Monday, May 26, 2008

Sui generis

The Claremont Institute reviews Brian McAllister Linn's The Echo of Battle: The Army’s Way of War. And a complex way of war it is indeed. The campaign in Iraq, for example, was not one conflict but several, one form succeeding the other in rapid succession.

That has been the pattern from the beginning in Iraq, where our fighting men and women conquered a conventional force in the dizzyingly successful initial campaign, then were surprised by the part-criminal, part-ideological insurgency that followed. They adjusted and crushed the large-unit insurgents, faced a new threat from small-unit insurgents using booby traps, and adjusted again to limit the effectiveness of such attacks. Seeing the hostile elements turn toward localized attacks on civilian populations to try to foment civil war they adjusted once again with the surge to provide localized security for Iraqi civilians. And all this was done while training Iraqis to do the job themselves.

The "way" is not a fixed method but a mental attitude. That would be how an academic might describe it at a distance. Up close it was probably closer to "oh hell, what do we do next?".

But that mental attitude was not wholly unfettered; it was never completely up to the professional military to think as creatively as the situation demanded. The American Way of War is inextricably linked to politics. It is that way by design. And the reviewer points out that this sort of politics operated on two levels. The first existed at the level of the national mood. The other consisted of what went on in Washington and in the power centers of the country. The Home Front was always a key theater of any war America has fought.

American political and military leaders have long understood that they must contend with the inescapable and unique reality of the American democratic polity, a population that is collectively quick to anger though individually hesitant to go to war. Americans as a group have a way of life that they jealously defend, so much so that they cannot stand to see it diminished by real or imagined losses. That same way of life that is so worth defending makes the peacetime homefront an enormously attractive place. Americans have from the beginning distrusted standing armies because of the inherent threat such armies present to republican government, but even more so because standing armies require soldiers, and Americans are too caught up in their own lives to be soldiers. If Americans must take up arms to defend what they hold dear, they demand victory, and that it come soon. That consideration, more than any other, is at the core of the American mind for war. ...

The current war is disconcerting in its own ways, because the precipitating incident on 9/11 did draw the civilian population into the war. Then the initial rhetoric from just about everyone about the Global War on Terrorism linked the conflict to great citizen wars of the past, and the American public became engaged emotionally. Yet the country did not mobilize in any meaningful way. Whatever their feelings about Afghanistan and Iraq, the citizenry never felt the pain of separating from their peacetime lives. The military has fought the war with the professional force that has kept the brutality to a minimum—probably even to the extent that it has hampered their fighting effectiveness. This feels like citizen war, but it is being fought like a professional war, which drives the American mind for war half-mad.

I suspect that America has mobilized to a greater extent than is evident. The Homeland Security hassles; the relatively extensive use of contractors; even the battles on the Internet are forms of nontraditional mobilization. But despite this, I think the Claremont reviewer is fundamentally right. A global, low-intensity conflict is at odds with the traditional American way of conflict. What is less evident is whether today's experience will create a new tradition in its own right.

Just as the armed forces learned to cope with the ever changing nature of the conflict in Iraq so too may broader attitudes adjust themselves to twists and turns of history.




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47 Comments:

Blogger al fin said...

Americans like to hit it hard, hit it fast, then get out. Long, drawn-out affairs are sitting ducks for opportunistic cheap shot political hacks such as populate much of the political landscape.

Unfortunately, worldwide Islam is in an antagonistic phase that may go on for quite some time. Iraq has swatted al qaida hard, and is in the process of tearing down Iran's revolutionaries.

The US could use a bit of international help in this long war, but most of its "friends" are too busy demonising the US to be of help.

5/26/2008 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger 5050noline said...

I think your 'friends' would be in a better frame of mind if they were not continuously being slagged off by many on this (US) blog.

Signed: a Brit ex-sewrviceman

5/26/2008 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

I think your 'friends' would be in a better frame of mind ...

I heard someone remark that Australia was in Iraq to "maintain the American alliance". Certainly words to that effect have been uttered in Canada. And it struck me that if this were the reason for allied involvement, or perceived to be so, then it was a sign of political failure.

The only reason Australia or Canada should be involved in the war on terror is not "because of New York" or some desire to keep up the alliance but because these countries themselves are in danger.

In other words even if the US never existed or were uninvolved in the current struggle, certain countries should still find it in their public interest to fight groups like al-Qaeda.

But as a practical matter, I think there is a widespread perception that the war on terror is "America's problem". Any help is a favor to the US for which it should be grateful. And you don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

I can understand that point of view and sympathize with it. Historically the US watched as the UK was nearly crushed by Germany even though it was clearly in its interest to help out even before Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor really didn't change the calculus of national interest in Europe; it simply provided it with an emotional impetus.

I guess the word "friends" gives the problem away. Alliances should not be motivated by friendship but by a shared interest.

5/26/2008 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Davis said...

If Americans must take up arms to defend what they hold dear, they demand victory, and that it come soon.

A global, low-intensity conflict is at odds with the traditional American way of conflict.


These statements and many others like them are simply not consistent with the evidence of history.

This nation was formed as a result of a century long low-intensity conflict. Reading Utley's description of it puts one in mind of today's NY Times without the modern technology.

And for over 50 years we fought a war whose intensity, with only relatively brief interludes of increased activity, remained low with half of Europe; having defeated the other half in high intensity war over the previous 3 decades.

We have now entered another such conflict. That we will be equally successful I have no doubt when looking at it from the perspective of history. But looking at events today there are so few trees that one cannot see the forest that will grow.

Unless one of our cities is nuked, this will indeed be a long war. The kind we have fought successfully for most of our history. And should we be so struck, I have that we would loose the fateful lightning of our terrible swift sword.

5/26/2008 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Katchoo said...

Mrs. Davis said, "Unless one of our cities is nuked, this will indeed be a long war."

One of our cities WAS nuked, by Katrina, and it really has been a long eight years. Around the time Katrina hit, the golden mosque was destroyed and even Bill Buckley realized this was a civil war and we could not win it. Before that time the Bush Adminstration spoke of the "Long War" openly. They don't say it anymore, unless they drift off the reservation like McCain did when he let slip that we would be there for 100 years. He corrected that, and now even he is talking about a timeline (or as Bush calls it, a surrender date) for the end of combat operations in Iraq, specifically, January 2013.

5/26/2008 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

The American Way of War is inextricably linked to politics.

And yet, the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
demands that military personnel not wear their politics on their sleeves, sleeves whose combat patches are mute testimony to the wearer's belief that America is indeed a force for good in the world worth fighting for, a view not shared by vocal activist elements of one of the major American political parties.

He mentions the oath—a promise we made to defend the
Constitution of the United States “against all
enemies foreign and domestic.”
yet declares any mention of domestic enemies unacceptable.

Those Who CAN Must Speak Out For Those Who Can’t

The People have to understand that the military serves the political masters The People choose to saddle them with.

Crowhopping While Ideologically Hobbled

. . . domestic political opponents increasingly appear to view the war as more about controlling future nominations to the Supreme Court than about defending American citizens

5/26/2008 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger Tamquam Leo Rugiens said...

Katchoo said, "One of our cities WAS nuked, by Katrina . . ."

Alternate reality alert!

It is easier for me, a mid 50's male, to understand the mind of a woman than it is to understand this. The Miller Principle states that every statement anyone makes is true, and that in order to understand it ask the question, "What must also be true for this to be true?" For Katchoo's statement to be true requires a deep regression into fable and illusion.

5/26/2008 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Bill Bradley's piece on John McCain's speech at Annapolis at Pajamas Media coincidentally deals with some of the issues raised by the Claremont piece.

It's the speech of an older man who has been been stripped of youthful disillusion; about someone who discovered when nearly everything was taken away from him how precious were the things he had left.

“In a later crisis, I would suffer a genuine attack on my dignity, an attack, unlike the affronts I had exaggerated as a boy, that left me desperate and uncertain. It was then I would recall, awakened by the example of men who shared my circumstances, the lesson that the Academy in its venerable and enduring way had labored to impress upon me. It changed my life forever. I had found my cause: Citizenship in the greatest nation on earth.”

This is something that rings true. I think every man who is reduced to the depths experiences this. When you've lost your rank, position, dignity and even your teeth, you find to your amazement, that there is still something left. And you wonder why you had never seen it before.

I don't know whether John McCain is a better man that Barack Obama, but I think that McCain's vision, glimpsed in the flicker of a dim light in a dungeon, is infinitely truer than Obama's. But then the vision passes and we are back in ordinary time; in the midst of politics as usual and the dreary parade of political events.

