Friday, August 26, 2005

Considering dissent and limited war 

A few days ago I wrote a post about the efforts of the Filipino insurgency of 1898-1901 to influence the American election of 1900. The insurgents stepped up attacks in advance of the election, hoping to boost the candidacy of William Jennings Bryan, who ran for part of the campaign on an "anti-imperialist" platform. The post quoted American soldiers from that long-forgotten war who viewed the anti-war activists at home as having undermined their efforts in the Philippines. The post, which actually said nothing about the Iraq war, generated a lot of comments by the standards of this blog.

When a democratic nation is at war, there are inevitably those who will object to the way in which the war is being fought, or that it is being fought at all. If the war is manifestly for the country’s survival or otherwise of great moment, the objectors will be so marginalized that they and their arguments will have no effect on the politics of the country, the morale of its military, or the tactics of the enemy.

Dissent can, however, have an enormous impact on the means by which a democracy wages a limited war, the persistence with which it wages the war, or whether it wages the war at all. This post considers the objectives of domestic dissent to limited wars, the impact of anti-war dissent on the means of fighting the war and the morale of the soldiers at arms, the different types of anti-war dissent and, finally, whether some objectives and types of dissent are more moral than others.

I write about this subject not because I claim any particular expertise – I do not – but because it is burdened with more than the usual amount of sloppy thinking and emotionalism on both sides and I can’t resist a challenge.

Regarding the current limited war in Iraq, opponents object to virtually everything about the war – that we invaded in the first place, the stated and unstated reasons for the invasion, how it is being fought, and the lack of a “plan” for coalition withdrawal -- but having learned at least one lesson from Vietnam they claim nevertheless to “support our troops.” This claim is sometimes true, and sometimes malarkey. Meanwhile, supporters of the war sometimes charge, or at least imply, that dissent hurts the morale of our soldiers and gives aid and comfort to the enemy. Even if this is true, or only sometimes true, the charge in and of itself does not dispose of the morality of dissent because it leaves no room for principled public discussion of the propriety of the war or the effectiveness of its prosecution. Our democracy requires room for anti-war dissent, even if the price is aid and comfort to the enemy.

Assuming, arguendo, that anti-war dissent does give aid and comfort to the enemy (I discuss why this must be so later in the post), are there types of dissent that more efficiently balance the benefit (robust public debate about a topic as momentous as the war) with the costs (the sending of signals that embolden the enemy and demoralize our own soldiers) than other types? If so, are these more efficient methods or arguments of dissent more moral or legitimate than methods or arguments that do little to advance the debate but do relatively more damage to the American war effort? These are the questions that interest me.

The objectives of dissent. Dissenters to limited wars have numerous objectives, honest and otherwise. I am not regularly invited to their strategy sessions, but it seems to me that the objectives of today’s American anti-war protestors include or included at least the following with respect to the war in Iraq:
 To prevent the war from starting and, having failed in that, to end the war as quickly as possible even if by unilateral withdrawal. Their motives for wanting early American withdrawal vary, and include honest geopolitical perspectives (some think that the occupation of Iraq is strengthening, rather than weakening, al Qaeda) to less honest intentions (including many of the motives implicit in the additional objectives set forth below). For purposes of this discussion, though, motives are not nearly as relevant as objectives and methods. (There are those who opposed the war in the first place on the grounds that it was strategic folly, but who support its continuation because they believe America’s vital national interests are now at stake, even if they weren’t when the war began. The members of this exclusive club are not dissenters, however much they may object to the Bush administration, because they clearly support the continuation of the American war effort.)

 To deter this or any future administration from launching a war under similar circumstances in the future.

 To give effect to personal morality (i.e., to promote American withdrawal from a war that they believe is inherently immoral).

 To weaken the President and his supporters politically to achieve unrelated objectives.

 To advance the political interests of certain Democrats at the expense of other Democrats.

 To advance the bureaucratic interests of one federal agency over another.

 To prevent any more casualties among American soldiers.

 To increase their own influence among Americans and foreigners who also oppose the war in Iraq.

 To oppose the President’s policies simply because they hate him and what he stands for.

 To vent their own frustration or rage, without any other clear objective in mind.

 To weaken the United States, which even some American far leftists believe is an inherently immoral nation.

Obviously, not every dissenter embraces all of these objectives, and virtually all dissenters would deny some of these objectives (what normal person would admit that their objective is to vent their rage?). Most would take great umbrage, ingenuously or otherwise, at any suggestion that their objective is to weaken the United States (since at least the last election Democrats have taken to accusing their pro-war opponents of “questioning their patriotism” even on those occasions when the opponent has done no such thing – apparently they think there is political mileage in that accusation). Be that as it may, I believe that the foregoing is a reasonably complete list of the objectives for anti-war dissent (additions are solicited in the comments).

The impact of anti-war dissent. A civil insurgency such as the one raging in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq cannot defeat the United States, in the sense of vanquishing its armed forces. It is perfectly within the capacity of our country to spend $80 billion a year on this war and suffer perhaps 1000 fatalities a year ad infinitum. The insurgency can therefore have only two victory conditions. First, to shape the political circumstances of post-war Iraq. Second, to induce the United States and the rest of the coalition to withdraw from Iraq (some insurgents would probably be happy to see this result under any circumstances, but al Qaeda wants humiliation to accompany the withdrawal). It is therefore manifestly the case that to the extent that anti-war dissent achieves those of its objectives that require an American withdrawal, the domestic opponents of the war have helped the enemy achieve at least the second of these victory conditions. And, since American withdrawal would probably (although not necessarily) increase the political leverage of the insurgency, it might also help the enemy achieve its first victory condition. How can it be otherwise?

