How “Moderate” Has Changed Its Meaning

I was rather shocked to hear a cable news discussion of Senator Hillary Clinton’s pledge to “totally obliterate them” if the Iranian government were to launch an attack on Israel. One pundit pointed out that that remark was a part of her campaign to appeal to “moderate voters.” The others all nodded sagely.

How is it “moderate” to pledge to “totally obliterate” a nation of over seventy million people? How did “moderate” change its meaning so drastically?

12 Responses to “How “Moderate” Has Changed Its Meaning”

  1. Harold Lee Wise, author of “Inside the Danger Zone: The U.S. Military in the Persian Gulf, 1987-1988:”

    which came out last year from the U.S. Naval Institute Press argues that even if outgunned, Iran will not back down from a fight. In 1988 U.S.-Iranian Naval War, the Iranians surprised American intelligence officers with their “aggressiveness and boldness.

    He concludes that the Iranians believe that they can take on a larger foe, and if not win, then do a hell of a lot of damage, and history shows they may be right.

    There’s a lot of bull***t from the Neocons that Iran cannot be deterred:

    that they’re basically “crazy” and out of touch with “reality” so that we have no choice but to go to war.

    The Iranians can be fierce — but they’re not insane, and therein lies the rational strategy and approach, and Hillary has hit it on the head:

    If diplomacy with Iran fails over it’s nuclear program (a highly likely outcome), the United States will be left with only two options: deterrence and preventive war. Of these policies, deterrence is the “least bad,” asserts a study released by the Cato Institute. In the policy analysis “The Bottom Line on Iran: The Costs and Benefits of Preventive War versus Deterrence,”

    Justin Logan, foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute, systematically analyzes the short- and long-term consequences of both deterrence and preventative war, demonstrating that the costs of military action in Iran would be nightmarish.

    Hillary, I think, gets this, and she correctly believes that the Iranians are not suicidal (the top leadership anyway) and that they are in good contact with reality and that they are capable of rational geopolitical calculation. Given this — what do you do? Exactly what Hillary did:

    You define reality for them. You deter them — you scare the hell out of them and let them know in absolutely no ambiguous uncertain terms that utter and complete destruction awaits any really dumb stupid thing they could do, like attack the U.S. or an ally with a nuclear weapon. If they don’t get that, if they don’t believe that, then hundreds of thousands if not millions of Middle-Eastern peoples are more likely to face living and dying in a real nightmare someday.


    for more details.

  2. Pardon me for quoting Joe Sobran, but your question reminded me of a couple of quotes of his.

    Sobran is anti-abortion. He’s a bit miffed that everyone who’s against abortion is called an “extremist,” but nobody has ever been called an “extremist” in defense of abortion, no matter how many abortions they defend. 90% of abortions that take place are unjustified in the eyes of 90% of Americans, but these 90% are called “extremists,” while those who support all abortions are just “moderates” or “centrists.” Sobran Quote #1:

    “So we have a weird political spectrum in which ‘moderation’ lies not at the midpoint, but at the left end. One extreme is ‘extremist,’ while the opposite extreme is ‘moderate.'”

    If it had been announced on Jan 22, 1973, when Roe v. Wade was handed down, that the Court had approved the killing of one million babies a year, under circumstances like “I had a new bikini I wanted to wear this summer,” the reaction to the decision would have been more intensely negative. But if I’m not mistaken, the decision was limited to the first 6 months of pregnancy, under conditions that seemed more restrictive (“life and health of mother”). Yesterday’s “extreme” is today’s “center.”

    Same with war. Military intervention isn’t initially sold as “mass obliteration.” It’s a “surgical strike.” Maybe even “a cakewalk.” But it seems that once we head down the path of killing people to solve our “problems,” we get used to the idea of killing, and adding a few zeros to the body count doesn’t seem to upset us.

    I’m a pro-life anarchist, which explains my attraction to a “purist” interpretation of the Libertarian Party Pledge:

    “I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social [and I would add ‘personal’] goals.”

    So here’s the better-known Sobran Quote #2:

    If you want government to intervene domestically, you’re a “liberal.”
    If you want government to intervene overseas, you’re a “conservative.”
    If you want government to intervene everywhere, you’re a “moderate.”
    If you don’t want government to intervene anywhere, you’re an “extremist.”

  3. Obliterating only the nation that strikes Israel would be “moderate.”

    “Extreme” might be something like undermining the authority of all Islamic governments in the region in response to an attack on Israel (much as the United States is striving to do in response to the terrorist attacks of 2001).


    OBAMA SAID two months ago that he was going to NUKE PAKISTAN? The media ignored it then and still is! GIVE BOTH SIDES! THIS IS RIDICULOUS! AND A SAD DAY FROM THE BIAS IN THE MEDIA AND THE TWO FACED OBAMA! very two faced! He says whatever he needs to to win votes! AMERICAN VOTERTS, DO NOT BE TAKEN IN BY WRIGHT’S CROANIE!

  5. Question for “The Charters Of Dreams”:

    Flying planes into the World Trade Center strikes me as both suicidal and insane. Can you point me to resources which could calm my fears about Iran buying into this suicidal jihadism? A “pragmatist” with no moral scruples against “totally obliterating” a population needs to hear such reassuring information.

  6. Anonymous

    this illustrates that hillary is an insane neo-con. let’s see how much oil will cost after the neo-con fantasy of destroying iran is realized! she ought to realize that the zionists can destroy iran on their own through the aid that the US has given them by stealing from the American taxpayer.

  7. Seven years the tears of Heaven were bound, from 2001 to 2008. If anyone thinks we have come anywhere close to completing the retaliation in store against Islam, s/he is sadly mistaken.

  8. Dear Kevin,
    I don’t quite understand your observation/question, but it sounds like you’re asking a rational and very good question: Does Deterrence work (against a Nation State)? And I think the history and the rational nature of human psychology suggest it does.

    Even if it’s not foolproof (and, of course, it’s not), the costs and problems associated with deterrence is far Far FAR better than WAR. Could HRC worded it all a bit differently? Sure — but the message, the intent, the “idea” would need to have been exactly the same, and just as crystal clear.

    For references, check these out:

    – yours in Peace,
    The Charters Of Dreams

  9. Maciano

    @Mr. Palmer

    Could you & CATO post a non-endorsement of any candidate?

    McCain, Obama & Hillary, they’re all enemies of freedom, malevolent, economically illiterate, irresponsible and intellectually empty vessels.

    Why should a nation of 300m people be led by anyone of these? The US deserves a whole lot better.

  10. “He’s a bit miffed that everyone who’s against abortion is called an ‘extremist,’ but nobody has ever been called an ‘extremist’ in defense of abortion”

    Sobran is confused as usual. The government of China would generally be recognised as pro-abortion extremists, because they force women to have abortions. The opposite extreme is forcibly preventing women from having abortions. The moderate position between Sobran’s anti-abortion extremism and China’s pro-abortion extremism is the pro-choice position which makes abortions neither forbidden nor compulsory. (Of course one might call that pro-choice extremism. But then, extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice — to quote Barry Goldwater, or perhaps Karl Hess, or perhaps Harry Jaffa, or perhaps Cicero.)

  11. Tom G. Palmer

    The Cato Institute always non-endorses candidates, since a research Institute doesn’t (and shouldn’t) endorse candidates for office.

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