Doves Split Over Ukraine

Foreign policy makes strange bedfellows.

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Dan Spinelli and Dan Friedman have a fascinating report at Mother Jones, “America’s Top Anti-War Think Tank Is Fracturing Over Ukraine.”

Two prominent figures have resigned in protest from the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft—the only major think tank to promote a skeptical view of US power and military interventionism. In announcing their departures, Joe Cirincione and Paul Eaton criticized the organization’s dovish response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Quincy is brand new, co-founded in 2019 by Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel and longtime Boston University scholar. A combat leader in Vietnam and the Gulf War, he’s had a strong second career as a critic of US adventurism abroad. His son, Andrew Jr., was killed in Iraq, a war his dad rightly viewed as folly. Cirincione and Eaton are also incredibly respected figures in the national security community.

They take this indefensible, morally bankrupt position on Ukraine,” Cirincione said in an interview Thursday with Mother Jones. “This is clearly an unprovoked invasion, and somehow Quincy keeps justifying it.”

Cirincione, who was until recently a “distinguished non-resident fellow” at Quincy, tweeted news of his resignation on Thursday, citing the institute’s “position on the Ukraine War” as his reason. Formerly the head of the Ploughshares Fund, an influential grant-giving foundation in the small progressive foreign policy world, Cirincione helped raise money for Quincy in its early days and connected it with key donors. But Ukraine proved to be his breaking point.

In articles posted online and in media appearances, other Quincy experts have called for the Biden administration to press Ukraine to reach a peace deal that allows Russia to keep some of the territory it has seized, arguing the alternative is a prolonged war and increased risk of direct conflict between the United States and Russia. That position has little public backing from prominent Democrats in Washington, who support the administration’s efforts to aid Ukraine’s military.

In an interview Thursday night, Cirincione said he “fundamentally” disagrees with Quincy experts who “completely ignore the dangers and the horrors of Russia’s invasion and occupation and focus almost exclusively on criticism of the United States, NATO, and Ukraine.”

Cirincione’s exit comes just days after Eaton—a retired Army major general who has long been an adviser to Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups—resigned from Quincy’s board for similar reasons. When asked why he left the organization, Eaton said on Twitter, “I support NATO,” an apparent reference to the strain of thought among anti-interventionists that Russia’s invasion was motivated by the expansion of the NATO alliance. 

Even though I ultimately came to support the Iraq War,* I was then and remained a general skeptic of US military intervention abroad. But the problem with adopting “Restraint” as the sine qua non of a think tank is that it an become something of a totem. I simultaneously believe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an outrage to which the United States must respond and yet not worth sending in US military forces and risking escalation to a direct superpower conflict. I suspect that’s where Bacevich, Cirincione, and Easton are. But hiring staffers who are reflexively anti-militarist leads to, in this case, excuse-making for Putin to justify not taking action.

The fissures within Quincy reflect a deeper conflict among skeptics of US military power. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated that conflict, with some backers of the Biden administration’s Ukraine policy accusing critics of being Putin apologists.

For Cirincione, the Ukrainian resistance to Putin’s unprovoked invasion “is a just war” deserving of US financial and military support. He disputes the view that the United States is engaged in a proxy war with Russia or attempting to “bleed Russia dry.” (Many international relations experts, not just at Quincy, have said the conflict is edging closer to a proxy war.) 

On Responsible Statecraft, Quincy’s online magazine, “you cannot find a criticism in depth of Russia’s foreign policy pronouncements justifying the war,” Cirincione said. 

Trita Parsi, the co-founder and executive vice president of the Quincy Institute, called Cirincione a friend, but said that Cirincione’s criticisms were “not only false but bewildering.” 

“A quick glance at our website would show that that statement is just simply not true,” Parsi said. “It is true that we are pushing for diplomatic solutions. We are not going along with the idea that it’s a good thing to change the objectives in Ukraine towards weakening Russia, because we believe that could lead to endless war.”

Parsi said that Cirincione had been encouraged to disagree—in private and and in public—with other Quincy experts. But Cirincione “wanted Quincy as a whole to adopt his position,” Parsi said, adding that such a move would be incompatible with the think tank’s mission and not “necessarily compatible with progressive foreign policy either.”

