Saturday, August 20, 2005

Sealing the Deal

I have little hope that Scott Randolph, the cause celeb on the right who declared his allegiance to the Republicans, will actually pay attention to this, but I'm going to do him an honor: my first call-and-response blog post in ages. And, no, I'm not going to breathe a word about "chickenhawks".

I actually felt myself become a republican today. It was around 10am, when I read the latest update of the Cindy Sheehan saga in I then shot over to read some blogs about it, and perused the comments in some of them, which was nothing but a long series of petty (albeit entertaining) partisan bickering.
First problem is right here: "partisan bickering" isn't necessarily useless or meaningless. Criticism of wrongdoing isn't right or wrong depending on whether or not a Democrat or Republican said it. Yes, this tends to be the Republican response, and is the first reason why switching doesn't make sense.

Then it happend. The good little democrat in me tied the little noose around his neck and jumped off the stool. He just couldn’t take it anymore.

Take what? The whining. The constant whining by the extreme left about the reasons for war, the incompetence of this administration, and how we’ve all been lied to, and how we should pull out of Iraq immediately, because, *gulp* our soldiers were in danger.
"Whining"? This is nonsense: the left has no monopoly on such a thing: witness the reaction of the Republicans to Democratic criticism (or "negativity") prior to the Dem's convention, the reaction of the Republicans during the debates, or the reaction of online Republicans to various and sundry imagined slurs. The Republicans whine more, actually.

Besides, characterizing the criticism as "whining" misses the point: not just of the criticism, but of the role of criticism in general. Criticism needs to exist, because it needs to serve as a check on the fantasies and assumptions of the powerful. This is as true now as it ever was, as one of the major threads of said criticism is that this administration has a dangerous tendency of believing its own hype, despite any and all evidence to the contrary. Rank-and-file Republicans aren't that much different: one said that the contentions about the Yellowcake and WMDs were accurate. The former is due to ignorance about the fabricated nature of the evidence: the latter falls into the trap of conflating a minor amount of chemicals of dubious origin with fully-functional nuclear programs, which is precisely what the label is designed to do.

Whether deliberate misrepresentation or honest ignorance, this is the party you're joining, Scott. And this is why criticism is necessary.

Guess what folks….they signed up to join the Army, not the boy scouts. Anytime your orientation to a new job involves an automatic weapon, you should be smart enough to figure out there’s danger involved. I actually read some people’s comments about many of the soldiers over there being naive….they weren’t expecting to go to war, so, they should be allowed to go home. Wow.

Soldiers know, when they enlist, that it is entirely possible they will be shipped out and never come home. It’s part of the job. The fact that people still walk in to recruiters’ offices and sign that piece of paper make them heroes. To imply that they are simple kids who didn’t know what they were getting into, or even worse, that they died for no reason, or an immoral reason, does a horrible thing. It strips their sacrifice of the honor that it deserves. Even though those folks sitting out there in the Texas fields claim to honor and support the soldiers, they obviously have been blinded by their own selfishness as to the real way to support them.
Scott, you obviously don't get what's going on out there. Everybody knows that the job of a soldier is dangerous. That's precisely why this is important: because even a soldier's life should not be spent meaninglessly, and every measure should be taken to preserve those lives and the lives of those civilians that can be spared.

One of the major threads of criticism of the Republicans is that not only are they not taking every measure to protect the soldiers, but they're actively hurting the soldiers, both by poorly equipping them and by cutting the funding for veterans. Both facts are easily verifiable.

Another is that the lives spent were spent due to the illusions of the Republicans in charge and Republicans in general. Again, this is easily verifiable: they thought that this would be easy, but it's not.

A third is that they are not willing to sacrifice, or ask the American people to sacrifice, so as to aid the war effort. Actual soldiers have complained about this, and it directly affects their safety: a government that had not gone ahead with tax cuts would have had more money for more generous pay and better equipment, which would make individual soldiers safer.

