Saturday, November 12, 2005

Considering dissent and limited war II 

President Bush's speech this afternoon -- a response to the unfortunately persistent idea that the Bush administration lied or mislead the Senators who voted to support regime change in Iraq -- has re-ignited the argument about patriotism and the questioning thereof in the context of debating an ongoing war. See, for example, this long post on Instapundit.

In the dog days of August last summer, during the peak of Sheehan-mania, we had a pretty good discussion of this very question on this blog, and it bears reopening in our post-Sheehan, post-Katrina political world. With that in mind, I thought I would republish the post from last summer, modified slightly to reflect small revisions in my thinking.

I originally wrote this essay as a follow-up to a short 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. That historical footnote, 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 -- as the president did today -- 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 even 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 among influential serious people, but the left keeps claiming that the right says this, so let's give the left the benefit of the doubt). 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 or Democrats in general, 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 fair 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 primarily foreign audiences, demonstrate against weapons manufacturers simply because they are 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.

Finally, and obviously, hypocritically arguing in front of the world that the President of the United States lied to or misled the United States Senate is to give aid and comfort to the enemy and undermine our soldiers for no constructive purpose other than political advantage. Fatuous claims that we must argue this issue now -- during the war and in the midst of great uncertainty in Iraq -- so it "never happens again" are nothing but a fig leaf to cover up the awful truth -- that anybody who makes this argument is sacrificing America's best interests for their own.


By Blogger SeekerBlog.com, at Fri Nov 11, 10:53:00 PM:


This is a remarkable piece of thinking and writing - thank you. I've read through twice looking for flaws, but have found nothing other than nitpicks.

A challenge for your readers is to lead some of the elites to read this - then commit their counterarguments to writing in your comments section. A substantive engagement might even leak out into the dead tree media.

E.g., I've found E.J. Dionne's email address (at Brookings), and am writing him an invitation. But don't hold your breath . . .

Steve D.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Nov 11, 11:03:00 PM:

I suppose it would be redundant after this splendid effort to quote Orwell to the effect that, effectively, the pacifist favors the fascist.
In the times Orwell was writing of, it does not appear that the pacifist agreed, nor would he have accepted the point that his freedom to have a part in the debate actually had a cost.

It would be nice if every dissenter, of whatever stripe, could be made to address the cost issue.
Accidental honesty might slip out.

If you knew that your speech would cost three American soldiers their lives, would you still make it? If yes, then the speaker would be required to assert that it would save more than three.
It is unlikely many dissenters would accept the question, but, in the refusing, accidental honesty might slip out.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 12:05:00 AM:

"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."

I'm well within the pro-Iraq war camp. But, looking for flaws that would be used against the post, I was curious about this above. So I'm just picking a nit I can see being picked. So let me ask...

Why would it be illegitmate to show a more honest version of an anti-war documentary outside the U.S.?

Those who would ask this would found their question on something like this... We would want democracies who share our values as allies in the war endeavor any time we would "choose" to go to war (I'm assuming these would be folks who honestly agree that there is a time where choosing to go to war might be the right and moral decision at some time). Such democracies as those that recognize the rights of citizens to dissent as freely as we do in this country. So why would it be illegitimate to show "more honest versions" of anti-war documentaries in such countries?

What say you?

Eric Anondson (I have a potential reply, but you may wish to come up with one in your own words)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 12:33:00 AM:

You know, if the war had been conducted competently, none of this argument would be going on. But since "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is now morphing into the Iraqi civil war fiasco, let's have the argument.

In general, I disagree that opposition to a war necessarily provides any more 'aid and comfort' to the enemy as compared to continuation of an unjust, brutal, or poorly waged war. In the present case, the flaw in your argument is that prosecution of this war is stregthening the enemy, if we accept that Al Zarqwahi and "Al Queda in Iraq" represent the enemy. Alienation of secular Sunnis, increased recruitment of insurgents, and motivation of jihadis all are demonstrably occuring. In this situation, when support of the war provides more aid and comfort, isn't it patriotic to oppose a failed policy that costs us dearly in lives and money? Not to mention, we are undermining what it means to be an American. What kind of example does our country set when we see torture, elimination of habeas corpus, and an offshore gulag. How can any American countenance these things? How can any person with libertarian leanings or suspicion of government not be horrified by this?

Some opponents of the war recognized and argued before the war that the reasons for war were false and spurious and that the administration was distorting the "facts." To them, that Bush, or his proxies, lied cannot be refuted. As more is revealed about the selective publication of the NIE, it is clear that the administration was, at least, selective, if not outright dishonest.

To paraphrase one of your commenters, if you knew that by not speaking out more soldiers would be killed, how could you keep silent?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 12:55:00 AM:

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.

So, you're saying we will never leave. Because when we do, the insurgents will declare victory. But that's what I thought: Bush has no strategy for withdrawal, because he has not intention of leaving.  

By Blogger Judith, at Sat Nov 12, 12:56:00 AM:

"Alienation of secular Sunnis, increased recruitment of insurgents, and motivation of jihadis all are demonstrably occuring."

In fact, there is an increasing split in the Sunni community about whether terrorist tactics are worthwhile, and more Sunnis are choosing to join the political process and shunning terrorism. You forget that all the Iraqi groups intermarry and there IS a nascent Iraqi identity, and Sunnis don't like seeing their neighbors and families blown up any more than Shiites do.

In fact, along with some increase in recruiting terrorists (whom I will not dignify by the term"insurgent"), there is ocurring throughout the Arab world an increasing revulsion at terrorism in general, for example, most recently the Jordanians have expressed fury at the suicide bombers who bloew up their hotels and guests, and some are even saying Bush was right. This trend is increasing faster than the other one. Also, as Iraq becomes more prosperous and connected with the world (and it is), there will be more jobs and optimistic futures for the young adult male demographic that is attracted to jihadism because it engages their energy and desire to make a mark on the world.

Your information is old news.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 12:58:00 AM:

you;ve made a number of good points, but i fear you may be overlooking the salient one.

My son is going back to Iraq.. for a war that now appears to me.. did not have to be fought. The danger was not imminent.. we could have found another way, i believe.

What do you say to those who find themselves fighting a war in this situation. Those parents of dead and maimed children...

I do appreciate that you do not automatically brand everyone who questions the war as "unpatriotic"..
in my experience, many do that.


By Blogger Judith, at Sat Nov 12, 01:00:00 AM:

"So, you're saying we will never leave. Because when we do, the insurgents will declare victory. But that's what I thought: Bush has no strategy for withdrawal, because he has not intention of leaving."

The terrorists will not declare victory if they are systematically hunted down and eliminated by Iraqi police and military, who are being trained to take over from the Coalition forces. As Bush said, "As the Iraqis stand up, Americans will stand down." And that has been his strategy since the beginning. And it's working. However, I have a feeling we will keep some bases there the same way we did in Europe after WWII, and the Iraqis will have the same mixed feelings about it that the Germans did. (i.e. complaining about the "ugly Americans" but enjoying the income opportunities and bitching when we leave.)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 01:07:00 AM:

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.

If indeed. Since this war was sold as one of the greatest moment and necessity and since the current administration presents it in such stark terms, it would seem "the objectors" should be marginalized.

But if in fact this is a limited war as you say, why did we rush in when there most obviously were some inconsistencies with the "intelligence?

Dissent is at the heart of a free society. Truth fears no lesser voices and wins in the end, whether by whisper or more forceful voice. If free voices of disagreement can not speak, have not our enemies already taken away the very liberty we claim to fight for and cherish?

It is most ironic that you quote Orwell. War is Peace. Black is White.  

By Blogger Judith, at Sat Nov 12, 01:10:00 AM:

"My son is going back to Iraq.. for a war that now appears to me.. did not have to be fought. The danger was not imminent.. we could have found another way, i believe."

What does your son think, especially if he is going back? (I assume voluntarily?)

We tried all the other ways. 14 UNSC resolutions. Countless "inspections." One of the "rewriting history" items is that Bush said the danger was imminent, but it wasn't, so Bush lied or misled us. In fact he said many times that the danger wasn't imminent, but it wouldn't be smart to wait until it was. I agree and that's why I voted for him. Saddam's track record showed a ticking bomb that had to be disarmed before it blew.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 01:11:00 AM:

I'm sorry, but if we're really going to go along with the new talking point ("the Democrats screwed up too"), shouldn't we look at actual numbers?
23 Democrats and one Republican in the Senate voted against giving Bush carte blanche for this ill-planned, ill-executed mess. The majority of Democrats in the House also voted against it.
Bush's assumption is that they share the blame. And I agree, pro war Democrats, a minority, do deserve some of the blame. The entire Republican Party save Lincoln Chaffee and (as we were reminded ad naseum during the election) the Commander in Chief, the man in charge, deserves much more.

To me, this entire argument either comes to the conclusion that Bush is not to be trusted by Democrats and the voting public ever again or he's saying that as the leader of the free world, Ted Kennedy is better at him on national defense. Pick one.  

By Blogger John B. Chilton, at Sat Nov 12, 01:18:00 AM:


Bravo. Your essay deserves to be widely read. Fellow bloggers, even if you got here via Instapundit don't assume all corners of the blogosphere know. Link. Now.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 01:25:00 AM:

Wow, yeah, I was going to leave a comment ... or not, since I couldn't really make it through more than a handful of paragraphs before my eyelids got all droopy ...

Try harder. Stretch your mind. You might learn something.

If your continued support for the war is lending aid and comfort to the enemy, which it unquestionably is, who's the big jerk?

