Democrats & Liberals Archives

War In Context

It is altogether necessary to view such complex actions as the waging of a war in context, not merely as ideas or elements of psychology. We can fool ourselves that everything centers on morale and a continually favorable opinion of the war, or we can recognize that the conduct of a war can feed into people’s opinion of it, and that it is foolish to focus on issues of morale and public opinion when basic issues of waging the war are neglected.

It's easy to fall in love with the headgames, since all they seem to require resides upstairs in the old cabeza. However, this is a dangerous illusion. Most of what happens in a war, depends on elements external to ourselves and what's in our heads. Some may evoke the importance of luck in war, but luck can be anything not in our control that we are brought to confront. While there are undoubtly turns of fortune that could knock us on our ass, our bad luck in Iraq is mostly the result of folks just not thinking things through.

Talking Points Memo reprinted this quote from Berthold Brecht that wittily sums up the attitude of some supporters of this current war:

... the people Had forfeited the confidence of the government And could win it back only By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier In that case for the government To dissolve the people And elect another?

And so it goes. We here so many of the war's supporters, seeing withdrawal on the horizon, lamenting the lack of nerve, guts, or whatever body part or virtue on the part of the American people, as if we had failed the greatness of the leaders rather than the leaders the greatness of their nation.

This nation, in the time we've fought in Iraq,once back the world from two empires that were technological and military equals. They were fanatical enemies, one of whom actually believed that their leader was a Divine being, a God. What is the average terrorist's will to fight to the death and die for their vision of Islam compared to that of the Japanese soldier's will to die for his emperor?

There's more at work in our current situation in Iraq than just the will of one side or another. America managed to defeat both of our enemies without becoming fanatics ourselves, and in fact perhaps because we spared ourselves that fate. Fanatics don't question, even when things need questioning. Fanatics don't conserve strength or pull back from unfavorable circumstances. They don't admit to mistakes, don't learn from them, to the extent that their more pragmatic brethren do.

You can believe strongly in the spirit of something without assuming arrogant airs of certainty about things, without cutting yourself off from critical thought or unconventional options. A fanatic's rigidity may give them strength and power in the short term, but it wears them out and breaks them down eventually, once people learn to stand up to them. The vaunted Kamikaze attacks chewed up more resources and men than they ended up saving, because people never returned from the missions to tell the leaders that sending only one plane at a time against individual ships made it very easy to shoot down the sacrificial warrior before they ever got around to making their preferred impact on the American forces. The last plane involved in the 9/11 attacks never got around to its target because the decidedly non-fanatical Americans on board learned of the attacks already made, and decided to rush the terrorists and take them down. Stubborn beliefs and unyielding will are no match for the realities of war and ordinary life when those beliefs do not grant understanding of the adversaries' response, or the means to carry out one's wishes. al-Qaeda members may have had fierce belief in their religion and their cause, but without theknowledge of how to pilot planes, how to get past security, and how to keep the passengers under their control, they wouldn't have gotten past square one.

These are people who can be defeated by practical means. They are not Gods walking among us.

Neither are we Gods walking among the Iraqis. We too can become victims of fanatical beliefs unmoderated by understanding of the facts. The fact is, Iraq has been the mixing bowl of different interests and cultures for over five millenia, and that hasn't shown any signs of letting up. A one-size fits all approach was never going to work, even as foolish men and women tried to apply it. Looking at this as a problem of confronting Islamofascists was no more helpful for us than viewing everybody as dirty Europeans would have been for Truman in Post-War Japan.

There's an interesting scene in The Fog of War where Robert MacNamara got into an bit of an argument with a Vietnamese minister at a recent trade function about why it was necessary for the Vietnamese to have defended their independence from us so zealously. During the course of that conversation, MacNamara asserted something to the effect that the Vietnamese were essentially being coopted by Communist Chinese interests. The Vietnamese minister's response? Nonsense! His people had been fighting the Chinese for a thousand years!

Similarly, we overestimated the fealty of Chinese Communism to Soviet Communism. As it ended up, the Chinese were no more close to the Soviets than the Vietnamese were close to them. There would be border skirmishes and even outright wars between these powers. What we failed to realize was that even communists, who were supposed to be all buddy-buddy with each other, could be nationalists as well, creating a regional brand of communism that didn't answer or want to answer to the more worldwide version. We could have used that to our advantage, either by coopting the spirit of the nationalism, or by being friendly with those governments and pressuring them later on towards more centrist, moderate policies. We like our direct confrontations, but we have also benefited over time by employing the fine art of being sneaky bastards and good dealmakers.