While I think Cirincione overstates the case a mite, he’s closer to the truth than Parsi here. If one scans Quincy’s posts related to Ukraine—which are a surprisingly small percentage of their overall posts considering how central the conflict is to the larger national security conversation right now—they’re pretty one-sided. Essentially, they advance three points. In no particular order: 1) Putin was compelled to invade because of Western belligerence in the form of NATO expansion; 2) every move the West makes to support Ukraine risks escalating the conflict; and 3) Ukraine should cede territory to de-escalate and end the conflict. None of those are wildly unreasonable points. But they come across as rather bloodless and Chamberlainesque in the light of Russian aggression and wanton slaughter in Ukraine.

A particularly knotty issue for some progressive thinkers is the question of military aid, which is the main forum through which the United States has supported Ukraine. Matt Duss, a foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), used a recent piece in the New Republic to appeal to progressives on this point, arguing that the Left should not let prior US misadventures abroad “blind us to the instances when provision of military aid can advance a more just and humanitarian global order.” 

There is not much division among congressional Democrats on that question. Not a single Democrat in the House or Senate voted against President Joe Biden’s request for $40 billion in weapons and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. But outside of the Democratic Party, a collection of prominent figures spanning the progressive left and libertarian right have been vehemently opposed to such a huge aid package, which is one of the largest sums of foreign aid in US history.

I’ve known Matt for going on 20 years now and consider him a friend. We don’t see eye-to-eye on domestic policy, as one might suspect given his employment as a top Sanders advisor, but he’s a clear-eyed and thoughtful foreign policy analyst. And he demonstrates this very clearly in the above-linked TNR essay:

Today, the U.S. left is stronger and more influential, and growing faster than at any time in my lifetime. On the most important national security, economic and trade policy, and social justice issues of our time, the left has gotten it right. But it’s important to think through how our values of social justice, human security and equality, and democracy are best served in a response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. 

We should acknowledge absolutely that skepticism toward the kind of righteous sloganeering we’ve seen around Russia’s war is entirely reasonable. Our political class advocates military violence with a regularity and ease that is psychopathic. Our politicians demand others show more courage in the face of Vladimir Putin’s violence than they’ve ever been able to muster in the face of Donald Trump’s tweets. We should not, however, let all of this absurdity blind us to the instances when provision of military aid can advance a more just and humanitarian global order. Assisting Ukraine’s defense against Russian invasion is such an instance. 

The endless military interventions of the last 20 years have engendered a hard-won skepticism not just among the left but among the American people toward the use of force. Our arms dealer-funded think tanks don’t like it, but this is the appropriate default position for a responsible democracy. It’s hard to escape the impression that many in Washington see the war on Ukraine as a boon, something to help both transcend our internal battles and lift U.S. foreign policy out of the doldrums and restore its meaning and potency. This is incredibly dangerous.

But we should also recognize that the Biden administration is not the Bush administration. The Biden team clearly did not seek this war, in fact they made a strenuous, and very public, diplomatic effort to avert it. Having been unable to do that, they’ve acted with restraint and care not to get drawn into a wider war with Russia while also making clear the stakes of the conflict for the U.S., for Europe, and for the international system. I have not been shy about criticizing this administration where it has failed to uphold progressive principles. It’s a long, depressing, and growing list. But Ukraine is an area where I think the administration is getting it mostly right.

And, again, while our domestic politics are quite different, we’re in agreement here. While I’ve criticized some of the more belligerent statements from top administration officials in this conflict—including some off-the-cuff remarks from Biden himself—his actual policy decisions have been spot-on. We’re providing an appropriate amount of military aid to a country that’s been invaded, while simultaneously bolstering the Western alliance and weakening Russia, a country our strategy documents correctly identify as “an acute threat.”

Back to the Rolling Stone piece:

Many of these critics view the source of the conflict as broader than Putin himself. Taking their lead from John Mearsheimer, an influential international relations professor and non-resident fellow at Quincy, they argue that the United States gravely miscalculated at the end of the Cold War by expanding NATO to include several Eastern European countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. Mearsheimer has argued that the US government should have expected Russia to perceive the expansion of NATO as a security threat. 

I respect Mearsheimer and his work tremendously and don’t fundamentally disagree with him. I was a critic of Bill Clinton’s NATO expansion policies, which were a break from the quiet diplomacy of George H.W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft, and continued to oppose further expansion under George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In contrast to the addition of Sweden and Finland, longtime Western partners with a robust military and economic capability, bringing in former Soviet satellites did little to bolster our security while rubbing Russia’s nose in its diminished status. At the same time, that simply doesn’t excuse Putin’s aggression and war crimes in Ukraine.

