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Opening Arguments

History lesson

James Mann in the New Republic: "Enough with the cliches already: The Obama administration's rhetoric on Russia is accomplishing nothing." This is the one that really grates on my ears:

2. They’re displaying nineteenth century behavior. They need to join the twenty-first century.

The administration loves to brand actions it doesn’t like as relics of the past. “It’s really nineteenth century behavior in the twenty-first century,” Kerry said of Putin’s Crimean gambit. A senior administration official who sounded like either National Security Advisor Susan Rice or Ben Rhodes told reporters on background, “What we see here are distinctly nineteenth- and twenty-first century decisions made by President Putin to address problems.”

Well, to start with, by definition Putin’s decisions are taking place in the twenty-first century. The administration here seems to be using the centuries like a teacher handing out a grade:  twenty-first century is an A, twentieth century is a C, nineteenth century is an F. More importantly, talking this way raises an uncomfortable question: Does the reality of the twenty-first century conform to what Obama administration officials think it is? China, for example, is undeniably a force in the twenty-first century—yet its power-oriented approach to the Asia-Pacific region is of the sort that the Obama administration would mistakenly pigeonhole as “nineteenth century” behavior. Really, the Obama team is using “nineteenth-century” as an empty epithet to talk about modern-day behaviors it doesn’t like.

Amen. The version that strikes me as the emptiest is "Russia is on the wrong side of history." In the first place, it's not exactly clear which history Russia is on the wrong side of. Seizing territory held by others has been a pretty big part of the human story for all of time and probably always will be. In the second place, it's just a pretentious way to say, "You're doing stuff I don't approve of."

Or even saying stuff and thinking stuff I don't like. When Obama first used the phrase, it occurred to me that I've heard it a lot in the past few years, so I did a little Googling and found this story:

As a context-free measure of usage, the phrase “wrong side of history” has appeared in more than 1,800 articles this year, compared to 1,485 in all of last year and 524 in 2006, according to research by Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations. Book citations, gauging by one imperfect metric available through Google, indicate a steady fivefold climb spanning the past three decades.

A stupid, meaningless phrase. History doesn't really have "right sides" and "wrong sides." It just keeps moving along, day by day.


Larry Morris
Wed, 03/05/2014 - 12:22pm

It's always struck me that Obama laments the world isn't the way he seems to see it, instead of simply looking at it the way it happens to be ... living beyond the looking glass. 

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 1:27pm

I'm not sure if you are aware of this but 40,000 Mexican troops moved into southern California.  They are there to protect Mexican citizens from the U.S. government.  Thankfully, Secretary of State John Kerry said the same comments to the Mexican leaders.  

Oh....flash news.... Mexicans in southern California are marching and claiming that this is Mexico.  

There is a chance that Canadian troops might move into Washington state.  I'll try to keep you posted.

Larry Morris
Wed, 03/05/2014 - 2:35pm

I'm really terrified down here in Texas ...

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 4:43pm

Loe, the sentance you used was made by John Kerry on Sunday's Face the Nation program. The complete quote from the Sec of State is as follows "You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext."

Seeing how we are only a couple years out now from our own near decade of war in Iraq, which was a war that was launched by Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rummy, and Condi on a trumped up false pretext, (WMD's, yellow cake, etc.) Mr. Kerry's words seem hypocritical. The United States has absolutely no leg to stand on after it famously did the same thing on a much bigger scale.

GOP Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham among others of course are tying Russia's action to Obama via Benghazi but just possibly Mr. Putin took his cue from Bush.  

Fri, 03/07/2014 - 5:18pm

Joe, on December 16, 1998 President Clinton ordered an air attack against Iraqi WMD sites because Hussein wouldn't let UN inspectors in to inspect.  Was President Clinton lying about WMD's or did he just fail to inform the incoming president that at that time he was just looking good for the ladies?

You can see the transcripts online or watch it on youtube.

Without 9/11 we never would have attacked Iraq like Bush did with airpower and only one Army Corp.  The world became a dangerous place for us and it became an even more dangerous place for our enemies which Iraq definitely was then.  Iraq provided safe haven for terrorists like Abu Nidal.  Iraq did everything possible to give the impression that they had WMDs.  Not to scare us but to keep their primary enemy Iran uneasy.  Iraq consistently shot at our UN authorized planes that were enforcing the no fly zones in the north (Kurdish areas) and in the south (Shia areas).   

The 9/11 attack was planned during the Clinton administration.  Bush inherited that from Willie.

The authorization to attack Iraq was made by Democrats and Republicans.  If Bush lied, he learned how to from Clinton.


Tim Zank
Fri, 03/07/2014 - 9:34pm

Unless Iraq became or 51st state, the two "invasions" have absloutely no commonality. Nice try though.

Sat, 03/08/2014 - 7:56am

Tim it took a bit for me to understand what your were talking about so I agree that the two 'invasions' had nothing in common.

My Mexican invasion, as of 2014, is highly unlikely so it falls into a smart a** category.  I just believe that Secretary of State John Kerry would be stuck for the same empty responses.  Also, I think that the brief scenerio might give an idea on how the Ukrainians are seeing their own current problem.

The Iragi comments to Joe has nothing to do with Leo's original commentary.  Just a response to the continued bashing of Bush about his so-called lying about WMDs.  Clinton and Bush both lied or neither lied.  

Sat, 03/08/2014 - 5:35pm

RAG, you are talking out both sides of your mouth. You wrote "on December 16, 1998 President Clinton ordered an air attack against Iraqi WMD sites because Hussein wouldn't let UN inspectors in to inspect.  Was President Clinton lying about WMD's or did he just fail to inform the incoming president that at that time he was just looking good for the ladies?"

Clinton, by your own admission, ordered air attacks because of Hussain's refusal to let in weapons inspectors. Clinton never said there was or wasn't  WMD's, that is what the UN inspectors were there to determine. Bush on the other hand along with senior members of his administration claimed to know exactly where they were and used it as a pretext to war killing 4400 American soldiers and maiming thousands more. Remember the dog and pony show sending Gen. Powell before the UN with photos, etc. Your example is comparing apples to oranges.

You also write "The 9/11 attack was planned during the Clinton administration." Are you really claiming that a sitting President planned and executed an attack on US citizens? Are you nuts or just a conspiricy theorist?

Better turn Glenn Beck off for a few weeks and let your brain detox.

Mon, 03/17/2014 - 1:27pm

Joe, I apologize for not getting back to you sooner.

President Clinton repeated what everyone knew about Iraq's use of WMDs against his own people and against Iranian troops.  He had WMDs at one time.  There was no reason to believe he still didn't have them in 1998 and in 2001.  Nobody could proof Hussein didn't have them.  I guess you didn't watch the video.

The 9/11 attack changed how we viewed Iraq.  Democrats and Republicans authorized the attack against Hussein.  Today, Obama's lies don't get past the Republicans, how could the lies by Bush get past his enemies in the Democrat Party then?  None of his enemies challenged him because the Iraqi situation did change overnight.

The attacks by Muslim extremists against New York and Washington, D.C. on 9/11 were tactically well executed.  They started the planning for this during the Clinton admistration.  It wasn't a 'what the hell', let's just do it.  

Strategically it was a very stupid attack.  But they were under the impression we wouldn't do much about it.  All they had to do was view how Clinton responded to the attack against the U.S.S. Cole.  Why would they think Bush was any different?

Joe, you must get all your news from CBS.  Columbia Broadcasting Sophism.