Two Challenges

Two very different recent events raise the same issue. How to confront the temptation to abandon one’s principles when one’s opponents do so without penalty. And in both cases I think The Atlantic has presented a view worth noting.

One is the attack on Al Quaida in Yemen which ended with the deaths of several civilians and a US soldier. Many on the left are crowing that this was authorized by Trump without proper analysis, and I agree that the sources of his advice were unbalanced in that they failed to combine military analysis with any evident input about the long term radicalization effect of a possible disaster (such as what actually happened).

But in Trump’s defense, former Obama defense advisor Andrew Exum writes in  Don’t Politicize the Failed Yemen Raid:

For the recommendation to have gone forward to the president, the senior leadership of the Department of Defense would have signed off on this operation. And for that to have happened, special operations and regional U.S. commanders would have had to have blessed the planning that went into the operation itself.

The left cannot on the one hand claim Donald Trump is ignorant of military and security affairs, and then on the other hand expect him to second-guess the professional recommendations of his uniformed and civilian military leadership.

I don’t agree with Exum that non-military input is properly left out of decisions like this – though perhaps not to the extent of items as trivial as “debating whether or not it made sense to move three helicopters” (and the role of Benghazi nonsense in prompting that level of overdue diligence is worth noting). The temptation to exploit this event in the same dishonest way that the right did with Benghazi is clearly irresistible to some on the left – especially since that sleazy tactic was so spectacularly successful. But it really should be avoided. It’s hard to take the high road when the low one is seen to work, but in the end winning without integrity is just another way of losing.


The other item is Peter Beinart’s piece on how Milo Yiannopoulos Tested Progressives—and They Failed .

…when Trump’s opponents use the danger he and his supporters pose to restrict basic freedoms, there’s a problem.

Which is what happened earlier this week at the University of California, Berkeley, when a violent protest prevented Milo Yiannopoulos, a Breitbart News writer who has made his name by viciously mocking women, trans people, and African Americans, from speaking on campus.

With or without violence, the de-platforming was probably misguided although the protest itself was not. Let us rather all hear the trash with which the young Republicans want to be identified – and not provide any excuses for them to play the martyr or for those who wish to de-platform other views that we may share but which they declare offensive.

Update(Feb3):But . like Robert Reich, I wouldn’t “bet against” a suggestion that the violent protesters who closed down the Yiannopoulos event were right wing provocateurs rather than real left wing opponents.

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