Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Does the left want the war in Iraq to be lost?

I was laughing to myself even just trying to phrase this topic question properly. war vs. occupation vs. nation building vs. iraqi freedom or whatever. Cut me some slack on my wording and we'll all get along fine.

So here we go. My opinions on my own question:

1. First, as a disclaimer about pacifists. They're not all leftists. I'm not one myself, although I like the concept in principle. I don't know many true pacifists. The ones I know are divided between conservative Christians from pacifist sects and leftists of the 60s-survivor variety (and nouveau hippy variety ofc). Pacifists I think want to see all wars fail, but preferably not be fought at all. I don't think they want the terrorists to win per se either though.

2. Some want the war to fail spectacularly. Extremists (not just islamic) want to see the United States fail and be humbled. Hell, some of the nastier and crazier people (the right doesn't have a lock on either vote :P) probably cheer when they hear of US casualties. That's a bit sick and inhumane, but I've met people like that in my travels so I'm sure they're out there. For people who don't care much about what happens to anyone doing something they deem as bad, the prospect of the US getting their ass handed to them in Iraq appeals as it might just roll back the tendancy towards foreign adventure for a decade or two. Not too much difference than crazy animal rights extremists killing researchers, or crazy pro-lifers bombing clinics and sniping doctors. You can get so INTO your own issue you forget or ignore the humanity of those on the other side.

2.5 Incidently, I do not include conservative islamic fundamentalists in "the left". Some of them are part of anti-war coalitions and organizations, sure, but on almost any other issue they are so far from left positions that they make uneasy allies for the thinking person on the left. On choice, civil rights, separation of church and state, foreign policy and gay rights you won't see islamic fundamentalists hanging out with all us lefties. So yeah, nobody is kicking them out of the peace marchs, but don't try to brand the left with their ideas or behaviour. They ain't us, and they don't claim to be.

3. Many are conflicted. I'd put myself in this category. On one hand, a forced US withdrawal at this point would throw the country into civil war at worst, and another strongman dictatorship at best. It's hard to see that as good for anyone. On the other hand, many on the left feel that a clear-cut victory for the administration in Iraq will be interpreted as proof of worth for the policies and people who ordered the invasion happen in the first place, and might lead to further foreign adventures based on criteria and goals many on the left don't agree with. I think this fear is reducing the less time there is in Bush's presidency and the more of a lame duck he becomes. Many on the left would feel more confident if a Democrat or even a trustworthy Republican like McCain inheirited the last bit of the Iraq issue. Of course the right might not, but there's that polarization of the States again rearing its head.

4. Many on the left want the *stated* goals of the administration to be met. That's not to say they necessary supported the initial invasion, but the *stated* goals of the administration at this time are (probably intentionally) such motherhood issues that one cannot help but hope for their success. Mind you, just because one supports the stated goals doesn't mean one can't be suspicious or apprehensive of the unstated goals....

Oh, and on the list of things the left is suspicious about or looking for?

1. Long term beneficial contracts for US defense contractors and US oil companies. Proof of the VERY common suspicion that the war was about oil, or that key players have been lining their own pockets and the pockets of their friends. Incidently, in Canada even among relatively conservative people the belief about it being a war for oil is very high. Just FYi.

2. Maintenance of restrictive anti-terror laws long after there have been attacks on US soil. Proof that some of the 9-11 response was to empower the federal government to oppress the people or to stifle dissent.

3. A draft, or policies on stop-lossing that force people to fight the war. Obviously I think the draft is a great idea regardless, but that is one of the few ways in which I am totally out of touch with most of "the left" :P

4. The war being used as an excuse to implement policies the right already wanted to do but couldn't sell to the general public. Drilling oil in wilderness for example, or moving even further away from engagement with the UN.


Dadmanly's Response

I can't really give you any kind of argument on your classifications of those on the left, and whether they wnat us to "lose." I will say that the anti-war movement takes it on faith that their efforts caused us to "lose" the war in Vietnam, and they widely count that a great victory for their cause.

