November 18, 2003

New Column

Here's my newest Tech Central Station piece: Iraq is not Vietnam.


UPDATE: There's a fiesta of schoolyard taunts in the comments. If you miss the fun-filled days of highschool, this is your special day.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 18, 2003 09:06 AM
Comments

What if Iran decides to become North Vietnam?

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at November 18, 2003 09:10 AM

Joseph,

Iran won't have a nuclear-armed Soviet Union to prop it up. Nor is it militarily formiddable. Would it take ten years for the US to change its regime? No. Could Iran kill 58,000 Americans? No. Iran cannot become North Vietnam no matter how much the mullahs may wish it so.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 18, 2003 09:24 AM

Gee, I don't think I'd be so anxious for people to read that particular piece of idiocy. Hope you cashed the check quick...

Posted by: dave at November 18, 2003 10:22 AM

Dude,
You should stick to writing about stuff that you actually know something about

Posted by: M. Drury at November 18, 2003 10:24 AM

Yet again, your tedious, literal argument aligns you with the neo-cons. Couldn't you have just said "Iraq is sandy, Vietnam is leafy"?

Congratulations, you are almost there, have a great time rubbing the touch screen for Bush in '04!!!

Posted by: burnplant at November 18, 2003 10:28 AM

More schtick from Michael.

Next we'll be hearing about how Iraqis don't eat nuoc mam--so how could this be like VietNam?

Aside from the fact that when comparisons are drawn between Iraq and VietNam, rational people understand what is being compared is the unpopularity of both wars, the unclear plans and goals and the ultimate question of a succesful outcome.

No, Michael, 58,000 US troops haven't been killed yet. Vietnam lasted almost 14 years. At one point, our troop commitment exceeded 500,000.

In Iraq, we've lost over 400 in about 6 months with a troop commitment of ~120,000.

A quick and dirty extrapolation supports the notion we're on a path we've traveled before.

Posted by: JadeGold at November 18, 2003 10:37 AM

I can see I've attracted the smart set today.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 18, 2003 10:38 AM

Ah, the patented "avoid the argument with a smart-ass comment" move - is that vintage Rush I hear playing in the background.
Instead of hiding, maybe you could adress JadeGold's points?

Posted by: burnplant at November 18, 2003 10:45 AM

Michael, looks like the Short Bus just pulled into school. I hope you brought your troll repellant.

Posted by: FH at November 18, 2003 10:46 AM

A bunch of irregulars dressed in pajamas are not militarily formidable. I mean, really. They all farm rice!

Posted by: Hipocrite at November 18, 2003 10:59 AM

How dare you say Iraq ain't Nam! You're gonna rot in hell with the Bushies and neocons. You go to the blackboard right now and write 100 times "I will not accept money from Halliburton to write more propaganda."

Posted by: Rockabilly at November 18, 2003 11:23 AM

Gee Burnplant, I thought at first that your latest comment referred to the third, fourth and (whoops) fifth comments in this thread. Then I kept reading.

Posted by: JPS at November 18, 2003 11:30 AM

In Vietnam the US fought Vietnamese - one people with strong nationalistic wiews and hopes of one Vietnam. Irak has Kurds, shia muslims and sunni muslims, with a lot of hate between them and totally different goals of "Iraq after the US".
A very big difference.

Posted by: Oscar at November 18, 2003 11:30 AM

Jadegold,

When I woke up the temperature was 31 degrees. Now it's 51. A quick and dirty extrapolation shows that this city will be burned to a crisp sometime late next week.

Posted by: JPS at November 18, 2003 11:35 AM

The ‘help, help, it’s another Vietnam!’ argument might be worth defending..if anyone from the left can name a post-1972 war that wasn’t labeled ‘another Vietnam’.

They called Gulf War I ‘another Vietnam’ – they called the war in Afghanistan ‘another Vietnam’. Bosnia had the potential to become another Vietnam. Did they call Grenada another Vietnam? I’ll bet they did.

Let’s face it, even if Iraq adopts democracy, if the Arab world starts leaning towards moderation and the Middle East is at peace again, the ‘it’s another Vietnam’ meme will not die. It lives and breathes in every baby boomers heart, and until the last one dies this meme will walk the earth. We probably have to listen to this nonsense for another 50 years.

Why, when a genocidal dictator is killing his own people by the thousands, doesn’t the left cry ‘it’s another Soviet Union, we must stop this’?

Posted by: mary at November 18, 2003 11:35 AM

So what branch of the military did you serve in that made you such an expert on Vietnam, Michael? Perhaps the chickenhawk corp along with all your neocon friends in the Bush administration. Maybe you should read more Max Cleland and less Andy Sullivan.

Posted by: George at November 18, 2003 11:40 AM

Good one, JPS. Maybe you and Michael can develop a vaudeville act. Schtick sells.

Again, no war is exactly like another. But there are similarities between Iraq and Vietnam: a phony rationale for war, unclear and changing objectives, uncertain outcomes, and mounting unpopularity.

To blithely assert Iraq isn't Vietnam because VietNam was green and leafy and Iraq seems to have a lot of sand is plainly absurd.

Posted by: JadeGold at November 18, 2003 12:01 PM

"Why should we bother to reply to Kautsky? He would reply to us, and we would have to reply to his reply. There's no end to that. It will be quite enough to announce that Kautsky is a traitor to the working class, and everyone will understand everything."

Posted by: V.I. Lenin at November 18, 2003 12:05 PM

Jadegold,

Reading the same insult over and over again is boring. For God's sake, man, aren't you any more creative than that?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 18, 2003 12:09 PM

Yes, JadeGold, my last was a bit lame and I'm not especially proud of it. My point was that extrapolations can be extremely unreliable. Yours proves nothing more than that Michael might yet prove wrong on casualties, in a conceivable but contrived scenario.

Posted by: JPS at November 18, 2003 12:13 PM

Wow, who linked to you Michael? Looks like someone sent over the goon squad.

Personally, I liked the article. But then again I'm a neocon wingnut glad that America has devolved into a facist state where presidents are selected, so I should.

I still think we need a new party though, Michael. Maybe resurrect the Bull Moose party but we need some party where us middle folks can exist happily. The comments in this thread reaffirm that belief.

Posted by: Court at November 18, 2003 12:39 PM

God these Leftist naysayers are boring. It's always the same with them; day after day, year after year. The sky is falling, the world is about to end.

And the world happily rolls past every date they set for doomsday, completely oblivious to their insistence that the world is about to end.

The Left would be simply boring if they weren't so annoying.

Go away. Nobody likes you.

Posted by: David at November 18, 2003 12:42 PM

I like to call them the 'Doomicrats', David. And it fits. The sky is always falling somewhere and until enough moaning is done about it, they won't be happy.... or sad, or whatever they want to be. How long has Gilliard been predicting a Shia uprising in Iraq now?

Posted by: Court at November 18, 2003 12:46 PM

To blithely assert Iraq isn't Vietnam because VietNam was green and leafy and Iraq seems to have a lot of sand is plainly absurd.

I know everyone is sick of the renewed popularity of the term "strawman," but this is a textbook example. Textbook.

Also, Jadegold, if pointing out the absurdity of your "quick and dirty extrapolation" skills in a entertainingly illustrative fashion is "schtick," then, please, give me 'schtick."

I wonder why the comments on this post seem particularly . . shall we say . . . unambitious. So far, no one has even attempted to argue with Michael's article on anything above the level of textbook rhetorical fallacies and schoolyard taunts. Is Michael's thesis so unassailable? Is the Iraq-Viet Nam analogy so precious to some that they are reduced to sputtering and name-calling when it challenged? Just curious.

Posted by: Browning at November 18, 2003 12:55 PM

Hmmmm...According the Casualty counts 95% of the US casualties in Vietnam occurred between 1965 and 1970.

So, doing the math, that means:
55,100 casualties over 7 years.
Which means 7,871 or so casualties per year.
Which means 655 casualties a month.
Or 28 casualties per day. And, mind you, that's just dead guys, not wounded.

And those were conscripts too.

Posted by: eric at November 18, 2003 12:58 PM

The reason the comments are so . . . entertaining is at least partly due to the fact that the link is from that examplar of rational argumentation, tbogg.

Posted by: Phil Smith at November 18, 2003 01:02 PM

Remember. Vietnamis dry and Iraq is wet. Er, or the other way around. Right.

We all know there are differences between Iraq and Vietnam. To ignore the lessions that Vietnam tought our country writ in blood is to doom yourself to repeat them. Never underestimate the enemy, and never assume you are winning the hearts and minds. Measure twice, cut once.

This, of course, is exactly what we are not doing.

Posted by: Hipocrite at November 18, 2003 01:11 PM

"...Uhhh...Ms. Rosanna-Danna that's: "Comments are made available to promote Engagement not Enragement!"

"Comments are made available to promote Engagement!"

Oh, Never Mind?

Posted by: Stephen at November 18, 2003 01:18 PM

The above thread is particularly low brow for this weblog. You can draw whatever lessons, or spin whatever polemics you wish from history. If I were MT, I would not have bothered writing this Tech Central piece. The differences between the two wars are sufficiently apparent. You will not disabuse people of their gut level axioms by reference to past or present facts.

Posted by: BF at November 18, 2003 01:20 PM

Today's thread is low brow thanks to a link from this special guy.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 18, 2003 01:26 PM

Methinks MJT wants nothing but a chorus from the wingnut choir in his comments.

Posted by: hexnut at November 18, 2003 01:31 PM

Good piece Michael. But better yet, here is another comments section I can send to my registered Democratic Sister and brother in law to ask them who they wish to align with, W or these folks? So far this tactic (using primarily dKos, Atrios and CalPundit comments sections), I've convinced 23 registered Democrats (only two of whom voted Bush in 2000) to vote Bush next year.

Keep up the good work guys.

Posted by: spc67 at November 18, 2003 01:33 PM

Good points, Mr. Totten. The Right often thinks we just didn’t try hard enough in Vietnam, and the Left thinks we shouldn’t have been there at all. I could argue the Left’s side, but it becomes a lot harder if you can’t assume Communism will implode and/or mutate into simple kleptocracy. The right-wing idea that we would have won if we’d just turned North Vietnam into a parking lot ignores the very real possibility that things might have escalated into World War III.

You know you’re in hell when you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Or when the trolls start accusing you of carrying Bush's water.

By the way, trolls, we're still waiting on that pipeline across Afghanistan...

Posted by: mark at November 18, 2003 01:41 PM

JadeGold you said Iraq could be compared to Vietnam since they share:

"unclear and changing objectives, uncertain outcomes, and mounting unpopularity."

But if you widen the definition of Vietnam this broadly you strip it of all meaning. Hell, you could call affirmative action another Vietnam based on this criteria. Or, perhaps, your life as a senior in high school (sorry, people wanted schtick!).

Anyway, the main thing Vietnam and Iraq have in common is the all-encompasing dislike the left seems to have for them. A dislike so complete that it prevents people from reading comments like Michael's and addressing or responding to his cogent and relevant criticisms of the Vietnam-Iraq analogy.

Posted by: Hacksaw at November 18, 2003 01:49 PM

By the way, trolls, we're still waiting on that pipeline across Afghanistan...

Don't hold your breath. Does anything the troll Left predicts ever come true?

Right now we should be in the middle of a battle for Baghdad---it was going to be the new Stalingrad, remember?

Yes, I know we're low brow, but so far there's been no reason not to be. The Vietnam analogies used by both sides ARE low brow.

Posted by: David at November 18, 2003 01:53 PM

"...(using primarily dKos, Atrios and CalPundit comments sections), I've convinced 23 registered Democrats (only two of whom voted Bush in 2000) to vote Bush next year."

Oh no, we've lost the wishy-washy fictional vote! Gee spc67, you sure hang around a lot of people who can't think for themselves. Do you think that says a little something about you?

Posted by: burnplant at November 18, 2003 01:57 PM

Great article, Michael!

Posted by: Rob at November 18, 2003 02:07 PM

Penetrating comment Rob. This is just what Michael J. Totten wants in his comments section. Keep up the great thinking, and do comment like this frequently. The rest of you idiots who actually want to say something, especially something that might not agree with St. Michael- go to Hell.

Posted by: hexnut at November 18, 2003 02:18 PM

At the risk of incurring the wrath of some of the commenters here, I'd just like to say that I find your latest to be a breath of fresh air from the "quagmire" meme.

Michael, you and I could probably debate most domestic policy issues until we were blue in the face and find little to agree on. But to me that is secondary to knowing that you and I both stand on the right side in the war between civilization and the Islamofascists.

Keep the great work coming!

Posted by: Clay Ranck at November 18, 2003 02:18 PM

Hexnut,

You are in no position to insult other people on this thread.

