April 29, 2004

A Good Anti-war Blog

If you’re a hawk like me you may have a tough time finding contrary points of view that don’t make you cringe. I know I do. It isn’t easy to find smart people with substantive criticisms of American foreign policy who don’t get under my skin.

But they are out there, and they’re worth seeking out and listening to.

So I’d like to turn you on to Marc Cooper, if you don’t already know who he is. He’s a columnist for The Nation (probably the sharpest of the bunch) and also the LA Weekly. Recently he decided to start up a blog. He must be doing something right because he already has a diverse and civil community in his comments section.

Here’s his take on Iraq in a nutshell (I am quoting him from his own comments section):

I opposed the war per se because I thought that on balance it would be counter-productive (but not immoral). I'm afraid that is being borne out by the current fix we are in. I also opposed the "peace movement" by the way as I found most of their arguments feckless. I still oppose any sort of immediate withdrawal as I guess I’m sympathetic to the Pottery Barn argument. This administration now "owns" Iraq and cannot abandon it.

If you can work with that, and I certainly can, head on over to his site. If you want to argue with him, be cool about it. Don’t be like the resident far-left bomb-throwing troll in his comments section.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 29, 2004 09:27 PM

I think I'll go over there and flame him a bit.

Posted by: David at April 29, 2004 09:45 PM

Cooper sums up how I feel about the war right now.I would add that if I had known before how incompetent,deceitful and ideologically blinkered the Bush administration was,I never would have supported the war in Iraq.Not with these idiots running the show.

Posted by: Jussi Hämläinen at April 29, 2004 10:10 PM

Whenever tempted to get the least bit enthusiastic about Iraq, I go here:


And then here, for perspective:


Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at April 29, 2004 10:16 PM

Michael.. Thanks for the pointer. I learned everything I know about good blogs and communities of wonderfully civil commentators from reading you and the folks here. I'd be happy to achieve a small replica of this. Kudos on ur new life. Marc Cooper http://www.marccooper.com

Posted by: Marc Cooper at April 30, 2004 01:05 AM


I'm guessing that you're going to pursue journalism or nonfiction and that you have all you need in terms of useful and friendly advice in this field.

I'm guessing that you're not going to pursue fiction even though you offer a short story as an example because you refer to writing fiction in such a way that it sounds like part of your training and apprenticeship rather than as an irresistable vocation.

Am I correct?

Only remember. "Fiction is truth."

Posted by: miklos rosza at April 30, 2004 04:27 AM

Sorry, I find nothing very good about it.

I peeked in on the current discussion on the draft and saw the usual non-reasons for it: it's more "equitable" (i.e. playing the class-war and race cards based on a false analysis of the current army), it good that all citizens be forced to sacrifice for the sake of the whole (coercive statism), it more likely to endenger anti-war senmtiment (partisanship), blah, blah. Nothing, (except for one dissenter) about making the military more able to accomplish it's job: victory. But of course the anti-war types don't believe that victory is possible under any circumstances anyway, right? Or maybe they just can't stand the idea that the "wrong" president (i.e. any Republican, like Bush), preside over one.

The military professionals who man our current all-volunteer forces do not want the draft. Uwilling, poorly motivated conscripts are a liability, not an asset, on the battlefield. Conscript troops (i.e. cannon fodder) were useful in earlier 19th and 20th century wars of attrition. Today, in America's high-tech army, they are obsolete.

No, what we need to do is authorize an increase in the size of the regular army, pull the critical specalities back into the full-time army from the reserves (where they were delibertately put by the Democrats to hinder the President's war-fighting flexability), and be willing to pay competetive wages and overseas posting bonuses to properly man the higher authorized troop levels. Wow, how about that - paying for what we need instead of confisticating it - what an idea!

Consider it a jobs program ... naah, since millitary people are not part of any civil-service union, and tend to vote Republican anyway, the Democrats are not interested in that kind of "jobs program", right? There are not enough votes in it for them.

Also see Den Beste's take on this.

(Yes, I considered cross-posting this comment there, but I could not see the point.)

Posted by: Eric E. Coe at April 30, 2004 06:00 AM

Michael, I fondly remember your fantastic, Bruce Chatwin style story about the ice in the fridge.

Please keep honing your writing gifts (yes, I'm envious) with some nuanced short stories -- and your passionate clarity in, even (especially) if balanced between, political choices.

I still don't think it's too late for Kerry to win your vote, or at least more votes, by speaking clear on defense & Iraq -- but even if he did so speak, would you believe him. Now? Mr. flip flop?

I'm now pushing the idea that Bush's biggest mistake in Iraq is not supportig more local council elections. I suggest you consider looking at sites from your commenters (yes, mine too!), and see if you find any interesting, or worth linking to.

Your readers respect your opinions. Marc seems OK -- but still much longer on criticism than advocacy of something better. From his LA Weekly site, there's a gem of an article about middle class blacks breaking through the (unspoken PC) taboo on discussing violence in the black community.

(My site has a post on it! Including a ref to http://www.blackgenocide.org/ With pictures of the "truth" -- horrible.)

New prediction: blacks will soon start to admit that abortion is racist, and the Dem radical fems will be in trouble (and denial).

Posted by: Tom Grey at April 30, 2004 06:26 AM

Congatulations, America. You are now the proud owner of a pile of shards.

Posted by: praktike at April 30, 2004 06:44 AM

Probably the sharpest of the columnists at the Nation? Isn't that a bit like being the sexiest of the Golden Girls?

Posted by: Pat Curley at April 30, 2004 07:38 AM

I'm gonna guess praktike is referring to Fallujah.

I wish he/she were right, but it appears the Marines are pulling back, and leaving that hellhole to be "patrolled" by the very same Baathist fascists we were fighting, only some of them will be wearing uniforms now.

This is like the Allies refusing to occupy Berlin at the end of WWII.

Wooo-hoooh, what an improvement!

