any favors. Nationalists were to blame for WW1, not corporations.

  12. 27chaos says:

    Trump’s remarks on nuclear weapons use are being taken out of context here and generally are misunderstood. In context, he was saying that he is unwilling to commit the US to a No First Use policy, because we want to keep all our options on the table. This is consistent with standard US policy for the last sixty years.

    However, it’s worth noting that if Trump is bad at clearly communicating his intentions for our nuclear weapons to the public, that is its own strike against him, even if he does not intend to use them first.

    • E. Harding says:

      Trump actually remarked on the no-first-use policy in one of the last questions on the debate.

    • qwints says:

      Watch the response from the debate – he first said he liked a no first use policy then said all options were on the table.

  13. Sandy says:

    I’ve said on the latest OT that I think the next President has to handle Syria anyway, and I’d honestly prefer *doing it right* to doing it halfheartedly. If that requires troops, overwhelming force and a sustained presence while the country is rebuilt from the ground up, so be it. Hopefully we’ve learned something from Iraq. Half-measures won’t do it. The alternative is to leave it to Russia and Iran to finish off ISIS (frankly I think Assad needs to stay) which I’m fine with, but most liberals will be aghast about Assad getting away with “war crimes!” or whatever.

    I say “half-measures won’t do it” because I think that’s been the source of a lot of Middle East chaos over the last few years — the American government hesitating and dithering and taking half-hearted measures has emboldened insurgent groups and put the pressure to act on local allies, an onus that sounds good on paper (as Bernie Sanders thought) but turns out to be a bad idea when you consider that these allies run delicate systems prone to collapse in the face of such pressure. Quote from King Abdullah of Jordan, one of those “moderate allies” in the Middle East — “I think I believe in American power more than Obama does.”

    I’m not sure why people get so worked up over the “Let’s take Libya’s oil” idea, as if it is some uniquely awful thing that could only have come out of Trump’s mind — Neera Tanden advocated exactly the same thing back in 2011 with the argument that the American government could either take Libya’s oil as payment for intervention or be forced to start cutting social programs back home. “We live in deficit politics so we either take the oil or cut Head Start and Medicaid” was her quote, or something of that sort. Tanden is one of Clinton’s closest advisers and her thinking chimes pretty closely to Hillary’s “It’s time to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity.” I don’t know how Woke it is to fund Great Society programs by pillaging African nations, but the Left is the authority on wokeness so I’ll defer to their expertise. This might be the sort of thing that happens regardless of who wins the 2016 election. Might as well get reconciled to the idea.

    I think Russia and China are two of the best rivals you could hope for under the circumstances, because even though they have a lot of regional power and are opposed to a lot of American interests in their spheres of influence, they are for the most part run by rational people. This has never been true for the Arab world. To some extent it is true for Iran, in that their siege mentality has made them a lot more pragmatic than the rest of the Middle East, but I do not think the Fertile Crescent and its surrounding areas are ever going to be fit for anything more than autocrats and intermittent genocides. The American government should just let the dictators have free rein over their turf and stay out of it as much as possible. Your fantasies of liberal democracy will not play out there.

    I haven’t seen anything from the Democrats this cycle that has made me hopeful for US-Russia relations. They are openly hostile to Russia and it seems they have given up on seeking a deescalation of tensions. Hillary’s website mostly brags up about how she’s faced down Putin before and is ready to do so again.

    • E. Harding says:

      Bingo, bingo, bingo.

    • Zakharov says:

      *Can* you even profitably pillage oil? Wouldn’t the cost of protecting the oil from an extremely angry population (oil being extremely flammable) be greater than the value of the oil?

      I think the sensible approach in Syria, and the approach Clinton’s most likely to take, is to stop ISIS from attacking Rojava.

      • Sandy says:

        The logistics are a mystery to me, although it seems there are already some in the USG who think it can be done.

        Oh yes, the sensible approach to stop ISIS is to wade into the Kurdish issue. That definitely won’t devolve into a standoff with the Turks.

        • Julian says:

          The current oil production of Iraq is 3.3 million barrels per day (this about 1/3 of US production).

          Iraq has 140 BILLION barrels in proven reserves. It would take 116 years at current production to “pillage” the oil in Iraq.

          If you double production thats still over 50 years. To get production high enough to grab all the oil in less than 20 years you are talking about making Iraq the world largest oil producer. Not to mention that building up that capacity would take 20 years or more to begin with.

      • anon says:

        The mere fact that you are using the term “Rojava” is laden with political significance that is worth at least remarking upon.

      • Tekhno says:

        Focusing on protecting Rojava and the National-Anarcho-Syndicalist Kurds is the feel good version of fighting ISIS.

        The realist version is letting Assad take back his country by not enforcing a NFZ and helping him annihilate ISIS along with Russia. Of course… we need to help the people of Syria/Libya/Iraq overthrow Assad/Gadaffi/Saddam because this is the “best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability”, so this isn’t actually going to happen.

        Instead, we’ll get some humanist propaganda about the feminist-syndicalist-democratic-nationalist-somethingist Kurdtopia and how we need to protect the pretty women and throw all of our resources at the Kurds, who will promptly fail, be swamped by ISIS, and have all of the weapons and resources we gave them confiscated.

        • E. Harding says:

          Kurds have been more successful than the largely ineffective Syrian government in terms of winning over the past couple years. But, thing is, they’re not gonna take Raqqa. They’re probably not going to take Deir-ez-Zor, either. Only the Syrian government is a realistic candidate for eradicating the Islamic State in these cities and the villages surrounding them.

      • Adam says:

        I mean, if one were to build new pumps, pipeline corridors, and ports, and establish 1km+ killzones around them, plus some air strikes to take care of mortars and artillery, it should be doable.

        Most of the challenges we’ve faced in the middle east could have been avoided if we were willing to kill a couple million civilians.

        Mostly a devils advocate comment, but yeah.

      • Theo Jones says:

        “*Can* you even profitably pillage oil? Wouldn’t the cost of protecting the oil from an extremely angry population (oil being extremely flammable) be greater than the value of the oil?”

        Lots of resource-curse type dictatorships manage to pull it off.

      • mjg235 says:

        So, an interesting thing I have learned since investing in oil companies in the downturn is that Iraq’s oil production has increasingly been developed by independent oil companies like ExxonMobil. The fact is the nation is drained of capital since the war, and petroleum production is massively capital intensive. They can’t spend the > $2 million dollars to drill and complete each well, and then the considerable variable costs to operate them. So they start allowing external companies to establish operating interests in the fields.

        What will happen is not the military swooping in, dismantling the Iraqi National Oil Corporation (or the equivalent for Libya), and claiming the oilfields for the US. We will simply destroy the economy of the country involved, and then be the most viable option when they want to rebuild.

    • Deiseach says:

      The problem with pragmatic backing of the strong man dictator is when the US changes its mind. The Shah was America’s man due to the US and UK-backed coup which overthrew the democratically elected president who had nationalised the Iranian oil industry; the coup allowed foreign firms back in to take over the oil industry. See how well that turned out.

      Hussein himself was the US’s strong man in the region until he fell out of favour. Look at the outcome there.

      And now you’re seriously saying “Let’s back Assad as our strong man in the region”? Unless you mean to prop him up until he dies of old age (and isn’t executed or driven into exile by a popular rebellion, or you change your minds about supporting him), that isn’t going to work any better.

      Putin would probably be more pragmatically brutal about telling Assad (and letting the rest of the world know) that “You’re our guy now. Do as we say in stuff that concerns us, and we’ll support you with arms and the back-up of Russian troops on the ground should that be needed. Cross us, and we’ll let the crows pick your bones” with no pretence that this was about democracy or nation-building (the fig-leaf American politics needs to sell their interventions for their own interests to their public).

      • Sandy says:

        Overthrowing Mossadegh was a bad idea because Iran was fine when he was running it. The motive there was just needless greed. Overthrowing Gaddafi was an even worse idea because the motive there was “human rights”, which is harder to argue against except in hindsight when everything goes to hell. However bad Gaddafi was, he kept an iron order in a violent part of the world, and the UN and NATO replaced that order with unending chaos. They intervened because Gaddafi was going to slaughter those who rebelled against him; they saw it as their duty to prevent this slaughter, and as a result they destabilized the entire country and paved the way for butchers even Gaddafi would have balked at.

        This was Gaddafi in a recorded video to NATO and the EU the day before he was killed:

        “You’re bombing a wall which stood in the way of African migration to Europe, and in the way of Al Qaeda terrorists. This wall was Libya. You‘re breaking it. You’re idiots, and you will burn in Hell for thousands of migrants from Africa and for supporting Al Qaeda. It will be so. I never lie. And I do not lie now.”

        The man knew how his country worked and what the role he played in the region was. Those who yearned to be on the right side of history knew neither of these things.

        To be clear — I am not talking about backing strongmen. I am talking about leaving strongmen to their own devices.

      • Steven says:

        The Shah was America’s man due to the US and UK-backed coup which overthrew the democratically elected president who had nationalised the Iranian oil industry

        Um, no.

        Moaddesgh was neither a president (he was the prime minister; the Shah was still the head of state) nor at the time of his removal a democratically-elected anything (he had illegally suspended parliamentary elections in order to retain power, then run a blatantly fixed referendum — 99.9% to 0.1% — to suspend the Iranian Parliament and give himself the power to rule by decree).

        The subsequent “coup” was the Shah exercising his constitutional prerogative to remove a prime minister and the army subsequently enforcing the Iranian Constitution against Moaddesgh’s efforts to retain power illegally.

        • anon says:

          While I do not know the fine points of Iranian law, it’s odd to use scare quotes to minimize a coup that even the CIA now admits it played an active role in promoting. See, for example, https://foreignpolicy.com/2013/08/19/cia-admits-it-was-behind-irans-coup/ (hardly a fringe source).

          So fine, go ahead and argue — if you must — that 1950s US policy towards Iran was wise, despite decades of blowback that it caused. But don’t play Orwellian word games.

      • Tekhno says:

        The problem with pragmatic backing of the strong man dictator is when the US changes its mind.

        Then the US should stop changing its mind. Strong institutions and established powers are better for Middle Eastern stability and anti-terrorism than trying to spread democracy, which usually ends up with Islamist parties being elected, and confused Westerners going “I thought democracy meant what we have?”

        • Garrett says:

          The poli-sci term for what we have in the West is a “liberal democracy”. Unfortunately, that liberal part is rarely emphasized and involves the technical/philosophical understanding of liberalism. This is in contrast to various forms of Liberal parties or “liberal” when trying to contrast a political candidate.

  14. Dr Dealgood says:

    One thing I’m curious about, given the spotlight on Trump’s “keep the oil” mantra:

    What would an Iraq explicitly occupied for the purpose of oil extraction look like relative to the real-world nation-building in Iraq? What would the Syrian civil war look like now if it had been promise of oil and not democracy which motivated American intervention?

    I’m hard-pressed to say it sounds worse. If nothing else there would be an achievable goal.

    America shouldn’t be in the buisness of running a global empire. Knocking over tin-pot dictators on the opposite side of the globe doesn’t do a damn bit of good for the American people. But if that’s going to happen anyway, why not turn it into a source of revenue rather than an endless black hole of debt?

    • Zombielicious says:

      I expect it would actually be far worse. You can see how things turned out when we went in, destroyed most of their institutions, then put in a half-hearted effort to rebuilding them ourselves (the Vice documentary This is What Winning Looks Like is good for this). Now imagine that we destroyed all the institutions, didn’t even make the half-hearted effort at replacing them, and impoverished the country further by stealing their most valuable natural resources. Think of how much stronger the domestic opposition to the war would have been, how much stronger the narrative about the U.S. as an imperialist power out to destroy and impoverish the Arab world for its own gain would be, and how much stronger terrorist and insurgent recruitment would be as a result of all that. Also how other countries would react in the future when there was even the slightest possibility that the U.S. might want to “get involved.”

      So yeah, I expect things would have been substantially worse (ignoring whatever selfish gains the U.S. got out of the theft). This also serves as a reply to Sandy’s comment above about why people get so upset about the “take the oil” narrative.

      • E. Harding says:

        “Think of how much stronger the domestic opposition to”

        -You did mean support for?

        “how much stronger the narrative about the U.S. as an imperialist power out to destroy and impoverish the Arab world for its own gain would be”

        -Narratives with what stronger armies?

        “and how much stronger terrorist and insurgent recruitment would be as a result of all that.”

        -It was already pretty strong, and the U.S. could have used the oil revenue to weaken it.

        • Matthew says:

          Narratives where the rest of the world doesn’t think that Islamic terrorists are insane killers but actually legit freedom fighters.

          The US would be like apartheid South Africa in the late 80’s as far as our international standing went.

      • Wency says:

        Indeed. In some circles, I think there is a certain nostalgia for the Age of Imperialism:

        “If they’re going to hate us anyway, we might as well take their stuff and use it to fund an occupation.”

        But whatever the merits of imperialism might be, that age is over, at least for the West. The entire culture revolts against it, even if we technically still have the material resources to make it happen (though the West was a much larger share of world population in those days).

        If there is ever another Age of Imperialism, it will be another civilization that leads it.

    • Deiseach says:

      What would an Iraq explicitly occupied for the purpose of oil extraction look like relative to the real-world nation-building in Iraq?