Dissenters often (but not always) claim that they “support the troops.” Fairly or not, one often gets the impression that many of them do not really like soldiers and claim that they support them only as a political tactic, to avoid the backlash that followed the anti-war protests during Vietnam. Be that as it may, since our soldiers are fighting for the expressed purpose of preventing the enemy from achieving its victory conditions, it seems to me obvious that one cannot both advocate withdrawal and “support the troops,” at least in this superficial sense. “Supporting the troops” means nothing if it does not mean supporting their principal and motivating endeavor, which is to kill the enemy or otherwise deprive it of its capacity to fight. Advocates of early withdrawal do not “support the troops,” at least as long as most of the troops in question believe in their mission, which seems to be the case today. Moreover, certain forms of dissent quite explicitly undermine the troops. For example, activists who seek to obstruct military recruitment raise the chances that any given soldier will have a longer tour in the Iraq theater. Preventing the replacement of a soldier is precisely the opposite of "supporting the troops".

In any case, for a few people on the right the simple fact that anti-war dissent can help the enemy and undermine our soldiers is enough to destroy its legitimacy (it is actually very difficult to find examples of this point of view, but the left keeps claiming that the right says this, so it must be true). They are wrong. The American system of government depends on open and public debate about policy. If some of that debate has the unintended consequence of giving hope to the enemy or demoralizing our soldiers, that is an acceptable price to pay. Our soldiers understand that the free society they defend exercises its freedom by arguing over the propriety and conduct of limited wars. They also understand that reasonable Americans can disagree about limited wars without being “unpatriotic,” even if their arguments inflict collateral damage on the war effort.

However, certain anti-war dissenters have objectives that have very little to do with furthering public debate about policy. In some of those cases, the objectives are purely political and inherently self-centered. If these dissenters in the pursuit of these personal objectives inflict collateral damage on the war effort and undermine our soldiers, is it not fair to suggest that these dissenters are not acting patriotically? If a dissenter’s primary objective is to advance the political interests of one Democrat compared to another -- to assist the candidacy of Howard Dean at the expense of Hillary Clinton, for example -- is that dissent “worth” the collateral damage to the same degree as forthright public debate? Suppose that an anti-war dissenter does not really care about the war, but is using her dissent as a pretext to oppose the President because she is worried that he’ll appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices? Is that dissenter not aiding the enemy and undermining our soldiers to achieve an unrelated political objective? The First Amendment guarantees that dissenter her right to speak, but it does not protect her from the opprobrium that will fairly attach.

Think about these questions as we examine the various types of dissent, and whether some types are more moral than others. In the nomenclature of this post, dissent that efficiently balances our systemic interest in robust public debate with the collateral damage it inflicts is "legitimate," and dissent that causes gratuitous collateral damage to the war effort to achieve a different political objective or a personal one is not legitimate.

The types/methods of anti-war dissent.

In the last three or four years, we have seen anti-war dissent in many forms. Sitting in the living room of an Adirondack camp in front of a fire and a “cubble o’ paints” in the hole, I came up with the following methods of dissent off the top of my head:
 Votes against the war in the Congress;
 Carefully reasoned written argument that acknowledges counterarguments, such as in academic journals;
 Less well-reasoned opinion essays, such as editorials in the New York Times, that rarely acknowledge counterarguments;
 Votes against pro-war candidates in elections;
 Public demonstrations against the war, at various levels of vitriol;
 Propaganda calculated to discredit the United States government, such as the Lancet’s thoroughly discredited article estimating civilian casualties in Iraq;
 Press coverage and propaganda that deliberately emphasizes bad news and ignores good news;
 Permanent, government sanctioned demonstrations, such as “Arlington West”;
 The production and distribution of anti-war films and documentaries, including Fahrenheit 911;
 Organized public anti-war advocacy, such as by recognized “talking heads” or movie stars;
 Calculated interference with the recruitment of new soldiers for our all-volunteer force (such as at many universities and certain high schools);
 Encouraging foreign regimes that oppose the war to escalate their pressure on the United States, or encouraging members of the coalition to withdraw;
 Events staged for the press primarily for the purpose of damaging the President politically, rather than making a reasoned argument for withdrawal (such as Cindy Sheehan’s absurd press event in Crawford); and
 Social pressure (imagine supporting the continuation of this war in Princeton!), anti-war blogs and bumper stickers and other one-to-one sloganeering and pamphleteering.

Readers are invited to pump in other examples.

Certain of these methods of dissent are built into the constitutional system -- votes in Congress, for example. Other forms of dissent -- declaring support for foreign governments that oppose the war -- are disloyal and not legitimate (again, even if lawful under the First Amendment). The production of an anti-war propaganda film (a more honest version of Farenheit 911, for example) is legitimate if shown within the United States, because it furthers our national interest in robust debate. It is not legitimate to show it outside the United States, because its only purpose (other than to earn profits for its producer) is to undermine support for American policy among our allies. The legitimacy of most of the rest of these methods of dissent depends on the objective to which they are deployed.

The morality of anti-war dissent. This post has argued that in the case of limited wars, anti-war dissent -- or at least effective anti-war dissent -- almost inevitably hurts the war effort and undermines our soldiers. The very system that the soldiers defend, however, depends upon robust public debate to establish policy, including foreign policy. Dissenters whose primary objective is to change American policy concerning the war are, by and large, dissenting legitimately. They are appropriately balancing the costs of the dissent -- the promotion of the enemy's victory conditions -- with its function in our system.