A fourth is that recruiters are lying to prospective soldiers, and hounding them when they aren't lying. A false representation of what's going to happen given to a cadre of unwilling soldiers, is only going to endanger them and ruin the reputation of the armed services. Think about why there isn't a draft, Scott. An all-volunteer army is necessary, and it can't work without the truth.

There are other valid threads: dozens, in fact. They are not "whining", because they point out something that is supposedly of great importance to conservatives: Responsibility. The Republicans, your new friends, are responsible for this war and everything about it. If it is going badly, it is their responsibility. They certainly were quick to take credit.

Because, long story short, we can’t end this war now. That would send the message that those bastardly little terrorists have won. It doesn’t matter if the adminstration told us the desert sand was made of gold, and we are going over there to collect it in little buckets to bring home, the concrete fact that we are at war doesn’t change. We are there, and we have a job to finish. We’ve toppled a regime that was dangerous not only to its own people, but also to the rest of the world. Now, we are there fighting the same terrorists we are fighting in Afghanistan. We’ve given liberty to millions of people, and we’re trying to help create a government, in an area that is very volatile, that will be a bastion of freedom and hope for an entire race of people. I hate the fact that our boys are getting killed over there, and I wish it didn’t have to happen.
The question, Scott, is whether the job can even be finished. This same style of argument was made about Vietnam, and by the Soviets in Afghanistan. It hurts to admit that you cannot achieve your original goals, and even more that an enemy has been successful, but sooner or later it must be done, if it's necessary. You cannot simply throw soldiers into a meat grinder indefinitely- you'll run out of soldiers, aid in training even more deadly terrorists (which is already happening), and eventually endanger America and American interests in other parts of the world.

That America has "given freedom" is also a mistake, one that comes from your apparently not paying attention to the news. The freedom is to live under Islamic law, or to get caught in a civil war that the Republicans were insufficiently prepared for. Go read what the Iraqi blogger Riverbend has to say, among others: the Republicans are likely going to have ended up granting women in Iraq a regime which (sadly) gives them less freedom than they enjoyed under Saddam. This is likely to be enshrined in their constitution- assuming it even survives the (entirely predictable) bid for de facto independence by the Kurds, an independence bid that could end up further destabilizing the entire region. An unstable region is a playground for terrorists.

Again, this is about RESPONSIBILITY, Scott. If you value it, it does you credit, but your adoptive party does not.

But, it is, there’s nothing we can do about it, except for doing everything we can to offer support and hope to the folks fighting over there. Arguing and whining about the reasons we’re there, and the need to come home not only kills morale, but it is a complete waste of time.
No, it's not, for the reasons I just gave. The debate is necessary, and only honors the soldiers, because it shows that we care about why they're there and aren't willing to simply toss them into the grinder. Your support for the soldiers does not have to extend to the politicians. In fact, it should not: without the debate, democracy cannot survive. Without democracy, America is nothing.

I just re-read the above post, and I apologize for the rambling….just needed to vent a little. Here’s a breakdown of the way I see things:

-right or wrong, we’re at war. no amount of yelling will fix that now.
-we have to finish the job. HAVE TO. it may take another 1800 soldiers, but it has to be done
-whether or not we’re there for the right reason, we’ve done something great for that country
...and we've also done something terrible to that country. We owe them, and the soldiers, honesty about it. That's the problem with Bush and your new friends, though: we've recieved precious little in the way of honesty.

And, again, not only is the definition of "finishing the job" vague, but it may be impossible. Sorry to burst your bubble, and I can accept not wanting to believe it, but it may well be impossible.

I never was a big fan of Bush. But, one thing I do believe….he honestly wants to make this country, and this world a better place. Think about it…the war almost cost him the election. If we hadn’t invaded Iraq, he’d have won in a landslide.
Maybe, but maybe not: he has precious little to run on except his reputation as a "strong leader", and that was reinforced by Iraq. The same argument you made about "staying the course" aided him in the election. Again, though... shouldn't he be held responsible for what has happened?

