Russell's Blog

New. Improved. Stays crunchy in milk.

A Riposte

Posted by Russell on April 30, 2007 at 7:48 a.m.
Oh dear, I seem to have been noticed.

Before I begin my riposte, I need to set something straight. Mr. Dougherty, you have put words in my mouth that I did not and shall not utter. You seem to believe that the conclusions I draw about the wisdom and feasibility of the war in Iraq preclude any appreciation for the oath you, and millions of others, have taken to defend our country. With respect, sir, don't be an ass. It is rhetorically convenient to suppose that those who call you on your errors are incapable of respecting you. I don't mind saying that I respect your commitment to our country. I respect the sacrifices you have have made and risked -- which, since we are having this argument, were thankfully not as terrible as they might have been. I respect the commitment and dedication on your part that must have been required to serve.

But my respect for you, and your brothers and sisters in arms, does not call for genuflection. It does not give you the license to make pronouncements on whether or not I take for granted the rights you swore to protect. I won't belittle the nobility of your service, but I won't tolerate your sanctimonious finger-wagging either.

I called you out as a Republican, not a conservative, because your post is simply package of recycled RNC and Whitehouse talking points:

  • Pessimism about the war hurts the troops
  • Admitting Failure == Surrender
  • Demand an apology for an imaginary insult on behalf of hypothetical people (double points if the uttering of the imaginary insult is required by the target's job description)
  • Pessimism about the war hurts our diplomatic position
  • Opposing The War == Not Supporting The Troops
  • We could still win if only ______ would let us
  • Draw a parallel, any parallel, between the Iraq War and World War II
Listen to any speech by Mr. Bush about the war, and you'll find at least one or two of those. Ditto for practically any stump speech by a Republican candidate in 2004 or 2006. It's all political blather. I'm picking on you because you are clearly smart enough to come up with your own opinions, but instead you are regurgitating the electioneering twaddle of a bunch of political hacks.

Not all politicians are hacks. Even among this disastrous crop Republicans, there are those who have detectable levels of Principle and Decency. You can spot them easily enough; they're the ones who've been slouching around the Capitol looking shamefaced and embarrassed.

But more important to the point at hand, you don't need to be a hack too. You claim to be motivated by conservatism, so perhaps you should meditate on the principles espoused therein. The conservative intellectual framework rests upon the principles of prudence, caution and the admission only of postulates supported by strong empirical evidence. It isn't anything so crude as the "ideology" for which you mistake it. The position you take on the war, and the war itself, is not "conservative" at all. It is either radical or reactionary, depending on how you look at it. The war was not prudent; it was gratuitous. The war was not cautions; it was reckless. The evidence supporting the war was a potpourri of cheap forgeries, bloviation, bureaucratic doublespeak, and wild speculation. As a liberal, I find it bizarre and unsettling to have to extol the virtues of conservationism. I wish the Republican party would send its nutcases home and try to remember some of the wise words of Lincoln, Taft and Eisenhower. Then maybe we could have a debate about ideas instead yelling about who is more patriotic.

Anyway, setting aside your misuse of the word "obsession," I fail to see how your commendably concise definitions of "insurgency" and "counterinsurgency" are somehow different from the phenomena I discussed in my previous post. Except, perhaps, for one minor point: The government of Iraq can hardly be credited for the counterinsurgency operation underway there. It's our people doing the work, taking the risks, and getting killed. The Iraqi government is engaged in counterinsurgency operations in about the same way that Paris Hilton is a plastic surgeon; the operations are carried out on their behalf by someone else who knows what they are doing, and in both cases, the efforts are wasted. Paris Hilton is still ugly, and the Iraqi government is still doomed.

I can only assume that you mention the viciousness and horror of the terrorist actions of the insurgency because you wish to imply that I do not care. Since it offends your sensibilities so, I shall refrain from flexing the more rustic aspects of my vocabulary; they cannot, in any event, capture the profound vulgarity of your suggestion. But as terribly as my heart aches for the lives snuffed out by this ongoing brutality, I know that America's counterinsurgency effort in Iraq is an impossible mission. We cannot stop the bombings, no matter what we might try.

Maybe if we had a million troops to send to Iraq, and a time machine to send them to 2003, maybe then we could stop this slaughter of innocents. But not now, not with an army trained for a different mission and equipped barely even for that. Not when the mission depends on stretching the Army, Marines and even the Reserves to the breaking point, and holding them at the breaking point indefinitely. Not with 15 month tours of duty under mind-wrecking conditions. Not when our injured veterans come home to mildewing hospital beds and are left to rummage in the Goodwill bin for a pair of underpants. Not after letting Saddam Hussein be lynched by a mob of Sadrist hooligans after a wartime show trial, when he should have been executed after an internationally recognized tribunal. Not after Abu Garib. Not after sending 700,000 Iraqis to early deaths. Yes, sometimes counterinsurgency operations can work. But not in Iraq in 2007. It has already gone too far.

As for your final note, had you taken your own recent advice and Googled the quote, you would have found that it was very much in context. Taft was a staunch isolationist, and the remarks of his that I quoted relate specifically to the war, not the New Deal. No, when he made those remarks twelve days after Pearl Harbor, not even Taft, the ardent isolationist, could call the war "won" or "lost." But he and his party did indeed blame Roosevelt and Lend Lease for provoking the attack on Pearl Harbor (a conjecture not without some merit). Taft openly attempted to obstruct the drive to mobilize America for the war against the Axis powers -- as was his right and his duty as per his principles and his office.

You can find the episode in any decent history book or biography of the major personalities involved (particularly Roosevelt and Eisenhower). Most recently, it appeared in an article in Salon about Tom Daschle.

As for Veteran's day, regrettably, my gallery of Veteran's Day photographs is offline at the moment. I will remedy this as soon as possible.

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