Monday, August 07, 2006
Regular readers know that I hold the "anti-war" movement in very low regard. It is not anti-war, it is anti-defense, anti-victory, and ultimately anti-American. As I wrote more than a month ago, we know this because of the demands that the anti-war movement does not make.
These activists are not calling for the end of war. One can search through their demands from dawn until dusk and find no requirement that al Qaeda lay down its arms, that the Taliban recant, that Iran stop funding terrorists, that Hezbollah abandon its coercion of Lebanon, or that Hamas give up its ambition to destroy Israel. They are calling for the end of American participation in the war.
Conceding purely for the sake of argument that there may be excellent geopolitical arguments in favor of immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, they are not anti-war arguments. Unilateral withdrawal will not cause the war to end, or the killing to stop. It will simply accelerate the switch from military to civilian targets. Indeed, there is an excellent chance that the aggregate killing will increase. Whatever the objectives of those who call for American withdrawal, they do not include sympathy for the millions of Muslims who are resisting the jihad's perversion of their religion and their society.
With that spiffy introduction, run right over and read Martin Peretz's op-ed (free link) in today's Wall Street Journal. This bit is particularly pithy:
Finally, the contest in Connecticut tomorrow is about two views of the world. Mr. Lamont's view is that there are very few antagonists whom we cannot mollify or conciliate. Let's call this process by its correct name: appeasement. The Greenwich entrepreneur might call it "incentivization." Mr. Lieberman's view is that there are actually enemies who, intoxicated by millennial delusions, are not open to rational and reciprocal arbitration. Why should they be? After all, they inhabit a universe of inevitability, rather like Nazis and communists, but with a religious overgloss. Such armed doctrines, in Mr. Lieberman's view, need to be confronted and overwhelmed.
Lamont typifies the idea that declared enemies of the United States and its allies can simply be "negotiated" with, as if talking enough will something get them to retract their stated objective to destroy us or our allies. More to the point, Lamont and his ilk insist that we "negotiate" with these people only after we have renounced the one real point of leverage that we have. Peretz on Lamont on Iran:
Mr. Lamont's views are also not camouflaged. They are just simpleminded. Here, for instance, is his take on what should be done about Iran's nuclear-weapons venture: "We should work diplomatically and aggressively to give them reasons why they don't need to build a bomb, to give them incentives. We have to engage in very aggressive diplomacy. I'd like to bring in allies when we can. I'd like to use carrots as well as sticks to see if we can change the nature of the debate." Oh, I see. He thinks the problem is that they do not understand, and so we should explain things to them, and then they will do the right thing. It is a fortunate world that Mr. Lamont lives in, but it is not the real one. Anyway, this sort of plying is precisely what has been going on for years, and to no good effect. Mr. Lamont continues that "Lieberman is the one who keeps talking about keeping the military option on the table." And what is so plainly wrong with that? Would Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be more agreeable if he thought that we had disposed of the military option in favor of more country club behavior?
When Lamont shows up at the poker table, does he announce in advance that he won't bluff?
Before Pearl Harbor, Republicans led the political movement to keep the United States out of the war against fascism. Since early 1968, when the press misunderstood and mischaracterized the military consequences of the Tet offensive, Walter Cronkite despaired, and Lyndon Johnson retired, the power of the hawks within the Democratic party has been in secular decline. It has reached the point that there is really only one of national stature, and he is about to be purged. History may well record the Lamont victory as the moment when the Democrats cemented their minority status.
...or it might record a Lamont victory as the first step away from hegemonic unilateral militarism and towards a true international effort to reduce the threats of terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
Anti-war isn't anti-American, Hawk. That's just silly. It's like saying Pro-war is Anti-Jesus.
Of course "anti-war" is anti-American, if the direct consequence of adopting their policy orientation (if one can call it a policy orientation rather than a pure fantasy) is that the US loses, or even loses ground strategically. Saying it ain't so doesn't make it not so.