      See the 1953 coup in Iran which brought back the Pahlavi Shahs in return for access to the previously nationalised oil industry (though to be fair, fears about Communist influence were also involved on the part of the US):

      As a condition for restoring the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, in 1954 the U.S. required removal of the AIOC’s monopoly; five American petroleum companies, Royal Dutch Shell, and the Compagnie Française des Pétroles, were to draw Iran’s petroleum after the successful coup d’état —Operation Ajax. The Shah declared this to be a “victory” for Iranians, with the massive influx of money from this agreement resolving the economic collapse from the last three years, and allowing him to carry out his planned modernization projects.

      The New York Times approved! And indeed the part I’ve bolded below could be easily re-purposed for the Trump campaign:

      “Costly as the dispute over Iranian oil has been to all concerned, the affair may yet be proved worthwhile if lessons are learned from it: Underdeveloped countries with rich resources now have an object lesson in the heavy cost that must be paid by one of their number which goes berserk with fanatical nationalism. It is perhaps too much to hope that Iran’s experience will prevent the rise of Mossadeghs in other countries, but that experience may at least strengthen the hands of more reasonable and more far-seeing leaders. In some circles in Great Britain the charge will be pushed that American ‘imperialism’ — in the shape of the American oil firms in the consortium!—has once again elbowed Britain from a historic stronghold.”

      Worked okay for a while (nearly thirty years in fact), but the programme of secularisation (presumably on the model of what Kemal Attaturk did in Turkey) provoked resentment amongst the rural and lower classes, and there were opposition forces in exile and in the country waiting, willing and able to take advantage. Half-arsed incompetent repression only stoked further grievance and open rebellion, the US and UK didn’t for various reasons send military aid to their man on the throne, and appeasement such as inviting back the Ayatollah Khomeini eventually ended up as we all know in the 1979 Revolution.

      Then Iraq and Hussein became America’s allies against the Iranians, and away we go.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Worked okay for a while (nearly thirty years in fact), but the programme of secularisation provoked resentment amongst the rural and lower classes, and there were opposition forces in exile and in the country waiting, willing and able to take advantage. Half-arsed incompetent repression only stoked further grievance …

        My, doesn’t that sound familiar?

    • keranih says:

      Leaving aside the responsibility of the big ape in the room to make other apes stop beating the weak one to death…

      What would an Iraq explicitly occupied for the purpose of oil extraction look like relative to the real-world nation-building in Iraq?

      I suggest that our initial movement into Iraq would be as it was, because –

      – bananna-nation bombings aside –

      – the USA doesn’t spend money and lives on material treasures. We like to use them to buy moral superiority, a fair better – if more fleeting – high. So we would not have gone into Iraq for oil, but we certainly could have decided to reform its petrolum sector while we were there, with an eye to getting a share of the profits.

      A true reform/rebuilding of the sector would have required repair and construct of a lot of infrastructure – including roads and admin buildings. It would have required building schools for training locals as oil workers – which would have been a decade long process at the least. It would have meant shifting large parts of the population into emperical, science-based thinking, and that would have taken even longer. It would have meant shifting the whole region away from tribal/clan loyalties and towards merit based promotions, and that would have taken until never.

      Along the way, Iraqis would have been re-inventing their local elections, changing how they deal with utilities (they still haven’t convinced the low-wage worker that electricity costs money, and isn’t something the state provides for free) and trying hard to change their environmental codes.

      And all of this would have been in the context of an Iran that hates the idea of a powerful & wealthy Iraq, and of a Syria upstream that was still imploding. And at some point – after the yearly profits from the oil outstripped the yearly American investment, but before the US had recooped any more than a fraction of the trillions they had invested – the Iraqis would have nationalized the industries again, and told the Americans to bugger off. Because that’s what happens.

      So, had we decided to stay and put in the work to get the oil out of the ground, we’d still be there, Iraq would be more wealthy, safe, and stable, our relations with Iran would be far closer to “open shooting war” and Syria would not be much better.

      The one upside is that with the USA still invested in Iraqi, so that we looked like a going concern, Turkey might have been persuaded to ignore the development of a Kurdish state outside its borders, in return for keeping the Syrian mess sorta contained.

      And with the example of Iraq voting freely & effectively, we might have had a more lasting outcome from the Arab Spring. The downside is that Iraqi oil could have prevented the oil spike that allowed American fracking to take off, which has broken a couple of the petrol states and threatens others.

      Wheels and wheels and wheels.

    • Tekhno says:

      @Dr Dealgood

      America shouldn’t be in the buisness of running a global empire. Knocking over tin-pot dictators on the opposite side of the globe doesn’t do a damn bit of good for the American people. But if that’s going to happen anyway, why not turn it into a source of revenue rather than an endless black hole of debt?

      This is exactly why all the people saying that America is a closet Empire are wrong; if the United States were a real Empire it wouldn’t be having these kinds of problems (it would be having whole new ones, but that’s another story…). Instead, the USA is not an Empire, it is a large and powerful nation that blunders around projecting its strength without actually controlling or ruling anything. If the USA decided to stop blundering around smashing things it would have to let war crimes happen, but if the USA wants to continue blundering around smashing things, then it should probably stay and fix them afterwards and get a little revenue for itself so the job doesn’t turn into a money sink.

      This is why a lot of Bush era critiques about the Iraq War being for oil are wrong. If the Iraq War was really done for oil then it wouldn’t have been such a gigantic money sink and cause of chaos and disorder in the region. The Iraq War was done for exactly the humanitarian reasons its architects claimed it was done for. The USA cannot be an Empire because that would require it to do nasty colonial things like permanently occupying and governing territories while exploiting their resources to pay for it. The USA cannot do these things for the exact same humanitarian reasons that it blunders about the world attacking dictators for being dictators. The USA can prop up countries for realpolitik reasons, but only for so long, only until public opinion turns, because deontological humanism requires that realpolitik be sacrificed at the altar of feelings. Those very same feelings then prevent the United States from actually running the countries it destroys, leaving the same power vacuums, time after time after time, with extremely predictable results.

      The USA has three things it can do:
      1: What the USA is doing now. Continue toppling dictators in the name of enlightenment ideals and then in the name of those very same ideals, refusing to occupy the territories afterwards. This means you get increasing chaos and more groups like ISIS. Out of all the options this leads to the most death.
      2: Stop toppling dictators in the name of enlightenment ideals. This would mean that you’d have to resist your populace’s calls for war when they see burnt babies on the nightly news. You’d have to be able to tell the public that, yes, it’s horrible, but that whole region is filled with bad ideas, and this terrible guy who’s in now is actually preferable to the kinds of people likely to replace him. You’d have to do this without being voted out of power.
      3: Become an actual Empire, topple the dictators, and replace them with a permanent US administration. This would mean you’d have to oppress the indigenous populations by taking away the political freedoms they already don’t have, but you’d presumably be oppressing them less than ISIS in option 1, and less than Saddam/Assad/Gadaffi in option 2. People will complain about you being colonialist and racist and you might still get voted out of power. Good luck!

      • Alraune says:

        This would mean that you’d have to resist your populace’s calls for war when they see burnt babies on the nightly news.

        …Which is actually extremely easy to do, because the public and media have a combined attention span of LOOK AT TAYLOR SWIFT’S NEW DRESS. The government only is “forced to react” in response to humanitarian outcry when the response conveniently also serves existing interests.

      • herbert herbertson says:

        This misreads the situation entirely. When you have the world’s largest/second largest economy and are home to the capital of world finance and the great bulk of the world’s largest multinational corporations, you don’t need to be so crass as to go in and directly steal resources to be added to the general funds of your nation. You just make sure the markets of your subjects are “free” and “open,” make sure your local compradores understand that your continued support is dependent on not changing that, maybe impose the odd trade deal exporting your legal regime as it applies to commerce and property (e.g., TPP) and let the rest play itself out. You might have to share the spoils a little with the odd Brit or German, but for the most part it does the job of getting the resources to you without having to worry about organizing a Raj or fighting any Mau Maus.

        This is the essence of neoconservatism and neoliberalism, the most effective way by far of running a capitalist superpower without significant opposition. AFIAK, the best technical definitions of this put us in the role of “hegemon” rather than “empire,” but that’s pretty much a distinction of semantics and history rather than of substance.

    • pku says:

      Specifics aside, “How much worse could it be” is one of those questions you never want to ask. It can always, always be worse.

  15. Douglas Knight says:

    Likely she would focus on keeping enough of Syria safe to protect some civilians and prevent more refugees, then use indirect methods to make life miserable for Assad. This seems like as good a plan as any other.

    No, there is a better plan: support Assad. Or just pull out, which amounts to the same thing. Really, there are only two options: Assad or war unending. If Clinton is in favor of war and Trump might or might be in favor of war, that is a case where more variance is better than less variance.

  16. One thing I’m confused about is why Russia seems to prefer Trump to Clinton. Some press converage implies its because they think Clinton will be crazy and start a war. Doesn’t seem especially plausible given this. Is it just because Trump is somewhat friendly to Russian interests? I’m surprised that kind of thing could happen. Thoughts?

    • Anonymous says:

      Clinton wants to mess with Russia’s interests, not to speak of the people she represents and enables. Trump doesn’t and Putin knows that he could handle Trump without much problem if he ever got annoying (Showman vs KGB Vampire.) Neocons have always hated Russia, there’s personal animosity between Clinton and Putin, depending which side one believes, either Clinton is falsely accusing the russians of cyberwarfare for the purposes of election tampering or, well, the russians actually did just that. Trump offers a safer narrative. They’re both aligned with some elements of “tradition”, the SJW left (Which Clinton probably sneers at but definitely empowers.) says that “no gay marriage” = Hitler and the Russians want to keep homosexuality taboo, etc. I believe Russia favours “no half measures” style military interventions in a way the american establishment doesn’t, Trump is flirting with the idea so who knows, one might even see cooperation and actually effective warfare for a change.

      Also, Trump is an ally of Putin by default when it comes to establishing narratives, which is one of the most important aspects of politics. A trump victory helps Putin with his own people, legitimizes him in a way.

      Also, if Trump ends up being a total mess and can’t help Russia directly, it wouldn’t have much of an effect on the world at large (Paranoid liberal hysteria besides… They’re not that important anymore) but it would definitely hurt the legitimacy and stability of the US government, which is always desired by any other power that is not an ally or a parasite, for obvious reasons.

      There’s no real chance of serious war with any candidate, of course. That people are seriously talking about nuclear weapons is hilarious.

      • Deiseach says:

        One thing I’m confused about is why Russia seems to prefer Trump to Clinton.

        I could well see Trump agreeing to take the US out of Syria and let Russia have a free hand there (in return for some kind of trade agreement or other juicy tid-bit). This would serve Trump’s campaigning on “no American blood, no American dollars spent on foreign wars, let the Russians be the ones fighting and dying for a change” and would serve Putin’s interests in making Assad his bitch.

    • Zakharov says:

      If Putin’s worried about Trump starting a nuclear war, he wants to stay on Trump’s good side. It’s unclear whether Putin’s support for Trump helps or hurts Trump.

    • E. Harding says:

      The public statements are pretty big here: Trump’s “wouldn’t it be great if we could get along with Russia” line has been a feature of his campaign for something like a year. Clinton’s language regarding Russia during this presidential campaign has been, to say the least, undiplomatic.

    • Autolykos says:

      My guess is that Putin has pegged Trump as an easily manipulated buffoon. As long as Putin allows Trump to look strong to the public, he can get away with absolutely anything.
      Clinton is a much tougher customer, since she is actually hell-bent on weakening Russia. Way less room for Putin to give her what she wants and still come out on top.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        …What is it you think Putin wants that is worth fighting him over?

        • keranih says:

          …What is it you think Putin wants that is worth fighting him over?

          The same thing Stalin, Khrushchev, and all the rest wanted – control of local populations that didn’t want to be controlled.

          Call me crazy, but I do still hold that the USA has a responsibility to exert itself in the effort of bringing both peace and liberty to those parts of the world that ain’t got them.

          How much effort, and where, and whether we should be aiming more at peace or liberty in a particular moment – sure, we can argue about what is the right answer to all of those. But when the question is should we oppose tyranny I think the American answer should always be hell, yes!

          • FacelessCraven says:

            How many Tyrannies are there in the world right now? How many countries have we tried to “fix”? How many people died in the process, and how many stable, prosperous states resulted?

          • keranih says:

            How many Tyrannies are there in the world right now?

            A hell of a lot fewer than in 1776.

            How many people died in the process

            …we are all going to die sometime, FC. The US army is all volunteer, and we have greatly reduced the impact on civilians vs that in WWII (which I will point out was fought by draftees.)

            how many stable, prosperous states resulted?

            I dunno, all of them?

            You can say that the American process of fixing countries/regions/situations by military force fails a lot, and I would agree. You can say that it seems we do better when we infiltrate their markets and use capitalism, and I would agree. But I disagree when you say that Putin’s actions are not worth opposing with military force when our economic & McHollycola social tools aren’t working.

            And in this case, they aren’t.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            kerinah – “…we are all going to die sometime, FC. The US army is all volunteer, and we have greatly reduced the impact on civilians vs that in WWII (which I will point out was fought by draftees.)”

            Not to be callous, but I wasn’t referring to US military deaths. I was asking about how many natives die when we decide to ship them a big steaming heap of Democracy.

            “I dunno, all of them?”

            …Are you serious?

            “You can say that the American process of fixing countries/regions/situations by military force fails a lot, and I would agree.”

            I would not say this. I would say that I am not aware of a single post-Korea intervention by the US that left the locals unquestionably better off than we found them. I sure as hell don’t buy that Iraq and Afghanistan qualify, to say nothing of Vietnam. I am tired of my tax dollars being turned into big heaps of dead foreigners.

            Putin is not our problem to solve. This obsession of ours with policing the world is madness.