It's time to clear up any misunderstanding about our relationship. I am the writer. You are the troll. You post here because I let you. Act like you deserve it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 18, 2003 02:23 PM

Touche

Posted by: hexnut at November 18, 2003 02:26 PM

David,

By the way, trolls, we're still waiting on that pipeline across Afghanistan...

Don't hold your breath. Does anything the troll Left predicts ever come true?

This is an easy one. See, the Bush Administration is Evil. The point is made--the fact is proven--by the Administration's desire to build an oil pipeline in Afghanistan, and their willingness to start a perverse and inhumane war in that region just to fulfill this desire.

Their failure to fulfil this desire does not mean that the desire never existed. Rather, it means that in addition to being Evil, the Bush Adminstration is also incompetent. The grandiose plans of The Brain, but the clownish execution of Pinky.

The worst-case scenarios are quite realistic--or at least they would be, if Bush was even remotely competent to to fulfill what are wet dreams to him and nightmares to right (left?)-thinking people everywhere.

Posted by: Peter A. at November 18, 2003 02:26 PM

The lessons to be learned in Iraq are from WWII, not from Vietnam. This is closer to 1938 than 1968.

Posted by: Roger L. Simon at November 18, 2003 02:27 PM

Many conservatives are fond of comparing Bush to great presidents of the past, the latest comparison being FDR. I will now put forth my argument:

It has become fashionable among the neo-con crowd to say that Bush is the new FDR.

Bush really only has one thing in common with FDR. They were both elected (cough) President. The differences are significant and worth outlining.

FDR’s last name was…Roosevelt.

First of all, FDR was in a wheel chair. George W Bush can walk. Take a look at some news clips. Unless you are blinded by liberal rage, you can plainly see Bush walking, and sometimes jogging. Did you ever see FDR jog?

And it’s not just a question of mobility. FDR and Bush are categorically different colors. Again, all you have to do is open your eyes. FDR is clearly black and white, while Bush can be seen striding across the white house lawn in awe-inspiring color.

Consider age. FDR is something like one hundred and twenty-one years old. Bush is 57!

Bush is FDR only in feverish imaginations. FDR was a great leader. Bush, by comparison, is a particularly nasty pothole.

- Burnplant Totten
(Look at me, I’m a writer!)

Posted by: burnplant at November 18, 2003 02:36 PM

Michael's article shows that the Iraq-Vietnam comparison is literally erroneous. But Tbogg is right (cough, blush) about one thing:

When someone calls Iraq the "new Viet Nam" they are generally saying that it is an unpopular war and that it is unwinnable and because of that, there is no end to it.

And that trio of claims--unpopular, unwinnable, unending--needs to be addressed. Each is false.

Unpopular. In some quarters, yes, though not in England or the US, at least if you think something's not "unpopular" when more people support it than oppose it.

Unwinnable. Only if you believe that the Iraqi "resistance" is a popular movement. But the evidence all points to the "resistance" being composed almost exclusively of ex-Baathists (whom 74% of Iraqis want tried and punished for their crimes under the Hussein regime) and terrorists from foreign countries. To be sure, popular support for the US in Iraq is not what it could be. But no one likes the Baathists less than typical Iraqis, and nobody, I'd venture to say, likes terrorists infiltrating their neighborhoods. There's real cause for concern here, and the US could still really screw things up. But there's no reason whatsoever to think that the coalition's fighting a losing battle.

Unending. Only if unwinnable. See above.

Posted by: Geoff Pynn at November 18, 2003 02:36 PM

Totten's article is methodical and deals with facts. His detractors aren't and don't.

The closest to a substantive response, in these comments or on tbogg's blog, is this:

When someone calls Iraq the "new Viet Nam" they are generally saying that it is an unpopular war and that it is unwinnable and because of that, there is no end to it. Why can't the Chickenhawk Keyboard Brigade understand that?

These are assertions, not facts. And no facts are offered to support them. But let's look at each of them:

"This is an unpopular war." This is a statement that could only be made by someone who wasn't politically conscious during the Vietnam war. I was, and I offer my first-hand eyewitness testimony that the degree of national division and degree of antiwar sentiment over Vietnam from roughly 1967 to 1975 was a completely different animal from the mewlings of the anti-war fringe today. No war is, or should be, "popular." But the suggestion that what we're doing in Iraq, or in the wider War on Terrorism, is as unpopular now as Vietnam was in the late 1960s and early 1970s is factually wrong.

"It is unwinnable." This is a prediction, and no facts are offered to justify it. Totten's entire article is filled with facts to support the contrary proposition — none of which are rebutted by his detractors.

"Because of that, there is no end to it." The validity of this prediction rests on the two prior assertions, neither of which is sound. If the assertion here is that we can never stamp out all terrorism everywhere, that's true but trite. If the assertion is that we can never make meaningful progress in fighting and suppressing terrorism, that's counterfactual.

Mr. Totten, I enjoyed your article and agree with the points you make in it.

Posted by: Beldar at November 18, 2003 02:41 PM

And here comes burnplant, with his wit and wisdom, shredding the part of Mike's article that was satire, and completely ignoring the heart of the article, as well as anything that might contradict him!

Way to go, burnplant! But I have a few suggestions. First, I can tell exactly what plant you're burning, and you need to stop before your few remaining brain cells give up the ghost. Second, why don't you try to actually debate the heart of Mike's piece instead of snidly remarking on one section clearly intended to be satire. Third, if you cannot do the first two, just admit that you're a mindless droning idiot who should be ignored.

Thanks!

Posted by: Raging Dave at November 18, 2003 02:46 PM

You have to be a triple amputee (as a result of combat in Iraq and/or Vietnam) before you can claim any capacity to judge whether there is any parallel between the two conflicts. Experience and emotion trump logic and reason.
Gimme a 'P'. P!
Gimme an 'O'. O!
Gimme an 'M'. M!
Gimme an O. O! What's that spell?
[mumble mumble, lips moving]
POMO! POMO TRANZI! Yeeeeaaaaah!
- tbogg burnplant (look, I'm a troll!)

Posted by: Marko at November 18, 2003 03:07 PM

You fools, the Afghan pipeline is being built AS WE SPEAK.....UNDERGROUND! BY ZIONISTS!

Yes sure mock me but i can assure you that this is true - it must be - i saw it posted on IMC.

Further, Vietnam and Iraq are exactly the same because they both have an I at the beginning of their names - duh.

Oh and yes Michael keep supporting the evilest man in the 20th century, the selected pRESIDENT while Kucinich cleans your clock in 04.

No blood for French oil,,,er whatever,.

Posted by: Lefty McNobrain at November 18, 2003 03:11 PM

The grandiose plans of The Brain, but the clownish execution of Pinky.

This is exactly how the Left explains that no WMDs have been revealed in Iraq.

For months, they warned us that any WMDs found in Iraq after the invasion would surely have been planted there by the Bush cabal; therefore we were supposed to make up our minds beforehand NOT to believe them when those WMDs were revealed. (that's your "grandiose plans of the Brain").

Months after the invasion, still no WMDs have been found. So I asked my Lefty friend, doesn't the fact that the cabal did not plant WMDs in Iraq PROVE that Bush at the very least THOUGHT there were WMDs? Why has Bush not planted the evidence I asked him.

And my Lefty friend gave me the classic "incompetent Pinky" response. He said, get this, that the covert military team charged with planting the evidence was accidentally bombed by our own people!!! He saw it on a Lefty website of course.

I just laughed!

His argument was a classic example of Leftist belief process at work--that conservatives are evil but also incompetent.

Posted by: David at November 18, 2003 03:13 PM

Evil+Incompetent explains just about every gaping plothole the Left has written into this narrative. I'm honestly quite surprised this argument doesn't get used a lot more often.

Posted by: Peter A. at November 18, 2003 03:23 PM

"shredding the part of Mike's article that was satire"

okaaay, Raging Dave, while I agree it would make sense to write off the whole article as satire, there is no part of that presented as such (or Totten is really bad at satire, also).

Do you care to point out the specific parts you believe to be satire?

Does anyone find it kind of funny that Totten's own defenders can't tell when he's making a joke?

Posted by: burnplant at November 18, 2003 03:51 PM

Months after the invasion, still no WMDs have been found. So I asked my Lefty friend, doesn't the fact that the cabal did not plant WMDs in Iraq PROVE that Bush at the very least THOUGHT there were WMDs? Why has Bush not planted the evidence I asked him.

As I've had to explain to a couple of conspiracist-leaning lefty friends, planting WMD would be very hard to pull off. The American stocks presumably have extensive chain-of-custody requirements that you couldn't just waive without anyone noticing. Not to mention the problem of someone examining the "Iraqi" WMD and finding that the strain of anthrax (or whatever) was identical to the U.S. version.

IMO, the Bushites genuinely believed there was WMD at least up until the inspections started. Once they began and the tips provided to the UN by the U.S. didn't pan out, I'm sure at least some folks realized there was a problem. But that only made the push for war more urgent, since "waiting for inspections" meant running the risk that nothing at all would be found, and the U.S would be left looking like chumps with 150,000 troops on the Kuwait border and no war.

Posted by: Swopa at November 18, 2003 03:52 PM

Evil + Incompetent

The best one I heard (in real life, in a bar) went like this:

Idiotarian: I'm not so sure Bush wasn't part of the 9-11 conspiracy himself.

Me: What could he possibly have stood to gain by helping terrorists attack the US?

Idiotarian: Well, I didn't say it was a good plan. It was a plan just stupid enough for Bush.

  • * *

Also, an observation about one of the three legs of the only coherent argument thisfar with Michael's article:

Why is Iraq like Viet Nam?
Because it's an unpopular war.
Why is Iraq an unpopular war?
Because it's just like Viet Nam.

Okay, I'll admit it. That was schtick.

Posted by: Browning at November 18, 2003 04:08 PM

Michael,

Impressive Article, Indeed.

You managed to write something which actually has drawn no substantative criticism whatsoever.

As far as analogies go, the American experience in Iraq could be seen as mirroring the 1982 Israeli experience in southern Lebanon. Elsewise, Spain isn't a bad analogy for starters. I do wonder, however, if the terrorist ties of S. Hussein do not suggest that the proxy-support for the Iraqi guerillas isn't a bit more significant than generally assumed.

Time will tell.

Posted by: Anticipatory Retaliation at November 18, 2003 04:24 PM

How did Steve Martin put it? "Yeah, right, I remember when I had my first beer".

Too bad TBlog's guys really are mostly trolls; burnplant Totten gets a B+ for chuckles.

Swopa makes a reasonable point about WMD expectations not being made ... but how is that making Iraq like Vietnam? Browning was cute unpopular - cause it's like.

None of the critics mention how, after the US left Vietnam some 2+million Cambodians were butchered; and if the US leaves Iraq hundreds of thousands are likely to be killed. I wish Michael had ... for balance. Congrats on more net space MJT.

A world without dictators. We could have one in my lifetime. That's a dream worth blogging about, even if I don't make it to Iraq.

Posted by: Tom Grey at November 18, 2003 05:03 PM

Good grief. I've been lurking here for months, and this is the first time I've seen this level of immaturity in the comments.

Michael, the article was great! I write a column in the GC Compass (college paper). My last article included (among other blurbs about recent political happenings):

Iraq is nothing like Vietnam – The war is over, Saddam is on the run, and leftists everywhere are trying desperately to paint Iraq as my generation’s Vietnam. Looking at the numbers, the two are complete opposites. Measured monthly, coalition fatalities are steadily dropping – 32 in September (and falling) – while Vietnam numbers climbed steadily until 1969, when they peaked at 615 in April of that year.

Of course, right after the article went to press, the number of coalition fatalities skyrocketed. Oh, the irony....

Anyway, methinks the reason so many people have taken this little issue and run with it is because it hits home. Let's face it: protesting for "peace" (as if there has been any peace in Iraq during the past 20 years) is sexy. The hippie days of yore have a certain appeal to them, and some people are just wishing for a cause. Iraq as the new Vietnam fits the bill quite nicely.

The comparison between Iraq and Vietnam is being made because of the public reaction to both wars. But - as Michael has pointed out - on the ground, they have virtually nothing in common. Thus, the comparison is valid only in reference to the actions of those who are making it - namely, the ant-war crowd.

Posted by: Sean Rife at November 18, 2003 05:34 PM

Browning was cute unpopular - cause it's like.

Great. I get a compliment, and it's incoherent. At least I think it's a compliment. Kinda reminds me of language poetry.

