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Fake Inconsistency

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"Fake Inconsistency"

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I have various points of agreement and various points of disagreement with this review, but let me note its deployment of one of the world’s most annoying rhetorical tropes:

Recall how during the 1990s, it was taboo in liberal circles in the United States, Canada, or Western Europe even to suggest that the Balkan wars might be the result of centuries-old ethnic hatreds. That was wicked conservative realism voiced by morally indifferent Republicans such as Brent Scowcroft, and denounced with eloquence by progressive internationalists such as Michael Ignatieff and Samantha Power. I made speeches to this effect myself when I worked for Human Rights Watch – insisting, with Kantian moral certainty, that wars are never ascribable to ancient ethnic hatreds (Yugoslavia), and that there can be no peace without justice (Sierra Leone), and that impunity always rebounds (Chile). The progressive position was that ascribing the Yugoslav wars to ancient ethnic hatreds rather than the manipulations of present-day politicians was an immoral and cynical ploy to avoid getting involved. Today, on the other hand, a card-carrying liberal realist such as the Democratic Party’s Kos Moulitsas can write, “It’s clear that in the Middle East, no one is sick of the fighting. They have centuries of grudges to resolve, and will continue fighting until they can get over them”.

Ha, ha — that crazy left, always changing its mind! But, look, Samantha Powers, Michael Ignatieff, and “the Democratic Party’s Kos Moulitsas” are different people. By contrast, there are only two political parties. Consequently, a bunch of people who are all “liberals” or “Democrats” or what have you are bound to disagree about a bunch of things. For evidence that people are changing their minds, or changing their tunes, or becoming hypocrites, you need to identity actual individuals who changed their minds, not different people disagreeing with each other.

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