Thursday, March 31, 2011

Disagreement and debate

The Internet should facilitate debate but too often encourages unfocused argument. By reading mainly opinions and versions of fact from those with whom we are likely to agree, our intellectual inquiry is unfinished. I'm not suggesting that one needs to spend time on the loony fringe but mainstream, respected writers exist on all sides of most subjects and it is worth searching for them.

This is particularly true when our own sense of right and wrong is challenged. For me, Libya is an example. Is the American led effort appropriate or merely setting the stage to replace one despot with another while preserving the flow of oil to Europe? Salon writer Glenn Greenwald, one of my favorite contrarians, examines the process of his own decision making.

I am impressed with, and try to be guided by, this statement of Greenwald:
"... he's one of the people I read when I want to be challenged in my opposition, as his arguments are usually well-reasoned and always in good faith."
The remainder of the Salon article is here at Question for Juan Cole. You should read Greenwald regularly, particularly if you generally disagree with his conclusions. He argues with facts.

From Salon.com:

University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole, for whom I have a lot of respect, has become one of the left's leading advocates of American involvement in the war in Libya. I don't agree with his arguments -- for reasons set forth here, here and here, among others -- but he's one of the people I read when I want to be challenged in my opposition, as his arguments are usually well-reasoned and always in good faith. During the Iraq War, Cole was responsible for one of the most humiliating massacres ever seen in an online debate, when he exposed Jonah Goldberg's war advocacy as the know-nothing, cowardly, adolescent tripe it was. During the course of that debate, Cole wrote this:
"Although I do not believe that everyone who advocates a war must go and fight it, I do believe that young men who advocate a war must go and fight it. . . . I don’t think there is anything at all unpatriotic about a young man opposing a war and declining to enlist. But a young man (and this applies to W. and Cheney too) who mouths off strongly about the desirability of a war is a coward and a hypocrite if he does not go to fight it."
Note that this was not a principle specific to the Iraq War; it was expressed as a universal principle applying to wars in general. My question for Cole is this: does this principle apply to supporters of the U.S. war in Libya? ...
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2 comments:

  1. Excellent as usual Norm.

    "I don’t think there is anything at all unpatriotic about a young man opposing a war and declining to enlist. But a young man (and this applies to W. and Cheney too) who mouths off strongly about the desirability of a war is a coward and a hypocrite if he does not go to fight it."

    As a young man (then) fitting your description in the first sentence, I spent thousands of dollars and over a decade of my life fighting the Vietnam War and my requested participation in U.S Federal Court. I won in the end (my legal case) but the combination of learning that all the idealistic bullshit I had learned in school about the Constitution and justice in America was just that, bullshit, and having discovered Canada and British Columbia I chose to live here, though I can live and work in the US anytime I want to and have occasionally over the years when I had better opportunities there for the short term. I've never felt tempted to move back permanently (well until lately with Harper in Ottawa and the BC liaRs in Victoria).

    I agree so wholeheartedly with the next sentence regarding Bush the Lesser and Cheney. While I didn't dodge anything and indeed took them on full frontal, Bush and Cheney are nothing more than Draft Dodging chicken-shits with the lack of ethics to at the same time promote war for their own profit and don't deserve to breath the same air as humans.

    Another in the same class as Bush and Cheney is Tom Flanagan, currently instructor at the University of Chicago's junior varsity voodoo economics school in Calgary, and former top adviser to another adolescent pretend soldier Stevie Harper (who I just heard tried to hide the fact that he played piano - no wonder cause he can't play worth shit from what I've heard).

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  2. My experience was not as dramatic as yours but one of the first articles I wrote at Northern Insights, almost two years ago, described an important time of change for my attitudes. A small group of anti-war protesters tried to speak in front of the UBC Library while other students aimed to prevent them from talking. Is was no one's idea of debate.

    Dr Gabor Mate - belated respects due

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