Thursday, February 23, 2006
We two come from different political and philosophical perspectives, but on this we agree: Over the past few weeks, the press has betrayed not only its duties but its responsibilities. To our knowledge, only three print newspapers have followed their true calling: the Austin American-Statesman, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Sun. What have they done? They simply printed cartoons that were at the center of widespread turmoil among Muslims over depictions of the prophet Muhammad. These papers did their duty.
Since the war on terrorism began, the mainstream press has had no problem printing stories and pictures that challenged the administration and, in the view of some, compromised our war and peace efforts. The manifold images of abuse at Abu Ghraib come to mind -- images that struck at our effort to win support from Arab governments and peoples, and that pierced the heart of the Muslim world as well as the U.S. military.
The press has had no problem with breaking a story using classified information on detention centers for captured terrorists and suspects -- stories that could harm our allies. And it disclosed a surveillance program so highly classified that most members of Congress were unaware of it.
In its zeal to publish stories critical of our nation's efforts -- and clearly upsetting to enemies and allies alike -- the press has printed some articles that turned out to be inaccurate. The Guantanamo Bay flushing of the Koran comes to mind.
But for the past month, the Islamist street has been on an intifada over cartoons depicting Muhammad that were first published months ago in a Danish newspaper. Protests in London -- never mind Jordan, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Iran and other countries not noted for their commitment to democratic principles -- included signs that read, "Behead those who insult Islam." The mainstream U.S. media have covered this worldwide uprising; it is, after all, a glimpse into the sentiments of our enemy and its allies. And yet it has refused, with but a few exceptions, to show the cartoons that purportedly caused all the outrage.
Indeed. And if you somehow failed to read Christopher Hitchens' bracing essay in Slate, do that as well. If you live in the Washington area, you still have a chance to join him tomorrow afternoon in a show of support at the Danish embassy. And, finally, if by some strange chance you missed my own post on assymetrical tolerance, here's a handy link.
So back to my really interesting question: how did these guys get together? It seems to me unlikely that the WaPo editorial page editors, having decided not to publish the cartoons, would have solicited this lambasting. It is, frankly, impressive enough that they published it. So who had the idea? Dershowitz, Bennett, or some hidden hand? Whoever had the idea deserves great praise, because these two authors will attract much more attention than either one of them alone would have. The fact of their co-authorship is itself so newsworthy that many people will read their essay out of morbid curiousity, if nothing else.
It occurs to me that fear may not be the only reason for the MSM not publishing the cartoons. One of the commentators to this thread on Captain's Quarters nails it:
What these news people fear more than anything now - is playing any part in events that don't support their world view. They fear that publishing those cartoons would hasten the day when everyone is forced to take a stand, the day when forces are aligned and the true nature of the conflict becomes clear to everyone. It is this crystalization of the struggle that will consign their icons of multiculturalism and political correctness to the ash heap. Forgotten in a clash of civilizations that requires sterner stuff to survive. When the majority of the American people come to see this war as a clash of civilizations, them versus us - then all the underpinings of the left's world view will be tossed aside in a heartbeat, with no prospect of rebuilding those structures anytime soon. That is what those who run our MSM fear more than anything.
Not to mention that the MSM don't want to be denied access to Muslim nations. Besides, why would they go to such great lengths to cover a situation that ultimately cannot be blamed on George W. Bush?
And, finally, if by some strange chance you missed my own post on assymetrical tolerance, here's a handy link.
Bill Bennett, Alan Dershowitz, and TigerHawk: egad, what an Unholy Trinity.
The stars are indeed aligning in the heavens.
The dynamic duo might be unusual, but I'm not surprised. There seems to be quite a bit of bi-partisan support for free speech over religious peccadillos. (Virtually) nobody on the left has a problem with the European's right to publish these cartoons, and not many more think they should choose not to publish these en masse.
However, there is a big difference between publishing Abu Ghirab torture photos, and cartoons with Muhammad's bomb-turban. All of them are disturbing and offensive (at least to some), but the torture photos were published to give sunshine to a great and grotesque injustice. OTOH, the cartoons had no positive effect at all -- they were just demeaning to Muslims. There was no benefit (i.e. exposing and changing a terrible torture policy) to offset people's vehemence against these photos. So what's really the point, besides an empty exercise on the legality of free speech?
They have every right (and still do) to publish the photos if they want, but I can understand not wanting to reap what would be sowed here.
Sam, what torture policy? I thought the people responsible for the Abu Ghraib situation were punished for the very reason that what they did there was, in fact, against U.S. policy.
As for the cartoons, the reason to publish them is to expose them to the light of day and let people make up their own minds about how offensive or inoffensive they may be. The fact is the reaction against these cartoons was a manufactured response, something initiated by mean-spirited imams in Denmark and abetted for political advantage by Iranian, Egyptian, and Syrian despots.
