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For Want of a Strongman

Via MediaMatters:  Fox Host Requests Putin Be US President For 48 Hours To Deal With Islamic State.

Kimberly Guilfoyle: "Can I just make a special request in the magic lamp? Can we get like Netanyahu, or like Putin in for 48 hours, you know, head of the United States?" (video at both links).

Yes, this is a silly remark made by someone who is trying to fill time on a silly commentary show where there really is no need to deal with reality nor where there are really any consequences for what is said. This is, quite frankly, infotainment at its worst.

Still, it does reflect a disturbing impulse that comes up again and again in our political discourse:  the notion that enough strength and resolve can solve political problems, especially ones of political violence.  I suppose that pointing out that strength and resolve have not solved all of Russia’s problems (let alone the Arab-Israeli conflict) is just me being a pedantic ivory tower dweller.

(Not to mention that unless Guilfoyle is suggesting an all-out nuclear assault on ISIS, then I am unclear on how 48 hours is going enough time to solve the problem, strongman or no).

Yes, I know it is all nonsense.  It is just more than a little disturbing that such nonsense is presented to the public as legitimate commentary.  One might as well be asking 15 year-olds who play Call of Duty for national security advice.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    It’s not unlike something Palin also said recently.
    Why do these people hate America so?
    The tragic thing is that there is no accountability…no consequences.
    Bill Kristol can be cheer lead us into Iraq for no reason…leave 4000 troops dead and waste $2T…and yet here we are 11 years later and he’s back at it…on network TV urging us to war with ISIS.
    This is a major problem in our culture that needs to change.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  2. Matt Bernius says:

    I suppose that pointing out that strength and resolve have not solved all of Russia’s problems (let alone the Arab-Israeli conflict) is just me being a pedantic ivory tower dweller.

    In particular, strong man tactics have yet to resolve Russia’s issues with its internal Islamic Terrorists/Separatists. Nor, if we look in the long term, have any Israeli leader’s strongarm tactics successfully dealt with it’s own Islamic issues either.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  3. @Matt Bernius: Exactly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Tillman says:

    Circumvent Congress with executive action? Well, he should just act more like Putin! If only we had a Putin!

    Jesus Christ.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    It’s also worth noting that strongmen have a pretty good track record of turning “48 hours” (or any limited time period) into a much much longer stay in office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  6. Franklin says:

    Good post, Steven. It shows us the depth in which these talking heads wade. Although I’m not sure whether to say they are being very shallow, or if they’ve jumped off the deep end.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  7. reid says:

    @Tillman: Just more proof that their hatred for liberals, democrats, and Obama in particular has become so ingrained and strong that they can believe two (or more) contradictory ideas at once. Sad, and we all suffer for their “politics as sport” mentality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  8. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Media Matters gets the linky-love over a flippant remark by one person on Fox News using hyperbole to express exasperation with Obama’s less than resolute attitude towards ISIS, and not a single article about the indictment of a sitting governor.

    Interesting set of priorities here. Especially considering how many authors here hold law degrees, and all the fascinating legal implications of the Perry indictment…

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 16

  9. Pinky says:

    I have the impression that if you put all the smartest people in the room against the wall, Kimberly Guilfoyle would not be against the wall. No matter who else was in the room.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  10. @Pinky:

    The sad thing is that she graduated UC Davis magna cum laude and was an Assistant and Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties.

