Addressing Two Conservative Arguments
This post addresses a few of my thoughts on some Conservative arguments for continuing the war in Iraq. It was done in response to this comment by elmendorf over on Kevin Drum's blog 'Political Animal' and can be found there as well. I just wanted to record it here too.
I just have to respond to elmendorf's December 23, 2006 at 3:22 PM post, although he seems to have vanished. He uses two arguments, that conservatives seem to love, that should be shown to be absurd.
It's popular Conventional Wisdom among liberals that their actions, both in this war, and Vietnam, had absolutely nothing to do with our setbacks and losses.
Two things about this quote. We see here the conservative standard that if the left has more than "absolutely nothing" to do with the loss then the conservatives are totally absolved and the left is entirely to blame. The conservatives failures to plan, to understand the country, the terrain, the enemy, to clearly set forth a national objective, etc. can all be ignored unless the activities of 'the left' had, beyond any possibility of doubt, "absolutely nothing" to do with the failure. This is the basic formula for conservatives that is part and parcel of their refusal to take responsibility for any of their actions.
On a related note, I must say that any policy or principal of any sort invariably has advantages and disadvantages. The fundamental principal of the United States to allow, indeed to encourage, debate and discussion of our policies before, during and after their execution, no doubt has, at times, provided some morale boost to our enemies. However, this principal of debate also makes our policies better and more likely to succeed. We can see that clearly today in that the absence of debate in 2002 has been a major cause of the failures in Iraq today. The advantages we gain from this debate, far, far outweigh any disadvantages. Conservatives ignore all the advantages gained from open debate and focus only on the trivially small cost that these debates might, I repeat might have. Note too, that for all they rail on about patriotism, for conservatives there really is only one great, unforgivable crime. And that crime is not criticizing the Unite States. We have seen, in recent weeks, any amount of talk from conservatives that the problems in Iraq stem from America and Americans loosing their nerve or not having the will (see Tom DeLay) or in the past several years, Coulter labeling a third to half of all Americans traitors, or Jerry Falwell blaming American and Americans for 9/11. These condemnations of America and Americans from conservatives raise not a peep of protest, indeed they are often met with great praise. No the one unforgivable crime, to which the names of treason and hating America will be given, is to claim that conservatives are wrong, are to blame or are at fault.
The second point made by elmendorf that I wish to address is in this paragraph:
Almost an entire political party advocating unconditional surrender--and face it, that's what "redeployment to other countries" or "withdrawal" is no matter how much icing you slap on it--goes a very long way to convincing our enemies to keep fighting.
The insistence, on the part of conservatives, that withdraw from Iraq means "unconditional surrender" is nothing short of pathetic. In every war ever fought by any nation great or small, there have been reverses and withdraws necessitated by the fortunes of war. To recognize that a given operation has failed and that it is time to redeploy one's forces so as to achieve victory elsewhere is just a requirement of competent leadership. The conservative demand that they be granted a "victory" in Iraq or else they will call everybody a "looser" and give up, is no more than the tantrum of a child who threatens to run and cry unless he not only wins the game, but wins every turn. In 1864 Grant fought a dreadful battle at Spotsylvania Courthouse, with several regiments ground to nothing in the so-called 'bloody angle' but where Lee had the day and prevented the Union break through. Lee won that battle and no doubt the Army of Northern Virginia gained some boost to morale, but Grant marched on to Cold Harbor and Petersburg and victory in the overall struggle. In 1915 Great Britain attempted to take Turkey out of the war by invading the Gallipoli peninsula. By the end of the year it was clear that the operation had failed and in January of 1916 the British troops were withdrawn, which most certainly gave encouragement to the Turks. Nonetheless, Great Britain went on to defeat the Ottoman Empire in World War I. In September of 1944 the allies attempted to achieve a rapid crossing of the Rhine by landing three airborne divisions in Holland to capture several bridges and to be followed up by the XXX corps crossing the river at Arnhem. By the ninth day of the operation, it was clear that it had failed and the remains of the British 1st airborne in Arnhem were withdrawn. No doubt the Germans felt some boost to morale, but the Allies went ahead and won the war anyway, crossing the Rhine elsewhere. My point is that not all military campaigns will be a success, nor does the nation's safety or reputation require them to be. It is indeed a failure to launch an operation that does not succeed, but it is a greater failure by far to continue to pursue a failed course, as our conservative fellow countrymen insist we do.
Just as Grant ultimately succeeded though he pulled out of Spotsylvania, and the British succeeded in WWI although they pulled out of Gallipoli, and the Allies won WWII although they did not hold the Arnhem bridge, the goals and principals of this nation can still prevail if we pull out of Iraq and direct our resources elsewhere. Indeed, I would argue, if we are to succeed in our ultimate objectives we need to pull out of Iraq. In Iraq we are no longer fighting for the nation's interest but only in the interest of saving the reputations of some leading conservative politicians and pundits.