There is a real sense in which politics is intermixed with the American way of war. But it is not the politics of the stump as much as the poltics of the polis; the city. It is this sense of a shared fate, even when one is not aware of it, that is the final ground of military action.

5/26/2008 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger not that mark said...

Tamquam Leo Rugiens said...

Katchoo said, "One of our cities WAS nuked, by Katrina . . ."

Alternate reality alert!

. . .
"What must also be true for this to be true?" For Katchoo's statement to be true requires a deep regression into fable and illusion.
=====================
God is at fault for Katrina. Katchoo wants war with God. Or preferably, those who believe in him.

You are on the right tract(sic) now. Can't you see? God is a fable...

5/26/2008 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

The American way of war hasn't escaped the rise to dominance of consumer culture.

War is now seen by a wide segment of the population as a kind of entertainment on par with sports, but with a lot more at stake.

Thus the focus is often perceived humiliations, national dignity/honor and idle boasts.

More important, fewer and fewer Americans see any necessity of themselves fighting in wars like the one in Iraq.

It is now perfectly acceptable in American culture to wax on endlessly about the reverent glories and necessity of military aggression while at the same time avoiding actually participation in the military.

A big meme of late in the rightwing blowhardosphere is that negotiations give some sort of psychological advantage to our military opponents. There is of course some limited truth to this view, though it errs in that it views war as primarily psychodrama.
What this view ignores is the far more potent contribution to enemy morale made by the flagrant refusal of neoconservatives to serve in the military during the wars they demand. That alone is by far the clearest, most emphatic measure of the ``American Way of War'' in 2008.

5/26/2008 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

I realize that every weblog has to observe a modicum of respect for viewpoints at variance with the owner's or the majority of its participants. And we do respect the right of participation by contrarians who may or may not be thoughtful. However, often they are haughty bomb throwers and provocateurs and this is in evidence on this thread.

I hesitate to specifically cite comments or parts of which I consider to be unworthy of being dignified with a response. Unfortunately, in the early stages of this political season there are such people obstreperously barging in for no other purpose than to be disruptive and denigrative.

I think it is dangerous for there to be this continuing disconnect between our civilian population and our armed forces. This recrudescence of Islamic jihad, in some ways dormant since the Gates of Vienna in 1683, has lulled the kafir world into a false sense of security. The case can be made that this is only one phase of a 1,400 year old conflict, and that we can only appreciate the import of it if we overcome our sloth and undertake to learn about the jihad history. This is, after all, the world's oldest totalitarian ideology still in existence and it has outlasted all others. The person who is not curious about why this is so is recklessly ignorant of history.

So, we are entangled, whether we want to or not and whether we like it or not, in a long war. We are dealing with a more robust ideology that is far more emotionally and spiritually enervating than scientific socialism or even Sorelian Marxism.

I am amazed by the fact that our armed forces have been able to overcome so many obstacles to success. It deals with domestic, political enemies who do not believe in this fight and think it is made up s**t. And they are resourceful - every bit as resourceful as the enemy they fight on the battlefield. They have kept their focus despite so many distractions and setbacks. So, on this Memorial Day I give thanks to God for men and women like this. To those who denigrate their sacrifice, you are unworthy of these great people and still you bask in the benefits which their sacrifices accrue to the nation.

5/26/2008 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Negotiations to what end with Iran, MacDaddyo?

Iran wants: A. to nuke Israel out of existence, B. to dominate Iraq, C. to push the US out of the Gulf, D. to destroy the US, E. to dominate Lebanon, F. Oil at $300-400 a barrel (to pay their domestic gunmen so they can maintain their secret police), G. kill our guys in Iraq with impunity.

Which of these are you OK with?? (I predict like most Dems/Libs, all). We have already put WTO membership and recognition of Iran on the table if they give up their nukes.

I take by your arguments that you believe that human nature has magically changed, America has no enemies, no need for the military, no need to stop problems while they are minor. That changes in technology, nuclear proliferation, will not allow even non-state actors to attack the US and kill thousands or millions because of ... Divine Providence or whatever.

That attitude is part and parcel with the LAT ("Hitler was reasonable") or John Cougar Mellencamp, that great thinker, who thought we should have "negotiated" with Japan after Pearl Harbor.

It is not even conversant with reality. If we had "leverage" with Iran, i.e. sponsor terror to match their own against us in Iraq and elsewhere, right back at the regime, we have the possibility of a deal: they shut down their nuke program, we don't bring their regime down.

However, that's pretty thin. Iran fundamentally wants no status-quo. They believe through Jihad and martyrdom they can destroy the US and have said so repeatedly, backed up by thirty years of terror against the US. Deals can be made with status-quo powers but Iran isn't it. Under the status-quo they are losers. Their economy is falling apart and they can't pay their gunmen without oil price rises.

Finally, if you won't stand with your country, and those in uniform on Memorial Day who give so much to keep your behind safe, you are at best a free rider parasite. The least you can wish them is success in their mission.

[Here we have the intellectual failure of Liberals/Dems -- they assume that law, order, civilization are the "natural" state of man and there is no real threat to them. That they don't need the shelter of a nation. That "citizen of the world" and fashionable anti-Americanism will protect them from men like Ayman Al-Zawahari. The "Ghost Dance" of the modern Democrat delusional fantasist.

5/26/2008 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

I thought US Grants campaigns were about maneuver. Moving to the left flank, move to the left flank ad nausea, interspersed with relatively few but horrifically bloody clashes. Even closing up Vicksburg, was a feat of maneuver warfare as well as engineering.

But the high tech intensity and high power capability the modern soldier requires, means that many of our service aged men and women do not qualify. This only increasing the burden of those that do qualify and intensifies the need to draw honest, clear and compelling pictures of this war and the necessity for victory.

These soldiers, of all nations fighting so that Iranians and Afghani people can live without fear of sudden and senseless death at the hands of a brutish mockery of all things human is only a part of the reason. I would think that it is enough and that a thoughtful and free people could fill in the rest. Evidently, it is not the case.mctjyl

5/27/2008 12:36:00 AM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

Fred worries:
``I think it is dangerous for there to be this continuing disconnect between our civilian population and our armed forces.''

Me too. But its plain lazy to assume that the fault lies with people who happen to think the war in Iraq was unnecessary and counterproductive.

I initially supported the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, as it seemed to be a reasonable exercise in self-defense, the only fully moral motive for state violence.

Now I can see that my support was mistaken. The U.S. lacks the political will and now, indeed, the ability, given the spiraling costs of the invasion of Iraq, to rebuild Afghanistan and perhaps even to prevail over a rising rebellion now based in Pakistan.

It would have been possible and far more realistic to target bin Laden's camps, bomb them and send special forces in to kill or capture the remaining Al Qaeda fighters.

In hindsight, that seems to be a far more effective way to destroy bin Laden's network, but hindsight is too easy and I think anyone could be forgiven for mistakenly believing that the U.S. could live up to a commitment to rebuild Afghanistan, a country it did so much to destroy in the Reagan era.

To be sure, in an ideal world, the U.S. would feel compelled to rebuild Afghanistan simply because it did so much to help the Islamic extremists who then did so much to destory the country. But it's a great big world, with lots of geopolitical mistakes and ongoing shames from genocide to famine.

We have to very carefully choose where to take a stand and when we do, we have to be fully, totally prepared to prevail while fully aware and in agreement on the sacrifices necessary to achieve the goal.

As it happens, conservative America is operating under the illusion that war doesn't involve society-wide sacrifice. They keep thinking that only poor people need to do the dying and that tax cuts will magically pay for things.

And Fred, spare me the emetic attempt at moral high dudgeon.

Wretchard is himself knowledgable and capable, at least, of reason. But the comments here are a sad circus of blatant anti-Muslim bigotry, hyper-partisan ranting, flaming straw men, tired right-wing cant and whining.

That you would from that soup, draw offense by a particular piece of rhetoric shows only that you are in denial about the difference between what you see as correct ideology and personal morality.

If you really think a comment doesn't dignify a response, try not giving it one instead of issuing a verbose transparently contradictory three-paragraph whinge.

Meanwhile, I heard the Marines are still recruiting. If you're so much more committed to military solutions than I am, what's stopping you from signing up?

5/27/2008 05:30:00 AM  
Blogger Katchoo said...

Not that Mark: God is at fault for Katrina. Katchoo wants war with God. Or preferably, those who believe in him.

Since the Fall every man, woman, and child has been at war with God. But the King of Peace has made reconciliation with the Father, on my behalf, and on behalf of anyone else who takes advantage of that one time free offer through faith. This accord was made through his death on a cross.