Posted by: Matt Ward at April 30, 2004 07:53 AM

Pat or Eric (or HA) -- I'm curious...have any of you EVER read or heard ANY liberal or leftist political discourse that you found to be thoughtful, worthy of consideration, or at least provocative? Or are liberals and leftists at their best no more than good defense attorneys for a objectively guilty and bankrupt ideology, the moral and political equivalent of flat-earth theorists and alternative cancer cure quacks? If the latter, why do you have so much trouble convincing not only to liberals and leftists that this the case, but also centrists, as well as a former ultra-leftist and current moderate liberal like me?

as simply think that liberals or leftists have ANYTHING of VALUE to contribute to political discourse, or are they at

Posted by: Markus Rose at April 30, 2004 09:27 AM


To answer your question, I'm writing non-fiction only right now, but I have not permanently quit writing fiction. Fiction was my first love, and I don't know if I'll ever stop for good.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 30, 2004 09:28 AM

sorry for the editing scrap at the end of my last post.

Posted by: markus rose at April 30, 2004 09:28 AM

This guy represents the real "loyal opposition." He spends as much time criticizing the loons who run the anti-war left as he does republicans. Even if you disagree with him (i do), he is a breath of fresh air comming from the left.

Posted by: Dave at April 30, 2004 09:33 AM


"Pat or Eric (or HA) -- I'm curious...have any of you EVER read or heard ANY liberal or leftist political discourse that you found to be thoughtful, worthy of consideration, or at least provocative? Or are liberals and leftists at their best no more than good defense attorneys for a objectively guilty and bankrupt ideology, the moral and political equivalent of flat-earth theorists and alternative cancer cure quacks? If the latter, why do you have so much trouble convincing not only to liberals and leftists that this the case, but also centrists, as well as a former ultra-leftist and current moderate liberal like me?"

Wow - outstanding question. One that has long haunted me, but I've never heard it put so well. Any ideas?

P.S. I've decided to leave Ms. Le Guin's characters to her to depict...

Posted by: David Warner at April 30, 2004 09:53 AM

Michael...and Markus, too -

I visited the blog. Well written, the host was civil, gracious, concise, most assuredly on the other side of the political rainbow from me.

I won't be heading back again, but the visit was less than unpleasant. Why?

Because from where I stand the issue of the war transcends left or right. Markus, there is value in participating in a dialogue only when the parties share at least some common objectives.

There can't be a good antiwar blog, Michael, because that would presume there to be some choice in the matter of whether we are in fact at war with somebody. It wouldn't matter a whit if we hadn't gone to Iraq; shucks, even Afghanistan, for that matter, as far as the issue of being at war is concerned. Now a forum dedicated to refining our prosecution of the war, analyzing what has worked, what hasn't, and where we need to go from this point to achieve victory, that would be a good thing.

Those moonbats who believe that our troops are dieing post 9/11 because we consciously chose to push around a few dictators or wanted to pad somebody's corporate annual report have pro forma removed themselves from the debate.

A sizable chunk of the world's population lives an existence unsullied by the rule of law, or by even the merest assumption that there exists a noble value in every human life. There is an organized and dedicated movement sprung from this swamp that has adopted victory or death as its strategy in the pursuit of imposing this mode of abject barbarism on everyone else.

That's the field. That's where we are. That is what our problem for today is...except that distance, the scope of the war, and the habit of overintellectualizing situations that aren't immediately fatal has given rise to a civilized dinosaur of a culture. We literally cannot or will not logically process the threat facing us in much the same way a Brontosaurus might not notice his ass being chewed on until it's too late.

We have become pretty comfortable. Lights come on when the switch is flipped, we get hungry and buy our food at the market, and if we have a problem with the neighbors we can always call a lawyer. The fraction of our society that is most likely to be a victims of violent crime doesn't vote - so the rest of us who live a largely unpenalized existence seem to think our normal lives are a ...normal thing.

The last time Islamofascism was dealt with entire regions of southern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean shores were practically depopulated. The primary reason for this was the lack of tremendous technological advantage to one or the other sides. The only reason the fight wasn't finished to a man was because the crusaders were incapable of carrying the war all the way to Mecca.

Now it's 2004. The technological gulf is wider...but the advances in lethality of weapons available for purchase removes the safety barrier of distance. The basic driving forces remain the same. We want to live our lives under a system that protects individuals from coercive or invasive acts of government; we expect our respect for individuals to extend at least to diplomacy and trade. The other side denies the right of the individual to practice any way of life that varies from their embraced virtue - Islam - and has publicly pledged and repeatedley acted to achieve that end.

I believe that our battles in Afghanistan and later Iraq were fought masterfully on the military end. I fear our politically active classes fail to grasp the extent of change we must inject into those cultures, and the severity of the force we must employ, to have any hope at removing the threat.

We've done nothing remarkable to date; not when viewed through the lens of history. The numbers of troops involved (on both sides) are less than that of most battles fought in the last two world wars. There is no rationing. Two people can finish a discussion of the war and seamlessly slip into who should win on American Idol. There is no rationing...beyond the pitiful OPEC gesture of restricting production in order to safely hurt Bush.

In the last two weeks there have been bombing attacks in Saudi, Islamic attacks in Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, and a foiled al Qaeda attack in Jordan that was reportedly built around chemical agents and could have killed eighty thousand people.

We watched three thousand people die on 9/11. If those structures had failed immediately, it would have been ten or even twenty times that much.

We know where these people come from. The Franks, Spaniards, and Italians of the last crusade did, too. They fought wars of conquest to knock them back because that was all they knew how to do. We are trying a different path because we believe that all men can be free...and we have objective proof in the german and Japanese post-war democracies that we can make it happen. So, we fight a war to protect ourselves BUT our end objective is not to scrape the earth clean of the enemy but instead to kill those we must to remove their ability to fight and then inject freedom and responsible, representative government to remove the will to fight.

Maybe that is the flaw. I don't like to think so, but without an overwhelming majority of our electorate coming to grips with the fact that the threat must be dealt with, whatever course we choose is going to be ambivalent, inefficient, and my possibly fail. This is a real problem that cannot be ignored. Yes, it is a clash between civilization and barbarism. And yes, there are some really bright people who do understand this, people who are in positions of leadership and trust, that prioritize that issue behind their need to remain in power or acquire more. Then there are the others who aren't equipped intellectually or ethically to process it...who are fertile ground for those who need supporters that don't ask hard questions.