Confronting Saddam in Iraq, our leaders latched onto one particular party of exiles, and bought their not-so-disinterested picture of a nation yearning almost openly to throw Saddams rule off an accept their own. If they had stepped back, they might have considered that getting a second opinion and confirmation on these matters would have been wise. Unfortunately, what the Bush administration wanted confirmed was that invading would be easy, Saddam would be toppled without trouble, and that the INC and Chalabi could be slid right in to fill the gap. In essence, the Bush administration was sold on a Coup-de-etat, with our military's assistance.

What happened instead, could be described, as in State of Denial in terms of what happened when Stalin departed this Earth: The system, so dependent on the top, unraveled from there down. we were in charge of things one way or another. Saddam left us in charge of a mess, in charge of a dysfunctional country badly in need of repair. Strategically, it was a terrible trap to fall into, quite a piece of bad luck. However, it need not have been a permanent problem. If we had come in with some basic plans already in place for this contingency, we might have avoided much of dark troubles of these last few years. The stitch in time would have saved nine. Unfortunately, the Bush administration planned for the war it wanted, rather than the wars it might get. Because of that, we were forced to play catchup, playing a chaotic traffic jam by ear, with just as much success.

This, not some media or political headgame, is where the war fell apart for us. We might have been able to salvage something, if this president was willing to admit to his mistake and change policy, but wasn't to be. What we had instead was a president who insisted that the war would be won on his strategy or not at all. He wrapped up his ego in doing things his way, on his plan. The rest of the Republicans backed him on this play, and made it a sin to disagree with him, even in the interests of winning the war!

What we see here is political fanaticism replacing critical thinking, groupthink replacing individual insight and unvarnished advice. The Republicans and the Bush White House keep complaining that everybody's dumping on them with 20/20 Hindsight, but the record, across the board, has shown that to be little more than wishful thinking on the Republican's part. One advisor after another told them what was going to happen. They didn't listen. They shut themselves off from those they deemed unworthy, naive, those they believed were trying to get in the way of their great deeds with defeatist predictions and appeasing alternatives. They had to have things their way.

But like everybody else, they didn't get things their way. People spoke to them with foresight and experience on these kinds of concerns, and they simply didn't listen, and that is why they are in this position now. It wasn't that the Democrats were a hundred percent right. We were wrong at the beginning, too. But we were willing to revise our views to fit the facts when that became apparent.

Wars are won based on the facts on the ground, and whether you're prepared or willing to deal with them. They are won on knowing your opponent for what they are, not merely for what you wish or believed they are. Wars are won in the context of the real world, and must be planned for as such. Our approaches must not be dictated by doctrine, but instead by the needs of the situation, for being doctrinally right and practically wrong is far worse than being doctrinally incorrect but nonetheless victorious.

If we lose this war, it won't be because people complained about its execution, or opposed the leaders who planned it. In the real world, neither can be avoided. If we lose it, we lose it because people substituted their notions for what ought to happen with good hard thinking about what might happen besides that. Murphy's law is the only rule wars truly observe, and all things obey it. Our defeat, if it comes, will be the result of those who had too much faith in the dogma of their ideas and not enough respect for the perversity of events in human history. It takes more serious and humble minds than theirs to win a war.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at December 1, 2006 3:53 PM
Comments
Comment #197298

Stephen D.
“We can fool ourselves that everything centers on morale and a continually favorable opinion of the war”

The opposite is also true though, is it not?
By placing one’s personal opinion of war, who is leading it and a desire for a certain political outcome at the forefront, are we not affecting its outcome in some way?

The lack of respect you give morale shows why the military views Republicans as being more supportive than the left.
I totally believe the vast majority of the left really cares about the welfare of our troops but in your quest to end the war or to have it run your way, you have disregarded how your actions may be interpreted by our soldiers.
It is possible to show ones unhappiness with how the war is going without damaging the morale of the troops, you guys just choose not to worry about morale. You are wrong.