          • Tekhno says:

            @keranih

            But when the question is should we oppose tyranny I think the American answer should always be hell, yes!

            If tyranny means that the people are starving or being genocided, then yes, perhaps.

            If tyranny means invading some country when the West does the same, then maybe if the result is a worse country where people are starving or being genocided, but in almost all cases no.

            If tyranny means not having democracy, or having an economic system you don’t like, then hell, no!

          • nimim. k.m. says:

            >how many stable, prosperous states resulted

            The whole of EU? South America isn’t still a great place, but it has also improved in the recent decades?

            And one could argue that Russia, even if it’s a autocratic state that has anti-Western policy goals to the foreseeable future, is likely to be more stable (as in not-failed) in the future than than the Soviet Union ever was. Putin needs far less oppressive policies to maintain the continued existence of state apparatus of “Russian Federation” than any of the previous Soviet leaders (or czars, to mention that) their respective empires (that did eventually fail).

            I personally think it’s a serious mistake that you can maintain a free, democratic society in a world where tyranny prospers. You need a community of democratic and free societies to compare yourself against to see how democratic and free you really are and how you can realistically improve. You make serious mistake if you don’t regard the continued existence of countries like Germany, Norway, Canada, or Estonia advantageous to you if you really value living a free society for its freedoms and just not tribal pride.

            And on the other hand, tyrannies don’t care about stuff like free press and they have habit of suppressing everybody who complains, so surprise, they can fool your populace to thinking that a tyranny is a nice way to run things. More of that around you, and suddenly you’ll find that crushing the critical opposition is considered more “business as usual” than “travesty” in your country, too.

          • keranih says:

            @ Tenko –

            If tyranny means not having democracy, or having an economic system you don’t like, then hell, no!

            …if you’re going to argue that communism is really just an economic system, and that the people are just as free in communism as they are in a liberal democracy, then I don’t know if our dialects overlap enough to debate this.

            invading a country when the West does the same

            Can you give an example of this?

            @Faceless Craven –

            I would say that I am not aware of a single post-Korea intervention by the US that left the locals unquestionably better off than we found them.

            …really. Kuwait? Bosnia? Granted, there are a great number of actions listed on this page, but that you don’t recall Kuwait or Bosnia is a bit telling.

            IMO, most of our errors have been from not staying long enough, rather than from going in at all. As for “how many people died” – it’s not like Saddam was a benevolent dictator.

            While I would really appreciate a great deal more competence on our part, I completely disagree with the idea that the world would be better off if we didn’t get involved.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @keranih – Saddam was our puppet, near as I can tell. We installed him, we armed him, and we did nothing to reign him in while he killed a ton of Iranians and then a bunch of his own people. He came to us for permission to invade Kuwait in the first place; you can call our neutral message to him as incompetence or malice, it doesn’t really make a difference. having defeated his army, we called on his citizens to overthrow him, then walked away when they tried to, and let him slaughter them unimpeded. Then we slapped crippling sanctions on his country for a decade, then invaded, smashing the country and plunging it into guerrilla war. Then we left and let the guerrilla war turn into open civil war. That’s how I understand the sequence, anyway; appologies if I’ve got my facts wrong.

            Out of that picture, the Gulf War is definately the brightest part, but I have a hard time calling it a “good outcome” in context.

            Bosnia I remember as another messy, inconclusive Clinton peacekeeping farce. I freely admit that I could very well be selling it short and we did good work there.

          • John Schilling says:

            Saddam was our puppet, near as I can tell. We installed him, we armed him, and we did nothing to reign him in while he killed a ton of Iranians and then a bunch of his own people.

            Who is this “we” of which you speak? Looking at the Iraqi order of battle in 1981, 1988, and 1991, I see a whole lot of Soviet military hardware, a fair bit of French stuff, and essentially nothing from the United States. Looking at the history of the Iraqi chemical weapons program, I see substantial German contributions, a little bit from the UK, nothing from the United States. Iraq’s nuclear arms program, to the extent that it ever existed, was based on a French-supplied breeder reactor. Iraq’s long-range missiles were all of Russian origin. If Iraq had ever had a biological weapons program worth mentioning, it might have made use of samples of anthrax delivered by the United States for defensive biowarfare research, but it turns out the idea that Iraq ever had a biological weapons program was mostly paranoid fantasy.

            So who is the “we” that allegedly armed Iraq, and on what evidence? The United States of America, perhaps cheered a bit too gleefully at the prospect of Iraq and Iran pummeling each other to oblivion, but AFIK the only arms we ever delivered to that end were to Iran.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @John Schilling – United States support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war

            …On the other hand, the wikipedia article for Saddam Hussein himself did not corroborate my memory; I thought we’d been specifically involved in his rise to power prior to the Iran/Iraq war as well. Regarding the equipment, I was given to understand that we helped him broker arms deals, and provided funding for the weapons.

            [T]he United States actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, by providing U.S. military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third country arms sales to Iraq to make sure that Iraq had the military weaponry required. The United States also provided strategic operational advice to the Iraqis to better use their assets in combat… The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq. My notes, memoranda and other documents in my NSC files show or tend to show that the CIA knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, munitions and vehicles to Iraq[11][…]

            The United States assisted Iraq through a military aid program known as “Bear Spares”, whereby the U.S. military “made sure that spare parts and ammunition for Soviet or Soviet-style weaponry were available to countries which sought to reduce their dependence on the Soviets for defense needs.”[11] According to Howard Teicher’s court sworn declaration:

            If the “Bear Spares” were manufactured outside the United States, then the U.S. could arrange for the provision of these weapons to a third country without direct involvement. Israel, for example, had a very large stockpile of Soviet weaponry and ammunition captured during its various wars. At the suggestion of the United States, the Israelis would transfer the spare parts and weapons to third countries… Similarly, Egypt manufactured weapons and spare parts from Soviet designs and provided these weapons and ammunition to the Iraqis and other countries.

            Note also the information on that page of transfers of biological weapons. I’ve also heard that we were involved in Iraq’s chemical weapons program, but don’t remember the sources.

          • John Schilling says:

            So, biological samples that could theoretically have been turned into weapons but weren’t intended to be weapons and weren’t turned into weapons, and a program about which “little today is known … details remain scarce” but involved selling unspecified spare parts to Russian weapons to probably Iraq among others.

            As compare to the Russians who sold Iraq all of the weapons for which such spare parts might have been used. If that’s your case for Iraq being “our puppet” because “we armed him”, that’s looking mighty weak to me.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @John Schilling – “So, biological samples that could theoretically have been turned into weapons but weren’t intended to be weapons and weren’t turned into weapons…”

            On February 9, 1994, Senator Riegle delivered a report -commonly known as the Riegle Report- in which it was stated that “pathogenic (meaning ‘disease producing’), toxigenic (meaning ‘poisonous’), and other biological research materials were exported to Iraq pursuant to application and licensing by the U.S. Department of Commerce.” It added: “These exported biological materials were not attenuated or weakened and were capable of reproduction.”[22]

            The report then detailed 70 shipments (including Bacillus anthracis) from the United States to Iraqi government agencies over three years, concluding “It was later learned that these microorganisms exported by the United States were identical to those the UN inspectors found and recovered from the Iraqi biological warfare program.”[23]

            “…and a program about which “Little today is known … details remain scarce” but involved selling unspecified spare parts to Russian weapons to probably Iraq among others.”

            …and “billions of dollars of credits, by providing U.S. military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third country arms sales to Iraq to make sure that Iraq had the military weaponry required,” from that first paragraph?

            The above was my understanding of our history with Iraq. Part of the reason I’m interested in this thread is because I’m aware that I acquired much of this history when I was a rabid leftist during the Bush years, and if I got fed a load of bull you guys seem like the ones who’d probably be able to correct me. That being said, I feel your assessment doesn’t seem like it fully covers what I cited.

            Are we just talking past each other?

          • keranih says:

            Iraqi order of battle in 1981, 1988, and 1991, I see a whole lot of Soviet military hardware, a fair bit of French stuff, and essentially nothing from the United States.

            The French built a lot of air assets throughout the region, including airfields and bases in Iraq, Lebanon, and Kuwait. In fact –

            – okay, this is not researched, this is the story as it was told to me, and I can’t do the accents like the Brit who told me the story –

            – it was a French company who built the bunkers at the air bases in Kuwait. For the time, they were actually *overbuilt*, as was a great deal in those heady days when Kuwait was just figuring out what it meant to be “a hundred square miles of oil lightly covered with sand.” They evidently wanted “whatever anyone can throw against us” and the French signed a deal swearing that was what they got – these bunkers would stand up to the armament of Kuwait’s current and potential advisories. (Which, in the 1980s, really wasn’t *anyone*.)

            Go on to 1990, and these airstrips, and airfields, were seized by SH in the Kuwait invasion like everything else, when SH was threatening Saudi Arabia. And SH parked *his* jets in those bunkers.

            And he figured they were safe, no? All his captured Kuwaiti airfield people were promising that the bunkers (which looked like mini pyramids) were impenetrable, would shrug off anything, no problem. Look, here, signed promise by the French, must be good, right?

            So SH continues his saber rattling, and, very quietly, a couple of state-sponsored construction companies in France starts getting really tight around the nose. And then the Americans say, ok, roll. And send in the bunker-busters against all of SH’s air assets.

            Now, they tore hell out of the retreating tanks and trucks on the highway (there is only one) north back to Iraq. But they also punched very neat, very tidy, very complete holes in all those bunkers hiding the fighter aircraft. And blew the aircraft to smitherins.

            Upshot of it all – Operation GULF STORM is over, Kuwait is handed back to the Kuwaitis, the Emir takes over and the parliament goes back to the squabbling that they do, Red Adiar (among many others) showed up to cap wells and put out the fires that the Iraqi army ignited as they lit out…and Kuwait starts looking for someone to pay for all this.

            Along the way, they send a dunning notice to the company in France who built their airfield bunkers, wanting a full refund (or at least repairs) for breech of contract, because, obviously their “unpenitratiable” bunkers weren’t all that unpenitratiable, having gotten ventilated quite well, thank you.

            The French company sent back the polite version of frothing Gallic insistence that NO, the bunkers had NO been promised to be resistant to AMERICAN bombs, there ain’t no such critter, besides this was clearly SH’s fault for acts of war, and oh, bugger off.

            Several rounds of “Oh yes you did so promise!” and “OH HELL NO WHAT KINDA IDIOT INSURES AGAINST PISSED OFF YANKS” ensued, and last I heard, in 2011 or so, the case had been appealed, again.

            The Brit who told me this story did both the Kuwaiti accents and the French accents, and the bombing noises, and it was several years before I laughed quite so hard.

        • The Nybbler says:

          He wants мир, as his name would suggest.

        • Nicholas says:

          Okay, so you know how the equilibrium of a market is disrupted by government regulation? And that international”free” trade is something of a misnomer, because companies and actors are biased by the local government, and those biasing disruptions can be provoked by diplomacy? And that the majority of Americans’ asymmetric trades result from local governments kneecapping the domestic competition?
          Putin wants those governments to rewrite their laws to systematically give an advantage to Russian corporations, instead of American ones.

        • Autolykos says:

          Keranih and Nicholas already nailed most of it. Putin wants the US out of his hair while pursuing regional hegemony, and he wants the NATO to stop encroaching on him. It’s been the theme of both the wars in Georgia and Ukraine, as well as with the dispute about missile defense in Poland.
          I guess he would also very much like the EU to be less friendly to the US (and thus more friendly to Russia), which is another thing Trump is likely to achieve, even without any prodding from Putin’s side.

    • Civilis says:

      There’s a massive assumption behind this, normally that what the Russians seem to be saying they want is actually what they want.

      Putin’s got a reputation as a bad guy. Any Russian endorsement may very well have the opposite effect. If Putin wants Clinton to win, the best way to do so may be to endorse Trump and let Clinton use that to attack Trump, then make up when Clinton wins the election.

      An alternative is that Russia’s real goal could be politically destabilizing the US, thinking that a domestically divided US may be less of a threat. The best way to do that would be to support the underdog in the race, currently Trump. Given that much of Russia’s support is under the table, such as conveniently timed leaks by supposed third parties, if Trump gets too strong they can arrange for under the table support to Clinton.

      • Cord Shirt says:

        An alternative is that Russia’s real goal could be politically destabilizing the US, thinking that a domestically divided US may be less of a threat.

        On that note: Moscow welcomes the (would-be) sovereign nations of California and Texas

        Moscow uses these gatherings to promote its political agenda, gain more political leverage in the West and push for the lifting of Western sanctions imposed on Moscow after its 2014 annexation of Crimea and support of the separatists in eastern Ukraine, a former lawmaker with the ruling United Russia party said.

        “The more the West is disunited, the more beneficial it is to Russia,” Sergei Markov said, adding that the secession of California and Texas — a prospect that would appear to be something of a long shot — would “undoubtedly benefit” the Kremlin.

        • Lysenko says:

          Ehhh, until their support grows a lot more fungible or comes packed in cosmoline, chalk that one up as posturing…and at $55K of grant money not much of that.

  17. Jack says:

    I don’t support Trump and I’m not saying he won’t mess up foreign policy, but I seriously have to wonder where SSC comes up with some of these statements.

    “Hillary will probably continue US intervention in Syria; here she is more interventionist than Obama. But her intervention would probably be smaller-scale than Trump’s. She wants to arm “friendly” rebel groups and enforce a no-fly zone, but she has ruled out sending ground troops into Iraq or Syria, something Trump has promised to do. Likely she would focus on keeping enough of Syria safe to protect some civilians and prevent more refugees, then use indirect methods to make life miserable for Assad. This seems like as good a plan as any other.”