However, there is a lot of anti-war dissent that is primarily motivated by other objectives, or which use methods that are designed not to persuade Americans that policy should be changed, but to interfere with the fighting of the war. Dissenters who are actually furthering some unrelated political objective or simply working out their personal rage may be acting lawfully -- the First Amendment is very powerful mojo -- but they are not acting legitimately. It is not legitimate to damage our war effort and undermine our soldiers because you hate George Bush, want to protect Roe v. Wade, are ideologically opposed to all war, believe that the United States needs to be cut down to size, want to bolster the fortunes of a particular Democratic candidate, believe that the State Department has been disrespected, believe that the Pentagon is inept and corrupt, or want to discredit Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. If you do that, you are being frivolous with the lives of our soldiers and helping the enemy without the benefit of having advanced the important public discussion over whether we should change American foreign policy. In short, your objectives and therefore your dissent are illegitimate, and it is not unreasonable for your opponents to attack you as unpatriotic. You are.

Similarly, if you use tactics that interfere with American policy -- if you attempt to obstruct military recruitment, campaign against American policy outside of the United States or to foreign audiences, demonstrate against weapons manufacturers, and so forth -- you are deliberately undermining the American capacity to win the war. This is not legitimate anti-war dissent (again, even if it is lawful), and it is by no measure patriotic.

Release the hounds.

[I will keep this post on top for a couple of days, and update it with links and further commentary, probably this evening. Right now, I have a date to climb a mountain.]


By Blogger nellodee, at Fri Aug 26, 09:36:00 AM:

Tigerhawk, thank you, what an excellent analysis. This AM on FOX news I saw a poster held up at Camp Crawford that said--
Iraq is Arabic for Viet Nam  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Fri Aug 26, 10:07:00 AM:

Nice post. I was hoping it was going to be more objective, but that's I guess that's what blogs are for. I do agree with you that there is bad dissent. I get on my fellow progressives when I feel they are demonizing the troops or using tactics that I think are out of bounds. But... here comes the but...

Your post says yes, there is good dissent, but let me focus on the bad dissent and talk mostly about that. There are people on the left who don't have America's interest at heart (as well as people on the right) but they are a minority. Most people on the left who don't agree with the war are doing what they feel is in the best interest of America. Don't lump us all in the bat-crazy wing-nut liberal category and write us off.

Many people feel that "supporting our troops" means making sure they aren't sent to die at the whims of our politicians. Even though i don't agree with early withdrawal, I can relate to their belief that taking our sons and daughters out of harms way in a useless war is more "support" then letting them stay there and die. So in my view, supporting our troops and fighting against the war are not mutually exclusive.

I also feel that many anti-war activists hearts are in the right place, but they are ignorant, naive, or way too idealistic to see the negative affects of their comments and actions on our troops and country. They think their doing the right thing and that's admirable, but they need to be educated on the effects of their actions. But it doesn't make them unpatriotic or America haters.

And maybe it's because you don't speak out against the war that you don't hear the unpatriotic slams and America-hating rhetoric. Democrats complain about that because it's real. There is an effort to shut us up. Yes, they're not dragging us off to jail or beating us over the head, but they are trying to shame us into not speaking. It's not as bad now that the polls are low, but it's still there.

I think the majority of people fighting against the war love our country and want an open discourse, but the also want to win the argument. Unfortunately the bad anti-war activists are usually the loudest and they de-legitimize the majority. Democrats politicians use the war politically, but so do the Republicans. They used it a hell of a lot last election. I also feel the right and the pro-war group has the exact same problems as the anti-war movement, its just coming form the other direction.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Fri Aug 26, 10:13:00 AM:

Very nicely written, Tiger. I was in the middle of that muddled fray a few days ago. I never maintained nor do I believe that anti-war advocates aid and comfort the enemy. I agree with Catchy that most anti-war activitists love their country. [Somehow I was reduced to making a miniscule pointthat voicing an anti-war opinion doesn't make one a traitor nor does it make one a patriot. Heavy.]

I disagree with Cardinal's view that "opposing a war once it starts is, frankly, unpatriotic". In our system of democracy, that's wrongheaded- for the reasons you've set forth above. Do I think our enemies are aware of our internal conflicts and try to exploit it? Yes. Does that mean we need to be unified and monolithic on all counts? No.  

By Blogger desert rat, at Fri Aug 26, 10:38:00 AM:

You did not touch on those who believed in the cause of the Iraq Conflict, but not the post Victory administration of Iraq.
While we won the war we have poorly adjusted to the defeat of Saddam.
It is time for the bulk of our Force to leave Iraq, we have completed the mission set forth in the Authorization for Use of Force.
Iraq is no longer an International threat and there is an "emerging" democratic Government in place.
Authorization for Use of Force in Iraq  

By Blogger Doug, at Fri Aug 26, 10:54:00 AM:

There is no proof that the majority of protesters love America.
Desert Rat loves America, I love America, but a majority of "anti war activists" define themselves as America Haters then protest when anyone complains about their lack of patriotism.
Most are so ignorant as to be beneath contempt, but they still lend aid and comfort.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 26, 11:07:00 AM:

I disagree with Desert Rat that we walk before we see a stabilized Iraq and Middle East. The consequences of defeating Saddam and establishing a new government in Iraq have been felt throughout the region, and through the cooperation of nations like Libya, and what we're seeing in Gaza.

Leaving now would be analogous to walking after we liberating Europe. History would not have been kind to us.

I wish rather that call people names, that anti-war people would just own up - they hate Bush because they didn't vote for him. They also dismiss him as some sort of bible thumper, rather than recognize that politics are big business, and he knows where his votes came from. I disagree with him on a number of bigger issues - abortion, stem cells, etc., but respect the hell out of standing by his convictions, and demonstrating that after years of pansies in our WH, we're not taking it under his watch.