Not only did they manipulate the issue (three of the supposed Danish cartoons were creatures of the imams' own creation) to promote intolerance and violence but, in the bargain, they managed to intimidate large parts of the West into relinquishing its obligation to free inquiry and speech. The public was instead asked to take the word of these imams and these despots at face value or trust others' interpretations of the cartoons, pass no contrary judgment, apologize abjectly for/condemn Danish insensitivity, and not ask any questions.
Sorry, that just doesn't do it for me.
The corporate media are only as liberal as the corporations that run them.
What helps sales? What hurts sales?
These are the questions the editorial boards ask.
By the way, how 'bout that Iraqi civil war? Is CardinalPark going to blame Al Gore?
By the way, how 'bout that Iraqi civil war?
Why Screwy, that sounds positively ghoulish. You do realize that if civil war does break out, a lot of innocent people will die, don't you? Last I heard, al-Sistani was asking everyone to keep calm, which I thought was mighty decent of him under the circumstances.
Of course I don't think either the NY Times or Joe Biden will be happy until they get what they've been predicting for two years now. I guess for some people no price is too high if it enables them to say, "I told you so", but it seems a tad extreme, even to sell a few papers.
Sorry to sound so ghoulish, but the warmfuzzy tales of democracy building I've been reading from the right have sounded so positively Pollyanna that anything with a negative in it must be so disillusioning.
Sistani is, indeed, calling for calm. Let's hope his voice resonates, because no one but war-loving fools want more violence in the region. But, you know, I'm reading the foreign press and it just looks horrible. Horrible.
I'm not "I told you so"ing, but I am wondering when I'll read about the Bush administration's myriad missteps on the hallowed pages of this blog.
Concerns about a civil war in Iraq have been predicted since the days of '41 when then Secretary of State Jim Baker warned that if we went into Iraq and occupied it, sooner or later there'd be a civil war.
In a 1996 opinion piece, Baker wrote:
"Iraqi soldiers and civilians could be expected to resist an enemy seizure of their own country with a ferocity not previously demonstrated on the battlefield in Kuwait.
Even if Hussein were captured and his regime toppled, U.S. forces would still have been confronted with the specter of a military occupation of indefinite duration to pacify the country and sustain a new government in power.
Removing him from power might well have plunged Iraq into civil war, sucking U.S. forces in to preserve order. Had we elected to march on Baghdad, our forces might still be there."
The only people who bought into the Happy Iraqi bullsh*t are the ones who took us to war.
It seems to me that all this arguing over whether or not there is a "civil war" in Iraq is a bit beside the point. Of course there is a civil war. It may be a relatively low-intensity conflict compared to the really manly civil wars of old -- there have been no Vicksburgs, Chickamaugas, Shilohs, Antietams, Gettysburgs or Wildernesses yet --but there is obviously war going on in Iraq. The question is, what does it mean that there is one?
Interestingly, it is something of a concession for a lefty such as Screwy to concede that it is a "civil" war -- after all, the really hardcore lefties say that it is resistance against an occupation and its stooge government, which is manifestly not a "civil" war. Of course, there were those in the Bush administration who spent a good bit of 2003 and 2004 denying that there was a war at all, so they are also moving a bit in conceding that there is a "war" at all.
Setting aside the American domestic political considerations (everybody wants to embarrass the architects of the war), the interesting question is whether a good fight isn't in fact what the government of Iraq needs to establish its legitimacy. The truth is, it will not be genuinely legitimate in the eyes of its own Sunnis and most of its geopolitical neighbors until it has whipped its enemies in war. That is, after all, the crucible on which all real governments must be tested. So, as ugly as it will be, the nascent democracy in Iraq may well need to win a war to establish its own legitimacy...
Hmmm. That has all sorts of troubling implications...
"everybody want to embarrass the architects of the war"
Well, everybody except the folks here at Tigerhawk, I suppose...
Let me get this straight. Now you're saying that civil war is a good thing because it will make Iraq stronger. Super. Thanks for clearing that up.
Stop it. Just stop it.
Read your history books, Screwy. Ever heard of the Whiskey Rebellion? Read about it here:
In short, pissed off people decided that they were going to launch a second American Revolution about taxes they didn't like. The (new) Constitutional government crushed it flat with a very large and sudden military reaction, establishing the legitimacy of the new national government in the public eye. Voila, good for the country.
Similar story with the War of 1812, one of the least decisive and pointless wars I can think of. It began essentially because the USA was not being respected internationally. At the war's end, nothing had changed geo-politically except that now the USA was respected internationally and the first real stirrings of post-Revolutionary nationalism were born, not to mention the National Anthem.