I’m not sure where you are getting this “continually favorable opinion of the war” feeling from but I haven’t seen it.
Friends over there say they are making progress and want to know why its not reported. They don’t like the war either but they have a job to do and they do not dwell on things like “why are we here” and “Bush lied” and other things that make no difference now that we are there.

There’s more to supporting the troops than buying a yellow ribbon or just saying you want them home. You have to also respect them and the job they do.
And until you start placing them before your politics, no matter how well intentioned you may be, they will not view your type of support as being more supportive than those who, as the left says about us, “drape themselves in the flag.”

Really good and interesting post Stephen.

Posted by: kctim at December 1, 2006 5:38 PM
Comment #197302

Stephen,

We can fool ourselves that everything centers on morale and a continually favorable opinion of the war, or we can recognize that the conduct of a war can feed into people’s opinion of it, and that it is foolish to focus on issues of morale and public opinion when basic issues of waging the war are neglected.

I find it interesting that, as you say, public opinion and morale means absolutely nothing, such that, it is defensible to completely undermine the war while we are trying to fight it, but on the other hand world opinion is paramount when it comes to electing a President and criticizing Bush. …So which is it?

Liberals, Democrats, and the Kerry campaign made a big deal about how we are less liked as a result of Bush’s Presidency in story after story like this one:

Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry says he has heard “from people who are leaders elsewhere in the world who don’t appreciate the Bush administration approach and would love to see a change in the leadership of the United States.”

Maybe they are responding to opinion in their own countries.

CNN’s Richard Quest, who recently returned from a tour of the U.S., said: “There are vast numbers of people, especially in Europe, that are looking at the United States population and cannot understand how they want to re-elect George W. Bush. It is a simple fact.” ~cnn.com

And this one:
But in the international online media, the vast majority of commentators are harshly critical of President George W. Bush. On every continent pundits are faulting Bush for his persona as well as his policies. Most dislike his conduct of the war in Iraq. Many say his attitude toward the rest of the world is contemptuous, misinformed and dangerous.

This chorus of criticism is part of the globalization of U.S. politics. In a world with only one superpower, many people feel a stake in the U.S. election, even if they don’t have a vote. ~washingtonpost.com

So does world opinion matter in order to carry out foreign policy, but somehow domestic opinion doesn’t in carrying out war policy?

The issue of morale and favorable opinion about the war is not about acting favorable or manufacturing support. It’s about refraining from undermining and sabotaging. It’s about being able to have determination and carry out difficult jobs.

Democrats should let the enemy do the undermining rather than joining with them to condemn and libel the troops, the war, and Bush. We expect such from Al Qaeda and Sunni Baathists, but when it comes from Democratic congressman, it’s not loyal opposition— it crosses the line.

You now have news agencies printing completely false stories because it help the war effort, that is the war against the war effort.

You may recall Republicans opposing the military intervention in Bosnia, but you did not hear it for long. Clinton consulted no one. He didn’t go to the UN to authorize it. He went to congress the day before he began bombing.

Posted by: esimonson at December 1, 2006 6:05 PM
Comment #197304

Stephen Daugherty

Excellent, an I can appreciate your ability to keep
and apply the notion that honesty and truthfulness
is always the best policy. Most folks do not
expect our Government to tell secrets, nor do we
believe we should be lied to. thanks, a great
read.

-


Posted by: DAVID at December 1, 2006 6:19 PM
Comment #197308

Eric,

“The issue of morale and favorable opinion about the war is not about acting favorable or manufacturing support. It’s about refraining from undermining and sabotaging. It’s about being able to have determination and carry out difficult jobs.”

Baloney!

If we had gone in and been accepted as we had been told we would be and if things were going well (as planned?), this would all be moot.

We have been told from the beginning that things were swell in Iraq, we’d rebuild(?) the army and police forces, and everything would be hunky dory.

Well is everything hunky dory in Iraq?
You know, being victorious is a hell of a morale boost.

Posted by: Rocky at December 1, 2006 6:45 PM
Comment #197309

kctim, esimonson,

Maybe I’m wrong, I read Stephen’s post as implying:

We can fool ourselves that everything centers on morale and a continually favorable opinion of the war, or we can recognize that the conduct of a war can feed into people’s opinion of it, and that it is foolish to focus solely on issues of morale and public opinion when basic issues of waging the war are neglected.

