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Moral stamina and "the American way of war"
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, June 16, 2007

Robert Kaplan starts a very interesting article questioning whether we any longer have the 'will to win' in protracted conflicts.
Some truths are so obvious that to mention them in polite company seems either pointless or rude. What is left unstated, however, can with time be forgotten. Both of these observations apply today to the American way of war. It is obvious that a military can only fight well on behalf of a society in which it believes, and that a society which believes little is worth fighting for cannot, in the end, field an effective military. Obvious as this is, we seem to have forgotten it.

Remembering will help us in several ways. First, it will show us that the greatest asymmetry in our struggle with radical Islam is not one of arms or organization or even of ideology in any simple sense, but one of morale in the deepest sense. Second, it will provide an insight into the state of civil-military relations in our own country, which is a growing problem many of us refuse to acknowledge. And third, it will show us why some kinds of wars—“in-between” wars, I call them—have become inherently difficult for the United States to fight and win.
It is, mostly, an unspoken problem since it seems that most on one side of the argument would just as soon ignore it and pretend that when the time and cause are right, we will face the enemy with the commensurate will. The other side sees a gradual but persistent refusal, at least by the nation's elite, to commit to what may be necessary but difficult fights. When the one side brings it up, the other side, the side which would prefer to ignore the point and the problem, tends to denigrate the argument so it can again comfortably dismiss it.

The most obvious recent example of that can be found in statements by those who claim a high price has been paid in blood in Iraq, when in relative terms, it is hardly a drop in the bucket of the blood sacrifice America has paid in past wars. Yet when this is pointed out, those who say it are denigrated as blood thirsty war mongers who willingly send others off to do what they won't do themselves. The argument is dismissed with the pejorative "chickenhawk" as its final derisive statement.
 
Yet the reality of the argument is completely true, despite the denial and dismissal. An average of 875 deaths a year is, in real terms, not, in any sense of the word, an overwhelming sacrifice. And it certainly doesn't provide a convincing basis for abandoning the effort there.

The disconnect is also heard from political leaders who have pronounced the war "lost" and declare operations failures before they've ever begun. All the while, and in the middle of the conflict, an entirely different attitude is apparent:
ake the MacWhirr-like Sgt. Major Dennis Zavodsky of Mapleton, Oregon, who remarked at a Thanksgiving service in Mosul that the Pilgrims during their first winter in the New World experienced a casualty rate that would render any combat unit ineffective. “This country isn’t a quitter”, he said. “It doesn’t withdraw. It doesn’t give in.

Stubbornness, inspired by faith, was the rule among those I was privileged to accompany. And I do not mean just or even mainly conventional religious faith. Quite a few of those I met despised “the Bible thumpers.” I mean simply the moral stamina of a MacWhirr—a quality of character that tends to march with the bumps and bruises of an often dangerous, usually uncertain working-class existence.
Kaplan's obvious question is, as we become richer and more disconnected from the foundations of the "working-class" society which predominated in our culture previously, are we losing that "moral stamina" necessary to win wars like Iraq? Can we no longer continue to "march with the bumps and bruises" inherent in a long term and difficult effort like Iraq?

One of the consistent themes of our enemies is we're a 'weak horse' as a society and a country. According to them we don't have the moral stamina necessary to do the long, difficult and costly work wars, which Kaplan describes as "in-between" wars, require. That doesn't mean we don't have the SGM Zadovsky's necessary to do it if we so desired. Our military has proven over the last 4 years that it can and would persevere, and I believe eventually win against this enemy.

Where the will, the moral stamina, is lacking is in the same place we first noticed it previously, those short 30+ years ago. If anything reminds us of Vietnam, it is the politics of this war. With barely 6% of the losses we suffered in Vietnam the same part of our political class which previously abandoned an effort and an ally are ready to do so again. And even knowing the fate of those we previously abandoned would probably be the same fate for those they propose we abandon, they seem quite content to do so.

The lack of moral stamina, or if you prefer, political will, is an extremely important and contentious subject. For years I wondered if, in fact, Vietnam was an aberration in that regard. It was a deeply unpopular war, it was supported by a draft which got masses of college students involved in dissent, and we lost 58,000 to the cause. Yet its real abandonment actually happened 3 years after the last US combat troops had left the country and South Vietnam had successfully defeated a massive earlier attack by the NVA with the help from US air support.