    I was wondering if there was a Gretchen Carlson thing going on where she was being a caricature so people on Fox News didn’t think she was too smart.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. @Jenos Idanian #13: There is a simple to way to see writing about all the topics you would like to see covered, and in a manner that you will find pleasing: create your own blog.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  12. Mikey says:

    @Timothy Watson: I know some damn smart people who still hold some really stupid ideas…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Timothy Watson: @Mikey: One of life’s sobering lessons is that there are strivers who do very well without actually understanding much. I’ve noted in other contexts George Lakoff’s thesis that many conservatives are perfectly capable of thinking things through to a logical conclusion, it’s just not their default mode of looking at the world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  14. Mikey says:

    @gVOR08: People are really good at compartmentalizing. It’s not just conservatives, either–there a lot of very liberal anti-vaxxers out there, for example. And that’s not just stupid, it’s deadly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  15. de stijl says:

    Steven,

    What is your take (if any) on Bob Altemeyer’s concept of authoritarianism (a follow-on to The Authoritarian Personality by Adorno, et al.). I know it’s social and political psychology rather than political science, but I’d like to hear your feedback still.

    I find his framework to be helpful in trying to understand the behavior of “conservatives” lately.

    The particular “strongman” example you’re talking about in the OP fits so perfectly:

    Can I just make a special request in the magic lamp? Can we get like Netanyahu, or like Putin in for 48 hours, you know, head of the United States?

    lines up so well with:

    “Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us.”

    which he categorized as

    People who strongly agree with this are showing a tendency toward authoritarian submission (Our country desperately needs a mighty leader), authoritarian aggression (who will do what has to be done to destroy), and conventionalism (the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    Dr. Taylor,

    I think you may not be being fair–there are probably a lot of 15 year-old “Call of Duty” players out there who have better understanding of foreign policy considerations than Kimberly Guilfoyle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  17. anjin-san says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: There is a simple to way to see writing about all the topics you would like to see covered, and in a manner that you will find pleasing: create your own blog.

    That would require effort, why do the work when you can simply spend your time crying on someone else’s playground?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  18. @de stijl: That is the kind of thing I am getting out here, yes. It is my observation that there is a significant tendency in the contemporary conservative movement that has this tendency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. @anjin-san: Indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    All right, on topic: we have a president who denounced the beheading of an American for the crime of being an American and to serve as a declaration of war, then hit the golf links. Then, last week, went out before the world and said we had no strategy for dealing with this enemy, and promptly took off for a weekend of fundraising.

    I, too, find myself thinking that Putin would have a better set of priorities, would have a plan on hand for dealing with self-declared enemies, and a wee bit jealous that we currently don’t. Hell, even Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter would know how to act like they cared.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. @Jenos Idanian #13: Against my better judgment, I will ask: what would you like to see the President doing?

    (And really, the golf thing is just nonsense. It was stupid when partisans made fun of Reagan going to Santa Barbara, of Bush to Maine, Clinton to Martha’s Vineyard, and Bush back to his ranch in Crawford. For that matter, they made fun of Carter for being trapped in the White House during the hostage crisis. It is all utter, total, unadulterated nonsense).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    I, too, find myself thinking that Putin would have a better set of priorities, would have a plan on hand for dealing with self-declared enemie

    Well, there is something to that. For example, Putin might have some of his thugs beat the crap out of you, then toss you in jail.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. anjin-san says:

    Putin would have a better set of priorities

    Putin’s priorities are clear. Expand his personal wealth and power at every opportunity, in a manner that is quite ruthless. Crush dissent. Use military force to intimidate and oppress weaker neighbors.

    You have to love American conservatives. They whine incessantly about Obama being a power hungry tyrant, then when they see an actual power hungry tyrant, they develop a huge hard on for him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. @anjin-san:

    You have to love American conservatives. They whine incessantly about Obama being a power hungry tyrant, then when they see an actual power hungry tyrant, they develop a huge hard on for him.

    While I do not want to paint with too broad a brush here, I have to agree that the cognitive dissonance of some on this topic is a sight to behold. And a disquieting one at that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. anjin-san says:

    It should be noted that under Putin’s muscular and decisive leadership, the ruble just his a record low.

    http://online.wsj.com/articles/ruble-plumbs-new-depth-as-ukraine-tensions-rise-1409301057

    I wonder if he has a better set of priorities, a plan on hand to deal with this meltdown of Russia’s currency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Against my better judgment, I will ask: what would you like to see the President doing?