    I don’t understand why we would take Hillary’s word for it. Firstly, considering how the rise of ISIS is heavily due to arming “friendly” rebels groups to try to overthrow Assad, I don’t quite understand how Hillary wanting to arm them inspires any confidence whatsoever. People who actually follow this kind of stuff for a living (e.g. Joshua Landis, Max Abrahms) doubts the very existence of these so called “friendly” “moderate” rebels. Secondly, there is an assumption that Hillary actually cares about human rights. This is false. Libya is not about human rights, and we can tell from these Hillary email where it is outright stated that France went into Libya to try to expand power into North Africa and to neutralize Libya’s gold. As of Syria, we know for a fact that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel tried very very hard to get rid of Assad. Unless we’re seriously to believe Saudi Arabia cares about human rights, there are probably some alternate reasons for their support of the rebels and funding jihadis to go fight there (aka geopolitics vs Iran). Again, it is easy to make statements such as “Likely she would focus on keeping enough of Syria safe to protect some civilians and prevent more refugees, then use indirect methods to make life miserable for Assad” even when it makes no sense and is contrary to all evidence. For example.

    Regarding the whole Hillary/Russia no fly zone thing, I’ll bring this up again since people don’t know recent history. Russia and China ALLOWED the no fly zone on Libya to pass in the UN. NATO then used it as an opportunity to kill Gaddafi for the rebels, which majorly pissed off Putin and burned through tons of good will. Russia basically views US support for Syrian rebels as a Great Game proxy war for influence (which it is). Hillary can quite clearly say one thing about wanting a no fly zone with Russia and then do something entirely differet. There is really no reason to take this point seriously.

    I could go on and on with tons of links and evidence about how Syria is just a proxy battleground for US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Iran, and how it has nothing to do with human rights and how it is currently a giant mess that created a refugee crisis, ISIS, a coup in Turkey, a Cold War with Russia, Turkish anger with NATO, EU, and US, a resurgent Iran, enormous loss of US influence in the Mid East etc. etc. but that would produce a giant blogpost with tons of explaining and it is getting late. All I’ll say is that I like SSC because most posts back up the statements with loads of evidence and rational analysis. RealClearPolitics and r/neutraltalk are not good sources for topics such as the Mid East and SSC clearly has no idea about this topic.

    If people are against Trump, go for it, but please actually read up on the Syrian and Libyan conflict before commenting on it. And not just the crap NYT writes.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you.

    • Lurker says:

      Good points. This underlies my main concern about Hillary – like her neoconservative allies she has consistently been pushing against Russian interests and should be expected to continue doing that. If optimizing for reducing existential risk, to a first approximation, the only war that matters is a nuclear war between Russia and USA. Prima facie we should expect a policy of pushing against Russia to increase this risk more than a neutral or friendly policy – which Trump would seem more likely to follow. Since it is unclear to me whether this risk increase is worse than whatever risks Trumpian variance might cause it is also unclear that Trump is a worse candidate from a pure existential risk perspective.

    • Deiseach says:

      She wants to arm “friendly” rebel groups

      Because that worked out so well with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, correct? Funnelling money and arms to a plethora of small, perhaps mutually antagonistic groups that are going to turn on one another when the Strong Man in charge is overthrown can’t have any downsides!

      • The Nybbler says:

        Yes, there seems to be a strong line of thought among conservative groups that democracy and freedom in the Middle East are just plain impossible; better to have a strongman keep the warring groups in line and to understand that if he does anything to the US (or allows the warring groups to do anything to the US), we can discard him.

      • Tekhno says:

        Well, not neocons. Their whole pitch was that not only is democracy and freedom possible in the Middle East, it should be forced upon them. Back then, the left (and some libertarians) were the ones making the argument that it was better to leave the dictators in power. What happened is that neoconservatism went bipartisan and now mainstream liberals look like neocons, particularly Hillary, and then we have a small number of naysayer conservatives, mostly paleocon types.

    • Deiseach says:

      Completely agree Syria is a proxy battleground. Syria is not just an isolated incidence, it’s tied-in to the whole aftermath of the “Arab Spring”, the Turkish push against the Kurds, etc. etc. etc. Pushing for a naive American policy of “pick one guy to back as the moderate leader who will introduce democracy and be sympathetic to our interests” is only going to prolong the unholy mess.

      • Jack says:

        I think a bigger problem is that America’s policy is not “pick one guy to back as the moderate leader who will introduce democracy and be sympathetic to our interests” even though that’s what a lot of people believe it is. If we can’t find any “friendly moderate” rebels among the people fighting Assad, chances are the CIA knew they weren’t friendly and moderate to begin with, but supported them anyways because they wanted to weaken Iran. The mujahideens were not “friendly” and “moderate” either but it was quite obvious why the US supported them. Saudi Arabia has jihadi assets across the world and everyone knows this, the US let them entered Syria anyways. The filter between geopolitical reality and the news we get from MSM is so ridiculous that the actual news we get from MSM regarding Syria is completely worthless. Of course, I’m not pointing fingers at US being the sole culprit of supporting the “bad guys”. Every country do this. But there is no point pretending that US policy is actually to “pick one guy to back as the moderate leader who will introduce democracy and be sympathetic to our interests”. People will have a much better understanding of the Mid East if they just view it as a geopolitical great game rather than some protecting human rights nonsense.

      • Tekhno says:

        @Jack

        But the general public do believe in human rights nonsense. I always thought the most parsimonious explanation was that the elites did too, but under the great game theory the elites are beyond ideology. Are we being controlled by Nietzscheans?

        • Jack says:

          @Tekhno

          I think it is a matter of degree. As TheAncientGreek said, elites might have a different view on human rights than everyone else. For example, they might no consider any of the plebians outside of their ingroup “human” in the same sense hardcore Hillary supporters and hardcore Trump supporters don’t consider each other “human”. On the other hand, I think the individual elite also matter. Hillary is definitely more Nietzschean than Obama and the directors of the CIA and NSA are probably much more Nietzschean than everyone else.

      • It’s not black and white. The elites would be probably be fine with human rights gains if they didn’t incur other losses it’s not that elites have a different view from everyone else, it’s more that they are juggling many different balls.

    • wtvb says:

      The coup in Turkey is largely unrelated to Syria and closely related to “Pennsylvania”.

      Arming “friendly” rebels has a huge positive correlation with terrorist attacks though, so I’m still very inclined to stand with *not* Hillary.

      • hyperboloid says:

        The coup in Turkey is largely unrelated to Syria and closely related to “Pennsylvania”.

        Aside from Erdogan’s very unreliable word, we have no evidence to support that. Since 1960 Turkey has had three military coups, and one incident in which the army was able to force the resignation of a civilian government without actually seizing power; and all without the help of Fethullah Gulen.

    • Tekhno says:

      The “friendly” rebels were groups like Al Nusra, right?

      I would argue that there’s a strong ideological component to this war where we want to project badness onto established dictators and project goodness onto rebels. Our leaders watched Star Wars as kids and it left an impression.

    • anaon says:

      Firstly, considering how the rise of ISIS is heavily due to arming “friendly” rebels groups to try to overthrow Assad,

      Unless you meant arming of friendly rebels by Arab states this is wrong. One of the biggest boosts that ISIS got was that the U.S. was lousy at actually arming the rebels. The (understandable) amount of vetting that was required before any arms were released, and the conditions they were under, meant that any U.S. friendly rebels either got blown up, or got sick of waiting for american bullets and joined up with more openly Islamist groups.

  18. Deiseach says:

    Well, just throwing more fuel on the fire here but the change in attitude is interesting.

    New York Times, start of the month: Ohio is really really important and if Trump doesn’t win here (and he won’t) then his campaign is toast, ha ha ha!

    Several strategists said Mr. Trump’s fate in Ohio would turn less on the absence of Kasich operatives than on the fundamentals of the campaign. No candidate since 1960 has made it to the White House without winning Ohio. And while Mrs. Clinton could afford to lose there given her advantage in other battlegrounds like Virginia and Colorado, Ohio is a must-win for Mr. Trump.

    He is doing well with white working-class voters in Democratic strongholds like Youngstown, where industrial jobs have vanished, and in rural counties along the Ohio River. President Obama won Youngstown’s Mahoning County in 2012, but Mr. Trump is expected to convert many voters to his cause.

    But the populations in these counties are relatively small. Mr. Trump’s gains there would be outweighed by the significant losses he is expected to face in the suburbs of major cities, especially Columbus, strategists said

    New York Times, end of the month: So Trump won in Ohio, big deal! Ohio doesn’t matter! “Ohio has not fallen into step with the demographic changes transforming the United States, growing older, whiter and less educated than the nation at large.”

    After decades as one of America’s most reliable political bellwethers, an inevitable presidential battleground that closely mirrored the mood and makeup of the country, Ohio is suddenly fading in importance this year.

    Hillary Clinton has not been to the state since Labor Day, and her aides said Thursday that she would not be back until next week, after a monthlong absence, effectively acknowledging how difficult they think it will be to defeat Donald J. Trump here. Ohio has not fallen into step with the demographic changes transforming the United States, growing older, whiter and less educated than the nation at large.

    Does that sound a bit like desperation, denial of reality and sticking their head in the sand? Or is it a sober, objective analysis of the situation? Ohio really did go from “must-win” to “irrelevant” in thirty days?

    • Chalid says:

      It’s must-win for Trump but not Clinton, in the sense that it’s very hard to assemble a plausible electoral map for Trump without including Ohio, but there are plausible electoral maps for Clinton that don’t include it. (Which is right there in the first quoted paragraph.)

      Like, if suddenly polls showed that New York was close for some reason, it would suddenly become a Clinton must-win state.

    • Corey says:

      What’s a “swing state” depends on who’s in the lead. When Trump was way behind, the usual swing states (NC, OH, etc.) were likely Dem. So we got situations like *Georgia* becoming a swing state.

      Since the race narrowed now we’re back to about the usual splits.

  19. Levantine says:

    I sense this debate boils down to falling in one of at least two groups

    Do you find the ongoing course of the country disastrous – in the sense of being fatal

    Do you find the course a rough ride, merely, toward better pastures, hopefully?

    If the latter, you take the stance of Never-Trump.
    If the former, you take the stance of Not-Hillary.

    • Deiseach says:

      I can’t believe we’re seriously discussing Trump as possible next President of the United States. I suppose that means he has made fools of us all.

      Hillary would be “more of the same” except perhaps dialled up to eleven on certain things. I don’t think she’s a SJW, they’re ‘useful idiots’ for posting “Vote for our progressive Hillary who will oversee the land of rainbows and lollipops!” appeals on Tumblr and Facebook and mobilising the vote, but I don’t think she cares tuppence about their causes except as the results of “focus groups say move X inches left, right or centre for a bounce in the polls” – her campaign allegedly is living or dying on big data crunching.

      I do think she is interested in foreign policy from her Secretary of State days, and in standing up to Russia, possibly for personal reasons. (I’m smiling at the irony of a Democrat using “unpatriotic” as a criticism after all the lectures about how patriotism is the same as nationalism is terribad and racist and exclusionary). Does this reassure you anymore than “Trump is volatile and responds by attacking when he feels criticised or insulted” re: chances for breaking off relations and/or getting into a second cold war/shooting war via proxies?

      Am I saying vote for Trump? Dear God, no, but I can understand why people might do so, and I don’t really have great confidence in Hillary as being anything more than “four years overseeing more of the same”. If I thought she’d stick to that, I’d be a bit more reassured, but it’s the nagging suspicion that she has Plans for when she gets into office – and I don’t mean SJW type plans, I mean economic or security or something – that troubles me. I don’t know why I get that impression, simply that I don’t think she’s been fighting and scrapping for this just to simply sit back and do nothing more than glad-handing press and photo ops when she gets into office as “The First Woman President”.

      • hyperboloid says:

        I’m smiling at the irony of a Democrat using “unpatriotic” as a criticism after all the lectures about how patriotism is the same as nationalism is terribad and racist and exclusionary

        Has any elected democrat ever said that?
        There is a habit around here of talking about positions popular with far left academia as if they were the platform of the Democratic party.

        • Luung Hawl says:

          Worse. She takes the idea that a Democrat would criticize something as “unpatriotic” to be so far-fetched as ludicrous to imagine.

          A lot of the slander of the left that goes on here, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s so radically distorted.

      • 27chaos says:

        “Staff in Clinton’s analytics department sit under a sign that hangs from the ceiling with the words “statistically significant” printed on it.”

        I just gagged a bit.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I’m smiling at the irony of a Democrat using “unpatriotic” as a criticism after all the lectures about how patriotism is the same as nationalism is terribad and racist and exclusionary

        Dissent is only the highest form of patriotism when the other guy is in charge.

  20. Mathamatical says:

    page views are important but also please give us a good skyscraper facts style post in near future if you could, scott

  21. Jack V says:

    My impression is that Trump criticises the Iraq war because it turned out badly, and threatens ill-considered violent reprisals because he’s angry and hadn’t really thought about what might be practical foreign policy. Lots of people are randomly anti “every country vaguely Muslim” although I don’t think that’s ok.

    I don’t know what policy he would follow when he HAS thought about it. My expectation is that he would try to take an isolationist stance but as soon as someone pisses him off, he will want to react violently.