I'm not sure I get the anti-Jesus concept, since there seems no consensus that Jesus was anti-war. I predict that a lot of people who are currently hanging on as Democrats because of various domestic policy positions will leave the party completely if it's clear that a Lieberman has no place in it. And, more importantly, they'll be less inclined to vote for Democrat candidates even if they pay some lip service to military robustness.
A lot of people don't find that spending trillions of dollars occupying foreign nations is a worthwhile expenditure. They don't like the killing or the dying, don't like the effects of our plummeting world opinion, and don't like installing new theocracies. I don't see the creation of failed states or the sowing of hatred through violence as a national security boon. If Republicans want to to run on their success as warriors, well I'm happy to help them get all the credit they deserve. We've now spent what, something around 500 billion on Iraq? That's close to $20,000 American (who knows how many dinnars?) for every man woman and child in Iraq. Who knows what we could have accomplished if we had channeled a fraction of those resources into diplomacy? Now they hate us. It strikes me as a poor investment simply to remove a tyrant who wasn't associated with 9/11 and did not have WMDs. It strikes a lot of voters that way.
I guess if Lieberman goes we'll see how many people he brought to the Democrats. He didn't seem to bring many in 2000.
As for Jesus, I guess some people think the whole "Prince of Peace" thing is a total misnomer. When Jesus used a pseudonym it was "Lamb of God", not the "Tiger of God". Churchgoers might be familiar with one of Jesus's more famous ceremonial phrases: "I give you Peace, my Peace be with you.". I'm no Biblical scholar, but I'm pretty sure the passage where Jesus fights tooth and nail against Lucifer for forty days and forty nights in the desert just doesn't exist. Maybe it got lost along with the one where he leads an army against Rome.
I agree with Screwey that is it silly to say that pro-war is anti-Jesus, but only because I think it is silly when anyone presumes to speak for a higher power (I'll make exceptions for spiritual leaders). Furthermore, I think the invocation of God as a primary argument is cheating in a liberal democracy (no exceptions for spiritual leaders). So let's leave Jesus out of this. There's no reason to go smearing him as putatively pro-war.
I agree, Screwy, that "anti-war isn't anti-American," but these people aren't "anti-war." They're merely calling for a unilateral withdrawal of the United States from a war that will rage on regardless. It is not opposition to war, it is opposition to America trying to influence the outcome.
And what has been America's influence on the outcome some three years and four months into the war?
Baghdad looked like Tehran in 1979 last Friday. American flags were burned and "Death to America" was the second most popular chant of the day. "Death to the Shah" was replaced with "Death to Israel" as the favorite.
How do we influence the outcome, by picking sides? If so, which side? Should we back the pro-Iranian Shiites or the Stalinist Sunnis? Those are your choices.
The elected government is on the Shiite side. Most likely our real interests lie on the side of the Sunnis who are anti-Iran, but pro-Saddam. Perverse, isn't it?
Of course, most of these questions probably make me anti-American, so I'll just go along with "stay the course", right? Snappy phrase, that. Disasterous, but snappy.
Pug, I'm not sure whether we should scale down our involvement or escalate -- I certainly agree that the future down either path is not clear. However, I also know that opinion that calls for immediate withdrawal is not "anti-war." Of that much I am certain.
"no consensus that Jesus was anti-war"
This is the sort of statement that makes it hard to take the Pro-war crowd seriously.
And, Tigerhawk, if by "influence the outcome" you mean leave the bodies of American soldiers in the middle of an internecine civil war, I'd rather see them occupying some Green Zone and waiting to see how things shake out.
I haven't seen any indication that our presence is improving the Iraqi situation.
"first step away from hegemonic unilateral militarism and towards a true international effort to reduce the threats of terrorism and nuclear proliferation."
Why would we want to? What exactly has that 'international effort,' (i.e. endless rounds of meaningless and ultimately pointless diplomacy) which was pursued with North Korea and is being pursued now with Iran, gotten us? A nuclear Korean penninsula and an almost nuclear apocalyptic psycho Iran. You want more of the same?
