Wednesday, July 16, 2008

2 For 1?

Christopher Hitchens has an awesome bit in Slate that zeros in on the flippantly weak minded and weak willed or any inappropriate handwrings:

If there is one element of moral and political certainty that cements the liberal consensus more than any other, it is the complacent view that while Iraq is "a war of choice," it is really and only Afghanistan that is a war of necessity.

The ritualistic solidity of this view is impressive. It survives all arguments and all evidence.

Just in the last month, as the Iraqi-based jihadists began to beat a retreat and even (according to some reports) to attempt to relocate to Afghanistan and Pakistan, it still seemed to many commentators that this proved that no U.S. forces should have been wasted on Iraq in the first place. This simplistic view ignores, at a minimum, the following points:

1. Many of the al-Qaida forces—most notably the horrific but now deceased Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—made their way to Iraq in the first place only after being forcibly evicted from Afghanistan. Thus, if one did not want to be confronting Bin Laden fans in Mesopotamia, it was surely a mistake to invade Afghanistan rather than Iraq.

2. The American presence in Afghanistan is not at all "unilateral"; it meets every liberal criterion of being formally underwritten and endorsed and armed and reinforced by our NATO and U.N. allies. Indeed, the commander of the anti-Taliban forces is usually not even an American. Yet it is in these circumstances that more American casualties—and not just American ones—are being experienced than are being suffered in Iraq. If this is so, the reason cannot simply be that our resources are being deployed elsewhere.

3. Many of the most successful drives against the Taliban have been conducted by American forces redeployed from Iraq, in particular from Anbar province. But these military victories are the result of counterinsurgent tactics and strategies that were learned in Iraq and that have been applied triumphantly in Afghanistan

In other words, any attempt to play off the two wars against each other is little more than a small-minded and zero-sum exercise.

And consider the implications. Most people appear now to believe that it is quite wrong to mention Saddam Hussein even in the same breath as either a) weapons of mass destruction or b) state-sponsored terrorism.

Just for an experiment, let us imagine that some regime did exist or did arise that posed such a combination of threats. (Actually, so feverish is my imagination that I can even think of one whose name also begins with I.) Would we be bound to say, in public and in advance, that the Western alliance couldn't get around to confronting such a threat until it had Afghanistan well under control?

This would be rather like the equivalent fallacy that nothing can be done in the region until there is a settlement of the Israel-Palestine dispute.

Not only does this mean that every rogue in the region can reset his timeline until one of the world's oldest and most intractable quarrels is settled, it also means that every rogue has an incentive to make certain that no such settlement can ever occur. (Which is, of course, why Saddam threw, and now the Iranians throw, their support to the suicide-murderers.)

It would also be very nice to accept another soft-centered corollary of the Iraq vs. Afghanistan trade-off and to believe that the problem of Afghanistan is a problem only of the shortage of troops.

Strangely, this is not the view of the Afghan government or of any of the NATO forces on the ground. The continued and, indeed, increasing insolence of the Taliban and its al-Qaida allies is the consequence of one thing and one thing only. These theocratic terrorists know that they have a reliable backer in the higher echelons of the Pakistani state and of its military-intelligence complex and that while this relationship persists, they are assured of a hinterland across the border and a regular supply of arms and recruits.

So, the question for Sen. Barack Obama and his glib supporters is this: Would they solve this problem by removing the American forces from Iraq and putting the thereby-enhanced contingent there to patrol a frontier where one of our main "allies" is continually engaged in stabbing them in the back? (At one point last year, Obama himself appeared to accept the illogic of his own position and spoke hotly of the possibility of following the Taliban onto Pakistani soil. We haven't heard much of that lately. Did he mean to say that, come to think of it, we had enough troops to occupy three countries instead of the stipulated and solitary one?

Or would he just exchange Iraq for Pakistan? At least we do know for sure that Pakistan has nuclear weapons acquired mainly by piracy and is the host and patron of the Taliban and al-Qaida.)