Think about that for a minute, and dwell on the aftermath that followed. The fall of South Vietnam and the consolidation of North and South under Communism. Political reeducation, and the spectre of millions of Vietnamese risking their lives to escape. Pol Pot and genocide in Cambodia. Emboldening of North Korea. A demoralized and diminished US military that retreated from its obligations and security protections for a generation until Reagan and a reenvigorated Cold War against communism. Arguably, Vietnam was our Afghanistan (right, flip that comparison around for a moment), and distracted us and enabled the USSR to dodder on for another decade and a half.

So forgive us if we are a little skeptical about acknowledging any on the left (you conflicted middle roaders notwithstanding) actually will be pleased with a positive outcome, that will diminish their ability to exploit events for political advantage.

And those things the left is suspicious about or looking for?

Gosh, if there wwas evidence of any of this, I'd be nervous too.

1. Long term contracts

This is an unfortunate by-product of modern war. Many tasks are outsourced, capability is held in reserve (unpaid for) until needed, then called into service. It's more expensive, but the rationale is that it saves money long term. I don't necessarily buy that, but as a Consultant in my civilian life, I make my living off of such arrangements! I am somewhat uncomfortable with the large role played by KBR, but I do know they are the biggest, best, and most capable firm wiht global and immediate reach necessary to be called in for these kinds of jobs. People who have been there and are willign to risk their lives for money. Once I'm retired, you wouldn't catch me taking that kind fo job, but I admore those who do, and don't begrudge them their just compensation.

2. Maintenance of restrictive anti-terror laws

This is the big hallucination. The Patriot Act enacted some minor enhancements and eased soem evidenciary rules, without eliminating the need for review by a judge, warrants, habeus corpus, etc. Library or information access provisions have never been utilized. Anti-corruption and RICO statutes are far more intrusive and exapnsive of police powers, and those go unremarked on.

Some muslim aid organizations funnel donations and money launder for active terrorist groups, far more blatantly than IRA supporters in the US. (Anyone who has spent any time in an American Irish Pub will know what I'm talking about.) These are the organizations who are crying violation of civil liberties, and they drip the blood of innocents up to their elbows.

3. A draft or stop-loss

Not yet necessary, may not be needed at all. Military leaders don't want to have to deal with the difficulties of coerced or unwilling recruits. Media balance would go a long way in this regard. The vast majorioty of soldiers will never be in harm's way (even in Iraq). There's still risk of course, and danger, but many who might serve have a distorted (media) perspective on the real situation.

4. The war used as an excuse

No less than the Left using the war as an excuse to attack the Republican Party or score short term gain. Both sides can do a better job of making common cause on issues of National Security, but there can be no serious argument that says the Democrats in our country have any serious policy (foreign or otherwise) alternatives to this administration. The administration is suffering its worst reaction yet from conservatives, many of whom are gravely concerned and disappointed over exapnsion of Big Government or straying from other conversative priorities.


At 7:35 PM, Blogger Synova said...

To take just one thing that BW said: "On the other hand, many on the left feel that a clear-cut victory for the administration in Iraq will be interpreted as proof of worth for the policies and people who ordered the invasion happen in the first place, and might lead to further foreign adventures based on criteria and goals many on the left don't agree with."

I think this is related to the "when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail" truism that results in a certain number of people really and truely believing that weapons systems and a standing army are a bad thing because if we've got them, we *will* use them. Similar, is the notion that men who train for war must enjoy and desire war.

It's just not true. But I think you're right that some people really do think that our "winning" in Iraq would be worse for more people than if we lost and pulled out and Iraq turned into a Cambodian style blood bath.

Funny thing is that I'm more afraid of the Democrats "adventuring" than I am of the Republicans doing it. Granted, I only have Clinton's behavior to judge, but it seems that the Democrats believe that the military can be used in half-measures and as a prod to enact diplomatic goals. Kerry, in fact, said something that reenforced this for me when he said he voted for presidential authority to invade Iraq but he didn't think we'd actually do it. I can't quote him but I got the idea that he felt the threat of war was just a tactic to move the UN to enforce sanctions... a feint, a ruse. And I think... that's how you get in trouble, dancing with the devil and thinking you can do it without getting hurt. Children playing with matches or running with scissors.