"They don't like the killing or the dying, don't like the effects of our plummeting world opinion, and don't like installing new theocracies."
They don't have to like it. They don't even have to do it. They also don't have to make those hard decisions, or figure out whether it is in American interest to play nice or to body-check, or how to do it. All they have to do is sit back and bitch and moan about how they don't like this and that, and then perhaps half get up every couple of years to stick a piece of paper in a box and brag about how they've done their civic duty. This country is not run by "a lot of people," and there are excellent reasons why.
Nice job, BTW, of just up and deciding that the Iraqi government is a theocracy in order to smear the opposition's goals and achievements.
"I don't see the creation of failed states or the sowing of hatred through violence as a national security boon."
More of the same here, with a dash of idealism.
"That's close to $20,000 American (who knows how many dinnars?) for every man woman and child in Iraq... Now they hate us."
That's flat wrong, unless you categorize the entire country as Sadrist reactionaries. (which is also wrong) See below.
"Baghdad looked like Tehran in 1979 last Friday. American flags were burned and "Death to America" was the second most popular chant of the day."
First of all, I see the same kind of thing here in California about once a month. Does that say more about Iraq or California I wonder? Secondly, from Iraq the Model: "instead of the million figure that Sadr was aspiring to see in Baghdad and out of supposedly 2 million Shia residents of Sadr city only 100 000 showed up and that's only after Sadr summoned demonstrators from the southern provinces and sent busses to fetch them and let's not forget that the demonstration took place in Sadr's own stronghold where it's supposed to take no effort from supporters to show up and march; technically they were asked to march in their own front yard."
i.e. less than 5% of the massive poor Shi'a population in Baghdad could be bothered to march in their 'own front yard' to condemn the US (whom they supposedly despise with all their hearts) at the request of their great leader. Hmm...
"I haven't seen any indication that our presence is improving the Iraqi situation."
Oh really? Have you been there? Have you paid attention to the Iraqi government (that would be the Shi'a theocracy that hates us, recall) that *specifically* asked us NOT to leave? Or failed to note how the country's infrastructure has made huge gains in recovering pre-war (and sometimes exceeding it) levels. Maybe the two day party that erupted after we killed Zarqawi was a coincidence, or maybe they were celebrating because we somehow made things worse.
"I'd rather see them occupying some Green Zone and waiting to see how things shake out."
That's how the UN does (not do) things. Not us.
And please don't use dead soldiers as fodder for moral grandstanding. I'm asking nicely.
Here's a link to a fairly good piece, written by an ardent peace-activist leftist, assessing how the movement has been transformed into, well... something else: Has the Left Gone Mad?
So, like... people are noticing and stuff.
A lot of people don't find that spending trillions of dollars occupying foreign nations is a worthwhile expenditure.
I suppose by "occupying foreign nations" you might be referring to:
South Korea, Japan, Germany and Afghanistan.
One crucial difference between our so-called "occupation" of Iraq with our "occupation" of these other four countries is that the opponents of the democratically elected governments in those countries are under less attack than is Iraq's democratically elected government.
The Left doesn't think that America should try to help the world's first democratically elected government in the Arab world stay alive.
And when the Left complains that Iraq's current democratically elected goverment is "a theocracy," I have to wonder. Would the Left support the Bush administration if it installed an unelected and unpopular secular dictator to rule over Iraq?
I rather doubt it.
The Left doesn't like it when the United States joins with dictatorships like Pinochet in Chile. But they don't like it when the United States topples dictatorships and attempts to help the people develop democracy.
The Left seems to be anti-American in the sense that they don't mind dictatorships as long as they are anti-American dictatorships.
It's too soon to say if the Iraq war has been a success - it may be 30 years before we can see these events clearly - but I am certain the endeavour is worth while. Even if it fails and Iraq sinks back into tyranny, it was worth trying. Also, remember how Greece was liberated from the Nazis, then had a civil war, then later on had an episode of dictatorship, before finally settling down as a democratic state that is a member of the EU. It can be a hard road. The invasion did remove a big road block on the route to freedom.