    When ISIS/ISIL/IS was starting out, a lot of us thought they were bad actors. Obama wanted to arm them and bomb in support of them.

    When he finally realized they were bad actors, he dismissed them as “junior varsity.”

    What we’re seeing is that they are doing exactly what they said they did — groups like this tend to spell out their goals quite clearly, if you listen. They intend to establish and Islamic Caliphate that would supplant existing nations, most of which they consider imposed by European imperialists (and they have a point).

    They fought Assad, but they didn’t fixate on overthrowing him and conquering Syria. They took enough of the country to meet their current intentions, then they hopped across the border (that they told us they didn’t see as important) and started in Iraq. They made their enemies list quite clear, slaughtering non-Muslims quite effectively.

    Obama said he has “no strategy.” That’s a horrible admission to make, even when it’s true.

    The Pentagon is in the business of having plans for anything. The invasion of Grenada was pulled together in about 9 days. The invasion of Panama was planned and executed in about 5 days. (Counting from final provocations to invasion.) The Pentagon is infamous for having plans for pretty much any circumstance — I’m sure they have plans to invade Canada, and to repel gay Martians from Des Moines, Iowa. Considering how long we were in Iraq, I’m fully confident they have plans to strike into Iraq somewhere.

    What should Obama be doing now? Well, admitting that he was so wrong for so long isn’t going to happen. So how about telling the Pentagon to work on plans on hitting ISIS/ISIL/IS in Iraq and Syria. Moving forces into place. Coordinating with allies (the UK is well ahead of us) on getting support. Reaching out to Assad in Syria to work up some kind of modus vivendi allowing us to hit at ISIS/ISIL/IS within Syria without interference, maybe even coordinating intelligence. (Making it clear that we don’t support him and don’t like him, but think ISIS/ISIL/IS is a bigger threat and a mutual enemy. This will be made more difficult by our adventure in Libya, where Kadaffy took our word that if he made nice, we’d leave him alone, then we turned on him at the first chance. That hurt a lot of potential deals. Maybe we could be brutally honest with Assad: “We’re going to hit them here on this date. Have your forces stand down or get out of the way. If you make it more difficult for us, we’ll be popping you next.”)

    Brutal truth: Assad is a bad guy. But ISIS/ISIL/IS is worse. They’ve declared war on us. We need to show them — and the world — that that is not a good idea.

    So, actual steps: Air strikes. Massive intelligence operations. (Lots of drones, satellites, and manned recon.) Coordinate the intelligence among our allies — the Kurds, Iraq, Turkey, and others interested. Supply weapons to the above. Offer intelligence at least to Assad. Get them to share their intelligence with us. Act as coordinator between groups not inclined to like each other to cooperate in fighting ISIS/ISIL/IS. For example: help Kurds and Syrians plan and time their operations to cause the most havoc on ISIS/ISIL/IS. (No, not fighting alongside each other, but hitting ISIS/ISIL/IS in different places at the same time to complicate their responses.

    That’s my amateur opinion. That’s what I’ve been thinking about ever since I first heard about ISIS/ISIL/IS. To be blunt, I heard Obama wanted to support them, and my inner cynic started looking at it as if it was a bad idea. And my inner cynic was right — once again Obama was on the wrong side of the issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  27. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Putin’s priorities are clear. Expand his personal wealth and power at every opportunity, in a manner that is quite ruthless. Crush dissent. Use military force to intimidate and oppress weaker neighbors.

    You have to love American conservatives. They whine incessantly about Obama being a power hungry tyrant, then when they see an actual power hungry tyrant, they develop a huge hard on for him.

    No, once again you’re twisting the point. What was being said was…

    Oh, why bother. You’re one of the most truth-resistant commenters I’ve ever encountered. I can explain it to you, but I can’t make you understand it. Or, at least, admit you understand it. You just want to selectively misinterpret what is said to make your own dishonest points. Instead, I’ll go over to the neighbor’s farm and try to teach his pigs to sing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    You’re one of the most truth-resistant commenters I’ve ever encountered.

