April 08, 2004

"Quagmire" Watch (Updated)

With the fighting heating up in Iraq again, this is a good time to take a fresh look at how often in the past two-and-a-half years the media have shown up as hysterical Chicken Littles.

Unless you enjoy listening to NPR and thinking we're doomed, we're doomed, you really do need to read Mark Steyn's Quagmire Watch.


UPDATE: While we're at it, let's get a little perspective about how nasty a place Iraq could have been had we not showed up in the first place. Here is Christopher Hitchens in the Wall Street Journal.

There must be a temptation, when confronted with the Dantesque scenes from Fallujah, to surrender to something like existential despair. The mob could have cooked and eaten its victims without making things very much worse. One especially appreciated the detail of the heroes who menaced the nurses, when they came to try and remove the charred trophies.

But this "Heart of Darkness" element is part of the case for regime-change to begin with. A few more years of Saddam Hussein, or perhaps the succession of his charming sons Uday and Qusay, and whole swathes of Iraq would have looked like Fallujah. The Baathists, by playing off tribe against tribe, Arab against Kurd and Sunni against Shiite, were preparing the conditions for a Hobbesian state of affairs. Their looting and beggaring of the state and the society--something about which we now possess even more painfully exact information--was having the same effect. A broken and maimed and traumatized Iraq was in our future no matter what.

Obviously, this prospect could never have been faced with equanimity. Iraq is a regional keystone state with vast resources and many common borders. Its implosion would have created a black hole, sucking in rival and neighboring powers, tempting them with opportunist interventions and encouraging them to find ethnic and confessional proxies. And who knows what the death-throes of the regime would have been like? We are entitled, on past experience, to guess. There could have been deliberate conflagrations started in the oilfields. There might have been suicidal lunges into adjacent countries. The place would certainly have become a playground for every kind of nihilist and fundamentalist. The intellectual and professional classes, already gravely attenuated, would have been liquidated entirely.

All of this was, only just, averted. And it would be a Pangloss who said that the dangers have receded even now. But at least the international intervention came before the whole evil script of Saddam's crime family had been allowed to play out. A subsequent international intervention would have been too little and too late, and we would now being holding an inquest into who let this happen--who in other words permitted in Iraq what Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright and Kofi Annan permitted in Rwanda, encouraged by the Elysée.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 02:00 PM
Comments

Pretty thin gruel.

Posted by: praktike at April 8, 2004 02:14 PM

I enjoy listening to NPR and although I don't feel "we're doomed, we're doomed," read this, this and this and say with a straight face that in eighty-two days sovereignty will be turned over to the Iraqis.

As usual Steyn's gassy swagger doesn't jibe with the realities as I hear them from several sources.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 8, 2004 02:21 PM

... and then read this and this.

Posted by: Stu at April 8, 2004 02:31 PM

Randy: say with a straight face that in eighty-two days sovereignty will be turned over to the Iraqis.

I don't know. I hope so.

One nice thing about Iraqi sovereignty is that it will show the true face of the insurgency. It will be more obvious then than it is now that they are fascists, not freedom fighters.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 02:33 PM

Well, hope was the only thing remaining in Pandora's Box after all the evisl in the world were released.

I don't think what's going on now is much to pin one's hopes on.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 8, 2004 02:37 PM

Right on Michael. Remember the Al Qaeda letter intercepted a while back? AQ fears that turning point.

As for the naysayers and doomsayers, you were wrong befor. Extremely wrong. I am not placing my bets on your being right this time.

Posted by: FH at April 8, 2004 02:41 PM

Randy: I don't think what's going on now is much to pin one's hopes on.

Wait 2 weeks and take another look. I'll bet it looks better then than it does now. This is probably the insurgency's high water mark. They're giving it everything they have all at once. They're out in the open now, where they will be easily killed. Then they will be out of the way.

We're talking about a violent minority here that is trying to seize power. If they were the majority, there would be no reason for violence. They would simply be swept into power through elections.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 02:42 PM

Michael: "One nice thing about Iraqi sovereignty is that it will show the true face of the insurgency. It will be more obvious then than it is now that they are fascists, not freedom fighters."

Michael, you're alarming me with how out of touch you are with this. These are not ex-Baathists fighting to restore fascism, these are the guys the Baathists were gassing and killing. These are the guys who danced in the street when the coalition forces rolled in. These are the guys demanding democracy now and an end to occupation.

The best hope is that the masses sitting on the fence don't get encouraged by coaltion losses so far and grab their guns as well. Because if that happens, a lot of people are going to die.

Posted by: Stu at April 8, 2004 02:43 PM

Michael: "We're talking about a violent minority here that is trying to seize power. If they were the majority, there would be no reason for violence. They would simply be swept into power through elections."

From the Australian News:

Thousands of Sunni and Shiite Muslims forced their way through US military checkpoints Thursday to ferry food and medical supplies to the besieged Sunni bastion of Fallujah where US marines are trying to crush insurgents.

Troops in armoured vehicles tried to stop the convoy of cars and pedestrians from reaching the town located 50 kilometers west of Baghdad.

But US forces were overwhelmed as residents of villages west of the capital came to the convoy's assistance, hurling insults and stones at the beleaguered troops.

Some 20 kilometers west of Baghdad, a US patrol was attacked just moments before the Iraqi marchers arrived. Armed insurgents could be seen dancing around two blazing military vehicles.

Note that these were thousands of Sunni AND Shiites.

Posted by: Stu at April 8, 2004 02:50 PM

Stu: These are the guys demanding democracy now and an end to occupation.

What? No. They are fighting for an Islamist state or a Baathist state (depending on who we're talking about), not a democracy. And they are scaring the hell out of the rest of the country.

Those who want democracy are working with us, not killing people.

Here is what Salam Pax says, an Iraqi blogging from Baghdad.

Remember the days when every time you hear an Iraqi talk on TV you had to remember that they are talking with a Mukhabarat minder looking at them noting every word? We are back to that place. You have to be careful about what you say about al-Sadir. Their hands reach every where and you don't want to be on their shit list. Every body, even the GC is very careful how they formulate their sentences and how they describe Sadir's Militias. They are thugs, thugs thugs.

Here is what Zeyad says, also an Iraqi blogging from Baghdad:

I was standing outside with neighbours yesterday afternoon gossiping when a car drove by, threw a couple of fliers at us, shouting "read them, may Allah increase your reward". The fliers were signed by a group which called itself Saif Allah Albattar (Allah's striking sword) at Ramadi, Fallujah, Adhamiya, and Diyala, which advised Iraqis to remain home on April 9th (the anniversary of the occupation), stating that they would not be responsible if anyone failed to do so. Someone else talked about another group called the Iraqi Islamic Army (groups like these seem to pop up every other day) which claimed its responsibility for the killings of the 4 Americans in Fallujah last week, decribing them as 'Jews'. No one knows where it is all heading. If this uprising is not crushed immediately and those
militia not captured then there is no hope at all. If you even consider negotiations or appeasement, then we are all doomed.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 02:54 PM

One nice thing about Iraqi sovereignty is that it will show the true face of the insurgency. It will be more obvious then than it is now that they are fascists, not freedom fighters.

I agree with Stu. I can't relate your analysis to what I see reported, either in terms of the reality of what will occur on June 30, or in terms of the nature of the hostility towards the American occupation.

Like the Administration, you appear to have replaced analysis with wishful thinking.

Hope, as they say, is not a strategy.

Posted by: Mork at April 8, 2004 02:56 PM

I don't get you guys. If you think the insurgency wants an end to occupation, why aren't they just waiting until we hand over sovereignty in a few months?