So Tigerhawk is not just babbling, and does indeed have a valid point. But to alter your interpretation of what he said, a *victorious* civil war would be a good thing for the new government. What better way to establish your authority over a given territory than smashing anyone who challenges it?
And thus, sovereignty is born.
You do know that one of the prerequisites of statehood is the monopoly of the legitimate use of force in a given territory, yes?
As for there being a civil war in Iraq, I suppose it's a matter of interpretation. The definitions that I can find online are ridiculously broad. i.e. "civil war, n : a war between factions in the same country." According to this, gangland turf wars qualify as civil wars. So do the old days of Northern Ireland. That doesn't really fit the reality of usage, does it?
Rather than dig out my old college textbooks and search the indexes, I'll apply this to simple IR theory off the top of my head. We'll call it Dawnfire's Definition of Civil War... *ahem* A civil war occurs whenever two or more factions violently compete for a monopoly on the legitimate use of force in a given territory(1).
Corollary 1: Usually but not always in the form of political control of a pre-existent state and its governing apparatus.
Ref: 2 party civil war - American Civil War, Russian Revolution, American Revolution, English Civil War, Spanish Civil War.
Ref: Multi-party civil war - Collapse of Yugoslavia, Second Lebanese Civil War, French Revolution, Thirty Year's War.
Under this (I think) more realistic definition, Iraq may be fighting a civil war, depending on the motives of the parties involved. Insurgents who are strictly anti-American but ok with the idea of a democratic Iraq don't count, but hard-core Sunni Islamic revolutionaries neeking a new Taliban (and there are a few) or reactionary Shi'i out for a new Iran do count, because they seek the subversion and overthrow of the new state.
However, riots in the streets because someone bombed a mosque don't qualify. That's called civil unrest. There were riots in Los Angeles in 1992 when police beat up a black guy, but I don't recall anyone considering that a civil war.
SH - the conflict simmering at the momemt that you highlighted is EXACTLY why Iraq was the PERFECT place for the US to assert itself in the Middle East. PERFECT.
Who is desperately trying to launch this war?
The igniters are an alliance between Sunni Saddam Baathists on the one hand and their Zarqawi Al Qaeda allies. Dead obvious empirical evidence of the connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda that Clinton and Gore both recognized existed in 1997 and 1998 when they wanted to attack -- but were hamstrung politically by the Lewinsky scandal and a Republican Congress which wrongly bought into Brent Scowcroft/James Baker policy.
What does this war really represent?
Many things that are reflective of the boiling tensions in the entire region. The Sunni Shiite divide. The battle for modernity, democracy and capitalism versus ancien religious theocracy.
It is all there.
And we have Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani preaching for calm, along with dozens of other Sunni and Shiite leaders. We have Jalal Talabani using every ounce of his political capital to keep the Kurds from seceding. The reasonable people are trying to hold it together.
If it fails, it would be sad frankly, but certainly not the end of the world, nor a repudiation of an aggressive US policy in the Middle East. The great losers will be the Baathist Sunnis, who lack numbers and an economic base. The Kurds will be big winners. So will the Shiites. They would be free to shape their destiny. They and the US would deserve credit for being generous victors and holding their hand out to the Sunnis. But nobody should be blamed for the Sunni decision to self immolate. There is an Iraqi General who is preparing to March on Tikrit as Sherman did Atlanta, and of the War spirals, he will burn it down. It will be ugly. But it may be justice Screwy. Harsh, old world justice, like Atlanta, or Hiroshima or Dresden. History has not stopped and we can't make it stop.
If you could possibly divorce yourself from either partisanship or pacifism you might see this. You might also see the moral bankruptcy of arguing to preserve a degenerate, totalitarian, minorty regime -- as you have done. But I think you cannot do it Screwy. I think you are blind. And deaf. Dare I say it?
Looks like you done dared.
I think it's cute that you guys, no matter how awful things get over there, can continue to look at the bright side and see the potential. It's really nice of you guys. To see past the thousands of deaths and the upheaval and smile to yourself thinking, "That's how our little middle eastern friends are going to learn to be a big grown up democracy." It's hard being a parent, isn't it? Watching your little one stumble through their learning process.
Of course this war was going to be over in "six days, six weeks, I doubt six months" (Rumsfeld). It's been a monumental failure, kids. And while I appreciate your motivation, I'm struck by your unwillingness to find fault with what has been an exercise in incompetence, arrogance, and violence.
When Iraq crawls out of this bloody morass and the leaders write their history books, don't expect to be declared visionary victors.
I am a realist. Not an optimist, nor a pessimist. You seem to be the one who views everything through political goggles. You practically trip over yourself to label everything done in the last 6 or so years that you don't like as inept or a failure. You just did it in your last post, matter of fact, concerning the conflict in Iraq. Given your history of doing this (and you seem to do it constantly) I'd like to know:
What do you know about fighting a war? What qualifies you to pass judgement on such a topic? Your access to classified information, years in civil service, or the advice and fellowship of career soldiers? Or your own sense of intellectual superiority and the fact that you don't like the people who made the decisions?
