Democrats & Liberals Archives

What We Want To Hear

What we all want to hear is the war’s going fine, that our soldiers will be home soon, that al-Qaeda is truly weakened, that the threat of large scale terrorism like that of 9/11 is passed, and that we will never see a WMD detonation on our soil.

As Americans, especially after 9/11, the words we would love to hear, if we could believe they reflected the truth would be those words. It may not seem like it, sometimes, but I sympathize with those on the Red Column who want good news.

The problem is, some on the Right are sacrificing awareness of the war for secure feelings on it. I can understand what drives that impulse, but I think it's going to cost everybody concerned.

Calling people partisan in this election is like shooting fish in a barrel. Few people went in unopinionated. If being partisan was wrong, everybody was. Partisanship and truth were separate issues. I know that as much as I was called partisan or negative or pessimist, I was rarely if ever called on my facts. The position taken against me most on the issue of the war always tacitly accepted bad events and the like as true, portraying my error as one of having an image of the war unbalanced by the leaving out of additional positive facts.

Usually offered were anecdotal and local stories about the good done, the local's pleasure at our presence, etc., etc. I suppose some conservatives may wonder how I could still hold my position in spite of that. I guess because my feeling is that all those gains, if real could be undone by the terrorist and insurgent activities.

The criticism is not of the goodwill we are trying to spread, but rather of the priorities taken by the administration, and their consequences. For me, at least, it seems this administration was trying to run before it could walk, control when it had not yet conquered, raise the building before foundations had been put into place. Without security and law and order the reconstruction of both Iraq and it's government will be in vain.

Of course, without those reconstructions, any attempt to quell the uprising will do little good. The suffering and destitution brought on by the war will only create a fertile new ground for our enemy to recruit from. We're running around trying to do two things at once, both of which required greater numbers of soldiers earlier on. I'm happy to see that Bush has finally seen fit to raise troop levels but even then, Bush is playing a dangerous game.

Only 1500 of the soldiers will be fresh to the front. Most of the ten thousand additional troops will simply be delayed from going home. People will hear that more troops are in Iraq, truth is, more will be staying. This has been the standard policy for the Administration: extend deployments, rather than increase the numbers of soldiers in the army going there fresh. Unfortunately, many of the people who have seen these longer tours of duty ordered are not professional soldiers like those being retained this time, but instead citizen soldiers, whose long term deployment are causing economic problems, among other things. According to statistics quoted from Stars and Stripes in this report, the National Guard units and Reservists have the lowest morale of all those forces called up to Iraq.

They are forty percent of the soldiers in Iraq, or two out of every five. These are the facts on the ground: that the forces we are most counting on to get us out of this mess are the ones who have been most ill-used by the current deployment policy, and are most pessimistic about the results of the Iraq policy in general.

I think many Republicans miss some of the tells that would alert them to the disingenuous nature of what they're being told. For example: Forty percent of our soldiers in Iraq are National Guard and reservists. That's about 56,000. The remaining 84,000 are about what was originally deployed in the initial invasion. In short, the charges of using a backdoor draft to bulk up undermanned forces are true. It's worth noting that the last time the Guards and Reserves were called up was back during the Korean war, when the Chinese counteroffensive caught an almost victorious America off guard.

Ironically, the draft turned out to be the more politically expedient option there, because bringing in the guardsmen and reserves would have been a tacit admission of insufficient troop strength. Now, it's the draft that's politically untenable. But if our increases here don't do the job, sooner or later, with our troop commitments, it'll be the only good option. I don't like the idea of the draft, but if called, I will serve.

There are many other issues where the signs are clear for those who look for them. For example, the fact that we're still without international military support, besides token forces set up there by partner countries.

Here are the figures on the troop deployments, as of November 4, 2004. Twenty-Eight countries have sent troops.

Notice:

*Eight countries have pulled out, become unwilling, if you catch my meaning. Those Include Spain and other countries.