Many of these critics do not think the US government’s aims in Ukraine are necessarily noble. As examples, they have seized on comments from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who said that he wants to see Russia “weakened,” and media leaks that claiming that US intelligence is helping Ukraine kill Russian generals. (“I think the Biden administration has done an exemplary job of aiding Ukraine, but it’s not flawless,” Cirincione told Mother Jones.) 

Again, Cirincione ain’t wrong. I’m actually perfectly happy to see Russia weakened and the generals responsible for murdering Ukrainian women and children killed. But we should shut the hell up about it.

While functionally a debate about means and ends—no different from many arguments in the national security space—the fractious conversation about Ukraine on the Left also speaks to the kinds of questions that remain out of bounds in the elite world of US foreign policy. Quincy was a unique entry in to the debate from the start. The institute is proudly not progressive; it prefers to call itself “transpartisan.” Its experts often align with the anti-militarist worldview shared by many progressive Democrats and libertarians, a coalition that is reflected in the organization’s primary funders: George Soros and Charles Koch.

Indeed, I would be shocked if Bacevich himself weren’t a fairly conservative Republican, at least before the Iraq War. One can oppose foreign adventurism and not be a progressive—and vice versa. Indeed, the so-called Blob consists of neoconservative hawks and liberal interventionists.

Outside of Quincy, there is not much money on the anti-militarism side, making the institute even more important as a rare voice of dissent from foreign policy orthodoxy. Even as figures like Cirincione and Eaton find substantial support from Democrats in Congress, their views have encountered backlash among the wider progressive community. Whether there continues to be room for a progressive foreign policy that includes skepticism of NATO expansion or the wisdom of a prolonged war against Russia is still an open question. For Cirincione, there remains a glaring need for a truly progressive think tank. “A lot of us thought Quincy was going to be it,” he says. “But it’s just not.”

There are plenty of progressive think tanks out there, actually. But Quincy was never supposed to be that. Again, it was funded with Koch AND Soros money. (Koch also funded, around the same time, a Restraint-focused center at the Atlantic Council that’s in stark contrast with the more activist lean of the larger institution.) Beyond that, there’s simply no reason that everyone who holds a given domestic policy agenda will agree on foreign policy, particularly on the matter of intervention in wars. (The closest to that is libertarians, who tend to be reflexively anti-militarist.)

_______________

*I was the reverse John Kerry: against it before I was for it. As I’ve likely recounted here before, I was at an AUSA convention in DC in late 2002 listening to Paul Wolfowitz explaining that we needed to conduct regime change in Iraq because of atrocities Saddam had committed during the Iran-Iraq War and thought it was just nuts. I was ultimately persuaded by the nuclear argument in wake of advances in North Korea’s program that radically shifted our set of options there.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. steve says:

    I think I am with you here. There is a huge difference between fighting to defend yourself, or in the case of the US this time, offering aid to country defending itself and our recent war efforts, in particular Iraq. Invading another country and occupying it based upon vague accusations that were lies does not compare at all. Its good to be skeptical of war since Americans have been all too eager to embrace it but in this case most of that skepticism should be aimed at Russia.

    Steve

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    1) Had we not brought former Soviet satellites into NATO an aggressive Putin would long since have forced them back into Russia’s orbit. They were never going to be allowed to be truly independent. The choice for countries like Hungary, Czechia and Romania, and certainly the Baltic nations, was always going to be between NATO and Russia, there was never a third option.

    2) I see no moral issue with taking lemons and making lemonade. We did not encourage this war, we did not start this war, but once Putin decided to invade why should we not enjoy bleeding the little prick and retarding Russian economic development? And it’s an added benefit if we can learn about the Russian military’s true capabilities and limitations, as well as testing our own weapons IRL. It’s even OK to have a laugh at Vlad’s folly.

    3) Pacifism, like Libertarianism and Marxism, is for college kids. In the real world a broad opposition to all war, in all forms, in all places, is absurd. Each war or threatened war is a unique case. Vietnam was not Korea, Korea was not WW2, WW2 was not WW1, and WW1 was not the Civil War. Each new situation must be assessed, there’s no rigid, ideological position that will stand up to reality.