Posted by: Browning at November 18, 2003 06:42 PM

Michael,

Great article. (no irony)

You must feel honored to have so many well thought out responses, backed up with an astounding amount of factual evidence, and with absolutely no name calling ('cause there's no need to when you have all your ducks in a row, right?) from the well balanced opposition! (irony)

There are simply more similarities to WWII. (no irony)

Posted by: Cara Remal at November 18, 2003 08:24 PM

"The right-wing idea that we would have won if we’d just turned North Vietnam into a parking lot ignores the very real possibility that things might have escalated into World War III."

That's not a "right-wing idea" - it's a troglodyte idea that fits the Left's caricature of the Right.

The conservative revisionist view on Vietnam is that, though the war was badly mishandled in many respects both tactically and strategically, it's main objective - a free South Vietnam - was well within reach, but that a failure of American will in combination with Nixon's political self-immolation led us to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and abandon the South, not least by failing to enforce the terms of the Paris peace agreement. Even if the battle of Vietnam is seen as a defeat, however, the war of which it was a part, and in which it played a significant role, was extremely successful. On this note, many observers from the region believe that the US intervention did achieve at least one critical objective: If, instead of intervening in Vietnam, the US had simply allowed the South to fall without a fight, then it is entirely possible that the much-criticized (but actually fairly reasonable) "Domino Theory" would have been borne out.

As for the relevance of the Vietnam analogy, it seems rather obvious that Iraq has little more in common in military terms with Vietnam than just about any other US foreign military expedition. Comparison between Iraq and Vietnam in terms of duration, casualties, weaponry, logistics, armies, alliances, and so on are so weak as to seem almost laughable. In this respect, the comments above that make fun of the difference between Iraqi and Vietnamese terrain (sandy vs. leafy) suggest near total ignorance of the critical role that terrain plays in military operations, especially in the prospects for insurgencies. It is not surprising that the anti-warriors' ignorance extends to virtually all other levels of tactics and strategy: The anti-warriors treat such subjects as abhorrent mysteries – as though even confessing some knowledge of or interest in them betrays allegiance to some dark “neocon conspiracy.”

It is clear that the Left would like to hijack the reality in Iraq - in somewhat the same way they have successfully defined Vietnam in the popular imagination. If there is a connection between Iraq and Vietnam on this level – symbolically, psychologically, politically - then Iraq may actually give us a welcome chance to perform some valuable self-repair: It's as though we're being given a chance to fight Tet over again, and this time grasp that we're winning, stand by those who fight with us, and expose those who would defame and distort our efforts - and at far smaller costs to all directly concerned.

Posted by: Colin MacLeod at November 18, 2003 09:21 PM

Man, I love the sound of the wind whistling between the ears of the Anti-War Left. I particularly loved George's questioning our right to be hawkish without military service, as well as his admonishion that we should all defer to the likes of Max Cleland.

Well, Max Cleland served in Viet Nam as a Lieutenant, and Lieutenancy does not automatically confer expertise in geopolitics or strategic warfare. George's desire that we defer to Cleland is not based on Cleland's demonstrated expertise, but on the convergence of Cleland's opinions with his own.

And, while Max Cleland is to be respected as a warrior/citizen for the unimaginable sacrfice he has made for his county, that sacrfice does not confer any special providence to his opinions. Cleland's opinions should be evaluated on their own merit. To imply that we should defer to Cleland on matters pertaining to national defence and foreign policy because of Cleland's maiming in Viet Nam is as dishonest and patronizing as John Kerry's insistence that his military service in Viet Nam somehow confers the same expertise to himself.

It should be noted that Max Cleland has, in the aftermath of 9/11, consistently demonstrated his defects as a citizen/leader. That is why he no longer is in Congress. His constituents looked to him for effective and decisive leadership in the war on terror...what they got was partisan gamesmanship (on the Homeland Security bill) and consistently defeatist sentiments that reminded so many of us of the worst of Carter era impotence.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at November 18, 2003 09:50 PM

Well, this comment thread really does take me back to high school. Next essay for the tbugging trolls: How is the Iraq War like the French and Indian Wars? (Hint: Consider the opposing parties and do not confuse with the War of Jenkin's Ear.)

Posted by: Joel at November 18, 2003 10:45 PM

George: So what branch of the military did you serve in that made you such an expert on Vietnam, Michael? Perhaps the chickenhawk corp along with all your neocon friends in the Bush administration. Maybe you should read more Max Cleland and less Andy Sullivan.

So what branch of the military did you serve in that made you such an expert on Vietnam, George? Perhaps the chickenjihadi corp along with all your paleo liberal friends in the Democratic Party. Maybe you should read more Andy Sullivan and less Max Cleland.

Posted by: Zhang Fei at November 19, 2003 12:05 AM

Browning, guess I didn't quite create the valley girl imitation AND refer to your cuteness w/o duplicating you:
Everyone KNOWS Iraq is just like Vietnam, cause it's like, so unpopular, ya know, 'cause it's just like, ya know, Vietnam, 'cause it's just like, ya know, so unpopular.

Since I'm waiting for the Slovak versions of LotR on DVD, here again -- comments getting better. But the trolls, and the disagreement, seem gone. Guess I'll have to visit Kevin CalPundit ...

Posted by: Tom Grey at November 19, 2003 12:41 AM

Swopa makes a reasonable point about WMD expectations not being made ... but how is that making Iraq like Vietnam?

Geez, do I gotta do all the heavy lifting around here? Since Michael and I already sniped at each other yesterday, I thought I'd let others take the lead on this one. But since, as has been noted, the criticisms have been mostly lame (and the praise not much better), I'll give it a whirl.

Given that Max Cleland's name has been brought up here, I'll note that although Michael quotes him, he doesn't challenge any of the similarities Cleland listed (instead choosing to list what he sees as differences -- terrain, strategy, etc.).

To summarize the similiarities, Cleland's focus is that the U.S. finds itself in an analogous situation: (1) We were misled into the war, a situation that undermines public support as the human and financial costs rise; (2) we underestimated the intensity of the resistance we'd encounter; and (3) we're caught in the quagmire state (though I don't think he uses the Q-word) of neither victory nor a graceful way out being anywhere in sight.

All of these points seem quite defensible (even obvious) to me, though I'm sure some in these parts will disagree. Perhaps someone should try to write a TCS article rebutting them.

Posted by: Swopa at November 19, 2003 01:06 AM

If someone could rebut my piece point by point I would be very interested in reading it. Seriously.

The trolls who try to smack me down by saying I'm in league with the neocons are going to have to work much harder to get me to move. I have already said I agree with much of the neoconservative foreign policy. They are trying to insult me with that charge, but they would be just as effective if they screamed that Barney the Dinosaur is purple.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 19, 2003 01:26 AM

Swopa-

Your humility regarding your posting here is really quite endearing. Really.

It is interesting that the three points of Cleland's that you choose to emphasize are neither fact nor substantiated analysis. They are nothing more than the same old Far Left claptrap:

1) Bush Lied.
2) The Task Is Hard, So We Shouldn't Have Tried.
3) We're Going To Lose, So We Must Be Losing Now.

What is there in Cleland's view to be challenged? It is nothing but the same old same old, and it has all been debunked to the point of pointlessness:

First, Bush did not lie, nor did he mislead. Please don't insult my intelligence or my long-term memory with that crap...in any of it's variations or permutations. Saying will not make it true. It will, however, make you sound like a fool.
Second, the public position from Bush to Cheney to Rice to Powell to Rumsfeld has been, from the beginning, that this was going to be a long, difficult and demanding war. Nobody underestimated the amount of resistence that would be faced. Further insults to the intelligence and the memory from the Far Left.
Finally, there is Quagmire. In less than eight months we have Total Quagmire. The Coalition occupies all of Iraq, Saddam's regime has been deposed and dismantled, Iraq's army and secret police have been vanquished. Basic services are being restored. Iraqis are no longer being imprisoned, tortured and murdered by their government. There has been no humanitarian crisis, no refugee crisis, nor any of the other crises put forth as certainties by the Far Left. The Coalition has suffered less than 1,000 fatalities amongst its' troops. Had the Bush Administration offered up these facts as pre-war predictions, the Left would have branded his optimism as further proof that all neocons are insane. Quagmire indeed.

I repeat what I said above: Max Cleland continues to display his defects as a citizen/leader. That he views all the world through the prism of his own personal experience in Viet Nam is certainly understandable, given the great cost to himself.

That does not make his argument worthwhile. To be blunt, I have seen nothing out of Max Cleland that indicates he has anything of value to offer us when it comes to Iraq or the War On Terror. He is stale, cliched and superficial in his analysis, and seems useful only as a reminder of just how distasteful Carter era helplessness and defeatism was.

Continue to quote him at your own risk.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at November 19, 2003 03:15 AM

"better yet, here is another comments section I can send to my registered Democratic Sister and brother in law to ask them who they wish to align with, W or these folks? So far this tactic (using primarily dKos, Atrios and CalPundit comments sections), I've convinced 23 registered Democrats (only two of whom voted Bush in 2000) to vote Bush next year."

Ahhh, flypaper strategy . . . .

Posted by: Yehudit at November 19, 2003 03:19 AM

"As far as analogies go, the American experience in Iraq could be seen as mirroring the 1982 Israeli experience in southern Lebanon."

This is even more of a ridiculous comparison than Vietnam. Israel didn't occupy an entire country, depose a dictator, and try to help the newly freed inhabitants develop a democratic government. Lebanon (not even its occupier Syria) was not threatening the entire Middle East with WMDs. I could go on. Read some history instead of pulling dumb analogies out of your ass. Jeez.

Posted by: Yehudit at November 19, 2003 03:29 AM

Interesting--how often does a long thread get more thoughtful toward the end?

Yehudit, I'm not convinced by the Lebanon analogy either, but I don't think it merits such scorn. If I had to defend the comparison I would say that Israel for strategic reasons needed to render (part of) another country a terrorist-free zone. They went in militarily, and a campaign against them took shape that combined locals with jihadis who came in from elsewhere to defeat them. Their forces suffered a slow, steady bleeding by an enemy who often hid among civilians and counted on Israeli restraint to allow them to do so. The protracted campaign and collateral damage created even more ill will among the locals than was there already. Eventually the Israeli decision-makers decided it wasn't worth the cost, and pulled out.

I get the sense you know a lot more about Israel than I do, but am I so far off the mark? And, are there not parallels with the scenario where we cut and run from Iraq rather than seeing this through? After all, any approximation breaks down at some point.

Posted by: JPS at November 19, 2003 06:06 AM

Wow reading this thread was tiresome. The war in Iraq was started on a false premise. The only thing false about this is the actual statment. As the Bush Admin had and used many different rationale for the action, WMD, support for terrorists (and offering 25 grand for suicide bombings in Israel is supporting terrorism), changing the landscape in the ME etc. All you need for these leftist fools to change thier tune would make the Pres Gore and then the war would be justified. Moonbats one and all. Michael lays out his case for supporting the action and the best you can come up with are insults. Michael sticks to his principles, the whiny left have abandoned theres.

Posted by: Kevin at November 19, 2003 07:01 AM

Seems to me analogies of this sort are intellectual shortcuts anyway. Vietnam, WWII, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq. The lessons of previous military campaigns can and must be applied to future ones, but they are not overlays that neatly transfer from one place to another.

Iraq. Which Iraq? When? It's silly to suggest that from the inception of combat through current operations we can compare Iraq to anything. Successful military commanders draw from lessons as they apply to the situation on the ground. Hence Iraq in March was fought using lessons from the 1991 war as well as operations in Afghanistan (cut off the head from the body to create strategic paralysis in the Iraqi military, use smaller, more integrated, and more specialized forces, etc.). The entrance into Baghdad and initial ourban operations in many ways broke with established doctrine (infantry first, then tanks) and represented immediate lessons from the Iraq war itself. And what is Iraq today? Well where are we talking about? The north, the sunni triangle, all are significantly different. Iraq isn't Vietnam or Lebanon or anything else. It is a mix of all these places and, most significantly, it is it's own unique situation. People who strive to deride Iraq as something else are being intellectually lazy by substituting analogy for analysis.

Posted by: Hacksaw at November 19, 2003 07:06 AM

Sorry for the long excerpting (ugly word, that) but the original was far enough up that I wanted to give some context to my additional comments.

From me:

The right-wing idea that we would have won if we’d just turned North Vietnam into a parking lot ignores the very real possibility that things might have escalated into World War III.
From Colin MacLeod:
That's not a "right-wing idea" - it's a troglodyte idea that fits the Left's caricature of the Right.

Actually, I had in mind the part of the Right that could rightfully be called trogloditic.