*Only thirteen countries have sent more than two hundred troops. Of those only six have more than a thousand troops there, and two of them are on the way out. Only one nation has sent more than five thousand. You know the one I'm talking about. Of the 28 nations that have troops over there, seven have less than a hundred troops there The lowest, the Norwegian contingent, is about 10 soldiers strong. And even they are not staying.

*Poland (you remember them?) may be pulling out entirely by the end of next year, and by March, the Dutch and the Hungarians will be out for sure.

*In all, the foreign contribution to the coalition is about 28,500. As of November we had 140,000. Our levels are set to increase to about 150,000, while the foreign contribution stands to drop by about three or four thousand.

How much that last part stands to change anything is questionable. But by the time everything is said and done, there may be five American troops for ever one foreign soldier, and few of those soldiers will be fighting alongside ours.

So what are we to make of the coalition of the willing? Mostly it's us. We outnumber our nearest partner by a factor of ten. For every nine countries in the coalition, only two are fielding over a thousand soldiers. Only one has more than five thousand soldiers there. Britain is the only one in this coalition besides us has fielded more than ten thousand as well, and they barely have more than that. We are an order of magnitude greater than our nearest ally. The image of the Coalition of the willing far outstrips its reality. Since that puts more Americans on the line, Republicans should know these things.

I'm not sure the Republicans in this country are all that well informed about the events they seek to support. A survey revealed that the people who watch The Daily Show answered more questions correctly about foreign policy than those that watch FOXnews. I doubt it's a matter of intelligence, but I do think there's something important at work here that Republicans should take note of.

Namely, that Conservative and Republican sources are lousy at telling their people the truth. They are concerned about image and agenda, and what gets in the way of that gets thrown out. Contrary to their slogan, FOXnews tends to decide what the story will be before the audience hears about it. The worse it is for the Republicans, the less chance it will get run. Knowingly or unknowingly, Republicans and Conservatives keep themselves on this starvation diet of the facts, only digesting the low-carb white-house talking points instead of looking at the facts and coming to their own conclusion.

If the Republicans keep this up, they will lose power. Already, large numbers of our fellow citizens, having learned the whys and wherefores of what Bush and his team actually did have left the president's camp, turning a popular incumbent into one who barely squeaked by to an election victory.

Bush is setting himself up for such things again, choosing loyalists to fill positions in his cabinet. Unfortunately, if people are not willing to tell him what he doesn't want to hear, he won't hear about a number of inconvenient and uncomfortable truths until they've become urgent and dangerous problems for Americans.

Now is not the time to bubble ourselves away from the realities. I believe in a hard-edge sort of realism that some might mistake for pessimism. We should be willing to use military force when circumstances call for it. Diplomacy cannot be used to the exception of all other means. We should be willing to invade other countries and depose governments when they threaten our security, even short of UN approval. But we should only be willing to do so when we can prove to ourselves and others what's going on, and then we should err on the side of caution with the size of forces we use. Business may be able to win by cutting corners, but we lose wars when we apply less than overwhelming force and presence to things like invasions and occupations.

Sometimes, things that comfort in appearance can be destructive in fact. A credit card reassures you that you'll always have money ready to spend, even as the debts build up and drag one's actual prosperity down. Drugs and alcohol can make one feel comfort and pleasure, even as they wreck your life and drag its quality down. The highs of drugs substitute for pleasures taken in a well-lived life. A staff of people who only tell you what you want to hear, who only comment on the positive aspects of your strategies may make you feel big and important, but they can cripple your ability to deal with the actual problems going on, and remove the feedback that would improve your decision.

A media that slants Republican, that doesn't reveal the uncomfortable truths about what things are going on, that doesn't critique or even confront the GOP leaders on issues may be a comfort to those of the right wing, but it will be an addicting and degrading opiate that will ultimately destroy the credibility of the GOP's political philosophies and policies, and leave the Republicans an embittered, isolated minority. Get people to tell it like it is to you, or get busy being deceived and humiliated.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at December 3, 2004 6:16 PM