Anit-war in this case is a cop out. It's conspicuous consumption of unearned wealth inherent in a society too jaded to be bothered with asking just how we got so used to freedom that we may not defend it.

Thanks for the link, Michael.

Posted by: TmjUtah at April 30, 2004 12:28 PM

Wow. Fantastic explanation, TmjUtah. Do you have a site to post that on, so I can link to it?

Posted by: Barry at April 30, 2004 01:30 PM

Speaking of Afghanistan and Iraq:

It only now has occurred to me to wonder why no one has suggested that the Afghan campaign should have been used as a model for Iraq.For all the rhetoric about "Warlordism" and "Anarchy" in Afghanistan,what has happened is that the Afghans have simply gone back to the kind of tribal/strongman-government that they've had for thousands of years.

Sure,it's nothing I'd like to live under,but it seems to work better than what's happening in Iraq.

The math:more nation-building,more trouble.The Afghans were lucky that Bush and Rumsfeld were in such a hurry to go to Iraq.

The obvious corollary:stop insisting that the Iraqis must have western-style democracy,right here,right now.Start making deals with local tribes,ethnic and religious groups.The Deal:the people inhabiting area x will assume full control over it.In return,the US and allied troops will stay out of those areas - permanently.

Let the Iraqis have the government they deserve - not the government (or lack thereof) they didn't want in the first place.

Posted by: Jussi Hämäläinen at April 30, 2004 01:43 PM

Pat Curley,
yes, being the sharpest columnist at the Nation reminds me of the old say, In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king.

Posted by: ZHombre at April 30, 2004 03:53 PM


I've been a long-time reader of this blog. When I first started reading here, I was a typical America-hating far-left radical. But your words have had such a profound impact on me, it's hard for me to even begin to express it in the pitiful space of this comments box. In essence, you’ve taught me how to think rationally about politics. You’ve taught me common sense, something I’d been sorely lacking in for many years when it came to politics.

Sure, I came to a lot of these conclusions on my own, but this site is without a doubt what lit that very important fuse. I would’ve never been able to make this transformation on my own.

That’s why I’m a little distressed over some of your most recent entries. I see a change in you. This entry here seems to me to be yet another symptom in what I see as a growing plague. I went to that site hoping to find, for once in my life, some rational anti-war discussion, instead I found the same old same old. Same childish arguments. Same myopic vision of the world as it really is. There was absolutely nothing of merit or value.

I sense a weakness in you. You’re growing soft and sympathetic towards the opposition. These are dangerous times we’re living in, and there’s no room for compromising. No room for weakening our resolve against those who want to see us dead. And whether or not the left admits it, that’s exactly what their reckless world-view will eventually lead us to – death at the hands of terrorists.

I hope and pray that I’m wrong about you.

Posted by: P. Whitnety at April 30, 2004 04:01 PM

P. Whitnety,

I read people I don't agree with because, like everyone else, I need reality checks. I really do think Marc Cooper is a better reality check than most. He reads my stuff, perhaps for the same reason from the other side. I'm not lurching toward Dennis Kucinich and he's not morphing into Ann Coulter.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 30, 2004 04:28 PM

Markus, I'll confess that I don't find anything on the far left very interesting or convincing. I do read the Nation, but it's like watching NASCAR--the only thing really interesting for me is the occasional wreck.

I do find interesting and convincing arguments from the moderate liberal side, from magazines like the New Republic and columnists like Tom Friedman.

As for why it is so difficult to convert leftists, it's because many of them are people of faith. If somebody has faith that the Bible is literally true and that the world is (say) 5,000 years, you are not going to change their minds with logic, you are not going to change their minds with evidence from the fossil record, you probably would not change their minds by taking them back 20,000 years in a time machine.

It is the same with leftism. It is impervious to logic, to facts, to argumentation. The only thing that can change a person from leftism is personal experience (which is why people trend more conservative as they age).

Posted by: Pat Curley at April 30, 2004 04:33 PM

I second Barry: great post from TmjUtah.

Posted by: Mel at April 30, 2004 04:39 PM

Jussi, I respectfully disagree with everything in your last post. I don't believe for a moment that the people of Afghanistan are better off than the people of Iraq. I'm hearing quite a few on both the left and right now spouting the same view - that Iraqis neither want nor deserve anything resembling democracy. I believe that the majority both want it and deserve it, and that a tiny violent faction wants to keep them from having it, and they are supported by the leaders in Syria and Iran, who want to avoid losing their own dictatorships.

The Middle East doesn't need any more strongmen. The people didn't ask for their dictators, and I've no interest in seeing US foreign policy return to supporting the status quo when that means keeping vile men in power.

Posted by: Peter G at April 30, 2004 05:22 PM

All this Marc Cooper character is doing is bitching endlessly about John Kerry. And he supports bringing back the draft, seriously. I just can't get off on this stuff, Michael. To each his own, I guess.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 30, 2004 07:39 PM


Oh, and I guess I ought to mention that I hope and pray "P WHITNETY" knocks off his hoping and praying sometime soon. Don't listen to him. Anybody that can go from "America-hating Far-Left Radical" to John-Birch-Sounding Neo-Conservative, from one extreme wing to another, from Hipocrite to David overnight, obviously doesn't know his ass from his elbow if you ask me.

You're doing fine, Michael. Your mojo is still in full effect.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 30, 2004 07:51 PM

Oh, and one last thing...

The intelligent anti-war types aren't on the Left, they're on the Right. The Anti-War Left's main argument against the War was mainly that it's imperialism and that Bush is only in it for the oil. The Anti-War Right's argument was more simply that it wreaks of hubristic madness to think we could or SHOULD try and pull it off.

In a nutshell, the anti-types on the Left cite Noam Chomsky whereas the anti-types on the Right cite Pat Buchanan and Henry Kissinger.

