Carol Platt Liebau: Anti-war left on war critics changing their tunes on Iraq: We don’t wanna hear it!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Anti-war left on war critics changing their tunes on Iraq: We don’t wanna hear it!

Many thanks to Carol for asking me to be a guest blogger. Not only is it an honor, but it's also pretty darn cool to be doing so alongside a cast of great conservative bloggers. I'm in good company :)

I just read this wallowing-in-negativity piece from the “Horse’s Mouth” over at the Talking Points Memo blog and was once again struck by how the anti-war left refuses to concede that 1) the surge is generating progress in Iraq and 2) that there indeed are war critics out there who are admitting to that.

It’s almost as if they’re wishing things weren’t turning around in Iraq, doesn’t it? Essentially, they’re defiantly claiming, “There aren’t as many war critics conceding that the surge is bearing fruit as the media claims there are!” It’s denial at its most blatant. They know that these stories coming out about war critics acknowledging progress in Iraq are causing support for the surge to grow in the polls, and they’re getting panicky.

Over the years as the war in Iraq has produced mixed results, the left has bristled strongly at the suggestion that they were ‘hoping for failure’ in Iraq. Between House Majority Whip Clyburn’s admission that a good progress report from General Petraeus would be “a problem” for the anti-war Democrats in the House, similar comments from Senator Carl Levin, and the denial we’re seeing from the anti-war left constituency on the progress being made from the surge and the fact that there are war critics who are admitting it, I don’t think that’s really even questionable nor objectionable anymore.

Cross posted at the Sister Toldjah blog.

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21 Comments:

Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

This piece is about politics, not policy. It's about who's winning or losing the PR war between liberals and conservatives. It says nothing significant about Iraq or our policy there. It's basically a "rah-rah for us, boo on them!" piece.

Now, I realize that there are lots of people for whom politics is just a big football game, with the Home Team and the Bad Guys, and we love to cheer when Our Side wins a point and boo when the Bad Guys win a point. I can understand the primitive urge to be a member of a victorious tribe.

But we have serious problems to deal with, and all this cheerleading nonsense is a distraction from the serious deliberations we need to make. Believe it or not, the Bad Guys have occasionally been right, and the Good Guys have occasionally been wrong. The important thing here is not to divide the world up into Bad Guys and Good Guys, but to make the optimal decisions, regardless of which side they came from.

I sure do wish Americans would grow up.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Most of the time, Chepe, the very core of the most serious deliberations boil down to very simple issues of right and wrong.

Grown ups recognize this.

12:43 PM  
Blogger The Very Sane Woman Who Points Out the Obvious said...

This is so crazy. Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack are not war critics. They have both been big supporters of this war. The lies that people will tell to sell this war are incredible. They can't even tell the truth about one man, Pat Tillman, dying.

It's been said before: The banality of evil.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Sister Toldjah said...

"The lies that people will tell to sell this war are incredible."

No, it's the lies that rabid anti-war Bush-haters that are "incredible" - incredibly disgusting, because they've been done in an full-scale effort to make us lose in Iraq ... because losing in Iraq would be bad news for President Bush, the man the left has hated ever since he "stole" the election. That the far left is willing to sacrifice America's reputation on the altar of partisan politics speaks volumes, many volumes. And our troops who are committed to winning over there will not forget it.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Earth to Carol said...

Sister,

It is the killing and injury of innocent people and American soldiers that Americans hate. This is not a left/right political game. About 70% of Americans want the war brought to an end.

The Lancet Report along with the Iraqi Body Count, that 10 Downing Street accepts as best numbers, although lower than actual, arrive at .....over ONE MILLION... innocent Iraqis killed since 2003.

According to Oxfam report July '07:

* Eight million Iraqis in need of urgent emergency aid.

* 90% of hospitals lack basic medical and surgical supplies.

* Four million Iraqis regularly cannot buy enough to eat.

* 70% are without adequate water supplies.

* 28% of children are malnourished.

* 92% of Iraqi children suffer learning problems, mostly due to the climate of fear.

* More than two million people – mostly women and children - have been displaced inside Iraq.

* A further two million Iraqis have become refugees, mainly in Syria and Jordan.

11:55 PM  
Blogger The Very Sane Woman Who Points Out the Obvious said...

Sister T.,

It is wrong to blame those of us who were against this war for how badly things have gone there.

Can you honestly sat that making this war was a good thing to do?