The rhetoric that Republicans, Reagan, either of the Bushes, are warmongering hotheads bound and determined to blow something up isn't *new* and I think, in fact, that those accusations lobbed about so freely played into Bin Laden's plans for 9-11. From his own words we know he was counting on a particular reaction from the US... our role in his plan was to retaliate indescriminately against Islam, thus forcing Islam out of it's complacency and raising an army able to take over the world. Remember that? But Bush reacted with deliberation and at that moment Bin Laden's plan failed.

I don't like that the US has no counter-balance in the world... I do not like it *at* *all*. But I don't fear further "adventuring." (Bush won't start anything else anyway, short of responding to another 9-11. He really can't. I don't want to say that too loudly though, because I want the bad guys to be worried about it.)

"I think this fear is reducing the less time there is in Bush's presidency and the more of a lame duck he becomes."

I do hope so. The Dems still scare me though. ;-)

At 10:40 AM, Blogger BW said...

Well, I wasn't pushing anything that complicated. The concern is that Bush went straight to pushing an Iraq war before Afghansitan was fully pacified, and that he might do so again if the effort in Iraq was as quick and painless. I think we agree however that Bush *at this point* isn't going to start another fight before the end of his term, and for probably totally different reasons I breath a sigh of relief.

As for your comparison of Clinton to Bush in the military arena, that is unfortunately a lot like comparing horse apples at the side of the road. Bush has said and done way too many stupid things for me to trust his judgement. And Clinton, while an otherwise smart guy, read far too many Tom Clancy books and was convinced wars were won with precision guided munitions and "those ninja guys" (from the Clark book in my bio, I think he meant wet ops CIA or special forces commandos as seen in movies like Patriot Games).

I personally felt the moves to military action in Somalia and Kosovo were well justified, morally necessary and practical. Implementation however was crap, with the brass being at least partly responsible in Somalia's 'Blackhawk down' fiasco (the crux of which is that Delta and the Rangers had excellent night operation abilities and should have undertaken heleborne 'snatch' operations only under cover of darkness thus limiting local resistance and reduing the effectiveness of hostile RPG and small armss), but the fault really lying with Clinton for the failure to put "boots on the ground" to deal with Kosovo in a timely manner. Gangs of infantry and militia attacking civilians cannot be effectively controlled by air power, and certainly civilians cannot be protected that way.

As for an authorization of military force *when you're willing, but not excited about using it*, I say why not? It is in fact a time honoured tradition of diplomacy to give people fair warning that you're going to crush them if they don't smarten up. Sometimes it works and a lot of lives on both sides are saved while key objectives are met. As for whether he was willing to actually use force, the man used it plenty during his presidency, quite amusingly alienating himself from pacifists he might have counted in his youth as allies and friends. He was inept at using force admittedly, but again not based on an aversion to its use IMHO but rather a fear of American casualties, and a blind and excessive faith in precision guided munitions and CIA intelligence.

By the way, I think most of the people who think "winning in Iraq" would be bad have not in fact thought their way entirely through the consequences of a resulting civil war (quite likely), new dictatorship (quite possible), Shia theocratic regime like Iran (quite possible) or Cambodian-style bloodbath (quite unlikely as to be fair the Khmer Rouge genocide was as much bizarre ideology as consequences of the Vietnam pullout).

Finally, you are quite incorrect in saying that the concern is "when you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail". Even this Bush's father didn't think this was a good idea at the time. The US has had a pre-eminent military for a long time, but it has been used sparingly by most of your leaders since Vietnam. Even GW1, while a huge deployment, had a very narrow goal, clear timetables and had most troops withdrawn very shortly after hostilities began.