Another consideration obtrudes itself. If it is true, as yesterday's three-decker front-page headline in the New York Times had it, that "U.S. Considering Stepping Up Pace of Iraq Pullout/ Fall in Violence Cited/ More Troops Could Be Freed for Operations in Afghanistan," then this can only be because al-Qaida in Iraq has been subjected to a battlefield defeat at our hands—a military defeat accompanied by a political humiliation in which its fanatics have been angrily repudiated by the very people they falsely claimed to be fighting for.

If we had left Iraq according to the timetable of the anti-war movement, the situation would be the precise reverse: The Iraqi people would now be excruciatingly tyrannized by the gloating sadists of al-Qaida, who could further boast of having inflicted a battlefield defeat on the United States. I dare say the word of that would have spread to Afghanistan fast enough and, indeed, to other places where the enemy operates.

Bear this in mind next time you hear any easy talk about "the hunt for the real enemy" or any loose babble that suggests that we can only confront our foes in one place at a time.


Findalis said...

The question of attacking Iraq is settled. We attacked and took out Saddam. End of that discussion. It is history.

But our alliance with Pakistan was a mistake. The Pakistani government has back stabbed us more than once, allowing bin Ladin et al a free haven in the nation.

If we have to crossover the Pakistani border and get the Taliban, then we should do it. Not to emboldens them and gives them a platform to strike our troops as they did this week.

As for Obama, he will flip-flop again on this issue just like he has been doing on all other issues.

Ben Sutherland said...

I have to say that I am amazed at how much policy gets debated on the level of "how much pride can I have that I do not ever have to admit mistakes" rather than on the much more rational level of "I make mistakes and learn from them so I can avoid them in the future." Folks who read Victor Davis Hanson who reason in such ways would be surprised how largely it figures in his view of why Western militaries are so sucessful, long-term.

Iraq has been invaded and we have to stick with that situation until Iraqi forces can handle the security situtation on their own. Having said that, Hitchens is right, at least, in acknowledging that Aghanistan and Iraq were wars of choice, though Afghanistan, given the al-Qaeda's long-time connections to that terrain, had more arguable defensive aims than did Iraq, which was clearly a war of choice, no matter how much those who favored it, including Hitchens, would like to escape responsibility for that fact.

It is true that the decision to war in Iraq is over and that the question now is how to best establish security given the chaotic situation we face. But that does not resolve the necessary debate about the original decision to war there, which is an important debate to guarantee stronger military and political decisions in the future, not one to dismiss.

Hitchens is wrong to equivocate the two wars. From the Slate article that Courtney cites on al-Zarqawi:

"But officials are growing certain of this much: that Zarqawi is his own man, with his own group, distinct from Osama Bin Laden. 'I don't know if I should say this or not, but I—I suppose I can—it appears that Zarqawi may very well not have sworn allegiance' to Bin Laden, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said last week. 'Maybe, because he disagrees with him on something, maybe because he wants to be 'The Man' himself, and maybe for a reason that's not known to me.'

"The distance between Zarqawi and Bin Laden, it turns out, has been suspected for a while. They have had contacts and fought together in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980s. But after the war, Zarqawi dedicated himself to overthrowing Jordan's King Hussein, while Bin Laden eyed bigger targets. Following a stint of several years in a Jordanian jail for plotting against the regime, Zarqawi returned to Afghanistan, where he built training camps and established his group, al-Tawhid. He retained his focus on Jordan, with the added goal, as one trainee put it, "to kill Jews everywhere.' Zarqawi's camps were hundreds of miles from Bin Laden's, and the two reportedly competed for funds and recruits. One of Zarqawi's fighters, a Jordanian named Shadi Abdallah, told German investigators, 'He is against al-Qaida.'"

Now, that doesn't mean that al-Zaqarwi wasn't a really bad guy nor that we shouldn't have invaded Iraq. Both of those are independent questions, and both are questions that I believe the stronger arguments point in positive directions. Meaning, I do think that Zarqawi was a really bad guy worthy of our focus and efforts and that Iraq was worthy of invasion, even as I believe that a better, more honestly debated and planned invasion could have avoided thousands of American and Iraqi casualties and better avoided many of the political messes that we currently find ourselves with in Iraq. That is the benefit of liberal democracies taking such debates seriously before wars, much more seriously than any of the major players took such debates before this war: wars, when we engaged them, can be fought more effectively with a more honest and substantial debate. It is also why the mindless way that we engage democratic elections in America have serious consequence when important policy decisions, like going to war, need to be substantially debated.