My point was that it is a lie to depict O'Hanlon and Pollack as war critics. They aren't. They are being depicted as such to make it seem that popular sentiment against this war might be changing.

They also lied about Pat Tillman. Once again to raise support for this war.

If peace proponents lie, those lies should be pointed out and they should be held accountable.

Nowhere, however, do I find there the level of mendacity that spills forth from those who have been promoting this war.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

No, it's the lies that rabid anti-war Bush-haters that are "incredible" - incredibly disgusting

I'm sure they are. However, we must consider the truths told by the many serious, reasonable people who recommended against this war from the very start, such as:

this war would turn into another experience like Vietnam.

American casualties after the end of major combat operations would be much higher than during major combat operations.

The war would cost us thousands of dead Americans and more than a trillion dollars.

There was no exit strategy available that would leave Iraq a better place than we found it.

Except for this last item, the above points have been borne out. The last item will be borne out in time.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Oh, I'd like to add an interesting reference:

Over at Obsidian Wings there's a piece that makes precisely the opposite point: that it is the supporters of the war in Iraq who are coming around to admitting that they were wrong, and providing all manner of excuses as to why and how they got it so wrong.

It's an interesting counterpoint to this piece.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Sister Toldjah said...

Earth: Two things:

1)The Lancet report has been widely discredited.

2) This nation's foriegn policy decisions should not be based on polls. If a poll was released saying 70% of Americans wanted to bring back slavery, would you cite it as proof that we needed to return back to slavery? I think not.

"sane woman": It really disappoints me how anti-war types refuse to take any responsibility for how their own negative over the top rhetoric towards their country, the CIC, and the military has influenced and encouraged our enemies to continue fighting. Mere criticism is one thing - but accusing the administration of "lying," about the rationale for the Iraq war, especially when it was similar to what President Clinton was saying back in 1998, along with believing the worst about our military everytime we hear reports of alleged attrocities in Iraq, and showing sympathy for the 'insurgents' who want to kill our military is despicable and disgraceful and I don't really see how anyone who spouts such nonsense can even call themselves "patriotic." You yourself may not have done so, but many others - some in positions of authority, have and then they have the nerve to get upset when someone questions their patriotism.


chepe: We must consider another "truth" that will be borne out if "war critics" have their way: If we pull out, the chaos in Iraq will make what's happening there now seem like child's play. Whether or not we had an exit strategy going in is not the point. We have to focus on now, and what to do about the future, because we can't just leave before the Iraqi people are ready to stand on their own. Wishful thinking on the part of the anti-war left doesn't change that.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Sister Toldjah writes,

This nation's foriegn policy decisions should not be based on polls.

If so, then who should make foreign policy? An aristocracy? A monarchy? A theocracy? It's true that 'the people' often make mistakes. But the very foundation of our republic is the notion that the people make fewer mistakes over the long run than any aristocracy or monarchy. That's the American system. If you wish to present a case against democracy, by all means do so. I'd be happy to discuss the matter with you.

anti-war types refuse to take any responsibility for how their own negative over the top rhetoric

This is nonsense; what would it mean for these "anti-war types" to take responsibility? Is the essence of your complaint the fact that they don't say "I realize that I'm undermining my country in saying this, but I think that the Administration has lied to us." Is that what you expect from those you disagree with? If so, wouldn't it be just as fair to demand that you preface all your statements with "I realize that my comments will lead to countless meaningless deaths, but..."

showing sympathy for the 'insurgents' who want to kill our military

Could you back that up with some evidence? Can you produce a quote from mainstream critics of the war (not nutcases, but people respected by the anti-war left) to the effect that "I really sympathize with the people who want to kill our military."? Not something that you interpret to mean that, but something that actually says that.

If we pull out, the chaos in Iraq will make what's happening there now seem like child's play.

Absolutely. So are you suggesting that we remain there forever? At some point, we have to pull out. Can you present any evidence that pulling out at some later date will produce any better result than pulling out at some earlier date?

we can't just leave before the Iraqi people are ready to stand on their own.

Please present a sociopolitical analysis that demonstrates that the Iraqi people will be able to stand on their own within, say, twenty years.

Wishful thinking on the part of the anti-war left doesn't change that.

Nor does wishful thinking on the part of the pro-war right.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Marshall Art said...

"If so, then who should make foreign policy?"

How about the people we've elected to office? We are not a democracy, we are a republic. We elect people to make foreign policy decisions.

