Carol Platt Liebau: Defining 9/11 Down

Friday, August 11, 2006

Defining 9/11 Down

As John Podhoretz points out, before the threats revealed yesterday, there was a tendency even among some conservatives to downplay the dangers we've confronted since 9/11. As Podhoretz puts it, the revisionist thinking has gone as follows:

We were hit. We responded by going into Afghanistan to nail al Qaeda and take out the regime that harbored it. That was OK, but the idea of taking out the rogue regime in Iraq has proved such a disaster that it now calls into question even our actions in Afghanistan.

That's exactly what's going on, and it's a mistake both logically and morally. For one thing, it takes a historicist view that evaluates the "rightness" of a particular course of conduct by no standard other than whether it's successful (or, in this case, immediately successful). And while one has to be a fool to underestimate the importance of success in war (perhaps the time that winning comes closest to being the "only" thing), the revisionist analysis confuses proces with substance. In other words, it could still have been perfectly right to go into Iraq (and I believe it was) even if, tactically, the mission has been mishandled in some ways. That's the point that much of elite opinion, including Sebastian Mallaby, doesn't seem to get.

What's more, using the difficulties in Iraq to dismiss the importance of striking back at al Qaeda through Afghanistan is incredibly wrong and, yes, foolish. If the US government had done nothing after 9/11, not only would it have been violating the most sacred reason a government has for existing -- that is, the protection of its people -- but it would also have undermined popular confidence in its capacity and willingess to protect us, which would have done much to shake popular confidence in the foundational rationale for its existence.

And that's only speaking domestically. Is there anyone alive who seriously believes that, had we allowed the 9/11 attack to go unanswered militarily in some capacity, that countries like Iran and North Korea wouldn't be treating us even less respectfully than they are now? That Saddam Hussein, still in power, wouldn't be trying even harder to forge links with terrorists across the Middle East? That Ghaddafi would have surrendered his nukes anyway?

If it's true that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, I'm getting worried.


Blogger wrabkin said...

Carol, with the heat in LA as high as it is, I hope you're being very careful when you build all your straw men. Considering just how much straw you have to use, you're in extremem fire danger.

No one is saying that Iraq is such a disaster that we shouldn't have invaded Afghanistan -- at least, no one in any position of authority. If you're trying to blame Democrats -- I know, a silly thought -- please find one in a position of power (or legitimately running for same) who says we shouldn't have gone into Afghanistan. What you will hear them saying is that we should have finished the job in Afghanistan, wiping out Al Qaeda and the Taliban, capturing or killing Bin Laden, instead of prematurely pulling out most of our troops so we could invade Iraq.

And by the way, "just because it's a complete disaster that's killed thousands of people and cost us a trillion dollars while increasing terrorism and making the US less safe doesn't mean invading Iraq was a bad idea" is not really the most stirring defense I've ever heard.

9:17 AM  
Blogger dodger said...

I prefer Carol Liebau's analysis. All battle plans go down the drain as soon as the battle starts. And in the midst of the battle it is easy to lose sight of the battlefield. That's where Rummy shines his light. Hillary made a big mistake trying (emphasis on trying) to beat up on him.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Marshall Art said...

Apparently, wrabkin would have been willing to gamble with Saddam playing games for a much longer period of time, just to "find bin Laden", as if doing so would have solved all our problems. Fortunately, we have leaders who can concentrate on more than one front at a time. I wonder how he would have acted during WWII, when we had multiple fronts and enemies at that time. Would he have stayed out of Europe as it was the Japanese who attacked us directly? Would he have even dealt with Japan in the same manner since, with the left, it must have been something we did wrong to compel the attack in the first place? Or would he have insisted FDR "let" Pearl Harbor happen in order to get us into the war? I'm so glad wrabkin, or anyone like him, isn't leading this country at this time.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Editor said...

Apparently, all republicans have adopted Bush's character flaw of never accepting reponsibility for anything. That by definition makes them unfit for leadership positions.