I'm also amused by the anti-war types who say Iraq no, Afghanistan yes. Given that, if we determined OBL was really in Iran, would they be OK with attacking Iran, or Syria if he's there, etc.? I think not.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Fri Aug 26, 11:40:00 AM:

TH - phenomenal post. Well done. To correct a commenter above, I previously observed that once the country goes to war, an election has been held, the Congress has authorized the action...well when those conditions exist, it is my view that continued protesting along many of the lines your rightly articulated is unpatriotic.

One other worthwhile line of argument worth exploring is the absence of facts or empirical historical evidence underpinning antiwar left argument. For instance, John Hinderaker at Powerline had a simply brilliant post on military fatality rates being lower during the Iraq war than PEACETIME. Yet the reporting is of course focused exclusively on combat deaths...they didn't give a hoot about our military dying during peacetime. Similarly, the MSM focuses on Vietnam and lauds the antiwar left for bringing the war to a a conclusion...which is patently false. Nixon won, the antiwar candidates consistently lost. If anything, there may be an argument that, through continued protest during a limited conflict, the antiwar left actually prolongs conflict because the US holds back rather than demanding unconditional defeat and decimating the enemy...food for thought?  

By Blogger geoffrobinson, at Fri Aug 26, 11:49:00 AM:

I think a lot of the oposition based on bad motives is subconscious. They may be opposed because they viscerally hate George W. Bush, love abortion, or hate any war, but I don't think they would be able to articulate that or are even aware that's their actual motivation.

If Clinton said there were WMDs, they would have been supportive of action. Oh wait a second he did and they were.  

By Blogger desert rat, at Fri Aug 26, 11:52:00 AM:

I was not talking about "walking"
I am discussing how to best achieve our continuing Goals.
Those Goals that are articulated in the Authorization for Use of Force have been achieved. Iraq's Government is no longer a threat to US or the oil producing States in the region. There is an emerging democracy.

The Idea that we should continue to deploy 130,000 troops to battle car bombs, land mines and satchel charges is counter productive.

This insurgency will not be defeated by a larger US occupation. To garrison the country adequately enough to quell the insurgents, by sheer numbers, would take over 500,000 troops, based on post WWII experiences. We do not have a Force Structure capable of delivering that size of a Police/ Constabulary Force.

The best past example of a counter insurgency victory is El Salvador. With aprox. 54 uniformed personnel and a 'few' hired contractors the Opposing Forces were defeated in both El Salvador and the entire Region.

In Iraq we should:
1. Preposition equipment in the Western desert airbases
2. Garrison those bases with a Division size Army unit, similar to Korea.
3. Deploy Special Forces type liaisons at the Battalion or preferably Company level of the Iraqi Security Forces. The troops would act as advisors and Forward Air Controllers. Aprox 5 to 10,000 US troops spread across the ISF
4. Maintain an Air Wing, both fixed wing and rotary, for ground support operations at the Western Airbases
5. Improve Iraqi troop training by embedding those advisors described in #3 early in the training cycle and leaving those advisors with the ISF units that they trained as the units deploy to action stations within Iraq.

While not an all inclusive plan these 5 steps would bring US closer to Victory than staying the course.
I am not much concerned about Domestic Politics...
Victory is the Objective, right?  

By Blogger Doug, at Fri Aug 26, 11:57:00 AM:

I think Total Military Deaths are up, my guess the number is, "background" accidental deaths plus additional combat deaths.
Defies logic to think that the background would go away while we are in active combat.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Fri Aug 26, 12:01:00 PM:

"...But a majority of "anti war activists" define themselves as America Haters then protest when anyone complains about their lack of patriotism." Where the hell did you get this? From the book "Making Shit up for my Lame-Ass Arguement"?

I'm amused by people who say Iraq was needed because of weapons of mass destructions. If that's the case, why aren't we going into Korea? If it's about spreading Democracy, I know about 20 nations off hand that need a good invading. So why not them. Korea, unlike Iraq, actually has weapons of mass destruction.

"I wish rather that call people names, that anti-war people would just own up - they hate Bush because they didn't vote for him." I love how you're trying to speak for all the anti-war activists. That's a really simple infantile way to view things. If it fits in your narrow right-wing view of the world, that's great.. unfortunately it's not the truth.

And Cardinal Park, why do you keep quoting Powerline as if it's some source of honest truth. It's so biased it's incredible. If you want me to take your references seriously, I need something much less biased.  

By Blogger geoffrobinson, at Fri Aug 26, 01:43:00 PM:

Alright Catchy, I'll try to explain things to you.

Why not Korea? China.

Why not other countries for democracy? Because Iraq was the best place to start.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Fri Aug 26, 01:52:00 PM:


Way to go after the theme! Thanks for taking the time to examine it.

I protested against the War in Iraq before it happened. Then I was called an appeasing America Hater because I didn't want to defend our nation from big, bad Saddam. Now I'm stuck, hung up, wondering how best to proceed in Iraq and where my efforts would best be spent.

I am thankful that the anti-Iraq War protestors (They're not all a bunch of pacifists. Many are against this war specifically not all war.) are out there continuing to drive home the facts regarding the disinformation campaign run by the Bushies from the day they decided to invade. I'm also glad they're highlighting the hubris with which Rummy and his cohorts sent too few men to manage too much nation. I'm also glad the anti-Iraq War protestors are keeping other stories in the news like the vast graft and fraud taking place right now with your money.

I value every human life. Whether it's American soldier or Iraqi civilian. I have less regard for those shooting at us and at their countrymen, but I try to remember their humanity. Of course I "Support the Troops". I support all people in their endeavors to live a fulfilling, long life in whatever way they see fit.