    Obviously the loss of life is appalling. Obviously an honorable peace would be a good thing. But Putin himself has made an unarguable case for treating Russia as a dangerous, pariah state. So, bleed them? Use this as an opportunity to strengthen NATO? Absolutely.

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  3. Raoul says:

    With all due respect, I’m not sure what the article is about. NATO expansion? Yes there may be some friction on the matter. Arm Ukraine? I think the view is nearly unanimous to be for it. The small cadre against it are know-nothing Republicans (Trumpians). Now some lefties (e.g., The Nation due to its prior Russian alliance) are conflicted on the war and mostly criticize matters of no consequence but there is no wholesale opposition.

  4. JohnSF says:

    I respect Mearsheimer and his work tremendously

    I don’t.
    The man is a fool, and has been for years.

    Even in terms of “real capability” rather then moral judgement, to deny the capacity for agency of smaller countries, and view the ability to pursue national interest to the Greater Powers is ludicrous.
    Especially in the context of Europe, which Mearsheimer seems barely able to comprehend.
    He utterly ignores the reality that Russia aggression in 2014 was triggered by Ukraine aligning with EU, not NATO.
    And the repeated remarks about Russia having a right not of influence, but of domination, over Ukraine, by virtue of Ukraine lacking a “national legitmacy” on a par with that of Russia.

    The NATO expansion trope is primarily a Kremlin masquerade to attract the chin-stroking “judicious analysis” of some varieties of Western analysts.
    See also the acceptance of Finland and Sweden joining NATO, albeit with the usual lack of grace one expects from Moscow.

    Further, he asserts that Russia is a Great Power, when it is quite plain that it only such in a very partial sense: hydrocarbons and nuclear weapons.
    It is no more a full spectrum Great Power than is, say, Brazil.

    Mearsheimer has also in the past, conjured a fantasy of Russia as a useful, even necessary, adjunct to an American policy of containment and constraint against China.
    Setting aside the possibility that Mearsheimer might be a tad over-hawkish himself, re. China, the fact is that a Russian alliance is neither available nor beneficial to the US.
    In part because, as stated before, Russia is not a genuine Great Power.

    If Mearsheimer is an example of “eminent American scholarship” you have a problem.
    If he could actually learn to comprehend the lessons of Thucydides, he might begin getting somewhere.

    (On which: annoying habit of some “Doves”: we must eschew any possibility of drawing lessons from the Second World War; but of course the First Peloponnesian War is totes relevant.)

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  5. Jon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Pacifism, like Libertarianism and Marxism, is for college kids.

    Minor nit … libertarianism is actually for teenage boys.

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  6. dazedandconfused says:

    Thank you for the excellent analysis. I too suspect the best practical solution may be Ukraine following Henry Kissinger’s idea that a cease fire along the lines prior to the Feb invasion which existed since 2014. I suspect Russia will go for that IF they can get an assurance the water to Crimea will not be shut off again.

    What the think tankers in the articles seem to be missing is how Ukraine, collectively speaking, feels. The time for the above has not yet arrived. They are committed to total victory. Only when they become tired of the war will it be feasible for any Ukrainian leader to propose this. It’s not all about us.

    I believe the things which caused the people in the old Soviet bloc states will work the same way in the new “republics” over time, and this military operation by Russia has done a number on those people’s previous ambivilence twoards being aligned with either Russia or Ukraine. Play the long game.

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  7. JohnSF says:

    @JohnSF:

    And the repeated remarks about Russia having a right not of influence, but of domination…

    To clarify my confusing writing: this is, to be fair, the Russian elite saying this, not Mearsheimer.

    Though he occasionally does come close to endorsing this sort of “great nations” nationalism, of which Europe saw far too much between 1800 and 1950: see English re. Ireland, Hungarians re. Slovakia and Romania; Germans and Russians re. Bohemia and Poland; French re. Belgium.

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  8. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve read Bacevich on and off for years. Of late his association with The American Conservative* seems to have corrupted him. His writing and reasoning seem a deal less clear than they used to. They talk a lot about NATO expansion. There’s also a strain of, “Well he said he’d do it so you can’t blame him for doing it.” I guess that’s some sort of corollary to Trump’s belief that if he commits crimes in the open they don’t count. But mostly they want Russia to win because Putin hates gays and that’s all that matters. TAC is thoroughly against us supporting Ukraine.

