Thursday, May 15, 2008

Obama and Rhetorical Devices

Labeling something is a useful method we all use to communicate ideas. That's fine as long as the label is accurate and is not being used as a rhetorical device to delegitimize an argument and shortcircuit any debate.

Obama and his camp are using labels for precisely the latter reasons. When Obama says "the politics of fear," what he really means is he does not want an honest debate on the national security dangers facing our country. Using a method that is both supremely cowardly and incredibly disingenuous, he wants to forestall debate and delegitimize criticism of his weaknesses on national security. It is an outrage given that the issue is one of existential importance to our nation. The artifice he is using needs to be pointed out and condemed, publicly and loudly.

Securing our nation is the single most basic duty of our federal government. To do that, we need to come to a consensus on the likely threats to our nation and how to combat them. Bush today, speaking at the Knesset, said that talking to genocidal mad men is naively dangerous and gave the single best historical example, talking to Hitler in the 1930's instead of confronting him. We know from the historical record that had France and England done the latter, WWII would likely not have occurred - at the cost of 60 million lives and a European economy in the tank for decades.

As soon as Obama heard the word he appeasment in Bush's speech, Obama raised his hand and said "that's me." That is an analogy I've pointed out on this blog ad infinitum. Obama wants to engage the Iranian theocracy and has promised to do so without precondition within the first year of his presidency. There is precious little to distinguish the Iranian theocracy, in its genocidal madness, expansionism and threat to the world from Hitler in 1938. So taking a look at the hierarchy of argument posted below, when the sum of Obama's response is to label Bush's argument the "politics of fear," and "dishonest, divisive attacks," where does that put the craven and disinguous Obama on the hierarchy of argument below? He doesn't even make it up to the level of "contradiction" it would seem.

Gateway Pundit has an exceptional post on how Obama's national security arguments quite literally are founded on this rhetorical device of calling any discussion of the threats facing us "the politics of fear." And he notes the origins of the rhetorical device - a Marxist device to minimize the threat posed by the Soviet Union - quoting from a NY Sun article:

. . . The phrase, "politics of fear," reemerged from the dustbin of anti-anti-communism on far left Web sites like Alternet in late 2002. In the Cold War, it was employed to deride public school air raid drills, the House's un-American Activities Committee, and Ronald Reagan's anti-red campaigns. Since the end of the Cold War, the phrase has been resurrected by politicians and pundits alike to say the electorate ought to fear the people trying to scare us, not these terrorists and tyrants they keep going on about.

In 2004, the British state broadcasting arm, the BBC, aired a three-part documentary called the "Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear." According to this film, the threat of Al Qaeda and radical Islam was a foil for a broader neoconservative power grab. The two radical movements are equivalent, relying on one another to scare the good and decent majorities of Europe and America.

Mr. Obama would never say anything this strident. Part of his appeal is that at his best he transcends partisanship. But the "politics of fear" signals the left's own scary narrative about the Bush years, namely that our government was taken over by neoconservatives briefly to launch the Iraq war.

This is the chord Mr. Obama strikes when he boasts of his opposition to a non-binding resolution supporting efforts already underway to counter Iran's proxies in Iraq. Mr. Obama has attacked Mrs. Clinton for voting for the Iran resolution sponsored by Senators Kyl and Lieberman, implying that the legislation would give Mr. Bush the authority to invade Persia. His Web site says Mr. Obama "believes that it was reckless for Congress to give George Bush any justification to extend the Iraq War or to attack Iran. Obama also introduced a resolution in the Senate declaring that no act of Congress — including Kyl-Lieberman — gives the Bush administration authorization to attack Iran." . . .

Read the entire article.

Update: To paraphrase someone I overheard yesterday, Obama is turning this on its head. The politics of fear are what the Salafists did on 9-11 and 7-7. The politics of democracy require free and open debate. He wants no debate and for the voters to fear Republicans more than they fear our enemies.

Update 2: Related question at Hot Air - why did Obama jump to the bait like a hungry catfish when the word appeasement was mentioned but no appeaser identified:

Read the whole post.


Joanne said...

I agree. The question is, why does Obama not want us to fear our enemies? Does it have anything to do with his plans to dismantle the U.S. military? I wouldn't trust the guy as far as I could throw him.

M├╝nzenberg said...

This is a great post Wolf. Very Interesting. Love the graphic and the links. Certainly very useful. Thanks.

GW said...

Thanks for the comments, all. Joanne, if this guy becomes our President, you can mark the day as the start of the decline and fall of America and the start of a very dangerous multipolar world that will have clashes that make WWII look like a skirmish.

Thanks for the comments, Munzenberg. I got the graphic from a Dr. Sanity post, actually and I thought it usefull also. Feel free to use it.