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In the post below I excerpt yesterday’s interview with Obama supporter Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig. (Transcript here. Podcast here and here.) We did end the conversation on a note of agreement: The Fairness Doctrine is unconstitutional:
HH: Do you favor the return of the Fairness Doctrine?
LL: I don’t think you can, under the First Amendment, restore the Fairness Doctrine, and I don’t have any desire to amend the First Amendment, no.
HH: And do did you think the Fairness Doctrine, or that Red Lion, was wrongly decided when it came down?
LL :In that technology context, maybe not. Certainly now in the context of the technology we have right, I don’t think it’s constitutional, no.
HH: On that note of extraordinary agreement, Professor Lessig, thank you for your time. I look forward to having you back another time.
LL: Thanks for having me.
Iran will hit Tel Aviv, U.S. shipping in the Gulf and American interests around the world if it is attacked over its disputed nuclear activities, an aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader was quoted as saying on Tuesday. “The first bullet fired by America at Iran will be followed by Iran burning down its vital interests around the globe,” the students news agency ISNA quoted Ali Shirazi as saying in a speech to Revolutionary Guards.
Obama’s continued insistence that America retreat completely from Iraq just as Iran surges towards nukes and confrontation over them ought to be all the evidence one needs to understand that Obama is simply unqualified to be president because he has no grasp of the region’s dangerous dynamics. If a stable Iraq were to allow America a relatively long term presence, that presence would be a check on Iran’s ambitions, just as U.S. bases in Germany and South Korea helped deter war in Europe and Asia for the long years of the Cold War.
Given this kind of action and rhetoric from Iran, what does Obama do? Blame the U.S. of course:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Monday that harsh U.S. rhetoric toward Iran appeared to be contributing to the surge in oil prices and that a calmer approach might help soothe the markets.
“There are some geopolitical issues that affect the price of oil,” he added. “So for us to ratchet down the rhetoric when it comes to Iran, for example, and engage in tough, principled diplomacy, as I’ve called for, might calm the markets down.”
If Obama somehow cons the voters into putting him in charge of the nation’s defenses and national security policy, the next four years will pose an enormous threat to Israel and to the West generally as Tehran’s mullahs conclude that the weakness in the White House presents a strategic opening they could not have imagined ever recurring since Carter’s defeat in 1980.
I attempted to discuss this incredible break-down in the logic of Obama’s proposed retreat from Iraq with Obama supporter, Stanford Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig on yesterday’s show, but after the standard denunications of the war, Professor Lessig simply would not discuss the consequences of a retreat from Iraq. (The transcript is here.) Here is that conversation. (Please note that there are two books by two Wrights mentioned here, The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright and Robin Wright’s Dreams and Shadows.) Professor Lessig’s refusal to work through the consequences of Obama’s proposed retreat from Iraq even though he supports Obama is disappointing:
HH: Do you think the jihadists are actually motivated by our invasion of Iraq to be jihadists? That’s certainly not consistent with Lawrence Wright’s theory of The Looming Tower.
LL: I don’t think that the core group is motivated by that at all, and I think that’s exactly, you know, The Looming Tower describing the tiny group of people who constituted al Qaeda for most of the time up to September 11th is very clear about that. That’s exactly right. But to the extent you’ve got a group of people in the Middle East who now reflect on the fact that this unjustified war has been waged in their land, and you know, how many thousands of people have been killed because of it? There are more people willing to go out and die and to the end of stopping America, than there were before. That’s the problem. We’ve increased the number of people who are willing to die to stop us because of waging an unjust war.
HH: But you mentioned Robin Wright’s book, and I had Robin on for three hours to talk about such a good book. But that’s completely, but largely contrary to the idea that we are creating terrorists, that Nasralah and Hezbollah and Hamas are home-grown jihadist ideologies unconnected to our adventure in Iraq, and that they will not be in any way deterred by our retreat from being what they are, which is expansionist Islamist ideologues. And so that’s…go ahead.
LL: Yeah, but it’s not fair to say that [Lawrence] Wright’s book does not suggest that the perception of unjust behavior on our part does not fuel the pool of people who are available for the other side to pull from. It’s whether the unjust behavior or just behavior on our part would stop them is a different question. But the question of whether we have been, the perception is that we’ve behaved unjustly, we’ve waged an unjust, and unjustified war, will make it easier for them to recruit. I don’t think Wright is questioning that at all.