As regards Bush being a hothead going all out to just attack anyone, I don't believe that to be the case here and that is not the point I am making or the one I hear from folks on the left. Bush's top advisors regarding Iraq had decided to overthrown Iraq by January of 1998 (see the letters and documents at the PNAC website for 1998). What is contended is that Bush took the opportunity under the guise of the war on terror, deceiving the people of the US, the UK and attempting to deceive the people of the world, to do something him and his buddies wanted to do anyways. And the concern was (and perhaps still is) that there's a lot of PNAC agenda left to implement. Luckily his is already into his second term and his support has slipped enough he might just call it a day on "extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles." (PMAC again).

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Synova said...

I don't worry too much about Bush's secret motivations for going into Iraq, or if he's even got any, because I think it will have been the right thing to do, looking back. I've said, from time to time, that there are psychological reasons that beginning and ending with Afghanistan would have been a mistake. Just for matters of future deterence. Even if Iraq was nothing but a target of opportunity, I believe it was vital to respond to 9-11 in such a way that there could be no mistaking our resolve and willingness to wage war. Which is rather cold, really. That we can honestly call the operation Operation Iraqi Freedom and look forward to a stable, prosperous, multi-ethnic secular democracy in the regionin in addition to that is most *certainly* worth the cost.

A friend of mine who is Canadian once said that living next to the US was like being in bed with an elephant. It doesn't matter how friendly the elephant is if it rolls over on you in the night time. My primary reaction to 9-11 was something to the tune of "You MORONS! What the *bleep* were you thinking?" My first thought was that we'd be harder to stop than we were to get started, and I can't ever know what Gore would have done if he'd been president, and I thank God that I don't have to know. And I was afraid for what Bush would do, too, until it was clear that his response would be deliberate rather than reactionary.

The thing about using the military as a threat to gain policy objectives is that it is all too apparent when the threat is *empty*. I think that your take on Somalia and Kosovo, etc. is right on. (During Balkan war I was distracted by having babies so I wasn't paying good attention.)

The thing about Somalia, it seemed to me, was that Bush was sorta a lame duck (was he expecting to lose?) and didn't want to commit us. Public feeling was that we *had* to do something about the starving people and the undistributed food. Problem was that the *problem* was the starvation was deliberate and we thought we could just go distribute food without taking over the country. And then, when in the course of feeding starving people we came under attack and some of our people *died*, we decided that it wasn't worth it. And we turned tail.

Put this in context of Bush's failure to topple Saddam in Desert Storm. (Arguably stopping short of Bagdad was the right thing to do, but it had consequences.)

Add to that Clinton's no-risk approach to the Balkans.

I think it might be better if I don't mention Viet Nam, but we didn't complete the job there either.

What *reasonable* conclusion *must* be reached in relation to any saber rattling by the US? Simply that, even if we do act, it will be without resolve.

Many of my friends and aquaintences were/are very upset that the Iraq war has destroyed our reputation. They are embarassed in front of their international friends. I would say that they're worried about the wrong reputation with the wrong set of nations.

I'd also say that winning popularity contests is an indulgence we can't afford just now.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger BW said...

I disagree that the United State's popularity isn't important now. It will always be important.

I would suggest however that the US should *really* look at who you guys are trying to stay popular with. Trades disputes and crapping on France or especially Canada for example is a bit crazy given our close proximity, historically good relations and hey, if we're being realpolitik about it, the huge amount of Canadian oil, electricity and natural gas the US depends on (look it up, we're a key exporter of oil to the US :P).

Similarly, trying to keep dysfunctional and basically untrustworthy nations like Iran and Saudi Arabia happy is insane. In my opinion it's time for for the US to declare war on *fundamentalist* Islam, rather than playing around with vague language like terrorists. The US government isn't going after ETA, its not going after the IRA, it's not going after domestic militias, it's going after the products of the madrassas. Time to start targetting countries that spread the hate or allow it to grow in their borders.

On a related note, much as it is a bit weird sometimes, fanatically pro-israel, possibly bigotedly anti-Muslim and barkingly right wing, I quite like http://clarityandresolve.com/. They really do show a big picture of the problem, and how it is being addressed (for good and ill) by a lot of countries, not just the US, and of how the current war on terror sometimes hits the mark, and other times falls short. Their article entitled "For This We Gave Blood & Treasure" (sorry, no internal links for that article available, but you'll find it near the bottom if you check it soon) gives a short but sharp comment on the frightening power of fundamentalist Islam still in Afghanistan.