It does mean, however, that Democrats are right that we took our eye off of the ball with Bin Laden and got tempted by a war of choice in Iraq before we finished the business at hand, post-9/11, which was capturing or killing Bin Laden and other al-Qaeda operatives, and, subsequently crushing and/or containing al-Qaeda operations. That operation would have taken us into Afghanistan and/or Pakistan, first, before we considered any operations in Iraq. We did not do that because the Administration wanted to use the moment as an excuse to remove a brutal dictator from Iraq and because, without substantial enough evidence, he was scared that Saddam's regime might have nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction and might share them or the technological know-how with al-Qaeda or any other groups that might threaten U.S. interests post-9/11. We knew that Saddam had biological weapons, making moot the nonsensical debate about whether Saddam had WMD's. We did not know, however, that he had any real capability or intent of delivering those weapons on U.S. soil (until he was threatened with invasion, concluded U.S. intelligence estimates, before the war), nor that Saddam had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program or possessed weapons that he could threaten the U.S. with, and certainly not as an imminent danger.

In the October 2002 NIE assessment, the report most probable in its assessments of a reconstituted nuclear program, the majority of intelligence agencies sourced believed that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program, with significant dissents by the Department of State and Deparment of Energy - both who believed, along with the National Ground Intelligence Center, that the aluminum tubes acquired by Hussein were more likely used for conventional rocket purposes rather than evidence of a reconstituted nuclear program, though the NGIC did believe that other evidence pointed to a reconstituted program. This same report indicated that the likelihood of Saddam having usable weapons would take a 5-7 year timeframe, with the worst case scenario being several months to a 1-year time frame if he somehow acquired outside fissile materials, to which this report, the report most confident of a reconstituted program - a substantially more confident assessment than a year earlier, before the case for war was being made - did not believe that Saddam had developed access. The post-war findings from the Senate Intelligence Committee's Phase II report were that Saddam's nuclear program had ended in 1991 and that his ability to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program had progressively declined after that time, the Iraq Survey Group found no evidence that Hussein had tried to reconstitute his program, though he did try to retain intellectual capital, which decayed with 1991 and 2003, and no evidence that scientists had worked on a renewed program. Those post-war findings also confirmed that aluminum tubes acquired by Hussein had been intended for a conventional weapons program and that there was no evidence that dual-use technologies, activities at nuclear sites or contruction at the al-Tahadi high voltage and electromagnetic facility had any connection to a nuclear weapons program and no evidence that Iraq had sought uranium from any foreign sources after 1991. The same group did not even find an active biological weapons production program after 1996 or and active chemical weapons production program after 1991, though weapons from before each of these years were present and they noted that Hussein could have reinitiated a biological program within weeks to a month of deciding to do so and that chemical weapons could have been produced from civilian stockpiles, but that there was not substantial evidence that Hussein has pursued these routes.

Nor did we have substantial evidence to suspect that Saddam was likely to partner with al-Qaeda, a group he has serious ideological conflict with and suspicion of, and not even ties to al-Zarqawi seem to have much credible substantiation, either before the war or after. Suspicions of such do not have credible evidence to support them, that I've seen. In fact, the minority dissent to the Phase II support does not, at all, deny a lack of ties between Hussein's government and al-Queda or terrorist groups (other than his patronage of Palestinian terrorists). What they argue, instead, is that neither the President nor the Vice-President had argued a direct link, but rather were arguing the possibility of such a link, an argument that is defensive, at best, and disingenuous, at worst, and ignores the substantial concern that such fears were what drove misrepresentations of Saddam's capabilities and intents as it concerned weapons of mass destruction and terrorist groups like al-Qaeda.