"This is nonsense; what would it mean for these "anti-war types" to take responsibility?"

I'd be satisfied if they'd just stuff a sock in it until they have a real alternative. Leaving Iraq now is not a real alternative in the sense that it would do any good for anyone. But the anti-war types have indeed given one more reason for the scumbags to fight on. I doubt that against a united front (by not just us, but the world) the enemy would be as bold, gain as much support, etc.

"Could you back that up with some evidence?"

I don't have a quote, but there has been much pants-wetting for treating Gitmo detainees as mere criminals rather than enemy combatants. That's far too much sympathy for MY taste.

"Absolutely. So are you suggesting that we remain there forever?"

No one ever has. Only until they can take care of themselves.

"Please present a sociopolitical analysis..."

How about letting the professionals in theater guide that determination? The website for the Multi-National Forces in Iraq has assessments of Iraqi readiness. You can go there via victorycaucus.com.

I know you were addressing Sister Toldjah, but I wanted to take a stab at it. Sorry to you and her for any offense.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

We are not a democracy, we are a republic. We elect people to make foreign policy decisions.

Yes, that's true. The President has every right to tell the American public to go jump in the lake -- which is in fact pretty much what he's doing. And in 2008 they will correct their mistake by electing a Democrat as President and a strongly Democratic Congress. The system does eventually work.

Leaving Iraq now is not a real alternative in the sense that it would do any good for anyone.

Agreed. Leaving Iraq sooner will produce bad results. But leaving Iraq later will produce even worse results. That's the problem, and that's why we're better off leaving Iraq sooner.

there has been much pants-wetting for treating Gitmo detainees as mere criminals rather than enemy combatants. That's far too much sympathy for MY taste.

This approach fundamentally rejects the notion of the rule of law. We don't follow the law because we like criminals, but because the rule of law is central to civilization. We don't torture murderers, but the reason is not that we sympathize with murderers, but that we believe in the rule of law. We don't lynch murderers, not because we sympathize with murderers, but because we hold the rule of law in high esteem. In the same way, treating accused terrorists in a law-abiding fashion has nothing to do with our sympathy for them; it's about our personal standards. We are the good guys, remember? We don't do nasty things, even to nasty people. We do it the right way, the legal way, and we don't let our anger get in the way. What you are offering is fundamentally an emotional argument: we shouldn't be nice, we shouldn't be sympathetic. I offer the quintessentially American alternative: we do it right, we do it according to the law.

You suggest that we should remain in Iraq only until they can take care of themselves. And how long will that take? I think it will take decades. Can you gainsay me?

You suggest that we follow the advice of the professionals at victorycaucus.com. Thanks for the link. I looked at the material there, and what I found was not a professional analysis but a partisan blog. And there was no sociopolitical analysis apparent on their home page. Perhaps you're thinking of some documentation inside the site?

I know you were addressing Sister Toldjah, but I wanted to take a stab at it. Sorry to you and her for any offense.

Absolutely no offense taken. While I disagree with many of your points, I appreciate your attempt to provide reasoned evidence.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Marshall Art said...

"The President has every right to tell the American public to go jump in the lake"

You call it "jump in the lake", I call it "the prez doing his duty as he sees it". Do you really want a prez who blows with the wind, no matter how it blows? If so, you aren't looking to elect a leader. In my mind, that's what a prez should be. When it comes to electing servants, that would be congressman and senators. Just my opinion, but I like it.

"But leaving Iraq later will produce even worse results."

To say so would require the powers of the Amazing Kreskin. One cannot predict with certainty. However, I have what is really the only other modern example of leaving early without completing the mission on which to base my prediction: Viet Nam. I don't think you can say that if we had stayed and done the job properly, that there would have been as many civilian deaths then. We'd likely see a similar debacle should we leave Iraq prematurely.

"This approach fundamentally rejects the notion of the rule of law."

That would be fine if one were to insist that they are criminals, as opposed to POWs. Even that designation isn't entirely accurate, but it does match up more closely in my opinion. When else have we taken prisoners off the battlefield and tried them each while the war was still ongoing? I don't think we ever have. Why is it different now? There certainly is a lot of differences in the way the enemy works as opposed to traditional warfare, but a war it is. They wait until it's over no matter how long it takes. Yet, as it happens, there have been those who have been released, so in light of the non-traditional nature of this war, I think we're doing it about as right as we can without opening ourselves up to too much risk. If the prisoners are put out, tough.

