Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My Fear

When Professor Turner spoke Monday, he talked about the Khmer Rogue bashing babies' heads against trees when they ran out of bullets. Last night, I read one of Ronald Reagan's drafts of a radio commentary about the brutality of the Cambodian communists. Millions died who didn't need to die, because the United States abandoned the good guys. Americans ignored it, and now even otherwise well-educated law students ignorantly snicker that Communism could be a threat to anyone. But bin Laden took notice, and is counting on a repeat of our cruel and self-defeating indifference.

The Democrats were elected on the promise that while they would change course in Iraq, they would not abandon the effort. This is what America voted for - if the Dems betray that directive of the people, they will doom millions of human beings to the most brutal of deaths, send a clear message that America can't be counted on, and invite destructive Jihadist aggression on our own shores and against our interests.

I trust the American people, but I'm worried the Democrats will misinterpret their mandate and repeat this awful mistake:

It was a Democrat-controlled Congress that decided to sink free South Vietnam, by cutting off its supplies even of rifle ammunition after the peace treaty signed by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in 1973. It was Congress that ordered all U.S. bombing halted -- air strikes that could have made mincemeat of the regular North Vietnamese army, marching openly along the South's main highways in 1974. The U.S. never lost the war militarily, and could easily have won it without self-imposed restraints. But the enemy was more ruthless, and the allied will to fight evaporated.

Why did it evaporate? For the same reason then as now. The "alternative America", ruling from its ivory towers in academia, the media, and the entertainment industry, could not understand why anyone should die for any cause at all; could not distinguish between freedom and tyranny; and instinctively sided with any enemy of what they fancifully imagined to be "American imperialism".

My 21st birthday happened to coincide with the final evacuation of Saigon. From my modest experience on the ground in that country, I knew what was coming next. The boat people were no surprise to me. I think that was the day I fully realized, in adult terms, that evil often prevails in this world. So this is nothing new.

The fate that will befall all those millions of courageous Iraqis, showing the dye on their fingers after they had voted -- in defiance of all the terror threats -- will not come as a surprise to me, either. They are being sold out, as the Vietnamese were before them. But the consequences of abandoning Iraq will come home to the United States and the West, in a way Vietnam never touched us.

Will we act to preserve the people of the region we promised not to abandon? For the sake of humanity, freedom, and our own self preservation, I pray we do.


PubliusRex said...

If the premise of Prof. Turner's talk were heeded, i.e. that Congress has a narrowly prescribed foreign policy role, you wouldn't need worry.

Unfortunately, that doctrine was watered down like so many constitutional doctrines in the last century - mainly by power grabbing "liberal" legislators. It underscores my point in a prior comment - that the election may have been a victory for democracy, it's not good for constitutional democracy.

Mathew said...

So now conservatives are ready to admit that this Iraq conflict IS like Vietnam? How convenient for you.

And aren't you omitting the obvious? Where George H. Bush failed the Kurds after we explicitly encouraged them to rise against Sadaam? And, let's see, where did that take place... Oh, that's right. Iraq.

Furthermore, your "earnest plea" that Democrats make good on their campaign promise seems to completely pass the buck regarding the already inhumane, pro-torture neo-con policies. Bush's failed war policies are already to blame the deaths of many innocents. Your assumption that Democrats will be less humane in finishing what Bush so arrogantly started is bewildering.

Orrin Johnson said...

Mathew, I will assume for the sake of argument that you staged ardent protests throughout the 90's against Saddam's inhumane state sponsored torture in Iraq. I will also assume that you, in 1991, demanded that the Army march into Baghdad and provide military support to the Kurds and the Shi'ites in the south who were also (quite admittedly) betrayed by GHWB and the "realists." Perhaps you even, as I did, watched first hand Saddam's pre-Bush, pre-9/11 smuggling opperations go with only token resistance, seeing them act more boldly and murderously with each month we let them get away with it.

And let's make one thing very, very clear - it is not Bush who is responsible for the deaths of innocents, but the evil fascists who plant car bombs, target civilians, and hide behind children, and behead reporters with dull swords. This war would be over and we would have left 2 years ago if those evil, evil people decided to respect their countrymen and join in the political process. I understand that you're an insulated American liberal who has swallowed the liberal myths of Vietnam whole without question, and who now excuses the current Jihadist culture of death as our fault, which is why I fear your kind having foreign policy influence. But that's no excuse for your lame Daily Kos talking points retread. Give a little of your own analysis if you disagree, for crying out loud, as opposed to the talking points we've all heard ad nauseum since March 2003. Try to follow me now, if your attention span will sustain you.

No - the Iraq war would become like Vietnam if we surrender to the fascists. Unlike the VC, those fascists will follow us here. This is a unique war, but there are ALWAYS parallels in military history. It resembles Vietnam in the way described, but not so in ways such as the lack of draft and general troop support for the endeavor. It's also like WWII in some ways, not in others. Knowing which lessons of history apply is as important (if not more) than remembering to follow them in the first place.

As successful as military operations actually were in SE Asia, the Iraq war has been far more successful, killing far more bad guys and yielding a far better chance of true peace - not "stability" genocide peace - than the region has ever seen. The stirings of democracy are real and powerful - and frightening to the people who would maintain their brutal oppression. Why else would they be so brutal and indiscriminant in their violence?