All of those conclusions, and the last conclusions I cited, in particular, go very much to the judgment of those who would confuse their fears of both the intents of hostile governments and their relationships with terrorist groups and substantial and verified evidence of real intent to do harm, the key distinction between defensive war and offensive war, the broadest range of the latter constituting aggression and not self-defense or otherwise legitimate, liberal, or democratic uses of military force, at all.

Meaning, when you confuse your fears with actual evidence of a real and imminent danger in one war and then pretend like it doesn't really matter, anyway - even when it clearly has consequence on a central substantial policy priority, namely capturing or killing members of al-Qaeda and crushing or containing its demonstrated willingness and desire to kill Americans on American soil - it most certainly does go to the judgment of those who would propose new wars, all the while ignoring and minimizing the original policy mistakes, namely losing focus on taking out al-Queda (a mistake, notice, that is repeated with talk of invasion of Iran rather than a coherent plan for capturing or killing the central members of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and/or Afghanistan, not to mention how events in Afghanistan are going to be turned in a more positive direction) and confusing fears about the intentions of hostile governments with actual evidence of an intent or desire to do harm, absent U.S. or other provocation.

And what is really tragic about the whole situation is that this kind of pride means that more Americans die. And we all act like somehow our wounded egos having to admit that perhaps we have made even serious and tragic mistakes are more important than their lives.

It is pathetic, is what it is. And certainly does not honor the men and women who risk their lives on our behalf.

I just visited my local Army/Navy recruiter, yesterday (I'm actuallly looking at Air Force or Marines, but these are the guys who called, and they seemed like good guys to talk about service with). It was a great discussion. Though, I have to say that those guys, all of whom had served in Iraq, did not seem nearly as hot on this war as I am. They seemed a little reticent. And for good reason, I think.

And I have to say that it definitely makes me think twice about putting my life on the line so that the Administration and their cheerleaders never have to ever admit that, perhaps, they ever make serious mistakes that get people killed and that there were serious mistakes made in this war other than not committing enough troops (the most numbskull, boo-yah explanation of mistakes made in this war that I have heard). Especially when it is pretty damned clear to the entire of world who are not cheerleaders for the Administration that serious mistakes were made and that many people have died tragically and unnecessarily as a consequence.

I do not impugn the Administration's or Congressional Republicans' or Democrats' motives, all of whom voted for this war and all of whom are resposible for it and all of its consequences. They were scared. They were reeling from 9/11. And they are too proud to admit, today, that this was the case and that confusing their fears with more substantial evidence of danger has had serious consequences. They are not bad people. But neither are they infallible. And behaving otherwise undermines my trust in their leadership, it does not lead me to trust them more. All of them. Republicans and Democrats. They all look like damned stubborn fools to me, all pretending that none of them made any of the serious mistakes made in this war and all finger-pointing like somehow this is going to build confidence in their leadership, either from me or from the rest of the country or the world they seek to lead.

But what does bother me is that both the pride to consider, reflect on, and acknowledge the most serious mistakes made in this war - and not committing enough troops is way down on my list of serious mistakes made during this war - and the blame-shifting, as all parties involved try to avoid dealing with both the natural consequence of Americans and others losing trust in their leadership and under significant pressure and afraid of the wrath of Americans, Iraqis, and others who they fear will pummel them if they were to ever acknowledge serious mistakes openly means that more Americans and Iraqis die, that I might be one of those lives who are sacraficed to such hubris and pride, and that many of the same people are now, cavalierly talking of yet another invasion.

And all the while, Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, those most clearly responsible for the events of 9/11 and the tragic deaths of 3000 Americans have still not been captured or killed.

I know one thing. I will sign up to be a needless casualty for the pride of a President and a Congress and their various cheerleaders who cannot even find it within themselves to even consider the serious mistakes made in this war and the tragic and unnecessary deaths that have occurred as a consequence.