The fact that SVN survived 3 more years speaks more to success than failure, in terms of preparing an ally to defend itself, yet in a clear demonstration of lack of moral stamina, we unilaterally abandoned them without a second thought when the second attack came from the north.

Wars and conflicts such as the one in which we're engaged now are grounded in belief, whether those opposing Iraq care to admit it or not. Each side believes their cause to be greater, better and more just than that of the other side, and it is the intensity of that belief and its defense which establishes the moral stamina necessary to see a nation through such a conflict. But belief, or faith, has become a bad word to many of the political elite in the West. And thus the requisite moral intensity is sorely lacking. As Kaplan points out:
It suggests particularly that we have forgotten Dostoyevsky, who wrote in The Brothers Karamazov that the signal flaw of the upper classes is that they “want to base justice on reason alone”, not on any deeper belief system absent which everything can be rationalized, so that the will of a society to fight and survive withers away.
Had Vietnam been the outlier, I'd not be here pondering Kaplan's point. But then we wouldn't have anyone claiming Iraq is lost and our strategy a failure before it even has begun in earnest. Vietnam wasn't an outlier. It was the first significant indicator of a growing lack of moral stamina which was infecting the country and the society. Somolia was the second and Iraq is turning into the third.

Interestingly it is Kosovo which is the outlier. And Kosovo is the prefect answer to those who say Iraq isn't about the casualties we've suffered there. I contend that if we had daily counts of deaths in Kosovo and a running tally published daily, we'd see the same group trying to get us out of Iraq also trying to get us out of Kosovo and abandon it to its fate.

Ironically, the military, for the most part is cautiously optimistic about their chances in Iraq, acknowledge that the effort is a long-term one all the while voicing the willingness to see it through despite the "bumps and bruises" it suffers along the way. Yet opponents base their desire for withdrawal on the absurd notion that they're saving the military from itself, although they never blatantly state their reason as such. But their message is they're not willing to "pay the price" that the long-war in Iraq requires, even if those fighting it are.

The bottom line is the enemy we are facing and the enemies we will face in the future proudly declare and effectively demonstrate the moral stamina necessary to continue their fight. They marshal that stamina from a belief system, no matter how barbaric we may find it, that sustains their fight. Technology alone won't defeat it. Diplomacy certainly won't defeat it. Rational argument has no chance in its defeat. And, certainly timidity or lack of will won't defeat it. All that will defeat it is a demonstration of both our moral and military superiority manifested in the moral stamina to see the task through to its end. And right now, it seems, we have a severe lack of that latter quality.

As Jean-Francois Revel said, "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself." As I see it, that is precisely the road we're headed down right now.
 
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There has been an especially high cost in blood when you think about human blood rather than just American blood. But the argument really boils down to this: is the war worth fighting, is it in our national interest, and what are the consequences of staying and going. The human cost does matter in that calculation, though obviously it’s not the only thing. I think some people are trying to portray a belief that this is not a good policy with some kind of unwillingness to sacrifice. That’s driven by the fact some see this war as a front line battle of civilizations, while most think that’s far fetched and alarmist — and if it were true, fighting in Iraq is exactly what the enemy would want us to be doing. No, Americans are probably as war-ready as any modern society, far more militarist than most of the rest of the West. But that doesn’t mean following a leader anywhere he or she leads.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"...while most think that’s far fetched and alarmist...
Would that be "most of the spineless political elite" that Mr. McQuain describes in his post? Of which we have a prime example on display here most days.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
It takes no spine to support a war from afar.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"Americans are probably as war-ready as any modern society..."
Parenthetically, Professor Erb’s classical propaganda training shows in this comment. Yes, the elite could support that "other [always mythical] war that might occur someday", just not this actual war that we have right now. We’ve seen this "reasoning" before, haven’t we?
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
Spineless Professor Erb will take any steps to never serve and to keep his children from ever serving in the the military [while taking full advantage of the lifestyle our military assures him].

My beloved grandson ships out for Iraq next month. Professor Erb is ignorant of "spine" altogether.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
The premise of this post is false.

It’s not a war, it’s an occupation.

The difference is profound.

Since every point made in this post is based on this false premise, there is no reason in taking issue with them.