What Screwy objects to is reality.
"If we are just nice to Mr. Ahmadinejad he won't nuke us! And who cares about the Jews, they shouldn't exist!"
That's a fair summary of his position.
Iran's insane President (with the vast support of his people) has promised to nuke Israel off the map, and hit the US too. Repeatedly. Over and over again. He's got nukes already (hence the popping off); he merely lacks reliable ICBMS. Once he has them, goodbye Israel (something Dems will cheer, let's be honest) and an American city or two.
This is reality. No amount of talking or wishing will make it different.
Screwy may not be interested in War, or Islam but rest assured both are very interested in you.
London had over 100,000 screaming Muslims demanding death to Israel and America; similar turnouts in many European cities.
You can't have "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal" with Allah's message that they are not, and Muslims destined to kill, enslave, and convert by force all non-Muslims to enforce planetary rule by one Muslim as "God's Shadow on Earth"
Once Hitler took office war was inevitable, even though most Leftists and pacifists thought Churchill was the "war monger" etc. The only question was when and where the war would be fought.
The same thing with Iran and the wider Muslim world. Of course we are at war with them and have been since 1979 at least. Most Americans have little appetite for nation-building but rather "to hell with them" and would rather just nuke the hell out of Iran and Pakistan and possibly the Magic Kingdom as well.
Given that Iraq is an unsinkable Aircraft Carrier next to Iran, being there is rather handy if we choose a non-Nuke means of making our displeasure with Iran's nuclear pursuits of finishing the Final Solution and wiping out some of our cities.
If Iran has no electricity at all; well it's hard to make nukes and assemble missiles without it.
And yes this sucks. It's also reality. Iran and it's people are our enemies. As are most Muslims.
Fine Dawnfire, only 47% of the Iraqi population approves of killing us (ref Brooking). So I'll apologize for generalizing and contextualize. I don't think it is worth spending 20k a head for a country where 12 million people to hate us enough to want us dead. That's just not a worthwhile expenditure in my book. (I'm also sorry if you see Califonians burning flags and chanting "death to America" every month, but please get a photo next time, because I have a hard time believing you.) Obviously I think this war is foolish and has damaged US interests, and obviously you don't. And even if I've started off snarky, this part is dead serious: if you want to convince me otherwise, what you should do is explain to me the cost/benefit. What have we gained or won (or are likely to gain or win) that is worth what we've paid and continue to pay? That's the key to changing my mind. Give me the bottom line, answer-to-the-stockholders response. Why is this worth it? And while we're being frank, let me ask: what set of circumstances would cause you to believe that this war isn't in America's best interest? I'm curious. ff to mail me if you'd rather not post in comments.
Mark, when we have 100,000 troops stationed abroad in a place where people are trying to kill them, I call that an occupation. You can contrast it to whatever you want. You are correct that I don't like it when we cooperate with dictators, but we've gotten a lot of help from Pakistan for a lot less than $500,000,000,000. I bet if you asked Tiger, he'd say he doesn't like it, but we've gotten a fair bit of help at a reasonable price. Yeah, it's shady, but at least it's cost effective. We currently cooperate with an Arab dictatorship that broke the non-proliferation treaty and developed nukes. If that's ok, then surely we could have looked at other options for Iraq. It's fine to believe there will be some benefit 30 years from now, but explain what you think it will be and why it's worth paying for now. Be advised though, I think the stakes in war are high enough that we deserve better than "worth a try" arguments.
Annoymous, take deep breaths. I know a lot of Democrats, but not a single one that would cheer if Israel got nuked. There's no need to be paranoid on that count. Also, I don't think most Americans actually want to nuke Iran and Pakistan. I could be wrong, but I think that fantasy is only common in certain scary circles.