I’ve read Stephen’s posts for some time now, and I can’t imagine his implication is to totally disregard the importance of public morale with regard to the war. In fact, I’ve seen virtually every “liberal” poster acknowledge their support for our troops despite limited support of the war. Refer to the recent thread on the Conservative side of the blog in response the the poster’s brother’s return from Iraq. I’m not sure how lack of support for the war, particularly when the rationale behind that lack of support is clearly spelled out (and justified), can be equated to your proposition that liberals “condemn and libel the troops”. Most of the liberals I know have great respect for the troops and the “job they do”. I think an individual is capable of respecting a soldier’s duty without holding his orders, mission, or mandate in high regard. Perhaps that concept is a little bit too dualistic for some folks…black-and-white thinking is easier.

Posted by: Dr D at December 1, 2006 6:46 PM
Comment #197316

Dr D-
Thank you for noting the nuances of my statement. You make my next responses much easier.

kctim-
In Von Clausewitz’s On war, this father of modern strategic study emphasized the importance of success in bouying up the spirits of both the troops and the people at home, and of course the tendency of the opposite to drain that confidence.

I respect morale, but I’m skeptical of the ability of artificially built up morale, good or bad, to change the course of a war that’s heading robustly in one direction or another.

The real irony of your position is that despite your calls to greater morale, you’re inadvertantly blaming the troops for the failure of the war. The whole morale theory essentially says the troops aren’t fighting as strongly as they could because of a lack of support from folks at home. I have heard of too many soldiers expressing guarded hopes, too many soldiers going back, too many soldiers believing in the cause to accept such a position. I think the soldiers are doing the best they can under the circumstances. What’s held them back is the strategy.

Why do they not see this desperate picture? I imagine some do. Others see things from a more distant perspective. These folks don’t have the luxury or the orders to get them to step back and see how things are developing overall. They are up close to this, and I can understand how their work in some areas might lead them to believe that there is a brighter story there that the medias not covering. Many people in Vietnam thought the same thing. You should read General Zinni’s book with Tom Clancy, Battle Ready. He makes an interesting point about the perception of different soldiers depending on what geographical region they were serving.

From my perspective, this war is not yet lost, but awfully close to it, and whats wrong with it has more to do with how this government approached the challenges of this war. The problems we have with morale and public opinion of the war flow more from them than from the other way around. If you want a fairly balanced picture on it, State of Denial, Bob Woodward’s book, provides the essential framework of what those deficits were.

Eric-
The war has been undermined continuously by its policies. What could we do to undermine the war that the President didn’t do himself? Too few troops, no plan for taking over and rebuilding in the critical first few months of the war, inefficiencies by the truckload sucking down resources, a half-privatized army that the insurgents could paralyze by attacking the very civilian contractors our current vice president brought into the game? The flip-flop response to Najaf and Fallujah that allowed those cities to spin out of our control…

Good heavens, Eric, where do media-pounded morale, liberal backstabbing and all this other B.S. figure into these errors? These were decisions for which your people had responsibility. The real failure of morale, time and time again, was in Iraq, with the very people we sought to help, and it was a failure based on our inability to get things done!

You can cheerlead a war like Iraq all you want to, but if the jobs don’t get done, the nation doesn’t get reconstructed, and the violence and other hazards of life aren’t deal with, just how does artificially raising morale with our troops really do much good?

Success is the best creator of morale. Americans at home and overseas would naturally feel much better about the war if it were succeeding! Without success, such moral support is hollow, a mockery of what the soldiers really need.

The trouble isn’t merely that Bush has had failures. No president gets through office without them. Clinton’s success in the Balkans was preceded by his debacles in Somalia and Haiti. His failures cost him, helped get your people into offices. His successes with the Dayton accords helped keep him in office. Such is the way America works. The doggy gets a treat when he does well, gets hit on the nose with a rolled up newspaper when he piddles on the rug.

Only this president somehow thinks he’s special, that he is this country, that his plan is the war, and that criticism of him undermines both. He thinks he doesn’t have to answer for his mistakes. He thinks he only needs treats, all the time, any time he does something. the President is that kind of hound you get from people who spoil a dog, who only believe the best of it, right up until the point where he bites the neighbor’s kid. Then they blame the kid.