Leaving Vietnam was a loss to the millions (literally) who died at the hands of Communists in SE Asia. It was a loss to our credibility world wide that we are still suffering. It was a signal of weakness that invited aggression instead of deterring it. We've compunded and reinforced that error many times since - in Beruit, 1991 Iraq, Somalia, Yemen (we used to have a USMC detatchment there until a hotel bomb in 1992), first WTC attack, etc. We all were complicit - Bush I, Clinton, Gingrich's impeachment happy Congress, pre-9/11 W. Every time we compounded our error, the enemy grew bolder. We stopped appeasing the enemy for the most part after 9/11, but there are people who want to go back to hoping beyond all reason that if we just leave them alone, the evil men who saw the heads off of their enemies and think nothing about strapping suicide vests to Down's Syndrome children will call it good and leave US alone.

I understand you're all heady from your apparent victory today. But with victory comes governing and security responsibility. If you and your party abandon the Iraqis to the murderous fascists who will remember who had purple fingers, and thus abandon our children to unknown horrors of modern terrorism, I hope you can do what the baby boomers did - get a cushy tenured job in academia, ignore the blood on your hands, blame Republicans, and pat yourelf on the back for your committment to "peace" and "justice".

Mathew said...

I know you'd prefer to debate an "insulated American liberal." It's easy to burn the straw men and scarecrows you build for yourself. I lost count of how many blanket assumptions you made about me personally in that little diatribe you must be so proud of.

But why exactly did you launch into that dull, regurgitated history lesson without justifying G.H. Bush's failure to help the Kurds? You seem to think that it was my responsibility, at age 13, to take care of this. I had neither the resources nor the courage as a boy of that age.

The fact is that the Rumsfeld school of middle-eastern foreign policy created Sadaam in the 80s, failed to remove him from power in the 90s and now is bogging the US down in an unnecessary war.

Liberal myths about Vietnam? You might review what I actually wrote, and compare that to what you assumed I would write. Bush has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that this war had become another Vietnam. Now you, an amateur apologist for this administration, warn Democrats that they are in danger of making a Vietnam out of the situation. It's just ironic.

Orrin Johnson said...

I'm going to assume that you misunderstood, not that you responded without carefully reading what I wrote. It would also help if you read the complete article I linked to originally. But allow me to clarify:

I DON'T excuse GHWB from abandoning the Iraqis he promised to support. I BLAMED him. That's part of the reason we're there now. And if we left AGAIN, we'd just have to go back again. And each time it would be much worse. If your criticism is that we should have marched to Baghdad in 1991, we agree. Is that your argument? If your argument was that it was wrong to abandon Iraq then, why are you arguing that we should make the same mistake twice?

I carry no water for "this administration." To the extent that they fight an aggressive and necessary war on terror, including the fight in Iraq, I enthusiastically support them. To the extent they've made many mistakes, and have not been aggressive enough, I've been critical. If the Democrats can do it better without betraying the Iraqis, then good! That's my sincere hope. I'd rather see every seat in the Congress turn blue than see a city nuked because we invited aggression by showing weakness. I think the people thought they could do just that yesterday, and I'll respect their wisdom so long as Congress understands surrender in Iraq is not their mandate. I don't care which party wins the war as long as they're winning it. I'll vote for the biggest tax and spend "living constitution" liberal if I think they're the more effective war fighters. Would you say the same about conservatives?

If you were 13 in 1991, then you were 20 in 1998 when Saddam was still torturing people with equipment bought by French funds gained from the Oil-For-Food scandal, and the "peace" activists were blaming America for their suffering. That was old enough to have done something. You were 22 when I made my first Gulf deployment in 2000, when Saddam was offering a lot of money if one of his smugglers killed me. I saw the joke the UN sanctions had become, and wanted to invade then. (So did Clinton, incidentally, but he didn't have the courage any more than GHWB did.) I bet you weren't itching to invade then (or volunteering to), so spare me your moral outrage over torture now. Our military has acted with honor and restraint unseen in any conflict in history. Where they have not, they have been punished and jailed. Ironically, it is this very restraint that may actually have doomed us to this more protracted struggle. And by training the couragous Iraqis to run a real government, we are (if we don't quit now) saving millions of human beings from facing oppression and/or death in the future.

Were you expecting me to defend Bush I for not keeping his promise to freedom, just because he's a Republican? Did you expect me to defend Reagan for fleeing Beruit (as right as he was about so much else)? Well, I don't. It's not the party I carry water for, it's the principle of peace and freedom through strength that I extole. This isn't a partisan issue, except that this time (as in Vietnam) it's the Democrats who are more likely to abandon people we promised to protect, and thus further weaken us in the eyes of our enemy.

"We created Saddam" - no, he'd been around for awhile. Did we support him against the Soviet backed Iranians who were engaged in an aggressive and murderous battle with us at the time? Yes. Did that have bad consequences? You bet. Was it a mistake - would we have been better off if we hadn't? Hard to say, even in retrospect. What if we hadn't, and Soviet backed Iran defeated Iraq and shut down the oil supply? (Or Soviet backed Iraq taking over Iran - it would depend on who was selling the Russians the cheapest gas.) Surely, this would have spread Wahibism (or Ba'athism) throughout the region, increased the threat of their military resources being aimed at us, and deepening the energy crisis OPEC had already put on the world, with those nations having only recently learned from us in Vietnam that we would do nothing about it.

