Blargh Blog

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Name Calling

At Reason, Matt Welch asks ten questions of those he calls “pro-war libertarians.” He seems to really be interested in conversation, so I thought I’d offer some answers. But I’ll begin by noting that it is absolutely unwarranted to refer to us as “pro-war.” If it’s wrong to call you guys cowards and traitors, then it’s wrong to call us “pro-war.” We believe in victory, not in war, and if victory could be accomplished without war, we would be in favor of that. If Mr. Welch really is interested in understanding the other side, calling them names is not a wise course of action.
Tim Sandefur proceeds to respond to Welch's 10 questions, and returns the favor with "ten questions for the other side." For some reason I had an urge to answer their questions, but... But. But I just can't get past that first paragraph. No, it's not a parody. Read it again, with that possibility out of your mind. Apparently, nothing shows contempt and disparagement like calling someone who favors a war "pro-war". Who knew?

What's the equivalent of the label "pro-war" for someone who opposed going to war? No, silly, not that; it's obviously "traitor" or "coward". Try it out. "You traitorous bastard! How could you feel that way?" "You pro-war bastard! How could you feel that way?" See, exactly the same! Let's try some more. "There's no point talking to you - you're just a coward." Compare: "There's no point talking to you - you're just pro-war." Or, "We're trying to have an open dialogue where people who are pro-war can feel comfortable talking to those with different viewpoints." Compare: "We're trying to have an open dialogue where people who are cowards and traitors can feel comfortable talking to those with different viewpoints." They're perfect equivalents. The man has such an ear for offensiveness - those who are on the "other side" sure could learn something from him!

That's all from his negative argument, against that nasty, divisive partisan language that would caricature some people as "pro-war". Things get much better when Sandefur reaches his positive proposal: victory! It's not that so-called "pro-war" people are in favor of the war, he explains. They're in favor of winning the war. If they could win the war without fighting the war, then, believe me, they'd be in favor of that.

Wait, is that not what Sandefur meant by "victory"? Then what did he mean? Victory in the War on Terror? Of course! That is the obvious distinction between people who are sometimes referred to as "pro-war" and those who are not: one group has the controversial but firmly held belief that we should win the war on terror. It's a good thing that we have been able to escape from the muck of partisan name-calling to clarify the identities of the different sides in this debate.

Is there still a shadow of a doubt in your mind about what "victory" Sandefur is talking about? Put your mind at ease - I think I've pretty much exhausted all of the possibilities. What other opponent is there that pro-war people could want to triumph over?


At January 11, 2006 9:00 AM, Blogger Blar said...

I don't know where to put this, since Sandefur's Answers post doesn't have comments open, so I'll put it here (even though it detracts from the tone of this post).

Here's a re-toned version of what I was trying to get across in that post that you found so helpful and conducive to conversation.

- Often, one of the most effective ways to lower the tone is to accuse others of lowering the tone, treating you disrespectfully, name-calling, etc. I think that is evident in your comments on referring to people as "pro-war" or "Unlibertarian" (and obviously also in my post).

- Plenty of people think of "pro-war" as a purely descriptive label of people who think that fighting this war in Iraq was the right choice. If you don't like that label then you can say so, but don't turn that into an accusation against people who use it as a descriptive label. Also, don't compare it to terms that are obviously judgmental and insulting.

- What do you mean when you say that you "believe in victory"? Victory in what?

- Do you really think that defining the "pro-war" group in terms of their belief in victory is a nice, neutral way to avoid all of the unwarranted implications of terms like "pro-war"? You are familiar with the claims that anti-war people are defeatist, want us to lose, and so forth, right?

- If the so-called "pro-war" group is really the "pro-victory" group, in your eyes, what does that make the other group? How are you using the concept of "victory" to distinguish between the two sides of the debate about the Iraq war?

- "The other side" might not be the best phrase for referring to people who consider fighting this war in Iraq to have been the wrong choice. You are familiar how that phrase has been used, right?


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