I sure hope that Christopher Hitchens will be taking his fat ass over to Iran, himself, this time. Because not one more American, Israeli, or anyone else needs to die for sad and pathetic hubris that Christopher Hitchens, of all people, embodies best. I'm not sure if there is a participant in public liberal democratic debates who is more arrogant than Mr. Hitchens. And I have no clue why anyone would want such a gasbag backing them up, except if they wanted to give it the air of snotty, bullshitting conceit that follows that sad, vain man anywhere he makes a snide utterance of contempt for anyone who he thinks is not as smart as him, which is everyone as far as he is concerned. I, long ago, lost my patience with Christopher Hitchens as a good faith political participant, long since he was an unapologetic and smarmy socialist on the pages of the Nation. I will read and listen to his arguments, as I did today. But he hardly impresses me with any dash of humility about anything, nevertheless this war.

His kind of argument - always self-serving, always self-defensive, and always with a false arrogance that ignores his many serious mistakes of judgment over the course of his career as a political thinker - is exactly what is wrong with politics, today, and the debate about this war, in particular.

This more serious, more general mistake - the proud unwillingness to acknowledge mistakes in political forums, especially mistakes that lead to the deaths of Americans and others - is the most serious problem we face in this debate and in the effort that I take seriously to persuade Americans that we should stick with this situation in Iraq, even as their support for withdrawal is weakening but still stronger than support for victory in Iraq. The most recent Rasmussen poll, as of July 14, 2008, says that 40% believe victory is possible, up from 32% a year ago; 44% of Americans still believe that the war is not winnable, down from 54% a year ago. A clear majority of Americans, as of a May 19th, 52% of Americans to 39% of Americans still rate getting troops home more seriously than winning the war, reflected in Obama's generally better poll numbers. A Times/CBS poll, yesterday, in welcome news, shows 45% of Americans saying that efforts to bring security to Iraq are going well, 20 points higher than the same time last year, though a Washington Post-ABC poll shows Americans splitting the difference the other way, 51% saying that we are not making improvement in security in Iraq versus 46% seeing progress. 63% of Americans in that poll and 60% of Americans in the Times/CBS poll say the invasion was a mistake, in the first place.

Now, I agree with none of this gloominess. I fully expect us to win the war in Iraq. I fully expect us to route the Taliban in Afghanistan, despite our very serious recent setbacks. I wholeheartedly agree with Victor Davis Hanson's conclusion in the re-issued edition of Carnage and Culture, post-9/11, that Western values like freedom and independent judgment, capitalism, open and public debate, and the like will lead America and the liberal democratic world to triumph in the war on terrorism.

But I live under no illusions that any of that is going to happen because everyone will figure out that conservatives are right all the time and liberals are wrong all the time - which pretty seriously contradicts Hanson's central thesis in his most acclaimed book about military affairs - and that everyone will figure out that President Bush and conservatives had it right all along. What mindless bullshit. You gotta have fuckin' serious hubris to think that you or anyone has it right all the time. The kind of hubris that follows like a foul stench the likes of Christopher Hitchens into every debate he enters.

The whole point to Hanson's thesis is that it is the debate that makes us stronger, not some foolish notion that we do not make even serious and tragic mistakes. Serious and tragic mistakes are a a fact of life. People die and it is a very, very sad fact of life that those who make decisions that lead to those deaths learn lessons, over time, that might have prevented those deaths, had they learned those lessons sooner. It is a tragic and unfortunate fact of life and warfare. And that sad fact of life is not to be treated more lightly or callously than it deserves.

What that very tragic fact of warfare and life warrants is that we find it in ourselves to be bigger than our propensity for error and be willing and able to recognize it to prevent future deaths, if we can.

And behaving, as Hitchens does in this article, that the failures and foibles of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are somehow to be glossed over as the shortcomings of efforts with good intentions, as if good intentions actually compensate for those failures, or that the wars' critics are merely soft-hearted, weak-minded, weak-willed handwringers is an awfully convenient way to avoid having to face up to those failures, isn't it?

Except, that's the beauty of liberal democracy.

See, Hanson's right. The debate is what makes us stronger. And it's not just engaging in some kind of mindless obligatory exercise so we can go ahead with what we know, already, is better policy (which noone does, obviously; that's the whole point of the debate, to anyone how is not so full of themselves and their own hubris to try to weasle their way out of that fact).

The debate means taking seriously those criticisms or continuing to deal with the consequences of your failures. That means more Americans and others die on the backs of that kind of hubris. Congratulations to Christopher Hitchens and whomever else carries that conceit for that.