Again, your history is incomplete, and thus the conclusions you draw from it are simply wrong. You see the Iraq of the 80s in a vaccum because you've been wrongly taught that the Sovet Union was never really a threat to us (I hear it all the time here in law school), and probably not taught about the Iranian threats or the Soviet connection at all. I know my college professor's versions of those events were similarly lacking.

Your phrase "another Vietnam" implies that conflict was wrong from the begining. That's the liberal myth you extolled, not that I assumed. The fact is that Vietnam was a noble and winnable military victory that we CHOSE to lose when we didn't have to, thus dooming millions to the most brutal of deaths. The only reason it wasn't worse is that we stayed and kept the Communists busy long enough for Thailand and other SEA nations to establish relatively free societies.

This war is more important than Vietnam because of the spectre of nuclear, bio, or chemical terrorism. And it is not merely a war in Iraq, but part of a wider conflict. That it happens to be in Iraq is because it was the battlefield we chose, and as a result, it has drawn fighters, money, and intelligence to US, on OUR terms, as opposed to the other way around. Would you rather have stayed in the mountains of Afghanistan? Should we invade Pakistan? Should we stick to launching T-Hawks from the sea and rely only on satellite intel, and merely hope we're not attacked at home? That argument could be made, but I don't think it would have been as successful in deterring the attcks I think we would otherwise have suffered here at home since 9/11.

As importantly, should we now just let the Iraqis who had the courage to vote in the face of death threats now die? They surely would if we left. For that matter, the mass murder in post-Gulf War Iraq were on par with the current death toll in Darfur - where was George Clooney demanding that the UN enforce its mandates and stop the slaughter in Iraq back in 2000, WMDs or no?

These people's past and potential deaths may not matter to you. You may even see their suffering as just another dull history lesson. After all - America is the real threat to world peace, yes? Hatred of Bush trumps all, just as partisan political fallout from Watergate doomed the people of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, and the non-communists in South Vietnam. It didn't matter to the Baby Boomers who look back on their protesting days with pride, unaware and uncaring of the havoc they were responsible for, the lives their protests helped snuff out.

But they matter to me. The Cambodians matter to me, and I was much younger than 13 when Pol Pot was on his game. The Iraqis in 1991 matter to me, and I wasn't much older than you were. As an American, I feel responsible for that. To atone, we should not make the same mistake yet again. And so the Iraqis some would abandon today also matter to me.

I'm passionate about this because if we abondon Iraq, it will be a failure on three levels. First, it will be a credibility failure, not to the ivory tower intelligencia of Socialist Europe trying to appease their way out of their own ongoing intifada, but to those people who would throw off their Wahibist oppressors, but wonder if we would also abandon them if they tried. Second, it would be a dramatic strategic failure, signaling weakness and inviting the enemy to follow us home, simultaneously granting the enemy a failed state from which to strike us. Third, it would be a moral failure, as the blood bath of those who dared vote, volunteer for the police forces, and stood for office would be mercilessly tortured (in a way that would make them yearn to be waterboarded) and slaughtered by people who think sawing heads off is a ticket to paradise.

Bottom line - Bush is correct. This war has NOT become like "another Vietnam." Not yet. But it WILL if we choose to let it. That's my argument, and my fear. Your frankly empty arguments, which I think are representative of the far left who incorrectly think Tuesday's mandate is theirs, heighten my fear.

I understand many people think the best thing for this country and our security is to just quit and come home, and rely on Fortress America. After all, if it's just Iraqis dying, it's no big deal, right? If we quit, they'll act towards us in good faith, right? We can secure our borders here, right? I believe they, as you, Mathew, are sincere, well meaning, but deeply, profoundly, and tragically wrong. I believe they are so wrong as to be unwittingly complicit in great evil, just as the world was in 1933 Munich, just as were were in 70's SEA. But now that you know the facts, your complicity will no longer be unwitting.

Either the Democrats help Bush run things better, in which case I will sing their praises unashamedly, or they will cut him off at the knees and doom us to fight their another day, when NO one will dare trust us when we try to help them vote.

I know this post is a little long. It may even be "dull." But you don't fit actual geo-political understanding on a bumper sticker.

By the way, you are welcome here for real debate - even spirited and empassioned debate. However, if you want to cut and paste weird "gotchas" like "But you didn't blame Bush I!!!!" (especially when that's EXACTLY what I did), I encourage you to find a less intelligent forum more on par with such fare. (Hint: "Bush Lied about WMDs!" without acknowledging that Clinton also beleived he had them, or without having read the Deulfer Report regarding Saddam's plan to re-start WMD programs once he bribed enough UN people to drop the sanctions and which he was very close to achieving, is per se such "less intelligent" fare. That's especially true since it's irrelevant to this particular argument. Fair warning.)

Orrin Johnson said...

If "In cold blood" Murtha wins as Speaker, it will be a clear signal that the retreat faction will have prevailed, that the election has been misinterpreted, and we are poised to betray the would-be-democrats all over the Middle East. Am I seriously rooting for Nanci Pelosi?

God, I hope we do the right thing.

Cato said...

1. We can't stay in Iraq forever.
2. The violence in Iraq is getting worse, not better.

If both of those premises are true, we need to figure out how to wrap this thing up, the sooner the better.

I'm for the Federal System concept. There's no reason that the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites should have to live under the same government, beyond oil revenues and national security.

PubliusRex said...

Dailykos might sue the blog from copyright infringement over this thread.

Orrin Johnson said...