    They do, also, fear the West will lose interest, leaving Ukraine not only to be occupied, but having been largely destroyed for nothing. A concern I fear I share.

    There is some validity to saying we shouldn’t have expanded NATO. Being a buffer state is a bitch. But they’re valuable to us as buffers and we have no obligation to relieve the awkwardness of their situation. But TAC, and others, seem to have nothing to offer except to let Putin have whatever he wants. And once Putin invaded Ukraine, a country that was no threat to Russia, both morality and realpolitik argue for supporting Ukraine. (It would be better if our hands were clean in this matter of unprovoked aggression.)
    _______
    * TAC has looked for months as though they were failing. They’d lost their prestige contributors. Bacevich and Dreher himself are the only contributors with any status. Most of the articles are credited to outside nobodies or to the large staff of ostensibly TAC employees with titles one step up from Intern’s Assistant. A couple days ago they did a big format change, are pushing hard for subscriptions, and comments are now paywalled, which takes away whatever fun there was in reading TAC. Even when Bacevich wasn’t very convincing, he was at least concise. For the most part their writing runs to interminable. I’ve found TAC to offer some insight into conservatives, but more in comments than in articles. I’m going to be hard put to slog through their articles without being able to see reaction to them, and occasionally comment when something’s too stupid to let pass.

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Raoul:

    With all due respect, I’m not sure what the article is about.

    At the micro level, it’s about a schism at the one DC foreign policy think tank devoted to Restraint. At a micro level, it’s about the larger community of doves, which had been united against a common enemy during the Global War on Terror and its offshoots, being split because some fetishize pacifism while others think there are moral causes worth fighting (or, at least, supporting others doing the fighting) for.

  10. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08: I contributed an article to TAC’s print edition more than a decade ago but haven’t read it in years aside from Daniel Larison, who they ran off some time back because he wasn’t towing their party line.

    As to Bacevich, he became somewhat tiresome. I excoriated his Breach of Trust back in 2013 because its analysis was not only incredibly weak but contradicted much more persuasive analysis from his own prior works.

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    At the start of the Civil War there was a lot of confidence in the South, and fear in the North, that Britain’s need for cotton would bring them in to support the South, which might have been game over. The South was downright cocky on the power of King Cotton.

    And then Britain imported cotton from Egypt and it was bye-bye Confederacy, their supposed ace-in-the-hole turned out to be a two of clubs.

    The same thing is happening with Russian oil and gas. Alternate sources are being found. Refineries are being built. Green energy sources are increasingly coming into play. Putin’s bluff has been called, and so long as Europe (Germany) doesn’t blink, the end result will be a more secure and greener Europe, and Putin will be left holding his dick.

    Russia’s future is as the tail on the Chinese dog. The US goal now must be to contain China at sea and wait until CCP economic mismanagement, demographics and internal pressures knock China off the superpower track. Always assuming we don’t crack first.

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve mentioned before that I’m looking for a name for what I’m calling the fallacy of perfection. Yesterday at The Corner at National Review, one Dominic Pino actually argued that the shooting of Abe, with a homemade gun and possibly the only gun homicide in Japan this year, shows that gun control doesn’t work. A good example of my fallacy of perfection. Re my complaint above, @gVOR08:, TAC has paywalled access to comments. NRO will let me read comments, and they’re what you’d expect. But it’s painful to read something like that and not be able to respond. But not painful enough to give them money.

  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF:

    And the repeated remarks about Russia having a right not of influence, but of domination, over Ukraine, by virtue of Ukraine lacking a “national legitmacy” on a par with that of Russia.

    This argument may have more leg than we realize. My friend in Seoul–who ironically enough was one of the few foreigners (in his case American) who taught Political Science in Korea (though not full time)–was making almost this exact argument when the most recent warfare started.

    It’s an interesting conundrum for me. As long as I’ve followed the movement, progressives have seemingly had a blind spot for authoritarians leading countries formed in “people’s revolutions.” Putin is the current poster child of the phenomenon.

  14. Gustopher says:

    I haven’t seen any opposition to arming Ukraine from the mainstream left.

    The horseshoe left — Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, and the Greens — all think we provoked the war, and are continuing it unjustly, etc., but it’s worth noting that these are a mixture of crazy people and Russophiles. They get propped up by the pro-Putin right, and given a platform, because they are useful idiots.

