"A cruel debate opponent" "Pagan blasphemer" "Reverse-iconoclast" "don't get pissed at him b/c he pwn yalls whiney asses"
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Miscellaneous meanderings and philosophical ramblings. The title from a spiral notebook I used to jot down my thoughts on religion and other matters some years ago. I like to write, think and express my views on various issues. Robust discussion is welcome.

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"Lan astaslem."
I will not submit. I will not surrender.
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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Straw is easy to burn

Playing with fire is fun until you hurt yourself.

It has been noted by others that President Obama tends to caricature his opposition when he argues for support of his policies. Straw-man arguments are easy to burn, which is why they are so tempting to use against one's opponents. Karl Rove has chronicled President Obama's use of this tactic; though I'm sure there will be more examples in the future.

President Barack Obama reveres Abraham Lincoln. But among the glaring differences between the two men is that Lincoln offered careful, rigorous, sustained arguments to advance his aims and, when disagreeing with political opponents, rarely relied on the lazy rhetorical device of "straw men." Mr. Obama, on the other hand, routinely ascribes to others views they don't espouse and says opposition to his policies is grounded in views no one really advocates.


Mr. Obama portrays himself as a nonideological, bipartisan voice of reason. Everyone resorts to straw men occasionally, but Mr. Obama's persistent use of the device is troubling. Continually characterizing those who disagree with you in a fundamentally dishonest way can be the sign of a person who lacks confidence in the merits of his ideas. […] (source)

Yes it is disturbing but even more so when this is applied in other areas by way of foolishness. When it comes to negotiating with other nations, many of whom have interests that compete with ours and with liberal democracies in general, one needs to not have a misunderstanding of their counterpart when working diplomatic channels. It's bad enough to present their views dishonestly and then argue against that distortion. It is hardly any better to fundamentally misunderstand their motivations and work from such flawed presumptions. John Bolton called this problem “mirror imaging” in his discussion of the problems in the State Dept. bureaucracy.

“Mirror imaging” is related to moral equivalency, but is perhaps an even more widespread operational problem, involving the inability to see that representatives of other countries do not bargain on the same terms as our diplomats. […] If your “interlocutor” thinks you are a limp-wristed, weak-kneed, morally degenerate envoy  of a decaying civilization, his priorities are likely to be very different from yours. In fact, if the person opposite is not your mirror image, your are poised to be taken advantage of, and will perhaps not even be aware of it. […] (Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations, John Bolton, pg 452)

So while the straw is not being placed intentionally, as Obama does for his American competition, it still piles up with our competitors and enemies. I'm sure they don't mind, it just makes it easier to set us afire when they decide to toss the match.


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