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On V Update to Old Ideas: Ebola, More Munich Analogies and Isolationism Edition

As we wait for (hopefully) another guest piece to go up somewhere, enjoy this “On V Update to Old Ideas”.

Ebole Updates!

First off, some good news: last year, when we wrote about Ebola--click here and here to read those posts--we repeated a warning from scientists, “Ebola could become more dangerous if it, ironically, becomes less dangerous. If the disease mutates in a way that allows more victims to live and live longer, it could become a pandemic by not burning out too quickly.”

Because the international community took so long to act, we (humanity) increased the risk of making Ebola more dangerous. Turns out, though, we dodged a pathogenic bullet on this one. According to the Los Angeles Times, “...new research published Thursday in the journal Science suggests that the virus is undergoing only limited mutational changes, and is no more virulent than when the outbreak began.”

Just to point it out: we are correcting ourselves. In other words, early reports were too pessimistic. At least the Los Angeles Times corrected the record. Most news outlets, when offered the opportunity to correct the record, don’t. This is also a good warning on general science reporting: early reports are often wrong and inaccurate.

As we mentioned earlier and in our original posts, the international community took way too long to react to Ebola. But the bigger concern is our country’s focus on reactive policies, instead of proactive policies. Julia Belluz at Vox (linking to the New York Times) has great article describing how America’s reaction--impromptu treatment facilities in affected countries--has utterly failed.

Too Many Munich Moments!

The day after we finished writing about Ebola last December, Michael C wrote, “How Do We Stop the Worst Analogy in Foreign Policy?” in which he joined the chorus of pundits asking that the “Munich” analogy be killed. Of course, we failed to convince a few politicians complaining about the new Iran agreement on nuclear weapons, including...

    - Ted Cruz

    - Mark Kirk

    - Tom Cotton

    - John Bolton

    - Victor Davis Hanson (The Washington Times)

    - Michael Markovsky (The Weekly Standard)

    - William Kristol (The Weekly Standard)

    - Roger Simon (PJ Media)

    - Joel Pollak (Breitbart)

    - Thomas Sowell (National Review)

Each of the above pundits and politicians, arguing against a deal with Iran, immediately argued, “This is Munich!” How rhetorically depressing is this? It’s as unsurprising as it is disappointing.

To highlight the good news, some writers pushed back, including Paul Waldmen in The Washington Post, Jim Newell at Salon, Dominic Tierney at The Atlantic, and Amanda Taub at Vox. It’s a point that can’t be remade enough.

Rick Perry Hates Isolationism...and Foreign Aid

Another fun fact, related to rhetoric and foreign policy: as Michael C wrote in “I’m an Isolationist?”, some politicians accuse people who don’t want to invade foreign countries of being isolationists. In July last year, Rick Perry wrote a Washington Post op-ed stating just that, “Isolationist policies make the threat of terrorism even greater”.

But what’s rick Perry’s stance on foreign aid spending?

A quick google search reveals this headline, “Perry: My foreign aid budget starts at zero” from the Republican primary in 2012. So he isn’t an isolationist, but he wants the U.S. to isolate itself from all other countries with zero foreign aid spending. To be fair, Rick Perry’s position was more nuanced than that--after cutting the budget to zero, he wants to re-analyze all foreign aid allocations on a yearly basis, which is beyond impractical--but the overall message is the same: fighting wars abroad is fine, supporting other countries peacefully is not a priority.

Saudi Arabia Sucks Compared to Iran

America does not get along with Iran...because they’re evil. After President Obama wrote a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year, Mitt Romney “...was frankly stunned that the president of the United States would write a letter of that nature and in effect, legitimize a nation and a leadership which is violating international norms and is threatening the world.

As we’ve written before--and discussed in the comments section of our Iran post two weeks ago--these norms are incredibly inconsistent. Take, for example, Saudi Arabia. Did you know they’ve outlawed movie theaters? Did you know saudi Arabia awarded a prize to an Islamic scholar who called 9/11 an inside job? Did you know they still behead people? And they’re beheading people at a faster rate this year than last year.

Speaking of Self-Interest…

In January 2014, Zack Beauchamp had a great article on Henry Kissinger, “The Toxic Cult of Henry Kissinger”. First, Zack breaks down the actual divide in American politics is “not the split between Left and Right, or civil libertarians and security state hawks, or interventionists and non-interventionists. It's between those who buy into the cult of America's national interest and those who don't.”

This is an awesome way to look at American foreign policy, and how to fix it.

More importantly, Zach describes Kissinger’s many war crimes and how that doesn’t seem to affect either his esteem or celebrity. Why? Because the American security establishment supports Kissinger’s actions because they supported America, no matter how shorted or immoral.