But, eventually, there are consequences for that sort of hubris. People lose trust in all of those who engage in such hopeless arrogance. Republican and Democratic leaders have suffered this consequence, alternately, at this point. They've prided themselves in the notion that if confidence in the Democratic Congress is below 20%, then somehow that compensates for the fact that confidence in the President is tanking below 30%. Except it doesn't. What it reflects is that Americans have lost trust in both major parties and in leaders asking them to make sacrafices for wars abroad.

And that puts people like me, who try to persuade people that such efforts are still worth their ongoing commitment, in a serious pickle. Because it makes it very difficult to persuade people that their commitment and their sacrafices are warranted when their leaders and their cheerleaders just can't find it in their arrogant little hearts to acknowledge that something and someone has fucked up, here, even if noone wants to admit it and even if everyone, quite predictably and in the true cowardly fashion that is politics as usual, wants to pretend that "it's the other guy." What the fuck ever. What fuckin' cowards pretend this country with that bullshit? I'll give you a clue. It's not just liberals. It's every last shithead I have to listen to pretend that somehow running roughshot and ignoring the concerns of those they disagree with hasn't had any consequences, thusfar.

Oh, really.

Well, good luck with that line of reasoning, Mr. Hitchens, and anyone who decides to take a ride on the coattails of this beacon of humility and wisdom.

Everyone here ready to sign up and have Chris Hitchens as your commanding officer in real-time war? Have fun with the likes of Hitch as your commander.

Me, I want someone with a little more humility and attentitiveness to facts on the ground. Someone like David Petraeus. But, hey, maybe Hitch and Petraeus are really equivalents? Or maybe General Petraeus is too weak-willed to learn to snubb those he disagrees with. Me, I think it's because Petraeus knows what he's doing, better. And he's a better man than to pretend that he's not making mistakes when he is. Because peoples' lives are on the line.

Pakistan is pursuing a reasonable and likely much more successful policy vis a vis al Qaeda than anyone, including the U.S., has pursued up until this point.

They have figured out what the U.S. eventually figured out in Iraq. If you are going to get the cooperation of a population to root out bad guys and not win those bad guys popular support, then you need to coopt leaders who can be coopted, collaborate with folks who are in good faith, and politically isolate your enemy as you are trying to locate him and capture or kill him.

If the U.S. were to foolishly follow your advice, Findalis, they would not only undermine efforts to win the support of the Pakistani population, especially the population of more remote, rural, and more religiously devout areas along the Afghan border, they would start up a shitstorm that Pakistan would win in the realm of international public opinion and likely win a pullout and undermine collaborative efforts with the Pakistani government for quite a while. You think dealing the turn in American public opinion is difficult to deal with, try on Pakistanis who have no loyalty to Americans or the American government, much hatred and suspicion, and many of them very likely to begin to ally with her enemies rather than with American efforts to route Bin Laden. Then you can mock the Pakistanis for being weak-willed and soft-hearted, and they will work with your enemies to kill you and other Americans, especially forces in Pakistan, and you will learn a very, very hard lesson in politics in wartime. And you can bump your head, and lives of many Americans, on this same, stupid lesson over and over and over and over again as long as you need to finally figure out that blowing off populations that disagree with you, and, in this case, those who are deeply suspicious of you has consequences.

In the meantime, the Pakistanis are pursuing a more promising strategy than what you are suggesting. The Americans are impatient with it, as always. But, luckily, they are more sensible than to blow off a critical ally in this effort out of that impatience and will work with the Pakistanis while they sort this thing out. With luck and some patience, we will get the ok for collaboration between Afghani and Pakistani forces, perhaps other non-American coalition forces, at some point, and, then, maybe, much farther down the line, collaboration between American and Pakistani forces (though we've kind of dug our own hole on that matter, at this point).

In the meantime, I'm already working overtime to dig ourselves out of the mess that has been the legacy of action without enough thought, debate, or collaboration, up until this point. Last thing I need is to have to cover the asses of this Administration one more time as it bungles the politics in the hubris of "military power trumps democratic deliberation." Luckily they're smarter than that. And if it turns out that they are not, guess who gets to take responsibility for the people who die from that hubris, whether they want to take responsibility or not?
Christopher Hitches might be interested to know, it ain't Obama.