What on earth makes you think these are freedom fighters? All reporting points to Baathists and Shi'ite Islamists.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 03:04 PM
From Riverbend:
This is crazy. This is supposed to be punishment for violence but it's only going to result in more bloodshed on both sides… people are outraged everywhere- Sunnis and Shi'a alike. This constant bombing is only going to make things worse for everyone. Why do Americans think that people in Baghdad or the south or north aren’t going care what happens in Falloojeh or Ramadi or Nassriyah or Najaf? Would Americans in New York disregard bombing and killing in California?
And now Muqtada Al-Sadr's people are also fighting it out in parts of Baghdad and the south. If the situation weren't so frightening, it would almost be amusing to see Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom describe Al-Sadr as an 'extremist' and a 'threat'. Muqtada Al-Sadr is no better and no worse than several extremists we have sitting on the Governing Council. He's just as willing to ingratiate himself to Bremer as Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom. The only difference is that he wasn't given the opportunity, so now he's a revolutionary. Apparently, someone didn't give Bremer the memo about how when you pander to one extremist, you have to pander to them all. Hearing Abdul Aziz Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom claim that Al-Sadr is a threat to security and stability brings about visions of the teapot and the kettle…

And democracy ... let's see, what was the event that sparked this event (discounting, of course, the assassination in the occupied terroritories a few weeks ago that I predicted would cause this current mess)? The coalition shutting down a newspaper because they didn't like what was being printed.

Posted by: Stu at April 8, 2004 03:13 PM

I am worried about the current situation--it seems to be a turning point. But I'm less worried than I would have been 2 years ago or so because every time the media has gotten me really worried about Afghanistan or Iraq they've been wrong. So I've become very skeptical of quagmire reports in the mainstream media. Hopefully the stopped clock won't be right this time.

Posted by: Lily at April 8, 2004 03:27 PM

The coalition shutting down a newspaper because they didn't like what was being printed.

So, you think that the story of how the newspaper was inciting to violence was false? Or if you think it is true, do you think incitement to violence should be made legal in Canada and the U.S., as well as in Iraq?

Posted by: Jim at April 8, 2004 03:29 PM

Riverbend: Would Americans in New York disregard bombing and killing in California?

Well, it depends on who is being killed and why. If Pat Robertson had an army of crazed Christians taking over police stations with AK-47s, I would want them taken out pronto.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 03:31 PM

Jeez, Michael, stop putting the term "freedom fighters" in our mouths. I've never called them anything but insurgents.

Here's a couple Iraqi blog posts that I think are relevant. From Salam Pax last year:
On BBC we are watching scenes of Iraqis surrendering. My youngest cousin was muttering “what shame” to himself, yes it is better for them to do that but still seeing them carrying that white flag makes something deep inside you cringe.
And from Riverbend last year when a neighbour's house was raided by US forces:
Abu A. was out next. He stood tall and erect, looking around him in anger. His voice resonated in the street, above all the other sounds. He was barking out questions- demanding answers from the troops, and the bystanders. His oldest son A. followed behind with some more escorts. The last family member out of the house was Reem, A.'s wife of only 4 months. She was being led firmly out into the street by two troops, one gripping each thin arm.
I'll never forget that scene. She stood, 22 years old, shivering in the warm, black night. The sleeveless nightgown that hung just below her knees exposed trembling limbs- you got the sense that the troops were holding her by the arms because if they let go for just a moment, she would fall senseless to the ground. I couldn't see her face because her head was bent and her hair fell down around it. It was the first time I had seen her hair… under normal circumstances, she wore a hijab.
That moment I wanted to cry… to scream… to throw something at the chaos down the street. I could feel Reem's humiliation as she stood there, head hanging with shame- exposed to the world, in the middle of the night.
One of the neighbors, closer to the scene, moved forward timidly and tried to communicate with one of the soldiers. The soldier immediately pointed his gun at the man and yelled at him to keep back. The man held up an 'abaya', a black cloak-like garment some females choose to wear, and pointed at the shivering girl. The soldier nodded curtly and told him to, "Move back!". "Please," came the tentative reply, "Cover her…" He gently put the abaya on the ground and went back to stand at his gate. The soldier looking unsure, walked over, picked it up and awkwardly put it on the girl's shoulders.

These are people, Michael. They've been through a year of hell, they STILL have intermittent electricity, everyone knows someone who has been kidnapped, robbed, raped, killed, or detained by the occupation. There have been over 1,000 assassinations in the past year. 10,000 civilians have died at the hands of the invading forces. Adjusted for population, thats over 70 times the emotional impact of 9/11 on the US. Everyone's tired, scared, sick of crime, sick of being managed by an occupying force, and they're starting to lash out. And even though they were living under a brutal dictator, they still have national pride, as one of the best educated and most secular of Islamic societies. And armed troops shooting up mosques or stamping through them in combat boots, tying up parents in front of their kids during raids (or tying up the kids too, which happens), or killing friends or family by accident at roadblocks has probably finally taken it's toll on that national pride.

I hope that calmer heads can prevail because, believe me, I don't want a bloodbath on either side here.

Posted by: Stu at April 8, 2004 03:35 PM

Stu,

What do you suggest we do differently? Prolong the occupation by not handing over sovereignty? Let the insurgents take over and terrorize neighborhoods? Put al-Sadr in power instead of in prison? Let mobs rule Fallujah?

I don't see any viable option other than crushing the insurgency as quickly and cleanly as possible.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 03:44 PM

Jim: "So, you think that the story of how the newspaper was inciting to violence was false?"

No, I believe that he was being intentionally provocative, as he's been losing influence in the last few months. I also think if he'd been ignored, then he wouldn't have have developed the number of supporters he now has. People are looking for an icon, for something to focus their anger through. Now that he's it, he'll probably continue to get additional supporters because he looks like he's the most radical opposition to the occupation forces.

If this insurrection continues, look for Sistani to start taking sides agaianst the occupation forces to draw supporters away from Muqtada.

Posted by: Stu at April 8, 2004 03:54 PM

...as quickly and cleanly as possible.

The possible won't be quick or clean enough. We're most likely in a no-win situation: we either let the guerillas take over, or we use such crushing force that it's tantamount to refighting the invasion. The first is defeat, the second is self-defeating.

The worst sign is that thousands of Sunnis and Shia noncombatants are daring the roadblocks to resupply the rebels. We simply don't have the force in place to deal with massive civil resistance.

Michael, if someone were to prove to your satisfaction that a majority of Iraqis wanted us out, how would you respond? Stay until they change their minds?

Posted by: Mithras at April 8, 2004 03:59 PM

Mithras: Michael, if someone were to prove to your satisfaction that a majority of Iraqis wanted us out, how would you respond? Stay until they change their minds?

No, I would not want to stay until they changed their minds. Iraqis are scheduled to run their own country in three months, which is exactly what I hope is still in the cards. This insurgency has nothing to do with sovreignty versus occupation. June 30 is the proof of that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 04:11 PM

Michael: "What do you suggest we do differently? Prolong the occupation by not handing over sovereignty? Let the insurgents take over and terrorize neighborhoods? Put al-Sadr in power instead of in prison? Let mobs rule Fallujah?"

How about not invading Iraq? Wait, too late.

I have no idea what I would do at this point if I were Bremer. Violently crushing the revolt is probably going to make matters worse.

Posted by: Stu at April 8, 2004 04:17 PM

Michael: "Iraqis are scheduled to run their own country in three months, which is exactly what I hope is still in the cards."

And if they want to elect an Iranian-style government hostile to both the US and Israel?

Posted by: Stu at April 8, 2004 04:22 PM

Stu: Violently crushing the revolt is probably going to make matters worse.

It's either that or let the insurgents violently seize power and enslave the rest of the country. That's what would make matters worse. That would be the worst possible outcome of all.

There was no way someone in Iraq wasn't going to try this at some point. Saddam kept a lid on all of Iraq's factions. We blew the lid off. Now the factions are coming out of the woodwork. And some of them are violent. This was all quite predictable. The fact that these factions are military incompetent is also predictable.