In a sense, being against the Iraq War protestors is being against the troops. What is it you believe they're fighting for? By attempting to quash or marginalize dissent, our soldiers' mission becomes less relevant to the daily lives of the citizens they're fighting for.

Quashing dissent = not supporting freedom in a sense.

Thanks again for the post, Hawk.  

By Blogger Doug, at Fri Aug 26, 02:00:00 PM:

You reveal yourself as do the protestors, sorry.
"And Cardinal Park, why do you keep quoting Powerline as if it's some source of honest truth. It's so biased it's incredible. If you want me to take your references seriously, I need something much less biased."
OK, so you namecall Powerline as biased:
The facts remain the facts, troops are killed each year in accidents at the rates quoted at Powerline.
Point is, MSM doesn't really give a damn any more than MOST protestors about those lives lost:

They care about OIF losses for their value to the take down Bush at any cost cause.
...just like you.  

By Blogger ScurvyOaks, at Fri Aug 26, 02:31:00 PM:

To support Doug's last post, John Hinderaker at Powerline didn't make up the numbers about accidental deaths. Hinderaker's source was the Department of Defense, with the article linked in his post. Will you take that reference seriously, Catchy?  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Fri Aug 26, 02:40:00 PM:

I might. I'll have to check it out. I just find it interesting that most of Cardinal Park's references seem to come from Powerline. They're not exactly a neutral source as far as I'm concerned.

"You reveal yourself as do the protestors, sorry." I think that was meant as a jab. I just don't get it.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Fri Aug 26, 02:46:00 PM:

Geoffrey, so let me get this striaght, we pick the easy targets when it comes to handling the nations with WMD, not necessarily the more threatening ones? That doesn't make sense. I point out Korea, because I believe that whole premise for going to war is weak, as well as the spreading of Democracy. I will accept, it fits in our long-term policy for handling the Middle East and fighting terrorists. But those two need a rest.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 26, 03:25:00 PM:

Dear Mr. TigerHawk:

America will always have 30% or so of the electorate opposing war. This has held true with every war going back to 1775, with the notable and curious example of World War II. One wonders if there was in fact greater grumbling and dissent in 1943-45 than was actually reported - there was certainly much to grumble about. Social historians should dig into this topic.

Whether war opposition will rise from its natural level of 30+% to a majority depends on the progress of the war effort. Hawkish war supporters can turn into opponents if they think that the administration is fighting the war too timidly. This is what occurred with respect to American support for the wars in Korea and Vietnam; the Silent Majority was lost after getting disgusted with timid execution.

So, as a structural matter, U.S. policy planners need to realize that even if a successful counterinsurgency campaign requires a light touch and ten years of effort, the U.S. Army, at least using its massed conventional formations, can't be the one to do the job. Thus, Desert Rat, as he describes above, has the correct, and sustainable, strategy, and the rulebook for future such efforts. At Westhawk we have extensively described, in a variety of posts, how the U.S. should execute COIN and CT operations in the future. The matter of domestic sustainability is an integral component of these recommendations.


By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Fri Aug 26, 03:29:00 PM:

And so we come to a situation where those who oppose the war and those who support it cannot find any common ground. Props to Tiger for going easy on demonizing the Pacifists.

I think everyone should concede that this has been a limited war, the initial military strategy was brilliant, and the prosecution of the war has been remarkably humane. We have not cried Havok and let slip the dogs of war, so much as whispered it and took the dogs for a walk.

By the same token, war advocates should recognize that the primary motivation of the war was WMDs, which proved utterly baseless. That was the basis of the threat to the US, and the basis of any "just war" arguments. The UN didn't buy it, the Pope didn't buy it, but we bought it wholesale. And we were wrong. I'm not saying this to throw it in your face, rather to acknowledge the fact that our mistakes deal a blow to any moral superiority.

So the past is behind us, we can learn from mistakes, but they aren't going to fix anything. It's too late to argue we shouldn't have entered the forest: what we need now is a path through it. And that's only going to happen if we can talk about it. Rationally. Again, props to Tiger for trying to see both sides.  

By Anonymous Dan, at Fri Aug 26, 03:48:00 PM:

Interesting views, but all mostly crap.

There is only one kind of legitimate dissent:

Dissent that does not, as the total net effect, provide any aid and comfort to the enemy whatsover.

War is war. It cannot be a "half-fought" war or else it is inevitably doomed.

Here is a short lesson:

1) Breaking the will of the enemy to fight is THE prime objective to win a war. A war cannot be truly "won" unless the enemy's will to fight smashed.

2) Public dissent that has the net effect of providing aid and comfort to the enemy sustains the enemy's morale and will to fight.

There really is no other options folks.

The only "good" dissent is that which does not provide aid and comfort to the enemy, period.

Tigerhawk your wrong on this and I cannot believe your trying to wiggle in thats its ok to give some aid and comfort to the enemy, because that is really what your saying.


By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Fri Aug 26, 04:04:00 PM:

"Interesting views, but all mostly crap..."

That's hilarious. I'm glad you showed up to tell us how the world works. Okay guys, Dan has spoken. Let's go home now.

I've never heard someone so completely wrong tell everyone else how wrong they are. Huuugge nutsack there.  

By Anonymous Dan, at Fri Aug 26, 04:42:00 PM:

Perhaps I was wrong in saying your views are "crap" for that I apologize.

But I am not wrong about the breaking an enemy's will to fight being one of the prime requisites for winning a war.

And I am not wrong in that giving aid and comfort to an enemy helps sustain the enemy's morale and will to fight.

Or is this simple logic unfathonable for you Catchy?