The bottom line is that you can't call are presence in Iraq an occupation unless you are prepared to call our presence in Japan and Germany after World War II an occupation also. Same for Afghanistan and South Korea.
Are there people in Iraq (and in the larger Arab world) who want to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iraq? Yes. But I don't see why that makes our presence there any less worth supporting.
I have spoken to many Democrats over the years and quite a large number of them have criticized American foreign policy for forming alliances with dictators.
You might be practical enough to support an Iraq policy of installing an unpopular and perhaps cruel pro-American dictator in Iraq instead of trying to do something revolutionary: develop a democracy in Muslim Middle East.
But let's say President Bush decided that he wanted to install Ahmed Chalabi as the new dictator of Iraq. Do you really think most of the Democrat party would applaud this policy idea? And how many Iraqis would be willing to cooperate with such a regime, knowing that this regime wasn't created by Iraqis, but was simply the invention of President Bush.
Instead we have had 3 elections in Iraq, which have resulted in the current democratically elected government. And, yes, since the Arab and Muslim worlds are saturated with illiberal attitues, this is going to be reflected in their parliament and cabinet.
This isn't a perfect world and the Arab world is even less perfect than the rest of the world. So, it's not surprising that our options in Iraq are limited.
I should also point out that there is a difference between cooperating with a dictator that has been in power for years (or even decades) as is the case with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and installing a dictator after toppling an existing one with our military power.
Somehow, I think most Democrats would oppose President Bush if he were simply going to replace Saddam with a pro-American dicator.
For example, how popular was America's support of the Shah of Iran in the 1970s among the American Left? Not very popular, if I remember correctly.
Despite the obvious disadvantages, there is something to be said for allowing the people of a nation to choose their representatives and leaders through the casting of ballots. And if you don't think a democratically elected government in Iraq is worth supporting, I guess that's why you are a member of the Democrat party, where nihilism is the only philosophy that prevails.
"no consensus that Jesus was anti-war"
This is the sort of statement that makes it hard to take the Pro-war crowd seriously.
Somehow it's easy for me to believe you're rather unserious--about much more than the unquestioned assumption that Jesus would have thought it wise to roll over to the totalitarian demands of the Jihadists, or, for that matter, have been a pacifist in the face of Adolph or Uncle Joe.
While he might have counseled pacifism under conditions similar to those in which he lived, where the only choice was either to influence or violently oppose an unopposable and undefeatable foe, that's clearly not the choice we are facing. Nor anything like it.
Besides, you aren't anti-war, you're just anti-victory. (A position that Hitchens describes so accurately and colorfully as "domestic masochism".)
Mark, I've explained my criteria for using the word "occupation". I don't know what the hang-up is, but the word doesn't matter, and what you choose to retroactively call Japan or Korea matters even less. Call it sleepover camp if you really want, it's not going to change the reality of the situation in Iraq.
No doubt, I prefer democracies to dictatorships. I also prefer winning the lotto to going to grad school. Now it happens that I don't play the lotto because its odds are crap. Which is also my critique of nation building via military power. It's woefully expensive and even then your odds of creating a liberal democracy still aren't very high. What have we got now? Iraq has an anti-American populace led by strict Islamicists disintegrating into sectarian violence. Is there really nothing else you'd rather the nation had spent a half a trillion dollars of borrowed money on? Tax cuts? Renewable energy and weening off oil? Balancing the budget? College tution for 5 million students? A $3,000 check for every taxpayer? We could have flown to Mars. It would have advanced our national interest more than this war has.
You guess wrong. I'm not a Democrat, and my reasons for not being one have nothing to do with nihilism on their part or mine.
"no consensus that Jesus was anti-war"
Here are two relevant passages:
"he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one." (Luke 22:36)
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)
I suspect that Screwy has fallen into the trap of believing the lies that the left invented: The hawks are not pro-war because they like war but because they feel that war is the better policy in this case. Similiarly the anti-war folks are generally not truly anti-war because, as Tigerhawk points out, they are very selective in which warriors they oppose.