Determination is nice in a dog who’s looking for the game you just shot down, but not in terrier who’s hanging on the seat of the mailman’s trousers

I don’t want a leader who’s determined to remain blind to his errors, determined to continue them despite the fact that nearly everybody else in the country has become convinced of that error. I want a leader who knows what he’s doing in both the connotation of competence and that of awareness. Bush has failed miserably on both counts. If you find it objectionable that I question his judgment and want a different direction, tough. I never hitched my boat to that pier, seeing this president and his agenda as the only worthwhile choices.

The fact is, these attitudes are simply closed minded, and with a war that has been so screwed up by closed-minded policy, that is a dangerous combination.

I’m glad I stood up for what’s right here, rather that the position you folks would emotionally blackmail me to. When it comes to supporting the troops, I take it literally: equipment, strategy, and more help in manpower from stateside. When I’ve suggested the draft before, it might have done you good to consider that I might just be serious.

But again and again you’ve misjudged me and other Democrats, rationalizing our words as mere political cover for what we really believe. Problem is, I’ve never lied to you. Neither have most Democrats. We’ve meant what we’ve said. If your people were smarter, you might have met us in the middle, but unfortunately, your leaders have lead you down the fools path of trying to go this all alone as a political party, and not just a nation. That is the pity and the tragedy of this war, of good intentions squandered and patriotic resolve wasted on strategy and policy that should have been dropped for better stuff rather than defended. You were too busy trying to defeat your enemies here to defeat them over there.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 1, 2006 7:54 PM
Comment #197322
The rest of the Republicans backed him on this play, and made it a sin to disagree with him, even in the interests of winning the war!

Too true. Time and again, victory in Iraq was subsumed by Republican power politics.

The real irony of your position is that despite your calls to greater morale, you’re inadvertantly blaming the troops for the failure of the war.

That’s similar to the finger pointing that President Bush does. He says he’s giving the military all they ask for to win, while at the same time making it clear they shouldn’t ask. He’s setting up the military as a patsy.

And then there’s guys like Eric and the “Blame Americans First” crowd. What a load of bull. If there was any chance at all that America could win, the people would support the war. But Bush made one bad decision after another and it’s become clear that there will be no good outcome in Iraq.

Americans are pragmatic. If Bush isn’t going to send to Iraq the hundreds of thousands of troops necessary to get the job done right, then why throw good money and lives after bad. If Bush refuses to win, then why fight?

Posted by: American Pundit at December 1, 2006 8:34 PM
Comment #197347

Stephen,

Perhaps Eric has missed the big picture here.

While Americans do support the troops, and their support for the war itself might be slipping, maybe we should be asking if the Iraqis themselves support our troops being in Iraq.
They are the ones that will ultimately have the final say on what kind of government they will adhere to.
Are they so cowed by their experience with Saddam that they cannot or will not stand up for themselves?

It’s their country, they have to know we won’t be there forever.

Posted by: Rocky at December 1, 2006 10:27 PM
Comment #197349


AP: I think you have hit on the question we should be asking.

Why has Bush refused to win the war in Iraq?

Posted by: jlw at December 1, 2006 10:42 PM
Comment #197380

Stephen,

Clauswitz also endorsed being able to take heavy casualties as a sign of moral strength.

Let’s get back to basics.

I respect morale, but I’m skeptical of the ability of artificially built up morale, good or bad, to change the course of a war that’s heading robustly in one direction or another.

Ok. Here’s the problem(s).

1) The morale of the enemy matters. This is the whole point of pointing out that what Democrats have been doing is fueling the enemy.

Terrorists are actually using Democrats rhetoric and are waging more of an effective media war than they are a military one.

My question for you is: what kind of media war are we waging?

2) Democrats have gone far beyond mere disagreement. We can’t win. The terrorists are freedom fighters. Our army is broken. We deserve to lose because Bush doesn’t agree with us.

3) When did we lose the war? Because as I recall, you yourself said that we were losing as the invasion began.

You believe we have lost this war because of Republican mistakes and political meddling/posturing/questioning democrats patriotism. That there was no chance of winning in the first place and that the best thing to do now is give up and leave.