The conservative revisionist view on Vietnam is that, though the war was badly mishandled in many respects both tactically and strategically, it's main objective - a free South Vietnam - was well within reach...
(stuff skipped)
Even if the battle of Vietnam is seen as a defeat, however, the war of which it was a part, and in which it played a significant role, was extremely successful. On this note, many observers from the region believe that the US intervention did achieve at least one critical objective: If, instead of intervening in Vietnam, the US had simply allowed the South to fall without a fight, then it is entirely possible that the much-criticized (but actually fairly reasonable) "Domino Theory" would have been borne out.

I don't discount the "Domino Theory" at all, or of the importance of slowing the expansion of Communism. My point was that Vietnam was a bitch, because all the solutions were bloody. Staying would have been bloody. Leaving certainly was bloody. We'd been there for a long time, there was no real end in sight, and America was exhausted by internal turmoil. So eventually we cut and run. (I was about to say at least Vietnam didn't turn into North Korea, but that made me think of Cambodia, so no, I don't think the "anti-war" crowd ended up making the world a better place. They did end up forcing our military to become much more efficient and professional, but somehow I don't think that was the intention.)

The '60s are romanticized way too much. A lot of positive things happened, things that make us a better nation today. A lot of lessons were learned that don't make us a better place. One dangerous idea is that military intervention is ulways unjust. Another is that anything other than unconditional victory is a loss. Absolutist thinking got a big boost in the 60s, and that might be the most dangerous leftover of all.

Just to end on a totally bitchy note, there will always be people who think repeating dogma makes them clever. I just wish they had the good grace to be embarrased when their parroted ranting prognostications don't pan out.

Posted by: mark at November 19, 2003 08:03 AM

I mostly supported the war, but people who claim opponents of it are irrational, emotional, viscerally antiamerican, appeasment minded, etc. drive me up the wall.

The fact is that the question of whether to invade Iraq and overthrow Saadam was a very tough call, and a debate between pro- and anti- war partisan is NOT intrinsically a debate between the smart and the idiotic.

Read this damn article, which I posted as a link here a week or so ago and which nobody thought worthy of responding to:

COVER STORY
The French Were Right

By Paul Starobin, National Journal
Friday, Nov. 7, 2003

Let's just say this at the start, since this is the beginning, not the end, of the discussion about how to grapple with the post-9/11 world (and because it's the grown-up, big-man thing to do): The French were right. Let's say it again: The French -- yes, those "cheese-eatin' surrender monkeys," as their detractors in the United States so pungently called them -- were right.

Jacques Chirac and his camp, shaped by the Algerian war and their own recent lessons in fighting terrorism, correctly predicted the consequences of invading Iraq.
"Be careful!" That was the exclamation-point warning French President Jacques Rene Chirac sent to "my American friends" in a March 16 interview on CNN, just before the Pentagon began its invasion of Iraq. "Think twice before you do something which is not necessary and may be very dangerous," Chirac advised. And this was not some last-minute heads-up, but the culmination of a full-brief argument that the French advanced against the perils of a U.S.-led intervention, pressed over months at the United Nations in New York and at meetings in Paris, Prague, and Washington. There were, of course, other war critics in Europe and elsewhere, but nobody presented the arguments more insistently or comprehensively than did the French, God bless 'em.

But the Americans, or at least the Bush administration, paid no heed to the French warnings, which were not simply that war was a bad idea, but that an invasion's consequences could be harmful to Western interests and to the larger war on terror. And now the administration is finding itself in an increasingly unhappy situation in Iraq, with its 130,000-strong contingent there the target of a sophisticated and lethal guerrilla campaign waged by foreign Islamic fighters and Saddam Hussein loyalists. Back home, a majority of the American public is opposed to Congress's backing of the president's request for $87 billion for military and reconstruction needs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the White House strains to explain the failure, so far, to find weapons of mass destruction, whose supposed presence in the country, after all, was a prime rationale for the war. Even avid war proponents concede that the United States is in for "a long, hard slog" in Iraq, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote in a recently leaked memo. America, in short, is at risk of getting trapped in a hell of its own making. Leave it to a philosopher on the Seine to anticipate this sort of predicament. The Left Bank existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre called his 1944 play, on the suffering that human beings tend to visit on themselves, No Exit.

In blame-game Washington, critics are asking how the administration got into this mess, and why its forecasts of the war's aftermath were so mistaken. But perhaps the most helpful question is not "Why the Administration Was Wrong," but rather, "How the French Managed to Get It Right." To ask how the Bush camp got offtrack is to pose a car-wreck type of question, and all such inquiries tend to be disfigured by partisan, factional enmity. But to ask why the French were right is to put the matter in a more positive, constructive vein. And the question has a ripe urgency, worth pursuing not as a matter of assigning historical bragging rights but as an aid to a necessary rethinking of the Iraq campaign that the administration, albeit in a fitful, truculent mood, has in any event already begun, with its recent plea for help from the United Nations and other countries, France included, and its stepped-up efforts to put more Iraqis in charge of security.

Hold on. Were the French really right? After all, Iraq is not a finished matter. What looks like a mess today may yet get sorted out. Most supporters of the war continue to believe it was justified, despite the problems it has caused. Nevertheless, at this juncture, it is plain that the French, and in particular Chirac and his advisers, had a certain analytical purchase on the situation that the Bush administration lacked.

The French made three basic claims -- all countered, in varying degrees of intensity, by the administration. The first was that the threat posed by Saddam was not imminent, and that's borne out by all available evidence, not least the latest report by Bush-appointed arms inspector David Kay, in which he stated that no weapons of mass destruction had been found. The second claim was that democracy-building in Iraq was going to be a lengthy, difficult, bloody process -- with the Iraqi population very likely to view the Americans as occupiers, not liberators. Quite apart from the spate of attacks on U.S. soldiers by various fanatics, this claim is borne out by polls showing that a majority of Iraqis would like the United States to leave. And third, the French correctly predicted that the Muslim world would perceive a U.S.-led intervention lacking the explicit blessing of the United Nations as illegitimate -- and thus would incite even greater anger toward America.

"A war in Iraq could trigger more frustration, bitterness, in the Arab world and beyond, in the Muslim world," Jean-David Levitte, French ambassador to the U.S., warned in remarks on February 7 at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. Touche. "Hostility toward America has reached shocking levels," an administration-appointed panel, headed by a former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Edward Djerejian, recently reported on post-invasion attitudes in the Muslim world.

Still seething over the French prewar position on Iraq, administration officials are hardly of a mind to bestow awards on the French for prescience. The Democrats, many of whom supported the war, would have no political gain in citing the unpopular French as role models for their thinking, even if the statements now made by the party's leaders in Congress and its presidential candidates so closely resemble prewar French comments. ("The war was an unnecessary war," retired Gen. Wesley Clark pronounced, a la Chirac, on October 9.)

As for the administration, even Secretary of State Colin Powell, a relative moderate, still gets huffy at the mention of the French. "We were right, they were wrong, and I am here," a Powell aide, in an interview with The New York Times, quoted his boss as saying at a September meeting with Iraqi officials in Baghdad.

U.S. media presentations of the French arguments have been on a similar plane. The "cheese-eatin'" tag (would that be Brie or Roquefort?) derives from an eight-year-old episode of the animated television show The Simpsons, in which a reluctant teacher of French greets his elementary-school charges with the rousing salutation "Bonjour, ye cheese-eatin' surrender monkeys!" It fell to a pop-culturally informed conservative polemicist, National Review scribe Jonah Goldberg, to revive and popularize the insult in the prewar name-calling. The New York Post is still calling the French "weasels."

From the tenor of the discussion, in Washington and the hinterlands, you might think that the Elysee Palace opposes by reflex whatever the White House says. But the French are only selectively stubborn. France was the only country, other than the United States, to conduct air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan, with their Mirage jets and Super Etenard fighters hitting more than 30 targets during Operation Anaconda in March 2002. The French enthusiastically backed the Afghanistan war, breaking with Washington only on the Iraq question.

No more persuasive is the widely voiced (in the U.S.) argument that the French were defending wide-reaching and profitable commercial relationships with Saddam's regime. The truth is that France enjoyed minor economic ties with Saddam. Under the United Nations' now-defunct Oil for Food program with Saddam's Iraq, the French were only the 13th-largest participant. The U.S. under that program bought more than 50 percent of Iraq's total oil exports, the French 8 percent.

So the answer to the question of why the French were right has to begin with an admission that their intransigence cannot be dismissed as a knee-jerk impulse or narrowly self-interested plank. Au contraire. What divided the two longtime allies -- each of which has been a beacon for liberal Western values over the past two centuries -- was a deep analytical chasm. An understanding of how the French got to the place they got to and stubbornly clung to, even as relations with Washington badly deteriorated, requires a probe of the substance and roots of the French position.

That may not sound like much fun. Even though they deny it, the French are already gloating that their much-maligned prewar forecast has proved to be on target. But here's the good news -- and it really is very good news. One big reason the French were right is that they were thinking along the lines that Americans are generally apt to think -- that is, in a cautious, pragmatic way, informed by their own particular trial-and-error experience, in this case as an occupier forced out of Algeria and as a front-line battler, long before 9/11, against global Islamic terrorist groups.

The Bush administration, by contrast, approached Iraq the way the French are often thought to approach large world problems -- with a grandiose sweep of the theoretical hand, a tack exemplified by the big-ideas neoconservative crowd, whose own thinking, ironically, draws on European political philosophy. So as the administration rethinks Iraq, the way back to a sound position may lie at home, in the great but neglected tradition of American Pragmatism. And then everyone can forget about the French.

The Prism: Algeria
A pragmatic approach starts with memory -- with the ability to distill lessons from analogous past experiences. That can be a tricky business. American critics of the war, particularly those on the left, cited Vietnam as a cautionary parallel. Perhaps that is apt, since the Vietnam conflict did involve a clash of civilizations, and the U.S. never fully understood the alien social and political milieu in which its forces were operating.

But Vietnam is not a Muslim or Middle Eastern country, and it was a Cold War theater, in which both the Soviet Union and China assisted anti-U.S. guerrilla bands. There is only one Western country with an intimate, bloody, and recent experience of what it is like to be an occupying power in an Arab land, facing an Islamic insurgency. That country is France, which granted independence to Algeria in 1963 after failing to subdue an eight-year-long rebellion by cold-blooded assassins who didn't blanch at bombing Algiers nightclubs frequented by French teenagers.

The memory remains etched into the French political consciousness. No event since the Second World War is a heavier or more painful burden for France than is the Algerian uprising. Algeria, on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, had a much closer connection to France than Vietnam ever did to the United States. During the 132 years of French rule, starting in the 1830s, Algeria was, in legal, constitutional terms, an annexed section of France, not a colony. The Algerian uprising, with its demand for independence, destroyed the fourth French Republic by precipitating a coup attempt by the French military against civilian political leaders viewed as feckless. It also established itself as the central prism through which the French political elite came to view the Muslim world in general and the forces of Arab nationalism and Islamic militancy in particular.

And even more than that, Algeria forced France to re-examine its political, economic, and cultural relations with the entire non-Western portion of humanity. Algeria contained the lesson of a classic "failure," the British historian Alistair Horne wrote in A Savage War of Peace, his definitive 1977 account of the conflict; he called it "the failure either to meet, or even comprehend, the aspirations of the Third World."

The Islamic world, as the most immediately problematic for the French, received France's priority attention. In the United States, it was only with 9/11 that beginning a dialogue with the Muslim community came to seem urgent, but the French, because of Algeria, had embarked on this road decades before. "The U.S. is still a bit virginal in its relationship with the Islamic part of the world," notes Simon Serfaty, a Frenchman born 60 years ago in colonial Morocco, who is an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "The French know this part of the world better."

The Algerian uprising certainly made a powerful impression on a young man destined for France's highest political office: Jacques Chirac. Conscripted in 1956, at the age of 23, to serve as an officer in the French army, Chirac commanded a platoon in an isolated mountainous region of Algeria. The mission was to keep order. But order proved impossible to keep, with the local population protective of the fellaghas, the armed resistance fighters from the Fronte de Liberation Nationale (FLN). Chirac himself was not wounded in engagements with the guerrillas, but some of his men were, and some were killed. In a speech to the French Military Academy in 1996, he called his time there the most important formative experience of his life.

According to an old friend and adviser, Algeria principally taught Chirac that occupation, even under the best of intentions, is impossible when popular sentiments have turned against the occupier: "His experience is that despite all the goodwill, when you are an occupier, when you are seen [by the local people] as an occupier, the people will want you to get out." And if Chirac was convinced of anything, according to this source, it was that the Americans would ultimately be viewed not as liberators in Iraq but as occupiers. He foresaw a kind of re-enactment of the Algerian tragedy, the source adds, a "vicious circle" in which increasingly violent acts against the occupier are met with an increasingly harsh response -- a cycle that inevitably sours local people against the occupation.