Therefore, logically, dissent that provides "aid and comfort" to the enemy makes it harder for us to win the war because the enemy's will to fight is sustained. Are you with me so far?

When it becomes harder to win the war, more of our soldiers die than need to.

So my logic chain is rather simple:

Give aid and comfort to the enemy = more dead American soldiers.

Don't want to take my word for it? Just ask the OVERWHELMING majority of soldiers fighting the war if I am correct in my logic equation above.

But I guess you don't think their opinions matter?

Yes it really is that simple Catchy and that is what infuriates a lot of people.

Look, the Congress authorized the war and now its "game on".

I personally want to win this thing and not settle for a draw or worse, a loss.

And Cathy Sheehan is helping to cause this thing to go double-overtime.

You don't understand that YOUR will is being tested by the terrorists/Jihadists and that you have seemingly lost that struggle.

The jihadists chop off heads on camera just for people like you.

I however will stand strong though.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Fri Aug 26, 05:24:00 PM:

You stand strong there Dan. And I love the condescending attitude. It goes well with your incredibly flawed logic.

No it's you've who are screwing up the war. With your holier than thou attitude. You keep beating your all-American head against a wall while the rest of us discuss things like rational people. I liked how cakeriz said it, "Do I think our enemies are aware of our internal conflicts and try to exploit it? Yes. Does that mean we need to be unified and monolithic on all counts? No."

It's common sense. We can and need to discuss the war and argue about it. You're a yes man, It makes you feel like you're really helping out. That's neat. But me, I question leaders. They're human. They make mistakes. They need to me held accountable especially when they're dealing with people's lives

"But I guess you don't think their opinions matter?", "You don't understand that YOUR will is being tested by the terrorists/Jihadists and that you have seemingly lost that struggle. " ... I love how you try to speak for me. You don't know crap about me but you make up some cartoon in your head about how I think. Your wrong.

I think your attitude is harmful to this war. If everyone adopted your never-ask-a-question attitude, our leaders would keep on making mistakes and poor choices and that would make many more soldiers die.  

By Anonymous Dan, at Fri Aug 26, 05:58:00 PM:

Catchy I did not say all dissent was wrong. I said repeatedly only the kind that gives aid and comfort to our enemy is wrong.

You are confusing the two.

Tigerhawk tried to break it down but I don't think he quite got it.

Sure go ahead and question the way the war is being fought, I sure the hell am. I think we should have smashed Fallujah in April last year not wait around until Novemeber. That poor decision got more Marines killed in the long run for sure.

I think that Sadr guy should be dead. It pisses me off the way we fight this war with one hand behind our backs.

So you see? I dissent all the time about this war but I seriously doubt my dissent is gonna give aid and comfort to the enemy.

See the difference? I am hardly a yes man.

But your "discussion" seems to include the option of retreat, or concluding this war in a draw.

THAT is a dangerous proposition.

You still do not get what this war fighting is all about so I shall repeat it:


You can paint your discussion any way you like it but my discussion will only include how to win this thing outright, not retreat.

For you see if we retreat and leave the enemy with its will intact, they aren't going to magically stop at the borders of the Middle East....they will come for us.

Israel's pullout of Gaza only encourages the Palestinians to turn the West bank into a the new terror front. Their will to continue their intifada is not only intact but it is emboldened. Don't believe me? Well go ahead and listen to their speeches and their own words. They sure think so.

I personally think Bush does a poor job of explaining this war to the American people on a regular basis. He never talks about smashing the terrorist's will to fight enough.

But that is what its really about.

So you see I dissent. My dissent passes the litmus test because the enemy is not receiving aid and comfort.

That is what Tigerhawk ALMOST got right in his essay.

Aid and comfort to enemy kills Marines.

So discuss/dissent away.

And yes the Jihadists do make videos just for people like you who are not more convicted in their thoughts.

You think war is a policy decision to be discussed AFTER its been started over 2 years?

That discussion was held 2002/2003 and you must have missed the boat on that. Congress said lets do war.

Now that war is on the only discussion can be on how to win it in my book.

And no, pulling out of Iraq is not a "winning" option.  

By Blogger Counter Trey, at Fri Aug 26, 06:06:00 PM:

The reasons we went to war have been thoroughly explained. I don’t understand why the left doesn’t get it.

We invaded Iraq because it was run by a bad man who sponsored terrorism. We invaded that country because we could invade at relatively low risk, and a quick victory proved that President Bush was right about that.

We didn’t invade North Korea because the risk was, and still is, too great. Clinton and his buds allowed North Korea’s unstable dictator to develop nuclear weapons. However, sometimes the risk of doing nothing is greater than the risk of doing something. Events may occur someday that will make it clear that the risk of not invading North Korea is too great, much in the same way that 9/11 made it clear that not invading Iraq was too great a risk.

Why not Iran? Why not Syria? One thing at a time. Iran is now flanked by democratic countries. Eventually, its Shia will hear from their relatives in the nearby democracies and it will be clear to them what they need to do. In the meantime, we’ll knock over one domino at a time. One-by-one the sponsors of terrorism will realize, like Afghanistan and Pakistan and Libya, that their fight is futile.

Questioning why we didn’t invade any (or all) of a half dozen bad countries before Iraq is clearly preposterous. Did the left really want to start six wars at once? Given their incoherent record on defense, maybe they did.

And, imagine if President Bush started this strategy by invading, say, Iran instead of Iraq. The left’s argument surely would have been: “Why not Iraq, a country we knew well with a dictator that we defeated quickly once before; a country that we know sponsored terrorists; and a country that Clinton, Kerry and other prominent Democrats had stated was developing WMDs?”  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Fri Aug 26, 06:16:00 PM:

I originally put this post up about 8 a.m. (notwithstanding the time stamp), and I couldn't be more pleased with the discussion that it has provoked.