Posted by: esimonson at December 2, 2006 3:31 AM
Comment #197396

About being hated across the world—
We have always been hated. Other countries have always been jealous of us. This is nothing new.
About losing the war—
We have not lost yet. The Dems have tried everything to sabotage the war. Fortunately, they must do this in the public’s eye and they havent done all they can do.
One thing they can do is strip the troops of their funding, but so far only 3 Dems have voted that way.

Posted by: JoeRWC at December 2, 2006 11:07 AM
Comment #197420

Eric-
This is what he had to say on the matter:

Such is War; such the Commander who conducts it; such the theory which rules it. But War is no pastime; no mere passion for venturing and winning; no work of a free enthusiasm: it is a serious means for a serious object. All that appearance which it wears from the varying hues of fortune, all that it assimilates into itself of the oscillations of passion, of courage, of imagination, of enthusiasm, are only particular properties of this means.

His point and mine is that moral strength, while important, cannot serve to win a war by itself. Von Clausewitz, whose work I read cover to cover also had this to say:

Force of character leads us to a spurious variety of it —OBSTINACY.

It is often very difficult in concrete cases to say where the one ends and the other begins; on the other hand, it does not seem difficult to determine the difference in idea.

Obstinacy is no fault of the understanding; we use the term as denoting a resistance against our better judgment, and it would be inconsistent to charge that to the understanding, as the understanding is the power of judgment. Obstinacy is A FAULT OF THE FEELINGS or heart. This inflexibility of will, this impatience of contradiction, have their origin only in a particular kind of egotism, which sets above every other pleasure that of governing both self and others by its own mind alone. We should call it a kind of vanity, were it not decidedly something better. Vanity is satisfied with mere show, but obstinacy rests upon the enjoyment of the thing.

We say, therefore, force of character degenerates into obstinacy whenever the resistance to opposing judgments proceeds not from better convictions or a reliance upon a trustworthy maxim, but from a feeling of opposition. If this definition, as we have already admitted, is of little assistance practically, still it will prevent obstinacy from being considered merely force of character intensified, whilst it is something essentially different—something which certainly lies close to it and is cognate to it, but is at the same time so little an intensification of it that there are very obstinate men who from want of understanding have very little force of character.

The Democrat’s argument, is that Bush’s determination and persistence in his course, and yours by association are mere obstinance. We can back this claim by any number of documented occasions where advice, plans, and the mechanism for carrying out plans were offered to the President and Sec. Rumsfeld, and were subsequently rejected or ignored.

The morale of the enemy matters, but it is secondary in a conflict to their object. Are they trying to generate bad publicity? No doubt, but that’s not all they’ve been doing. If their aim had merely been at giving us a black eye, they’d be no worse than an annoyance.

What they’ve been doing is going after political targets, infrastructure, reconstruction, military convoys, and flashpoints for sectarian conflict. Different groups have had different aims, but each wishes to use the lack of law and order to disrupt things further and enable their power on the ground. Many of these insurgents have a political agenda. Embarrassing us is not their primary objective. Preventing the broad coalition government from asserting its authority is. Our strategy has not prevented the insurgents from attaining their goal. When a bastard like al-Sadr can hamstring the government in Iraq so easy, that is the only sensible conclusion.

There’s a reason things are this way: we never truly had power over Iraq. We never had control. We couldn’t park a APC full of troops on a trouble spot and leave it there. We went in lean, with no plans for what to do if we couldn’t dump reconstruction and the governing of Iraq in somebody else’s lap. Even though we ostensibly had authority over the nation, we didn’t have the troops to keep things to a low simmer. Because we could not reliably keep things calm, the insurgents were emboldened to do even more, which we were even less able to confront them on. Then we made the boneheaded mistake of laying of the military and giving the insurgents extra reinforcements. Between Rumsfeld’s and Bremer’s micromanagement, our ability to respond to civic and reconstruction issues was laughable.

What emboldened the terrorist wasn’t negative publicity here at home. It was success, success that the lack of really governing presence, the lack of real military control had set the stage for. Our options are more limited now that these groups have had a chance under Bush’s negligence to develop, recruit, and embolden themselves with successful attacks. I still would like to see us come out the best we can on this, but whatever plan we come up with must start with what we’ve got in front of us.