"You suggest that we should remain in Iraq only until they can take care of themselves. And how long will that take?"

The Multi-National Forces in Iraq website, which is accessable through victorycaucus thought I already had them on my favorites, showed, at least at one time, the amount of Iraqi troops that were needed, and how many were ready to take the lead, and how many were acting basically by themselves without coalition support. Last I looked, they had more ready battalions than unready. But it is my understanding that even if all the Iraqi troops are good to go, there's still the question of Iraqi leadership, the training of which will take longer. I don't know if I'd say "decades" (plural), though I've heard some military officials say "decade" (singular). More recently, regarding the surge, a saw a report in the paper, it might have been AP, where three commanders in the field spoke of needing as much as two years for a real idea of the surge's success. More to the point, they spoke as if the success was a given, just the timeframe for it's completion being at issue. This report appeared within the last 4-6 weeks.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

First, Mr. Art, I'd like to express my appreciation for your well-reasoned points. I disagree with all of them, but these are points I can disagree with, rather than mere assertions to be dismissed.

On the matter of presidential prerogative: there is of course a broad spectrum of possibilities between the two extremes you cite. Where the President should fall on this spectrum is a matter to be decided by the voters -- and the voters have already punished the Republican Party for the errors of the President and are likely to extend the punishment in 2008.

Regarding an earlier departure from Iraq, you first reject a prediction as beyond human wisdom. If that be true, then why are we engaged in an expensive and deadly operation if we cannot perceive its outcome? I suggest that, when we make political decisions, those decisions should be based on an educated assessment of the outcomes. We don't need the powers of the Amazing Kreskin, we need to use our knowledge of history, sociology, and politics.

You cite Vietnam as an example of the consequences of an early departure -- but your example doesn't address my point. For it to be relevant, you have to show that, had we stayed longer, there would have been a happy ending. We were in Vietnam for ten years, and we still didn't stave off disaster. How long would you have stayed in Vietnam? Twenty years? Thirty?

You reject the application of the rule of law to the prisoners at Guantanamo, asserting that, because they are terrorists, they don't deserve the protection of the law. This is precisely what I am objecting to: the notion that the rule of law doesn't apply to these people. The greatness of America devolves from its strict adherence to principles of right and fairness. To jettison those principles in this case and rely on arbitrary executive power is profoundly antithetical to the greatness of this nation.

You respond to my question about the need to remain in Iraq indefinitely with a military assessment that it might take a decade. Two points: first, do you really think that the American people would have approved the invasion had they known that it constituted a 14 year commitment? Do you think they will approve another ten years of military commitment? I think not.

Second, even that doesn't address the entire problem. The military can be security but not stability. Stability requires political accomodation among the parties. But (and this is my fundamental point) history tells us that this collection of peoples will take generations to achieve political stability. So we're really talking about decades in the plural to achieve our declared objectives. If we end the occupation prior to the attainment of political stability, the government will collapse into civil war, and we'll be right where we are now.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Sister Toldjah said...

Bravo, Marshall. You've said it far better than I could, and a lot more patiently. As you know from my own blog, I have no patience whatsoever left for the contant negativity from naysayers who would rather nitpick and parse rather than acknowledge that regardless of disagreements on whether or not we should have gone to war in Iraq, whether or not we had a 'post-war plan' and even on the disagreement about how the war has been executed, we can't just leave Iraq without it being able to stand on its own first. Joe Klein, a liberal who wasn't an Iraq war supporter, can see that, but unfortunately so many rabid Bush haters on the left can't. Ignorance is bliss, denial is a river, and all that.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Ms. Toldjah, I remind you of my main point, which is that, regardless of past errors, the choice we face for the future is between withdrawing sooner, triggering a civil war, and withdrawing later, triggering a civil war.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Marshall Art said...

Thank you Sis, I agree entirely with your last.

For Chepe,

First, civil war is also a mere prediction, though I know some insist it's happening now, but if the Iraqi gov can handle THAT, then we're darn near home.

On the matter of presidential prerogative: The vote is exactly where the prez derives most of his perogative (the other being the legal job description itself). Though the voters can't see the future either, they elect based on whatever data they can find to justify their vote. The mid-terms may impact a prez, but I'm happy to see that it has little impact on George, even though I don't agree with all he's done.