5/27/2008 06:33:00 AM  
Blogger mythusmage said...

The first edition of the wargame Squad Leader had a booklet on German, British, and American squad level tactics in World War II. It noted that the American tactical philosophy was basically, "Do something, anything. Something's gotta work."

Today in Iraq we see the American military applying that same philosophy to a theater of war. Do something, any thing. Something's gotta work.

5/27/2008 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger mythusmage said...

5050noline,

Some people need to get slagged off. Especially pissy little bitches still upset over the mythical buggering they received from George W. Bush.

5/27/2008 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger not that mark said...

Katchoo said, "One of our cities WAS nuked, by Katrina . . ."

We should attack someone other than God for the Katrina hurricane?

Who then should we attack for the cyclone in Burma?

5/27/2008 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger j- said...

*Historically the US watched as the UK was nearly crushed by Germany*

We didn't just watch. We helped as much as we could [Lend-Lease, etc.] while the Code Pink[os] and Paleocon Isolationists of the day tried to hamstring every effort.

*even though it was clearly in its interest to help out even before Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor really didn't change the calculus of national interest in Europe; it simply provided it with an emotional impetus.*

Pearl had nothing to do with the war in Europe save for the fact that Hitler declared war on us after we declared it on Japan--don't forget that little fact. Otherwise, the Code Pink[os] and Paleocons of the day would have bleated on and on about how we were once again going to fight Europe's battles for them.

*If you really think a comment doesn't dignify a response, try not giving it one instead of issuing a verbose transparently contradictory three-paragraph whinge.*

This nugget of wisdsom buried in an eleven paragraph whinge that ends with the ol' "Hey, Chickenhawk--go enlist" chestnut.

Yawn.

5/27/2008 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger VA Gamer said...

It would have been possible and far more realistic to target bin Laden's camps, bomb them and send special forces in to kill or capture the remaining Al Qaeda fighters.

mcdaddyo 5/27/2008 05:30:00 AM


Mcdaddyo, here is where we fundamentally disagree. You, and other like-minded people usually on the left, believe that we should have treated 911 as a criminal action. According to you, we should have "targeted Bin Laden's camps..." You would have killed or captured the planner of the murderous attacks of 911, but you would have done nothing about the ideology that fostered the attack.

Others, usually on the right, see the 911 attacks as bigger than Bin Laden. Radical Islam is the problem. While it is true that most Muslims are not radical, it is also true that most Muslims either tacitly support the radicals or at least do nothing to stop them. Other than a handful of brave souls, can you name any major Muslim mobilization against radicalization (e.g. a Million Muslim March against violence)?

That is why I supported the Iraq effort from the beginning, and I continue to support it through its successes and failures. If we are successful in helping Iraq form a relatively stable representative government, then all the sacrifice of treasure and lives will have been worth it.

Before you label me a chicken hawk, I will tell you that I have already served in the military. I was an Army officer serving in Germany and in the first Gulf War.

5/27/2008 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger VA Gamer said...

Mcdaddyo, I have many other quibbles with your comments. You clearly blame the U.S. for the current state of Afghanistan, "a country it did so much to destroy in the Reagan era."

You give absolutely no context to why the U.S. was involved in Afghanistan during the Reagan era. It makes you sound like a typical, America-hating leftist. To refresh your memory, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to add it to its orbit during the Cold War. To maintain the balance, we aided the Afghani people fighting the invasion of their homeland. We provided weapons and training. How is this different from providing England and Russia weapons after Germany attacked them? Were we also to blame for the damage and death wrought upon those nations by the Nazi war machine?

Why is the U.S. to blame if Osama Bin Laden later formed a radical network using the training he received from us?

If you wish to assign blame for the damage done to Afghanistan during the Reagan era, place it fully where it belongs, upon the (now-defeated) Soviet Union.

5/27/2008 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

We should attack someone other than God for the Katrina hurricane?

I think everyone who lives in a hurricane zone should be insured, at free market rates. The government can provide emergency assistance but it damn well better not give out $2000 ATM cards and promises to help them rebuild in the same exact spot. That money should come from their insurance company. And when the rates for that go up to 8 large a year, I don't want to hear them whine.

5/27/2008 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

"mcdaddyo" called me a chickenhawk. For the record, I have an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army. I served from August 19, 1973 (right out of high school)until August 19, 1976. I have my DD 214 to prove it. I enlisted for three years and did my duty.

I am too old for service now, with two hip replacements to boot. And a family to care for. I married later in life, after leaving the Jesuit seminary. However, if my country required it and waived my conditions, I would go back. Yes, I would. Can't think of a finer group of men to hang out with. A quality of person which "mcdaddyo" evidently is not familiar with (and I'm sure, for their sake, thankfully so).

And, "mcdaddyo," I am a former Leftist. I studied Frankfurt School Marxism and devoted ten years of my life, from college to the Jesuit seminary, trying to intellectually find a "third way" socialism that would be morally defensible. In the end, the stack in my mental inbox called "cognizant dissonance" got too high to put off dealing with. Hence, my break with the Left. At least when I was a Leftist I did not consider my country a bad actor on the stage of history. Yes, of course I know of our transgressions, but in the larger picture no other country has paid so much of the price of liberty.

5/27/2008 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

When you say "American war" and then mention "Iraq" in the same sentence, the read would do well to consider that the pricetag for "Iraq" is less than 1% of America's GDP. That's not even Starbucks money.

America's $14trillion GDP affords it the ability to take over Iraq and decimate Al-Qaeda without the process making the evening news.

5/27/2008 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

dla - the read(er) would do well to consider that the pricetag for "Iraq" is less than 1% of America's GDP. That's not even Starbucks money.

Bullcrap. The total cost of the Iraq War now approaches 2 trillion bucks, including long term care costs of soldiers injuries and the interest on all the money we got from China so we could do the neocons "excellent adventure" while giving more tax cuts to the wealthy.
Add in the two trillion in oil surcharge premiums generated since Iraq went bad and instability spread in the petroleum exporters while the US did nothing to conserve or add new oil supply..or replacing oil with alternates as Canada is doing with oilsand, natural gas, oil shale projects.

The idea of course the Corporate Bushies had was that Iraq would be a cakewalk, there would be plenty of cheap oil that in itself would pay for the war, and meanwhile no CAFE or national energy plan was needed because untrammeled USA oil consumption was a right that came from Jesus....

DLA may not know it, but we are already paying out in considerably more than "Starbucks money" in the form of stagnant wages to all but the Owner/Investor class in America, paying at the pump, paying in increased prices for most consumer goods.

And we taxpayers haven't even yet started paying back the 3 trillion in Bush Iraq War/WOT/Homeland Security Pork IOUs (two trillion held by foreign note holders like China, Saudi Arabia, Japan, the London-EU Axis, the remainder to wealthy US corporatists and funds)

America will be feeling the pain of it's wastrel debtor ways of the Bush years for a long time to come.

5/27/2008 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

Where would you guys be without reductionism?

1. I neither hate America nor blame America for the world's problems. Rather, I disagree with some of the geopolitics America has engaged in over the years. On the whole, America is a great country with an enviable history of military restraint, liberal democracy, economic growth, religious tolerance and ice cold beer--among other great things.

Over there in Afghanistan, you can't get a cold beer. The place is all tore up.

No one loves America more than I do.

I have found that conservatives, perhaps out of an inflamed sense of ideological entitlement, insist on branding people who challenge their views as "haters" or "blamers" of America.

They seem to have a binary-only brain that can only let them believe that a country and its people, its government and its leaders are good or evil. And, more important, if I think America isn't all good, I must believe, then, that its enemies are all good.

So it is that if one notes the U.S. role in fueling the Islamic extremists movement in Afghanistan he is "blaming" America as the cause of all that is wrong there.

Rather, my view is that America contributed to the very long-lived pre-existing problems in Afghanistan that led to the Taliban and Al Qaeda setting up there.

That doesn't mean the Soviets don't share responsiblity. They pursued precisely the same policies now advocated by the American right in the Middle East and failed, just as America is failing, to win.

And Fred, where are you getting that I called you a chickenhawk? Yet again you show that a sense of media-driven ideological entitlement drives you to an inflated dependence on victimhood.

Here's what I actually wrote, a question: ``What's stopping you from signing up?''

You have a perfectly legitimate answer, of course, though you insist on larding it with callow insults against me and my motives.

And my point still stands: when America's enemies assess its willingness to fight, they need go no further than blogs this, where people who have no intention of joining the military insist on more war, even endless war.