The only question at this point is who most Iraqis will sympathize with. The insurgents? Or the new Iraqi government? We will remain to protect that new government, but we are not going to annex or administer that country as if it were a colony.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 04:26 PM

Stu: And if they want to elect an Iranian-style government hostile to both the US and Israel?

Every poll I have seen says only 20 percent of Iraqis want an Islamic state.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 04:28 PM

One thing I will say: the Iranians were stupid to make their move now. They may have felt that now was the time because of what happened in Fallujah, hoping to overwhelm us (or at least give the appearance of doing so)... but it would have been so much more difficult for us had they waited six months or so.

Posted by: jaed at April 8, 2004 04:38 PM

I wouldn't quit Burgerville quite yet.

Posted by: Toffy at April 8, 2004 04:43 PM

To everyone: Don't think of them as resistance fighters. Think of them as the Iraqi Mafia. Each "tribe" or group, the "Bathists", the "Shia" represents a different family. For a long time the Bathist family, under Don Saddam, was in charge. When the cops came in and busted him, the other families, and the Bathist family, layed low. They took the occasional pot shot, and the Bathist family did this the most, because the cops were gunning for them. Well, now the other families are openly defying the cops. And they will be destroyed as well.

You worry about the "Sunnis" and "Shia" working together. And well you should, it will make them more deadly. But you fail to understand WHY they are working together. They are working together because the families fear US more than they fear each other. The US is empowering the millions of Iraqis who don't play these games, who don't grab guns and go out and terrorize their neighbors. When we are done Iraq will have police and civil institutions that will defend the ordinary Iraqis from the Iraqi Mafia. THAT is what they fear. That is what they fear above all else. The families hate each others guts, but they agree on one thing: The US poses a existential danger to them that trumps all else. They know our sucess means their ultimate destruction. Hence they will stop at nothing to kick us out. And hence nothing must stop us from transfering power on June 30th. Nothing is more dangerous to their cause. Not 100,000 more US troops. Not 1000 MOABS dropped all over Iraq. Empowering Iraqis is the key to our victory. Retreat now, and not only are our deaths in vain, but you condemn Iraq to become the Afganistan of the Middle East.

Posted by: FH at April 8, 2004 04:44 PM

This is a time for patience and fortitude. Those who WANT everything to go badly are naturally pushing the panic-button and hoping they can buffalo anyone they can.

Posted by: miklos rosza at April 8, 2004 05:03 PM

Those who WANT everything to go badly are naturally pushing the panic-button and hoping they can buffalo anyone they can.

Holy crap. How can anyone have a conversation when the atmosphere is as poisoned as this?

Posted by: Mithras at April 8, 2004 05:20 PM

And if the three Japanese captives are burned alive as threatened, what then? What does it take for some people to realize the depravity of our enemy and admit that this is war?

And it's not going away.

What else will it take, after Madrid and Spain, etc etc? At a certain point, the constant petty carping becomes, to closely paraphrase Orwell, objectively pro-fascist.

One does, eventually, have to choose one's side.

Posted by: miklos rosza at April 8, 2004 05:25 PM

Wait 2 weeks and take another look. I'll bet it looks better then than it does now. This is probably the insurgency's high water mark. They're giving it everything they have all at once. They're out in the open now, where they will be easily killed. Then they will be out of the way.

Geez Michael, it's nearly a year after "Mission Accomplished" and I think that making any wagers on Iraq these days is a fool's errand.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 8, 2004 05:47 PM

Here is a poll everyone should read:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/15_03_04_iraqsurvey.pdf

Things are far from perfect, but they aren't falling apart, not yet.

Posted by: FH at April 8, 2004 06:11 PM

You Leftists are doing what you do best--running scared. There is basically zero chance that we can be defeated militarily, but a fairly substantial possibility that you'll turn this battle into a route nonetheless. You are almost as dangerous to this country as the jihadists are. So why does it surprise you that we consider you a 5th column?

Posted by: David at April 8, 2004 06:32 PM

It's way too soon to give up, and it's too soon to make a judgement about the extent of popular support for Iraqi insurgents. What's happening now may be indicative of a widespread popular uprising, or instead those rushing to support the insurgents might be the sum total of thugs banding together in common interest. Let's wait and see, and pray for the best.

Mithras, Right now I'm willing to wait and see what the exact nature of this "noncombatant support" is. I'm not quite ready to drink your poison.

Posted by: bk at April 8, 2004 06:36 PM

David: So why does it surprise you that we consider you a 5th column?

A fifth column is a group of enemies rather than a group of allies who advocate a softer line against a common enemy.

An American fifth column would wage a war of sabotage against military installations inside the United States.

Save that kind of rhetoric for those who earn it. Otherwise you're crying Wolf.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 06:50 PM

David: You Leftists are doing what you do best--running scared. There is basically zero chance that we can be defeated militarily, but a fairly substantial possibility that you'll turn this battle into a route nonetheless.

I do agree with that. My biggest worry right now is that we'll run away and Iraq will turn into the black hole that Christopher Hitchens described.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 06:52 PM

Michael,

I sure as hell don't agree that leftists are good at running scared.

I also don't agree that having doubts about the way this has been handled makes those who have legitimate doubts and concerns a "fifth column" and I'm glad you don't either.

I can't help but believe, however, that retired General Shinseki is getting a bitter and disconcerting last laugh.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 8, 2004 07:02 PM

The only question at this point is who most Iraqis will sympathize with. The insurgents? Or the new Iraqi government?

Judging from these pictures, they're siding with the insurgents.

Pull your head out of the sand and take a look, Michael. Then tell me how you think we got to this point.

Posted by: Swopa at April 8, 2004 07:07 PM

David,

If you feel a need to call people cowards, consider doing so to their face, unless of course, well, you know . . .

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 8, 2004 07:09 PM

FH, thanks for the poll link. I'd read the news blurbs about it, but reading it all is instructive.

Basically, Iraq is healthy, with a small minority of nut jobs. Y'all cut the doom and gloom. The nuts are going to get their shells cracked, and how. Five years from now, Iraq will be visited by businessmen and archaeological tour groups. Iraq will be an ally in the WoT by then.

Only 39% of Iraqis thought the invasion of Iraq was wrong. What percentage of the Democratic Party did? The Iraqi nutjobs and the American left say, "No! No! No!" while the majority of Iraqis and Americans build liberal democracies, constantly hammered by yammering and bullets.

78% of Iraqis say attacks on the coalition are unacceptable.

Posted by: Jim at April 8, 2004 07:10 PM

Thanks, Swopa. Having read the NYT and seen a photo of Falluja, I now see that the Iraqis are in overwhelming majority against the U.S. and on the side of the fascists. The NYT and the photo provide irrefutable proof. I withdraw my earlier statement.

Posted by: Jim at April 8, 2004 07:20 PM

This whole "sovereignty" thing is a sick joke. Anybody who knows the reality of how the U.S. government conducts foreign policy knows that the sovereignty of any country we become entangled with depends on whether or not that country runs things the way we want them to. I think this June 30 thing is probably just a diversionary tactic being used by the administration, perhaps to be followed by an extension or extensions until after the election. But even if power is handed over on June 30 or after, it's going to be conditional.

Posted by: flipster at April 8, 2004 07:39 PM

Swopa,

Most of those people in your photos appear to be non-violent. If they're pissed at us, fine. We will be out of their way soon enough if we don't get bogged down too long in battles with the armed Religious Right.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 07:43 PM

Flipster: But even if power is handed over on June 30 or after, it's going to be conditional.