A couple of comments.

Dan, I hear what you are saying, but it is a little absolute for my terms. True, dissent that might give the enemy hope, and thereby defer the breaking of its will, will result in the deaths of more American soldiers. That is why the people who engage in dissent have a great responsibility to do it in only the most principled way.

However, in the case of limited wars -- and Iraq is a "small war" in that sense, as was Vietnam -- it seems to me that we have to leave room for debate about whether the continuation of the war is worth the cost. The Marines are fighting for that very principle, if you think about it.

I agree, though, that much of the anti-war dissent has been frivolous, without regard for the damage it is doing to American soldiers. Many of the dissenters claim to be outraged if anybody suggests that they are in any way helping the enemy. It seems to me beyond argument, though, that that is what they are doing. My point is that there is a basis for distinguishing between anti-war dissent that is worthy of respect -- my word is legitimate -- and anti-war dissent that is self-centered, or otherwise shamefully casual about the impact it has on the war effort.  

By Anonymous Dan, at Fri Aug 26, 06:34:00 PM:

Ok Tigerhawk, I am trying to understand your point about your definition about legitimate dissent even if it causes some aid and comfort.

But in the end it just doesn't wash much. The terrorists do not care if the aid and comfort is "legitimate". Its all the same to them yes?

The real problem with this war is that people do not agree what the war fully encompasses. I happen to think IRAQ is just a theatre of the larger war on terror. I digress....

Like Vietnam was a campaign in the war against Communism. People didn't buy it but at the end of the day, thats what it was all about. We lost that theatre of operations, but it definately helped us win the overall war.

But I do challenge you to find an anti-war activist that is worthy of much respect. They may start out with good intentions but they eventually slinker down and show their true colors. Liek Catchy above who eventually said (to me):

QUOTE: "With your holier than thou attitude. You keep beating your all-American head against a wall while the rest of us discuss things like rational people."

I am not sure what "all-American head" is getting at, by I suspect it is the beginning of Catchy's true feeelings: He/She is a moonbat America-hating lefty.

They are easy to flush out Tiger.  

By Blogger geoffgo, at Fri Aug 26, 06:34:00 PM:


Since when does making a mistake while persuing a righteous cause, imbue a loss of morality?  

By Blogger Renaissance Nerd, at Fri Aug 26, 06:47:00 PM:

Excellent post as usual Tigerhawk, and despite the opinions of some, I thought it was very fair. I myself objected to the operation in Kosovo; the outrages in the former Yugoslavia were hardly one-sided and the Serbian hatred for Muslims in their area is old and well-warranted. More than 2 million Serbs died in WWII by the collaboration of the Muslims and Croats in the Balkan Theatre. I can understand why that hatred exists, even though I neither share it nor agree that it is reasonable. After all, the perpetrators are pretty much dead,they were attacking the children and grandchildren of the perps. I felt very uncomfortable that we were attacking our allies in WWII on behalf of Nazi collaborators, but I kept mum. Many of the current crop of war protestors now protested then as well; they protest any use of force because they take their freedom for granted. I could hardly join them even when I agreed with them, and those who join with them now are de facto unpatriotic. Your allies can define you if you're not careful, which is why our alliance with the Soviets ended the moment the Germans cried 'uncle.' There has never been a worse evil than socialism in the world, and joining unrepentant Stalinists for a war protest is no patriotic, to say the least.

International ANSWER, as an example, is not Stalinist but rather Kimist, if there is such a thing; Kim Il Seong was their preferred model of leader. They have sponsored many protests and are one of the principal organizers of the 'movement.'

Some 'peace' groups from the USA actually carried more than $600,000 to the terrorists in Fallujah between the two attacks this year, yet they have not been 'cast out' of the community of 'peace' groups. It's bewilderingly hard to keep track of all these regressives who call themselves progressives, since disguise is their only hope, but it can be done.

In this particular war I have been pleasantly surprised at every aspect of it's progress. The initial campaign was over faster than anybody could've possibly predicted, and the long hard slog that President Bush promised turned into clubbing baby seals. The occupation has been going so well that I'm continually astonished by it. Those who criticize so eagerly are obviously unaware of the monumental task of rebuilding a country from scratch, especially one with no history of freedom. Freedom is responsibility, and the reason why people endure tyrants is because tyrants relieve them of resonsibility. Every misfortune is somebody else's fault. Historically the best example is Haiti; slaves have a hard time ruling themselves because they have no practice. Somebody else tells them what to do at all times. Slaves yearn to be free as much as anybody, but being a slave does not prepare one with the courage required to take responsibility for oneself and actually be free.

All of the Warsaw Pact nations have experienced these difficulties to a greater or lesser extent, and Iraq cannot be different. The idea that Iraqis must keep to a time schedule to please the anti-war protestors is ludicrous. If we get out of Iraq within five years I'll be more than satisfied. I would expect to have at least some troops there for at least 20 years. Anything less than that is one of two things: gravy, or defeat.

I've already said I was against the attack on Serbia, and I remain against it. I was appalled at the way that campaign was fought, entirely from the air, and to no avail; it was the threat of invasion finally broke the old Commie. A classic example of how tough diplomacy would've worked instead of actual force, but I still couldn't join with those who rooted for the Serbs to shoot down American planes.

Those who march in solidarity with people who are actually raising money for the terrorist invasion of Iraq are no patriots. Patriots don't abet treason.  

By Blogger Rob, at Fri Aug 26, 10:00:00 PM:

Once an election has been held, etc., a war started (where's the Vote under Article I, my friend), it's unpatriotic.

An example of a conservative, or conservatives, on drugs.