These same keyboard warriors call for tax cuts, believing somehow that will pay for the aggression they insist is necessary for America's, indeed the free world's, survival.

It's not the peaceniks who give our enemies confidence, it's the chickenhawks.

And it's certainly no surprise the Fred was formerly a leftist--that is the leitmotif of neoconservatism, and it's a telling one.

In university, these people went with the flow searching for an all-encompassing ideology that would simplify a complex world, breaking things down into the good and the evil and giving them a simple matrix for determining friends and enemies.

Left wingnutism gave them all that, but once they left university, they found the wider world either hostile to or completely uninterested in their simplistic worldview. Moreover, the mainstream media told them over and over that their view just wasn't fashionable any more.

Those problems were easily solved by shifting from left wingnutism to right wingnutism. The ideological template is exactly the same, only the players names and uniform colors are changed to comport better with what's said in the mainstream media rather than what's said in college classrooms.

Sorry Fred, while it is telling that you used to play the same game for the other side, it doesn't add to your credibility.

5/27/2008 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger VA Gamer said...

McDaddyo, it sounds as if we were to sit down over beers to have a conversation, we may agree on many points. I apologize if I jumped to conclusions about your comments. I have faced so many ignorant, lefty commentors on other blogs that I read your train of thought and then filled in the rest with what I anticipated was forthcoming.

Yes, we played a role in creating or at least enabling al Qaeda. However, that was over 20 years ago, and we did it for a very good reason at the time. The defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan played a role in their eventual overall defeat.

Prior to our recent involvement there, I would have argued that we owe very little to the Afghani people. We helped them repel the invader without becoming one ourselves.

Now that we are there, I feel that we do owe them something. We should help them develop their infrastructure, if that is what they want. If they refuse this help or insist on supporting people who do (Taliban, al Qaeda, etc.), then all bets are off.

5/27/2008 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

Cedarford said a bad word, due the facts running over his/her leftist loon dogma

Sorry the facts bug you so much. I didn't think this was news to the thinking crowd - oh well.

1% of $14trillion is $140billion. Bush has been bugging Congress annually for a little over $100billion for Iraq. At the 4 year mark the CBO estimated the cost of Iraq to be $340billion.

5/27/2008 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

McDaddyo said...
"The American way of war hasn't escaped the rise to dominance of consumer culture."
...meaning you haven't figured out how to support the troops either, despite your sallow trumpeting. Twisting a simple argument to fit an angst is no way to find agreement. But it almost a rush to say that "Keyboard warrior" stuff doesn't it. Does it get you off?

"War is now seen by a wide segment of the population as a kind of entertainment on par with sports, but with a lot more at stake."

I can only speak for myself, and try to distinguish my observations as opinion and not as fact. I assume this is your opinion, as my observations tell a very different story.

Thus the focus is often perceived humiliations, national dignity/honor and idle boasts.

Of course there is always the possibility that ideas get discussed, and perspectives challenged, but if you are playing a game, it is the humiliation that matters, isn't it? Again I'll take it that this is your perception... How telling.

"More important, fewer and fewer Americans see any necessity of themselves fighting in wars like the one in Iraq."

I presume they hope it works, so they won't need to fight a broader, messier much less high tech war of national as well as personal survival.

"It is now perfectly acceptable in American culture to wax on endlessly about the reverent glories and necessity of military aggression while at the same time avoiding actually participation in the military."

It is a cynically ironic twist to have raised a generation on anti military anti violent themes and then blame those whose desire and wish was to maintain a semblance of understanding for a view of the citizen soldier and respect of professional military arms for a lack of recruits. But there is something more to the message, some deeper thought process involved here. The tears should start flowing momentarily.

"A big meme of late in the rightwing blowhardosphere is that negotiations give some sort of psychological advantage to our military opponents. There is of course some limited truth to this view, though it errs in that it views war as primarily psychodrama."

If you don't know what your negotiating about why are you negotiating. If you want to talk
there are plenty of ways to do that. But why should I wish to talk, and why do you want to talk? Tell me? Better yet show me by action that you are good on your word, Say give up baby Assad for tribunal for the murder of the Lebanese PM, Or something of real significance. We'll wait. We're not going anywhere.

"What this view ignores is the far more potent contribution to enemy morale made by the flagrant refusal of neoconservatives to serve in the military during the wars they demand. That alone is by far the clearest, most emphatic measure of the ``American Way of War'' in 2008."

Now that is just silly. Everyone knows the most omnipotent weapons of the free press and that darn'd free speech and that horrible freedom to practice religion are the things that are loosing the war. Why if the Neo cons would just be quiet and only say what we tell them too (like everyone else does) then there wouldn't be a need for war...

That is what your trying to say, isn't it? I did get that message right? Didn't I, Or is there still some seething anger about something else, something you don't care or maybe don't dare to say aloud? I doubt it is worth listening to, but I might be surprised. I'm guessing you might have something worth while to say beyond the regurgitated talking points you see, because I've broken the cardinal rule and paid attention to you. I hoping you're more than a snot nosed teenager banging away at the keyboard for kicks.

5/27/2008 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Boghie said...

McDadDyo,

Why don’t we just roll a d20 and hope for ‘a crit’.

“It would have been possible and far more realistic to target bin Laden's camps, bomb them and send special forces in to kill or capture the remaining Al Qaeda fighters.”

If we get it we can send in a super secret sleuth with ‘boots of stealth’ to capture the one guy that is the enemy. But, what happens if the media finds out about the secret assassin. Then, roll well and conjure up a ‘forget spell’ or whatever.

I have a thought.
Where are bin-Laden’s terror camps now.
Oh yeah, that’s right.
Nowhere.

Now, to those demanding a Total War effort or nothing, or those hiding behind a demand for a Total War effort or nothing. Let us think about what you are demanding.
Assuming WWII was the ‘last good war’ there are a few metrics at hand:

Population: 131,028,000
Served in War: 16,596,639
% Served: 12.7%

Thus, you are demanding that America draft or enlist:

38,100,000 men to serve in the military. Many for the duration of the war.

Our military is currently staffed with 1,500,000 active duty personnel and a like number of reserves.

What do you want to do with the 35,000,000 additional personnel – pay them?

Now, look at resource allocation:

GDP in 1944: $174.84 Billion
% toward War: 36%

Thus, you are demanding that we transition:
$4,860,000,000 toward the Total War effort.

That is, Four Trillion Eight Hundred and Sixty Billion.
We are spending $525,000,000 for all of the Department of Defense – including the supplementals.

Where do you think we need to spend the remaining Four Trillion Three Hundred and Thirty Five billion? ANNUALLY.

Folks, we are an incredibly large, incredibly wealthy, and incredibly powerful nation state. We simply cannot ‘mobilize’ fully to fight these turds. And, nobody in their right mind wants us to.

McDaddyo,

Who do we send our ambassador to see to end this conflict? If they sign some Munich Accord scrap of paper will that guarantee a cessation of conflict. If bin-Laden signs the scrap will Zawahiri abide by it. Maybe the turds will simply rename themselves. PLO to PLA to Fatah to whatever. Al-Qaeda to al-Quds to al-Blah to whatever.

To put it bluntly, who do you want President Obama to clink non-alcoholic champagne glasses with?

Osama bin-Laden,
Abdel Aziz Rantisi,
The Iranian Mullahs
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah

5/27/2008 06:10:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

Wadeusaf provides a fresh example of the binary thinking that so enfeebles the more militaristic side of neoconservatism.

``It is a cynically ironic twist to have raised a generation on anti-military anti-violent themes and then blame those whose desire and wish was to maintain a semblance of understanding for a view of the citizen soldier and respect of professional military arms for a lack of recruits.''

But I have made no challenges whatsoever to either the respect or understanding of "citizen soldiers.'' Wadeusaf's logical leap to imply that I have can only come from the irrational binary view that if I criticize speculative military aggression in Iraq and the unwillingness of its most vocal backers to either fight in it or pay for it, I must be opposed to respecting American soldiers.

Respect or reverence or sympathy for soldiers isn't a logical part of the policy debate. It's a free country and people's personal feelings on those issues are a private matter of little public consequence. It's transparent demagoguery to assert that people opposed to military aggression are thereby showing disrespect to the soldiers ordered to engage in it.

Binary thinkers arrive at irrational conclusions like that because they are either unwilling or unable to turn their views around and examine them from other sides. In fact that kind of thought experiment is often absurdly dismissed in conservative circles as "moral relativism'' even though it has nothing to do with that.

Wadeusaf writes: ``Say give up baby Assad for tribunal for the murder of the Lebanese PM, Or something of real significance. We'll wait. We're not going anywhere.''