Why, you are, for refusing to acknowledge that another point of view exists. Why do you take for granted that we're losing, just because terrorists are still able to blow stuff up?

And, who on earth would compare him to Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln prosecuted a war to keep the country together; today, we happily divide ourselves into Blue and Red states based on electoral results.

If network television had existed in Lincoln's day, there would have been electoral maps with red and blue (or whatever other colors were popular at that time) to represent electoral returns.

I'm going to request that Tradesports offer a contract for "Iraqi democratically elected government remains in power through 2006, 2008 or whenever, so I can start making some money off defeatists. I doubt you have the courage to put money where your mouth is, though.

Mr. Arakawa, I'm horrified at your attitude. Is it the courage of the subhumanoid Iraqis, the American public, or your fellow Marines on the field of battle that you doubt? No Marine I've ever known would surrender so fast.


By Blogger Kint, at Sat Nov 12, 01:42:00 AM:

Your method of using highly statements can be used in the anti-war argument against Bush as well. Perhaps you should address that issue. If Bush did trump up the case for war, and if this war was waged for reasons other than what was given to the American public, Bush has committed an act of treason. If Bush put his twisted ideology ahead of our soldiers and the safety of American citizens abroad, he has committed an act of treason, and should be persecuted for this crime to the full extent of the law. Clearly, the neocons, with Paul Wolfowitz at the helm, wanted to invade Iraq and remove Saddam from power as early as 1992, and said so publicly in 1997. They had urged President Clinton to invade Iraq. And when Bush came in power, according to many independent sources, they started the planning to war. 9-11 made this goal more achievable. If this indeed was an ideological crusade to remove someone who they intensely disliked, and that was never in the interest of the United States, and the evidence is beginning to mount in that direction, Bush has commited a grave act that's not only unpatriotic, but treasonous.  

By Blogger Kint, at Sat Nov 12, 01:44:00 AM:

I meant to say, 'highly qualified statements..'  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 01:48:00 AM:

My son is going back to Iraq.. for a war that now appears to me.. did not have to be fought. The danger was not imminent.. we could have found another way, i believe.

Thank your son for his service for us. But you do recall, hopefully, that the President never argued the danger was imminent. The argument was that with the threat (not just the mere existence) of WMD we needed to respond before the danger was imminent? (2,000 dead soldiers in 2 years, vs. 200,000 dead civilians by a smuggled nuke attack in one instant? Which way would you prefer a President wager on?)

I realize it is easy to forget, what the anti-war campaigners regularly and vehemently claiming that the argument for removing the Ba'ath government of Iraq was that Iraq was an imminent threat already.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 01:57:00 AM:

And when Bush came in power, according to many independent sources, they started the planning to war.

Virtually required by Congress when they passed an act that stated that regime change in Iraq was the policy of the United States government... under the Clinton era. It would be negligence to have not begun some contingency planning as soon as possible... would it not? It was policy of the government to actively seek the removal of the Ba'ath regime in Iraq before Bush took office.  

By Blogger Kevin L. Connors, at Sat Nov 12, 02:06:00 AM:

Seriously TH: you should shop this around to some established (generaloly dead-tree) periodicals. You might be able to make a few bucks off it - it's that good.  

By Blogger Basspastor, at Sat Nov 12, 02:13:00 AM:

Wow Bravo Magnificent, I read the whole thing and will read it again.

Ohh that such well stated on cogent moral reasoning were a concern in this day and age.

By the way I really liked it. Now onto a legitimate concern.

My son is going back to Iraq.. for a war that now appears to me.. did not have to be fought. The danger was not imminent.. we could have found another way, i believe.

What do you say to those who find themselves fighting a war in this situation. Those parents of dead and maimed children...

I would urge you to not give in and lose faith just yet for a couple of reasons. You say it "now appears," which seems to indicate that you supported the war at some point.

Let me suggest since the fact our intel on WMD's and other things was so bad and unreliable that to not invade with Saddam stalling and playing the UN and us for fools would have been the hieght of folly. That Iraq and it's WMD programs were "dark" is a troubling state where you don't give Saddam the benefit of the doubt even if it comes up empty at the end. In that case you breathe a sigh of relief and get on with crushing terrorists and building a free, prosperous, and stable Iraq with a view to it being a peace nation in due time.

The second reason you should not lose faith is because it's too damn early in the game for that sort of defeatism; If I may be so crude. We have not been in Iraq 3 years and an amazing amount has been accomplished. Yes we are fighting a difficult enemy that wants to protract this thing out as long as possible and that is difficult to stomach, but it is not impossible.

I've known it sense 9/11 and the first day of operations in both Afgahnistan and Iraq that these things take time and to go in with anything less than 2 year, 5 year, and 10 year benchmarks is just being to impatient. Seeing as how the insurgents really didn't start their end of the fight in Iraq until April of 04, we are not even through the 2nd year of the counter-insurgency. Patience is a virtue for our side, because the enemy can't last while we hound, pressure, and harrass them constantly in operations big and small.

I believe in the US Armed Forces and there strategic ability to defeat the insurgents. Have Faith. Be Patient. One day the horror will end and a free Iraq will emerge.  

By Blogger Jack, at Sat Nov 12, 02:44:00 AM:

Perhaps the last thing this administration was planning to do when it came into office was fight a ground war in the Middle East. An effort to rebuild the crumbling sanctions regime would have been attempted, bu they had their eye on China, not the Middle East.  

By Blogger Ralph Thayer, at Sat Nov 12, 02:51:00 AM:

Splendid examination of an issue I myself have been struggling with. Thanks.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 03:16:00 AM:

The real argument about going to war with Iraq was an argument about transparency when it comes to WMDs. Plenty of foreign policy writing pre-dating 9/11--and even predating 2000--made these arguments quite well. The real mistake Bush made, in my opinion, was attempting to make the case for actual WMDs rather than the threat of them. His failure was giving in to the criticisms and going through the UN at all. Sanctions needed to stop, but stopping them would provide money and wiggle room for Saddam who would have undoubtedly started up his antics. At the same time there was every reason to believe that he may have indeed temporarily stopped his WMD development in order to let the inspections pass just this once so that sanctions could be lifted...you get the idea.

The reasons for going to war in Iraq were multifold and legitimate. Out of all the reasons Bush could have chosen to promulgate, his final choice was a bad one. That argument was flawed, which is obvious (and was to me then, too). However this by itself does not erase the other legitimate concerns we all had for going to war.

Maybe I've read too much detailed foreign policy analyses and perhaps too much history that my mind is mush. Then again, perhaps all of the history I seem to remember that now seems to be redacted every day by anti-war activists is not real but the effects of early-onset Alzheimer's.

Dear Tigerhawk--you left out one area of illegitimacy: historical redaction. In my mind, that is the greatest offense of the illegitimate argument.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 04:49:00 AM:

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.

You think it's not demoralizing to the troops to hear that the war they're fighting was a bad idea, and badly managed, but it's now something we have to do anyway because pulling out now would result in worse things for us?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 06:15:00 AM:

We tried all the other ways. 14 UNSC resolutions. Countless "inspections." One of the "rewriting history" items is that Bush said the danger was imminent, but it wasn't, so Bush lied or misled us. In fact he said many times that the danger wasn't imminent, but it wouldn't be smart to wait until it was. I agree and that's why I voted for him. Saddam's track record showed a ticking bomb that had to be disarmed before it blew.

What you're ignoring, and the reason the "Bush Lied" mantra makes some sense, is that the disarmament of Iraq had worked, and it was recognized as having worked in the National Intelligence Estimate of December, 2001 - an estimate that, it turns out, was correct. The 1990s-era (dare I say Clinton-era?) regimen of weapons inspections and control had worked. However, in the Bush administration's desperate need for war, it forced the intelligence community to create estimates to push its own case. In October, 2002, a new Estimate was demanded, and in an unprecedented two weeks it was produced. Unsurprisingly, that estimate now claimed (incorrectly) that "most agencies" thought the Iraqis had a functioning nuclear weapons program.

But to your central point: what is a "legitimate" form of dissent? Why should the undermining of a sitting president be a "legitimate," under your reasoning? Does it not provide aid and comfort to the enemy? Does it not hasten our premature withdrawal?

I would argue that this obstruction of a president out of control is a crucial check of presidential power. Short of an impeachment - which would not solve the problem, given the overwhelming influence of the Vice President - the sanest strategy for the political opposition to the Bush agenda is to freeze it in place. Why? The concept here is that this opposition would prevent further harm from being enacted. And, in recent weeks, we've already seen the fruits of this strategy. An opposition has appeared, one that votes against the use of torture by any arm of the U.S. government, that prevents the irrational drilling of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge... etc.

You see, sometimes "illegitimate" dissent is useful. I would argue that the core problem with your otherwise quite thoughtful piece is that you inherently object to dissenters who dissent with a president you support. You would like to stand on a greater principle, but this core problem obstructs your getting to that reality.

As for the war... What makes you think that American troops can solve the problem? Perhaps main thing the "illegitmate" dissenters is saying is that the world needs to be involved. Recall George Herbert Walker Bush? He managed to get the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Saudis! involved in the First Gulf War. Where is this Arab-world assistance now? The fact is, the brutal and idiotic conduct of the war by George W. Bush has brought us to this pass. If we can mobilize the world, particularly the Arab world, to help stabilize Iraq - something every neighboring Arab country dearly wishes - perhaps we can bring this to a close without the sole involvement of American troops. (Oh, and don't give me that "coalition forces" crap - we all know that the "coalition" is puny and irrelevant. It's an American operation, and that's a bit part of the problem.) So how do we do this? We humbly return to the United Nations. We ask the world for help. Sticks in the craw, huh? But do we really want to tie down our army in Iraq indefinitely? Do we really want to spend $80billion a year (a staggering lowball estimate, by the way) on this? Don't we have greater problems?