Interestingly enough, Marc is arguing the against the War with the CONSERVATIVE case as opposed to the liberal one. In essence, he's become a cynical "realist". It's funny to watch so many folks on the Left make conservative arguments about the War without even realizing it, though.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 30, 2004 08:05 PM

I once complained on Roger L. Simon's site about the derth of quality Liberal/Leftist bloggers. Although MJT was gracious enough to point me towards an excellent site I had not seen before, he does me no favor by pointing me to Marc Cooper.

Perhaps it is the too breezy, too chatty tone. Perhaps it is the lack of depth that shows through his bleats against John Kerry. Perhaps he just doesn't have the horsepower to make a political pundit and has not yet realized it.

I may disagree with Liberal/Leftists such as Simon, Totten and Geras on issues and positions, but I am left in doubt as to the amount of thought and effort they have put into them. I get no such feeling when reading Cooper.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but my take is that he's a lightweight who is seemingly more suited to writing "Entertainment Tonight" type stuff than indulging in political punditry.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at April 30, 2004 08:08 PM

Aaaahh...a part of that didn't come out right.

I was meaning to say that the anti-types on the Right argue against the War by decrying the notion of attempting to export democracy by force, or by any means for that matter. They don't think we SHOULD be doing it, that such ideals are hubristic, that we couldn't pull it off in a post-colonial third-world country anyway, and that we ought be "A Republic and not an Empire".

That's what I meant to say. And to point out that the whole cynical "we couldn't pull it off" argument does tend to carry some weight. As much as I hate the "realists", I have to conceed their point that Iraq is most definitely not Japan or Germany. And that they make a better argument than the folks over at ANSWER.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 30, 2004 08:20 PM

Maybe it's just because I enjoy his Kerry-bashing, but I gotta admit, he is more sensible than almost anybody on the left I've read lately. Yes, he indulges himself in the anti-Bush rhetoric, but he wouldn't be on the left if he didn't. He's not a raver like Dowd or Krugman. I'll check him out for awhile.

Posted by: Pat Curley at April 30, 2004 08:33 PM

Yeah, what Dennis said!!!

CASE IN POINT: One of Marc's posts decries the fact that Kerry doesn't seem to stand for anything. He enlightens us by pointing out the fact that Kerry wasn't nominated because he stood for something, but because he was "the electable guy". He doesn't quite grasp, it seems, just how much the two go together.

Kerry is "the electable guy" and the guy most able to unify the Democrats precisely BECAUSE he doesn't stand for anything. THE DEMOCRATS DON'T STAND FOR ANYTHING!!! It makes sense! Well, I take that back. Democrats do stand for things, just never at all the same things at the same times. They've been the "Party of Other" for the past 15 or so years, more unified in their opposition to Republicans than in any principles among themselves. All through the 90s it was Neo versus New Deal. Now it's hawk versus dove. Half of them want more troops in Iraq and half of them want to pull out as soon as possible. That kind of says it all, if you ask me. John Kerry most resembles Bill Clinton in the fact that he's everything to everyone, except he doesn't quite have the charisma to pull it off so he decides to put you to sleep instead.

Aside from whether or not this is a good thing, you gotta admit it's the best formula the Democrats have right now of winning elections. Kerry's ideological incoherence actually gives him a shot at holding his base together and winning the White House. This notion is likely WAY over Marc's head, however.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 30, 2004 08:40 PM

Yes, Pat, he's sensible. He's just not that intelligent.

Go and read The New Republic if you're looking for sensible voices on the Left. That's where you'll find them. Perhaps the only place you'll find them, these days.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 30, 2004 08:43 PM

Or simply talk to me. I'm still on the Left and I've always been sensible, even when everyone else around me seems to lose their way (opposing a War in Iraq with an incredibly strong liberal case going for it and whatnot).

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 30, 2004 08:47 PM

Grant, I enjoy TNR, although not as much as I did when Sullivan and Kelly were writing for it. Beinart can be great and he can be a complete pill, and Marshall, whom I used to have some respect for, has turned into a toad. Easterbrook is great on the facts, not so great on the analysis.

Posted by: Pat Curley at April 30, 2004 09:02 PM


Dude, I dunno if Sullivan isn't writing for the print magazine anymore or not, but he's been all over the website these past six or so months.

And I'd have to concur in regards to Easterbrook. The guy just rambles and rambles and rambles. I don't think he's really up to the TNR standard, myself.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 30, 2004 09:12 PM

Hey, anyone been thinking that Kerry might consider John McCain for Secretary of Defense if he wins?

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 30, 2004 09:20 PM

Since when is TNR part of the Left? I'm not going to claim (as some on the Left do) that it's actually a conservative magazine, but part of the Left (capital 'L')?

Posted by: Dave Ruddell at April 30, 2004 09:23 PM

I wasn't making distinctions between Big-L Left and little-l left, Dave. Most people around here don't, unfortunately, as they don't recognize the difference. Kudos to you, in this regard.

I was simply refering to the Left as consisting of everything left of center, from Joe Lieberman on out. "The Nation", the New Republic is not thank God. Moderate neoliberalism is much more their style.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 30, 2004 09:28 PM


Kerry has enough on his hands trying to find someone stupid enough to be his V.P.. Rumor has that the Assistant City Manager for Obetz, Ohio turned him down this week on the grounds that he didn't want risk damaging his career.

This isn't suggesting that McCain wouldn't make himself available to Kerry for the Defense slot. One can only hope he becomes a Democrat at the same time...it would raise the I.Q.s of both parties substantially.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at April 30, 2004 09:38 PM


I'd be curious to hear your definition of what "left", little or big L, actually is, or should be. If it's turned out that consolidating power in the hands of the state is actually inimical to traditional leftist goals, does it make sense to continue to define those who advocate such consolidation as leftist?

Posted by: David Warner at April 30, 2004 09:47 PM


Totten posted something on this a while back, I believe, about the difference between liberals and leftists. He spells it out better than anyone I can think of off the top of my head, academic or otherwise. Here's the link:


Make sure to stop and read the comments, as well. I remember this one being a pretty lively (and heated) discussion. And he gets more into the details of it in the comments section, too.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 30, 2004 10:25 PM

Anything I put on a public forum is open game for attribution - but I put my email on it in the hope that folks ask for an o.k....and so I can see where it ends up.