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  15. JohnSF says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    The thing is that it indicates a massive historical blind spot to the tragedies of competing nationalisms in Europe in the 19th/early 20th centuries.
    When some countries were seen as somehow not “culturally worthy” of being nation states on the plane of Germany, or France, or England or… (sub in whichever nationality is vaunting itself in at a given time)

    Indeed, someone teaching in Korea might care to reflect on how Japanese nationalism assigned Korea to the category of lesser nations, justifying domination by Japan.

    It’s remarkable how the “Tankies” have cycled round into justifying imperialism, just so long as it’s imperialism from the “camp of the resistance to America”.

    When in fact Russia is reviving the true spectre that haunted Europe: the spectre of nationalistic imperialism.

    Regardless of the interests of the United State, Russia following it’s current course is a existential threat to the EU system that was constructed to repudiate and terminate machtpolitik in Europe.

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  16. dazedandconfused says:
  17. gVOR08 says:

    @dazedandconfused: Close, but not what I’m looking for. The Nirvana Fallacy posits a perfect, but unreal, alternative to oppose a real option. I’m looking for a logical fallacy in saying one flaw, or one counter example, renders an entire argument invalid. (Actually a valid position if we’re looking at a mathematical proof, but not in politics.)

  18. dazedandconfused says:

    @gVOR08:

    It’s so patently illogical it may not merit a designation as a fallacy. We must, at some point, place things in the category of Ron White’s Observation.

  19. Barry says:

    Adding onto Michael’s statment:

    1) Putin has been talking about rebuilding the Soviet Union’s empire for what? 20 years? 25 years? Ukraine and Eastern Europe are places which he regards as rightfully part of the (old or new) Russian Empire.

    2) IMHO, the presence of reasonably free, prosperous and non-corrupt countries on the border of Russia is a massive threat, because everybody going back and forth across the border can see the contrast.

    1
  20. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: Dreher has become ridiculously garrulous in his writing recently, to the point that I’ve been skipping over his screeds and jumping to the comments.

    And now they’ve decided to put the comments behind a paywall? My my. I suspect that the bulk of visitors to their website were people like me, people who read but did not comment. We’re certainly not interested enough in TAC’s silliness to a) pay for access to commenting, and then b) get thrown off the comments because whatever we’ve said has hurt the poor little feelings of one of their writers.

    (What TAC needs is someone who can act as a journalistic editor and insist that the TAC authors start Proving Their Work. Dreher is notorious for flying off the handle on issues without checking his sources or checking the validity of his arguments in legal areas with experts in the field. Several of the other “authors” are just as bad. As it is, I suspect TAC has done the equivalent of creating a circle-jerk which will gradually dwindle into nothingness over time as fewer and fewer readers find them producing decent writing.)

  21. Radu says:

    TAC has done the equivalent of creating a circle-jerk which will gradually dwindle into nothingness over time as fewer and fewer readers find them producing decent writing

    That’s sadly true. I’ve been reading Dreher for about a decade, back when he was mostly insightful and not obsessively anti-trans before. I only started commenting about 2 years ago, and in earnest only with the Ukraine war. It seemed to me that Rod was supporting Putin with his gut, because Putin is anti-woke and wouldn’t not allow a gay pride parade or drag queen story hour in Donetsk.

    When I wrote what I thought I was immediately banned. I did not insult Rod, and there was plenty of substance for what I wrote–Rod could never help himself, when writing about Ukraine or Russian atrocities, he would write a couple paragraphs on that, then immediately veer off into “but the woke decadent West is worse” and how sissified the US military is, compared to the very macho promo videos of the Chinese or Russian militaries.

  22. Radu says:

    @grumpy realist:

    We’re certainly not interested enough in TAC’s silliness to a) pay for access to commenting, and then b) get thrown off the comments because whatever we’ve said has hurt the poor little feelings of one of their writers.

    I have to admit, in the last couple years I was just going there for the comments–there were constructive debates/arguments, if you just ignored Putin’s trolls (mostly from his troll farm in St. Petersburg, I suspect, but there must have been some naive Americans too).

    But there is no way I would pay for access to comments on TAMC. Larison has been gone for a couple years, and Dreher’s quality is a shadow of its former self. There are more deserving publications for me to spend my money on.