    Well, coming from a notorious serial liar, I’m afraid that just does not sting very much.

    I can’t make you understand it

    I understand you quite well, as do the other commentators here. And no one, I mean no one, takes you seriously. For some people that might lead to a teachable moment. You are not one of those people.

    And no, I am not “misinterpreting” what is being said. Much of the right, you included, has the hots (so to speak) for Putin, a brutal tyrant. There are two things modern conservatives just seem to love – groveling before money, and groveling before authoritarianism.

    Now why don’t you run along and buy some rubles?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  29. @Jenos Idanian #13: I love you estimation of your wisdom and foresight, that’s for sure.

    Also: lots of airstrikes, intel, and coordination really isn’t much of an answer.

    That’s my amateur opinion

    Indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. (Seriously, using Grenada and Panama as examples is risible).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    What was being said was…

    that a strong authoritarian leader would know what to do. The intent is quite clear.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I apologize; I thought I gave enough details for you to fill in the blanks. I didn’t want to be insultingly pedantic. Here’s my idea:

    The US announces that we own the airspace above ISIS/ISIL/IS (hereafter ISIS) controlled territory. We strike freely, and we use intelligence assets to find their concentrations and vulnerable points. We pass that information to those groups who have assets on the ground and incentive to fight ISIS — three examples that come to mind are the Kurds, the Iraqis, and the Syrians. We act as a coordinating body for these groups — none of which like each other very much, but have a common enemy — to help them cause the most harm to ISIS on the ground, offering our air support. We also ask them to share any intelligence they have or develop to help us better coordinate the efforts. We welcome in non-regional allies like the UK and accept whatever assistance they have to offer. We ask those allies what they are willing to offer, and work it into the plans.

    I realize that doesn’t have the gravitas and profundity of “we don’t currently have a strategy,” and trusting that the “top men” will actually do something productive and successful, but not everyone has such blind optimism and faith in the powers that be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: that a strong authoritarian leader would know what to do. The intent is quite clear.

    Yes, a strong, authoritarian leader would have a more pragmatic and successful idea of what to do than our current president, who went from 1) supporting ISIS to 2) dismissing ISIS to 3) admitting that he didn’t have a strategy to deal with ISIS, despite having over a year to study the problem with the best resources available on the planet.

    To spin that as saying that a strong, authoritarian leader would be preferable under all circumstances would be foolish, and anyone who said such things would be foolish. Fortunately, despite the Soros minions’ claiming so, no one said any such thing.

    Let us also note that currently, Putin’s Russia isn’t having a problem with any other nations or groups declaring war on them, attacking them, and slaughtering its citizens as warnings. Russia has a host of other issues, but being perceived as weak and attacked on that basis isn’t one of them.

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  34. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Putin’s Russia isn’t having a problem with any other nations or groups declaring war on them, attacking them, and slaughtering its citizens as warnings

    Ummm.

    In December 2013, two separate suicide bombings a day apart targeted mass transportation in the city of Volgograd, in the Volgograd Oblast of Southern Russia, killing 34 people overall,[1] including both perpetrators. The attacks followed a bus bombing carried out in the same city two months earlier.

    On 19 January 2014, a statement and video claiming responsibility for the bombings was posted on the website of Vilayat Dagestan, a subgroup of the Caucasus Emirate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/December_2013_Volgograd_bombings

    I guess the terrorists who were slaughtering Russian citizens here were not as impressed by Putin’s strength and manliness as you seem to be.

    If you are really concerned about dishonesty, you might want to invest some time in introspection. Of course I don’t dismiss the possibility that you really believe what you are saying, and you just don’t have a clue what you are talking about.

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  35. JWH says:

    On the other hand, I think one can legitimately criticize the Obama administration for moving too slowly in response to the crisis, or for having an insufficiently proactive foreign policy.

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