As the French side tells it, this perspective was at the heart of a disagreement between Chirac and Bush at a private talk late last November in Prague, where U.S. and European leaders were gathered to discuss enlarging NATO. (Although the pair talked on the telephone, this was their main exchange before the war started six months later.) According to a senior French official who reviewed a French handwritten transcript of the meeting, Chirac talked not about the risks of the major combat phase of a military campaign, which the French expected to go quickly, but about the perils of the postwar phase, in particular the dangers of underestimating the force of Arab nationalism and the prevalence of violence in a country that had never known democracy. According to the French source, Bush replied that he expected postwar armed resistance from elements connected to Saddam's Baathist regime -- but thought it unlikely that the population as a whole would come to see the U.S. as occupiers. And Chirac, according to the source, told Bush that history would decide who was right. The White House recently declined to comment on the meeting.

Seven months after Saddam's toppling, the struggle for the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people goes on. But a survey of Iraqi public opinion, done in August for the American Enterprise Institute by pollster John Zogby, tends to confirm Chirac's instinct. Yes, the poll found that on the whole, Iraqis were very glad to be rid of Saddam; 70 percent said they expected Iraq to be "much better" or "somewhat better" in five years. That was the finding the administration and AEI highlighted. But asked whether America and Britain should help make sure a representative government is set up in Iraq or just let Iraqis work this out themselves, 60 percent responded "Iraqis alone." Asked whether the U.S. over the next five years would help or hurt Iraq, 36 percent said "help" and 50 percent said "hurt." In an interview on the poll's results, Zogby said: "The results are not good, from the perspective of the Bush administration. Something is not working, and there is plenty of polling evidence to show that something is not working." He continued: "The Americans misread the situation. They honestly thought the Iraqis were going to be welcoming them."

Traumatic experiences can be distorting, but the French fixation on Algeria, if that's what it is, seems appropriate. The uprising was not just a defeat for an aging, corrupt imperial power. It was also an awakening experience for such coming-of-age insurgents as Yasir Arafat and a forerunner of Islamic militants' decision to use terror to achieve broad political objectives. The conflict introduced the French to the same kind of deadly enemy that U.S. forces now find themselves battling in the streets of Baghdad. Better late than never, the Pentagon in September arranged for senior Special Forces officers a screening of The Battle of Algiers, the 1966 film showing how crack French paratroopers rolled up terrorist cells in the Algerian capital, in one of France's few clear-cut victories in that war. The message is twofold. On the one hand, the paratroopers forced the FLN to abandon the campaign in the capital. But the insurgency itself was not extinguished -- and eventually, it was the unremitting toll of French casualties and a public backlash in France against the army's harsh tactics against the Algerian population that caused the French to cut and run.

If an Iraqi version of the Algerian drama were to continue playing out, then the final act would be an abrupt, poorly planned pullout by a politically pressured Washington. Noting the growing domestic outcry over U.S. casualties in Iraq -- which, at 379 killed as of November 4, are quite small according to the historical standards of armed conflict -- the French believe this may well happen, despite Bush's vow to stay the course until Iraq is stable and democratic. And the result, Paris worries, would be a giant mess on Europe's doorstep. At this stage, "the worst-case scenario for us would be for [the U.S.] to leave," Levitte said in a recent interview at his Georgetown quarters. "If you want to build democracy in Iraq, you must be prepared to pay a price."

From Appeasement To Afghanistan
So the French are not virgins when it comes to occupations. Nor are they virgins when it comes to countering international terrorism. They left Algeria feeling humiliated and somewhat cowed. In their first stab at constructing a policy to deal with the strange new threat of Islamic terrorism, the French adopted a policy of appeasement -- an approach that included tacit permission for globally oriented terrorist groups to use French soil as a base, so long as the groups did not make France itself a target. Not surprisingly, France became a haven for international terrorists. But several decades later, Paris possessed counter-terrorism capabilities, oriented toward preventing attacks, second to none in the Western world in effectiveness. And French Mirages were dropping bombs on Afghanistan.

Behind this turnaround is a story of how the French learned what works in the struggle against Islamic terrorism. Along with Algeria, this learning experience powerfully shaped the French perspective on the post-9/11 world, and it helps explain why the French felt so strongly that Iraq was a secondary priority in the struggle against terrorism.

One of the few in Washington who has done a careful parsing of the French experience in counter-terrorism is an unassuming former Rand analyst, Jeremy Shapiro, who these days hangs his hat at the Brookings Institution as a research associate in the think tank's center on the United States and France. A 1989 Harvard graduate who's fluent in French, Shapiro has cultivated contacts among counter-terrorist experts at law enforcement agencies in both Paris and Washington. For obscure policy journals, he's been writing such pieces as "The U.S. Can Learn From the French in the War Against Terrorism."

In an interview at his cramped Brookings quarters, Shapiro right away warmed to the topic. "The French were among the first to note that terrorism was a global movement," he said. But before they came to this realization, they floundered. In the 1980s, a wave of bombings struck Paris targets, including department stores and subways. Not only were the French unable to prevent these attacks, they were also clueless about the perpetrators and motives. At first they thought that domestic neo-Nazi militants were behind an assault on a synagogue in a wealthy section of Paris. Only belatedly did they realize that responsibility lay with terrorists from the Middle East.

The French had descended to this low point through their adoption of what Shapiro calls the "sanctuary doctrine" -- a morally repugnant effort to isolate France from international terrorism by taking a neutral stance toward global terrorist groups. The idea was to give the terrorists no reason to attack France. (Better they hit someone else.)

It didn't work. Other countries actively battling terrorism, such as Spain and Israel, were understandably outraged that France was sheltering their enemies. Some splinter terrorist bands failed to recognize France as a "sanctuary" and targeted French interests anyway. And amid the Paris attacks, the French public demanded a get-tough approach.

As a result, French counter-terrorism policy evolved to its current emphasis on suppression and prevention. The key to this policy is what Shapiro calls the "Alan Greenspan" choice. In effect, France decided to de-politicize the anti-terrorism battle. "The French treat terrorism like we treat central banking -- as too serious to be left to the politicians," Shapiro says. At the heart of the French system is a group of Paris-based magistrates with sweeping investigative powers of the sort that a John Ashcroft would die for. Through the expertise accumulated over numerous investigations, the magistrates managed to burrow deeply into the roots of global Islamic terrorist networks and thus gain information on attacks even as they were being plotted.

The results are impressive -- and have helped protect not just the French but Americans, too. Shapiro's textbook example is the apprehension of terrorist Ahmed Ressam, who was arrested at the U.S.-Canadian border in December 1999 with a trunk full of explosives he planned to use to attack Los Angeles International Airport. Even though he had few connections to France, French anti-terrorism officials had been tracking Ressam for more than three years and had repeatedly warned Canadian authorities of his plans to attack North American targets. The French provided the FBI with a full dossier on Ressam, helped U.S. officials identify his associates, and sent an expert to testify at Ressam's trial, at which he was convicted.

In this context, the French response to 9/11 represented a final repudiation of the sanctuary doctrine. The notion that France could somehow hide from terrorism was replaced by a newfound sense of solidarity, all the more startling given the anti-Americanism that had long been a staple of French politics. "We Are All Americans" -- "Nous Sommes Tous Americains" -- the front page of Le Monde declared on September 13, 2001. And with Levitte at the helm of the U.N. Security Council (his assignment before he took up residence in Washington as the French ambassador), that body, for the first time in its history, declared that an act of terrorism was equivalent to an act of war. It was with that legal predicate that France joined the U.S. in the campaign to topple the Taliban.

Iraq: A Question Of Legitimacy
Unity, of course, proved short-lived, as the real possibility of a war in Iraq came into focus in the fall of 2002. France's clear priority was a continued focus on Al Qaeda and related networks -- and the pursuit of what they viewed as unfinished business in the campaign against Taliban and other Islamic fighters regrouping in Afghanistan and Pakistan. French citizens were themselves directly under attack -- a Qaeda bomb had killed 11 French engineers at the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi. "This is the main threat," Levitte said in a briefing at the European Institute, a Washington think tank, on January 29. Based on its own knowledge of Al Qaeda and related Islamic networks, the French saw nothing to connect Saddam's regime with Osama bin Laden and company. In December 2002, French authorities arrested a dozen North African Arabs who had links to Al Qaeda and were plotting to attack targets in Paris. French authorities suspected links between Al Qaeda and Chechen rebels, but not between Al Qaeda and Baghdad, French officials stated publicly at that time.

Still, the French did not rule out the use of force in Iraq. Rather, French opposition to a U.S.-initiated strike on Iraq centered on the question of legitimacy. On whose authority, they asked, could military force justifiably be used? This is an old tug-of-war between the two countries, going back to the early days of the Cold War, but Iraq elevated this disagreement to a new level of antagonism. The French reject the idea of American Exceptionalism -- a venerable fixture of the U.S. political psyche and staple of presidential speeches. American Exceptionalism is the notion that the United States has a unique crusader role to play in advancing freedom in the world, and can accomplish this mission not only because of its immense military power but also because of the compelling example it has set in creating a dynamic, democratic society at home.

The French, who after their anti-monarchical revolution in the 18th century staked a similar claim to a liberal, torch-bearing Exceptionalism, don't accept any of this. They insist that legitimacy, particularly with respect to the use of force, resides exclusively in the institutions of the "international community," namely the U.N. Security Council. "I am totally against unilateralism in the modern world," Chirac told The New York Times in a September 8, 2002, interview.

To a grated-on U.S. ear, this may sound like nothing more than the usual French rant against the United States as the world's hyperpuissance, or hyperpower. And, of course, the French, in arguing for a decisive role for the U.N. Security Council, are seeking to preserve an important role for themselves as one of the five permanent, veto-wielding members of that body. Nonetheless, it is also possible to believe that the French have a better practical fix on how the world sees America -- and multilateral institutions such as the U.N. -- than the Americans themselves have. American Exceptionalism works only when foreigners buy into it. If they don't, then the U.S. insistence on having its way truly does amount to bullying. And in this regard, world public opinion, loudly and clearly, seems to be saying, "I'll take the U.N." For example, in Iraq itself, while a majority of Iraqis in Zogby's recent poll said they thought the U.S. would "hurt," not "help," Iraq over the next five years, the same question about the U.N. drew an opposite response, with 50 percent saying it would "help" Iraq and just 19 percent saying "hurt."

Polling in the broader Muslim world underscores what, to advocates of American Exceptionalism, can only seem contradictory. On the one hand, the U.S. intervention in Iraq significantly inflamed Muslim opinion. A June survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that anti-American attitudes had spread from the Middle East to Islamic countries such as Indonesia, where favorable ratings for the U.S. had plunged from 61 percent to 15 percent over the course of 12 months. The survey also found that majorities in leading Muslim countries were worried about the U.S. as a potential military threat. Yet the Pew team also found that large majorities in most Islamic countries aspired to Western-style democracy. The Muslim world seems to like the product the U.S. is selling -- but not the salesman. They'd prefer to get the product from another store, and they seem to think the U.N. is that store.

All of which, of course, is what the French have been arguing -- at a higher decibel level than anyone else. "The French sometimes say out loud what others are thinking," says Charles William Maynes, president of the Eurasia Foundation in Washington. And this has long driven Washington nuts. Maynes remembers from his days as a Foreign Service officer for the State Department in the 1960s that it was "very difficult to get a rational discussion" within the department about France or India. "I decided that that was because they were democratic countries that had an independent policy and their own view of the world."

Pragmatism, Anyone?
Let's review. The French got it right in Iraq for three basic reasons. First, the French, by virtue of their own experience, had the best of all prisms with which to view the Iraq showdown: Algeria. Second, the French, because of the improvements they had made in their counter-terrorism efforts, were in a position to make their own independent determination of the threat posed by Al Qaeda and related groups versus the threat posed by Saddam's regime. And third, the French possessed good antennae; they had a clear reading of world, and in particular Muslim, public opinion on whether a U.S.-led intervention would be viewed as legitimate. They were better listeners than the Americans were.

In its exasperation with the French, Washington says it is Paris that has become lost in languid abstractions. "It's easy to toss out nice theories about sovereignty, and occupation, and liberation, and all that," Colin Powell complained to reporters on his plane last month after a round of inconclusive talks with the French on an expanded U.N. role in Iraq.

But he's picking on the French for the wrong reason. The Bush camp had run up against Jacques Chirac -- a stubborn 70-year-old man. Not even his friends regard him as a conceptual thinker or grand strategist. He's prone not to airy theorizing but to condescension. On the Iraq matter, he revealed his sense of superiority over Bush, a man 14 years his junior who entered the White House without a track record in foreign affairs. (Chirac has a higher estimation of Bush's father, a multilateralist who fought in World War II and headed the CIA before becoming president.) That final "Be careful!" warning was preceded by a vintage -- which is to say, patronizing -- Chirac pronouncement: "Personally, I have some experience of international political life."