At 4:38 PM, Blogger Synova said...

I'd probably quibble that it's reputation that matters rather than popularity.

I agree that doing the nice-nice with Iran or Saudi is a bad idea, because congeniality isn't the reputation that we need with them. With my apologies to Dadmanly, the reputation we need is that of an idealogically driven bad*ss nation.

I don't know if you're urban or not, but have you ever been in a pen with a large and potentially dangerous animal? A young bull, or a horse with an attitude or a mama pig? And you've got one eye on that horse's ears, or that enormous pig laying there with her piglets, or that dumb adolescent bull calf, and then the animal goes "HUMPH". It's a rumbly thing that starts in the barrel of their ribcage and rattles it's way up the windpipe and out.

And you don't notice that the pig or yearling bull calf or old ornery horse hasn't even moved until *after* you pick yourself up from the other side of the fence and have checked to make sure you didn't wet yourself.

As for trade issues, I don't know enough about them to have an opinion other than that I'm not the least surprised if trade is messed up. We had our local congresswoman petitioning to get restrictions lifted on cement imports from Mexico because we had/have a cement shortage. I think she had to couch it in terms of Katrina relief, but the problem was acute before the hurricane. So tear into the US government on trade and you'll get no argument from me.

But... if a country is having a "we're not going to cooperate on trade" snit because they don't like the Iraq war and *not* because our trade rules warrant it, then what is there to do?

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Synova said...

I think that what I forgot to say was that it would be a good thing if, when the US went "HUMPH" that Kim Jong II had to check to see if he wet himself. The fact is that when the US goes "HUMPH" Kim doesn't even flinch.

It's quite all right to do the nice-nice with nice people, but there's lots of not nice people out there and it matters what they think, too.

Just not in the same way.

At 10:52 PM, Blogger BW said...

Yeah, we probably agree on hitting hard if the threat doesn't work. I see too often in my day job folks using threats with their kids (not that I'm a fan to start with of threats) and then not following up. Threaten something you are willing and able to do any day of the week, or don't make threats at all.

As for trade, Canada certainly hasn't been trying to punish the US on trade. Quite the opposite, as round after round of WTO and NAFTA panels indicate the US is totally in the wrong especially for pocketing five BILLION in punitive tarrifs, and your building industry screams for the lack of affordable Canadian softwood...

BTW, I'm a fine mix of urban and rural. Farm originally, went to school in the city and now back in the country living in a small village in central Ontario. I'm not sure I recognize the sound per se, but I've dealt with my share of ornery animals around the barnyard. Nastiest encounter ever was a police horse at a protest as I recall, but that was the urban phase :P

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Synova said...


It's not the sound, per se, but the fact that the animal is standing quietly while you're on edge because you don't know what it will do.

As for trade, I really ought to pay better attention. I'm inclined toward the idea of free trade (or at least what it seems to me that that ought to mean) and view the exportation of jobs as an opportunity to make better and more creative use of our labor resources, and overall figure, from an objectivist point of view, that making life better for others is an inherently selfish enterprise as it will ultimately make life better for us.

Which brings us from trade all the way back to the war in Iraq. Once upon a time war meant destroying or else aquiring territory. WW1 is an example of this... defeated, Germany was subject to vindictive measures that laid the foundation for WW2. We learned something from History and Japan and Germany, defeated in WW2, became industrial powers, wealthy, secure, and peaceful.

We WIN in Iraq only when the nation is free and prosperous. We win when Afghanistan is free and prosperous.

The idea that this *can't* happen at the point of a gun, besides being a simplistic statement, is a statement of faith. Does the "left" want us to lose? Probably not, but when a person has a belief system that doesn't include the possibility of winning (a free and prosperous Iraq) you can't really say that they hope for something they don't believe is possible, can you?