Cato, they DO have a federal system. It's the Constitution 13 million people risked their lives to vote for. And violence got worse in Europe in WWII before it got better, too. That doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't prevail.

If we leave before they have a functioning, free government able to defend themselves, we will doom ourselves to return when the violence will make today's situation look like a walk in the park.

Cato said...


they don't have the sort of federal system they need. The Sunni Triangle and the Shiite South need to be under separate governments that govern most aspects of their daily lives. Having the Shiites in charge of the whole country isn't the way to get the Sunnis to stop fighting.

mathew said...

This statement of yours highlights the differences between us that prompted my initial gibe:
"I'll vote for the biggest tax and spend "living constitution" liberal if I think they're the more effective war fighters. Would you say the same about conservatives?"

The Bush family has never fought a war well, and they've had ample opportunity and will. I think we'd agree on that. I don't necessarily believe that the democrats will do much better with this mess, but I see no reason to think that'll they do worse. I'm not even sure that's possible.

Your priority is "war fighting." I, on the other hand, reject a first-strike policy. I believe in defense as the best offense. This doesn't make me a conservative, a liberal or the bad American you seem to make of anyone who disagrees with you. I appreciate your first-hand military experience, and imagine watching murderous smugglers would get the blood boiling. But where does that end? I mean, shouldn't we be in several countries in Africa, Korea and Iran by now according to this policy? The Neo-con agenda seems to have made us the world's police in a way that an old-school conservative would reject.

I don't know what DailyKos is. I would google it, but it probably doesn't really matter.

PubliusRex said...

Then I'm surprised you corrected me and capitalized the K in it.

Notwithstanding the limited role Congress has in controlling foreign policy, if by democrats you mean Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman and maybe even Hillary Clinton, I don't doubt they can fight a war as effectively as W. But if you mean Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer, I share Orrin's concerns. It's hard to imagine a group of people being serious wartime leaders when they can't even be honest about their proposals. For example, why can't they just admit that "redeploy" = retreat and withdrawal.

Orrin Johnson said...

"I believe in defense as the best offense."

Based on this statement alone, your judgment on the warfighting capabilities of the Bush Presidencies is just not credible. No military historian or military strategist would agree with you. None. Especially not with a physically indefensible country the size of ours. Have you ever tried to inspect 100% of cargo containers? I have, and I can promise you that's not where we want to hang our hat on defense. Please, please, please - before you vote in a time of war, educate yourself.

The worldwide war has not gone as well as it could, but better than you think. Remember, "the war" is not a distinct "Iraq war" - it extends from Iraq to Afghanistan to NSA wiretapping, which has saved countless lives in this country and others.

Democrats will do worse if they surrender, as they are now discussing. They will do worse if they allow corrupt Alcee Hastings to head the Intelligence Committee. They will do worse if they cut funding for our war efforts, demand troop "redeployment," or can't even see it as the war it is (Pelosi's "problem"), or if by retreating we hope to intercept a nuke on the Arizona border or off the coast as opposed to destroying their capability to make it in the first place.

They will follow us home, Mathew, if we retreat. Then you will see how things will get worse. THat's my worst nightmare. (Of course, in spite of the clear lessons of history, Bush will be blamed.) I'm not calling you a "bad American," just an uninformed one. I'm saying that if we follow your recommendations, the results will be catastophic to us, to freedom, and to history.

We may yet need to go into Africa, NK, and Iran. If we abandon the Iraqis, that probability goes way, way up. But as it stands, I sincerely wish we could go save everyone all at once. It would help if Europe stopped relying on us for their defense (while sneering at us for it) and actualy fielded armies that could tackle some of these problems.

For my part, I'm a Reagan conservative who would have vastly increased the size of the military after 9/11 (or never let it lag in the first place). One of the reasons we can't get local support in countries who hate their oppressors is that after Vietnam, Somalia, and '91 Iraq, they no longer trust us to be there to provide support against an entrenched dictatorship. Not abandoning our support of the Iraqis (or Afghanis) will go a long way to restoring some of that trust.

Orrin Johnson said...

Cato, I'll give enough credit to the 13 million Iraqi voters to have correctly determined the kind of Constitution they need.

Troy said...

I'm jumping in late here, so a couple preliminaries.

1) I agree that we can't and shouldn't leave Iraq in the near future. It would be tremendously irresponsible.

2) I now believe that partition is the best strategy, in line with Biden's recommendations. (If Boxer or Kennedy ever have any say over defense, you are correct, we are doomed).

3) I do believe that a stable democratic Iraq (if possible) would be one the greatest accomplishments in securing a peaceful future.

Here's where I disagree strongly with Orinn's comments:

There is a very real difference between "the best offense is a good defense" and pre-emptive action.

If you do regard the war with Iraq as a critical battle in a greater "war on terror" then I don't believe you are uninformed (far from it), I believe you have completely failed to conceptualize how this "war" can be won.

This gist of the recent intelligence reports indicating that we are creating more terrorist activity in the world is indicative of why an offensive, pre-emptive mindset will not work.

If we had invaded Iraq purely to help them, purely to get rid of Hussein, and if we had conducted the invasion with a genuine international force, we would have achieved a PR victory - which is far more important now than a military, battle-centered victory.
Instead, everyone realizes (possibly correctly, possibly not) that the war in Iraq was self-centered and that we are willing to cause great havoc to eliminate potential threats. But there will always be another potential threat. We must find ways of convincing those that have the power and will to threaten won't target the U.S. with that capability.