If you mean that we won't shore up a hostile government, then yes I agree. And that's exactly as it should be. If the new Iraqi government decides to sponsor terrorism, we will take it out. Do you have a problem with that?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 07:47 PM

There is not a chance the US will loose this battle. What you see in Iraq is a radical minority terrorizing the silent moderate majority. In 1917 Russia, no more than a few thousand well organised, radical bolsheviks took over a whole country. The US cannot and will not allow this to happen. The US will not loose control of Iraq. This would be worse than Vietnam or Somalia or Lebanon. It would validate Bin-Laden's claims of American cowardice, will create yet another enemy state and will really destabilize the whole region while creating a base for terrorists to attack us from. This will never happen, not matter how many casualties will be on both sides. As for the people citing news outlets like NYT, al-Reuters, CNN, AFP - this is naivete at its worst. You all know very well what their agenda is. Go read the blogs from Iraq and avoid Al-Jazeera and its US counterparts. In the end, Iraqis moderates will come along and the radicals will be killed. The only real force which can defeat us is our own leftist and politically motivated media and the left radicals disposed to run scared and hide under the bed when the going gets tough. We are in a war against the islamo-fascists and we will win if we can fight the leftist defeatist assaults.

Posted by: Steve Niles at April 8, 2004 07:50 PM

What I want to know, from those of you who are arguing with me, is what you think we ought to do about this situation.

I've heard an awful lot of negativity and complaints from those who oppose this war. Fine, oppose it. But do you have some constructive criticism? I'll listen to anything that isn't of two kinds:

1) Running away from Iraq (and that includes putting the UN in charge instead of us) is not acceptable.

2) Bringing the Baathist and Sadr fascists into the Iraqi government is similarly not acceptable. That would encourage every other nutjob faction with a grievance to start killing people to get THEIR place at the table.

So what do we do? The opposition needs to have some constructive ideas. Either Bush or Kerry could be president next year. So both sides need to have some solid specific ideas about where we should go from here. Saying "bring in more allies" isn't good enough. It begs the question. Bring in more allies to do what, exactly? (And remember, Iraqis should be running their own government by then anyway. Unless you think we should prolong the occupation.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 08:03 PM

From Zeyad's blog:

What troubles me is that the whole situation has so many parallels with the uprising against the British in 1920 (Thawrat Al-Ishrin). History repeating itself, it troubles me because that would mean that Iraqis have not matured as a people for the last hundred years. That one was sparked by the arrest of a prominent tribal sheikh by the British and then all hell broke loose. Shi'ite Ayatollahs and Sunni Imams called for Jihad and several cities in the south were 'liberated'. It lasted for a few months and resulted in 2000 British killed and thousands more Iraqis dead. After the revolt was crushed, and King Faisal installed as monarch of Iraq, there were supposed to be elections for a National Assembly (sounds familiar?) to write a constitution. Of course, the Hawza issued fatwas for Iraqis to boycott the polls. Abdul Mohsen Al-Sa'dun, prime minister at the time, responded by arresting all the Ayatollahs and exiling them to Iran on the grounds that they were Iranian citizens and had no right to interfere with Iraqi matters (Iraqis were tough back then). Public outrage followed this in most Iraqi cities but the government stood firm against it, so in the end Iraqis went about their business. After a few months, the exiled Ayatollahs pleaded the Iraqi government to return to Iraq (because they were not up to the competition with the other Ayatollahs in Iran) and that they would keep out of politics from now on, the Iraqi government welcomed them back, and that was that. The Hawza kept out of politics, until the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Al-Khomeini came to Najaf in the sixties and started poisoning the minds of the Iraqi Shia clergy. But that is a long story which I may write about in another blog since it is relevant to the current events in Iraq.

Posted by: Steve Niles at April 8, 2004 08:19 PM

Michael, I'm not even talking about terrorism here. Was Aristide sponsoring terrorism? Is Hugo Chavez sponsoring terrorism? We know the Saudis are sponsoring terrorism. We know that 15 of the 19 9/11 highjackers were Saudis. So naturally we invaded Iraq. Makes perfect sense. No clear battle plan, no clear post-war exit strategy, just blow the place up and stand proudly as all the widows, orphans and amputees drop to their knees to kiss our boots for taking out Saddam. It'd make a great plot for a classic war movie, wouldn't it? Only problem is it ain't a movie; It's real life. Real blood, real dead bodies (648 Americans last I saw) and more ammunition for Al-Quaeda to use for recruitment. I think that if this administration deliberately set out to make the entire world hate our guts, they couldn't have done a better job at it than they have.

Posted by: flipster at April 8, 2004 08:26 PM

Flipster: I think that if this administration deliberately set out to make the entire world hate our guts, they couldn't have done a better job at it than they have.

How about an invasion of Canada to seize the Alberta oil fields?

You'd think from the more hysterical anti-war polemics that we did just that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2004 08:30 PM

Flipster
We can’t punish Saudi Arabia without pulling out our troops. We couldn’t do that with Saddam in power. When Iraq is stable we can start to deal with the Saudis. Your take on the war on terrorism is far to linear. I know I’ve oversimplified the situation but it’s late and I don’t have time to write an adequate response. Besides, when I have written longer responses all too often most of it is ignored and instead a response is fixated on just one point. That or I get home too late to really participate. But I’ll just start here and see what happens.

Michael
I think too many doomsayers aren’t really interested in an alternative plan. There like Nelson on The Simpsons. They just like saying “ha ha.” I wonder what they would be saying during the Battle of the Bulge or in 1864. There is nothing certain in life but I agree that we will have a better understanding of what is going on in two or three weeks. What I find even more surprising is the incredible lack of patience. “It has been a whole year” should actually be phrased “it’s only been a year.” Iraq has been compared in size to California. I live there. It’s in a mess. At best it will take years to get out of it, yet it is no way comparable to the state of Iraq. Yet, so many are angered that Iraq isn’t fixed after a year. I find that very naive.

Posted by: Paul Young at April 8, 2004 10:32 PM

"Holy crap. How can anyone have a conversation when the atmosphere is as poisoned as this?"

Gee whiz, Mithras. You've just described the working relationship of the parties in the U.S. government over the last three years. Very good question.

I'm with Michael on this one. Has there ever been a constructive criticism from the left on this?

The U.N. is not an option. They are held in lower regard than Saddam's memory, and rightfully so.

The success of a democratic Iraq is predicated on the end of tribal or theocratic coercion of peace-seeking majorities. We have driven one such group out of the woodwork, now we can kill it.

That al Sadr is enmeshed with the mullahs makes it even better.

Two weeks seems a little pessimistic to me. Folks like flip and swopa will be looking for other show-stoppers to stand behind before then, I think.

It's almost sandstorm season. They can run with that line again.

Posted by: TmjUtah at April 8, 2004 10:44 PM

Paul Young: “It has been a whole year” should actually be phrased “it’s only been a year.” Exactly right. And Randy Paul's "Geez Michael, it's nearly a year after "Mission Accomplished", is considered by most "educated" Leftys to be trenchant argumentation. It's in fact ignorance on display. In the European Theater of Operations "Mission Accomplished" was uttered thousands of times before V-E Day. Same for the Pacific and V-J Day. (Example: A flier tasked to overfly enemy positions. When he returns and reports has accomplished his mission.) A great many Leftys simply do not know, nor they know people who know, the differences among mission, battle, skirmish, campaign, etc. That sort of ignorance explains some things. But on that carrier Bush spoke of no end to hostilities. He warned that great danger and further sacrifice lay ahead. Those who pretend otherwise do so willfully, not from ignorance and mark themselves as fundamentally unserious.

Posted by: StephenM at April 8, 2004 11:36 PM

And Randy Paul's "Geez Michael, it's nearly a year after "Mission Accomplished", is considered by most "educated" Leftys to be trenchant argumentation. It's in fact ignorance on display. In the European Theater of Operations "Mission Accomplished" was uttered thousands of times before V-E Day.

How many times did they announce "the end of major combat operations" before VE day with FDR landing in a plane on an aircraft carrier? I wasn't talking about a mission, I was talking about the president's flashy, and expensive photo op on the aircraft carrier on May 1, 2003. The only "ignorance on display" appears to be yours. I guess you don't do nuance either . . .

