Russell's Blog

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Talking back to the talking points

Posted by Russell on April 21, 2007 at 6:53 a.m.
I normally avoid reading Republican blogs. This isn't an ideological choice -- there are a few conservative bloggers who I find quite informative. Somehow, thought, this caught my eye:
Republicans blast back in response to comments made by the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about the war in Iraq. OK, I get it, Senator Reid doesn't like the war and probably does not like President Bush. But will someone please tell me the benefit of spouting off in public to the news media that the war in Iraq is lost.
Yes, I can tell you exactly what the benefit is. If we have lost the war, and by all objective measures we have indeed lost the war, then it is absolutely imperative to "spout off in public" about this fact. That is the only way anything can be done about it. Harry Reid is one of the leaders of our country, and so it is his responsibility to lead, both on the day-to-day business of running the government and also by shaping the national dialog. It is his solemn, sworn duty as a servant of the public to spout off about it.

I'll set aside the author's conceit that one can really know the mind of Harry Reid, or anyone else, well enough to guess their likes and dislikes. It has nothing to do with whether or not he "likes" the war or "likes" the president. A man in Harry Reid's position has very little time to entertain his own likes and dislikes. When the stakes are that high, personal likes and dislikes are irrelevant. There is only room for cold analytical judgment. People have different priorities and different theories, and so judgment varies. Harry Reid judges the war lost, due in large part to the president's incompetence. Most Americans came to the same conclusion more than a year ago.

You may of course disagree with Mr. Reid. Maybe you think the war is going great. We are each entitled to draw our own conclusions. But what sort of thinking would lead you to question the soundness of Mr. Reid's decision to publicly state his conclusion?

If I was a soldier on the ground in Iraq, I'd be questioning the next time I’m out on patrol just what the ... am I doing out here?
So, basically, you argue that Mr. Reid's remarks might cause our soldiers to question their mission, and so he should apologize. Utter nonsense. If they can handle being shot at, then they're tough enough not to be vexed by a argument a dozen steps up the chain of command. A responsible commander doesn't make strategic decisions based solely on the supposed anxieties of the rank and file.

In any event, from what I am given to understand, our solders have been wondering what the fuck they are doing in Iraq since they got there. I include the word "fuck," rather than an coy little ellipsis meant to stand it its place, because that is exactly how a soldier on the ground in Iraq right now would phrase it.

People around the world (especially in Iraq) who don't completely understand how our government functions could view Reid's remarks as speaking for the U.S. Government and hurt our ability to garner support from the citizens of Iraq. In addition, his comments show me that he has very little understanding of the ability and determination of our men and women serving our country in the Armed Forces.
Rubbish. We have already lost all ability to garner support in Iraq. We lost that about two months into the operation. We lost our ability to garner support everywhere else before we even invaded. The Iraqis want us to leave immediately, and the rest of the world never wanted us to go there in the first place. If anything, Mr. Reid's remarks have boosted our support in Iraq and around the world simply because they are evidence that America is capable of seeing the obvious truth.

Determination and ability have nothing to do with it. A popular insurgency cannot be defeated. France discovered this in Algeria, the Soviet Union discovered this in Afghanistan, and we discovered this in Vietnam. America was born in a popular insurgency against what was then the most powerful military and economic force in the world. We, of all nations, should understand the power of an insurgency.

History has shown that the only effective strategy to defeat a popular insurgency is genocide. This is how successful wars of conquest have worked for all of recorded history. Insurgencies tend to run out of steam once a third of the population has been exterminated. If we want "victory" in Iraq, then that's what we'd have to do. So far, our intervention in Iraq has killed about 700,000 people (about one in ten from direct violence). That's about 3% of the population. We can expect the insurgency to fall apart when we've killed ten times as many people. What Harry Reid means by "lost" is that the only path to victory available to us is too horrible to contemplate.

So what does Mr. Dougherty suggest we do?

A realistic goal, especially if we allow the finest military in the world to take their gloves off and conduct a tactical war that would bring the enemy in Iraq to their knees. Unfortunately, innocent people may get hurt in the process, but we'd complete our mission with honor and avoid many of the ghosts that haunt us now from the Vietnam know...the ones politicians frequently remind us about daily with the media's help.

That's right. He wants America to literally get medieval on the insurgency. So that we can "avoid the ghosts" of Vietnam. So that we can avoid the embarrassment of admitting that we stuck our national dick into a meatgrinder. Maybe he hasn't studied enough history to realize how many people would have to die. Or maybe he has, and doesn't care.

George Bush sent our troops on an impossible mission. As usual, they have served with exemplary professionalism, but that doesn't change the fact that it's an impossible mission. He could have ordered them to invade Atlantis, or build a perpetual motion machine, or exactly express Pi as a ratio of two integers, and it would be no less impossible. Harry Reid is saying that it's time to admit that the situation is fucked, it's time to repudiate the men who caused the mess, and it's time we brought our kids home.

Just recently I listened to one of those audio books titled the Memoirs of Major Dick Winters, you probably remember his story from the mini-series titled Band of Brothers which aired on HBO. When I think back now about the campaigns he and Easy Company fought in during World War II within the European Theater, I shudder to think how they would have responded to such negative comments from a member of the House or Senate (especially the Senate Majority Leader) announcing publicly that we're going to lose the war in Europe. Back then responsible politicians didn’t do things like that...we're Americans for crying out loud! We're supposed to be on the same team aren’t we? Politicians...NUTS!
Shudder away. Starting only days after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Republican minority vocally opposed Roosevelt, the war and the continuation of the New Deal. They were told not to question the president in a time of war. They were sternly admonished for undermining the moral of our troops and giving comfort to the enemy. Robert Taft, the minority leader, had this to say:
As a matter of general principle, I believe there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government ... too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think that it will give some comfort to the enemy to know that there is such criticism. If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it as far as I am concerned, because the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy, and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur.
This brings us full circle. Joe wanted to know what the possible benefit of publicly opposing the war could be. There you have it, Joe, from the mouth of the Republican minority leader, defending his opposition to the war you glorify.
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