It's very hard to know what to do about something if you haven't been there before. That's when the temptation to adopt a guiding theoretical framework to make sense of an unfamiliar and threatening landscape can become seductive. It may be too early for a conclusive verdict on the biggest of the big ideas that the neocons around Bush have offered -- the idea that a regime change in Iraq can spur a democratic transformation of the authoritarian political culture of the entire Arab Middle East. But that idea most certainly belongs in the category of untested hypothesis.

The neocons are not experts on the Middle East. One of their prime intellectual influences is an abstruse political philosopher, Leo Strauss, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany whose students at the University of Chicago included Paul Wolfowitz, now serving as Bush's deputy secretary of Defense and the administration's leading proponent of using Iraq as a laboratory for democratic nation building in the region. Straussians tend to believe in the ability of intellectual elites -- modern-day philosopher-kings -- to discern truths unavailable to lesser minds. "It's a European style of getting the peasants to do what 'we' say," said James Pinkerton, a critic of the Iraq intervention who worked in the Bush I White House.

Even if America can't tap a particular memory to deal with the post-9/11 world, it does have available to it that old and poignant tradition of American pragmatism. And it is a poignant tradition. Modern American Pragmatism, as the American critic Louis Menand tells the story in his Pulitzer-Prize winning book, The Metaphysical Club, was hatched after the Civil War as a kind of antidote to overly ideological and moralistic views of the world. The pragmatists came to their new lights as a result of their own hard, tragic experiences. Of Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the movement's charter thinkers, Menand writes: "He had gone off to fight because of his moral beliefs, which he held with singular fervor. The war did more than make him lose those beliefs. It made him lose his belief in beliefs. It impressed on his mind, in the most graphic and indelible way, a certain idea about the limits of ideas."

There is a danger in this line of thinking -- the risk that an excess of pragmatism will spill over into cynicism and a paralyzing pessimism. But there's danger, too, in an excess of theory, spilling over into recklessness. "The limits of ideas" -- now there's an intriguing concept. How un-what-we-think-of-as-French. How ripe for America to re-explore.

Posted by: markus rose at November 19, 2003 08:29 AM

What a surprise, Totten and everyone at TechCentralStation, is actually owned by DCI group (a republican founded/owned lobbying firm).

Opinions are bought and paid for and disguised as journalism, and that's the least scummy thing they do (pay for fake protests, plant letter to the editor...ah, repulicans, is there anyone they won't f***?).

The only reason TCS fessed up to their ownership by the lobbyists is because they knew this article was going to be published:
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0312.confessore.html

"ever get the feeling you're being ripped off?" - Johnny Rotten

"yeah, I'll sell-out my supposed democratic beliefs to be a ho for Bush, how much per article?" - Johnny Totten

Via Josh Marshall

Posted by: burnplant at November 19, 2003 08:38 AM

Good article, Michael. I'm glad the comments got more thoughtful (and therefore useful) toward the end. The slash and burn style comments made by the Leftist idealogues at the beginning of this thread are thoughtless groupspeak (and therefore irrelevant).

I enjoy Michael's blog because the items he posts and the comments they normally elicit are thoughtful. To Michael and the Commentators: Please keep it this way. Partisan drivel (from either side) is a waste of my time.

Posted by: Ben at November 19, 2003 08:40 AM

Iraq is not Vietnam. Can you come up with any pair of wars that were as similar as the "Iraq=Vietnam" argument would have us believe?

Biggest difference is the alignment of superpowers. Today, Russia and China don't overtly support Iraq and if we dropped nuclear weapons anywhere in the Arab world, it is doubtful that Russia or China or France would respond by sending nuclear missiles toward Washington.

However, Iran and Syria provide cover for insurgent bases. That is similar to the situation in North Vietnam, actually better for insurgents, we were bombing North Vietnam, we're not bombing Syria or Iran.

And, in the version of history I learned, we started engaging in Vietnam in 1963, not 1967. And the death toll for the USA in 1963 is similar to the death toll for the USA in Iraq in 2003.

On the difference side, the Vietnamese had a running start, they were at war basically since WWII with very little pause. They were fighting, apparently, for independence from foreign devils, be it Japanese, Chinese, French or American. We were aligned, ethically, on the wrong side. And, as almost always happens, the more motivated army wins, with or without regard to technological advantage.

So, Iraq isn't Vietnam, Totten is a fool, and TechCentral is obviously not a site for journalism. Just look at the sponsorship and you can see that it is and will be totally slanted...."Global warming doesn't exist, taxes are bad, oil is good."

Posted by: TottensRotten at November 19, 2003 08:52 AM

Burnplant,

Does TCS being connected to DCI color ones perception of the site or its writers? Maybe. But you can get a feel for the ideology of those writers simply by reading them. The insinuation that these opinions are bought and paid for is ridiculous.

Why? Well you obviously have strong political thoughts. How much money would it take for you to write, under your own name, opinions you did not agree with? Do you think DCI or anyone else could come up with THAT kind of money day in and day out?

People write what they think. They do it for institutions willing to publish them. TCS's DCI connection probably does shape the coverage they choose to publish. Of course the ideology of Washington Post of NY Times editors has a similar effect in driving their coverage. But I strongly doubt it shapes the ideology of any of the writers at the Post, the Times, or TCS.

Posted by: Hacksaw at November 19, 2003 08:57 AM

burnplant:

Ah, changing the subject. Have you conceded Michael's premise, then?

Markus Rose:

Thanks for cluttering up the thread. What is your point?

Posted by: Tongue Boy at November 19, 2003 09:06 AM

So, Iraq isn't Vietnam, Totten is a fool, and TechCentral is obviously not a site for journalism. Just look at the sponsorship and you can see that it is and will be totally slanted....

Gosh, a website publishing articles that reflect the views of its owners/publishers! Next thing you know, some genius will invent a gizmo that uses waves or rays to cook food much faster than those lame ol' gas ovens. Stop the world, I want to get off...

Posted by: Tongue Boy at November 19, 2003 09:12 AM

"Read this damn article, which I posted as a link here a week or so ago and which nobody thought worthy of responding to:"

So instead we'll all just scroll down past it instead, as proper punishment for your bad netiquette.

Posted by: Moe Lane at November 19, 2003 09:19 AM

Burnplant,

I am giving you one last chance to act like an adult and that's it. Then your IP address gets banned and you will not be able to post here. For calling me a "ho," I ought to kick your ass out right now.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 19, 2003 09:20 AM

mark, apparently we don't disagree too much about the main argument, and I apologize if I seemed to be grouping you with the idiotarians.

Max Cleland has come up repeatedly, and I agree with Dennis's comments. Moreover, the idea of attributing special authority to his judgments is absurd: Opinion on the wisdom of the Iraq policy is diverse among those with military experience, and the idea that combat or combat injuries necessarily improve an individual's insight or judgment is, to say the least, debatable. For some people, that may be true. Many others are maimed in heart and mind as well as physically. Hitler was a combat veteran. FDR wasn't. Additionally, the attempt to exclude individuals from one side (always only one side) of the discussion because they are not in the military is profoundly undemocratic.

Swopa mentions some points of Cleland's on which one might at least make an argument, if not to my mind a very persuasive one, but Cleland's public comments on President Bush and Bush's policy have frequently been nothing short of vile where they weren't merely inane. They seemed to reflect anger over having lost his Senate seat, and not a little leftover outrage over that over-the-line OBL campaign ad that got so much publicity. I believe that displaced rage over his personal Vietnam experience may also have distorted his judgment. Whatever the explanation, his commentaries as earlier his policies typified a merely defensive, effectively defeatist attitude toward terrorism generally and toward the Iraqi insurgency in particular. They fully confirmed the good, if tardy, judgment of Georgia voters that he wasn't up to the task.

If anyone wants to read a more lengthy treatment of what Cleland had to say, and further analysis along the above lines, then here's what I wrote a month or so ago:

http://thewholething.typepad.com/weblog/2003/09/clelands_rage.html

Posted by: Colin MacLeod at November 19, 2003 09:59 AM

Sorry for posting such a long article. I had a hunch that I shouldn't have done it, though I'll still plead half guilt as a result of being somewhat ignorant of netiquette as well. If I had more time, I'd have summarized it and provided a link (which I did about a week ago here in response to one of Michael's earlier posts).

My point, Tonguebath, is to critique a recurrent theme on this blog, presented with suitable eqivocation by Michael but more stridently by others, which is that those who opposed the war are intrinsically irrational, emotional, unreasoning, limp-wristed, hand-wringing, malaise-prone surrender monkeys. That the right is Right and the left is wrong. There remains a strong argument against invading Iraq for the purpose of regime change, the doctrine of preemtion, and the notion of democratic nationbuilding by nonmuslims in the Middle East. Also, while we are going to compare Iraq to Lebanon, Vietnam, etc...why not compare it to Algeria as well.

Posted by: markus rose at November 19, 2003 10:03 AM

Markus-

Congratulations on making the typing team. Varsity, no less.

You know what drives me up the wall? The fact that you seem oblivious to the possible link between our lack of interest in engaging you and your insistence of conducting yourself in as obnoxious and condescending a manner as possible.

If such a linkage has failed to occur to you in the past, please by all means let it occur to you now. You really aren't as good as you seem to think you are. That's why you got no response to the damn article.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at November 19, 2003 10:08 AM

Dennis, I appreciate your candor, and I'm fascinated by your reaction. Frankly, I don't get to hear to much from people who genuninely dislike me. I admit calling someone "tonguebath" is a bit obnoxious, but you seem to be talking here about more of a general pattern of condescension abd obnoxiousness which I am indeed oblivious to because I can't recall anyone else pointing it out to me. Can you give me an example of this? And I think saying that my posts betray intellectual conceit is unwarranted. In my experience, I am inclined more than most to admit that I am wrong, that I am unsure of myself, or that I am considering changing my views.

I wonder if your lack of interest in engaging with me has less to do with my alleged obnoxiousness than it does with your lack of respect for and lack of interest in ideas and viewpoints opposed to the ones that you presently hold.

Posted by: markus rose at November 19, 2003 11:00 AM

I know this thread started off badly with the T-bogg patrol, but can you guys please try to keep it reasonable? Thanks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 19, 2003 11:06 AM

Markus, FWIW, I hadn't read the National Journal article, so I'm glad you posted it.

(This isn't a comment on the netiquette of posting it -- just saying that at least someone benefited from the faux pas.)

Posted by: Swopa at November 19, 2003 11:19 AM

Markus-

I am assuming Michael's request above is directed, at least in part, towards me. Therefore I am going to defer to his wishes and desist. I will only say that your views and ideas are not what bothers me (I have been reading your posts at this site for some time, by the way), what bothers me is your manner of expressing them.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at November 19, 2003 11:59 AM

OK then, Dennis, perhaps you can send me an email in which you explain or illustrate your dislike of my "manner of presentation", so that I can be convinced to alter that presentation, or perhaps even quit posting! As I write for a living, substantive criticism is helpful. Regarding your complaints, however, I don't have the slightest clue what you're talking about.

Posted by: markus rose at November 19, 2003 12:34 PM

Anyone think the Nation would have published Michael's article? The Guardian? Anyone?

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at November 19, 2003 12:38 PM

Markus,

Your manner of presentation is fine with me.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 19, 2003 12:51 PM

This is pretty off-topic on a stale thread, but in a gesture of good faith, here is one response to the "France Was Right" article.

No more persuasive is the widely voiced (in the U.S.) argument that the French were defending wide-reaching and profitable commercial relationships with Saddam's regime. The truth is that France enjoyed minor economic ties with Saddam. Under the United Nations' now-defunct Oil for Food program with Saddam's Iraq, the French were only the 13th-largest participant. The U.S. under that program bought more than 50 percent of Iraq's total oil exports, the French 8 percent.

Uh, that's not what I heard. Here is a New York Times piece from September 19, 2002 that I found on the Global Policy Forum website.

Money quote: Last year, France ranked No. 1 among European countries doing business with Iraq, with $1.5 billion in trade, followed by Italy, with $1 billion. Among the countries that trade with Iraq under the oil-for-food program, France ranked third, with $3.1 billion in trade since the program's start 1996. French trade under the program was surpassed only by Russia, with $4.3 billion, and Egypt, according to United Nations diplomats. [new para]
The French oil giant TotalFinaElf has the largest position in Iraq, with exclusive negotiating rights to develop Majnoon, a field on the Iranian border with estimated reserves of 10 billion barrels, and Bin Umar, with an estimated production potential of 440,000 barrels a day, according to oil industry executives.