I just watched Nightline.

I am interested to see what the media makes of it tomorrow; my own take will wait until then.

Posted by: TmjUtah at April 30, 2004 10:44 PM


My girlfriend is a leftist. I'm a liberal. We've been dating for a little over 6 months. I wanted to bring this up in an attempt to add to something Michael said in that post.

He mentioned that liberals are the left-wing of the establishment and that leftists are anti-establishment altogether. After six months of dating a leftist and seeing this firsthand, I can postively tell you that this is ENTIRELY true to levels Michael probably isn't even aware of: It has alot to do with your overall personality, believe it or not, outside of politics even.

I'm very much establishment-minded. When I see a problem, I want to work within the system to reform it, instinctually. My girlfriend sees a problem and is a whole heck of alot more revolution-minded, more anti-establishment about it (though not violently!).

We both consider ourselves feminists and we both are, her more than me, somewhat active within the modern feminist movement. Every movement must necessarily have two fronts and two operations. My first thought when it comes to feminism is to tone the message and frame the issues in such a way that broadens the base and brings in new people, more people than ever before. Her first thought is to rally up the troops. If you want a more accessible comparison with this, though not that it has anything to do with politics, think of party politics...

The Republicans have to have their Arnold Schwarzeneggers and Rudolph Guilianis and Arlen Spectors just as the Democrats have to have their Bill Clintons and Joe Liebermans and Centrists. They have to have these folks to bring more people into the tent and to broaden the base into a majority so things can get done.

The Republicans also have to have their Pat Robertsons and Dick Armeys and Ralph Reeds just as the Democrats have to have their Paul Wellstones and Ted Kennedys and Howard Deans. These folks have got to be there to keep the most loyal supporters loyal, to keep the foundation of the tent from crumbling away.

My point here is that this difference is instinctual and deep within the personality of every individual. Some folks are naturally inclined to broaden the base and are more establishment-friendly. Others are MUCH MUCH less so.

Anyway, that's as far as the party politics comparison will stretch, though. The Democrats are, 95% of them, establishment-type people and so are the Republicans. In the broader sense, they're both moderate parties in that they're the left wing and right wing of the establishment. 95% of Democrats are either moderates or liberals, not leftists. I was simply using the party politics comparison to illustrate how it has alot to do with either having an establishment-mindset or an anti-establishment-mindset.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at April 30, 2004 10:52 PM

Grand commentary, Grant. I think that's exactly right. I know what you're saying is right because I've been there. I personally have been a radical leftist, a liberal, and a centrist. I've never been a socialist, but I did for a while hate the establishment-ness (so to speak) of the Democratic Party. So when some conservatives describe the Democrats as though they are farther to the left than I was when the Dems were too right-wing for me, it makes me chuckle. (By the way, my leftist days were only slightly leftist in a Ralph Nader sort of way. I always thought hardcore leftists like those at Indymedia were nuts.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 30, 2004 11:11 PM

Thanks for taking the time to lay all that out, Grant, and you make a lot of good points. Especially the temperament insight. I was there when MJT first posted the left/liberal thing, so I'm familiar with and concur broadly with his views.

One concern I have is that in your picture of the current political landscape, you leave out the 800-pound gorilla - those so dissaffected by the current political system that we do not, yet, vote. We are often quite active in our communities, and would respond to a compelling vision of what our country might be.

I think you both have an uncommonly keen handle of where we are, but I'm more concernd about where we're going, or more to the point, where we might go if we can get our act together, and do so together as a country.

Not sure how familiar you guys are with the Strauss and Howe Generations stuff, but they basically predicted the current divisions we see today and highlight other similar periods in our history. Usually such periods are followed by a period of emerging consensus.

My hunch is that it will be guys like you two who will lead us to that consensus. In retrospect, history will consider those who so lead to be the "progressives" of the era, however they are labeled today. So my question is:

What would a true "left" look like? I know what we currently label as left, but I fear we do disservice to what has been a proud and often indispensible tradition in so doing.

P.S. TmjUtah, tighten up the prose some (I know, physician, heal thyself!) and you could go places. I think we should call you VDH, jr.


Posted by: David Warner at April 30, 2004 11:52 PM

David: Not sure how familiar you guys are with the Strauss and Howe Generations stuff

Yeah, I've read their books. They actually quoted me in their most recent book, page 356.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 1, 2004 12:44 AM


You said, “I read people I don't agree with because, like everyone else, I need reality checks.” If the reality check is that the leftists are dangerous, and that still have yet to wake up to the reality that’s in front of their faces, then I agree wholeheartedly.

I criticized you in my previous comment, but let me just add that I do so with the utmost respect. I appreciate immensely everything you do, and the impact it has had on me.

Sometimes I still worry though.

Posted by: P. Whitnety at May 1, 2004 02:08 AM


Yes, I’ll keep hoping and praying even if it irks you. It’s my right as an American, and you haven’t taken it away from me yet.

Oh, and Left, Right, makes no difference to me what label you give it. A piece of poop by any other name smells just as stinky. I doesn’t matter if your stance against the war is less extreme then that of the vast majority. At this point, it’s like arguing the difference between having hundreds killed at a slow pace instead of millions dying quickly and the immediate collapse of civilization. Both options are unacceptable. There’s no longer room for any middle ground.

Sept. 11th should have taught you better.

Posted by: P. Whitnety at May 1, 2004 02:11 AM

P. Whitnety: If the reality check is that the leftists are dangerous

No, the reality check is needed because I'm not right about everything. Neither is anyone else.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 1, 2004 02:22 AM

"No, the reality check is needed because I'm not right about everything. Neither is anyone else."

Just a hunch, but this may be the kernel of your wisdom.

Might also serve as a decent seed for that consensus mentioned above...

Posted by: David Warner at May 1, 2004 04:51 AM

Breaking:Tacitus says we just lost the war.


Posted by: Jussi Hämäläinen at May 1, 2004 06:16 AM

I see very little chance that leftist terrorism will be any kind of a factor in the next few years, for the simple reason that it will not be chic in the post 9-11 world. Remember the embarrassment the NY Times had when it published the fawning portrait of the Pentagon bombers the weekend after? That article was possible right up to 9-10. It would never be published today.