We must convince the world that America is not the enemy. That we won't pre-emptive destroy entire societies if we perceive them to potentially be a threat to our way of life. If we are willing to do this and the world recognizes that we are willing to do this, they will hate us forever. And the number of terrorist volunteers will increase as more and more youth see America as a Great Evil that must be fought to the death.

We cannot kill all the terrorists, not pre-emptively and not protractedly. And as long as we commit to wars that in essence paint our country with gigantic bullseye, we will never be safe.

The War in Iraq has not made us safer. It may have made the World safer (only if we succeed) and for that reason the work must be finished. A stable Iraq must succeed. But we Americans are no safer. A new generation of terrorists are being born and they see only the United States as their enemy. We must find a way of convincing they we are not and killing them is not the answer.

mathew said...

You make a leap between inspecting cargo crates and preemptively invading a hostile country. I don't think military aggression is making this country safer; in fact, I think it's creating more aggression toward us. This isn't a lack of education on my part, it's just contrary to your entrenched beliefs.

Your assertion that no military strategist would ever agree that defense is the best offense is bizarre. Properly prepared defenders almost always have the advantage over their attackers. I believe better information and intelligence is the key to our defense, not performing, over and over, the bull in a chinashop routine.

Orrin Johnson said...

If we leave Iraq, the children of Iran and other Jihadist nations will be taught in their society devoid of a free press that Zionists/America are the cause of all the world's ills, and should be attacked.

If we stay in Iraq, the children of Iran and other Jihadist nations will be taught in their society devoid of a free press that America is the cause of all the world's ills, and should be attacked.

If we attack overwhelmingly another nation known to sponsor terrorism, the children of Iran and other Jihadist nations will be taught in their society devoid of a free press that America is the cause of all the world's ills, and should be attacked.

If we attack surgically another nation known to sponsor terrorism, leaving the infrastructure of a nation in place (as we DID in Iraq), the children of Iran and other Jihadist nations will be taught in their society devoid of a free press that America is the cause of all the world's ills, and should be attacked.

If we stay home entirely, and only use sanctions and diplomacy, the children of Iran and other Jihadist nations will be taught in their society devoid of a free press that America is the cause of all the world's ills, and should be attacked.

The pattern is clear. History is clear. This is the education to which I refer. And I'm not being rude, I'm serious - we aren't taught these things even in higher education classes that purport to teach the history of the last 50 years.

Of course more terrorists are coming, and are being "created." But we're not creating terrorists, our enemies are. (Why are they never given responsibility for this? Why do we act as if their murderous actions are simply an inevitable part of their nature?)

It was LEAVING Iraq in 1991 that helped creat the current danger, not the fact that we went in in the first place. They have no access to the other side of the story, and hear only what they are told in the Madrassas. Our danger has been growing steadily in the Islamic world since 1983. Even if we don't attack them, they will lie and say we are attacking.

We had pursued a strategy more akin to what you outline Troy, throughout the 90's and before. 9/11 was the result, as were the other successful and unsuccessful attacks on our nation and interests throught the 90s - long before we invaded Iraq. Talk about failed!

Europe has also adopted a defensive strategy, and they are suffering for it. Parisian ghettos have literally been in flames for years now. al Qaeda is firmly entrenched in Europe, and their increasingly radicalized muslims are having lots of children, converting new people, and are otherwise poised to drastically change the face of Europe to our detriment. Large minorities of British muslims approve of targetting civilians, including their own Tube bombing.

The only way we can convince anybody of anything is to make clear that their self preservation is entirely dependent on our not being threatened by them. You can't negotiate with people who think it's OK to saw people's heads off.

With France, Germany, Russia, China, and UN officials themselves all taking bribes from Saddam, there was no way we were getting international support. If Bush were the greatest diplomat of all time, that wouldn't have happend - the cash cow was much too fat.

Mathew, this is what I'm talking about. A small, defensible entrenched position can be defended at less cost than to the enemy attacking, but no such position can be defended indefinitely. Those laying seige always win in the end. And even if you could defend such a position indefinitely, if you think you can make the entire United States a defensible, entrenched position, you're simply not credible on the facts. (I refer to cargo container searched because that's usually what gets brought up as how we need to act defensively.) Think "Maginot line."

Arleta said...

Okay - I'm going to give my two cents.

I'm older than all of you (I think) and still clearly remember "nuke" drills, i.e. what to do when the Soviet Union finally started the nuclear war. I cried when the wall came down in Berlin - it was the ending of war.

Yeah, right.

I watched as Bush I was hounded by the United Nations, the press, and the far left. He abided by the UN's decision to stop at Iraq's borders. And millions died. Innocent men, women, and children we had promised safety died. Mom, dad, little sister, baby joe. Okay?

Whether or not you believe that this war should ever have begun is moot. Whether or not you would fight in this war is moot. The only thing that matters is whether or not we are going to keep our word this time - if we're going to try to save baby joe.

I'll admit it, this is shameless emotional appeal - if you want something based more on logic, how bout this? If we break yet another promise and millions more die, we will lose all credibility and any safety that we now enjoy abroad is gone. Any hope of peace with the middle east (which is slim, at best, I grant) is gone. Any hope that we can repair the damage done is gone.

I'm not a Bush II fan in many ways, but "stay the course" is not only the RIGHT thing to do, it is the ONLY thing to do in order to preserve any hope of future peace.

mathew said...