  22. Aluren says:

    I don’t know it’s been said before, I don’t know if it’s futile and/or preposterous, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: Scott, as crazy as it sounds, could you please shift your focus away from American politics and try to adopt a less American-centric worldview? And I’m not asking it just because I’m in Europe where the whole US presidential debate looks like an enormous, hilariously scary farce (like that fiction trope where some violent death takes place on stage and spectators happily clap away at the “realism” and “shocking value” and it turns out this wasn’t just a play and people start screaming when they realize the murder was real), though that may well have motivated me to comment in the first place, I’m just suggesting you consider the very temporary value aspect of these blog posts.

    Sure, the points you raise are valid. Sure, the debates going on are constructive. But will they matter even only one day past the presidential election? Most of the more interesting pieces you write are the ones that are less affected by the impermanent relevance of the subject matter, such as your top posts like the one that summarizes reactionary philosophy or your fiction pieces. Reactionary thought is always relevant no matter how far you go into the future, that’s kind of the point. Fiction is always enjoyable to read and reread. More generally, anyone can go back and read these posts even three or four years later. But there is nothing as impermanent as the ebb and flow of political figures. Who is going to go back and read your post about Trump in a couple of months, after he’s elected? Or in a couple years (presumably after the nuclear war just to type in between two radioactive waste cleaning shifts “Hah, told you so” on a scrap-built mesh-based teletype terminal, I guess)?

    As for your worldviews being too American-centric, I do realize that’s only to be expected given the demographics of your blog’s community (or pretty much any anglophone internet community for that matter), and I know this kind of request is quite a stretch, but one can always ask.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      @ Aluren

      Unfortunately, when the US elects the wrong President (eg Bush in 2000), his blunders damage other nations too. Your suggestion might be better received about six weeks from now.

      • Aluren says:

        I’m not questioning the relevance of the US presidential election, however farcical it looks like. What is questionable is the long-term value of debating who should be elected on November 8th when this time could be spent discussing matters that will (presumably) stay relevant after November 8th. Of course, not my blog, yadda, yadda. Just asking, it can’t hurt.

        On second insight it could be that Scott genuinely believes he can change the minds of some would-be Trump voters that read his blog. If true, that is very commendable of him, though I doubt his political articles are efficient in that regard. People are people, and people rarely change their minds this suddenly. But then he probably knows his own community better than me.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          The last two articles have done more to make me consider not voting Trump than anything I’ve seen in the last year.

          • I do not understand how one can support Pax Americana and say Trump is a YUGGGEEEE danger to it, then endorse Jill Stein and Gary Johnson.

            This is like saying I hate Communism, but I’ll endorse Stalin as a third party candidate (because Donald Trump said mean things).

            ?????

          • herbert herbertson says:

            Personally, I think the liberal capitalist hegemony of America is a malign influence on the world. However, I think a fascist empire of America would be considerably worse, and I put the odds of Trump implementing such a thing around 15% percent. To me, its an easy choice.

            As for Scott, I think he correctly intuits that Gary Johnson and Jill Stein will not win the presidency, and choosing to vote for them means a very different thing than voting for one of the candidates who could.

            Also, Johnson was a governor for 8 years. His platform is radical, but his actual experience of governing wasn’t. Given how little power his party has in the other branches of gov’t, if something crazy were to happen and he actually did find himself taking the oath of office, that experience it probably a more reliable predictor than the platform.

          • Tekhno says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            Scott is endorsing Jill Stein and Gary Johnson as forms of appeasement. He really wants Hillary, but he’s saying “Look. If you really hate Hillary and can’t vote for her, then vote for these guys, but for the love of God, DON’T VOTE TRUMP!”

      • keranih says:

        Houseboat –

        (I did see your other post, I’m still thinking.)

        when the US elects the wrong President (eg Bush in 2000), his blunders damage other nations too.

        Were all of Bush’s international actions blunders, in your opinion?

        And how do you think the rest of the world is doing now, eight years on? Getting better? Worse? Same trend?

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

  23. Jugemu Chousuke says:

    I think this post is focusing too much on relatively minor issues and not enough on the big one, Russia. As others have pointed out in this thread, that’s the strongest reason to believe that Hillary is more existentially threatening and there seems to be more of a trend to it than a momentary squabble over a no-fly zone.

    In general a policy of “stay home or go in hard” seems better to me than the current policy of half-heartedly intervening in everything and creating a big mess of interminable civil conflict and former-allies-of-convenience-turned-enemies in the process.

    (Not that I think Trump is perfect – he’s clearly not a deep thinker. But a bunch of deep thinking policy wonking has seemingly just created a bunch of messes anyway, so…).

  24. Nope says:

    “In 2007, he he suggested “knocking the hell out of [Iran] and keeping their oil”, though in his (sort of) defense he might have been confusing them with ISIS at the time.”

    I assume you meant Iraq? ISIS didn’t exist at the time.

  25. FacelessCraven says:

    @Scott Alexander – “Some writers have called the period since World War II the “Pax Americana”. Although there have been some deadly local wars, there’s been relative peace between great powers. A big part of this is America’s promise to defend its allies.”

    Do you think that if we stay the current course, the Pax Americana lasts another fifty years? If it fails in that time, what are the likely failure modes?

    Militarily, I’m most worried about our long-term strategy of containment against Russia. It seems needlessly hostile and provocative, and has resulted in multiple proxy wars over the last few decades. I think Russia’s current belligerence is a rational response to this strategy, and I think the US specifically and the world generally would be a lot better off if we had never started down this road. Having started, the best available course now is to stop and turn around. Unfortunately, the establishment seems entirely committed to doubling down; having provoked Russia for decades, when Russia responds they claim they were right to provoke all along. This is madness and stupidity.

    Containment of Russia has been the establishment consensus since the fall of the USSR, and as far as I’m aware Hillary has worked to advance that consensus throughout her career. The concern is not that she will escalate conflict over Syria, or over a hacking attempt. The concern is that she appears to hold Russia in contempt and has established a long-term pattern of actively provoking conflict with them. This pattern of behavior seems likely to bite us in a serious way; one of the more plausible ones is that we get tangled up in a fight with Russian conventional forces via one of our proxies, win the conventional fight, and Russia negates that win via battlefield use of tactical nuclear weapons. At that point, the pressure to escalate is overwhelming no matter who is president.

    You point out that Trump postures arrogance and strength toward Iran, Syria, Iraq and North Korea, and I agree that posturing is highly worrying, as well as revolting. But Clinton and the establishment consensus she represents have done a hell of a lot more than posture, they’ve taken action in multiple countries over two or three decades. If she wins, conflict with Russia is going to get worse, and I am worried that we can’t afford that.

    • Alex S says:

      I agree Russia policy is a weakness of the establishment and a plus for Trump, but there is still a lot more to foreign policy than Russia. There are so many issues that I defer to the reasoning that in very complex matters, the person who listens to their advisors is best because nobody knows enough to make good decisions on their own.

      • The Most Conservative says:

        The US and Russia combined have over 90% of the world’s nukes:

        http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/fact-sheet-who-has-nuclear-weapons-how-many-do-they-n548481

        It’s unclear how much additional nukes matter after the first fifty or so though. You only need a few nukes to get Americans dwelling near city centers, but many live in suburbs or rural areas. Check out this tool: http://nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap/

        If Hillary’s establishment advisors are going to get something simple wrong, like being needlessly belligerent with Russia, why do we trust them with complex matters? (Also what did these people advise with regard to Syria and Libya?) They might have prestigious credentials, but I’m unconvinced they have a legitimate claim to expertise in guiding a ship of state.

        One possible advantage to Trump: Since foreign leaders know that many Americans hate him (based on how the American press treats him), they might be more willing to assassinate Trump if he pisses them off, and leave the rest of us alone. (I suppose the Secret Service is pretty good at ensconcing the president if they have a nontrivial chance to be assassinated though?)

  26. Neanderthal From Mordor says:

    Trump largely says he wants a foreign policy that achieves more while costing less. That’s why he wants the NATO allies to increase their own spending more in line with the US, something that all US presidents said, and he is also willing to threaten them a bit to make them do it.
    That’s why he rants about making conquests pay and he wants to use the weight of the US to get better trade deals, that is to get a dividend from all that military spending.
    That’s also why he is willing to strike deals with Russia, so both can pool resources against islamists while avoiding an arms race.
    At the same time he has to continue the republican tradition of looking tougher than the democrats (pretty hard when you run against a sincere hawk like Hillary), to reassure a public afraid of terrorism and to court the military types, an important republican constituency.
    In the end I doubt that his foreign policy would be much different than that of Obama who also tried to get a peace dividend, but kept being drawn into Middle East wars.
    On the other side Hillary is closely connected with neocons, likudniks, liberal interventionists and other groups of interest that profit from war and she will be quick to engage in wars.

    • Alraune says:

      At the same time he has to continue the republican tradition of looking tougher than the democrats

      That’s where the credible immigration restrictionism comes in, as we saw in… I have no idea which primary debate it was. The one where Ted Cruz proposed a no-control-group experiment in making “sand glow” and Kasich suggested assassinating Kim Jong-Un. GOP voters want your total hawk stance on Immigration + War to sum to 10. Trump goes 5 and 5, everyone else had to push for 11 on War to compensate.

  27. candles says:

    I think one of the tensions in how you write here is that you, personally, don’t have to bear almost any of the cost of Pax Americana and the global police state (aside from a theoretical tax burden), and so it’s easy for you to talk about the consequences of Pax Americana from a certain kind of disinterested theoretical global view. I’m not saying this as a slur – I don’t have to much bear it either.

    But that’s not true for everyone. And specifically, it’s not true for a lot of people who are American citizens and who have the right to vote…. which Vietnamese people being lifted out of poverty do not.

    Which is to say, our current military arrangement, in a post-draft world, is heavily dependent on an all-volunteer army, and many of those volunteers are coming from the communities that are bearing most of the worst downsides of globalization from every direction. Trump is talking directly to them when he critiques NATO or sounds isolationist themes. I think on some level, it’s useful short-hand to recognize that what Vietnam was to a sizable portion of the liberal base, Iraq and Afghanistan have been to a sizable portion of the conservative base (which is hard to see if you don’t have a lot of contact with those people). They express it differently, because they have different values, but the effect has been searing.

    If you are truly lower variance, it’s incoherent to say “NATO is good, and Pax Americana is good, and globalization is good, so those hillbilly’s who keep having their communities disintegrating from closing coal mines and closing factories should just keep volunteering to get their arms blown off overseas”, because THAT’S NOT A SUSTAINABLE PROPOSITION. It’s not low variance to count on that, because that is a thing that is very much in flux, even if you can’t see it.

    This is part of why I see Clinton as substantially higher variance than you – there are changes baked into the cake no matter what. We don’t have stasis.

    • herbert herbertson says:

      . Trump is talking directly to them when he critiques NATO or sounds isolationist themes. I think on some level, it’s useful short-hand to recognize that what Vietnam was to a sizable portion of the liberal base, Iraq and Afghanistan have been to a sizable portion of the conservative base (which is hard to see if you don’t have a lot of contact with those people). They express it differently, because they have different values, but the effect has been searing.

      If you’re qualified, I’d love to see you expand on it. I’ve been guessing it (seems like the most likely answer to “why have we gotten the most anti-Islamic presidential candidate now, 15 years after 9/11,” also explains that time an argument with some friend-of-friend Iraq War vets over waterboarding ended with rape threats against me) but I have no real insider view

  28. Stefan Drinic says:

    Good post overall, just.. Uh.

    In 2007, he […] might have been confusing them with ISIS at the time.

    I can’t really tell if this is a joke or a genuine mishap. It left me confused in either case.

    • sohois says:

      One could conceivably simply replace ‘ISIS’ with ‘Al-Qaeda’ without altering the impact of the sentence whatsoever, though I do think that, yes, Scott did make a mistake there.

    • anaon says:

      It’s a typo, the comment actually came from August 2015

  29. AnonBosch says:

    This is essentially a far better version of my comment in the earlier thread, which I probably could’ve done better and with more links if it hadn’t been tossed off in between work tasks. So I endorse it without much reservation.

    But I think it’s also important to hammer home the analogy to GW Bush. Trump has harshly and repeatedly criticized Bush, but that’s with the benefit of hindsight. Those of us with long memories have noted that Trump seems to be setting himself up for the exact same failure mode as Bush, by promising a “humble” foreign policy while surrounding himself with hawkish advisors, where his lack of foreign policy experience and general ignorance would make him extremely reliant on said hawkish advisors.

    Clinton’s intervention in Libya was ill-considered and probably a net negative. But it wasn’t as large a net negative as Bush’s intervention in Iraq because she was at least cognizant of the costs of a ground presence and the limits of our ability (we didn’t attempt to purge former Qaddafi loyalists in the same way we de-Baathified Iraq, which was probably the largest single contributing factor to its failure beyond the decision to invade itself). The fact that Trump supported both Iraq and Libya without the benefit of hindsight (I’m unwilling to credit him much for the tepidity of his Iraq support, see in re: hawkish advisors), and refuses to acknowledge his error, and has endorsed a bunch of hypothetical wars against North Korea and Somali pirates leads me to believe he would err on the side of war both more easily and more stupidly than Clinton.

    In conclusion, vote for Johnson. His skeptical instinct goes a very long way in this calculus even in the face of an inability to find countries on a map. (Or perhaps even enhanced by it, as long as a country doesn’t share a name with a popular marijuana strain.)

  30. The Nybbler says:

    Better land war against ISIS than land war in Ukraine.

  31. Jaskologist says:

    The Bush Doctrine was basically the idea that terrorist threats are incubated by repressive governments. If we get rid of those governments and replace them with liberal democracies, terrorist groups will lose their backing and eventually dissipate. We need not debate the wisdom of that right now, merely agree that it was the unifying theme behind the Bush administration’s foreign actions.