George Cerny, you need a few history lessons if you think Bush’s jobs record is anything like Herbert Hoover’s. In Hoover’s years, the unemployment rate went from 3.2% in 1929 to 23.6% in 1932. In Bush’s term it has gone from 4.2% in January 2001 to 5.7% as of March 2004. In fact, it is right around where it was when Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996.

Oh, and correlation isn’t causation is another useful phrase you can use to distract people without coming up with any actual evidence to support your point.

Bobby Herbert, let me guess, you were one of those types who told us that we’d have tens of thousands of casualties in Baghdadgrad alone last year. Now you’re reduced to predicting hundreds of casualties and telling us that’s too steep a price to pay.

Posted by: Pat Curley at May 1, 2004 08:07 AM

Dang, sorry I think that last was a post intended for Roger's Blog--got distracted by a phone call.

Posted by: Pat Curley at May 1, 2004 08:08 AM


Didn't oppose the war, buddy. Don't know where you got that from. Maybe you assume that much because I criticized an element or two of how things have been carried out. Because, you know, criticizing is un-American, right?

Posted by: Grant McEntire at May 1, 2004 10:02 AM

...Criticizing being an act of dissent and dissent being treason. As opposed to the highest form of patriotism, in the words of Thomas Jefferson. Guess I was right in labeling you a John-Birch type.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at May 1, 2004 10:06 AM

"Yeah, I've read their books. They actually quoted me in their most recent book, page 356."

Cool. So I guess you know that we're supposed to be the hard-ass generation that brings the boomers down to earth and looks out for the millenials.

Along those lines...

"Breaking:Tacitus says we just lost the war."

Guess we'd better take up a collection to buy Tacitus a case of Depends and let our marines do their job. I'm open to contrary evidence, but it is my understanding that this approach was their call based on facts on the ground.

Isn't this "Baathist" general one of the same ones we tried to turn right before the war? Who had promised covertly to do so, but then backed out in fear of Saddam? Am I a leftist because I attend the endless mandatory diversity and sexual harassment workshops that are the price of admission to university life in our own country?

Arguments welcome.

Posted by: David Warner at May 1, 2004 10:14 AM

The Iraqis are supposed to achieve limited sovereignty beginning in eight weeks.

At some point, they will have to be able to point at one specific moment and say "We established control of a situation". If a general of the former regime steps forward and does the job, and does it well...I would remind the posters here that in the post WW2 era just about all the effective 'french' colonels and generals had a 'von' somewhere in their names - and that they learned their trade invading france, or on the Eastern front.

If Fallujah is the turning point, more power to them. We aren't there to babysit. We are there to remove a threat to our interests. If it takes razing cities and salting the earth, AT THE EXTREME, then we go there. If we don't have to, that's alright, too.

The coverage of the tactical environment there has been, frankly, abaysmal. The Marines have controlled traffic in and out of the city for three weeks. They have moved in and out of selected areas practically at will, and have used superior technology and weaponry to reduce enemy forces to target status. Morale is very high. It should be. 1st, 4th, and 5th Marines are online together for the first time since Korea, and they have had enough time to learn the battlefield, the enemy, and what works or doesn't work.

If the Iraqis that intend their country to become a democracy sieze this moment, if the Iraqi general is an honest agent and capable of restoring order and lawful control of the city...

yes, that's several 'ifs', I know...

...then haven't we attained a small step toward our objective? A self-governing Iraq, with Iraqis making it work? Once again, the opposition's lack of traction makes it impossible for them to even acknowledge the possibility of progress - much less success.

The Dem's response to the President's radio address might have had more impact had the former lieutenant named specifics instead of simply reading talking points. It's an ongoing battle we are engaged in, and the passing of an anniversary means little in the pursuit of the goal.

The media noise - to - signal ratio has spiked again. I think that I'll take a break from following the situation for most of the weekend to let things shake out a bit. My lungs have cleared almost enough for me to honor my commitment to teach basic pistol at the indoor range tonight. Nothing beats teaching mommies and daughters how to safely operate lifesaving equipment.

Posted by: TmjUtah at May 1, 2004 11:38 AM

Hello? you're on the Cusp here --- more threads, more often, please!

As Cher said: Snap out of it --- hahahahah

Posted by: Philly at May 1, 2004 09:59 PM


You make great points, man, and this last one is pretty much dead-on. Except for one thing. You keep refering to "the Iraqis" and using the pronoun "they" in describing the interests of the peoples of Iraq.

Truth is, there is no "Iraqi people". They're not a "they". They're a "Sunni Iraqi people" and a "Shia Iraqi people" and the "Iraqi Kurds". They're not just Iraqis as we are just Americans, first and foremost, as this is often times the reality in post-colonial societies. Our greatest challenge lies in uniting them towards liberalism before folks like Sadr unite them in the opposite direction.

A general recognizing of the deeply-seeded cultural and ethnic problems in Iraq would go a long way. We Americans have no real sense of what it's like to live without a strong national identity. It's a hell of a blindspot and this type of hugely erroneous thinking is going to hurt is in the long-run.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at May 1, 2004 10:15 PM

Grant -

Tribalism is a fact, yes...but I believe a partitioned Iraq will not stand economically. I don't believe that allowing them to revert to tribal fiefdoms will go any distance in addressing the main objective we seek - the beginning of the reformation of the Arab world so that we might be able to coexist.

Our friends the Kurds aren't going to cede any substantive slice of the northern oilfields to the Sunnis. None. They have been willing enough to work with us, and work well, because they believe that in a worst case scenario things will play out in their favor. Fair enough.

Nothing about this is easy...and frankly, outside of a few essays, my knowledge of what passes for intercine political history of the Sunni/Shia relationship is barely past common public knowledge.

The BEST end solution for the Iraqis is a soveriegn Iraq with a functioning, representative government that fairly represents the interests of everyone. Very, very tough...but if the reason it cannot happen is because individuals like Sadr, or external influences from Iran foment terror and thuggery, we still have a running clock to work with.

