The Internet should facilitate debate but too often encourages unfocused argument. By reading mainly opinions and versions of fact from those with whom we are likely to agree, our intellectual inquiry is unfinished. I’m not suggesting that one needs to spend time on the loony fringe but mainstream, respected writers exist on all sides of most subjects and it is worth searching for them.
This is particularly true when our own sense of right and wrong is challenged. For me, Libya is an example. Is the American led effort appropriate or merely setting the stage to replace one despot with another while preserving the flow of oil to Europe? Salon writer Glenn Greenwald, one of my favorite contrarians, examines the process of his own decision making.
I am impressed with, and try to be guided by, this statement of Greenwald:
“… he’s one of the people I read when I want to be challenged in my opposition, as his arguments are usually well-reasoned and always in good faith.”
The remainder of the Salon article is here at Question for Juan Cole. You should read Greenwald regularly, particularly if you generally disagree with his conclusions. He argues with facts.
University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole, for whom I have a lot of respect, has become one of the left’s leading advocates of American involvement in the war in Libya. I don’t agree with his arguments — for reasons set forth here, here and here, among others — but he’s one of the people I read when I want to be challenged in my opposition, as his arguments are usually well-reasoned and always in good faith. During the Iraq War, Cole was responsible for one of the most humiliating massacres ever seen in an online debate, when he exposed Jonah Goldberg’s war advocacy as the know-nothing, cowardly, adolescent tripe it was. During the course of that debate, Cole wrote this:
“Although I do not believe that everyone who advocates a war must go and fight it, I do believe that young men who advocate a war must go and fight it. . . . I don’t think there is anything at all unpatriotic about a young man opposing a war and declining to enlist. But a young man (and this applies to W. and Cheney too) who mouths off strongly about the desirability of a war is a coward and a hypocrite if he does not go to fight it.”
Note that this was not a principle specific to the Iraq War; it was expressed as a universal principle applying to wars in general. My question for Cole is this: does this principle apply to supporters of the U.S. war in Libya? …