1) Running away from Iraq (and that includes putting the UN in charge instead of us) is not acceptable.

Oh really? Please don't take my word for it:

In a morning meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Bremer warned the Iraqi leaders that they risked isolating themselves and their country if they continued to snub the United Nations. According to Iraqi and American officials, Mr. Bremer pointedly warned them of a "confrontation" with the United States if the Iraqis failed to invite the organization back. Mr. Bremer left the room, the officials said, and when he returned four hours later, the Iraqi leaders had drafted a letter inviting the United Nations to Iraq. It asked for advice on how to set up a government in time to accept sovereignty and, after that, how to stage early nationwide elections. [my emphasis]
Posted by: Randy Paul at April 9, 2004 06:36 AM

Instapundit quote's V Postrel as putting it best, and I agree:

I have the same problem blogging on this topic that I do blogging on every little twitch in the economic statistics: It's too hard to separate the transient noise from the long-run trend, and the long run is what matters. Things are bad in Iraq right now, but is this a last-gasp effort by our enemies, the beginning of a quagmire, or, most likely, something in between whose conclusion depends largely on our response? Rushing to judgment, especially from afar, is a prescription for foolish conclusions and bad policies.

Posted by: bk at April 9, 2004 07:05 AM

This is Tet all over again. Our military is on the verge of victory while the Leftist defeatists are lying through their teeth.

History repeats.

Posted by: Ex at April 9, 2004 07:16 AM

If you feel a need to call people cowards, consider doing so to their face, unless of course, well, you know . .

Randy,

it's kind of hard to do that on a weblog. Though I doubt if were we all sitting around a table together it would change a thing. Regardless, I don't single people out for insults, but rather I allow people to wear the shoe if it fits.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 07:56 AM

An American fifth column would wage a war of sabotage against military installations inside the United States.

The only difference between your definition of a 5th column and mine is that yours knowingly and purposely sabotage our country, and mine do so unwittingly. The results are the same.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 08:00 AM

David,

You know how to contact me.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 9, 2004 08:09 AM

Randy,

will you fly all the way out to Austin? I doubt it, so stfu and quit your childish posturing.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 08:13 AM

Actually I'm going to be in Austin in August. Maybe you should stop the name calling if you can't back up the swagger.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 9, 2004 08:16 AM

Lemme see:

-10,000 body bags if we attack the Iraqis in Kuwait

-The first scud attack on Israel will cause them to retaliate, causing the coalition to fall apart

-The sands of the desert will render our equipment useless

-Soldiers cannot fight in the desert heat wearing MOPPS suits (or NOT wearing them).

-Perez Musharaf won't be able to remain in power if he agrees to aid the US against the Taliban.

-Attacking the Taliban will inflame the "Arab street".

-Afghanistan is the "Graveyard of Empires".

-The aforementioned "brutal Afghan winter™"

-We cannot "go it alone" ("alone" now meaning any number less than 30)

-We're advancing too fast and outrunning our supplies

-We're moving too slow because of the brutal sandstorms

-Baghdad will be "our Stalingrad"

-We'll never find Hussein.

I combined all the punditry predictions from GWI and II and the Afghan campaign.

Feel free to add any I missed.

Posted by: TomB at April 9, 2004 08:18 AM

Randy,

I haven't even started calling you names yet. But for the record, what exactly did I call you? I think we'll soon establish that it is you with the swagger, not me.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 08:22 AM
Anybody who knows the reality of how the U.S. government conducts foreign policy knows that the sovereignty of any country we become entangled with depends on whether or not that country runs things the way we want them to.

I guess that explains why Germany has been such a staunch ally throughout the Iraq situation.

Posted by: TomB at April 9, 2004 08:33 AM

You Leftists are doing what you do best--running scared.

. . .So why does it surprise you that we consider you a 5th column?

You've called me and those who share my point of view cowards and traitors. I don't recall surrendering my right to dissent and disagree with the way things are being handled and I don't see how in a democracy that makes me or anyone else a traitor who has not turned against his counry. I have never called those who disagree with my point of view cowards and traitors. Perhaps you can afford us the same courtesy and stop with the ad hominem comments.

I opposed the war, but I understand that we cannot simply run off, which is why I find the June 30 sovereignty date to be motivated more by political expediency than the facts on the ground. You debase your arguments when you accuse others of cowardice and treason simply because they dare to criticize the rosy picture being painted by the White House.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 9, 2004 08:38 AM

Oh, I see Randy. You have a right to "dissent", but I don't have a right to call you on it. Stfu you fool.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 08:41 AM

You have a right to criticize me on it, but your name calling reveals more about you perhaps than you would care to admit.

I don't have a problem with criticism. I don't have a problem with people engaging me on issues. Name calling, however, is puerile.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 9, 2004 08:49 AM

Randy,

I wasn't engaging you on anything. I didn't even know you existed. Like I said, I don't tend to direct my ire at individuals. That's why I can call "Leftists" a fifth column and not personally insult someone, unless they CHOOSE to make it personal. In your swagger, you have made that choice apparently. Therefore, I can't help you, because I also have a right to speak my mind.

Now put it away, zip it back up, and take a few deep breathes.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 08:59 AM

Knock if off, David. Randy is right. You've lumped him in with John Walker Lindh. He has a right to take offense.

I've never met Randy, but I read his blog, occasionally link to it, and he and I have engaging discussions. I think of him as a friend. I wouldn't if I thought he was a traitor.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 9, 2004 09:24 AM

Michael,

Nobody, be it Randy nor myself, has a right NOT to be offended.

Your blog, your rules though.

But next time I'M offended by comments someone makes about conservative christians I'll be sure to let you know (or does that rule only apply to your "friends".)

In fact, on a prior thread there IS indeed such a comment. But like the good conservative that I am, I allow people their speech.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 09:34 AM

David,

I appreciate all the comments in here except for those who are on a very short list and those I've had to kick out. What I don't want to happen is for some commenters to drive out others, which has happened.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 9, 2004 09:40 AM

Michael,

you need to apply some distinctions between people who are reasonably justified in leaving, and others who are unreasonably thin-skinned and who would force you to crack down on speech just because you want to keep them. It's a balancing act, and I think by taking Randy's side you're making the wrong call.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 09:45 AM

David,

It strikes me that Michael is simply asking you to try a little harder to avoid inflammatory blanket statements.

If you really aren't trying to de-legitimatize the views of all iraq-war critics by suggesting that they are all loony leftist traitors, I'd think you'd WANT to do that. Try harder, I mean. At least if you really want any pretense of a dialogue instead of an echo chamber. Do you come here to exchange ideas or to preach to the converted and cast out the infidels?

You said: you need to apply some distinctions between people who are reasonably justified in leaving, and others who are unreasonably thin-skinned

I think Michael is concerned that the blog comments not become dominated by the thick-skinned. Like you said, it's his blog. So he gets to be arbiter of what type of thin-skinnedness is reasonable and which is not. Clearly he thinks that Randy's "thin-skinnedness" is reasonable. You don't, but it's not your call.

Posted by: bk at April 9, 2004 10:16 AM

bk,

It's truly amazing how fragile this thing we call free speech is. Really, I'm amazed. That a "blanket statment" would come under possible censorship is dissapointing.

Personal attacks, slander, lies are one thing, because they are destructive of individuals. "blanket statements" merely offend, and perhaps force people to look inside themselves (something I'd like them to do). If the shoe fits, they get offended. I say good. If the shoe doesn't fit, my post goes unnoticed.

But you're right. It's easy to turn this into an echo chamber, and I'll admit guilty at times in that regard. My blood does boil at the folly I see out there. But I think it's legit to make "blanket statements" as you call them. If you want distinctions, I'm always happy to provide them on request.