As a single nation, they have water in abundance, oil in obscene amounts, they can export food, and hold a unique power of position to bridge Europe and Asia together. Without they learn to function as a single nation, they lose all the advantages of a diversified economy and become just more hothouses of despotism.

They must rise above their traditional dead end tribalism in order to make it work. No, it isn't easy. And no, I don't think we are doing ourselves any great favors by injecting Brahimini (sp?) into the mix. Blown opportunities aside, there is still work ongoing, and still strings to be played out. Our own State Department and CIA have been the weakest links to date.

I'm not a sleeps-with-a-picture-of-Bush zealot. I do understand implicitly the need for the job to be done, and I have no reservations at all about saying we wouldn't have done near as well with any other administration. This one acted and took the risks. That there isn't a Baghdad Rotary Club chapter right this second is not as important as what form of government will take shape after the Iraqis become responsible for their own sovereignty.

Wars break things. Plans, for a start. I'm very interested to see how Fallujah plays out...because Najaf will need to be dealt with before June's end.

Posted by: TmjUtah at May 1, 2004 10:45 PM


Come on, Michael. We've stopped commenting on everything. Your regulars have all run away. We're bored now. Give us something new to bitch about.

Some suggestions:

-The Horror at Abu Ghraib.

-Kerry's big foreign policy speech at Westminster.

-A reflection piece in honor of "Mission Accomplished".

-A story about the "gun safety expert" from Florida who shot himself in the leg the other day with a .40-caliber handgun giving a presentation in front of 50 or so kids. (I imagine it probably worked pretty well.)

-Something. ANYTHING!!!

Posted by: Grant McEntire at May 2, 2004 05:18 AM

How strange, an antiwar voice that isn't on the other side. His points are similar to my own misgivings prior to the war: that foreign policy should be based on colder considerations than mere morality, and that there was little budgeting/planning for the aftermath. That said, I supported the war because the whole region is a snakepit filled with unremitting propaganda that is bound to lead to conflict at some point. Something needed to be done to shake things up. The crimes of Saddam certainly made my support easier.

Viz propaganda, someone should study the role of the intelligentsia/writers/artists in promoting war in the modern world. WWI would be a good starting point.

Posted by: charles at May 2, 2004 07:28 AM

Gun safety expert shoots self with automatic pistol during safety lecture.

Moral of the story: guy a revolver.

Posted by: Zhombre at May 2, 2004 01:56 PM

BUY A REVOLVER. And remember to preview your post.

Posted by: Zhombre at May 2, 2004 01:59 PM

Grant -

At least they got the first rule: "A weapon is ALWAYS loaded." I know that's not the NRA rule (Don't point a weapon at anything you do not intend to destroy) but it's the one my students get.

I've packed up my stuff and left public shooting venues...pits, out in the desert, even an indoor range, once...if a courteous word of advice wasn't sufficient to establish safetey. Muzzle consciousness, loading only at the line, and being aware of the situation and the range limits, and just flat respect for others are all necessary factors for safe shooting. I've never been present at a self-inflicted or accidental gunshot wound incident, and don't intend to be.

Back in the mists of time it was o.k. to shoot up a draw in east county, San Diego, way out on I-8. It was about the last public outdoor venue available and the pressure was simply terrific. The fact that about half the traffic was just people dumping their trash figured largely in it finally being closed.

The last time I went out there I ended up shooting alone in one of the pits carved perpendicular to the road. There must have been fifteen or twenty of them; I had lucked out and gotten one that ran back deep enough that I was able to at least zero my rifles. Most of the time I was limited to pistol shooting because I couldn't get a lane deeper than twenty or thirty yards.

A clean cut guy in his twenties pulled up and asked if he could share the spot for about half an hour, just to check some weapons he'd done some work on. I told him it wouldn't be a problem, just let me go stand up some targets before he pulled anything out of the case and that would be fine.

We end up standing online, about ten feet apart, and he DUMPS about half a drum of 7.62X39 into the ground, max ten yards in front of us. Steel core Chinese ammo...into desert dirt and rock. I was speechless, and in the brief gap of shocked silence after the first burst he says "I think I may have screwed up the trigger" then proceeds to dump the remaining thirty or forty rounds in the same place.

He didn't know what he'd done wrong, even though we were both covered in dust and rock fragments. Then he swung the rifle to almost sweep me with the muzzle, and that was when I ran him off. Politely. Got inside the muzzle, burned the crap out of my hand on the gas tube and told him he was done shooting in my pit and that he needed to go. It was like I kicked his puppy. Clueless.

That's the ONE egregious instance of brainless gun usage I've ever been involved with over three decades of shooting. I guess the quality of the event made up for the quantity. I'm certain he's the one that people mentally refer to when they say "gun nuts"...and blithely smear the rest of us.

Posted by: TmjUtah at May 2, 2004 05:06 PM

The intelligent anti-war types aren't on the Left, they're on the Right. The Anti-War Left's main argument against the War was mainly that it's imperialism and that Bush is only in it for the oil. The Anti-War Right's argument was more simply that it wreaks of hubristic madness to think we could or SHOULD try and pull it off.

It's hard to avoid being a little simplistic making these sort of generalizations, but I think you make a good point here. In retrospect, the people whose judgments at the time of the decision to made have been most clearly vindicated are the Scowcroft/Eagleburger/etc. Bush one realists.

Posted by: Mork at May 2, 2004 06:42 PM


Mork, before the first shipping container of mosquito netting and arctic glove liners arrived in theater prepatory to the war, you were one of the ones talking about Baghdadagrad, right?

You'll be reading from the same script right up until the day they have elections in Iraq...then you'll complain that the wrong candidates won and that we've failed then.

Nobody's been vindicated yet. We are killing hard core terrorist types THERE. There are no more no-fly zones THERE. There are no checks being written to Hamas/Hizbollah/al Qaeda from THERE. The local thugocracy has been distilled into Islamofascist opportunists, Baathist remnants, and foreign agitators - THERE. We fight them there were we have troops and weapons to kill them, not here were civilians are just meat for the machine.