Besides, I thought you guys were into small government.

Okay. Overall - thanks for writing. That I think you're essentially wrong doesn't make it any less valuable.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 07:07:00 AM:

What a remarkably fatuous piece of work.

The essential thesis of this is that one cannot both support the military and oppose an objective they're commanded to perform by the Commander-in-Chief. Again, this is what the entire assault on those who are anti-war is about - support of President Bush.

I also wonder what the threat of historical revision is by the supporters who seem to daily come up with a new "real reason" we fought the war. We went to war for a single, particular, stated reason, one that fit into a larger justification of fighting international terrorism. Now, in my mind (and the CIA's, apparently), we caused a war with international terrorism to break out by invading Iraq, essentially setting down 130,000 troops and saying "The enemy isn't here yet, but just wait."

If the president commanded 30,000 Marines to launch an assault on a target he knew they were A.) ill-prepared for and B.) couldn't take in that way, would it be more supportive of the troops to implore the president not to do it, and make it loud and clear that it was a bad idea promoted by bad leadership, or would it more supportive if we took your view, and drew up half-hearted retroactive justifications and pretended that our ability to rationalize naked political support for a military action constituted just cause?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 07:19:00 AM:

Good writing, but it might as well be dust in the wind for all it will do in reigning in the unpatriotic comments of leftists, or bring about reasoned, intelligent debate, the type so desperately needed. Your commentors who disagree are either so far off from reality, or so into ad hominem attacks on Bush, that reasoned debate is impossible. One commentor states that the argument could be reversed, that Bush is strengthening the terrorists. That is patently false, and demonstrably so. Four years ago, al Queda was capable of conducting a fairly sophisticated operation that resulted in 9-11. Since that time, since our efforts in the War on Terror, of which the OIF is only one part, they have been unable to do any such thing. Al Queda in Iraq is not getting stronger, it is getting weaker. They have more sophisticated bombs which are causing casualites, but they are not recruiting more members, they are increaslingly fighting against other jihadis, and they, along with the Bin Laden branch of al Queda, have lost support worldwide, most notably and recently in Jordan. Even if you just measure their effectiveness in casualites, it is apparent that they are not getting stronger. One look at this chart and you can see that casualites go in cycles, and that peaks were reached over a year ago. Not understanding or deliberately ingoring easily found facts will always make the argument illegitimate. Statements like "Bush planned this war from the start" show a complete lack of reality for a nation and its security. We likely have plans, and continue to work plans, even under Democratic Presidents, to attack many more nations than Iraq. It would be foolhardy not to. But it is a fool who doesn't acknowledge that the military has a moral requirement to plan for attacks on nations that have called for America's destruction.
The ad hominem attacks about Bush lying or misusing intelligence ignore the fact that the same intelligence was used by many presidents and many world leaders, as well as the fact that Iraq did its best to keep anyone, even its own army, from knowing exactly what it had. Saddam intentionally choose to give the impression that he did have WMDs, much to his chagrin now. No one can be faulted for taking Saddam at his word on that. The other oft repeated ad hominem attack against Bush and his staff is that they are either complete morons "no exit strategy" or machiavellian geniuses "he and his oil cabal planned this from the start" and is so self-contradictory that it needs no rebuttal whatsoever. But here's one anyway. When a country goes to war, it rarely announces to the enemy what the strategy will be, including the exit strategy. The hope is that the enemy understands that the exit strategy will be the complete destruction of the enemy's will to continue the fight. That's been Bush's exit strategy all along. He's certainly not been shy about saying that, though he's been less forthcoming about the tactical means he will use to achieve it. As OPSEC requires. As for the evil genius attacks...well, I'm a supporter of the War on Terror, and OIF as a part of that war (I will start my third tour into OIF within the month) but I can hardly support the idea that any of what I've seen passes for evil genius on the part of some oil cabal. Evil genius would have been leaving Saddam in power, playing into his oil-for-palaces game, and leaving no trace for forensic recovery. That's hardly what has happened.
So I'll come right out and say it. Every Lefty I've read, most of the Democrats in Congress I've heard speak lately on the subject, and every single marcher in the more recent ANSWER-sponsored anti-Bush rallies is unpatriotic, and
damn proud of it

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 07:43:00 AM:

It's sadly amusing, TigerHawk, that "Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 07:19:27 AM " so clearly undercuts your attempt at nuance - he lumps together the most extreme of the left (the ANSWER folks, who live in a world of their own making) together with your "legitimate dissidents," spins together articles unrelated to the task in Iraq (dissent in Jordan, for example, proves that there is dissent in Jordan, and "support among Muslims" for bin Ladin does nothing to prove that his movement is any smaller. Note: not all Muslims are the same!), and concludes that we live in the Best of All Possible Worlds. Oh, and that those commie Democrats are traitors.

Here's something weird, Anonymous: Democrats love America, too. We don't want our soldiers to shoot their officers, nor do we support it. (Despite what those two nut cases at http://vikingphoenix.com/news/iraqwar/iwgallery/1_shoot_officers.jpg implied.) Timothy McVeigh also claimed to be a true American: does he represent all, say, Republicans?

What we "Lefties" want - and I suppose, as a Democrat, in your mind I'm a Lefty - is an America that follows its ideals, that does not condone torture or allow it to happen anywhere in the world, that supports democratic ideals and the principles of national self-determination, that is a sane and supportive and law-abiding and treaty-abiding member of the community of nations... in other words, an America that follows the ideals that it's supported for the last century. 9/11 did not change our ideals; it changed the actions of our government. Other nations have been attacked, at levels far more severe than us, and still held to their principles. Why don't we? Let's give it a shot.

Best of luck in Iraq.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 08:10:00 AM:

"“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."

What utter crap!

Supporting the troops means desiring to prevent the pointless waste of their lives.

Supporting "their principal and motivating endeavor" means supporting the civilian, political leadership.

Confusing the two by arguing, in essence, that one can't support the troops without also supporting the politics is just political trickery, not honest analysis.  

By Blogger Admin, at Sat Nov 12, 08:18:00 AM:

Despite the fact that members of both parties sanctioned this war based on bad, misleading, or downright fabricated intelligence, there plenty of us - UN weapons inspectors included - who said from the start we did not believe there were WMD in Iraq, we did not believe that Iraq was a threat, we did not believe it was worth one American life to get rid of that raging asshole Saddam, and that we did not support an aggressive war based on shaky-at-best-information.

I still believe those things, and I find it difficult to believe that sticking by my principles - which have turned out to be correct in a number of ways - makes me unpatriotic.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 08:36:00 AM:

A couple of questions that keep popping up in my head:
1) How many wars can a nation expect to lose before the pool of outstanding young warriors dries up? The dictators who run China are keenly interested in this question as am I (Do I need to clarify that pulling out of Iraq will be judged as 'losing' by most everybody? - seems so obvious to me).
2) Does anybody remember how modest and insignificant the NDSAP and the Bolsheviks were when they started their runs? In fact, their easily dismissed initial political impact was a factor in their rise to power. (NDSAP = Nazis for the historically challenged)

While you all are debating the finer points of our fine and noble 'liberal democracy' - truth, justice and the American way, as it were, most overlook the actual risk at hand. Just ask the Romans. Fukuyama's "The End of History..." ain't the US of A as currently constituted. A Muslim - inspired dark ages is definitely staring us in the face, and our reaction is not real hopeful.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 08:48:00 AM:

"A Muslim - inspired dark ages is definitely staring us in the face".

Get a grip!

The Muslim world is almost powerless militarily and socially. Economically, despite sitting atop most of the world's oil, they're weak as well.

Burning a couple of cars in France -- even flying an occasional plane into an American skyscraper -- is just not going to bring about any sort of dark ages.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 09:01:00 AM:

Just remember, Publius, that those of us who support the war love America as well. We just disagree on what the correct course of action is.

The problem I see in your statement, that you want "an America that follows its ideals" is that those ideals often come into conflict. Do we condone torture in Sudan if stopping it means violating international law? Do we preserve international law if it means letting formerly democratic societies like Zimbabwe fall victim to tyranny? How do we reconcile these claims?

To start with, open and honest debate is necessary. And shouting down your opponents with attacks like "Bush lied!" or 'opening' debate by describing this war as pointless leaves no room for real debate.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 09:05:00 AM:

Actually, Civilis, Publius didn't say anything about Bush's lies, nor did he mention the fact that the war is pointless.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 09:05:00 AM:

Sure, sanctions "had worked" against Saddam but:

* How many Iraqis were dying every day because of sanctions?

* What do you think would have happened the moment sanctions were lifted?

Of course, it was America who was getting blamed for the daily deaths of the Iraqi citizen who had no food, clothing or shelter due to Saddam's implementation of the sanctions, yet there was no way the world could afford to lift them. Correction: it seemed that France, Russia and China felt that sanctions were liftable because they had every expection of doing business with the Hussein regime in a non-sanctions world which they felt the could "do business" with. To any anti-war dissenter: should we have simply lifted sanctions in the post-9/11 world and be done with it? Would this have been fair to the Iraqi people?

There is a legitimate argument (of sorts) to be had as to whether or not it would have been safe to let sanctions expire at our expense. I personally think that would have been a very, very bad idea but other thinking lefty souls I know contend that it would have been just fine and dandy to allow that to happen. After all, why shouldn't America be made to suffer? Why shouldn't America be made to feel "at risk" in a post-9/11 environment? After all, we got it coming, right? After all, in a non-sanctions/pro-Saddam world the Halliburton/Cheney cabal wouldn't be making a dime, right? The Bushes would be denied oil money, right? Aren't these good things? And so the arguments go...