But neoconservatives themselves would brand this kind of unilateral demand as intransigence it were made, as it often is, by America's opponents.
Thus the neocons demand nothing but military aggression for the U.S. and its allies, while counseling pacifism for people like the Palestinians. Politics invites a level of cognitive dissonance, but the neoconservative blind spot on this is typically all-consuming and, in practice, all negating.

5/27/2008 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

mcdaddyo has, once before, called himself an Islamist here on this weblog. Faithful Muslims always describe kafir self-defense as "aggression." Only the jihad is legitimate, because Allah commands it. And if they cannot slay us with military weapons, they will try to enervate us with their taqiyya.

Saddam Hussein, after Operation Desert Storm's victory over his army, began to ostensibly take upon himself the mantle of Islamic language. Furthermore, his state sponsored many jihad terror groups. And up to the time the Russians took away his WMD's and programs (Operation Sarindar), Iraq possessed the means to inflict great harm on the West. According to the Bush Doctrine, spelled out in the famous October 2001 address before both Houses, if you sponsor terrorism you are an enemy of ours. Besides the continual breach of the 1991 Truce terms and violations of U.N. orders, the Babylonian Baathists were a strategic threat in the region.

This thread was supposed to be a discussion about the incredible intelligence, grit, and resourcefulness of our military in coping with the remnants of the Baath regime and the al Qaeda scum who flocked to Iraq to bring murder and mayhem to the people there and to our troops.

They have pretty much won this fight. 'Tis a bitter pill to swallow for the jihadis and their Western Fifth Columnists.

5/27/2008 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

Still more "either-or'' binary simpletonism:

``Who do we send our ambassador to see to end this conflict? If they sign some Munich Accord scrap of paper will that guarantee a cessation of conflict.''

No one anywhere on any side of the debate has ever suggested that talks guarantee world peace. Diplomacy is merely a tool, an alternative to war, with no guarantees of anything, except that the costs and risks of executing the policy will be lower.

Here again, there seems to be an inability to simply turn the issue around to reveal the claim's absurdity. Does war offer any guarantee? Why hasn't boghie even thought to ask himself: ``Who do we need to assassinate to end this conflict? If we nuke Iran, will that guarantee a cessation of conflict?''

Rather, faced with the actual results of speculative U.S. aggression in Iraq, neocons argue vehemently that war by its very nature offers no guarantees. The tactics and results shift over time, they argue, and even the motives for the attack may be rearranged, if necessary. Yet most remain unaware of the obvious contradiction.

The bottom line is, the neocon militarists have no standards for comparing policies. Instead, they adopt a flexible view wherein diplomacy is deemed failed whenever its success is incomplete and war is deemed a success whenever its failure can be spun as incomplete.

5/27/2008 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

McDaddyo said...

"Wadeusaf provides a fresh example of the binary thinking that so enfeebles the more militaristic side of neoconservatism...,

..."But I have made no challenges whatsoever to either the respect or understanding of "citizen soldiers."


Your reading comprehension is here displaying the very binary style you accuse the neo-cons of preferring. But try again. I would love to see what you next arrive at.

Wadeusaf's logical leap to imply that I have can only come from the irrational binary view that if I criticize speculative military aggression in Iraq and the unwillingness of its most vocal backers to either fight in it or pay for it, I must be opposed to respecting American soldiers.

Here again your powers of critical reading lead you to speculate in a area I did not address. But you seem happy at that peculiar two step, let us know when you are ready to expand your horizons.

Respect or reverence or sympathy for soldiers isn't a logical part of the policy debate. It's a free country and people's personal feelings on those issues are a private matter of little public consequence.
Hey, we agree!

It's transparent demagoguery to assert that people opposed to military aggression are thereby showing disrespect to the soldiers ordered to engage in it.

Opposition alone is not the issue, but the issue of making war, once decided by congress and the powers that be, becomes an issue of life and death for the soldiers who fight and civilians in their care. At that point open opposition becomes more than mere disrespect. Of course it takes your premise beyond that one-two one-two, and comprehension of the notion may not be so easy.

Binary thinkers arrive at irrational conclusions like that because they are either unwilling or unable to turn their views around and examine them from other sides. In fact that kind of thought experiment is often absurdly dismissed in conservative circles as "moral relativism'' even though it has nothing to do with that.

Don't take my word for it, take US Grant's. from Personal Memoirs pg.45... "Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in life or history. Better for him, individually, to advocate "war pestilence and famine," than to act as an obstructionist to a war already begun."

Wadeusaf writes: ``Say give up baby Assad for tribunal for the murder of the Lebanese PM, Or something of real significance. We'll wait. We're not going anywhere.''

But neoconservatives themselves would brand this kind of unilateral demand as intransigence it were made, as it often is, by America's opponents.
Thus the neocons demand nothing but military aggression for the U.S. and its allies, while counseling pacifism for people like the Palestinians. Politics invites a level of cognitive dissonance, but the neoconservative blind spot on this is typically all-consuming and, in practice, all negating.


Of course if you actually quoted me entirely, and were able to process the MEANING, you would easily see the h0les in your argument.

Try again, please, this may lead somewhere,.

5/27/2008 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

Wadeusaf writes:
``Opposition alone is not the issue, but the issue of making war, once decided by congress and the powers that be, becomes an issue of life and death for the soldiers who fight and civilians in their care. At that point open opposition becomes more than mere disrespect.''

Yet again, the analysis fails simply because the analyst fails to even consider, let alone account for, reverse cases.
Most oppose the war precisely because it is a matter of life and death for the soldiers and civilians. It is in no small part out of respect for their lives and their families' fortunes and feelings that I advocate withdrawal from Iraq.
Yet Wade operates within a logic bubble that excludes that rather obvious possibility. Why?
The opposite charge, that the war's supporters show more than mere disrespect for soldiers, is far more logical, though also flawed. It can be argued that it's the supporters of the Iraq war who show disrespect for soldiers by insisting that they undertake an unnecessary, unwinnable, immoral war and by insisting a la Vietnam, that they be forced to wait until the war's failure is closer to total before withdrawing, greatly increasing the risks to their health and safety.
I do not take the latter view and would point out to anyone making such an argument that they had failed to consider reverse cases, for example, that supporters of the war may have respect for American soldiers and believe that they are made safer by taking on the Iraqi resistance now, rather than face the possibility that the indigenous fighters could eventually ally with others to become a military force that attacks the U.S.
Bottom line is, yet again, Wade's real disagreement with me is not about loyalty or respect or treachery, but about what the best ways are to deal with terrorism and threats to national security.

5/27/2008 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

Fred: don't sell yourself so short!
I'm sure its beyond my abilities to enervate you with my taqiya. And you really shouldn't be worrying about others without their permission...

5/27/2008 10:58:00 PM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

McDaddyo, I notice you have an unhealthy obsession with neocons. You seem to think they control the US government, the military, etc etc etc, like some sort of sinister cabal out of the protocols of the elders of Zion that pulls the strings behind everything you don't like in the world. Neocons this. Neocons that. Neocons hate Palestinians and love to kill kill kill. I presume for Matzo dough, no? Neocon is a widespread code-word for Jew in a wide swath of the left. It's very revealing as to what you're really about: Jew hatred. Scratch an anti-Zionist; find a Jew hater.

You know you can get plenty of what you like on any of a zillion fascist, Jew hating, left-wing websites and "alternative" newspapers, or even on MSNBC and CNN. Those who support the US and Israel in this defensive war against the Jihadist onslaught deserve a place to discuss issues without the relentless drumbeat of the media's favorite islamist, fascist and communist propaganda. Why not go back to your Nazi haunts?

Ta ta!

5/28/2008 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

Really Pangloss...

Sorry to disappoint you but my view is that Judaism is a wonderful religion with a rich intellectual history and can make a good argument for its validity merely by the fruit of its believers.

I don't happen to be a believer myself, but it seems obvious to me that Jewish people have done much of the very best thinking from Marx to Freud to Einstein that shaped the world we now live in--whether or not one agrees with all their conclusions all the time.

One reason I am opposed to Zionism is that I think it tethers the Jewish spirit and religion to a kind of nationalism that ultimately smothers, or at the very least crimps, the lust for knowledge, creativity and humanity that have marked the Jewish people for all the history I know about.

Many people living in Israel, polls show, agree with me on that, and most Jews I know personally do as well.

I use the word neocon merely to be polite in adopting what I assume to be the preferred self-description of garden variety American militarists.

As readers will plainly see, any connection to Judaism is one you've chosen to make, Pan, not me.