The truth is, you're not qualified. I had a similar argument in college with some civilian TA who couldn't understand why the administration insisted on a spring offensive. He thought they should have waited at least until June. I said it was because they didn't want our troops and equipment operating at combat levels in the summer heat in the desert. He replied, "Do you want your national leadership to make decisions on launching a war based on the weather?" I just kind of looked at him like he was an idiot and said "yes!" Perfectly intelligent person, who knew exactly shit about warfare.
First of all, no military operation is ever a 100% success. Operation Torch was poorly scheduled, badly managed, fought with green troops, and picked a fight with the French, but still ultimately succeeded. The naval and aerial bombardments prior to the Normandy invasions were off mark and the airborne drops missed completely, but the invasion succeeded. The Soviet Union nearly collapsed in 1941, but rallied to defeat the Germans in Russia almost by themselves and ended up taking Berlin. There are three examples from the same overall conflict that I can mention just from memory. Until the Gulf War, the US Army *lost* the first engagement of every war it ever fought. (so military lore goes, I've never verified it myself)
Secondly, Rumsfeld made that comment with regard to the actual invasion of Iraq and the battle against the Iraqi military. Which, by the way, lasted how long? Three weeks? The last organized Fedayeen strongholds were crushed by the end of April, and the regular Iraqi Army had literally disintegrated before then. (though we now know that some of the Republican Guards who melted away did so according to pre-planned specifications to form guerilla bands) So the Secretary's comment was accurate. The war was over in less than 6 months.
And before you scream, "The war is still on," let me say, no it isn't. This is called pacification, and every conquest I've ever heard of required some level of it. That's half the reason Military Police even exist; keeping order in captured territories. People refer to it as 'war' because no one knows any better or they just don't care. We even use the term 'war' in the military because it's easier to say. Pacification is separate from war. World War I ended in 1918, right? No one remembers the Turkish partisans who continued fighting into 1920; the war ended in 1918, followed by pacification. Pacification is not conventional conflict, and nor has it ever been. It requires time (and thereby patience), troops, and treasure. As a matter of fact, this pacification is probably easier than most because the occupation has been legitimized by the UN and the new Iraqi government, which is friendly and is doing its overall best to help.
"I'm struck by your unwillingness to find fault with what has been an exercise in incompetence, arrogance, and violence."
You just made this up. I never said anything even remotely similar to this. (and since you made your post to "You guys" I just kind of assume I'm included here) Rather, I spend most of my time here correcting your outlandish claims of this and that. Kind of like now. Until Cassandra makes me stop, anyway.
Lastly, a line of yours that really bugged me.. "To see past the thousands of deaths and the upheaval and smile to yourself thinking, "That's how our little middle eastern friends are going to learn to be a big grown up democracy."
That's how we did it. And Israel, and Venezuela. You must really hate history, mustn't you?
Way to attack the messenger.
The quiet resignation and hope you exhibit is admirable and endearing. I understand that you see what's happening now as part of much longer road to a uniquely Iraqi democracy. It says a lot about your character that you place your faith in the power of democracy to overcome any obstacle.
So, nothing personal here, Captain.
I see a road ahead rife with uncertainty, danger, instability, and war. This need never have happened in Iraq. We've made a bloody mess of the place. You want history? Try the history of Iraq. Read that, then come back and tell me where occupying Iraq has led others.
You're a nice person, but let's not pretend that the growing Iraqi instability and violence is a good thing.
You sound so much more reasonable when you lose that condescending aire and sarcastic edge.
The history of Iraq isn't that long. Less than a century, in fact. It was created after WWI as a League of Nations Mandate. And until now, it hasn't been occupied by anyone unless you count the Ottoman Empire for some reason. It was a nominally independent nation from 1920-1932 under British Mandate, and from 1932 to 2003 as an independent state. During those 12 years of 'occupation,' (though it wasn't really an occupation in the traditional sense) the British did ok, and they voluntarily left Iraq to allow it full independence as agreed in the Mandate.
So to answer your question, occupying Iraq hasn't led anyone anywhere, because it's never been done.
"I see a road ahead rife with uncertainty, danger, instability, and war."
That seems like a reasonable assessment.
"This need never have happened in Iraq. We've made a bloody mess of the place."
As if it wasn't a bloody mess before? Let's not forget the mass executions, razing of towns, disappearing citizens, and routine torture.
And 2, *we* have not made Iraq a bloody mess. There's a strong aversion to suicide bombings and planting IEDs in the US military. I think it's against regulations.