At this point, I'm stymied. This is just a totally different worldview than I have. I don't buy the conspiracy theories. I personally believe that correlation does not necessarily have anything to do with causation and it is folly to allow the balance of world power and the welfare of real human beings be determined by decision made on those type of logical fallacies. (There were poor German people in the 1930s. There were also rich Jews in the 1930s. Therefor, the rich Jews caused the poorness of the poor Germans.) Since the Bushes make money on oil, and there is oil in Iraq, then Bush's only real motivation for going to war is to make money on the resultant oil prices. ("See, record profits for oil companies these days. I told you so! See?") Because Cheney used to work for Halliburton, and Haliburton would make money on the war (or any war), therefor the only motivation Cheney had was to make money through them by going to war and "getting his friends a job." (Halliburton is one of the few companies in this world to do what they do in a way which is compatible with working with the government and military. One of the other companies is French. That's right, and I wouldn't trust a French company with critical pieces of a war which they were against either--besides, that company would have definitely benefitted monetarily by having sanctions lifted. I wouldn't however buy into any conspiracy theory that states the French wanted sanctions lifted just so that their company would have jobs.) I don't buy any of this outright. Could there be truth in there somewhere? Given all that you and I don't know about the inner workings of the minds of these people--or any person other than ourselves--there is a possibility. However given the same uncertainties there is an equally likely chance that Bush and Cheney are what they seem--very idealistic and determined to "save America" and go to war for the motivations they say they have had. At this point is where the war/anti-war arguments ultimately rest: what one believes were the motives of these two men. I personally feel that the evidence comes down on the side of idealism, my lefty friends are convinced the war was all about money and greed. There is no way you and I can ever know the real answer for sure but to which conclusion you lean towards is all dependant upon what you believe to be true in this regard.

I am afraid The Truth is one of those existential unknowables to those of us who are not Bush or Cheney. There are many uncertainties from where you and I sit. Politics thrive on uncertainty, and in fact uncertainty is why there is a need for politics in the first place (otherwise significant descisions in where the direction is utterly clear are merely adminstrative decisions not requiring debate). Therefor I am actually not suprised (just dismayed) at the degree of venom generated in this War of Great Uncertainty. In fact those who have studied history know we are just seeing American history being eerily repeated in the parallels to many odd wars of the past, including the Civil War and (especially) the Spanish American war (the amount of venom directed against President McKinley seemed to have been about the same, especially coming from the Anarchists. After all it was Leon Csolgasz, the ex-Republican-turned-Anarchist who, after having been caught shooting and killing McKinley muttered something to the affect that "No one man should have that much power.") Is any of today's dissent "unpatriotic?" I would say no, merely human. We live in a democracy with open communication and expression. Like stocks in the free market, political will is subject to psycologically-driven and seemingly illogical booms and busts (George Soros himself laid an interesting thesis on this). If we want our free and open society then we will have to put up with seemingly illogical behavior indulged in by those see the world utterly different than we do. In fact I believe that the more free and open a society's communications and expressions are the more "booms and busts" that society will have to put up with. Again, again, again and again. The question is, how do such societies survive over time?  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Sat Nov 12, 09:07:00 AM:

Hawk! You old dog! That's a great frackin' post. I'm glad to see you're getting a rich conversation out of it.

From your list of reasons for dissent, here is the one I subscribe to:

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

The circumstances:
-Some thought Saddam was armed to the teeth

-Some didn't

-Saddam was under wraps and no military intervention was necessary

-The Bush administration gave the American people only the most alarming 'evidence', which of course proved to be 100% incorrect / false / untrue.
"We have satellite photos that indicate that banned materials have recently been moved from a number of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction facilities. There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more."-Powell before the world at the United Nations

-the Bush administration did not ever discuss with the American people or with the Congress the multiple intelligence reports questioning an Iraq / Al Qaeda nexus, questioning Iraq's WMD.

-With millions of people in the street worldwide protesting Bush's new fangled "pre-emptive" war idea, the administration chose to alienate rather that build coalition. The "coalition troops" in Iraq are only a group effort if you think that you were really helping Daddy cut drive the car when you were sitting in his lap.

-Bush administration officials were planning the invasion, consulting the oil industry, before 9/11. They were going to invade Iraq, and 9/11 provided them with cover.

-PNAC, many of whose members are current neocon Bush hawks, "In 1998, following marked Iraqi unwillingness to co-operate with UN weapons inspections, members of the PNAC including Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz wrote to the president, Bill Clinton, urging him to remove Saddam Hussein from power using US diplomatic, political and military power. The letter argued that Saddam would pose a threat to the U.S., its Middle-East allies and oil resources in the region if he succeeded in obtaining Weapons of Mass Destruction."

So it's clear that Bush and high officials in the Bush administration felt the invasion of Iraq was necessary in 1998, when they asserted that he didn't have WMD but would be big trouble if he ever did.

The Bush administration wanted this war. Anyone who comes into office wanting a war and then uses 9/11 as political cover for a covert agenda as they try to scare the pants off of a nervous nation deserves intense scrutiny and public ass whoopin'.

We aren't just offering aid and comfort to the enemy by funnelling mismanaged troops into a war that never should have been started, we are creating the enemy as we go along. The administration's defense of torture, use of White Phosphorous, collateral killings of somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 civilians in Iraq, and inability to secure the situation with the number of troops we have on the ground - these things encourage the enemy more than a few doughy libs.

The Bush administration has created a most excellent enemy in Iraq, and now we're bogged down there with no easy way out. We can "fight them to the last man" only if they're not meeting their recruiting goals, and images from Falluja don't make that likely. We can "stand down when the Iraqis stand up", but, even when I try to get into Pollyanna Bush Supporter's shoes, this route may take decades and a trillion U.S. Dollars while our social programs at home are being eviscerated.

Bush made a willful mistake and refuses to accept that what he did was wrong. Whatever.

But we must never let this sort of shortsighted, violent, hamhanded, arrogant foreign policy take root again.

Thanks again for your rockin' good post, Hawk.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 09:26:00 AM:

Screwy Hoolie, sure we have "created more of the enemy" by launching this war. Then again, during the 1990s we created more the enemy by cutting and running from Somalia and not launching wars elsewhere when we were attached (the U.S.S. Cole, Kobe, Tanzania, and so on). Damned if we do, damned if we don't. I believe the "creating more of the enemy" meme is a straw man.

Sure Bush & Co. may have "wanted the war" prior to 9/11, but so did a lot of others--both Democrat and Republican. Remember we were still technically at war with Iraq until the...well, now. Sanctions were--and always are--a symptom of war (was Kennedy's naval blockade of Cuba not a symptom of war?) Having our fighters shot at every day with (admittedly, ineffective) anti-aircraft missles over Iraq was a symptom of war. Saddam's open financial and political support for anti-American/anti-Israeli terrorism was a symptom of war. Saddam's willingness to resinstate his WMD production after sanctions were removed was a symptom of war. A decade of war since the first Gulf War taught us that it was in our nation's best interest (and that of the Iraqi people) if this man were no longer in power. Unfortunately we were never going to build the Great Kumbaya Coalition because countries like France, Russia and China decided that they would rather "do business" with that man than to actually get rid of him. I feel (though I have no direct proof, so IMHO) that the decision of those countries to "do business" was their way of explicitly triangulating against us. We had to go it only with the "coalition of the willing." Sorry, there was no other way around it. Unfortunately, even during the Clinton administration we knew about this damned-if-we-do/damned-if-we-don't pickle. Clinton decided to "play nice" and limp Saddam and the Iraqi people along. Post 9/11 Bush decided that "enough was enough" and actually do the dirty deed I am sure his advisors warned him would not make any friends.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 09:29:00 AM:

Great post, Hawk. Let us also keep in mind that the precise kinds of challenges against Bush being made by Democrats now were routinely made by Republicans every time Clinton used the military. As revealed by this excellent compilation of GOP statements in the 1990s attacking Clinton's motives and honesty with regard to Kosovo, bin Laden attack and Iraq bombings, the GOP incessently made the exact kinds of anti-war critiques which they are now claiming are "unpatriotic."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 09:43:00 AM:


"during the 1990s we created more the enemy by cutting and running from Somalia and not launching wars elsewhere"

Can you provide any meaningful evidence of this statement? And be precise -- you need to show specific cases in which new enemies were created.

"a lot of others [wanted the war] --both Democrat and Republican"

What you go on to describe is not what most of us mean by "the war". A lot of us thought containment of Saddam was a good idea; few Democrats I know ever supported military conquest.

"We had to go it only with the 'coalition of the willing.'"

And that's the crux of the matter -- we didn't have to "go it" at all!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 09:44:00 AM:

Edison, thank you! You are absolutely right to bring that up. I thought that was a lot of cock-and-bull at the time and should have been rightly denigrated then. Heck, during the lead-up to WWII the Republicans (one group led by a just-out-of-college Gerald Ford) were giving the Dems a lot of isolationist bull which was rightly denigrated. However I also think the same cock-and-bull from today's Democrats should be denigrated now as well. This is what is meant by using this situation to gain political leverage--this is a bad thing.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 09:47:00 AM:

BTW, big company's and government and political organizations plan for future situations all the time. It's an honorable practice called "scenario planning." No suprise there. (This is why I also see the "they planned it before 9/11" meme also to be a straw man.)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 09:53:00 AM:

I think much of your argument is sound, but perception is reality for many people. I think it is disingenuous to reframe arguments, and then be surprised by the reaction. So let's look at what we said on the eve of the war:

Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.