Starobin's factoids may be correct but misleading. I'd like to see the following figures:

1. What precentage of France's total oil imports were from Iraq, versus what percentage of the US's total oil imports.

2. How much did the French pay for this oil versus how much did the US?

3. Is it possible that there was a quid pro quo between Saddam and France with regard to oil prices and France's willingness to lobby for causes that would make Saddam happy (lifting of sanctions, ending no-fly zones, phasing out inspections, opposing regime change)?

4. Can similar figures be found for other members of the coalition of the unwilling -- e.g., Russia, China, Germany?

I vaguely know the answers to these questions, but I've misplaced my source (Pollack, The Threatening Storm and am not confident to pontificate on them without it.

What I recall is that France got a pretty high percentage of its oil from Iraq, and that if got it at a discount of about 40% (by gaming the Saddam's surcharges?) and that the discount came about directly from Saddam, coinicidentally right after the French backed out of their part of the no-fly zones. Am I wrong about this?

Posted by: Browning at November 19, 2003 01:07 PM

Browning -- you may be correct, but doesn't it beg the question of why france didn't try to make a deal with the united states on post-iraq trade in exchange for military support or at least neutrality? whatever french companies were making under oil for food would have to be a pittance compared to what they and countless other french companies could made if the sanctions were lifted.

i'm sure there'll be a few letters in National Journal in response this Friday, I'll post any good ones I see if they're not too long.

Posted by: markus rose at November 19, 2003 01:40 PM

There have been plenty of reasonable, civil posts disagreeing with Totten's article, but they are ignored while you all declare another great victory for Totten, and focus on us "trolls". So why should I bother? Quit your crying. You ignore the rational and then wonder why no one is being rational - oh, gee, it must be them lib'ruls.

To the people above who think the news today that a Republican-owned lobbying group owns TCS doesn't matter;

How come they, and all their "writers" kept that fact hidden until they knew the article was about to be run? Saying TCS "hid" the truth of their ownership isn't a true statement either. They lied on their own "About" page. Does that seem like it doesn't matter? Then why lie?

Is this different than the WaPo and NYT Times as some staffer on a post above asked? Yes. Having an editorial slant (left or right) or being owned by a lobbying group that sells the pushing of a particular viewpoint are as different as....well, Vietnam and Iraq! (settle down freepers, it's a joke). Other than the paid TCS staffers, do you think it would make a difference to the average reader on this board, who just happened by while surfing, if Totten's articles on the TCS website were accompanied by a DCI Group logo that you could click on and read "about"? Has Totten ever said, "here's an article I received pay from Republican to write, but I think you, my fellow 'Dems' would agree with..."?

So carry on with your "high-minded and civil" discourse.

And Totten, keep posing as a moderate democrat while being paid by Republicans to write pro-Bush propaganda (and keep on keeping it from your readers). And keep those "I used to be a democrat, but..." fake posts coming, they're a hoot!

Make sure when you ban me that you get both the IP adresses I posted from;

Sorry about calling you a "ho", I meant "whore".
Later, America-hater

Posted by: Burnplant at November 19, 2003 02:12 PM

Without getting into a pissing contest here, I think a more apt comparison might be the unfortunate Soviet experience in Afghanistan.

I didn't oppose the Iraq war, but the similarities between iraq and the Soviet war in Afghanistan are striking.

An easy military victory followed by a protracted insurgency and occupation are similar. The mix of religious, ethnic and geographic factors are also similar.

I sure hope the outcome is not similar. One thing Americans have to realize is the enemy has no time frame for resolving the problem. They live in the region and they are not leaving. So, unfortunately, we are facing successful pacification of Iraq or defeat. Those seem to be the only possible outcomes.

Posted by: Pug at November 19, 2003 02:23 PM

Vietnam was the war where the US Military was discredited. Iraq may be the war where the Press is discredited.

Posted by: MBrister at November 19, 2003 02:24 PM

Burnplant,

I read TCS for a while and, other than wonder about its name, never gave much though to the site itself. I read enough interesting things there to bookmark it.

Does the fact that DCI publishes TCS change things? Well sure, knowing this means I will take it into consideration when looking at the site as a whole. Does it change my opinion of writers who, in addition to other activities, post there? Of course not. The blogosphere lets you assess other people on the merits of the writing. TCS does not have the automatic (and unearned) cache that a Washington Post or NY Times writer has. It is only as good or as interesting as its writers, much as any blog is only as good or as interesting as its writers. The ideological slant of the writers is obvious anyway, bloggers (unlike journalists) don't claim to be bias-free. Your conspiracy-mongering about the right may play well with the moveon.org crowd but it flies in the face of reason for anyone who appreciates this medium.

Posted by: Hacksaw at November 19, 2003 02:35 PM

I don't care who owns TCS. Its articles are analysis/policy arguments, not reportage. You can see whether its articles are full of beans on the surface; little trust in objective observation of facts is required. For any fact-checking, one need only click.

Posted by: Jim at November 19, 2003 02:57 PM

Markus-

I am going to respectfully decline your invitation. Perhaps it is just better to rely on the judgement of a professional such as MJT than an amateur like DTP when it comes to your manner of expression.

Besides, I've just received the unsolicitated opinion of a neutral party that I've been acting cranky all day. So maybe it is me after all.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at November 19, 2003 03:06 PM

doesn't it beg the question of why france didn't try to make a deal with the united states on post-iraq trade in exchange for military support or at least neutrality?

How about this: France is Evil, but also Incompetent. [ducking]

I think that post-invasion Chirac has been more interested in appealing to his anti-American constituency, and in betting on America failing in Iraq with the hopes that this will raise France's stature on the world stage. But, frankly, I haven't been following France's post Iraq stance that closely.

France's shadier motives for opposing regime change in Iraq is somewhat academic at this point and pretty tangential to this whole discussion. I just found it strange that the article you posted seemed either to be blatantly wrong and/or misleading in its selection of factoids in that instance. It seemed a little too eager to dismiss out of hand France's selfish interests in coddling Saddam. Which leads me to distrust the rest of the article.

To the extent that 'France was right" about how dangerous Iraq really was, I think that France got lucky. I still think that anyone who was willing to bet that we would find no WMD's in Iraq was foolish.

Scoff if you must, but it's like this: If someone playing blackjack is holding two kings and asks for a hit, he's a fool, and the fact that he drew an ace that gave him 21 and won him the hand doesn't change that. The guy who stood pat with 20 is still the better player.

I think it would have been similarly foolish to gamble that Saddam was boxed in without WMD's and was going to stay that way. The pre-war arguments that Saddam was not dangerous relied on his being containable or deterrable, and the apparent dearth of WMD's post-invasion have not changed my mind that Saddam was neither in the long run.

(That said, a good case could be made that we had more time than we thought to get more international support for the invasion, but obstructionism from France and other UNSC members who were cozy with Saddam made that seem unlikely. But that's Monday morning quarterbacking now.)

To the extent that "France was right" about the Iraqis' gratitude for regime change: First, I don't quite trust the article's poll numbers, after seeing how it treated France's pre-war financial involvement with Iraq. But even if I grant them to you, I also think that Michael's article demonstrates how the "resistance" seems likely to lose the support of the Iraqi street. Ultimately, I think the Iraqis are going to feel less and less sympathy with the "resistance," and more and more hope for a democratic future. I could be wrong, but all that still remains to be seen.

Finally, to the extent that "France was right" about the regime change stirring up more hatred of the US in the Muslim world, I personally never doubted that it would make people who already hate us love us any more. To me that was like saying if we shouldn't go in with guns blazing to arrest the white supremacist church-burner, because it was just going to stir up resentment in the racist South. Heck, it might even lead to more church burnings! Maybe we should just give the guy a pass.

What about the Muslims who did not already hate us? I hope that their minds may be changed when they see a democratic Iraq emerge. And finally -- maybe I'm idealist -- but my solidarity was with the Marsh Arabs and the Kurds and the oppressed Iraqi people. In that sense, I suppose I am the idealist that the article pooh-poohs in its call for the US to relinquish its democratic idealism for a more conservative realpolitic "pragmatism."

Posted by: Browning at November 19, 2003 03:44 PM

I'm shocked at the surprise that TCS is a James Glassman vehicle--I thought everyone knew that.

Glassman's long used the same schtick Michael is emulating: besieged, self-proclaimed liberal who just happens to agree with any and all conservative talking points.

Again, no war is like another. However, certain parallels certainly can be drawn between Vietnam and Iraq. Both started under phony rationales. Both had no meaningful national security implications. Both conflicts involved nations and cultures we knew little about. Both started with promises of a swift victory at low costs in terms of personnel and dollars. Both had premature declarations of victory ("Peace is at hand" "light at the end of the tunnel" "Mission Accomplished"). Both were premised on the notion our military could win a political peace (hearts and minds" "bringing democracy"). Both started with popular support which soon evaporated.

It's quite plain that the supporters of both wars have adopted the very same tactics to attempt to quell dissent: labelling the anti-war side as "unpatriotic", "commies," "pro-Saddam or pro-Ho Chi Minh"

Even the propaganda campaigns of both wars are similar.

On the ground, both occupations seem identical. Despite our claims in both conflicts that we wanted to free both countries and/or bring democracy--the truth is that we're more interested in supporting puppet regimes and con men who don't enjoy popular support in their own nations. In neither war did we--or do we--support free elections because we're pretty certain we wouldn't like the results.

On one side, we have Michael Totten honing and refining his schtick.

On the other side, we have folks like GEN Anthony Zinni, GEN John Keane, Daniel Ellsberg, and Max Cleland--all of whom served in Vietnam--stating there are distinct parallels between Iraq and Vietnam.

Posted by: Jadegold at November 19, 2003 04:29 PM

Jadegold,

Your trolling is tiresome and you are coarsening the discussion.

Use the word "schtick" one more time and you will be banned from posting. I fully expect you to call my bluff and that I will then kick you out with cause, but I thought I'd give you a warning just in case you surprise me.

You're welcome for the warning. You don't deserve it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 19, 2003 04:43 PM

Michael:

I don't believe I'm "coarsening the discussion" because I'm not applauding your erroneous opinions.

And, yes, what you are doing is "schtick"--just as I would be doing were I to proclaim myself as a rock-solid conservative who just happenedto disagree with everything the GOP is doing.

Look, you're entitled to your opinions; everyone is. But you're not entitled to demand everyone believe you're something that you're not. At some point you've got to be honest with yourself; if the issue that you most strongly identify with--so much so, it renders all other issues insignificant--happens to dovetail with a certain ideology, you're a partisan of that particular ideology.

To claim otherwise is schtick.

Posted by: Jadegold at November 19, 2003 05:02 PM

Jadegold,

I have already said I am not left-wing anymore. I am independent. I have also said that I approve of the neocon foreign policy. If you don't like it, that's your personal problem.

I have better things to do than argue with you about your lack of social skills. So goodbye.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 19, 2003 05:09 PM

Gold:

The problem is you just can't write without being insulting and being an ass. See ya! :)

Posted by: d-rod at November 19, 2003 05:09 PM

(It's your blog Michael, but ...) Jadegold points out that the US did not favor democracy in Vietnam. I think this was, indeed, a huge problem when, in 1956, the US didn't allow the commie general Ho Chi Minh to be elected -- because the US was nobly fighting the commies. And already today Leftists are articulating the fear of a theocratic election victory.

Bush has claimed the US has shifted away from supporting convenient dictators. This is, truly, radical, idealistic, potentially wonderful, possibly risky.

What we need to do is support Human Rights, first. Something the French seemed wrong in Algeria about, and Vietnam before; and are still wrong.

Markus, how expensive is costly? Yep, $87 bil is not cheap; but what about in lives? in time? Looks pretty cheap to me, and will stay cheap until at least 1000 US soldiers die.

We're all in this together -- our security does depend on their freedom. The Arabs can't always free themselves.

Posted by: Tom Grey at November 19, 2003 05:24 PM

Tom,

I never said Jadegold doesn't have a point to make. I sometimes agree with him. But his social skills are pathetic and I won't miss him. I enjoy the discussions in the comments, but I don't like babysitting.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 19, 2003 05:32 PM

Burnplant - Just a quick bit about the TCS being owned by DCI:

As an occasional member of the VRWC, I can say without equivocation that the DCI & TCS are entirely separate operations. They are also entirely separate from the VLWC (ask Hillary), the Masons and the Illuminati. (If you’ve been to any Illuminati meetings, could you ask them what the significance of 23 is? I understand 42, but how does 23 explain it all. Then again, don’t get them started on number theory. They go on and on…)

Anyway, just wanted to point out that the DCI/TCS conspiracy is entirely separate from the VRWC. They have, as Oberon admitted in the discussion above, been bought and paid for by the One Ring. It’s geek city - their coffee and sandwich meetings, long discussions in Elvish are a huge contrast to the VRWC Christmas bash at the Buckleys in Gstaad.