Regarding an earlier departure from Iraq: We can only hope for the desired outcome. We can plan for it to the best of our ability and still be wrong in our planning. That doesn't negate the necessity of the mission which is dire. I also reject the commonly held belief on the left (as well as other Bush detractors) that there had been no "educated assessments" that favored the actions he has taken. That they didn't turn out as hoped is indeed regretable, but again, the necessity of the action is without question.

The citing of Viet Nam was for a specific point, that being the harm done to civilians including hundreds of thousands of deaths. But for that war, there are other parallels to this one that skew any arguments for what could have been had we not pulled out. An obvious one is the liberal and liberal media protests. Frankly, I didn't even know what a victory the Tet Offensive was until people started referring to Viet Nam for comparisons to Iraq. The enemy losses were ten times ours, but only ours were highlighted and the battle was used as a negative example of our involvement there. But also, there were corrupt practices by the military leaders, such as false troop death stats and the like. All in all, the war was handled worse and worse and was a case of not trying to win. In Iraq, and the WOT in general, we have not been as agressive as we could be and it's to project an image of our humanity. Hard to win quickly when you're trying not to break anything.

As to how long we stay, Viet Nam was a war against communism and Iraq is a war agains Islamofascism. Neither deserves to survive in my opinion and each is a cancer on humanity. As with every country's war on crime, how long to we stay engage? Obviously as long as it takes. The problem with the WOT is its unique nature. There's no one country that we can or are willing to point to as the source. The scumbags don't mind dying and even look forward to it. Our involvement in Iraq, a major front by even the enemy's standards, is only a front. Pulling out will simply change the location of the fight. You want it here?

I don't disagree that there are cultural issues that further confound the efforts. But our presence, especially as it seems to be drawing more support lately from the indigenous, can have an impact on their perception of themselves. That's a good thing. Argue about tactics, but the job needs to be finished, and we, in support of the Iraqi people, need to win it.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Mr. Art, I find myself disagreeing with your comments on many levels. Rather than respond individually to each one, I think it might be more illuminating to address the fundamental philosophical difference between us, which I will characterize in short, snappy terms, as follows:

You want to win where I want to achieve the best outcome.

This is, of course, an oversimplification, but it will serve for starters. My impression is that you are treating policy as a football game between the Good Guys (us) and the Bad Guys (them), and since this is a battle between Good and Evil, we have absolutely, positively MUST win.

I reject this kind of thinking as dangerously simplistic, even naive. War is not a football, and there are no winners. As von Clausewitz wrote, "War is the extension of policy to other means". The policy drives the warmaking. FIRST you determine precisely what you want to accomplish. THEN you determine if your military forces are capable of accomplishing it. When you have come with a set of objectives that are militarily achievable, then you apply the third test: is the political value of success worth the cost of the military operation?

This is the ONLY way to use military force. Anything else is bloodthirsty, irresponsible jingoism. Never, ever forget that military operations cost lives, lots of lives. When you're dealing in blood, you have to keep your accounts carefully.

Now for a couple of secondary points:

You claim that we "won" the Tet Offensive, because we killed lots of the enemy. No, we lost the Tet Offensive, even though we killed lots of the enemy. Remember, we killed more Japanese when we firebombed Tokyo than we killed when we A-bombed Hiroshima -- but the firebombing of Tokyo did not end the war and the A-bombing of Hiroshima did. Think about this lesson and its meaning.

You compare the war on terror with the war on crime, suggesting that both are permanent states. No. By definition, war is a temporary state. That's the only reason why we accept lesser safeguards in war. If you want the War on Terror to be a permanent state, then it's not a war -- it's a police action, and it should be treated as such. Don't play both sides of the fence, demanding the rules of war apply to a permanent state.

Lastly, you repeat a common mistake when you write "Pulling out will simply change the location of the fight. You want it here?"

One of the most important military adages is "Fight on the ground of your own choosing." It means that you should choose to fight where you have the advantage. In Iraq the enemy can use fighters who speak no English, who blend into the population, who have ready access to all sorts of weaponry, and who can get training and logistical support from Iran. Here, they have none of those advantages. We are fighting them on their best ground. What idiocy!

9:03 AM  
Blogger Sister Toldjah said...

Ms/Mr. Chepe, I don't need to be reminded of any of your "points," frankly, because you don't have any.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Ms/Mr. Chepe, I don't need to be reminded of any of your "points," frankly, because you don't have any.

Ooo, nasty. Where's a good editor when you need one? ;-)

5:47 PM  
Blogger Sister Toldjah said...

;-) indeed!

:-)

6:51 PM  

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