    What is the Hillary Doctrine? Can anybody tell me what her principles are, such that we can make good guesses about how she’d react to different situations?

  32. JonCB says:

    “I am not qualified to judge Hillary’s work as Secretary of State, but I expect her to play by the book.”

    Why do you expect that? While the FBI may have called it “Gray enough to not be a crime”, there was very little about that email thing that was “by the book”. I expect Hillary to do what Hillary thinks is best for Hillary just like I expect Trump to do what Trump thinks is best for Trump.

  33. onyomi says:

    On domestic policy, for me, it’s an absolute no-brainer: I prefer Trump to Hillary. The question then is: is the likely variance between Trump and HRC foreign policy outcomes big enough to justify voting for someone vastly inferior on domestic policy? Honestly not sure.

    Related, I certainly agree that, on foreign policy, HRC largely represents the status quo of the past sixteen years. Question is, have the past sixteen years moved us farther from, or closer to, WWIII? It feels like closer to me, but I could be wrong. I’m certainly not happy with post-9/11 US foreign policy, but since we haven’t yet had a nuclear war, it could always be worse.

    Other point: in US history, who has gotten us involved in really bad wars? Has it been irascible, erratic populists? Conservatives? Or has it been cool-headed, liberal, globalists? (Wilson, FDR, Truman (only pres. to order nuclear strike), Kennedy; FDR was a bit fascist, though). Of course, one could say that it was hands-off conservatives who necessitated us eventually getting into big wars due to failure to e. g. stop Hitler sooner, but I’m not entirely sure about that. I think the world would have been fine if we hadn’t gotten into WWI or Vietnam. Probably better. And if we hadn’t gotten into WWI, WWII might not have happened, so again, point goes to the conservatives, not the globalists (Hillary is the more Woodrow Wilson-esque of the candidates by a mile).

    Question then is: is Trump truly an unprecedented candidate? I’m not sure. In personal style, yeah, kind of. In terms of what he’d actually do, I’m less convinced, though it’s possible. I said in the last thread that he seems to me like a dumber, louder Pat Buchanan (noting that Pat Buchanan is very smart), and there’s no question in my mind that a Pat Buchanan foreign policy is less likely to result in WWIII than an HRC policy. But am I giving Trump too much credit here? Maybe. But generally, when one thinks so-and-so or such-and-such is totally sui generis and brakes the mold and cannot be judged according to any historical precedent… that tends to be wrong?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Not unprecedented in personal style, I don’t think. Harry Truman and Andrew Jackson come to mind.

    • herbert herbertson says:

      But generally, when one thinks so-and-so or such-and-such is totally sui generis and brakes the mold and cannot be judged according to any historical precedent… that tends to be wrong?

      Depends on whether or not they’re pointing to a technological innovation. Personally I’m not sure it’s possible to imagine Trump without social media.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      Some of the historical analysis here doesn’t quite seem right to me.

      Some people may point to the Lusitania having been sunk as a ways for Wilson to not really ‘count’ as getting the US involved, but there was some Tonkin-level political games involved there, some say; either way, I will note that Wilson was very much willing to get the US involved internationally..

      FDR is a tougher case for you to make. The man funded much of the Axis’ enemies even before Pearl Harbor, but it’s unclear to me that you can blame him for getting the US involved in WW2. I’m not even sure it’s ever helpful to look at a President alone if you want to know why a country goes to war, but that’s up to you.

      Truman defended the US’ sphere of influence in Korea after it was assaulted. Some ten thousand of your troops did die, but otherwise things ended up according to Cold War consensus, which really is the best you could’ve hoped for.

      Kennedy is one thing, but I’m a touch disappointed by Lyndon Johnson not getting a mention for Tonkin being an admitted hoax. No question about that.

      The US not getting involved in Vietnam would probably have done the world much good; WWI, not terribly relevant. Certainly the effect there wasn’t large enough to stave of WW2, which would have required the signing of Versailles to have been something akin to the Congress of Vienna in forgiveness, rather than the treaty the Germans actually got.

      Regardless, Hegel’s old quote is very relevant here – history doesn’t allow for us to experiment on it. What ifs are a lot of fun, but trying to pick modern day candidates based on how things might have gone a century ago is.. Dangerous.

      • cassander says:

        >FDR is a tougher case for you to make.

        FDR signed the atlantic charter in August of 41 calling for, among other things “the final destruction of Nazi tyranny”. There’s no question on FDR’s actions deliberately and knowingly provoked both Japan and Germany.

      • onyomi says:

        I certainly don’t give LBJ a pass. Though he’s a bit of a mixed case in being ideologically similar to HRC, but closer to Trump in terms of personal presentation.

      • cassander says:

        Oh, one other thing. There were two gulf of tonkin incidents, one of which was unquestionably real. The north claimed that they hit the USS Maddox with a torpedo, which was not true, but the definitely fired torpedoes at a US ship. The second incident was less a hoax than the maddox, understandably on alert after the first, firing at radar shadows in the fog.

    • Nicholas says:

      Contemporary sources considered FDR to be an irascible, erratic populist, and a traitor to his class.

      • onyomi says:

        This makes for an argument one’s not likely to hear elsewhere: “don’t vote for Trump! He’s the next FDR!” That would actually convince me, but probably not many others (to vote against him).

        • E. Harding says:

          Yeah; protectionism, cutting taxes, reducing regulations, and appointing someone with similar views to Scalia to the Supreme Court does not sound like FDR. But the massive infrastructure spending and support for universal healthcare does.

    • Civilis says:

      Question is, have the past sixteen years moved us farther from, or closer to, WWIII?

      I think things have moved us closer to WWIII over the past 16 years, but I’m more interventionist than most SSC commenters and I feel that paradoxically, the less interventionist the US is, the more likely WWIII is. Therefore, the biggest risk I have with Trump is his foreign policy, which may be too isolationist. It shouldn’t be that way; Trump seems far more Jacksonian than Bush, Obama or Clinton, which to me is the safest of the political foreign policy traditions (not necessarily the best, just the safest for the US). While that’s fine for the US, I don’t want to sit by and watch millions of non-Americans die on the news because some idiot knows the US will sit by and watch as long as the US isn’t threatened.

      The US intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 failed (to my eyes) because it was a poorly thought out combination of Jacksonian, Hamiltonian and Wilsonian objectives. We wanted to deter state sponsors of terrorism by making an example of the worst (Jacksonian), enable long-term American power projection in the Middle East to prop up friendly governments (Hamiltonian) and do it all under an international human rights framework (Wilsonian). All of those are at cross-purposes. It didn’t help that the Democrats in prominent positions at the time (including Clinton) started Wilsonian and switched to Jeffersonian when the inevitable problems arose, further causing the issues to snowball into bigger and bigger ones (ex. terrorists see US support for occupation faltering and step up their resistance).

      I sympathize with the more Jeffersonian SSC commentariat, even as I reluctantly say ‘I told you so’. Obama ran as if he were a Jeffersonian, and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he thought he would be able to roll back the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan. He couldn’t, and his Democratic administration has become more and more Wilsonian with each ‘humanitarian disaster’ the media picks up on. First it’s Boko Haram kidnapping schoolgirls, then Ghadaffi shooting protesters (and the Europeans calling for help), then it’s ISIS beheading people and Assad gassing his own population.

      The fundamental issue is one of variance. Will Clinton be Jefforsonian or Wilsonian? The current bouncing back and forth between the two positions makes the situation worse, because other international players don’t know what we’ll do. If Trump is indeed Jacksonian (don’t make us angry and we don’t care what you do), it will at least have the virtue of being consistent.

      Ultimately, it’s beyond the current election. Either the US/Western population is going to have to learn to ignore the front page photos of the latest ‘humanitarian disasters’, or we’re going to get stuck doing something, and that’s going to require a stick. If we’re going to use a stick, we’re either going to have to let someone else determine what stick we use, or do it ourselves; and we’re going to have to realize that if we let someone else make that determination, it will be in their best interests, not ours.

      • cassander says:

        >I sympathize with the more Jeffersonian SSC commentariat, even as I reluctantly say ‘I told you so’. Obama ran as if he were a Jeffersonian, and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he thought he would be able to roll back the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan.

        Obama is clearly a Jeffersonian at heart, but he’s demonstrated that he lacks the resolve to stick to those principles when it’s politically costly to do so. That, plus his affection for soaring rhetoric, has resulted in a confused muddle of incremental (and thus ineffective) Wilsonianism.

        >Will Clinton be Jefforsonian or Wilsonian?

        There is no Jeffersonianism in Hillary. She’s never seen a conflict she didn’t want to get involved with.

        The question of whether she’s more Wilsonian or Hamiltonian is an interesting one. I’d say she’s actually similar to the elder bush in her conflation of the two, that she believes a moderate amount of Wilsonianism is in American’s Hamiltonian interests. The difference between her and the elder bush is that he understood that wilsonianism was difficult and expensive, and was willing to invest what was needed to make his wilsonian forays work. Clinton shows no such understanding, and often tries to do wilsonianism on the cheap, with ugly consequences.

        • Civilis says:

          Obama and Clinton are both Democrats, going along with the current of the Democratic party (although both tack in their own personal directions).

          Your mileage may vary in what counts as Hamiltonian/Wilsonian. I don’t see anything for the US in any of the foreign policy initiatives of the current administration, many spearheaded by Hillary. What did we get out of Libya? What do we get out of fighting Assad? Nothing we’ve done this administration benefits the US as a nation in any way; it’s all done in the name of Human Rights.

          I also see Hillary’s fingers in a lot of the 2009-2012 foreign policy stupidity. Pretending that Benghazi was all about a video is a classic Jeffersonian attempt to sweep a problem we’d otherwise have to deal with under the rug. Same with the ‘reset button’ to Russia. None of that advances the international order, advances the US as a world power, or secures National Security for the US or our allies.

          • cassander says:

            >I don’t see anything for the US in any of the foreign policy initiatives of the current administration, many spearheaded by Hillary

            In Syria, in theory, we’re trying to replace a Russian and Iranian backed state with an American one. Note, I think the chances of this happening are basically zero.

            >pretending that Benghazi was all about a video is a classic Jeffersonian attempt to sweep a problem we’d otherwise have to deal with under the rug

            I see that as pure spin and deflection to shift blame with little ideological content.

            > Same with the ‘reset button’ to Russia. None of that advances the international order, advances the US as a world power, or secures National Security for the US or our allies.

            Reset and Re-engagement is classic Hamiltonianism. Wilsonians don’t reset, they crusade against their enemies. Jeffersonians disengage. It’s Hamiltonians that say let’s let bygones be bygones and cut a deal.

          • Civilis says:

            In Syria, in theory, we’re trying to replace a Russian and Iranian backed state with an American one. Note, I think the chances of this happening are basically zero.

            You’re giving the US government too much credit for having a master plan. We could care less about who runs Syria, just as long as it doesn’t make the news for killing civilians (or people that, when killed and photographed, look like civilians).

            Assad was a ‘nice guy’ until pictures of civilians killed by the Syrian military made the news. And even then we went out of our way to give him chance after chance (setting the red line, then ignoring it, for example). Assad can’t really win without using the elite parts of his military, the helicopters and fighter bombers, and using those against guerillas in civilian territories invariably leads to civilian casualties even if you do everything right with state of the art equipment.

            If Assad uses just his army, it’s a guerilla war, and he doesn’t have enough troops to control all of Syria against rebels supported by a good chunk of the local population. He needs to hit the rebels and the civilians that back them in a way that doesn’t risk his troops in rebel-dominated territory. Hence the helicopters and air strikes.

            That’s also why the Syrian loyalists attack aid convoys. Assad needs to convince the Syrian public that the only way they have any chance is to support the regime.

            It’s Hamiltonians that say let’s let bygones be bygones and cut a deal.

            There’s no deal involved. Russia didn’t do anything or change their goals as a result of the US reset button. The US just declared that the animosity was over. (Iran did release hostages, but they were only barganing chips to force a deal to begin with.) A Hamiltonian deal would have had benefits for the US. There have been some Hamiltonian deals recently. The renewed ties between the US and Vietnam which have led to joint exercises, for example, are a deal where both sides got something.

          • cassander says:

            >You’re giving the US government too much credit for having a master plan. We could care less about who runs Syria, just as long as it doesn’t make the news for killing civilians (or people that, when killed and photographed, look like civilians).

            You misunderstand me. The government as a whole certainly has no master plan. I was merely giving the argument a pro-syrian intervention Hamiltonian would give, someone like Dick Cheney.

            >We could care less about who runs Syria, just as long as it doesn’t make the news for killing civilians (or people that, when killed and photographed, look like civilians).

            That’s true for some people, not others. I guarantee you Dick Cheney cares more about who runs Syria than how many civilians get killed.

            >There’s no deal involved. Russia didn’t do anything or change their goals as a result of the US reset button.

            That the effort didn’t work out doesn’t mean that the impulse behind it wasn’t Hamiltonian, at least for some people.

        • E. Harding says:

          Obama’s no Jeffersonian; he’s a cold-hearted realist, much like Trump. The main difference is Trump is actually more likely to defeat ISIS, as he didn’t deliberately create it and has some interest in destroying it for the sake of his base (and due to renewed left-wing agitation about White House foreign policy failures).

          • onyomi says:

            I’m pretty sure Obama didn’t intend to create ISIS.

          • E. Harding says:

            I’m pretty sure he did. Obama is many things, but he isn’t stupid or particularly ignorant. He has a very realist understanding of how the world works. I’m confident he understands the consequences of his actions.