5/28/2008 01:46:00 AM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

"..."Opposition alone is not the issue, but the issue of making war, once decided by congress and the powers that be, becomes an issue of life and death for the soldiers who fight and civilians in their care. At that point open opposition becomes more than mere disrespect."...

Yet again, the analysis fails simply because the analyst fails to even consider, let alone account for, reverse cases.
Most oppose the war precisely because it is a matter of life and death for the soldiers and civilians. It is in no small part out of respect for their lives and their families' fortunes and feelings that I advocate withdrawal from Iraq.
Yet Wade operates within a logic bubble that excludes that rather obvious possibility. Why?
"

We live in a democracy, what you advocate is nothing short of a tantrum, because you are not getting your way. There are ways to oppose, there are honorable and legal ways to voice opinion without cutting the legs out from under our troops (which the tantrum approach has the nasty tendency to accomplish). I do not disregard adverse or different opinion, I rather relish it as a font from which to improve, alter or (gasp) even change my own POV.

"The opposite charge, that the war's supporters show more than mere disrespect for soldiers, is far more logical, though also flawed. It can be argued that it's the supporters of the Iraq war who show disrespect for soldiers by insisting that they undertake an unnecessary, unwinnable, immoral war and by insisting a la Vietnam, that they be forced to wait until the war's failure is closer to total before withdrawing, greatly increasing the risks to their health and safety."

Ah there is the rub, rather than suggesting the case be made in a consistent and constructive manner, which cause cannot be won without appearing to stab (if not in fact stabbing) our soldiers in the back, you insist it the process that must be flawed. Heck if it were not then everyone would believe your argument with all their might and clicking heals together make the bad man go away and erase the pain of that September day of a couple of years back.

Again, this is a democracy, there are ways appropriate to argue your case without being a traitor in the eyes of the troops or the eyes of your fellow citizens.

"I do not take the latter view and would point out to anyone making such an argument that they had failed to consider reverse cases, for example, that supporters of the war may have respect for American soldiers and believe that they are made safer by taking on the Iraqi resistance now, rather than face the possibility that the indigenous fighters could eventually ally with others to become a military force that attacks the U.S."

Reverse case? The only reverse you support is the reversal of fortunes of the Iraqi and Afghan people. It is highly unlikely at this point in the proceedings that Iraqi army (or even Afghani Army) units would join forces with just anyone in the region to subjugate their fellow citizens anew. It takes time and it takes building up the courage to vote, to debate without fear of reprisal, to listen to opposing views, and it takes practice to accept the decision of the majority of ones countrymen when that decision does not agree with my own.

Bottom line is, yet again, Wade's real disagreement with me is not about loyalty or respect or treachery, but about what the best ways are to deal with terrorism and threats to national security.

By slight of hand, and great rhetorical effort you display that you only wish our disagreement was limited to policy. The disagreement is much deeper and lies on much firmer ground. That disagreement includes the notion of a LOYAL opposition, respect for majority rule and individual rights.

Your arguments thus far fail to address any of those notions and in what is still sadder still, your arguments regarding policy are not convincing. In fact what little there is, is quite lame (I'll assume the rest is MIA). And you claim the neo-cons can't make up their minds.

All you appear to have thus far ...(although I cannot say for certain as you have not made any real claims, of course, as then you would be responsible for you words),

... all you appear to support thus far is a notion that all war, no matter what the reason compelling it, is bad, and that peace, at any price including our freedom and our future, is the better alternative.

If you guys were winning that might be attractive to some, but under the circumstances, it is a desperate ploy and would seem rather comical if it were not so irredeemable.

But please, do try again.

5/28/2008 03:23:00 AM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

Well Wade, you now claim both that my position is a disloyal tantrum and that I really have no position. Make up your mind.

Meanwhile, let me respond to what I'm left to guess your claim is.

You say I'm disloyal and "cut the legs out from the under the troops" because I oppose the war and my opposition gives hope to the Iraqi resistence, prompting them to fight on, killing more Americans.

Here again, you obviously have not considered the reverse case, which would show that any killing the Iraqi resistence undertakes is their own responsibility, shared with the people who attacked Iraq in the first place.

Remember that the Clinton administration sought a negotiated settlement between the Palestinians and Israelis. Critics of the effort said it was doomed, with Islamic extremists insisting Israel would never respect an agreement and Jewish extremists making exactly the same claim about the Palestinians. American conservatives took the Jewish extremists side and, even as the negotiations were ongoing, argued vehemently, openly and at length that the talks were not only a bad idea, but a cynical ploy by Clinton to distract attention from his legacy, which they thought should be that he lied about having sex with an intern.

Were the critics of the president's diplomacy disloyal? Of course not. Even though there is a logical assumption that Clinton's critics helped assure the talks would fail, and even though we know the failure of the talks was followed by a sharp increase in bloodshed, there is no reason to believe the critics should have remained silent or that the Israeli and Palestinian blood was then on their hands.

A war effort that may be lost or significantly retarded because its critics use irrational or otherwise unsound arguments to undermine the morale of the soldiers fighting it should not be pursued in the first place.

If the critics are unreasonable and/or unfounded, the war's supporters should have no trouble defeating the arguments in a free country like America and the troops can just as easily ignore the nonsense.

If, on the other hand, the war's critics are reasonable and well-founded, the war isn't worth fighting because the critics are correct.

Perhaps Wades idea is that once a war has begun, critics must then accept all the government's decisions because to oppose them could hamper progress in the war. But as I demonstrated with the Clinton example, such logic falls apart, because it would ultimately mean that citizens have no say on foreign policy, since the government is constantly engaged at some level in negotiations and criticism of the government could then cause the talks to fail and then lead to bloodshed or other losses by the county.


A carefully planned withdrawal from Iraq is the best way to safeguard both the safety of American troops and American national security.

Without setting a date and implementing the military and political infrastructure for a slow, careful withdrawal, the U.S. will eventually be forced into a hastier exit that could end up like what happened in Vietnam.

The U.S. has never successfully introduced democracy to a third world country by invading it. It didn't work in Korea, or Vietnam or El Salvador and on and on and on. In some of those places, democracy did eventually take root, but in each case, only after the U.S. had negotiated withdrawal or ceasefire and accepted partial defeat.

This is not to suggest that all military interventions were complete failures or completely without merit. It is simply to point out that as a technique or strategy for implementing democracy, the success rate is exactly zero.

One of the ways you could persuade me to believe that there is a reasonable chance of success in Iraq would be to explain how it worked in previous similar cases.

War supporters often cite Germany or Japan, but both cases were too dissimilar in that both countries had long-standing, unified, integrated cultures and languages and the highest level of economic development when the war started.

If you can show me, Wade, historic examples that demonstrate America's ability to implement democracy by invasion, occupation and amid a civil war, I would immediately concede that the effort in Iraq would not necessarily be a desperate long-shot as a policy option.

What exactly, Wade, would it take to convince you of my point of view?

5/28/2008 05:58:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"The U.S. has never successfully introduced democracy to a third world country by invading it. It didn't work in Korea, or Vietnam or El Salvador and on and on and on. In some of those places, democracy did eventually take root, but in each case, only after the U.S. had negotiated withdrawal or ceasefire and accepted partial defeat."

"One of the ways you could persuade me to believe that there is a reasonable chance of success in Iraq would be to explain how it worked in previous similar cases."

After reading your earlier offerings, I can categorically guarantee that there is nothing in heaven or on Earth that could persuade you of anything you don't already believe, but what can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment.

Sooo...my brother-in-law is from El Salvador. He emigrated to the states in the early 80s to go to school, and he and my sister still go there about yearly for holidays and such.

I once buttonholed him for a political conversation, and his take is that America in general and the Reagan administration in particular saved El Salvador from hell. He calls what was going on a civil war, so I won't argue with him. He has a cousin who I've met (and like a lot) who was shot by Leftist guerillas because they thought he was someone else and then they left him for dead. They both know people who died in the war(s) back then.

"If you can show me, Wade, historic examples that demonstrate America's ability to implement democracy by invasion, occupation and amid a civil war, I would immediately concede that the effort in Iraq would not necessarily be a desperate long-shot as a policy option."

You will not. People like you never "immediately concede" anything. You'll just offer more sophistry and "clarification" and misdirection.

Oh, and before you call me a chickenhawk like you have others, you should be aware that I'm not sure I qualify. In November of 1990, when it was looking like war, I in fact did go down to the recruiter and try to sign up. My high school ASVAB had expired, so they had me do a new one, and REALLY liked what they saw. Then came the physical. I had had nasal polyps removed twice. On discovery of that, I was immediately and permanently disqualified from all branches of the armed forces.