I agree- there are far too many cultures that are teaching their young people that "America is the cause of all the world's ills, and should be attacked."

Eradicating these societies with brute, technological force simply reinforces their teaching.

No, we can't leave Iraq until it is a self-sustaining democracy. I think that's pretty clear to Repubs and Dems alike. But the idea that this "hit them before they hit us" policy is more sustainable than a more cautious, diplomatic and defense-oriented approach doesn't check out. We have committed tremendous resources to one corner of the world; terrorists live in all corners of the world. Our military can't afford to implement this "anti-terror" policy even once more, even as N. Korea and Iran thumb their noses at us; how does this make it more sustainable than enhanced awareness, border security, collaboration and information sharing?

The Marginot line? Bunkers aren't what I'm talking about. The truth of the matter is that whether or not we go country to country killing our enemies, there will be a giant terrorist population living all over the world, each potentially trying to smuggle a nuke into our borders. We need to implement better border defenses anyway. In a modern sense, this must take the form of better information, not thicker walls. Our arrogant, unilateral approach is giving other countries no incentive to help us, especially considering that Europe's bargaining position only increases as we deplete our resources.

Troy said...

First off, I agree with Arleta. That's why we have to stay.

Orinn, I still disagree with you strongly. First, I don't agree that diplomacy wouldn't have worked. Bush badly disrespected the international community going into the war on numerous fronts.

To bring up a side issue, you may not think that the Kyoto Treaty is a functional treaty (to which I agree with you mostly), but out refusal to reach an agreement was interpreted by many nations as the United State's refusal to care about what happens to the rest of the world. Our refusal to sign a torture treaty says the same. Our refusal to support an International Criminal Court says the same. I don't believe that these are good ideas, but we have frequently taken firm stances with disastrous diplomatic consequences.

The United States needs to start acting like we respect other nations or other nations will refuse to help us in our dark hours. I believe Patience, with a healthy dose of Clinton-style diplomacy, would have led to a radically different coalition.

Maybe this would have involved us signing one of these treaties as an indication of our respect for the international community. And if so, it would have been worth it. But Bush acted in an almost anti-diplomatic style, attempting to frighten and bully the UN into doing what we see as best.

But for the moment, I will assume you are correct. Maybe the countries you mention were beyond convincing. In that case, if a greater coalition was truly impossible, then the decision to go to Iraq was a mistake. It is not that we are militarily too weak to conquer Iraq, but by ourselves we are Incapable of winning the peace. An American occupation was bound to be seen much differently than an international one and would stir up a potentially unstoppable insurgance (this is not hind-sight, I know you have no reason to believe me, but I was arguing this when the rumblings of an invasion were first heard). America by itself is easy to hate and demonize; a force embodying "the world" is much more difficult.

Finally, I don't believe that the Clinton approach failed -- it perceived a different path to success. Under this theory, the world is growing up. Globalization is occurring, immigration is escalating, and economies are developing and modernizing. The world is changing. And the middle-east is in a adolescent stage. During this stage, they are prone to violence, fundamentalism, and hatred of America. But this will pass as Democracy and trade continue to improve people's lives.

If this is true, than terrorism isn't a potentially eternal enemy that must be defeated once and for all, but rather a temporary evil that will eventually pass when the world stabilizes.

Like a nearby hornet's nest that will eventually die when winter comes, terrorism must be withstood, but not bothered. The world trade center bombings and even the September 11 were stings. Tragic, at times horrific, but just stings. In terms of deaths, we have far greater enemies. These could be withstood while we slowly tried to make the world a better place.

The worry was always present that eventually a terrorist would get a hold of a nuclear arm. But now, we have angered the nest and have lost track of weapon's proliferation. Now rather than the occasional hornet, we have an entire nest hunting and the threat has grown as there are more countries and more terrorists looking for ways to achieve this goal. I will not even mention Iran and North Korea at this point, because I am not referring to them.

Finally, history is never clear. It is a fog that we must pierce with whatever eyes we are blessed to have.

Orrin Johnson said...

Troy, the diplomatic examples you give prove my point. Whatever diplomatic harm we suffered from not sigining on to Kyoto, ICC, etc. would have been dwarfed by the loos of soveriegnty and harm caused by sigining on to them. Most countries sign treaties and then ignore them. Most don't enshrine treaties as the supreme law of the land. We could sign them and ignore them in a sign of diplomatic wink-wink-nod-nod, but then we lose our credibility.

A more potent example is the international coalition assembled against Iraq througout the 90s. The UN sactions SHOULD have the force of treaties, but 3 permanent UNSC members were directly violating it and barely bothering to be covert about it. Why do we not demand people we treat with keep their word? It's like us signing a contract together that you know I will breach at will, but that I know I can guilt you into upholding your end. That's willing victimhood, and I'm unwilling to let our country be that kind of victim.

I don't CARE if the UN declares us "credible." The enemy knows they are corrupt, and kowtowing to known corrupt UN mandates heavily influenced by Arab states only signals our impotency more. The only way for your POV to be workable is to assume all other nations are acting in good faith, like we could expect of our 50 states. That's not the reality.

I saw first hand the "success" of Clinton diplomacy, even before 9/11. And Terrorists were after nukes long before Bush kicked anything. If you think 9/11 is an example of Clintonian success, then we'll just never agree. I'd like to see the American people weigh in on that philosophy, and see that politician shineboxed. And as I've said, I believe in the wisdom of the electorate.