By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 09:55:00 AM:

I conclude that our behavior during the 1990s helped spur new Al Qaida recruitment based on their own communications: They used our perceived "weakness" as a means to try to convince people that war against us was possible. Not being privvy to actual recruitment numbers on their end, I am assuming the strategy worked given the increased boldness of attacks since -- Heck -- since the Beiruit Marine barracks attack. (Thanks Ronnie for cutting-and-running!)

Anonymous, I stand corrected, a lot of Democrats did think that containment was the best idea. I'm sorry for generalizing. (I happen to think that containment was a very bad idea in this case.)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 09:56:00 AM:

I hear people from the Left side of the spectrum – moderate Left, but Left nonetheless – saying that they support the war and the troops, but not how it’s being fought. That in effect, the MoveOn.org’s and Cindy Sheehan’s of the world don’t speak for you.

But I don’t see a lot of people out there denouncing both the war AND the far Left groups. I see no member of congress saying they are both against how the war is being fought and Cindy Sheehan’s ridiculous assertion that New Orleans is “occupied”. I don’t see anyone on the talk shows saying that the war has been badly prosecuted, but supporting the president and admonishing his critics to be constructive in their criticism and calling them out when they aren’t.

In short, outside of those who are disaffected on the Right, there is no pro-war, anti-moonbat group, leaving those who criticize the war effort to lump themselves with the far Left groups and their ideas.

And let’s be clear; you can’t argue that calling the president Hitler or advocating his assassination is anything close to patriotic. Whatever you think of ANWAR or Kyoto or the US Government’s response to Katrina, you can’t say that the Bush Administration’s actions and values are so far outside those of the Founding Fathers and the current will of the US people that it must be stopped “by any means necessary”.

So if you want to constructively criticize, you need to do it on all fronts.

I recognize that’s a hard thing to do, to effectively alienate yourself from both sides of the current debate. But isn’t that hard work on your part really the price you have to pay to ensure you’re dissenting in a patriotic way?

I’d have tremendous respect for someone who took those positions and truthfully, effectively, and passionately argued against both fronts. But I haven’t met many of them yet.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 09:57:00 AM:


You're toally out of control! Pre-WWII Republican isolationism, such as that of Gerald P. Nye (or Ford), was an anachronism even in 1940 and has nothing to do with today's anti-war critique.

But to your point about political leverage -- while current anti-war talking points sound reasonably natural when coming from the mouths of Democrats, they seem to conflict with core Republican positions, and therefore amount to nothing more than political expediency when used by Republicans to criticize Democrats.

Republicans were certainly after political leverage -- as you say, a bad thing. Democrats wnt leverage, of course, but in this case they're also speaking from their natural beliefs.  

By Blogger geoffrobinson, at Sat Nov 12, 10:04:00 AM:

What are we to think of the Democratic leadership that know better, or should know better, and continue to say Bush lied? I think they are ust trying to save their own hides with their anti-war base. That base isn't so much knowingly lying as willfully ignorant of evidence due to intense dislike of Bush. The leadership, however, is differnet. So at best they are afraid of their base and are cowards. Regardless, they don't mind that their lies can hurt the United States abroad.

And that's different than having problems with the war in general.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 10:07:00 AM:

Actually, Anonymous of 9:56:52, you'd be surprised. Many of us Lefties wince whenever we hear comments like the one about "occupied New Orleans", and certainly can't align ourselves with organizations like ANSWER.

But you should be familiar with these feelings. You don't have to look hard to find blog commentary regarding the need to engage in "total war" against Muslims, for example -- though I see little Republican commentary explicitly disavowing this craziness.

The point is -- you shouldn't conclude that our most extreme elements represent the core of Democratic views, just as you surely wouldn't want Democrats to see you as nothing more than a gay-hating, war-mongering religious reactionary, just because some of your fellows do in fact merit this description.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 10:08:00 AM:

Nye and Ford - Nye was a Senator, Ford was a young Turk just entering the political process. I'm sure it seemed like a safe bet for Ford to take the public position he did at the beginning of this career. What was it, but 1937 more than 90% of Americans felt we should keep out of Europe's "suicide?"  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 10:14:00 AM:

Nye's views amounted to long-held personal philosophy -- though terribly out-of-step with the times. Ford's views were the views of the political opposition, and reasonable ones to hold in the context of American political thought -- the "agrarian myth" was not yet dead.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 10:18:00 AM:

"Arguendo", now there's a fancy word identifying you as a pretentious schmuck!

Rest of diatribe, I score a solid "ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz", thanks though, I needed the rest.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 10:18:00 AM:

Anonymous, you are very right. This war is indeed quite a change from the Republican's historically state's rights/libertarian-cum-isolationist roots. One would be right to conclude that some Republicans have put their dogs in this race only for political advantage. That, of course, is very bad. Why? If politics is a process by which decisions are made about collective problems which are wrought with uncertainty, then anything contributing to uncertainty is anathema to a healthy political process.

* Demagoguery is bad politics since it masks critical thought

* Simply making a decision based on political advantage is bad because it does nothing to decrease uncertainty, and in fact only adds to the "herd effect."

* Historical revisionism is a bad thing since that explicitly increases uncertainty

* Misuse of logical fallacy is a bad thing since that explicitly increases uncertainty

* And so on.

I would say that "going with emotion" is not necessarily a bad thing since, in cases of untractible uncertainty emotion may be the only tool left to us humans by which we can make any decision at all. Personally, I would feel a lot better--and be more friendly towards the goals--of anti-war dissenters who honestly pony-up and admit that they are opposed for emotional, moral and ethical grounds regarding war in general. That I can stomach. Increasing uncertainty I cannot.

(BTW, I do appreciate it when people correct me when I make false statements. Thanks to those of you who have, and will do so in the future.)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 10:27:00 AM:

The point is -- you shouldn't conclude that our most extreme elements represent the core of Democratic views, just as you surely wouldn't want Democrats to see you as nothing more than a gay-hating, war-mongering religious reactionary, just because some of your fellows do in fact merit this description.

I know many people feel that way, but to “wince” when you hear that isn’t really enough. It is our responsibility to separate ourselves from the “total war with Muslims” idiots, as this hurts the image of America and detracts us from our worthy goals.

But here’s the difference. If someone posted some “total war” crap here, they would be immediately refuted by both sides. If someone from ANSWER were to post, the people criticizing the war would “wince” and scroll past.

You can’t feel it’s your obligation to criticize one element of the debate and leave the other element without response, unless you want to be accused of tacitly supporting their position.

Now I’m off to go clobber some anti-muslim, anti-gay idiots…  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 10:30:00 AM:

geoffrobinson: Thank you for that. Personally, I don't believe either side is run with crazies. If anyone gets involved at all (especially in blogs such as this), they probably do their share of critical thinking and have at least two brain cells to rub together.

What I DO NOT appreciate from any side is blind political force and the increase of uncertainty in important matters.

I go to lengths to try to make sure my facts are straight. I open my mouth and I try damned hard to graciously accept corrections to what I thought were facts. It gets my goat however when, for example, good intelligent friends of mine get so caught up in the herd instinct that they just cannot come to grips with facts or at least admit their own levels of uncertainties. For so many I know, conspiracy theories have become fact even though I can posit completely opposite "theories" (hrumph--hypotheses) with an equal degree of uncertainty. I guess it has all become deeply personal for me since I feel betrayed by what I considered so many close friends and family.

Believe me, after 9/11 I really wanted to be convinced that actions were were taking or about to embark upon were wrong. Hell, killing people is never a good thing to do. I asked the most intelligent people I knew how they felt. Did I get answers? No, I got obvious polemic. I was hurt then. I am here now.

So much for bearing my soul in a public debate.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 10:30:00 AM:


I'm not sure what gives the impression that dissenters won't admit that they're uncomfortable with war in general!

"Opposed", however, is too strong a word for many of us. While the more extreme will argue that military violence is unacceptable generally, most of us recognize that it can be a necessity and that it can serve the greater good.

That said, we anti-war dissenters would argue that the current war in Iraq was not a necessity, and does not serve any greater good -- that it was at best a mistake when conducted, and it has surely become an ongoing immorality, continued by the Administration for political rather than practical purposes.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 10:36:00 AM:

Anonymous of 10:27:59...

"here’s the difference. If someone posted some “total war” crap here, they would be immediately refuted by both sides"

Honestly, I don't see that. One of the unfortunate effects of today's polarized politics, I think, is that each side's extremists are seen as speaking for the entire party.

(Or, maybe more to the point, each side's spinners use the views of the other side's extremists to characterize and demonize the entire other side.)

Anyway, I'm glad to see that you personally avoid this trap, but I think you're wrong to argue that Republicans generally avoid it while Democrats generally fall into it. The behavior seems common to both sides of the aisle, IMHO.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 10:42:00 AM:

"Supporting the troops means desiring to prevent the pointless waste of their lives."

"Supporting "their principal and motivating endeavor" means supporting the civilian, political leadership."