I think it’s just my personality that lead me to this decision. I think the left is too concerned with everyone’s immediate rights and needs, and refuses to sacrifice a bit of comfort and happiness in the present, for something that will make life better for everyone in the future. You can take the environmental stance on that, and I’d have no argument…but I think there enough conservatives concerned with that to make it a moot point.
No, it's not a moot point at all- conservatives have been at the forefront of anti-environmental activity since environmentalism began, whether due to honest disagreement or being utter shills. And as for your broader point, it is simply untrue on a whole host of issues, but the most obvious is the one I mentioned above: tax cuts. The Republicans have created a huge budget deficit, have done it due to their tax cuts, and that deficit is going to create enormous long-term problems. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that Republicans are overly concerned with "life better for everyone in the future"; even on Iraq, it was declared to be an immediate threat by the Republicans, not a long-term one.

Stomping around the middle east is not long-term thinking.

Mostly, I’m just really pissed off. We’re in a crappy situation, and it’s time for all of America to stand together, put on the big boy pants, and get through the next few years.
Scott, a democracy never "stands together". Dictatorships do that. Totalitarian regimes do that. A democracy is loud and obnoxious and argues all the time and has a hell of a time deciding on things. That is why it exists, especially the American variant. America requires a Cindy Sheehan, even if you disagree with her, because that is at the heart of what America IS: the disagreement.

That the Republicans are so eager to stifle that, Scott, makes them more anti-American than the left will ever be. You'll just have to ask yourself what you think America stands for... and, for the love of Lincoln, do some research as to what you're getting yourself into. If you don't love God, Guns and G-rated movies, you may get a nasty surprise.


  1. A few thoughts:

    Democracy and War are not a very good fit. I think that a lot of Republicans and/or supporters of the war would like to see, even if they haven't expressed it, a one-time decision to fight the war, and that having been decided, and end to the debate. Ideally this would leave open the debate as to how to fight the war, or whether it's being fought well. But the decision on whether to have the war would be ended.

    Much of the left and a lot of the Democratic Party is still engaged in reversing the decision to have fought the war in the first place. This is the pull-out-now faction, which would like to see a repeat of Vietnam to the degree that the US public ended that war, and thus, some argue, caused the US to lose it. Is it better to have a disenchanted and disillusioned public cause the US to outright lose the war than to limit democratic impulses and possibly come out of Iraq with a better outcome than defeat?

    If the rule is that any war being fought must have at all times over 50% of the population approving it, otherwise the US must pull out and lose it, then the goal of anyone opposed to the war would then become to depress the public support by any means necessary. That this has happened, with the suport if the MSM, is the view of many who support the war.

    Not coincidentally, the goal of the "resistance" in Iraq is the same. They also believe that if the domestic support for the war in Iraq gets low enough, they can get the US to leave and therefore lose. I don't believe that there's any kind of agreement between them, but the terrorists in Iraq and much of the US MSM and others, including Sheehan, are both working towards the same goal using a mechanism in which each understands their role.

    One can argue, with credibility, that the US should not engage in any war if there's a probability that support for the war will dip below 50%. Of course, there's no way to really know this beforehand. And this contributes to the view of some US enemies that the US is in fact a paper tiger, likely to run at the first signs of trouble.

    Another related argument is the centrality of democracy. Maybe it's right that the US should behave this way, with 40% forever supporting, and 40% forever opposed, not just war, but any federal endeavor. This makes the federal govt weak, which I generally support, but isn't exactly a good thing when it comes to the military. I generally disdain the more-democracy-the-better arguments. The Bill of Rights, for example, is quite undemocratic, and that's a good thing. Arguments really ought to go beyond "it's good because it's democratic" because democratic decision-making is not an unmitigated good.

    I'm not pretending to have the answers here. It just seems to me that there's something a bit unhealthy about the way the anti-war movement and its allies have been going about it.

  2. America left Vietnam because it was an unwinnable war. America stayed in Vietnam as long as it did because its leaders believed they could "stay the course" (like Scott) and weren't willing to listen to anyone who thought differently. It's not about the 50%- it's about the accountability that that number is supposed to represent.

    (And if you don't have accountability, war's negative side will never filter up to those who choose to engage in it. That's not exactly a good place to be.)