At 2:01 PM, Blogger BW said...

"It's not the sound, per se, but the fact that the animal is standing quietly while you're on edge because you don't know what it will do."

Ah, that yes. More often I feel that way around wild animals. We're not ranch folks around here, most all our animals get in the barn for
the winter so they're a bit more civilized most of the time, as long as you don't act scared or make sudden movements. I've felt that way a
few times with wild animals though, had a moose cross my path once when hiking during rutting season (without a rifle sadly and my knife wouldn't have helped much) and a mother black bear crossed my path in late spring when I was totally unarmed (now that was scary, they're typically avoidant of people but they'll often be quite nasty if their cubs are nearby.)

Regarding Iraq, I agree with your definition of win conditions. You of course provide your own examples of where freedom and prosperity can be achieved at the point of a gun (and with a lot of other efforts of course in the case of both Japan and Germany).

I don't think everyone on the left doubts violence can be a starting point towards a positive resolution. The left is not all, or even mostly pacifists. The left's objections tend more towards "why this country, why now". I think if the United States made it its mission to go around the world righting wrongs based on purely moral and/or humanistic criteria and demonstrated the same, that would be an easier sell.

But then, as I've said repeatedly, the worst offenders on human rights have not been toppled. The worst offenders on WMD have not be invaded. AND, again I would point to the Project for a American Century http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm

"extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles." "challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values"

This is not moral language. OUR prosperity. OUR interests. Even OUR principles and OUR values is darned vague.

Now lets look at names undersigning this: Elliott Abrams, Gary Bauer, William J. Bennett, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Eliot A. Cohen, Midge Decter, Paula Dobriansky, Steve Forbes, Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Fred C. Ikle, Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby, Norman Podhoretz, Dan Quayle, Peter W. Rodman, Stephen P. Rosen, Henry S. Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld, Vin Webe, George Weigel, Paul Wolfowitz

Now given how many people on this list are close to George Bush, are or have been in his government or have been key parts of his machine behind the scenes or on the political side, it would be foolish to dismiss this organization as irrelevent, and I don't blame those on the left in the States who assume the materials written by this organiazation in the late 90s were and could still be the play book of this President.

So here it is. Some on the left are pure pacifists, but many, many more opposed and still oppose this war out of concern that the motivation is much more about "OUR interests" or "OUR prosperity" than it ever was about "OUR values" or even "OUR security"

And I'm sure I needn't remind you that when it comes to what is in the US' interests and how the US ought to puruse its prosperity, the values of right and left (and for that matter subgroups on both sides) varies widely.


At 2:13 PM, Blogger BW said...

By the way, although I didn't think this was the key point regarding the right, it was an interesting question I wanted to answer.

"Probably not, but when a person has a belief system that doesn't include the possibility of winning (a free and prosperous Iraq) you can't really say that they hope for something they don't believe is possible, can you?"

The answer is yes. You can. As long as you are prepared to accept the possibility that you could be wrong, you can hope for something you think is impossible. Especially if by impossible one is being exaggerating "highly improbable".

I'm a social worker, a clinical therapist. I quite often will encounter a case so bad in whatever area that I believe the person/family will not succeed. If it were not totally inappropriate and unprofessional, I would make anyone who would listen 5 to 1 odds they'll fail. But I do not stop hoping until hope is exhausted, and sometimes they do succeed despite my well formed doubts.

Oh, and re. Free Trade, I don't mind the principle, I just hate that the Canada/US and NA FTAs don't provide us that in reality, and that the current US administration, theoretically so very into free trades and free markets, in fact colludes in protectionism and sometimes just pork (ie. bankrolling a small US industry even if another US industry suffers) simply because it is politically expedient short term, or because of who their buddies are.


At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really really hope we lose the war in iraq. Because after that, maybe we can focus on, say, fighting the war on terror.

Althought, I must say, we're in Afganistan and Iraq trying to destroy right wingers. And for a good reason. Right wingers are always dictators.

So I guess I'll say, support the war in Iraq: America's call to destroy right wingers


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