I'll just throw the ChickenHawk argument, much loved by the Left, back at ya. If you haven't been to Iraq, you can't possibly know whether our service in Iraq is a waste of our lives. I can tell you that not one of the soldiers I know in Iraq, past or present, thinks that the buddies they had killed over there "wasted" their life. A life filled with service and honor is not wasted, but you wouldn't know. Laying down on some sidewalk with fake blood on your clothes, only later to retire to the local Starbucks to recall how your little effort will change the world, is hardly going to bring you up to the level of the lowliest Private serving in Iraq. Keep dreaming that you are "supporting the troops" by procliaming the KIAs are "wasted lives", and see how badly it goes for your side in '06 and '08.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 10:47:00 AM:


I didn't mean to imply Publius said "Bush Lied" or that the war was "pointless". I think Publius is trying to debate this honestly, and as such I am willing to debate him. I believe that the anonymous poster below Publius (8:10 AM) isn't debating this honestly. Using adjectives that are asserting one truth to the matter (asserting that the war is a "pointless waste of lives" when that is the matter up for debate) is not helping the debate, and a lot of people on both sides of the debate are guilty of it.

Since I am in favor of the current operations intended to create a stable and free Iraq, this is where I argue from. I am tired of watching the same argument over and over again.

There is a very narrow but important difference between (1) "I believe the war in Iraq is right, yet the administration has badly executed it", (2) "I believe the war in Iraq is wrong for strategic reasons, yet not immoral per se", (3) "I believe all war or conflict is immoral and therefore wrong" and (4) "I believe the current war in Iraq is especially immoral and therefore wrong". I can try to persuade (1) and (2) that I have different evidence and that I am right in an honest debate, as we have the same long term goals. I may disagree with (3), but I understand that his beliefs are honestly held and that we should agree to disagree. Yet if, as in this blog, I have to argue with all four types, any admission that (1) and (2) may have a case is taken to support case number (4), which I believe to be both dishonest and ignorant.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 11:04:00 AM:


How about:

I believe this war is wrong for both strategic and practical reasons. I also believe the difference between a just war and an immoral one is exactly that -- whether the war serves a truly greater good or not.

Additionally, I believe that our leaders were aware that the strategic and practical justification for the war was problematic (or, at least, hardly a slam dunk), and therefore utilized persuasive techniques that bordered on dishonesty and surely didn't involve honest debate. To me, this raises the level of immorality another notch.

However, I'm aware that this last paragraph is politics and emotion, not a fair part of honest debate.

I think this more accurately states the typical, non-extremist Lefty view.

I present this in order to simplify your argument -- I don't think you need to argue with all four types. And I don't think you need to deal with the history of the war, either. My purpose is to show that it all comes down to the question of whether there's a good reason to continue pursuing this conflict.

All you need to do is demonstrate that continuing the war, at this juncture, is right -- that it is justified by the greater good that it will clearly bring about. If you can win that point, the others are irrelevant.

My view is that you can't possibly win that point.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 11:19:00 AM:

Honestly, I don't see that. One of the unfortunate effects of today's polarized politics, I think, is that each side's extremists are seen as speaking for the entire party.

I agree this is how it might appear – and how elements of both sides would like it to appear – but I don’t see the extremists on both sides being remotely the same.

The extremists on the Left are well-organized, well-funded, and positively-amplified by the media. Cindy Sheehan certainly was supported by the far-left groups and put out on CNN on a regular basis because she was a symbol of something the anti-war left was looking for – a mother who in their eyes gave their voice a new source of legitimacy.

Let’s just disregard the fact there were anti-Cindy mothers out there who lost sons and daughters and still supported the effort – they didn’t get much time on TV. But while I see a Camp Cindy and Cindy’s visit with Hilary to discuss her vote for the war on the evening news – I don’t see a Camp Total War or a Camp Kill the Gays being funded or supported by elements of the Right.

And when the idiot congressman from Florida said we should bomb Mecca, the Right went nuts in denouncing him. The White House, conservative talk shows and the right-wing blogs launched an all-out attack. He isn’t out giving the “bomb Mecca” talk on college campuses across the country, now is he?

Show me how the left has denounced Cindy Sheehan, or MoveOn.org, or ANSWER as not representative of their views. The drive to not censor anyone’s opinion, lest they become…whatever, means these views continue to be shared and continued within the anti-war, or critical-of-the-war, debate.

You can’t just say “the other side has wackos too” and leave it at that. Far left interest groups have turned one sides “wackos” into something very different and something that is strongly affiliated with criticism of the war. And because some of these views are so blatantly unpatiriotic, it taints the entire criticism of the war effort with its stench.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Sat Nov 12, 11:23:00 AM:

So much dissent is cliche. I read that "dissent is the heart of a free society". Yeah, we know that. How about "freedom isn't free"? Your turn. It would be nice to see the Left support a US military venture that lasted more than a month.

BTW, a pet peeve. I get lost in the anonymous comments. You don't have to disclose your name but please pick an ID so we know who's saying what.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 11:25:00 AM:

The discussion of the effect on troop morale in an atmosphere of dissent I think is getting short shrift. If the dissent is great enough, it makes it questionable to the soldier whether the war is worth his life. The soldier must believe in what he's doing 100%. Enough to die for the "cause". If dissent cracks that belief, then the war is lost.

As Ho Chi Mihn proved, fighting a democracy is easy and cheap, if done via dissent at home. David Horrowitz, a leader of the Vietnam protests, claims that the protest leadership had monitary support from the USSR. This was asymetric warfare at its best.

I must conclude that dissent in a democracy should end when troops join the battle. Otherwise it places an impossible burden on a democracy to pursue any long term military goal.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 11:32:00 AM:


* I think the majority of Lefties -- myself included -- supported the first Gulf War (conducted by a Republican President).

* I think the majority of Lefties supported the action in Kosovo (conducted by a Democratic President).

We have, however, opposed wars we see as unjustified:

* Vietnam (conducted largely by Democrats)

* Iraq (the sole province of George W. and the Republican party)

We have even regretted failing to involve ourselves militarily when maybe we should have:

* Rwanda (a Clinton failure)

So... enough with the cliches! I think the general sense of the Left on wars is reasonably consistent and non-partisan.

Though, by the way -- since you've trotted out "freedom isn't free" -- in which of these wars -- indeed, in which war in the entirety of American history -- were American freedoms actually at risk?  

By Blogger Jason Pappas, at Sat Nov 12, 11:33:00 AM:

Bravo! Quite comprehensive! I talked about the differing types of dissent and those that demoralize the war effort – often deliberately. But this is quite an extensive and focused piece. Well done!  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Sat Nov 12, 11:37:00 AM:

How about reasonably consistent and unpatriotic?  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Sat Nov 12, 11:38:00 AM:

48 US Dem senators voted against the 1st Gulf War. Ah, how the memory fades.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 11:58:00 AM:

Anonymous (11:04),

You said "All you need to do is demonstrate that continuing the war, at this juncture, is right -- that it is justified by the greater good that it will clearly bring about. If you can win that point, the others are irrelevant. My view is that you can't possibly win that point."

By not continuing the war, we lose any chance to accomplish a greater good, so this is something of a moot point. I can't prove what this war will accomplish any more than you can. There are certainly both good and bad results from the war so far, but which in total is ahead now is open for debate, much less what will come from it in the future.

It's a much more persuasive argument against us for starting the war, however, than us continuing to prosecute it. Even if starting the war was a mistake (which I don't accept), isn't it our responsibility to the people of Iraq to see it through? I would have much more respect for a politician whose rhetoric amounted to "I believe we made a mistake with starting this war, but I am commited to seeing a better end for the people of Iraq" followed up by concrete proposals as opposed to "I believe we made a mistake with starting this war, and we should pull out as soon as we can."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 12:05:00 PM:

If you knew that your speech would cost three American soldiers their lives, would you still make it?

Wow. Someone will have to point me to such a speech made by someone opposed to the Iraq war. But I do recall a speech that so far has cost 2,062 American soldiers their lives (not to mention 30,000 or so Iraqis). It began:

My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 12:11:00 PM:

There is nothing wrong with honest dissent but the key operative here is the word 'honest'. For the most part Bush's detractors have been anything but honest relying on hate, deceit, innuendo, forgeries, outright falsehoods, indirection and any other method they can use to twist their lies into something that resembles the truth.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 12:11:00 PM:

A codicil to the chickenhawk argument:
I don't recall GHW Bush's extraordinary service in WW II getting him any slack in the first Gulf War.

I do think the logical extension of the chickenhawk argument is that no congressman, senator or president can take office without showing combat service, since contingenices might have them dealing with war.

It could be a massive mistake to refrain from war. See Hitler's occupation of the Rhineland in 1936.
Anybody want WW II on their conscience?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 12:14:00 PM:

The other problem I have with the current debate is that both sides use arguments soley for rhetorical effect and shock value. Saying the right has the blood of American troops on its hands or that most of the left would gladly put Saddam back in power doesn't accomplish anything.

To find fault with my own side, for example, the debate over Iraq posing a threat to America doesn't mean scaring the public to death regarding nuclear weapons in container ships smuggled into US ports. It may sound nice for the masses but is rather un-nuanced. It may very well be that the threat of nuclear anhillation may deter even Saddam Hussein, who, though possibly crazy, was very good at staying in power.

It should be enough to say that WMD proliferation does pose a threat to America even if an attack on the US homeland is unlikely. If, during the first Persian Gulf War, had Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, the US may have still counted on its retaliatory ability to counter Iraqi capability. However, its a fairly easy supposition that other countries would have changed their actions in regard. Would Turkey and Syria still have supported US actions against a nuclear armed Iraq? Would Saudi Arabia? Would European countries have sent as many troops to support us? We can never know for sure.

The fact that this argument doesn't make a good sound bite doesn't mean that its right to use over-hyped scare tactics.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 12:26:00 PM:


And what would the costs of other speeches be? Just because we can see the costs of this speech, we don't know that other speeches wouldn't have had greater costs. What would have happened had we continued the sanctions? If we had ended them? You can make a rational case for as many or more Iraqi casualties.