If you are willing to be "stung," we're never going to agree. I'm horrified, frankly. Because the march of civilization is NOT inevitable - it must be fought for all along the way. Unlike a teenager, civilization can regress. It's especially dangerous now as there are millions of Wahibists who increasingly are fighting with their very lives to march backwards to the 13th Century, and they want to take the whole world with them.

If we simply wait passively for them to grow up while the Imams work aggressively to go back to barbarism, WE WILL LOSE. And millions will die needlessly along the way. Unacceptable. Troy, I'm sorry - but you simply don't understand the enemy we face and the goals they are fighting toward.

Mathew, we agree on tighter border enforcement and that greater information is critical to that effort. (I'm OK with thicker walls, too, but leave that aside a moment.) But we just elected a party that has PROMISED to LIMIT our ability to gather intel (to include a corrupt Intelligence Director who voted against every surveillance technique we've used to keep us safe since 9/11), and which has historically been the open borders party. I don't know how you reconcile that.

Alicia said...


Just out of curiosity, how many civilian Americans, in your opinion, need to die at the hands of terrorists before you will no longer consider it a "sting" that American needs to "withstand?" Ten thousand? One hundred thousand? One million?

Troy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Troy said...

Alicia, you missed my point. Its not that a few thousand deaths is acceptable, its that when attempting to deal with the terrorist threat a few thousand deaths is not a philosophical failure in and of itself. After all, we've lost nearly as many in Iraq and failure there does not hinge directly on how many deaths we suffer, but what we accomplish.

I believe, under the world view I outlined above, that the reason that Clinton's strategy is not a failure because of 9/11 (which is not to say that 9/11 wasn't a failure on other levels) is because this philosophy focuses on the real worry: that one day these terrorists will have a WMD. Under it, the perception was actions like the reaction to 9/11 (which I also believe will go down in history as an over-reaction) would only raise the odds significantly that something worse would happen.

In other words, in order to prevent a second 9/11, the Iraq war, may, in the long run, increase the chance of nuclear or chemical attack.

Under the world view I described, it is possible to be patient because the world can be reordered and improved without pre-emptive violence and war.

Afghanistan would be a shining example if it didn't seem to be disintegrating. We needed to be patient with Iraq and focus on the gains we could achieve in Afghanistan before moving on to another country.

It is the choice between moving slowly and carefully and quickly and recklessly. It is risk analysis. And it is a balancing that neither side will be able to prove definitely one way or the other. The odds of doom will always be unknown.

My point here is that there are alternative methods supported by bright and knowledgeable people. If this path continues to fail, we may need to reconsider past options. I do not believe 9/11 was a failure of this philosophy as it can still be reconciled with improved security and intelligence that would have prevented 9/11.

And my point with the diplomatic examples is that international support must be bargained for.

We can't simply stand by our principles and hope that the rest of the world sees it our way. As the most powerful country in the world, we must help them from time to time with what they believe to be good and necessary even if we disagree. And then when we need support, these countries will hopefully be there. Its the essence of ongoing compromise and cooperation.

Orrin Johnson said...


We don't agree, Troy. Not at all. I'm pretty damned worried about another 9/11, even if it didn't portend something worse. Mass murder offends me to the core. People are worried about civil liberties now? Wait until one or two more 9/11s, and watch the voters' reaction. Want to encourage our enemies? Tell them we're willing to "accept" a few more 9/11s.

Besides, we already tried it your way. We "accepted" the first WTC bombing. We "accepted" the Khobar Towers bombing. We "accepted" the African embassy bombings. We "accepted" the Cole bombing. Each was more bold than the last, even if not more deadly. The enemy was probing us, and found us asleep. So the stepped it up, counting on us to "accept" 9/11. I'd rather not get to the your version of an "unacceptabe" step before we defend ourselves.

Yours is a defeatist point of view that is deeply, profoundly, morally, and historically wrong.

Compromise is fine. Trading away core values and principles like emasculating economic freedom for no gain (Kyoto), soveriegnty (ICC), etc. is not. We already are the most "helpful" country on the planet, in the history of the world. The entire rest of the world combined doesn't even come close. We give billions and billions and billions in foreign aid (both money and supplies), including to our enemies like North Korea. We ask nothing in return, except that we HOPE they "like us." On the rare cases we do ask something, we rarely fight to enforce the agreement. Somehow, that hasn't brought the world around. How much more generous do we need to be? How many more times should we play the sucker before they'll stop taking advantage of us? You don't come to respect a sucker because he keeps falling for your con.

Your view was Carter's - a "remedy" to Vietnam era policies. As a result, the Soviet Union gained new strength and began invading its neighbors with imperial design, the Khmer Rogue did their "best" work, Greece and Portugal came closer to going Communist than you likely know, Ortega invited known terrorists, Communists, and other enemies of America to set up shop in our back yard. Carter was resigned to defeat, reduced to begging Americans to feel good and pouting away from the Olympics.

My view is Reagan's. We say what we mean, and do what we say. We always do our best to adhere to our principles, and we NEVER surrender them - especially not for a mere "hope" that we'll get something in return. We call Evil by its name. We negotiate from a position of strength, and let our enemies know we don't want to kill them - but that we will if we have to. Where we honor our agreements and demand others do the same, we succeed (where we don't we have Iran/Contra). His view led to the victory Carter refused to even imagine just 9 short years before, and millions - MILLIONS - were liberated from evil oppression. Reagan's legacy will only continue to grow as history continues to vindicate his approach.