Until the supporters of our continued efforts to socially re-engineer Iraq are willing to acknowledge our situation in Iraq for what it is, as opposed to what they wish it to be characterized as, having a debate on Iraq is meaningless.

BTW, if it is a war, who is our enemy in Iraq?
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Yes exactly — the war was over in 2003, it’s now a social engineering operation. The argument has shifted as well from WMD and anti-terrorism to the need to prevent genocide or avoid Iraq becoming the terrorist haven it was not in Saddam’s day. Yet neither of those rationales to stay in Iraq are likely to be successfully addressed by American policy as it exists today; even the military says success depends on Iraqi political developments, and those are unlikely to come quickly, if any time in the foreseeable future. It could well be we’re doing more harm than good to both Iraq and our national interest. Discussing those specific issues means moving away from abstract talk about "America’s way of war," or claims people are "spineless" to a real analysis of what is happening and why.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Indeed, one of the problems of current situation in Iraq is that we are using old language and ideas to analyze what is fundamnetally a sui generis condition, at least with respect to the use of US military to project power.

It’s post-post-post colonial, at a minimum.

The Bush administration never grasped the complexities of a post-invasion Iraq before March of 2003. And much of the current debate is still stuck in the pre 3/2003 mindset.

Kaplan is still stuck in that mindset too.

What’s the old saying: where there’s a will, there’s a way? The corollary is that for there to be a will, there must be a way. And to date, the Bush administration and those who support our continued efforts to socially re-engineer Iraq have not provided a "way." At one moment, we are allying with the Shia. At another, Sadr is the biggest threat in the region to stability. At one moment, we are battling Sunni insurgents; at the next, we are arming them to fight AQ. We ally with the Kurds, yet the PKK is a terrorist organization. Moreover, the Kurds are killing troops of our NATO ally Turkey, which, by the way, is a model for a Muslim secular society.

Kaplan is an elitist. Contrary to his assumptions, the American people are discovering there is no "way" in Iraq; hence, "will" is irrelevant.

Kaplan is operating in two dimensions. Iraq involves 12.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Translation of these two liberal pus-bags:

There are just too many nuances at work here for you clods to understand. Take our word for it; those of us who really understand what is happening should be making foreign policy for America. We will lead you on to future glory. Disregard those who speak of honor, hard work and sacrifice. The Jimmy Carter way is the right way.

 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
There has been an especially high cost in blood when you think about human blood rather than just American blood.
And the Iraqi people have chosen to bear that cost, and even sought it, as they have not rejected our presence en masse or even engaged in non-participation with the electoral process.
But the argument really boils down to this: is the war worth fighting, is it in our national interest, and what are the consequences of staying and going.
Absolutely it is in our best interest. If we succeed, the worldview from which Al Qaeda sprang is destroyed; the rug pulled out from under them. Why else do you think they commit their resources theer? If they can’t win there, they can’t win anywhere.

The consequences of leaving are that AlQaeda has a secure area of operations, a training and recruiting ares, and access to oil funds which it has defacto control over, for which it will not have to beg rish Saudis...And also that we then permit the Iraqis to be afflicted with AQ. That if nothing else will instill a hate for us which will last generations.

In terms of historical cost, the cost of staying is low, and one the military can bear even at these funding levels, and level of public support.
The human cost does matter in that calculation, though obviously it’s not the only thing.
I think you blatantly discount the human cost of leaving. Our staying may kill tens of thousands, or leaving would surely kill hundreds of thousands, and enslave tens of millions.

Only the most grossly debased and self deluded persons would say the cost of leaving is lower than the cost of staying.
I think some people are trying to portray a belief that this is not a good policy with some kind of unwillingness to sacrifice.
I think some people are imagining they have a better policy, and that they are unwilling to permit a volunteer military to make sacrifices which are clearly to the advantage of the United States.
That’s driven by the fact some see this war as a front line battle of civilizations, while most think that’s far fetched and alarmist — and if it were true, fighting in Iraq is exactly what the enemy would want us to be doing.
No. The enemy wants us to concede the entire world to their efforts, so that they can attack us on our own shores after their overseas efforts have disheartened us. The last thing they want is to be driven from country to country, and from safehouse to safehouse, as we harry them where we find them unto the ends of the earth.