Also, when the UN surveyed Iraqi casualties, they estimated that two thirds of the Iraqi casualties had been from "insurgent activity" (someone please correct me if I am wrong). Can we estimate the cost of Michael Moore's 'Minuteman' speech or Cindy Sheehan's politicizing? If you believe Bush is wrong for starting the war because it aided Al Quaeda recruitment, then anti-war speechmaking that encourages Al Quaeda recruitment is just as wrong when the statement is dishonest political posturing. I think that was one of TigerHawk's points in writing the article.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 02:01:00 PM:

" My purpose is to show that it all comes down to the question of whether there's a good reason to continue pursuing this conflict.

All you need to do is demonstrate that continuing the war, at this juncture, is right -- that it is justified by the greater good that it will clearly bring about. If you can win that point, the others are irrelevant.

My view is that you can't possibly win that point."

I accept.

Am going to need a few things from you before we start in earnest.

a)Be so tiresomely unconventional as to choose even so much as a single character key from your keyboard - we know, ipso facto, that you can type - in order to differentiate your responses. Is that going to be a problem for you?

b) Need you to come up with something a little bit less fluid than "right"...I think we can all see where you'll head with that.

That's a good start, and, to be fair, I'm coming out of left field with nothing for you to be critical with ("old tricks are the best tricks, Major")..so here's this:

Tell me...what the blink do you think it is that we bother with paying even the first sailor to stand around all day and be otherwise unproductive relative to his brother citizens?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 02:10:00 PM:

The talk of motivation behind dissent has two characteristics:
One is that it does not address results, which are what count.
The other is that motives can easily be disguised--as in lied about.
Any number of motivations can manifest themselves in one of only a very few actions.

Since the end of WW II, the most important terrain in any war the US has been involved in is the six inches between the ears of the American voter.
Hanoi and its US friends knew this.
So did the lefties in Central America.
The more it looks as if hanging on a bit longer will discourage the American voter, the more encouraged will be our enemies. The more they hang on, the more people die, whether we win or lose.

It would certainly be possible to make the case that the quickest end to the current unpleasantness could be arranged if every American was screaming "Kill the bastards!!!. Find them. Kill them. However long it takes. And any sonofabitch who helped them!!"
It would fly in the face of all we know of human psychology to think that would not discourage some, or possibly a decisive number, of our enemies. It would be equally silly to claim that having half the country against it would not be encouraging to our enemies, motivating some, perhaps a decisive number, to hang on.
This is not particularly deep, but it seems reasonably obvious.

I liked nuclear deterrence better when the opposition officially didn't believe in an afterlife.

If we get nuked in a US city, who would we nuke back? That question would be asked in a number of capitals, many of whom would probably figure we aren't going to kill millions in a fit of pique just in case the perps hadn't yet retired to the South of France and we got them along with several million of their countrymen who had nothing to do with it. Considering we wouldn't be likely to know who they were any time soon. You want to blow up a couple of million people on the say-so of current US intel capabilities?

Full disclosure. I used to be a grunt and we considered nukes unprofessional. Take that into consideration.

Also take into consideration that there are many people in this country, including some past and potential presidents, who might be considered by other rulers to be weak on the wholesale slaughter thing.

Consider further wishful thinking and getting it wrong.
Hitler believed the rest of the world was as wimpy as its noisy pacifists claimed it was and should be.
Cost him big, but the point is it cost the rest of us, too.

The Argie generalissimos thought Margaret Thatcher could be buffaloed. Lots of guys died of that miscalculation.

The old toast, "confusion to our enemies" has a limited usefulness.
On some matters, we want our enemies to be utterly convinced. Safer that way.
Dissent, for whatever the professed motivation, might leave that tiny bit of doubt which will feed into the rest of the wishful thinking and... my father roomed with four other guys in college. He was the only one to survive WW II, and that was luck, having been shot a number of times.

Let's say that none of the winning side of the Oxford Union debate of 1933 was a Nazi or Communist agent,but instead strong in the self-righteousness of the privileged and useless in their extended adolescence. So what? Hitler loved it and used it and the survivors, during a fiftieth-year replay in 1983, begged The Kids to go the other way.

The important people to convince of deterrence is not us. It's the other guys, and the really rich thing is that the groups who say the other side would surely be deterred by nukes are largely the same folks who wanted, during the Cold War to nuke nobody no matter what.
That's one of those possible lie thingies about motivation that catches the attention, by the way.

I speak here solely of the results of dissent.
You can take your professed motivations....  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 02:49:00 PM:

Dissenters: If, suddenly, the United States found itself run by a Saddam Hussein-like character, democracy was dead, dissent was met with drills-to-the-head, and if you had no way to organize a coup, would you not want an outside party to help depose that jerk in power?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 02:54:00 PM:

Silly question. Of course they would as long as it wasn't the US.
And, in your scenario, it wouldn't be.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 03:11:00 PM:


Your entire argument about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of anti-war dissent is obviously built around 'patriotism' and *American* patriotism at that. That's a very limited way to view anti-war dissent and dissent in general. Based on that approach, a different set of standards would have to be used to judge anti-Iraq war dissent in Canada, France, Indonesia and elsewhere, because these countries naturally have different national interests and political orders than the US. If I were Liberian, say, and objected to the war on humanitarian grounds (the killing of an inordinate number of Iraqi civilians), would my dissent be legitimate or illegitimate? Within your framework, it doesn't matter, does it? Simply because I'm not American.

Maybe your analysis of motivations behind anti-war dissent is useful for your society (and only for your society), I don't really know. I just find it extremely ironic that your core assertion is that it's 'legitimate' for Americans to object to the war as long as they are doing it to advance public/policy debate in America. This debate is furthered at the cost of non-American lives. And that's okay because that reinforces the foundations of *your* democratic set-up?
That's the most parochial, self-centered argument I have ever heard.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 03:26:00 PM:

Well, of course it is, and that's because you're not very clever, and have a very small circle of friends.

Tell us, how does one find that one can't place a moral argument above the accident of one's geography?

Other than, of course, the 'you're being an idiot-thing' I alluded to earlier.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 04:01:00 PM:

Anon. You can object on any grounds you like, in Liberia or elsewhere.
The problem comes when your objections don't meet the reality standard.

If you take as a starting point the Lancet's discredited 100,000 deaths, for example, that would be a problem.
If you counted as the US' fault those killed by terrorists.
If you don't speculate on how many would die under other circumstances.

Since the inordinateness of the number of civilians killed has, historically, varied according to whether the US was killing them, or lefties of various stripes, or enemies of the US (the US' maximum allowable is quite low, someplace around zero, while the others' bar hasn't yet been reached), most people take an argument based on that as false.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 05:00:00 PM:

If I were Liberian, say, and objected to the war on humanitarian grounds (the killing of an inordinate number of Iraqi civilians), would my dissent be legitimate or illegitimate? Within your framework, it doesn't matter, does it? Simply because I'm not American.

The key question is whether Americans can dissent from the war and still be patriotic. Can they dissent in a supportive way, or does dissent by its very nature erode support for the underlying action. I don’t think that really applies to Liberians, now does it?

There is a fundamental difference between Liberian and American dissatisfaction with the war, because an American dissenter has a direct impact on how long, and in what way, the war will be waged. Our troops – and the Iraqi people, and the AQ terrorists – care much more about what’s on CBS News than what’s on CNN’s International Edition. One has the ability to change the future course of the war and the other, for those who are reality-based, really doesn’t.

The issue isn’t whether you can protest the war; if that’s your position, feel free. It’s whether some forms of dissent embolden AQ and undermine the troops who are fighting as ordered by our government. Can you really “support the troops but oppose the war”, or does opposing the war necessarily lead you to make the mission more difficult and cost lives?

TigerHawk’s narrowing the scope of the topic isn’t self-centered, it’s relevant to the larger discussion.

As to your other question, whether Liberian dissent over Iraqi deaths is legitimate or not, I guess that would depend on whether the Liberian also protested Hussein’s killing of his own people, now wouldn’t it?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 05:59:00 PM:

I see two major problems with this essay.

First off is that you're treating the War in Iraq as a foregone conclusion, a conflict which the United States will undoubtedly come out the better for. I'm not saying that it isn't, but you have to accept the possibility that it won't for any argument of this sort to work. This needs to be made from a morally neutral point of view, otherwise you're just reaffirming the opinions of the folks who think you're right and angering the others.

Second is that your ascribing motives to people without having any way of knowing what their actual motives are. It also over-simplifies mixed motives. If a person is 66% wanting to keep troops from being killed and 33% irrational anger at Bush, what does that mean exactly?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 06:21:00 PM:

George Bush was never coy about his interest in removing Saddam Hussein. I didn't vote in '00 becasue I was unenthusiastic about both Bush and Gore. But during their 10/11/00 debate, they both extensively wrang their hands over Saddam. Jim Lehrer moderated, and this is an excerpt:

MODERATOR: Saddam Hussein, you mean, get him out of there?

BUSH: I would like to, of course, and I presume this administration would as well. We don't know -- there are no inspectors now in Iraq, the coalition that was in place isn't as strong as it used to be. He is a danger. We don't want him fishing in troubled waters in the Middle East. And it's going to be hard, it's going to be important to rebuild that coalition to keep the pressure on him.

