An annoyance: any discussion of any complex issue in terms of abstract taxonomy at the expense of a careful account of specific people, places, times, motivations, and events. This gives me hives when it pops up in, say, literary criticism, but it really pisses me off in discussions of foreign policy, where the consequences of fucking up are a lot of dead people.
Take this bit of nonsense from a site called "Militant Moderates," of all fucking things. The author is responding to this post from Ezra Klein. There the young Mr Klein, who supported the Iraq war when he was even younger and should have been doing something more useful, like smoking a lot of grass, points out that the "liberal hawks" who pompously and thoroughly botched the whole "should we invade Iraq" question, are refusing to account for their screwup in any serious way -- but are instead huffing and puffing on the question of Iran. "Just because we were wrong in the past doesn't mean we are ontologically wrong," they intone: they are washed in the blood and spittle of Marty Peretz or some shit like that, and their sins washed clean.
Whatever. Observe how this "Militant Moderates" punk prefers to engage with the utterly meaningless question of "what is a liberal hawk" rather than talk about, well, anything that has happened or might actually occur in the real world.
The first question, of course, is what is a "liberal hawk" anyway? Klein's definition suffers from a pejorative tautology. "Liberal hawks" to him are defined solely by their stances on the issues of Iraq and Iran -- favor towards the Iraq war then, embarrassment and avoidance of the Iraq issue now, and a vaguely noncommittal stance towards Iran. Klein's depiction of "liberal hawks" is thus not a description of a political philosophy or a foreign policy approach at all, but rather just a list of behaviors Klein doesn't like. Klein does not expound upon the underlying beliefs or theories that might give an understanding of how "liberal hawks" would approach a range of issues and he certainly does not allow the "liberal hawks" to speak for themselves on such points, he merely defines the concept in terms of his negative opinion regarding their outcomes on two specific issues.
This is all my balls. Ezra Klein is perfectly right to judge people writing on foreign policy primarily on their stances towards real world issues. A discussion of "underlying beliefs or theories" in this context is absurd, given the horror of the Iraq debacle. If your "underlying beliefs or theories" made you stick your dick in the blender, even "reluctantly," and you haven't thoroughly reassessed these concepts, I frankly don't want to hear your advice about what to do with the weed whacker.
The essay is crazy. The guy thinks the primary debate about foreign policy is between "pacifists" and "militarists" -- as if the primary reason anyone opposed the war in Iraq was from a position of committed pacifism. Well, maybe a small minority did, and good for them. But most of us opposed the war in Iraq because it was obviously a stupid fucking idea. The administration was clearly spouting bullshit about why it was necessary and how much it would cost in money and lives.
The self-declared "liberal hawks" of the period were the ones suffering from a pragmatism deficit. A failure to recognize this, coupled with a defense of "liberal hawk" based on the assertion that the reified term "liberal hawkism" is a fundamentally pragmatic "philosophy," is absurd and obnoxious.