I have to say, though, that the only time that I ever think about voting for Barack Obama, at this point, the only time in days that a great majority are spent thinking about matters of politics and policy, is when I come to this blog. Every time I have to read some dumbass, half-assed comment on how military force can trump any political concern as long as we got the power, I remember, "Oh, that's why Obama is winning this election, thusfar. Because Americans are so fuckin' tired of that stupid bullshit."

Luckily, I know it's more complicated that all that. And I know enough about Obama's weaknesses to not be easily seduced.

But I have to say that if John McCain were to sound more like that and less likely to think out of some mindless little right-wing box about how "he with the biggest weaponry wins all arguments," then Barack Obama really does begin to sound more credible as an option.

Luckily for McCain, right now, he's got to deal with his only mindless little left-wing box of "make love not war."

And anyone with half-a-brain in between keep wondering to themselves, why do we let all of the morons on the fringes leverage this debate with fools gold all the time? Surely we can do better than this.

And then they do. Every time.

Thank god for democracy.

Ben Sutherland said...

"I know one thing. I will NOT sign up to be a needless casualty for the pride of a President and a Congress and their various cheerleaders who cannot even find it within themselves to even consider the serious mistakes made in this war and the tragic and unnecessary deaths that have occurred as a consequence."

Though the truth is that I will likely sign up, regardless. This mission is too important and I have too much faith in the American people to get this right, down the line.

In the meantime, my job, at every level, from the politics to the combat, gets harder when people talk like this, not easier.

Having said all that, I appreciate the Hitch post, Courtney. It was provocative. Even if I think Christopher Hitchens waxes nostalgically for his one and only true love: himself.

Khaki Elephant said...

Thanks for sharing. You're right: an awesome piece.

Dr. John Maszka said...

Taking the war to Pakistan is perhaps the most foolish thing America can do. Obama is not the first to suggest it, and we already have sufficient evidence of the potentially negative repercussions of such an action.

For example: On January 13, 2006, the United States launched a missile strike on the village of Damadola, Pakistan. Rather than kill the targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, the strike instead slaughtered 17 locals. This only served to further weaken the Musharraf government and further destabilize the entire area. In a nuclear state like Pakistan, this was not only unfortunate, it was outright stupid. Pakistan has 160 million Arabs (better than half of the population of the entire Arab world). Pakistan also has the support of China and a nuclear arsenal.

I predict that America’s military action in the Middle East will enter the canons of history alongside Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Holocaust, in kind if not in degree. The Bush administration’s war on terror marks the age in which America has again crossed a line that many argue should never be crossed. Call it preemption, preventive war, the war on terror, or whatever you like; there is a sense that we have again unleashed a force that, like a boom-a-rang, at some point has to come back to us. The Bush administration argues that American military intervention in the Middle East is purely in self-defense. Others argue that it is pure aggression. The consensus is equally as torn over its impact on international terrorism. Is America truly deterring future terrorists with its actions? Or is it, in fact, aiding the recruitment of more terrorists?

The last thing the United States should do at this point and time is to violate yet another state’s sovereignty. Beyond being wrong, it just isn't very smart. We all agree that slavery in this country was wrong; as was the decimation of the Native American populations. We all agree that the Holocaust and several other acts of genocide in the twentieth century were wrong. So when will we finally admit that American military intervention in the Middle East is wrong as well?

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Hi John. Thanks for visiting.

Hold up a sec - obviously nonstate actors are violating Afghanistan's sovereignity as well as Pakistan's.

Pres 4 Life Pervez had probs with pop way before 2006. Indeed, just since this March's new parli elections over 300 ppl have killed by the rowdy intolerant that call the no go zone home.

If another attack happens on Great Satan's turf - odds are - this will be where it came from.

Comparing American military action to Nagi and Hiro is frightfully dishonest. Careful with that - Why not compare it a bit more realistically - like Falallujah times ten, or call it Surgestan?