June 02, 2005

A Few Words on Comments

I really enjoy reading comments on this site (I rarely have time to enter the fray, and wish I did sometimes) but lately I've noted it has gotten a tad nasty. I've got thick skin--and commenting will most certainly continue--but let me try to sketch out a way forward here. One of the reasons that I like the comments so much, in the main, is comments here aren't but an amen corner as many other blogs too often seem to be. That's not to take anything away from Kos or Atrios on the Left, or LGF, say, on the Right. Those blogs have such high traffic that the comments serve as something of an activist community board, of sorts, for all to vent and harumph with like-minded folks. (I often find the tiresome chest-thumping and boorish group-think at these venues quite sub-par, truth be told, but they serve their purposes I guess).

Over here, we seem to get rightists, centrists and leftists in comments. When I write a piece criticizing Bush, or hesitating on Bolton--the lefties are relatively pleased. When I end up supporting Bolton, say, and after trying to be as judicious as I can--I'm Monica Lewinsky, spineless, a political pimp of the lowest rung. When I condemn Don Rumsfeld, or Abu Ghraib, on the other hand, I'm a leftist wimp, a pansy, a terrorist-supporter. And so on. Well, it's to be expected really. That's the price of trying to be as intellectually honest as possible and calling them like I see them. And I think we've got a good thing going here with the lively to and fro.

That said, just in the interests of general disclosure, I thought it might be helpful to put some basic facts on the table in the interests of the general edification of any B.D. readers who might be interested. B.D. is a member of the Republican Party. I have given money to the Republican Party. And I have raised money for the Republican Party. That's not to say I would never vote for a Democrat (really). I judge candidate by candidate. If a blow-dried mediocrity like Bill Frist, say, gained the nomination--and was opposed by a serious enough Democrat (a Sam Nunn type, though I'm not sure who that would be now..), I'd vote for them in a heartbeat likely. But over the years, I've chosen to support the Republicans mostly on foreign policy and economic policy grounds. On social policy, while I lean libertarian on many issues, I do have some traditionalist impulses. Still, you won't find me getting up in arms about Roe v. Wade over here.

All this said, and perhaps not suprisingly to regular readers of this blog given the typical subject matter over here, I vote almost exclusively on foreign policy grounds. Whatever happens to Social Security or health care doesn't concern me much, to be honest. Very frankly, having visited well over 50 countries in my 32 years, I am often stunned by how much hand-wringing there is about how bad our domestic situation is. We forget, and not just the lucky souls dwelling in Greenwich and the Upper East Side, we forget how lucky we are relative to the great masses of humanity. Take a little trip here and there, I often think to myself as I hear someone rave on about flu vaccines or prescription drug benefits, to see what real suffering is. I'm reminded of a writer who described the world as being split in three rough camps. One where people are actually starving to death, one where they enjoy subsistence level existence, and the other where people are obsessed with faddish diets and weight loss programs. We mostly occupy this last category, of course, so perhaps the lack of existential stakes is what keeps me relatively unmoved by much of the domestic debates that seem to occupy so many. (Please note, however, this is most emphatically not to say that I believe endemic povery in this country doesn't exist. It does. And it must be fought tooth and nail and with passion. But I think you get my larger point).

On foreign policy issues, my default position is something of a hybrid one. I guess I'm mostly a realist, but I have strong neo-conservative (neo-Reaganite?) inclinations. I've worked for some neo-con types in the past (in the context of Bosnia policy) and consider myself more closely attuned to many hanging their hats at the AEIs rather than the Brookings. That said, I've done humanitarian work in war zones which tends to put you in touch with people of more leftist stripe and orientation. And I know that there are immensely talented foreign policy practitioners that are associated with the Democrat camp like a Richard Holbrooke or Frank Wisner.

So what's my point in all this? Maybe you now know where I'm coming from a bit better, and so can perhaps try to relax and more often give me a fair hearing. I'm not asking you not to roundly castigate me if you think I deserve it. Go for it! But just slow down and try to appreciate where I'm coming from a bit more often that it seems some of you are (on both sides of the aisle). I'm not running for anything over here, and am working in the private sector--so don't really have anyone to answer to. I'm just calling them like I see them as best I can. Don't become hysterical when I point out some obvious idiocy in the Nation, or place a little epingle in the direction of a Mike Isikoff. It's part of the blog medium, and not all posts here can be lengthy, substantive think-pieces. And even when they are, readers (whether on the Left or Right) will often find my views displeasurable to them. That's life. Anyway, I've gone on long enough. Now you know perhaps a bit more of where I'm coming from. Let's keep this little show going on, and all be as cordial as possible whilst doing so--still allowing for this mediums requisite hysterics, shouts-out, etc. Oh, and don't compare B.D. to Monica Lewinsky. That's a red-line.