So does that make me a chicken hawk? After all, I didn't buy a gun and start swimming the Atlantic with fire in my eyes and killing Iraqis in my heart, so I can't really have the courage of my convictions, right?

5/28/2008 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"A war effort that may be lost or significantly retarded because its critics use irrational or otherwise unsound arguments to undermine the morale of the soldiers fighting it should not be pursued in the first place."

You just described every war that it would be possible for any democratic country to get into.

"If the critics are unreasonable and/or unfounded, the war's supporters should have no trouble defeating the arguments in a free country like America and the troops can just as easily ignore the nonsense."

The critics--at least the ones advocating withdrawal on a timetable--ARE unreasonable AND unfounded, and the arguments supporting the war have already defeated them very soundly...repeatedly. I haven't heard a serious new anti-war angle to the problem in years.

The troops, thankfully, HAVE been able to ignore it all and do their jobs, which is why we're winning pretty handily at the moment.

That's not to say it can't all be undone by someone like Obama. All he would have to do is announce that 95% of American troops will be out within a year and beg for direct meetings with the mullahs, and we'll get to watch attacks and deaths increase in Iraq and elsewhere, Sadr claim victory, and Iran take over Iraq and Lebanon. Sort of like what happened under Jimmy Carter (or Obama 1.0 if you like).

You don't have to BE an evil bastard to keep all that from happening. You just have to play your cards a little closer to your vest and keep the ACTUAL evil bastards from guessing your next moves too accurately.

But the anti-war crowd has no concept of strategy. They want to buy the world a coke and keep it company while they sing kumbaya and cleanse each others' auras. And most of the bad actors in the ME and elsewhere would like nothing better than for the themes of bad 70s pop songs to become our foreign policy again.

5/28/2008 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

Dan: The fact that you sought to fight in the military does add the force of sincerity to your comments.

However, my understanding is that because so few Americans who support the war have demonstrated similar sincerity, recruiting standards have been lowered dramatically--even to include people with criminal records and without high school diplomas in some cases.

In 2006, despite NASCAR, professional bull-riding and Arena Football sponsorships, popular video games that doubled as recruiting tools, TV commercials dripping with seductive scenes of military glory, a "joint marketing communications and market research and studies" program designed to attract, among others, dropouts and those with criminal records for military service, and at least $16,000 in promotional costs for each soldier it managed to sign up, the U.S. military failed to meet its recruiting goals.

In February, the Baltimore Sun wrote that there was "a significant increase in the number of recruits with what the Army terms 'serious criminal misconduct' in their background" -- a category that included "aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, receiving stolen property and making terrorist threats." From 2004 to 2005, the number of those recruits rose by more than 54 percent, while alcohol and illegal drug waivers, reversing a four-year decline, increased by more than 13 percent.

In June, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that, under pressure to fill the ranks, the Army had been allowing into its ranks increasing numbers of "recruits convicted of misdemeanor crimes, according to experts and military records." In fact, as the military's own data indicated, "the percentage of recruits entering the Army with waivers for misdemeanors and medical problems has more than doubled since 2001."

After Steven Green, who served in the 101st Airborne Division, was charged in a rape and quadruple murder in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, it was disclosed that he had been "a high-school dropout from a broken home who enlisted to get some direction in his life, yet was sent home early because of an anti-social personality disorder."

Recently, Eli Flyer, a former Pentagon senior military analyst and specialist on the relationship between military recruiting and military misconduct, told Harper's magazine that Green had "enlisted with a moral waiver for at least two drug- or alcohol-related offenses. He committed a third alcohol-related offense just before enlistment, which led to jail time, although this offense may not have been known to the Army when he enlisted."

With Green in jail awaiting trial, the Houston Chronicle reported in August that Army recruiters were trolling around the outskirts of a Dallas-area job fair for ex-convicts.

"We're looking for high school graduates with no more than one felony on their record," one recruiter was quoted as saying.

The Army has even looked behind prison bars for fill-in recruits -- in one reported case, they went to a "youth prison" in Ogden, Utah. Although Steven Price had asked to see a recruiter while still incarcerated, he was "barely 17 when he enlisted last January" and his divorced parents say "recruiters used false promises and forged documents to enlist him."

While confusion exists about whether the boy's mother actually signed a parental consent form allowing her son to enlist, his "father apparently wasn't even at the signing, but his name is on the form too."

Law enforcement officials report that the military is now "allowing more applicants with gang tattoos," the Chicago Sun-Times reports, "because they are under the gun to keep enlistment up."

As Wretchard has shown, the American military is among the world's most professional and technologically advanced fighting forces.

It is a huge mistake to force these beautiful young American and women to welcome into their ranks people who don't even come close to meeting the standards that had in been in place just a few years ago, prior to the invasion of Iraq.

It's great that you tried to enlist Dan, but I think under the circumstances it's pretty clear they'd take you if you tried again.

5/28/2008 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Wretchard, I know that you suggest we limit our posts to three. I hope you agree this deserves more attention. Please accept my Mea Culpa.
”…you now claim both that my position is a disloyal tantrum and that I really have no position. Make up your mind.”
No, I stated quite clearly the tactics you appear to support are the equivalent of a tantrum. I certainly do not wish to impugn or misconstrue your intentions, nor malign your beliefs (to which you still only allude) as you so certainly objected to above in conversation with others. While I don’t think the tantrum either supports or is supported by an adult position, I have not tarred your intentions or actions with any but an accusation of being for peace, whatever the cost.
“... all you appear to support thus far is a notion that all war, no matter what the reason compelling it, is bad, and that peace, at any price including our freedom and our future, is the better alternative.”
I apologize if in reading your earlier posts I got that wrong. I certainly didn’t mean to offend you by suggesting it.

You say I'm disloyal and "cut the legs out from the under the troops" because I oppose the war and my opposition gives hope to the Iraqi resistence, prompting them to fight on, killing more Americans.
First off I was very careful given your earlier stated sensibilities about others stating your positions for you, to word my post in a manner that did not put words into your mouth. Yet you do that very thing here by accusing me of saying things about you. Why not say what you believe then we would know how to describe your positions.
Second, you loosely and without qualification apply the badge of resistance on some vague Iraqi group or movement. You toss it out without detail, without defining what the resistance is to or who is resisting what. Most Iraqi resistance groups I am aware of and recognize as legit, are currently allied with the Coalition and engaged in defeating Al Queda and in eliminating the grip of rogue militia’s on vast tracts of Iraqi’s citizens and on Iraqi’s future.

Remember that the Clinton administration sought a negotiated settlement between the Palestinians and Israelis. Were the critics of the president's diplomacy disloyal? Of course not. Even though there is a logical assumption that Clinton's critics helped assure the talks would fail, and even though we know the failure of the talks was followed by a sharp increase in bloodshed, there is no reason to believe the critics should have remained silent or that the Israeli and Palestinian blood was then on their hands.
How many American troops were on patrol in Palestine? Other than a handful of UN peacekeepers, the US had no military presence in that place other than the Gaza Border with Egypt, and even then it was on the Egyptian side. Your argument here makes no sense in parallel with the above discussion.

A war effort that may be lost or significantly retarded because its critics use irrational or otherwise unsound arguments to undermine the morale of the soldiers fighting it should not be pursued in the first place.

If the critics are unreasonable and/or unfounded, the war's supporters should have no trouble defeating the arguments in a free country like America and the troops can just as easily ignore the nonsense.

If, on the other hand, the war's critics are reasonable and well-founded, the war isn't worth fighting because the critics are correct.”

How are we to determine who’s argument is sound, reasonable and well founded? I see it one way, you another, how can we agree to agree on which course to take?

Perhaps Wades idea is that once a war has begun, critics must then accept all the government's decisions because to oppose them could hamper progress in the war.
Not at all, but having determined that war was the answer, supporting the effort to a successful conclusion despite misgivings, and finding less extreme and more legitimate means of raising objection to tactics and strategy, opposed to declaring the decision irrational, the deciders all mad and the sky about to fall in.
”If you can show me, Wade, historic examples that demonstrate America's ability to implement democracy by invasion, occupation and amid a civil war, I would immediately concede that the effort in Iraq would not necessarily be a desperate long-shot as a policy option”.
Thailand, a very good model of Counterinsurgency and the French efforts in Algeria are both excellent examples of successful Counter insurgencies. The French efforts in Algeria were scuttled by bad press and a sense of political futility in mainland France that was not warranted by actual events in Northern Africa.
”.What exactly, Wade, would it take to convince you of my point of view?”
Easy, adopt mine.