          • onyomi says:

            Why on earth would he want that? It makes him look bad, if nothing else. I’m not saying there’s no argument to be made that he left a power vacuum for them to thrive in as an unintended consequence of his only semi-realized Jeffersonian inclinations, but I don’t see how their thriving could have been a goal of his, unless you think him a real Manchurian candidate for, I don’t even know who.

          • Nicholas says:

            Syria is a dyed in the wool Russian ally and client state. If weakening Russian control in the Middle East is a policy goal, destroying his allies’ countries is a reasonable move.

          • Anonymous says:

            Right, it’s not a stretch to say he intentionally sent weapons to some rebel moderates to help them out. And unless US intelligence is incompetent, he was told exactly how moderate the rebels were. “Obama intentionally created ISIS” makes it sound like Obama is maximizing for beheadings/year, but there are non-beheading, realpolitik reasons to create ISIS too.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            I’m pretty sure he did. Obama is many things, but he isn’t stupid or particularly ignorant. He has a very realist understanding of how the world works. I’m confident he understands the consequences of his actions

            I’m pretty sure that understanding how the world works up to the level of being able to get exactly the desired result in international relations is very difficult, and most politicians aren’t up to it, including most of the smarter ones.

  34. Deiseach says:

    Lord God Almighty, after these two posts, we need a “Puppies and Kitties and Pretty Flowers and Chocolate and Nice Things Thread” just to let us all reclaim our sanity.

    • keranih says:

      Oh, so you’re into exploiting young babies of other species for the vain emotional satisfaction of humans who can’t handle their own problems? Nice.

      The SSC commentariant really is a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

      • Deiseach says:

        you’re into exploiting young babies of other species for the vain emotional satisfaction of humans

        On treadmills. With buckets to catch their tears for us to bathe in. 🙂

      • A nice things thread would be both a relief and something this blog hasn’t done before.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      Heh. Yes, please.

  35. “If she comes to the brink of nuclear war with Russia, I expect her to de-escalate for the same reason I expect Putin to de-escalate; they’re both rationally self-interested people who want to continue being alive and ruling their respective countries”

    That same reasoning can be applied to “prove” that World War I couldn’t possibly have happened. It was a ruinous war whose outcome was disastrous for all sides, and has been called the suicide of Europe. Yet overconfidence and arrogance led all sides to keep pushing forward when they should have de-escalated. The same kind of thing could happen again.

    • herbert herbertson says:

      Sure, technocratic competence is not even close to a guarantee against dumb, disastrous wars. You don’t have to reach back to WWI to find that (and, indeed, I think it hurts your case to do so–the aristocratic and romantic ruling class of that time probably was a lot closer to the mold of Trump than of Hildog)–you can just point to Iraq.

      But a guarantee from dumb, disastrous wars is not the alternative on deck here.

    • Simon says:

      Well, it’s not hard to figure out. Each side thought that the other would choose the rational course and disengage.

  36. Ilya Shpitser says:

    Yeah. The last two posts and the comment tire fire afterwards was very informative for me because it helped me understand how someone like Trump could even be playing in the “try to be President” stadium in any sort of credible way. And the answer, sadly, is people are willing to use basically anybody as a tool in a culture war. The larger culture war is, to them, more important than the quality of the person sitting in the Oval office today, no matter how low it might be.

    The larger takeaway, to me, is having a flaring culture war is an existential risk for the US, and we need to learn to find a way to wind it down. Even if Trump loses, unless we address the underlying cause of Trump, he and his equivalence class of clowns isn’t going away from the national stage.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      This is the correct lesson to take away. I wish more people got it.

    • Sebastian H says:

      Yes a thousand times yes.

    • Anatoly says:

      I’m also endorsing this.

      The way I’ve been thinking about this lately is, we need to find a way to turn the 60ies into the 70ies. The late 60ies saw a culture war in some ways fiercer than the one flaring now (takeovers of campuses, MLK assassination…). The 70ies saw it all wound down and replaced by disco. How and why did that happen?

      One answer is “the US ended the draft” and if that’s closest to the truth, I think we’re screwed. But I think that’s too shallow. The protests in the 60ies were not a US-only thing and they wound down in the 70ies globally as well.

      Another possible answer “just wait for the culture to do its pendulum thing”, which may be too complacent.

      • John Schilling says:

        That’s a surprisingly promising line of thought. I agree with Ilya’s sentiment, and generally despair at achieving any sort of peaceful resolution to the Culture War. But the ’60s did beget the ’70s, and largely because the actual war behind much of the culture war finally ended.

        So how do we end the War on Terror? We’re going to need an answer that isn’t, “Everyone suddenly realizes that terrorist attacks are no worse than car accidents”, because the fraction of humanity that are practicing Rationalists is approximately nil.

        And I’m afraid we’re going to need a president who isn’t Trump or Clinton, so 2020 at the earliest. Can we hold out that long? Probably.

        • pku says:

          the actual war behind much of the culture war

          To what extent was this true? The obvious argument against this was that a lot of the culture war was civil rights, which weren’t directly related to the war. Also, to what degree was the war a rallying flag (like gender bathrooms) as opposed to a practical concern?
          I can imagine a possibility where enough people went to war that veterans were directly influencing the national discussion. But I’m not sure about this – the war protestors were stereotypically not drafted, and my impression is that the people who actually were in Vietnam were mostly volunteers – draftees generally ended up doing office work in West Germany or something.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          I really don’t see the causality here, given that the effect of the War on Terror on the people who are actually doing the culture warring is minimal. It’s certainly plausible that the War on Terror is a useful pretext to freak out about the right in order to gain power, but the thing about pretexts is that one can always find another.

      • cassander says:

        the 70s were basically one side of the culture war surrendering to the other. Since a huge part of that surrender was over overt racial and sexual discrimination, I’m glad that happened, but I’m much less sanguine about the prospects (both in terms utilitarian calculus and political viability) of a future surrender.

      • nimim. k.m. says:

        >One answer is “the US ended the draft” and if that’s closest to the truth, I think we’re screwed.

        I have a pet theory that major problem with the US draft system was that you could avoid it by going to college.

        You need a conscription that drafts the poor and the uneducated and the college liberals and the offspring of the senators and the millionaires. And then you consider very, very carefully whether the next war you will enter is going to be another WWII or another Vietnam.

        • anon says:

          Obligatory comment (that is worth making on SSC comment threads and few other places) pointing out that the draft was literally a form of slavery (in fact a particularly brutal form of it) and calling for its restoration is really kind of extreme.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Obligatory comment (that is worth making on SSC comment threads and few other places) pointing out that the draft was literally a form of slavery

            Oliver Wendell Holmes famously decided (in Schenck v. US) that you’re not allowed to say that.

          • anon says:

            I respectfully disagree with Justice Holmes and also doubt that he actually questioned my first amendment right to assert the position I expounded.

          • anon says:

            I think it’s quite clear that if HRC pursued a policy agenda that involved going to war with Russia, a significant contingent within the US military (which currently support Johnson and Trump over Clinton at roughly 35% to 35% to 15%) would regard the president’s policies as treasonous. If, moreover, the President were to attempt to impose a draft, public opposition would immediate go through the roof. Even if the administration were to attempt to maintain control over the situation using influence over the media, any uppity serviceman could immediately start an insurrection by singing a slave song in the company mess hall.

            I submit that the US military in fact lacks the popular support required to impose a draft in any near-term-conceivable military circumstances. Ergo even discussing it is non-germane because TPBT are aware of this fact. Probably this has been the case since Vietnam, even if the military brass haven’t really internalized the fact that this hasn’t changed, regardless of whether “Vietnam syndrome” was ended by Gulf War I.

          • keranih says:

            I submit that the US military in fact lacks the popular support required to impose a draft in any near-term-conceivable military circumstances.

            The US military remains one of the nation’s most trusted institutions.

            It would be an error to think that the US military leadership wants a draft. Anyone who tells you so is talking out of their hat. Leaders at all levels want nothing to do with the morale and behavior issues that come from draftees who don’t want to be there and lack the talent to get out of the draft.

            Pro-draft movements and legislature generally come out of Democrat politicos trying to make some sort of point, and get no where.

          • anon says:

            @keranih thanks for your observation. I agree that the US military is a highly trusted institution and I doubt anyone within its leadership wants to reinstate the draft. But I’d only emphasize that those two things *are related*. I still think it’s worth calling out that a renewed conscription policy is morally and economically equivalent to calling for slavery, and highlighting that part of the reason that US military leadership retains the trust of the nation is that its institutional structures somehow have internalized this fact in a way that civilians with military influence seem to have missed.

          • keranih says:

            part of the reason that US military leadership retains the trust of the nation is that its institutional structures somehow have internalized this fact in a way that civilians with military influence seem to have missed.

            …I’m not sure how well “civilians with military influence” fits as a descriptor of people actually advocating for a return to the draft.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        “The way I’ve been thinking about this lately is, we need to find a way to turn the 60ies into the 70ies. The late 60ies saw a culture war in some ways fiercer than the one flaring now (takeovers of campuses, MLK assassination…). The 70ies saw it all wound down and replaced by disco. How and why did that happen?”

        If the only way out of the culture war is through disco, then I’ll be crawling back in with the tunnel rats.

        Seriously though, I see signs that the pendulum is swinging. Lots of people tire of it. This subthread is evidence.

        I don’t see the War on Terror ending any time soon, so long as people keep getting shot or blown up in Europe. There’s a threat there that Americans simply don’t control, and its perpetrators don’t care about our culture war.

        But I don’t think WoT needs to end in order for Americans to notice the pattern of destruction at home and develop a way of defusing it. I see the battle shifting from the main arguments in the culture war to attacks on those arguments, and then analysis of all arguments as people recognize a set of shared truths about validity. Even now, I’m seeing less yelling about oppression and aggression and more talking about goalpost shifting and prisoner’s dilemmeas and steelmanning and motte-and-bailey. The more people learn about these concepts, the more sober they get, and the better their arguments get, and the more universally appealing their viewpoints become.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Seriously though, I see signs that the pendulum is swinging. Lots of people tire of it. This subthread is evidence.

          I’d love it if that was true, but are you sure you’re not just hanging around with more people who are tired of it?

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ Paul Brinkley
        we need to find a way to turn the 60ies into the 70ies. The late 60ies saw a culture war in some ways fiercer than the one flaring now (takeovers of campuses, MLK assassination…). The 70ies saw it all wound down and replaced by disco. How and why did that happen?

        The rest of us hippies got busy cultivating our organic homesteads and inventing off-grid energy stuff.

    • Simon says:

      The answer couldn’t possibly be that we loathe the proposition of Hillary taking office even more than Trump due to Her corruption?

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Not interested in engaging in a H vs T slog, but yes, I think this is not your true rejection. Trump has a long long history that does not paint him as an honest dealer.

    • Garrett says:

      I have come to some sort of conclusion myself over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, that’s more easily said than done. Granted, there are lots of organizations which derive their existence on the strife and they will be opposed to letting go of that fundraising source.
      So – how do we solve this?

    • Luung Hawl says:

      Unbelievably, people here will say anything to defend a man, their younger selves, to a person, to a person, would have laughed at the idea of voting for-
      because of what happened to …….Brendan Eich.

      I keep expecting one or two to wake up.

      • Anonymous says:

        Man, people sure have a nasty tendency of remembering the worse excesses of any movement, don’t they?

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Unbelievably, it turns out that if Group A launches a nationwide smear campaign to force a prominent member of Group B out of his job merely for being part of Group B, members of Group B tend to remember that and decide that they don’t really want Group A in charge. Funny how that works.

      • hyperboloid says:

        I have never been sure how serious people who say that really are. It’s a level of vindictive tribal stupidity I have difficulty understanding. If you work in the tech sector you really have delude yourself about Trump’s trade policy to think his presidency will not have very bad consequences for your economic future.

        At any rate why don’t we at SSC just set up a Patreon, or Kickstarter account to support Brendan Eich’s work? The money can go to Brave software, or directly to Eich himself I don’t really care. If you want to stick it to the evil SJW’s, put your money where your mouth is instead of whining and playing footsie with fascists.

        • John Schilling says:

          At any rate why don’t we at SSC just set up a Patreon, or Kickstarter account to support Brendan Eich’s work

          Because Brendan Eich is not the sum total of our cares in this area, or even a majority of them. At this point, Eich is being invoked here mostly by the left, as a strawman to dismiss our broader concerns by saying or implying that it’s only one (rich white cis-hetero) guy being placed above all of Social Justice.

          • hyperboloid says:

            It doesn’t just have to be Eich personally who benefits, we could start a general fund to support people who we feel are being unfairly bullied.

            Every time someone tells you to check your privilege tell them you just gave fifty dollars to the society for the promotion of political incorrectness. if they call you a white male cis-gendered oppressor tell them you just gave one hundred.

            It would be a lot more productive then voting for the human equivalent of William S. Burroughs’ talking asshole .

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @hyperboloid – “If you want to stick it to the evil SJW’s, put your money where your mouth is instead of whining and playing footsie with fascists.”

            Hurting people is easy and fun for SJWs. Fixing what they break is expensive, hard, incredibly frustrating, and often not possible.

            “Every time someone tells you to check your privilege tell them you just gave fifty dollars to the society for the promotion of political incorrectness.”

            That is exactly what Trump’s campaign is. Before Trump it was the Puppies, before the puppies it was the Ants. Every step of the way, anyone who made any sort of effective counter-move was instantly the Talking Asshole. We don’t care any more.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I think what I was trying to say is going with Trump is only an effective countermove in a “race to the bottom” type of Moloch game. I am not saying it’s not an effective move, only that it’s a bad game to play, and we should stop. But that requires some coordination/multilateral disarmanent.