On the other hand, if you have a problem with Windows XP automatically searching your autoplay media files, the DCI/TCS guys are the ones to call.

Oh, dear, I’m starting to suffer from acronym overload. Time to whip up another batch of plaid martinis. TTFN! And remember, the truth is out there….

Posted by: mary at November 19, 2003 05:50 PM

Martinis? :)

Posted by: d-rod at November 19, 2003 05:58 PM

Browning -- I also supported the war for democracy building and humanitarian reasons, and out of concern that Saadams continued presence would in reality make any progress in the region on the palestine question impossible.

Sometimes it seems like it was a fools errand, but no matter how bad it looks, I can't get too strongly behind an alternative policy that would have allowed Uday Hussein to continue to rape and brand his women.

Tom -- I fully support $87 billion now that we are over there - and in the form of grants rather than loans.

Michael -- I do find some aspects of the "neoconservative" outlook compelling myself (I went to a very interesting conference sponsored by Social Democrats USA last May, featuring Paul Berman and several other really great speakers. You may be interested in this odd group of former socialist party members, they have some good stuff on their website.)

The part of it that I have most trouble with is its hardline "likudnik" stance on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. I have a hunch you may not agree. But I don't think we will have much long-term credibility as advocates of democracy and self-determination in the Middle East unless we can also deliver on a credible, viable Palestinian state. When I say "we", I mean USA. Not now, but in the future, when a credible Palestinian negotiator exists, when everybody's back at Camp David, and when its time to tell Sharon (and his allies in the United States Congress) that he really hasn't offered to dismantle enough settlements yet.

Posted by: markus rose at November 19, 2003 06:08 PM

Markus,

I completely agree that the Palestinians need a viable state, and when terrorism ends and Israel has an honorable negotiating partner, they'd better get it. I agree with you about the settlements, too. I think they should be stopped immedietly, but not uprooted until terrorism has been defeated; otherwise, the Israelis will be surrendering, to a small extent, to jihad. Our safety, as well as their own, depends their resistance to it.

You probably know that Paul Berman is no neoconservative. He is a Bush-hating leftist. But his foreign policy ideas are the same as mine.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 19, 2003 06:34 PM

…martinis. I have to confess, I tried to join the DCI/TCS/One Ring conspiracy, but they wouldn’t let me in because my shell scripts always crash. So I console myself with martinis…

Posted by: mary at November 19, 2003 06:47 PM

Wow! Linking to this thread tonight was like walking into my favourite bar (dim lights, cruisy music, lots of grownups engaged in interesting and challenging conversation) and finding it overun with, well, a bunch of ugly little trolls throwing food, tipping their beers over each other's heads, and throwing up in the corner. You sure hit a nerve with that article Michael.
(By the way, I thought it was factual, beautifully written and provocative. Just the way I like 'em!)

Posted by: suzanne at November 20, 2003 02:36 AM

Michael,

Use the word "schtick" one more time and you will be banned from posting.

Don't you think you're getting carried away with banning words? Would Jadegold still be here if had spent a few moments perusing a thesaurus? What if he had mixed it up with the occassional "facade", "mask" or "cover?" Why do you even care what he thinks? I think you can be too thin-skinned (sensitive? reactive?) sometimes.

There is a place for provocation in argument. It serves a purpose. It reveals where people stand and/or forces people's best arguments. Will it lead to infantile discussions sometimes? Yes, but so what? Most often it will lead to thoughtful argument.

Every true liberal knows that the answer to free speech is more free speech. This is your blog and you have no obligation to let anyone post. But by banning certain words, you ban certain thoughts and betray liberal ideals.

Posted by: HA at November 20, 2003 04:31 AM

HA,

I am sick of reading the same idiot insult over and over and over again by the same troll on my own Web site. If any uninvited person acted that way in my living room I'd kick him out of my house, too. This has nothing to do with free speech whatsoever.

There is a place for provocation in argument, and there is also a place for politeness.

Trolls get kicked out because they corrode the level of discourse, not because they disagree with what I have to say. Some posters have never once managed to agree with me, but still post regularly.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 20, 2003 06:58 AM

I think they should be stopped immedietly, but not uprooted until terrorism has been defeated; otherwise, the Israelis will be surrendering, to a small extent, to jihad.

I think that this is an excellent way to justify the status quo continuing more or less indefinitely.

The only way that Israel will be able to separate out the terrorists from the angry Palestinians is to actually acknowledge and solve some of the Palestinians' grievances. (I tend to talk about what Israel should do, because Israel has the vast majority of the power and organization in the conflict.) By far, the best way to do this is to yank back most of the non-East-Jerusalem settlements and do a handover of power (all the better with NATO involvement in keeping things as clean as possible). There is no centralized Palestinian authority with the power to end terrorist strikes against Israel at this time; if Israel wants to create one, it will have to, well, create one.

The Palestinian people suffer every day under an occupation by a foreign power. That power must grant them their rights as human beings -- not because of the intifada, but because it is the only moral course of action. Israel would not be rewarding jihad. It would be adhering to Western codes of moral conduct. In doing so, it would be taking the only reliable path to long-term peace.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 20, 2003 08:52 AM

Kimmitt,
Your reasoning always starts with poor Palestinians suffering under foreign power. You conveniently omit few facts:
1. There was never an independent palestinian entity
2. The real suffering started because of the intifada(s) bestiality on the side of the poor Palestinians
3. PA has about 50,000 armed army - some of the armament is illegal under the Oslo agreements
4. PA is capable but not willing to stop totally the hostilities
5. PA and Palestinians in general are not that interested in two state solution

And finally I wonder what is this famous Western code of moral conduct - France in Algeria, Belgium in Congo, NATO in Serbia or should I go fartehr back into history of Eurpean conflicts?

Posted by: marek at November 20, 2003 02:26 PM

Michael,

If any uninvited person acted that way in my living room I'd kick him out of my house, too.

I've got news for you. This is your blog, not your house. Yeah, I know you're going for a metaphor here, but you have to admit the metaphor doesn't fit so you must acquit.

Take that Johnny Cochrane.

There is a place for provocation in argument, and there is also a place for politeness

Do you wonder what is behind Jadegold's and burnplant's provocations? I offer two explanations:

1) They're idiots and actually believe you're opinions are "schtick"

2) They want to smear your character and provoke a reaction

Since it should be obvious that your opinions are sincere, I think we can rule out number 1. That leaves number 2. You're getting a small taste of what conservatives have endured for years. The left always resorts to demonization because their arguments fail under scrutiny.

So get used to it. In many ways, you are worse than a conservative in their view. You are an apostate. A heretic (dare I say here-schtick?). You're a marked man. That's what happens to those that don't toe the party line. Just ask Zell Miller.

You can ban the Janegolds and burnplants all you want. But for what purpose? There will be others to take their place. And meanwhile, the Janegolds and burnplants will claim that you banned them because you couldn't handle their criticism. It will prove in their eyes that you were never a true believer. It doesn't matter if they have any merit. You're act of banning makes their argument for them. Maybe that was the whole point of their provocations all along.

Posted by: HA at November 20, 2003 07:16 PM

MArkus said: "Browning -- you may be correct, but doesn't it beg the question of why france didn't try to make a deal with the united states on post-iraq trade in exchange for military support or at least neutrality? "

Can you imagine the implications for France if it where revealed that they where willing to trade thier supposed 'principled objection' to the war in exchange for trade rights in a post-war iraq. They've be exposed to be the whores everyone currently suspects them of being. Additionally, I don't think such a deal would ever be agreed to by the current administration, though I dont know how I would go about proving this last part.

Posted by: semm at November 20, 2003 07:36 PM

You're getting a small taste of what conservatives have endured for years.

Oh, puh-leeeze. Like the left has a monopoly on acting obnoxious. Actualy what bugs me about jmokes like Burnplant is how much they remind me of, say, Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: Browning at November 20, 2003 08:51 PM

HA,

Discussion forums need a moderator or they will degenerate. Most people who post here are sweethearts. Smart, too. (You and I have had our run-ins, but you'll notice I have not banned your IP address as I have some others.)

Trolls do drive people away. There are many fine blogs that I don't comment on because of the other people who do.

I learned that if I ask people to tone down the flaming, nothing happens if I don't kick someone out. Empty threats are...empty.

I don't like babysitting the discussion at all. But I'm the only one who can.

I think the discussion here is better, more civil, and at a higher level than at many other sites. And I will do what I can to keep it that way.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 20, 2003 10:08 PM

Michael,

You and I have had our run-ins, but you'll notice I have not banned your IP address as I have some others.

That is only because I stopped posting. If I had continued to post and expressed what I think, you would have banned me by now. At least that was your threat. You may have achieved what in your view is a more "civil" discussion, but it has come at a price.

It makes you uncomfortable to have people characterized as treasonous. But it is a legitimate point of view whether you agree with it or not. Here is a couple of examples:

http://miller.senate.gov/press/2003/110503memo.html
http://windsofchange.net/archives/004265.html

I've seen many other examples from people whose participation I assume you would welcome. Would you kick off Zell Miller?

In my view, most of the "anti-war" position is not supported by the facts. I don't think there was any choice left but to get rid of Saddam. So I have to wonder what their motivation is. I think their are two camps in the domestic "anti-war" cabal. The first camp is motivated by the fact that they don't believe in what America stands for. This is the ANSWER crowd and their associated useful idiots who tend to hold socialist beliefs. The second camp is partisan Democrats who would rather see us lose the war than see GWB get any credit for it. This is the Terry McAullifie, Howard Dean, Jay Rockeffeler crowd. I think both camps are treasonous and I think it is important that this viewpoint is represented.

I also think it is important that Jadegold's viewpoint is represented. Not because it has merit, but because of what it reveals about them. It is useful to see first hand that there are people out there who would silence you if they could. Since you can't be shouted down on the internet, people like Jadegold are forced to attack your character. Jadegold and his ilk are nothing more than brownshirts and it is useful to know that they are out there.

Now some might say that what I'm saying and what Jadegold are saying are the two sides of the same coin. There are two reasons why my position is differrent. First I can explain my rationale. You can disagree with me, but any honest observer would have to admit that my characterizations are not ad hominem. Second, I want the Jadegold's to continue speaking out. I want the ANSWER crowd to continue speaking out. When they speak out, it enables us to determine what they believe and gauge the level of support they have. That is important to know.

Ever since you threatened to ban me for using the "T" word, I've been thinking about sending you an email to explain why I won't participate if you insist on banning that word. I've kept reading your blog because it is interesting. However, I keep seeing points that are begging to be argued that are left unargued.

So there you have it. I still won't participate if you insist on banning the "T"word. But don't kid yourself that you are merely banning a word. That word is backed by a thought process and viewpoint that can be applied to any number of topics. You are banning that thought and that perspective. They are missing from your blog.

Posted by: HA at November 21, 2003 04:14 AM

Even the Liberal's are all about banning people who say thing they can't refute.

Posted by: Hipocrite at November 21, 2003 05:30 AM

HA and Michael both make excellent points, but in the case of recent bannings I think Michael's right. In spite of the correctness of HA's premises, I can't waste my time reading through trollage. If there come to be 30% morons in a forum, I won't go there anymore. It's as simple and pragmatic as that. HA's right that the answer to free speech is more of it, and we should let the buffoons show themselves, but when the ratio of buffoonery rises too high and stays there, I leave.

We need both open forums and we need high quality forums. If every forum must be open, we will have too few quality forums. So, some forums must be closed.

I hope HA continues to post in this forum. Though I don't have a perfect solution to the disagreement about the T-word, perhaps arguing that one's opponent's views, albeit unknowingly, entail treason would be considered a satisfactory mode of expression to both HA and Michael.

Posted by: Jim at November 21, 2003 09:17 AM

PA is capable but not willing to stop totally the hostilities

This is not a supportable statement, and as long as people continue to view the PA as a state with the kind of powers Israel has, they will not grasp why the Palestinians act as they do.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 21, 2003 10:17 AM

I go to efforts to refute Hipocrite in his comments on my blog before he crossed the line and trolled.

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You didn't refute a singe thing that I wrote - you changed the post at the top to cover-up your bigoted views, then banned me because you didn't like being proved wrong, and then pretended to respond.

Andrew, you are a hack and an asshole. You can't stand being shown facts that contradict your position, so you fled the field ignobly.

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Kimmitt you are an apologist for terrorists.

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