December 20, 2006

Critique of Christian Parenti's ISG Critique

Christian Parenti's, piece "ISG: Defeat With Honor," undermines my confidence in him as a writer and progressive voice. It suggests that Parenti is falling into a main stream mind set. The Nation magazine should guard against being captured in a similar way.

He says, "...I am not so convinced by much of what I am reading about it from writers on the left." Me niether, and I include Parenti in the mix. Broadly speaking, Parenti's thesis, reflected in his title, states the obvious (just a variant of "stay the course lite," as he characterizes other progressive voices). I have a better title for a progressive message, "ISG Report: Plutocratic Damage Control." Why is it better? For one, it places the word "plutocrat" into the public discourse. I had a conservative blogger praise me on an essay in which I said, "But to the plutocrats we are the unwashed masses that they need to divide and conquer."

Second, the ISG report is more broadly about damage control, not just in Iraq; defeat with honor is just one element of a bigger picture. A title should capture the broader essence, not just a quip.

But the reason I was moved to write this letter relates to specifics. First, Parenti might think that Rush Limbaugh is "totally correct," but giving Limbaugh credit for anything is counter productive. It gives credit to Limbaugh's reasoning, which is almost always suspect. Why praise this vile man when there are other choices a writer can make?

Second, Parenti summarizes some of the ISG's criticisms of Bush. He says, "...the Pentagon has had very few analysts who have been working on
knowing the enemy." The "enemy?" Whose enemy? The plutocrats' enemy? My enemy? A better choice of words, particularly from a paid professional progressive voice, would be "insurgency."

On the positive side, Parenti provides a good synopsis of the ISG report. He hits key points that caught my attention as I read the report ($2 Trillion ultimate price tag when "tail costs," like veteran's benefits, are considered). He notes the Baker-Hamilton "Asessment" section is refreshingly harsh. Parenti asks, "So why do they do this?" Perhaps some of the old guard fear what Marxists used call to a “legitimation crisis.” The ISG report "Assessment" section is designed to appease the agitated public by tossing us an honest bone for a change. It's this aspect that progressive writers should expand on. Instead, they seem to be playing the "I'm a better muddy-middle analyst than the payola pudits." A good thing, but the wrong game IMHO.

I ask Parenti, and others in his position, to reflect on their own "obfuscating vernacular." Seriously. I truly suspect that the success and the growing celebrity of progressive writers might be affect their judgement as progressive voices. We cannot afford that erosion at this time.


The Nation online, December 18, 2006.
Iraq Study Group Report


Rick said...

You labeled me a "right wing blogger". I half-heartedly detest to being labeled. :-)

You are correct; just don't call me a Republican. My leanings are more toward a moral libertarian than a "r"epublican.

When did governing stop being a responsibility of the governing? When did accepting and doling out favors replace it?

GDAEman said...

I should say "conservative," rather than "right wing." I stand corrected, and will correct my blog entry.

You might appreciate an analysis of left and right by Karl Hess. In a nut shell, "right" wing implies power in the hands of a few, and "left" wing implies distribution of power into the maximum number of hands. Web LINK

As for your question on "doling out favors:, I think Richard Vigeurie, of direct-mailing-success-for-Republicans fame, might have the answer. Conservatives Betrayed