            My intuition is the moderate left and moderate right need to learn to talk and wind their crazies down. But, you know, easier said than done. One thing that would help is the right getting some sort of intellectual center that’s free from attack.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Ilya Shpitser – “My intuition is the moderate left and moderate right need to learn to talk and wind their crazies down. But, you know, easier said than done. ”

            More likely, I think, the Right collapses generally, the moderate left is left alone to deal with their crazies for a while, and pulls the moderate right back out of hiding to help.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Ilya Shipster

            You don’t understand. Trump IS the moderate right. He’s immoderate on one position only, immigration.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @The Nybbler – Obama was the moderate left in a lot of ways as well. It didn’t help him much with the far right.

          • “One thing that would help is the right getting some sort of intellectual center that’s free from attack.”

            What counts as “the right?” There are a fair number of libertarian intellectuals out there. Do we count?

            And for that matter, what’s an “intellectual center?”

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            > “What is an intellectual center?”

            What I mean is a more equitable split between the left and the right among public intellectuals, where we have a mutual respect/disarmament norm for intellectuals across the political divide. In that utopian setup, the left and the right positions are grounded in real things they can retreat to, and there is a balance of power, and each side can check each other’s bullshit.

            We have neither (libertarians aren’t influential enough to just carry all of the right, and there are sensible ways to steelman a lot of the ideas on the right that are not really libertarian in nature. For example, being empiricist about the progressive program, and rigorously testing proposed changes of any kind. That’s just small c conservativism grounded in empiricism, not libertarianism). And intellectuals on the right who do exist have to be very careful indeed these days with how they conduct themselves in public.

            Folks may say that the uneven split among intellectuals is the result of the inherent merit of stuff on the left, but they would be wrong.

        • keranih says:

          Because it’s the system that’s broke –

          – or maybe humans

          and funding this one guy won’t mend that.

        • ChetC3 says:

          How would that help stoke the fires of the culture war? The point is crushing the SJWs, not some guy’s career.

  37. Alraune says:

    “She wants to arm “friendly” rebel groups and enforce a no-fly zone”

    Yup. That’s the problem right there. Enforcing a no-fly zone in Syria means you are now at war with Russia. Not even at proxy war with Russia. You and Russian jets are shooting at each other now. You are asking us to vote for a candidate who has credibly committed to starting World War III on the basis that she is “low variance.”

    Even if you rule out that scenario –which you absolutely should not, Russia is convinced she wants a war, and Clinton’s been boosting the views of the most unhinged knock-over-Baghdad-on-the-way-to-Tehran Iraq War architects all summer– and assume she will “just” pursue regime change in some less lunatic manner, you are unleashing anarchy in the back yards of Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran: 4 of the most (increasingly rightfully) paranoid, mutually hostile, armed-to-the-teeth states that exist on this earth. Even in the ideal situation* the chaos is going to leak enough arms, terrorists, and mercenaries to fuel several more revolutions that a Clinton administration would gleefully gallivant off to meddle in.

    I’ve been racking my brain for a year now trying to think of a proper historical parallel for just how bad the destabilization risked by overthrowing Assad is. As far as I can tell, there is none. The only way overthrowing Assad could be a worse idea would be if Syria also shared a border with North Korea.

    *Ideal situation: The Trump/Putin conspiracy theorists are right, and on assuming power Trump fulfills his 50-year plan as a KGB sleeper agent by immediately ceding control of the entire Syrian theater to Russia.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      …and this is being done with the explicit goal of screwing with Russia!

    • The Nybbler says:

      *Ideal situation: The Trump/Putin conspiracy theorists are right, and on assuming power Trump fulfills his 50-year plan as a KGB sleeper agent by immediately ceding control of the entire Syrian theater to Russia.

      You think they’d take Afghanistan too, or is that a “fool me once” kind of thing?

    • Deiseach says:

      Oh God, Turkey! Given what went down there recently, do we really want President Erdogan deciding “Russia is taking over Syria, they’re moving in on us, the Americans are worse than useless, I need to do something about this”?

      Or possibly even worse, now they seem to be BFFs, “My dear and good friend Vlad sorted out Syria and showed those useless Americans what’s what; now we can co-operate on sorting out my little Kurdish independence problem”.

      I don’t want Turkey in the EU because, frankly, I think the Western-style secular veneer is very thin (and that it relies heavily on the support of the army, of all things, to keep the Ataturk-legacy in place should scare the pants off everyone) and I especially don’t like the notion of Turkey under Erdogan getting his feet under the table. Him becoming palsy-walsy with Putin doesn’t make me any happier, and the US letting Russia have it all its own way in Syria is about the worst of all the bad cases for what is going on in the region.

      • E. Harding says:

        “and the US letting Russia have it all its own way in Syria is about the worst of all the bad cases for what is going on in the region.”

        -Why do you think so?

  38. Ari says:

    As non-American, I find really sad quite many intellectual people would vote for Trump. I feel like you are being manipulated. I understand the masses but smart people arguing for this PERSON just saddens me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big HRC fan either. Like David Brooks (who is a conservative), I miss Obama already. Tyler Cowen who I also deeply respect, doesn’t want Trump either and he is probably one of the greatest thinkers alive.

    I’m mainly concerned about foreign policy. If there was an Ukraine conflict, what would Trump do? You need someone like Obama with nerves, not someone who acts on gut instinct (his biographer made quite good remark on this).

    Domestic policy I don’t care and not really my business. HRC to me seems more rational though

    Even though I think presidents should have their flaws as well, I think president should be someone people could look up to as a role model.

    I feel like signalling loyalties leads people to pick suboptimal choices. Conservatives or like-minded want their tribe to win. Think about this way, who would you Americans want as German president? Probably you wouldn’t emotionally care either way. Contrast this to US. I’m sure theres somewhere in rationality training about this. Perhaps in the sequences.

    • Alraune says:

      As I’m relatively ignorant of the German political structure, I would pick Volker Kauder and hope that your current problems are specific to Merkel rather than baked into the system.

      As an American who’s seen the US government change hands repeatedly, however, I know our foreign policy problems are not specific to Obama (or Bush, or Clinton I), but rather have been a matter of bipartisan consensus, and therefore take the pick that has the possible upside of purging the evil viziers.

    • E. Harding says:

      “I miss Obama already”

      -We can start to miss Obama if Clinton wins.

      “Tyler Cowen who I also deeply respect”

      -Why???

      “If there was an Ukraine conflict, what would Trump do?”

      -He said that it would be great if the U.S. could get along with Russia and that, while he loves Ukraine and its people, the Europeans are most at risk of this, and they don’t seem to be doing much of anything about it, indicating it’s a low priority for Trump. His team also slightly watered down a particularly dangerous plank to the GOP platform calling for the provision of “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine’s wildly unpopular government.
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/trump-campaign-guts-gops-anti-russia-stance-on-ukraine/2016/07/18/98adb3b0-4cf3-11e6-a7d8-13d06b37f256_story.html?utm_term=.e0c560d7b4f0

      In response, Clinton’s campaign did a lot of red-baiting.

      Compare Clinton’s stance on this issue.

      “HRC to me seems more rational though”

      -How? Many people, including most of the college-educated, are just focusing on style instead of substance. Sad.

      “I think president should be someone people could look up to as a role model.”

      -So, not one of the current major-party nominees for president.

      “I feel like signalling loyalties leads people to pick suboptimal choices.”

      -Totally agreed.

      “and therefore take the pick that has the possible upside of purging the evil viziers.”

      -Bingo.

    • Luung Hawl says:

      ” I’m sure there’s somewhere in rationality training about this.”

      Be scared. These people are not reachable.

      • E. Harding says:

        Hm…

        http://www.gallup.com/poll/191855/russians-approval-leadership-drops-record.aspx

        Asking the people of the countries within the U.S. sphere of influence about who would make the best president adds no evidence either way about who would make the best president. It’s the people of the countries outside the U.S. sphere of influence which are best to consult about this.

        • Jiro says:

          It’s the people of the countries outside the U.S. sphere of influence which are best to consult about this.

          Why? For one thing, they’re very likely to be in countries with non-free presses full of propaganda which makes it harder for them to get an accurate picture than even Americans can.

        • E. Harding says:

          “For one thing, they’re very likely to be in countries with non-free presses full of propaganda which makes it harder for them to get an accurate picture than even Americans can.”

          -The U.S. has as much, and probably more, Russophobic propaganda than Russia has Ameriphobic propaganda. And the Russophobic propaganda in the U.S. is thoroughly MSM-wide and bipartisan. At least the propaganda in the countries outside the U.S. sphere of influence does not come directly out of DC and NYC, as the propaganda in the countries within the U.S. sphere of influence does. I think people not subject to U.S. propaganda can recognize what’s going on in their home countries and how U.S. foreign policy affects their home countries better than DC/NYC elites can.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            You should hang out in Russia for a while. I know a way you could get cheap airfare there, let me know if interested! You can get much better data for comparing US and Russian propaganda that way!

          • akarlin says:

            E. Harding is basically correct.

            There are no or next to no MSM Russian newspaper articles calling the US an “outlaw state” (mafia state, etc) such as the ones that appear in the NYT and WaPo literally every week.

            There are also some pro-Western newspapers such as Vedomosti and Novaya Gazeta which take a more or less consistently line against the Russian government.

            The only media that perform a similar function in the West are either Russian themselves (e.g. RT) or part of the altsphere.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Dear self-described crazed Russian nationalist, Russia barely showed up on US news until their 19th century style land grab in Crimea, and even _now_ barely shows up. The US cares about Russia much less than Russia cares about the US. Official state media in Russia has a very specific consistent line about the US (they don’t call the US a “mafia state,” but sure call it a lot of other things, and insinuate a lot more). Russia has a very active online troll program, and in general their hostile propaganda game (and spy game) is miles ahead of the US, and has been since the Soviet days.

  39. Jaskologist says:

    A big part of this is America’s promise to defend its allies. This both prevents other countries from attacking America’s allies and prevents America’s allies from building big militaries and launching attacks of their own.

    I think you’re trying to conserve an institution that is already dead. Believe me, I can sympathize.

    Way back in 94, the US convinced Ukraine to disarm in exchange for security guarantees. This was an ongoing effort on our part; we stuck to the “disarm Ukraine” portion of that treaty in the following decades. There are some nice photos of Senator Obama personally inspected stockpiles in the Ukraine that he pushed to decommission. Dick Lugar (R) is right alongside him.

    So, at the time of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine had a guarantee from the US of protection, with bipartisan support including personal interest taken by the now-president of the United States.

    How did that work out for them? If you’re a head of state, what lesson do you take away?

    • Alraune says:

      Lesson? Keep your nukes.

      The annexation of Crimea is one of the more annoying things to judge out of the 2012 election even in hindsight. Romney was right about Russian ambitions, but Obama’s policy of lackadaisical footdragging (and the moderating influence of the Clinton->Kerry transition at State) seems to be the only thing that’s kept Syria from escalating further than it has already.

      The correct choice was obviously to support Ukraine and leave Syria the hell alone, but the choice was probably both vs. neither, meaning Obama was probably the better pick despite/because of being wrong about Russia in east europe.

      • cassander says:

        The correct thing to do in syria was stay out completely and let assad win. There was never any hope that any new syrian regime would be liberal (in the traditional sense) or our friend, so nothing good would come from getting rid of assad even if we succeeded. Instead the administration did the worst possible thing, investing enough to prolong the conflict and make the US seem involved, but not nearly enough to come close to winning.

        • Alraune says:

          I agree with that general assessment, but I’m specifically considering the counterfactual where instead of Obama’s second term we had Romney with a cabinet of Bush admin veterans. They would, I expect, have done even worse with Syria.

          • cassander says:

            at worst, we’d have gotten to the level of involvement we’re at now a lot sooner, which would mean many fewer dead and a better bargaining position. The obama administration’s incrementalism is disastrous because it doesn’t keep us out and it doesn’t win, so we end up both involved and looking weak. when it comes to war, go big or go home. either extreme is usually preferable to muddling. At the very least, a Romney administration would have had far more robust anti-ISIS operations, so while syria would probably have remained a disaster in general, it would only be one disaster, not two.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Agreed.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      This kinda goes both ways, though. When the pro-Russian government there was being overthrown, the US never came in either,

      • Adam says:

        Cruz: “We told Ukraine we’d ensure (its) territorial integrity from Russia.”
        Politifact: “those were assurances, not guarantees. FALSE!”

        And some people still wonder why politifact is regarded as a joke by half the electorate.

        • hlynkacg says:

          IKR?

        • From the Budapest Memorandum:

          “1. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”

          • John Schilling says:

            “Guarantee” and “assure” may be close to synonymous, but “respect” is not even close. There is language in the Budapest Memorandum that might reasonably be construed as an assurance that we would protect Ukraine from Russian nuclear attack, but if the contention is that there was any guarantee of protection against insurgency or invasion, I haven’t seen anything to support that.

          • “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”

            You could argue that only Russia is in violation of the agreement, but surely it is clear that it is–you can’t respect the existing borders while annexing territory that was within them. And the other signatories did nothing to prevent it.

            Would you have read the initial document as “each country agrees to respect the existing borders, but none of them has any obligation to make sure the other signatories do?” Do you think the Ukrainians would have thought that assurance of much value?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Having been fact-checked by Schilling, I’ve dug deeper and found this article by a Ukrainian ambassador involved in the Budapest Memorandum. This was written before the late unpleasantness.

            As it follows from the Memorandum and the above-mentioned unilateral acts, the five nuclear states, p