HH: Well, I do think [Robin Wright] does, and I’m holding it in my hand, and I’m looking at the chapter on Iran, and on the fact that the Khomeinist ideology has been in place there since ’78, unconnected completely to our Iraq adventure, and that they’ve been exporting violence and terror around the globe for 30 years now. That’s simply, it’s just who they are. It’s got nothing to do with us, Professor. What…
LL: Those two things have nothing to do with us, but again, that’s not the disagreement I thought we were having. The question isn’t whether these people have always existed and would always exist. The question is whether the region is more susceptible to the argument in response to a perception that we’ve behaved unjustly. How could it be otherwise? I mean, you think unjust behavior encourages people to respect you more?
HH: No, I don’t think they think it’s unjust. Have you read Michael Yon’s book, Moment of Truth In Iraq?
HH: Okay, that would be an important book for you to read to consider. But I think actually, the Iraqi people have come to respect, admire and embrace the American intervention, though they would like it to end within a certain period of time, as Maliki said today, but that the Iranian influence and in Syria and in Lebanon, and Hamas, et cetera, will be greatly, greatly magnified and strengthened if we withdraw on Obama’s timetable from Iraq. And that’s what I was getting to, is will be safer if Obama wins and pulls out of Iraq. You seem to believe we will, and all the reading we’ve been talking about seems undeniably to say no, we’ll be screwed if we follow that course. And I’m just curious as an Obama supporter, and you guys are ahead. You might win. You’re asking us to take an enormous risk that you’re right, and I don’t know that your guy has done much thinking about Iran and Hamas and Hezbollah. Have you?
LL: You know, the guys who you should be talking to about thinking inside the campaign about the war is not the guy who talks on technology policy.
HH: Oh, but you’re Mr. Change Congress, though, Professor.
LL: Yeah, Change Congress has nothing to do with the war.
HH: No, but you want to change fundamental institutions of American governance in ways which are important and profound. I’ve heard you give interviews to NPR, et cetera, and you’re a big picture guy. I don’t think you can wash your hands and do a Pilate on the most important issue of the campaign, especially when you’ve written about it. You’re a big supporter of getting out of Iraq.
LL: I’ve written about it? Where have I written about it?
HH: I thought it was in this thing, that one of the reasons you were for Obama from the beginning was because…
LL: That he opposed the war.
LL: It was the right judgment about whether to go to war, a similar sort of judgment that we’re going to need when we think about whether we’re going to go to war over Iran, with Iran, for example. That’s all I’ve written about it.
HH: What do you think we should do about Iran?
LL: Not my call, not my field, not the sort of thing I should be wasting your audience’s time talking about.
HH: No…you know, don’t you think that’s disengagement at a crucial moment? Here we are, we’re having a civil conversation…
LL: I’m disengaging? Yeah, well, I’m not to be engaged about these kinds of issues, because they’re not areas of my expertise. I’m not going to blather about things I don’t really know anything about. Change Congress has nothing to do with these things, either. Change Congress is about removing what I know you’re going to agree with me about, the kind of distorting influence that exists inside of Congress right now. Earmarks is just one particular example of that. Now this is about making the system run better. It’s not about the particular outcomes of the system. So we can continue to fundamentally disagree about stem cell research or whatever you want. But when it comes to the process for getting to those decisions, I think we should be able to agree about what kind of influence there should be involved in that.
HH: But I’m saying it’s an abdication for a public intellectual, one with a very large profile and following, to say I’m not qualified to talk about the most important issue in the campaign. Because you could be right about net neutrality, and you can be right about earmarks. But it we all end up dead, it doesn’t much matter. And if we pull out of Iraq precipitously, and we don’t confront Iran before it goes nuclear, and they turn out to be a suicide nation, I find it rather perplexing that you wouldn’t have ideas on this, or confidence that Obama could handle it.
LL: I have ideas like anybody has ideas. I’m not going to talk about the ideas, because this is not an area of my expertise. This is a kind of, I think that humility should be a bigger part of public discourse. I want to exercise it here. And so I have ideas, you have ideas, but if you want to hear about my ideas about things that I actually know something about, I’m happy to talk about them.
If you are supporting Obama, you are supporting withdrawal from Iraq in no longer period of time than 16 months. That retreat will have enormous consequences for the entire region. A vote for Obama is a vote for those consequences. When we retreated from Vietnam in 1975, holocaust followed. Some of the radicals who urged that retreat are back at center stage of American politics, urging another retreat which will have even more devastating consequences. The responsibility for those consequences cannot be avoided even if they are undiscussed.
Stanford University Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig is one of the founders of Change-Congress.org as well as a high profile Obama supporter. he will be my guest for the second half of hour two and all of hour three on today;’s show.