The two were in substantial agreement on foreign policy matters, except that Bush objected to using the U.S. military for "nation building." That is certainly what we are doing now in Iraq, and I have no objections. 9/11 slapped me up the side of the head, and I believe it did the same for Bush. Saddam had to go, but you cannot just leave a ravaged nation after his removal. Just as we had to help rebuild Japan and Germany after WWII, so to, Iraq. Gore set that all forth quite cogently.

Whole debate here:http://www.debates.org/pages/trans2000b.html


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 07:11:00 PM:

First off is that you're treating the War in Iraq as a foregone conclusion, a conflict which the United States will undoubtedly come out the better for.

Isn’t that the underlying issue here? The war in Iraq IS a foregone conclusion, yet most people speaking against the war are arguing its initiation, not its continuation.

“Bush lied, people died” isn’t about whether the war should continue. It’s about whether it should have started in the first place. There is little debate about how the war should be prosecuted differently from this point – even Kerry had to admit that he had no different plan that Bush during last year’s election. And this wishing it had never happened is EXACTLY what undermines the troops. You cannot be a just warrior in an unjust war, and therefore, you cannot “support the troops while criticizing the (existence of) the war.” How can you be a hero while committing an un-heroic act?

John Kerry’s words still ring out, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" But what’s very different about the debate today is that everyone in Iraq volunteered to go, and many of them have enlisted or re-enlisted since the war began. It’s not a question of keeping them safe – they’ve asked to go in harm’s way. They’d just like to know that while they’re over there the country will support their efforts and not undermine their success.

I believe it’s our patriotic duty to debate the war before it starts. I also believe debating how the war is prosecuted but supporting the effort once it starts is also patriotic. But to constantly undermine those who are prosecuting it with the hope they’ll fail and come home is not patriotic and should be called what it is.

A debate can be had as to whether we’ll come out the better from this point on, but no one is having that debate. But the real litmus test as to whether you care HOW the war is being waged, or WHETHER it’s being waged, is if you can make your argument without using the word “Bush”. If your concern is really about the progress of the war, you can make your case without making it a personal attack on the president.

To undermine the troops because you – even 1% – have an irrational hatred of Bush isn’t just unpatriotic, it’s reprehensible.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 12, 08:01:00 PM:

A few months back the Progressive Policy Institute (left wing think tank) held a teach in which in my mind demonstrates conclusively that the left is unpatriotic.

During the course of the event the assertion that more soldiers should die in the short run so that withdrawal would thereby be speeded up went largely unchallenged. To wish your country harm is the essence or being unpatriotic.

But perhaps the left does not accept the notion of patriotism to begin with as I suspect is true.  

By Blogger AST, at Sun Nov 13, 01:14:00 AM:

I grew up in the 1960s and 70s and there is a different feel to this anti-war movement. This one feels like it's motivated primarily by hatred of GWB, and the antiwar rhetoric is an excuse for all the "Bushitler" kind of ranting.

It's roots are in the bitter, angry political wing of the Democrats, the MoveOn.Org crowd. They raised a ton of money and Howard Dean tapped it. When the other Dem candidates saw his success they joined the choir. The "Bush Lied!" meme originated with Joe Wilson, but it took the press to see its potential and begin beating the drums. I recall reading a piece by Peter Beinart railing about how the administration had perpetrated a lie in those 14 words.

At the time, I thought to make it a lie, you have to prove that he knew it was false. That was supposedly supplied by the "clumsy forgery," which "proved" that Bush knew the story about Iraq trying to buy yellowcake in Niger was false. But Bush attributed the story to the British who didn't back off from their report. No scienter, no case for calling this a lie. QED.

It could have died a quiet death except that the Democrats needed a way to deal with their many, many statements accusing Saddam of continuing his nuclear plans and stockpiling WMD. That was pretty embarrassing when you've changed your tune on the war and you're harping on it at every opportunity.

But the "Bush lied!" scenario was the perfect excuse, even though it didn't and doesn't make any sense, it gave them an excuse AND it gave them an additional ground for attacking Bush, who, after all, STOLE the 2000 election (by blocking their attempt to steal it).

The whole thing is so illogical Bush could be excused for thinking it wasn't worth refuting. But when the press is on your side, people start to believe the story because they've heard it so often.

I hope Bush has learned a lesson. It doesn't matter how ludicrous a charge is, or how solid your original case was. You have to keep countering the Big Lie and repeating the case.

I think Bush failed to make a coherent case for invading Iraq, but there was one. Why is it so important for us to establish democracy there? We could have taken down Saddam and pulled back out, after all. It would have been idiotic to do so, but we could have.

Any bets as to what the Democrat response would have been to that?

These people aren't so much antiwar as willing to say anything to get power back. The Republicans are floundering, especially with their inability to deliver votes. They couldn't block filibusters; they couldn't resist pork; and now they can't get the votes to authorize drilling in ANWR.

And convervatives are complaining about Bush after THEY torpedoed his last SCOTUS pick. They don't know how to handle success. I wouldn't blame Bush, if he told them all to go take a hike, the kind of support they've given him.

It takes more than just him to make speeches. The Republicans are playing defense. If they don't start acting like a team instead of a bunch of candidates, they'll lose the House and we'll end up with President Hillary.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Nov 13, 07:26:00 AM:

The essential element of dissent is honest argument. Anti-war arguments based on a pack of lies forfeit any claim to the moral high-ground of legitimate dissent.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Sun Nov 13, 08:10:00 AM:

The Iraq dissent is largely politics- but conservatives shouldn't be too smug. I recall a handful of times, not often, to be sure, when the GOP's virulent hatred of Clinton resulted in neo-isolationist resistance to military action. [This was about the same time when that hawk Kerry took the Senate floor and lambasted Saddam as a threat to the US.] It was the mirror image of what's happening now, just on a smaller scale- because Clinton rarely endorsed military action. But when he did, the Right cried "wag the dog".  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Sun Nov 13, 12:40:00 PM:

Reading this thread is frustrating because the Powell Doctrine recognizes US weakness resulting from political dissent in protracted limited war. Kevin's right- bemoaning the start of the War is irrelevant, I recognize this. But Powell recognizes that we are weak-willed in this context. No one respected Powell's opinion. We continue to pay the price for that.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Nov 13, 04:05:00 PM:

Tom, "Powell Doctorine" -- interesting thought. We will always be "paying the price" for dissent in this country and in fact we always have. We waited too long to get involved in WWI, and how many more people died because of our libertarian/isolationist tendencies? How many more people died in WWII because we decided Europe's "suicide" wasn't our problem? I don't see this American character going away anytime this generation, or the next.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Nov 13, 04:17:00 PM:

Back to the main topic, is there any statement that all of us on the right and left can agree are "unpatriotic?" How about "All Americans must die" or "Exterminate all American troops?" I think it would be interesting to find out where the two sides break apart from the extreme end. My answer to the question of "Where does unpatriotism end and possible patriotism begin?" is at the point where people stop explicitly or implicitly support harm to other American citizens. This includes statements about killing or incapacitating American political figures (this is, nor shall ever be the way we do politics here). This includes anything which knowingly contributes directly to increasing American casualties on the battlefield. This does not include things like "We had it coming," or "Withdrawl our troops now." Not only can the latter cases not be proven to be directly hostile, but they may in fact not be (moreover, there is plenty of historical precedent for such sentiment; I'd bet it can go as far back as President Jefferson's anti-pirating naval actions).  

By Blogger WTOTW, at Sun Nov 13, 07:11:00 PM:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Sun Nov 13, 08:01:00 PM:

Thanks for centering the discussion, Nicole. And I agree with your minimum standards. Is rooting against your country unpatriotic? I think so.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Sun Nov 13, 08:05:00 PM:

A more concrete example: Fonda in Hanoi. Thought that crossed the line. Interestingly, she was perceived as having a constitutional right to do it, even though she was giving comfort to our enemy.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 09:30:00 AM:

I don't recall the dems being in favor of containment of Saddaam.
They were in favor of the status quo which they knew was about to crumble.
The Kay and Duelfer reports from Iraq and the Voelker and other investigations into UN malfeasance give the impression that this stuff is just becoming known.
True, in the details, but the reality is that the outline was clear enough. The sanctions were being evaded, smuggling was immense, OIF money was being diverted, influential members of the UN and the liberal communities were working to end both sanctions and inspections. Nothing about this is new.
To call favoring this approach "containment" is absurd. Indeed, it is so absurd that one wonders how anybody can claim with a straight face to have believed it while saying it.
It should have been called, had the promoters been honest, "total release in about two more years".  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Mon Nov 14, 03:13:00 PM:

Just thought I'd round the comment count up to 100. I haven't had time to read the bazillions comments on this post. I'll take this week to do that.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Mon Nov 14, 03:20:00 PM:

Rats, catch. I wanted to be 100.

Anyway, in dejection, for what it's worth, I found this elsewhere:

Clause 1: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. "  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Mon Nov 14, 03:56:00 PM:

Sorry cakreiz. You were more invested than me. I'll make 97 more comments and you can have 200.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Mon Nov 14, 05:22:00 PM:

Sad, isn't it? I'm wholly void of a meaningful life.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 10:58:00 PM:


Do you think that that's because the left would have preferred a strong, unified ME regional power that had both the commodity we needed and the power to resist us -thereby allowing the left to force all kinds of "necessary" green reforms on the republic?

I'm beginning to suspect as much.  

By Blogger saintknowitall, at Fri Feb 03, 05:18:00 PM:

Cakreiz said: "when the GOP's virulent hatred of Clinton resulted in neo-isolationist resistance to military action"

I would like to see the evidence for that. I think you have a hard time finding any GOP lead attacks on Capital Hill.

Please post some links to reliable sources, please.  

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