And I honestly believe most of the "offense" taken is contrived because I never single out individuals for attack.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 10:33 AM

flipster -

"This whole "sovereignty" thing is a sick joke. Anybody who knows the reality of how the U.S. government conducts foreign policy knows that the sovereignty of any country we become entangled with depends on whether or not that country runs things the way we want them to."

So it's unreasonable for us to demand that a nation we freed from a regime like Hussein's not just adopt another dictatorship that would pose the same threats regionally and internationally as the one we removed? Flip's position is precisely why a lot of people like me think the Left incapable of effectively responding to the threat we face.

We can't go to war with the people who attacked us because war is bad, and france thinks we are mean.

We are imperialist to even suggest that our form of government should be suggested as an alternative for a dictatorial or theocratic regime.

So what is the option? MJT asked earlier, too. What is the workable alternative?

Midnight basketball for troubled Islamic youth?

The prime reason we are targetting June 30th is precisely because we wish to avoid establishing a protectorate, or even the appearance of such. Granted, the surviving Islamisofascists will declare whatever non-terror supporting government that results as exactly that - a puppet of the U.S. - along with the Berkeley city council and John F. Kerry, but the reality will eventually stand. We want to stop people from killing us. Instead of killing ALL possible sources of terror, we are reforming them to remove the supply. We are in a race against the employment of weapons by our enemy that will remove this option from our strategy.

We don't want a puppet government. We want a functioning Iraqi democracy. The longer we prevent the Iraqis from conducting their own affairs the worse will be the pride deficit among the population. They are tribal. They are largely ignorant of the niceties of representative government. The faster they become responsible for making all things work for themselves, the better for us. No Kosovo endgame. No years - long occupation. I believe the Iraqis fear their own domestic dead -enders, the Iranians, and us, in that order, as far as long term political problems.

The Iranians know that if Iraq functions as a representative democracy, they can start shipping their furniture and money to Switzerland (if Arafat's cronies haven't bought up all the good locations) because they know they will be next.

Posted by: TmjUtah at April 9, 2004 10:55 AM

For everyone's amusement, here is a letter from a reader to Andrew Sullivan.

I am a 49 year old professional classical musician and educator and not a democrat. Your quote today from Margot Mifflin of Salon in her 'therapy' session perfectly describes the reaction I have stirred up in a new girlfriend. Like many musicians, she is zealously left-liberal. Her heroes are Ted Kennedy and Hillary. (not Sir Edmund) We share everything in common except politics. I am able to accept and understand her values while not agreeing with them, but am perplexed by her difficulty with mine. She is like the robot on the old Lost In Space TV show. When I explain rationally that I do not think that Rush Limbaugh is 'evil', and that perhaps Al Qaeda might better illustrate that concept, she starts spinning around and yammers "It does not compute, It does not compute". Furthermore, she is constantly asking questions about my views on one aspect of politics or another with every question beginning with either 'Why'? or, 'How could you possibly?'........ In other words, I am viewed as some kind of double anomaly, on the one hand I am one of those neanderthal Republicans, and on the other I SEEM to be a reasonable and civilized one. This is causing her no end of confusion. She is actually having dinner with and making love to one of "THEM". So much for inclusiveness and ending 'Us against Them' thinking in our lifetime. Sigh...

I see this sort of thing on both sides. And I do find it amusing. My mother is a liberal and my father is a conservative. My wife's parents are similarly on opposite sides. It's no biggie. People in the opposing political party are not the enemy.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 9, 2004 11:18 AM

Dave,

I myself am pretty thick-skinned. I can argue a ton without getting too upset, and am always happy to call someone on an inacccurate blanket statement. I'd generally agree with the idea that people who discuss politics and religion should practice being hard to offend. At the same time, there's merit to the idea of trying to say what you mean in a way that is conscious of not offending without sacrificing clarity.

Really, how hard is it to use a few more words to qualify things just that one hair or two that allows the discourse not to get hung-up on minutiae. And hey, we all like to see patterns and generalize. I know I do. But I try to keep to a policy of saying things like "many on the far left" or "some of the most hawkish right-wingers" so that there aren't so many detours into "well I'm pretty far left and I don't think that represents me at all..." etc. The more accurate the characterization(in terms of most, many, a majority, etc), the less likely it's taken personally, I think.

I almost always recognize that there are exceptions, so I almost always try to phrase my generalizations to allow for them. And it might be tiresome, and it sometimes seems wasted on someone who won't ever give an inch or give you the same consideration. But more often than not it allows me to continue a dialogue without it devolving into a flame war. After all, it's an important time for Americans that disagree to try to remain friends. It's a big part of the strength of America that we're trying to export to Iraq right now.

Posted by: bk at April 9, 2004 11:47 AM

How many times did they announce "the end of major combat operations" before VE day with FDR landing in a plane on an aircraft carrier? I wasn't talking about a mission, I was talking about the president's flashy, and expensive photo op on the aircraft carrier on May 1, 2003. The only "ignorance on display" appears to be yours.

Do you have any idea how spoiled and ignorant you sound? So far the United States has lost six hundred and some soldiers in more than a year of fighting and occupation. How about we take as an example of a "major combat operation" the invasion of Okinawa, which cost the American military 12,000 dead or missing. Or the battle for Berlin, in which as many as one million soldiers died.

And what is this drivel about "say with a straight face that in eighty-two days sovereignty will be turned over to the Iraqis." So what if it isn't? A new date will be set, big deal. Will every American citizen be forced to march in prisoner of war columns to Fallujah if the handover doesn't take place as scheduled?

God damn it, this is a war, and our opponents have an unquechable hatred for all the advances that Western civilization has made in the past three centuries. You could take it seriously, rather than viewing it as an opportunity to made a carping criticism every time that an American intervention fails to immediately produce utopia.

Posted by: Floyd McWilliams at April 9, 2004 12:45 PM

People in the opposing political party are not the enemy.

Many people in the opposing political party think John Ashcroft is more dangerous to this country than Osama Bin Laden. If they are not the enemy, then they certainly are useful idiots for the enemy.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 12:46 PM

David: Many people in the opposing political party think John Ashcroft is more dangerous to this country than Osama Bin Laden. If they are not the enemy, then they certainly are useful idiots for the enemy.

I know people like that. They are naifs who know next-to nothing about the world beyond their tiny little corner of it. They didn't visit Ground Zero, as I did, they've never left the country, as I have, and they don't read history, as I do. They aren't enemies, just fools.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 9, 2004 12:59 PM

Michael,

At some point the lines between an enemy and a fool become fuzzy, and then irrelevant. Does it really make a difference to you if someone puts a bullet in your head with with malice, or if they do it negligently? Either way you end up dead. That's basically my entire thesis against the Left.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 01:16 PM

Michael -

The naifs have the same vote I do, you do, we all do.

THAT is one of the underpinnings of why they aggravate some of us so much. Gotta love democracy, though; we have the right to make REALLY big mistakes. grin

I agree with David on the malice/negligence proposition. We can't be beaten - but we can surely lose, just the same. Naifs is a great word and wholly applicable.

Posted by: TmjUtah at April 9, 2004 01:48 PM

David: At some point the lines between an enemy and a fool become fuzzy

An enemy is a person who is willing to risk death in order to kill you.

Some on the left have a problem recognizing an enemy. And some on the right are too quick to recognize an enemy. From where I sit this is obvious.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 9, 2004 01:50 PM

Either way you end up dead.

I agree. These "fools" would gladly shuffle you onto the train headed for the gulag when they receive their orders to do so for the sake of "social justice."

Not that I'm afraid of them. They'll never receive such orders in this country.

Posted by: Jim at April 9, 2004 01:55 PM

David, as one of those people Michael was talking about nearly driven away by some of the more stupid crap you've said, just please try and lay off of the John-Birch-style nativist paranoia if you could. That's all I ask, that you maybe talk a little less like Michael Savage.

There's a line. It's hard to find, sometimes. Disagree with me and whoever else all you want. That's fine. I disagree with the majority of folks here most the time, be they on the loony left or loony right. Just try and be a little more civil with your free speech from now on.

