1.30.2007

Live blog-o-rama

Expecting a Coulterish disaster, I went to see Dinesh D'Souza at the Union.

Professor Sharpless introduces him, citing "a level of vitriol" rarely seen, kicked up by D'Souza's latest book, and asks the audience to "allow him his views without interruption."
After the speech, there are microphones so you can post your critique - hopefull not in the ally.
But what about on my blog?

So Dinesh comes on. He's kind of an awkward looking guy, and the audience applauds warmly. As the night goes on, I decided that this is the kindest audience I have ever seen toward a conservative speaker in Madison. There was no heckling at all, or any attempt to shout him down. Good job, Madison!

And what does he talk about?
We're now years into this war on terror [smattering of applause] - we've had some valuable reconsideration about Iraq, but there needs to be a reconsideration of... the war on terror more generally...
We are no more fighting a war on terrorism now than we were fighting kamikaziism in WWII... terrorism is a strategy.
These are bold claims, but he makes them in a disarmingly charming and honest manner, and the audience seems to be willing to hear him out. But before he examines the problem of the war on terrorism, he looks backward to see how it came about. He finds neither the major liberal or conservative explanations enough:
If you look at liberal foreign policy, it gave radical islam control of its first state and emboldened them [toward 9/11].
He blames Carter's advisors, and "the left" generally, for dropping support for the Shah of Iran: "In trying to get rid of the bad guy, we got the worse guy." This is a point he alludes to later, in talking about possible outcomes of backing down in Iraq.

He blames the left again in the Clinton administration, for backing down during the various events (the Khobar Towers attack, the USS Cole, etc), further emboldening al-Qaeda and proving to Bin Laden that the US was a "paper tiger."
In retrospect, I admit [Iraq was a mistake].
He says we should have focused on Iran.
Muslims have choice between Islamic tyranny and secular tyranny in Iraq; the US is attempting against history to put a new card on the table - call it Muslim Democracy... In Iraq, we are not trying to impose democracy everywhere, we are trying to impose democracy somewhere.
Then he turns fully to Iraq. Regarding finding out what Iraqis think about what's going on in-country, he imagines interns for Pew knocking on doors in Baghdad:
They've got an elected government we can consult.
He claims that the Shias and Sunnis have not been fighting for centuries:
This is all an ethnocentric projection. "The Sunnis and the Shias are a little like the Protestants and the Catholics..."
His basic view of the Iraq war seems to be that it is a good thing, and that the only way America can lose is by a loss of will - a point which is hardly new, but which he goes through very well. America has vital interests in the region - an argument from the realist school which he seems to focus on - but the idealism of the venture is not lost on him, and he seems to think it a good idea.

The closest he gets to blaming the Left for 9/11 is through is argument about a general softness on security, and now through a sapping of will to fight. He makes the point in a very roundabout way that seems calculated not to cause offense - or certainly not the kind of offense the title of his book implied, anyhow. Overall, very well done.