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The Credibility Trap [Max Fisher / Vox]

The use of the “credibility” argument as a talking point in favor of aggressive foreign policy has been a pet peeve of mine for a while.

A Vox article describes how the “reputation theory” underlying this talking point has been thoroughly debunked.

I want to take it further, however. My main objection is that, in addition to being logically false in light of the facts, the term “credibility” is intentionally misleading. A cheap rhetorical trick of using an ambiguous word choice, to conceal the shoddy reasoning the speaker is presenting.

This is because it brings to mind positive connotations of a vaguely similar, yet quite different word, “trustworthiness“, but it is typically used in contexts where it means “reputation”, “respect”, “authority”, and most specifically and least flatteringly, “ability to intimidate”.

Read the following sentences, imagine a US politicians and statesman/woman says them.

  1. We must take action in Country X, to ensure we have respect in world affairs.
  2. We must take action in Country X, to ensure we have a good reputation in world affairs.
  3. We must take action in Country X, to ensure we have authority in world affairs.
  4. We must take action in Country X, to ensure we have ability to intimidate in world affairs.
  5. We must take action in Country X, to ensure we have credibility in world affairs.

All but the last one sound a little off. The first two call attention to our association of respect or reputation with (typically) very assertive actions (and this is debunked per the Vox article). The second two raise some troubling questions: What exactly is our authority to be the world’s policeman? If we are so concerned about ability to intimidate, how does that square with our deisire to have the “moral high ground”?

The word credibility is special in that it goes down the smoothest, whitewashes the context of the argument, and actually draws attention away from the “reputation theory” and the bunk logic that is being sold.

[ I got the Vox link was via The Observer ]

musical interlude CLIX

2016.04.26 election results

Another busy tuesday, with PA, MD, CT, DE, and RI.

Trump gets 55%+ of votes, and looks like he is getting ~100 pledged delegates as of now (1030pm ish). Note that 54 of PA’s Repub. delegates are unpledged per PA republican party rules. Kasich picks up another half dozen or so delegates, Cruz 0. So Team Stop-Trump looks like it managed to stop Cruz more than anything else. I am not happy to say, republican race is looking more or less like I called it in a crude calculation on March 17th, with Trump on pace to get approximately 1250 delegates, either clinching the nomination or narrowly missing (in which case I doubt his opponents could keep him out, barring some kind of public self-destruction by the Donald). With Kasich in the race, it looks like Cruz will be a distant second, instead of a close second.

More importantly, on the Democrat side. Clinton picked up another couple of 10-15% margin wins, making her path to the nomination pretty secure (again, barring unexpected massive public embarrassment). In case anyone is wondering, I think Sanders should stay in the race to the end – for the same reason I thought in the beginning he should run.


Should America Do Less? [Aaron David Miller / The Atlantic]

I used to think it was obvious, but i’m way out there. To some it is a profound insight, but people like that automatically exclude themselves from influence.

For people who strive to be taken seriously, the concept that the US could do better (aka stop digging), by doing less, has just recently moved from unspeakable heresy to debatable subject.

It is my sincere hope that by the end of the decade, it will become a serious possibility among foreign policy professionals, and by the year 2030, a 50-50 proposition.


The Brexit issue

I find the Brexit question fascinating. Just saw an interesting critique of Pres. Obama’s recent campaigning for the Remain camp.

While I have no business commenting on UK politics, it is a vivid manifestation of the issues that surround sovereignty, democracy, self-determination, and practical considerations of state power, and how there are difficult contradictions to work out here.

Personally, I would place a higher value on self-determination and the mutability of national and organizational boundaries. I believe both are as essential elements on par with democracy and the various protections we refer to as “human rights”. Adopting these principles would, in turn, would unearth difficult questions of property and especially land and natural resource ownership. Nevertheless, I think by pursuing the elevation of self-determination and mutability of national boundaries, it could be an avenue to possibly resolve the hurtful and unfortunate contradictions, between human rights and democracy/sovereignty (visible recently in both the failures of the R2P principle, and the refugee crisis in Europe from MENA).

Dept. of Labor to restore overtime pay for many salaried workers [NYT]

Finally, some sensible policy.


[via Later On]

New York is in

New York primary results are in.

Clinton wins by 15%, split geographically as expected, and adds ~21 delegates to her lead (as of current estimate by NYT). I was hoping for a closer result for Sanders, but Clinton did better than I expected in the city and westchester😦

Trump wins by a wide margin, taking the entire state except for, ironically, manhattan.


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