The carnage going on there is amplified through our TV screens and column miles of cynical text, with little or no attention paid to any positive accomplishments. If the entire twentysix million people of Iraq was up in arms, there might be a problem. That is not the case. The enemy numbers in the low thousands and they depend on our side abandoning the fight. They know they cannot win otherwise. Until we crush them OR present an undeniably unified front of unwavering will, they will still seek out the weak and exposed to kill and terrorize.

Just how important is Iraq, in the war? Important enough for al Qaeda to coerce a change of government in Spain. Important enough for al Qaeda to attempt to kill off most of the government of Jordan. Important enough for them to foment Islamic rebellions in Thailand. Important enough to operate within the boundaries of the Kingdom - basically their home field. Important enough for Syria and Iran to ignore the threat of sanctions and continue as a pipeline of explosives and terrorists because they know that a free Iraq effectively signals the end of their dictatorships.

There isn't a non-war approach to confronting Islamofascism. The only other avenue to address the threat is a war of annihalation, a clash of civilizations...and the frat boy team came up with the idea that that might not be the moral route to follow since the vast majority of people we would be killing have never had a voice in the actions of their leaders' actions.

The motive force behind the western antiwar movement isn't about whether or not we can or even should win the war - merely about who is leading the fight, and on what grounds. Period. This isn't going to be a managed crisis with an open-ended body count like Israel. Will we knock them out before they are able to kill one...two...ten of our cities? The big question I see looming down the road is if we will end up having to go back to continental europe and save them, again, from invaders they should have seen coming long ago.

Talk about babies and bathwater. Be careful for what you wish for. Someday you might actually get it.

Posted by: TmjUtah at May 2, 2004 08:32 PM


Yep. The realists and pacifists I don't like, but the realists at least I can somewhat respect. I detest their lack of idealism and ambition and their "colder considerations", but at least they're sensible. Being anti-war, that is to say morally opposed to all wars (just and unjust), is simply flat out irrational.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at May 2, 2004 08:34 PM


I basically agree with everything you're saying there, but it's a sticky situation we're in now. A scientifically-conducted nationwide poll in Iraq the other day found that a pretty strong majority of Iraqis now want us out of their country. I think they're fools for thinking it, but like it or not this now puts us firmly in the true OCCUPATION role. In a nutshell, we're now occupying a country against its own wishes. I don't think for a second that we ought to be pulling out, whether they want us to or not, but this is to say the least very troubling.

We're fighting for democracy in Iraq against the democratic wishes of the Iraqi people. This situation, based on that fact alone, is a powder keg. Self-determination is a powerful force. If we keep losing the hearts and minds like this, sooner or later we're going to lose the War. Period. I'm not offering up any solutions here. I don't have any solutions. I'm just pointing out the fact there's more to it than acting in our own best interests.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at May 2, 2004 08:48 PM

Grant -

Summer of 1863.

Tough job? Yes. Do we have the power to accomplish the mission? Bags more than we will ever need.

Do we as a nation have the will to see the job done? There's the rub. We cannot afford not too...but that isn't acknowledged by those who would see us walk away.

Posted by: TmjUtah at May 2, 2004 09:09 PM

Grant & TmjUtah

I've always had my doubts about the hearts&minds business, because it's too much of a WinWin... do you see what I mean? They have to win their own self-respect and part of that is going to involve looking like they don't take any shit from us. To put it all on a "street" level.

Like the old Japanese saying, how if you do a favor for someone you need to apologize to them because you've made them lose face.

Posted by: miklos rosza at May 2, 2004 09:34 PM

But I find the maneuvering by the Marines around Fallujah interesting as hell (I don't view what's going on there as a "retreat") and meanwhile al-Sadr is, as some predicted (Iraqi blogs) wearing out his welcome down in Najah.

The Belmont Club has become the most interesting blog around the last couple of weeks.

Posted by: miklos rosza at May 2, 2004 09:52 PM

Though Stephen den Beste thinks Belmont Club might be overoptimistic. I don't know. I just hope for the best.

Posted by: miklos rosza at May 2, 2004 10:31 PM

Miklos -

I respecfully suggest that 'hearts and minds' isn't the working model here. We are operating on the premise that democracies tend not to attack their neighbors...and that the only effective mechanism for protecting human rights is democracy and the rule of law.

I agree that dealing with the cultural component is very, very tough. Referring back to my above posts, we can do this by injecting civilization into the mix...or we can do it the real hard way.

The Iraqi population isn't waiting to be bribed or persuaded. It's waiting to see which side wins. That's a cultural behaviour and I respect that. We have to win to be believable.

Can you imagine the force multiplier if the mullahs in Iran were to open up their New York Times and read a lead editorial rejecting the possibility that Iran can be allowed to develop nuclear weapons? Or if the BBC were to put together one of their masterful miniseries documentaries detailing the links between Tehran and terror extending back to the dawn of the mullahocracy?

We are playing football with only eight or nine players on the field for our side. They are big, bad, and motivated, but they are still a fragment of a team without the other two or three no-shows.

What level of atrocity will we have to sustain for the antiwar/Bush/capitalism/WTO/etc.etc.etc. crowd to finally get the fact that their self-assumed role of enlightened progressive secualrists is in no way a mitigating factor in their place on the battlefield?

They are infidel. That marks them for death right along with the rest of us, regardless of how outraged they may feel at non-dolphin safe tuna or how antiquated they regard concepts like duty, honor, or patriotism.

They can disagree with the direction of the country - the decisions will be made at the ballot box. We can quibble over the role of government in providing social services, education, and health care. What we cannot do is tug of war over a toy in the playroom while the house burns down around us, and that is about as close as I can come to understanding their mentality in this conflict.

Posted by: TmjUtah at May 2, 2004 10:44 PM


Go look at today's post on your "Good War Blog". Cooper's using the same "mercenaries" meme we got from such Anti-War Activists Of Integrity as Michael Moore and Daily KOS.

Marc Cooper seems to be the retarded offspring of Maureen Dowd and Michael Moore...is that the "best" we can get in Anti-War blogs?

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at May 3, 2004 05:52 AM
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