5/28/2008 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Dan,

Are you addressing me? I don't believe I've ever called anyone a chicken-hawk, but knowing well the history of too many men who for a number of reasons served this nation better in non combat roles then they could have in combat arms. Knowing the number of trigger pullers is a small fraction of those who do serve, I would not use that name.

I believe that the undertaking is huge and doable. I believe the repercussions from even moderate success will be the long term interruption of a cycle of violence that has left scores of people dead and hindered the advancement of scores more of productive lives.

I believe failure is simply not an option.

I also believe you have me confused with some other poster either here or elsewhere.

Mea Culpa, Wretchard.

5/28/2008 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

My position isn't peace at any cost. The fact that you believe that is my position, sans evidence, shows exactly the reductionist pattern of thinking that informs your apparent position on the war.

I have tried again and again to make clear that my problem with the war in Iraq isn't that it requires violence to pursue, but that it is counterproductive and diminishes national security by:

1. Depleting our military resources
2. Undermining the credibility of Arab moderates allied with the U.S.
3. Forcing Iraqi resistors into the hands of Islamic radicals
4. Expanding Iran's influence in Iraq and the region, diminishing America's moral authority, weakening long-standing alliances with key European allies
5. Creating opportunities for serious potential rivals such as China and Russia to undermine key U.S. alliances with Arab countries
6. Drawing attention to the unwillingness of the war's political supporters to either pay for it or fight in it.

Please note that the list does not include anything about hating the military or believing that war never solves anything.

There are pacifists in America. If you really have a need to debate them, I'm sure you can find them quickly and easily via Google. If I wanted to debate bloodthirsty white supremacists, I would go to where they are on the Internet and engage them. I don't, though. I want to find the most intelligent, informed supporters of the war and debate them.

My interest is in disproving my own ideas, so I come to places like this in hoping of finding the strongest challenges, not the weakest. That's why, if you'll notice, I haven't tried to exaggerate your positions. I use the word militarist -- which may give you pause -- simply because it is the only one I know that plainly describes a vehement preference for military solutions over diplomatic ones. Again, if there is a label you prefer that is similarly plain and direct, let me know it and I will consider using it.

But before we can even begin a reasonable debate, you have to demonstrate, as I have, that facts and/or logic exist that could persuade you to my view. Without that, the only conclusion is that your views are based on something other than facts or logic.

As it stands, you've said the only way to persuade you is to agree with you. I suspect you're aware of the crude tautology and made it in jest, but even as a joke, it leaves you exposed.

If you can't clearly identify what facts, logic, information or analysis would render your views in error, we can only conclude that you formed them without the benefit of any.

It's easy, and even fun, for me to say what would change my views as I keep the information right on top of my head:
If you can demonstrate that GW Bush was not presented with intelligence analysis raising doubts about whether Iraq had WMD, I will concede that Bush-Cheney were not lying when they said they were "certain" that Iraq had them.

If you can demonstrate that the Bush-Cheney did not make the presence of WMD the CORNERSTONE of their case for invading Iraq, I will concede that war was not started on false pretences.

I could go on, point by point, showing what key facts and logic behind my positions are. If you can do the same, we can have a substantive debate. If you cannot, I suppose you have little choice but to keep up with the ad hominem and condensension.

I do note that you mention Algeria and Thailand as successful counterinsurgencies. The example of Thailand is telling indeed and ongoing, of course, clearly unwon and unlost. More important, there is no connection between the counterinsurgency and implementing democracy. Rather, Thaksin in Sept. 2006 granted the military extraordinary emergency powers to combat the insurgency, then he himself was ousted in a military coup. Oddly, you admit within the same paragraph that the Algerian effort actually failed.
Given that these are the only examples -- both failures -- you could find, we can only conclude that your view on the likelihood of the U.S. implementing democracy in Iraq by invasion is based on something other than historical precedent. And my challenge still stands: show the facts and I change my view.

5/28/2008 06:42:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

So I am correct in that my snide assumption about your snide response..., is not correct.

The following are matter of fact, (I can provide references) tidbits about my own reaction to the policy back when Colin Powell addressed the UN. I felt then that:

1. Making WMD the cornerstone of the rational for attacking Iraq was good for selling Saddam’s removal, but not a very wise way to build long term commitment to the GWOT.
2. Understanding the intransigence of Saddam in not cooperating with the certification process was indicative of not being in compliance with the spirit much less the letter of the cease fire agreement.
3. Among many hundreds of violations compiled over a ten year span, any one was reason to resume hostilities and remove Saddam.
4. Our failure to secure the safety or to support either the Kurdish rebellion or the Shi’ah uprising post Gulf war was a huge impediment to developing any credibility much less any intelligence assets to determine much beyond what the missing inventories told us about Saddam’s WMDs. In addition and more importantly, we accumulated little first hand data about human rights abuses although we knew outright genocide was occurring. That I believe was our biggest failure and the biggest issue in Arab minds post Gulf War, and still it was our watch. It was our mess, if cleaning it up make us the worlds policeman then so be it.
5. If Bosnia was a statement about Genocide, a similar statement needed to be made in the ME.
6. Publicly available Exit Strategies are for the losers of political debate. Not for serious policy consideration, goes for all situations, and I don't care who is President.
7. The linkage with Al Queda was not made by anybody in the Bush Administration, but their failure to correct members of the exuberant press was a mistake on a par with the WMD thing.
8. I felt then and remain convinced that Saddam was a major supporter of terror, was competing with Iran for creating terror groups and supporting terrorist groups. The linkage to Hamas and the funding of individual Palestinian families of suicide bombers was only a part of a larger operation. Intent on fanning the flames of intifada, and ensuring no pact with Israel could be reached as long as Iraq was under international sanction was Saddam's way of giving Uncle Sam the bird.
9. I believe the same is true of Iranian response to international sanctions.
10. Negotiating with terrorists is an exercise in futility if you expect any concrete or positive long term results.

Addressing your points,

1, Our military resources, are spent best use when unused, but need to be reliable and need to be capable of what we require. Our military going in was not prepared for what it faced, it was only prepared for what we thought would be there including WMD and. conventional forces. NO one other than Saddam and Baathist party generals could have told us at the time what waited.
2. Arab moderate credibility was already undermined, with every failure to enforce to the Cease Fire agreement, and every failure to back up our statements.
3. Iraqi insurgents were not forced into the hands of the radicals, they invited them in. They made their choices with or without the blessing of Saddam (and the latest batch of intelligence docs, do not make clear if the arraignment was or was not made by Saddam) to embrace al Queda. I tend to think it was a post Saddam decision, but that the lobbying started well before we entered Iraq.
4. Iran’s influence in Iraq and the region is expanded only because a rogue Iraq is not there to compete for that influence. I think that having a democratic Iraq as the competing influence is a positive step. Especially as it challenges Iranian influence which it is finally beginning to.
5. China and Russia will find opportunities with or without our help. The foundation of Arab alliances with the US will grow or shrink, but could not and would not remain static given the energy market. I believe energy realities and a lack of a coherent Energy policy out of Washington DC, has more to do on this score than our intervention in Iraq.
6. Well, any experience with the UN or NATO paints that portrait large and colors it in day-glo. Unwillingness (?), this is nothing new. Who was fazed by the OIF scandals? Proper treatment of the difficulties will do more for out future credibility than trying to wall paper over the picture.

IMO, Our domestic troubles had less to do with the ability to pay and more to do with spending. Again that is a problem is in Washington but further it lies with the failure of GOP leadership in the House and Senate to rein in spending. President Bush has a history of spending to get his way that runs through the Texan Legislature. Knowing this, the GOP controlled congress did nothing, just spend and spend and spend. Still, knowing this is irking the citizens of the nation, the Democratic plan for their anticipated legislative dominance is to tax, tax and tax some more to pay for their plans to spend, spend and spend on their projects. I am convinced there is no reasonable, nor rational fiscal policy or program that is not above transparency in Washington DC today.

Unfortunately it is now these spending policies that make our troops hostage to the political whims of the great uninformed residing in House and Senate seats.

I try to follow Secretary Rice’s journeys and discussions, and before her Secretary Powell. Diplomatic initiatives and the knowledge of who we’re holding discussions with about what informs me a great deal more than what terrorist we killed today. While I know the military supports the diplomatic missions much more that the other way around knowing who got killed can also informs about diplomatic results. It is a fool who prefers either one over the other and a dead man who would exclude both.

It reads windy, Mea Maxima Culpa.

5/28/2008 11:47:00 PM  

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