We’re not fighting this war in Right-Wing fantasy land, where anything is possible. We’re fighting this under the constraints of the real world. It doesn’t mean we can’t do better than lose, but it does mean that we’re in a worse position than if we had dealt with this earlier. It also means that if we continue doing things Bush’s way, as we have been doing, then we can kiss any kind of victory or positive solution goodbye, because obviously, Bush’s strategy has not improved the situation as it is.

As for your little remarks as to what we believe? Let me put it to you very plainly: this country didn’t deserve this. It never deserved this kind of debacle, this kind of reversal of fortune. We haven’t been cheering this fiasco on, we’ve been trying to put the brakes on it. But you folks had to have things your way, even as the signs of your plans failure gave obvious testimony for the need to change course.

As for your number three problem, I never said we lost the war then. I said that how we began the war ties to how we’re failing in it now. That failure has never been assured, only reinforced as the Bush administration refuses to change its approach to Iraq.

Winning this war has never been about fighting it out, really. The minute we made the object of this war making Iraq a Democracy, that meant we’d have to be capable of leaving at some point. Indefinite war there has never been conducive to our goals. There shouldn’t have been any substantial fighting period after we won! That’s the big irony of Mission Accomplished, that this president failed to secure the country after he won the war. Had we more soldiers and and a plan to govern and reconstruct Iraq post war, we would have been in much better shape by now, and much closer to our real goal.

Let me show you what you said, and let me tell you what I really believe, so we don’t have to continue arguing this bullshit.

You believe we have lost this war because of Republican mistakes and political meddling/posturing/questioning democrats patriotism. That there was no chance of winning in the first place and that the best thing to do now is give up and leave.

I believe we are losing this war. Note: present tense, imperfect. That’s a kind of verb that indicates a current action. This is important so pay close attention: incomplete actions can be left incomplete. Losing doesn’t have to become lost. You can be losing a game, and yet win it in the end.

I don’t believe we are to blame for how this war was waged. The responsibility was with the Bush Administration to wage this war, and the Republican controlled congress to maintain oversight. Neither did their job properly.

I have repeatedly asserted the hope that things can be changed for the better in Iraq. You simply choose to interpret that as defeatism, because you acknowledge no strategy but Bush’s as capable of bringing victory. It’s not my problem if you share our president’s obstinacy in terms of strategy.

As far as withdrawal goes, I have not advocated just giving up and leaving. My position is one of graduated withdrawal, not simply yanking the troops out. I want us to take our shot at getting this right with one last push, and then begin leaving.

Now, the real question is why you’re not for this yourself, why you’re not for a scheduled withdrawal? If the war is going so grandly, if our troops levels and military strength is enough to win the war, then beginning the withdrawal should not make things worse.

If you do not have such faith in our current situation, then why the hell are you not hammering your folks in Washington to increase the troop numbers and change strategy to something better?

I guess we know why you hate the idea of Withdrawal. Nothing would so quickly put the weakness of this president’s strategy to the test. The fact you oppose it, that Bush opposes it, is a dead giveaway to how bad you know it is, and how deep the denial runs in the GOP.

I’m willing to push from my little bully pulpit here for this country to muster the resources to end this war the best we can. Are you willing to step up to the plate on that, or do you just want America to passively wait around to lose?

JoeRWC-
The Republicans sabotaged their own war. They made negative stories on the TV and dissent from the war’s critics more important than boots on the ground and options on the table. You failed to consider that positive progress would do much to take care of negative coverage. The best way to influence people’s opinion about a war is to win it.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 2, 2006 2:19 PM
Comment #197465

Stephen,

Good article. I’m glad Dr. D. added the word “public” to the debate which I felt was already obvious. I’m always amazed at the fact that any criticism of the administration is viewed as criticism of the troops.

I find it interesting now that the “talking heads” are arguing the difference between a “staged” withdrawal and a time table. Well, duh, you can set a time table and still have a staged withdrawal. We must let the new Iraqi leadership know that we’re leaving!

Then, if they fail and we must go back, we can do it right thru a full occupation. But, oops, that would require a draft, and no politician wants to utter the word DRAFT! Well, all except Charlie Rangel.

It’s also funny that it was the “disrespecting” Dems that boycotted Maliki’s visit to congress after his derogatory comments about Israel and the west in general, while the Republicans embraced him.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 2, 2006 8:37 PM
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