One of your worst posts ever, in my reading. Hogwash. Trash.  

By Blogger Elisa, at Fri Aug 26, 10:39:00 PM:

Another method of dissent is communications to elected leaders, such as petitions, snail mail, email and phone calls. These types of activities are less likely to provide any aid and comfort to the enemy as all but petitions can be kept private. The problem with much of the dissent going on now is that publicity is the short-term goal.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Fri Aug 26, 11:45:00 PM:

The efforts against terrorist entities don't have a definitive end. In that terror is a tactic and radical Islam is an ideology, this conflict may never actually end. With an interminable war before us, to suggest that we are never allowed to dissent to the way it's being conducted is establishing a permanent dismissal of dissenting voices.

And, interestingly, many of those who oppose President Bush's Iraq policy do so on the basis of not having done enough to secure the peace. Not an anti-war sentiment, but an anti-incompetence sentiment.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sat Aug 27, 07:22:00 AM:

Screwy, I'm not really making a philosophical point in my post, I'm making a practical one: the only real debate about "withdrawal" that involves our troops in the field (and therefore the risk that they will be undermined) is in Iraq. The "slippery slope" that concerns you -- that the "war on terror" is open ended and that we are not "allowed" to dissent is, if I may say so respectfully, a red herring. Among other reasons, nothing in my post suggested that we in any way prevent people from dissenting. My point is quite different -- when is it fair and honest to denounce dissenters as hurting the war effort (in my mind the equivalent in this context of being "unpatriotic")? My answer is that that it is unfair to denounce dissenters who are making honest arguments with the objective of changing American policy in the war. It is fair to denounce dissenters who are either (i) pursuing largely personal or barely related objectives, or (ii) using essentially dishonest or obstructionist tactics. This second group, which includes people who are participating in anti-war dissent largely for broader political aims, and people who do things like obstruct military recruiters, are inflicting material damage on the American war effort for "illegitimate" objectives or by "illegitimate" methods. It is more than fair to denounce these people as unpatriotic, because they are. (And in case you make the point, I am not making a legalistic point that a dissenter can be wiggled out of by smearing himself with a coating of legitimacy. Sure, most of the people who call for withdrawal believe that withdrawal is the best policy. That does not rescue them if their actual primary objective is quite different. I lump most people working for, giving money to, or cooperating with MoveOn.org, for example, in this category. Their primary objective is to defeat Bush, and anti-war dissent/propaganda is merely a means to that end.)  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Sat Aug 27, 07:55:00 AM:

Renaissance Nerd -

Very nice perspective. You clearly have the full grasp of history amd fact, and it feeds a view with which I largely agree, though I was supportive of Milosevic's removal despite the history yuo describe.

Unfortunately, Dan, you don't. No drugs for this foreign policy conservative. I am in no way saying you can't protest the war Dan. It's your business. But don't rationalize your opposition to what our people are doing in the Middle East into patriotism. It's legal, but it is not patriotic. It is unpatriotic. Not treason...at least I don't think you've done anything treasonous. On the other hand...

So relax. I am not arguing for the removal of any of your freedoms to express yourself. Oppose away if you like. Just don't delude yourself into thinking your the second coming of George Washington. Opposers are a nuisance; they're missing the arc of history. And just as nobody writes a word about the history of WWII opposition, or Tories who opposed the Declaration of Independence), so 50 years from now little will be written about the current opposition. That's opinion not fact. Just a prediction is all.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Sat Aug 27, 08:20:00 AM:

Oh Hawk, I got you, don't worry. My last comment was directed towards the less nuanced among these threaders.

"people who are participating in anti-war dissent largely for broader political aims" - since you brought it up, their "illegitimacy" is equal to those who are/were proponents of the war in Iraq for solely political purposes (you'll find a lot more people in this category methinks).

Great thread, y'all.  

By Anonymous Dan, at Sat Aug 27, 10:38:00 AM:

Tiger I agree with your last post however there is also a point of "useful idiots" I am trying to make.

If a useful idiot dissents and then has their statements, etc trumpeted by the enemy, what difference does it all make?

Now lets just say that the particular useful idiot (who has genuine noble intentions) has been told by a whole US AMRY division that their statements/actions are hurting the effort to win, and the useful idiot still refuses stop, then what do you call that?

How can you respect that?

And CardinalPArk you have me confused for someone else.  

By Blogger geoffrobinson, at Sat Aug 27, 01:26:00 PM:

Counter Trey, thanks for more eloquently saying what I wanted to say.  

By Blogger Counter Trey, at Sun Aug 28, 03:15:00 PM:

My pleasure.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Sun Aug 28, 04:21:00 PM:

Dan - you are absolutely right...my apologies. It was "Rob" to whom I intended my derision, not you.

My Bad.


By Blogger cakreiz, at Mon Aug 29, 10:26:00 AM:

I just saw this quote:

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." - Thomas Jefferson

If that's the case, then I owe Catchy an apologize. Sorry, dude- I'll accept TJ's word as final.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Mon Aug 29, 10:26:00 AM:

That obviously should be "apology".  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Mon Aug 29, 11:58:00 AM:

Uh oh, now they're going to start attacking Thomas Jefferson....kidding.

I'm glad you found that Cakeriz. I like ol' TJ.

I dropped out of the commenting because I felt that I was starting to argue for the sake of arguing, which I tend to do. I got confused with the whole good/bad dissent. Did anyone come to a conclusion over this or did we all just kind of blah blah blahed and moved on?  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Mon Aug 29, 12:28:00 PM:

Actually, I did the same thing (quit commenting). This rely relates back to our exchange on the original post earlier last week. I like TJ myself.  

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