Alot of liberals, centrist liberals like myself especially, are reasonable and intelligent folk. I'd hardly call Tom Friedman or Tony Blair or the folks at the New Republic traitors to Western Civilization. Would you?

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 9, 2004 02:58 PM

Jim: These "fools" would gladly shuffle you onto the train headed for the gulag when they receive their orders to do so for the sake of "social justice."

Who would do such a thing? What country do you think this is?

How do you feel when you see a Bush=Hitler sign? Think that's a penetrating insight? Or a paranoid delusion?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 9, 2004 03:02 PM

Grant,

Don't go away. Don't stop leaving comments. I would rather read one of your comments than ten by knee-jerk right-wingers.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 9, 2004 03:05 PM

Who would do such a thing? What country do you think this is?

Ordinary human beings would do it, as they have many, many times in the past. This is a country which protects against it very well.

Posted by: Jim at April 9, 2004 03:17 PM

Alot of liberals, centrist liberals like myself especially, are reasonable and intelligent folk.

Grant,

believe it or not, I'm sure this is so. I just don't assume it is so. I guess I'm putting the burden of proof in your court.

But I can be courteous too, and I'll try to respect your request.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 03:17 PM

I would rather read one of your comments than ten by knee-jerk right-wingers.

I think I'm about to be offended by this blanket statement.

Posted by: David at April 9, 2004 03:24 PM

Besides, MT, if they are "naifs" and "fools," as you say, why would they suddenly grow moral fiber when ordered to shuffle you onto a train?

My view isn't parallel to "Bush=Hitler". Bush is a mainstream politician. I am attempting to characterize the leftmost 5% of the country, your "naifs" and "fools."

Posted by: Jim at April 9, 2004 03:39 PM

MT, Grant's: I'd hardly call Tom Friedman or Tony Blair or the folks at the New Republic traitors to Western Civilization. Would you?

You see, I'm not talking about those two guys. I'm talking about the freaks. They'd put us on the trains.

Posted by: Jim at April 9, 2004 03:42 PM

Well if enough naifs and fools vote in the wrong people and we thus fail to stop the Jihhadists before they get their hands on and deploy a rogue nuke we are in deep shit. These same fools lost the Viet Nam war and did their level best to stop Reagan from winning the cold war, and now are working furiously to undermine the current war. Whether or not you want to argue the semantics of terms like "fifth column" or "enemies" really has little bearing on the world historical outcome. The modern day Democrat Party is clearly ideologically and morally unfit to wage this war. I'm beyond caring if a well meaning but mislead liberal considers himself a patriot as he votes for Kerry (a man who I do believe was a traitor when he went to Paris, met with the enemy, and returned to the U.S. entreating us to accept their terms), if that vote helps to bring about our demise.

Posted by: Paul at April 9, 2004 08:19 PM

DAVID...

As to you not assuming your opposition to be reasonable and intelligent, perhaps you should. It's a horrible mistake to underestimate your opponent.

When I meet someone new, they're cool in my book. They start with a clean slate and I assume the best. Living this way, sometimes you get blindsided when they turn out to be an asshole, but it's better than thinking everyone's either evil or an idiot the second you bump into them.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 9, 2004 08:40 PM

PAUL...

I'm not glad we lost the Vietnam War, especially considering how it effectively demoralized and pussified my Democratic Party ever since, but we never should have been there beyond a certain point anyway. Had Kennedy lived to serve a second term, things would have been different.

Perhaps the modern Democratic Party is ideologically and morally unfit to wage the War on Terror. But it's not like the Republicans have quite got everything figured out, either. And it's not like all Republicans and all Democrats see eye-to-eye, anyway. There are some Democrats I would trust to conduct the War on Terror and there are some Republicans I would trust, as well. And I'm not so sure I trust either Kerry OR Bush to do the job right.

If you must generalize, from where I sit, in War someone has to pull the trigger and someone has to clean up the mess. The Republicans seem to do a better job of pulling the trigger when it needs to be pulled. They've got the balls. The Democrats have always done a better job of nation building, cleaning up the mess afterwards. They've got the brains. And, in the end, the American people are ultimately to blame the most for lacking the stomach to stick with both the trigger and the cleanup. They've gotten spoiled.

I'm glad we went into Iraq. I hate, by and in large, what we've done with the country ever since. This is just my not-so-humble opinion, but both sides have their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe I've said this a thousand times already, but what we need in this country is a Centrist Party.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 9, 2004 09:02 PM

Grant,

There are two major parties in this country, both indebted to their corporate sponsors. I can't fathom how an informed person could think the Democratic Party is a left party. They are a center-right party. The Republican Party is a far-right party. Don't get me wrong: I'm all for having more parties involved to open up the process. But the idea that the center is unrepresented is nonsense. It's the left that has no place at the table because they don't believe in kissing corporate ass as a matter of principle.

Posted by: flipster at April 9, 2004 09:51 PM

Uh, Flipster, Indymedia is that way -------->

I believe you made a wrong turn somewhere.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 9, 2004 09:57 PM

Did I make a mistake in even responding to him at all, guys?

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 9, 2004 10:00 PM

No offense though, buddy, it's nothing personal. I wish you the best of luck in forming your Nader-Centrism Party. The best of luck.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 9, 2004 10:03 PM

The only "opening of the process" I'm after is the denounciation and total destruction of wingnut dogma. That's centrism.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 9, 2004 10:07 PM

Grant-

So Repubs got balls and Dems got brains? I dunno. I look at Bush's cabinet and I see a whole lot more candle power than the previous administration's cabinet. And it's the military who pulls the trigger AND cleans up the mess, at least that's what happened in WW2.

I'm nowhere near as critical of our handling of post war Iraq as you apparently are. It's only been a year and at least from a historical perspective a lot of good things have happened there in that short time. You can always find mistakes in hindsight, but if you go back and study other wars and occupations I think in comparison things are going pretty well in Iraq, particularly in view of the difficulties that seem to be endemic to Arab culture as well as the ethnic and religious schisms there.

The current spike in hostilities will most likely prove to be death rattle of the opposition...I don't believe there is enough grass roots support from the general population for the insurgency to succeed. This pustule had to erupt eventually... a quick military victory meant that too many of the enemy were left alive to fight another day. There is a very strong likelihood that Rumsfeld has chosen this time to draw the bad guys out and finish them off while we have excess troops in the theater due to the current rotation, and in time for the June 30th deadline.

Remember that war is fluid...one's ability to adapt and improvise is most important, and nobody is better than we are in this respect. Remember too that this war has many unique aspects that don't necessarily have precedents that we can draw on as a template for our current endeavors.

As for the Dems vs. the Repubs... The Democrat Party was co-opted by the radical left after Viet Nam. The hallmark of the radical left is a basic distrust of American power and free market capitalism and a willingness to subvert or distort the constitution to advance its agenda through judicial activism. As I've posted in one of the above comments section one only need look at the Democrat's and the leftist media's dogged attempt to always portray America's efforts in this war in the worst possible light to see that they are unfit to govern in a time of war. Regardless of whether or not the Dems were to be trusted in former times with national security, since 1972 the party's character has changed drastically and I'm sorry to say has been infiltrated by a strain of thinking than can be directly traced back to Gramsci, and is utterly toxic to the health of the nation (as it was designed to be).

The "Scoop Jackson" Democrats are virtually absent from the party, as you well know, and are now for the most part neoconservatives. This probably is anathema to you, but I would say the neocons, or the 911 republicans, or whatever you wish to call them represent the modern centrists. A strong sense of devotion to the constitution, a healthy respect for the free market, a belief in a strong national defense, a socially liberal stance in terms of civil rights, gay rights, women's rights, and a deep suspicion of big government "solutions" are attributes of this political persuasion. We don't believe in multiculturalism, we prefer social integration. We don't tolerate the ideas of class warfare and income "redistribution". We know that freedom means among other things the freedom to accrue wealth, and that wealth filters down through the social strata and raises the overall standard of living. Many of us are atheist or agnostic and disagree with the religious right on many issues, we are not sexual prudes, and we certainly don't relate to the Buchanan style paleocons.