Posted by Gregory at June 2, 2005 03:22 AM | TrackBack (6)

Do you have large breasts?

Seriously, good luck. As a centre-lefty I find sites where everyone lines up to pat each other on the back, and vilify senselessly the other side, pointless. I fell 'out of favour' on a couple of Australian lefty poliblogs after doing my own post about the hypocracy of collective vilifications.

Having just switched to a foreign affairs focus myself, I'll be back plenty; it's always interesting to discuss contrasting perspectives without being flamed by the owner.

Posted by: mp at June 2, 2005 05:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's a good crowd. I find that the blogger usually sets the tone for the comments that followm and having posting rules displayed can be remarkably effective. It would probably be a good idea to throw a link to this post in your sidebar under "Commenting guidelines" or something.

Posted by: praktike at June 2, 2005 06:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Speaking of Bosnia, I found myself the only person supporting Clinton decision to intervene in the Balkan. This actually happened in Bosnia, and I was surrounded by fellow soldiers. I fail utterly to persuade my buddies that it was in our national interest. I was there during SFOR-7 (2000). When was you there?

Posted by: Minh-Duc at June 2, 2005 06:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Truth is relative, respect is essential, attractive, and of utmost importance to civil discourse - the local foundation of democracy.

Keep it up. I only occasionally agree with you, but never tire.

And, If you think truth is absolute, check back in 20 million years when humans are a myth. Don't get caught in absolute truth, get involved in the quest.

Posted by: D at June 2, 2005 08:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That's the price of trying to be as intellectually honest as possible and calling them like I see them.

Yep. Keep it up! I can't stand rank-and-file partisans. They're deathly boring.

It's part of the blog medium, and not all posts here can be lengthy, substantive think-pieces.

Well, they could be. It's just that you couldn't do that and blog almost every day (at least, not while holding down a full-time job).

Posted by: fling93 at June 2, 2005 07:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I can't say I often disagree with you. I'm about 50-50, I guess, but I always find your site of interest to read, because even when I do disagree, you aren't shrill, partisan, slick or mindless. I don't understand how name-calling serves any of these serious debates, and I find your site almost entirely free of that kind of hackery.

As an aside, do you know if Mr. Britt has a website or blog of his own? Many of his opinions were a good counterpoint to yours, also well-written and balanced, and I like to read as many perspectives as possible when I have time.

Posted by: NYCmoderate at June 3, 2005 03:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

...i read you daily: i don't agree with a lot of your views [leftish independant], but i don't always agree with Suzanne Nossel and crew, the nyt or the wapo either.

...any serious contribution to [inter]national dialog is helpful.

...as is thick skin.

Posted by: doc at June 5, 2005 02:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In terms of the domestic politics, Greg, I think you ignore it at your peril, even given your stated interests.

As you know, in any country, there's a deep interplay between domestic and foreign policy. Like you, I tend to be more interested in foreign policy, since that can destroy the world (or whole cities) all at once, whereas domestic policies commonly destroy (or help) people one at a time. But as anyone with an understanding of nationalism understands, one cannot separate a nation's foreign policy from it's domestic political dynamics -- as surely the Bush presidency, for better and worse, has done more than any other to demonstrate.

For a great book discussing this very subject, I cannot recommend more strongly Anatol Lieven's America Right or Wrong: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0195168402/qid=1117972163/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/104-8519861-1819901?v=glance&s=books&n=507846.

I agree with the earlier poster that you should consider posting rules for the comments area. You'll always have your flamers, but you can at least cut back on the virtiolic exchanges in which your blog merely imitates Gavrilo Princip.

Posted by: Nils at June 5, 2005 12:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

at the end of day - how do you go to sleep at night aligning yourself with a party that pretends (actually claims) globalwarming is not happening - or that chooses to not fund global population programs for political reasons...?

cheney - bush - inhofe... you can go right down the line, and see a list of name names that future generations (lets hope they get the opportunity) will rue.

if you or some of your right leaning readers think jesus is coming in the next 20 years well then all the more power to you - otherwise, how do you rectify the reckless/non-existent policies on conservation and preserving creation (the planet and all its gifts)? with your supposed interest in future stability/sustainability of life in general?

Posted by: spk at June 6, 2005 06:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

spk, Greg doesn't go to sleep at night. When do you think he finds time to blog?

Posted by: Jeb at June 6, 2005 03:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

SPK, now who is being apocalyptic?

Posted by: david at June 8, 2005 10:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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