If the Dem platform is yours - bargain away our principles and accept a few thousand civilian deaths here and there while we wait passively for the world to grow up, give endlessly abroad and "hope" people will be with us when we need them - then the "odds of doom" are looking pretty good, no matter what we do in Iraq.

This kind of complete moral detachment may play in the ivory towers of academia. But I've thankfully spent enough time in the real world that it offends me to the core of my being as an American. I think the vast majortity of Americans would agree.

ranjit said...

Orrin, when did the Democrats "PROMISE[] to LIMIT our ability to gather intel"? They had concerns about the Terrorist Surveillance Program as did plenty of Republicans. Why is anyone who disagrees with any aspect of this war automatically wrong, and why do they have to be painted as cowards or fools or subversives?

For my part, I don't think there will be any difference in the prosecution of this war with the Democrats in control of both houses. Democrats want to win in Iraq as much as the Republicans do, and they will do the right thing. We've had Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate several times over the last fifty years and we seemed to have done quite nicely in the Cold War and the 1st Gulf War (and even Grenada).

What I worry about is taxes ...

PubliusRex said...

I agree that now that the democrats have some responsibility they want to win.

And they may have wanted to win before.

But before, many of them did everything they could to make the war seem hopeless and impossible - to a greater or lesser extent that effort undermined the war and emboldened our enemies.

You have to admit Ranjit, there is a palpable sense that the democrats object to just about every intelligence operation of the executive branch. Typical strategy: leak and complain.

Troy said...

I guess we don't agree Orrin. You seem to suggest that we should risk anything and everything for the hope of preventing the next 9/11. I would risk the next 9/11 in order to prevent something worse. Everytime. Our values and principles are meaningless if they get everyone killed. And cooperation means doing things you don't believe in if it helps others. Sovereignty is important. But complete sovereignty is not as important as getting along with the rest of the world.

Orrin Johnson said...

Look at it this way. If you're willing to give up principles so save lives and get along with the world, are you willing to surrender, convert to Islam, and adopt Sharia law? Because that's their ultimate demand, one they're willing to die before giving up.

Cooperation implies mutual benefit. Your definition is one sided, and only encourages more peoples to take advantage of us.

Ranjit, prominent Dems have been railing against NSA wiretaps, SWIFT, the PATRIOT Act, etc. for a long time. Many of them voted against such programs. Hopefully that's just rhetoric, and with authority they'll gain responsibility. I think, Publius, you're probably right. But Alcee Hastings heading the intel committee isn't a good sign.

Mathew wants to pull back and go pure defense, and said that required gathering information. But the Democrats have been willing to make intel gathering more difficult, as their votes show. That doesn't make them subversive, or even cowardly. But I do think it makes them foolish.

We had some major setbacks during the Cold War when we lost our way - that was the oringinal point of the original post. We've made those mistakes lots of times, in fact, in both parties. I don't want to repeat those mistakes with nuclear terrorism hanging over our heads. To the extent I think I see people want to head toward that same mistake of early disengagement, I think they are very wrong. Not unpatriotic, not cowardly, not subversive, but wrong, and dangerously so. To the extent someone thinks 9/11 is on balance an acceptable loss, I think it's very, VERY wrong.

(I will say that anyone who leaks classified information to the press for political gain IS cowardly, subversive, foolish, un-American, etc. That's why I'm so scared of an unrepentent impeached federal juge with top level security clearance.)

PubliusRex said...

I'd break most of the dems into four groups:

1) Those who flat out want to win and act like it. Joe Lieberman is in this group. I might even put Hillary in here, or Hillary as late as '05 in here.

2) Then there are democrats who want to win in their hearts, but are politically invested in undermining the war. These people include maybe a Carl Levin, maybe Dick Durbin. They are committed to making the war look like a disaster, which of course is at odds with wanting to win.

3) Then there are those who want to pull out of Iraq, which would be a defeat, but they just don't happen to see it as a defeat. This group includes John Murtha and anyone else clamoring for a "redeployment."

4) Finally, there's the group who actually blame the US and its military as as the source of evil in this world. They want us to lose, in Iraq, in the War on Terror, wherever. This includes people like Cynthia McKinney, Jim McDermott, the "The World Can't Wait" crew, all the marxist and socialist crews and generally, most of Western Europe.

That should pretty much end this thread. You can feel free to lump republicans in those groups to the extent they meet the criteria. I happen think most of them are in group 1, with a few perhaps in group 3.

Orrin Johnson said...

Publius beat me to the punch, but he's right. (Good list, BTW.) I think we all know where we stand. Let's shelf this for awhile and blog about Borat and Britney's legal issues before we get really pissed off. Or worse, that we have a Godwin Violation.

Troy, Mathew - thanks for playing. Believe it or not, we value your input and your debate. Thanks. I'm curious to hear your views on Grutter, or more imortantly, if suing Borat is legally lame.

I'm hungry. Let's go get a taco.

Cato said...


Win our troops apprehend a high-ranking shiite cleric who is ordering ethnic cleansing, and the Iraqi Prime Minister orders us to let him go because the cleric is one of his political supporters, that's pretty solid evidence that the Iraqis didn't elect a responsible government. Iraqis are dying at the hands of death squads and the government not only isn't helping but is actively hindering our efforts to put a stop to it. We overthrough one Iraqi government. If we have to meddle with this one to protect the Iraqis so be it.