I was always a Democrat, by default really. As a late boomer I naturally absorbed the prevailing views of my peers and the times. I was not very politically active or interested, but I despised Republicans and conservatives because everyone I knew accepted that stance as conventional wisdom. I might add that none of us really knew a damn thing about conservative philosophy, and I believe that ignorance is endemic on the left. On September 11th I looked at my wife and admitted that I was glad the Republicans were in power and she agreed. We both knew instinctively that no matter what we had believed in the past the paradigm had shifted, and that the Democrats were not the people we needed in office to address this new reality.

Since then I've read many thousands of pages of material and come to view the world in a completely different light. I realize that I was politically pretty much clueless. Prejudiced, ignorant, condescending and typical of practically all the left leaning people I know. Obviously left leaning students of politics such as yourself are not politically ignorant in this sense. However I've have come to find that as a whole conservatives are much more astute, informed, and, yes, tolerant of opposing viewpoints than most liberals. They also, in my experience, don't have anywhere near the level of pathological vitriol that is rampant in todays left. Bush hatred absolutely dwarfs the hatred that the right felt for Clinton. I say this as a man who has been on both sides, like Samuel, who I think would agree.

If you haven't read Thomas Sowell's "The Vision of the Anointed" I would vigorously suggest you do so. I'd be curious to hear your response.

Posted by: Paul at April 10, 2004 12:30 AM

Great non-answer, Grant. But that's okay; I've come to exept this kind of hypocrisy from the defenders of business-as-usual. The sarcasm and the insults go over great here because most of the posters accept the militarist dogma they're spoon-fed by the powers-that-be. Everybody has to argue within a little tiny box that goes from the center to the far-right, and if someone doesn't fall within that box, then you ask your buddies "Did I make a mistake in responding to him, guys?". Not very constructive, but certainly very instructive on the mentality we're dealing with here. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: flipster at April 10, 2004 11:09 AM

Flipster,

It would help if you acknowledged that you are far to the left of most Americans and just accepted that fact. People like Grant and I, who are farther left than about half the population and farther right than the other half, think you're view of the "center" is pretty silly. The Democratic Party is center-right? That is impossible since the overwhelming majority of Americans are either Democrats, independent centrists, or Republicans. What you're trying to say is that the Democratic Party is to the right of you, not to the right of America.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 10, 2004 03:42 PM

People like Grant and I, who are farther left than about half the population and farther right than the other half....

Heh, yep. Just move ten steps to the right, to the 60/40 point, and youse would nail it! If youse were just a bit more anally retentive, you'd be spot on! A joke at my own expense, but 'tis true.

Actually, "centrist," "right," and "left" aren't as important as "call 'em as I see 'em". Start from that place and don't give a hoot where on the spectrum you end up.

A hearty "Yes" to Grant's centrist party. I will join and take my place in its rightmost fringe, along with other leftmost Republicans. Only thing is, aren't three-party systems dysfunctional?

Posted by: Jim at April 10, 2004 06:42 PM

Jim: Only thing is, aren't three-party systems dysfunctional?

Not if one of them is centrist. At least I don't think so.

Two left-wing parties and one right-wing party (or the other way around) would probably be dysfunctional.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 10, 2004 06:50 PM

Michael,

For once I agree with you: I am further left than most people in this country. I'll give you that. But I also believe that most people in this country swallow what they're spoon-fed by the establishment and don't think outside the box or seek out alternative sources of opinion to balance what they hear from the media. I certainly don't blame them for that; Many people are busy doing other things or just aren't that interested or just think that if the president or the anchorman or the talking head says it, then it's the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Posted by: flipster at April 11, 2004 11:07 AM

Flipster,

it's obvious you're way more enlightened than the rest of us, after all, you're a Leftist (objections, anybody?).

But to say that Dems are center right and GOP is "far" right is true only if we use YOU as the measuring stick. But given that you are far Left, your original premise falls flat.

Posted by: David at April 11, 2004 06:42 PM

David,

Actually, the labeling is only useful as a general point of reference and can get a little tiresome after a while. I call you far right, you call me far left. But what does it all really mean? I seem to remember that Gore & Bush agreed on more than they disagreed on in 2000. I'm probably closer to that old Bolshevik Pat Buchanan on some issues, particularly war-related stuff, than you are. And nobody is farther to the right on economics than libertarians, and yet they are more anti-military than alot of people identified as liberals. Go figure.

Posted by: flipster at April 11, 2004 07:13 PM

Flipster,

re Gore and Bush, that probably means they are both center, as in center Left and center Right. And why shouldn't they be? After all, they want to capture as many votes as possible. And what does that tell you? It tells you that this is what Americans prefer. If Chomsky, on the other hand, ran for office he would capture less votes than Al Sharpton did. That's because Chomksy is only viable to the enlightened Left, which is but a sliver and doesn't represent the values of the American people. Why blame the "corporations?" It's reality, not a conspiracy.

Posted by: David at April 11, 2004 07:37 PM

JIM...

I'll meet your "rightmost fringe" with "leftmost fringe", and we'll still probably agree on far more issues than we will with the wingnuts. If you're an Arlen Spector Republican, you're my kinda guy.

As to what you and Michael were discussing about it becoming dysfunctional, I dunno. Multi-party "Coalition" governments are a real headache. I don't think there's ever been a 3-party system with a left, right, and center. I don't know if it has ever been tried. And you'd have to deal with the issue of fundraising, knowing full and well very few special interests are going to align themselves and/or donate to a party out to kill the special interests.

I think, if it were to happen, the two remaining parties would go off the deep end. You'd suddenly have the Party of Howard Dean and the Party of Pat Robertson. Wouldn't be so bothered by that, though, as it would mean more power to the third-wayers.

Theoretically...

My Centrist Party would be center-right hawkish on defense (a la Lieberman/Lugar/McCain). It would be pretty middle-of-the-road on economics (a la Bill Clinton). And it would be center-left-libertarian on social issues (a la Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Can you think of anyone else TRULY libertarian on social issues? Against leftist PC bullshit, Affirmative Action, and excessive Gun Control? Also for Gay Rights, Reproductive Choice, and a strong Separation of Church and State?

Dennis Miller comes to mind. So does Rudolph Giuliani. I'd vote Dennis Miller into office in a heartbeat.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 11, 2004 10:44 PM

FLIPSTER...

When you call David "Far Right" and he calls you "Far Left" it means you're Far Left and he's Far Right. I don't think it's really that complicated. To me, it means you're both nuts.

And I, for one, am glad Bush and Gore agreed on more than they disagreed in 2000. American politics SHOULD be fought on the details and in the margins. No two American presidential candidates should EVER fundamentally disagree on more than they agree because that'll be the day we're no longer one unified nation. In essence, that'll be the day the Constitution becomes irrelevant.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 11, 2004 10:53 PM

Grant,

I'm sorry, but your logic eludes me. How much choice does the voter really have when the candidates agree on everything? And what does that have to do with the relevancy of the Constitution? Sorry, I don't get it.

Posted by: flipster at April 12, 2004 04:02 AM

David,

Not a conspiracy? Explain to me then why they changed the rules to keep Nader out of the debates. Used to be 5% in the polls was enough to get you in, but when Nader reached that, the debate commission changed it to 15%. And who sponsors the debates? Corporations. Nader wasn't even allowed in with a ticket or a press pass under threat of arrest. Why blame corporations? That kind of chicanery is a pretty damn good reason.

Posted by: flipster at April 12, 2004 04:09 AM

I hear libertarians eat babies. Is that true, Jim?

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