1:37 PM  
Blogger eLarson said...

"find bin Laden"

Say we just won that little whack-a-mole game. What's next on the Democrats' agenda?

If they want to be in charge of anything, I want to know where they think they are going. I'm sick of hearing they have a plan. I'd like to hear what the plan is. The longer they dissemble, the more I'm convinced they don't know dick-all what to do.

2:09 PM  
Blogger wrabkin said...

So finding the man responsible for the murder of 3000 Americans isn't important to Republicans?

It's amazing what you have to convince yourself to believe in order to follow this president.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Marshall Art said...

It's hardly a matter of importance, but of priority. Do you really think it's all over if we capture or kill bin Laden? Is that what you are saying? If so, explain how. If not, why divert attention to it?

10:29 PM  
Blogger Editor said...

What is Bush's plan? Oh that's right he is now letting the PM of Iraq try to fix the mess with Irans help while Americans foot the bill and the US troops provide security. A real success story.

1:44 AM  
Blogger eLarson said...

I had asked: "Say we just won that little whack-a-mole game. What's next on the Democrats' agenda?"

Then wrabkin (who I believe should know better than that) answered a question with a question: "So finding the man responsible for the murder of 3000 Americans isn't important to Republicans?"

Since he declined to answer directly, I am once again left to infer that the Dems have not been forthcoming with the information even to their staunchest supporters.

And for that reason, I conclude that Democrats are Weak On Defense as the old saying has gone. Won't be getting my vote yet again.


5:55 AM  
Blogger Cavalor Epthith said...


How long should the US military stay in Iraq waiting for their army to be deployable? If they are not able to secure their borders, cities and barrack five years or ten years from now would it be acceptable to spend $4 trillion dollars and possibly lose 10,000 troops to secure victory?

Will it ever be long enough to stay. Personally, I think the Iraqis can be able to take care of their own affairs in 3 years time. But the only way to crush the insurgency is to have enough troops in country to accomplish the task.
Backing your C-in-C is your right so enough of the rhetoric that gets no one anywhere. I must say that parroting "stay the course" and "support our troops" will not be enough if Republicans do maintain Congress. Both you, and I hope Carol, would do something other than throw a party grateful that Bush would not be impeached. I would hope you would demand better of your party. I would hope THEY would have a plan other than "stay the course". Because the course America is on is breeding terrorists by the dozens daily on the Arab street. A street I am sure most Americans do not care about until they are forced to listen. A stable Iraq is not truly a pipe dream but a stable Iraq without US is. Bush should admit this and say that the troops will not ever come home that there will be in the interest of national security be a presence in Iraq of at least 130,000 troops indefinitely and that that number will be increasing as soon as forces are equipped stateside and ready for deployment. He cannot be reelected so he should spend the last few pennies of his "political capital" and give the people of Iraq a chance at democracy.

President Bush send in more troops.


4:00 PM  
Blogger eLarson said...

How long should the US military stay in Iraq waiting for their army to be deployable?

I think this is a case where if you think you need to ask the question you really have the answer. Indeed it is right in the question itself: "until their army [is] deployable."

How long will that take? I don't expect that it will take a generation, but it could. We've had troops stationed in Japan, Korea and Germany for 50 and 60 years now. We may have troops in Iraq forever. (Or as long as the government there is amenable to having us.)

If they are not able to secure their borders, cities and barrack five years or ten years from now would it be acceptable to spend $4 trillion dollars and possibly lose 10,000 troops to secure victory?

A look at a map of Iraq overlaid with the locations of the attacks (color coded for number of attacks in a given time to show intensity) shows that the one single hotspot in all Iraq is Baghdad, with far less intensity in Basra. In that sense the cities across the country are effectively secured, but for the one largest. And now, Baghdad is where the attention is being paid now.

That being the case, I think it will be less than a generation, but more than 1 year. Beyond that, I don't have the data to make a more focused estimate.

6:30 AM  

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