That’s what we are doing in Iraq. A lot of good at comparatively low cost.
No, Americans are probably as war-ready as any modern society, far more militarist than most of the rest of the West.
Which says more about how vitiated the rest of the West is than how we still have adequate moral courage. Whether we do is a matter of whether your sort, Erb, is outnumbered or not, and the issue of whether we will survive the idiocies of turning from the Revolutionary era Enlightenment—classical liberalism and negative liberty—is much in doubt.
But that doesn’t mean following a leader anywhere he or she leads.
True. But since you cannot recognize the truth in this statement:
The fact that SVN survived 3 more years speaks more to success than failure, in terms of preparing an ally to defend itself, yet in a clear demonstration of lack of moral stamina, we unilaterally abandoned them without a second thought when the second attack came from the north.
There is no reason to think you have any good insight as to when our allies in a conflict should be abandoned to their destruction and our greater final cost.

And one more thing.
It takes no spine to support a war from afar.
It is delicious when you have no better retort than to fall back on the chickenhawk argument.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
An average of 875 casualties a year
I do not believe that is an accurate number of casualties. Deaths, yes. Casualties, no.

Once an S-1, always an S-1. D*mnit.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
There are just too many nuances at work here for you clods to understand. Take our word for it; those of us who really understand what is happening should be making foreign policy for America. We will lead you on to future glory. Disregard those who speak of honor, hard work and sacrifice. The Jimmy Carter way is the right way.
Seriously, could I have asked for two better examples of the precise point made in the post? Not if I had made those two up myself ala Glenn Greenwald.

Heh ... remarkable.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
It takes no spine to support a war from afar.
And how do you describe your actions?
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
I do not believe that is an accurate number of casualties. Deaths, yes. Casualties, no.
Actually, you’re right. A number of the deaths are non-combat related.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
It takes no spine to support a war from afar.

It is delicious when you have no better retort than to fall back on the chickenhawk argument.
I’ll respond to the rest later (no time now), but this wasn’t a chickenhawk argument. It’s simply a response to someone considering those who don’t support a war spineless. To support or not support a policy in a discussion has absolutely nothing to do with ’courage’ or ’spine.’
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Fulton wrote:
Translation of these two liberal pus-bags:
Descriptive yet far too kind.

They desire policies that will require later reversal at greater cost to our own nation than perservering now, and in the meantime will embolden, safegaurd, and give a victory—even ease—to our enemies.

And this while probably bringing about the slaughter of many hundreds of thousands in a general Iraqi civil war with Iran funding one side, Saudi another, and Turkey no doubt preemptively finding cause to treat the Kurds as they did the Armenians.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Translation of these two liberal pus-bags:

There are just too many nuances at work here for you clods to understand. Take our word for it; those of us who really understand what is happening should be making foreign policy for America. We will lead you on to future glory. Disregard those who speak of honor, hard work and sacrifice. The Jimmy Carter way is the right way.
Quite the other way around. The Kaplan piece is insulting to most Americans. Kaplan suggests that most Americans are weak minded, lacking the necessary "will" to win.

Screw Kaplan and that mindset. Americans are tough bastards who don’t back down from a fight.

But at the same time, they aren’t stupid.

The reality is that most Americans get the fact that we have no business mediating a civil war in Iraq.

So go ahead, suggest that the elitist view is that we have no business socially re-engineering Iraq. Keep trying to sell that notion. Most Americans refused to buy it a long time ago.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
I’ll respond to the rest later (no time now), but this wasn’t a chickenhawk argument.
Unquestionably it was the chickenhawk argument you were making, whatever you felt it was in response to.
It’s simply a response to someone considering those who don’t support a war spineless.
A response made by bringing up the "chickenhawk" meme.
To support or not support a policy in a discussion has absolutely nothing to do with ’courage’ or ’spine.’
Written as if you wouldn’t know a backbone if you saw it, and you don’t—as you have no personal experience with one.

The policy you claim you support which ended our support of SVN, it was a disaster which made quite fruitless the deaths of 58,000 US servicemen, consigned SVN to servitude in the re-education camps, and gave the opening to the Khmer Rouge to kill their some 2 million victims. It can only serve as an example of how not to conduct foreign policy.

Show a spine and recognize the you are wrong in that judgement, and it will begin to be possible to think you may be able to make a rational and judgement about Iraq.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
"and judgement" /= "and moral judgement" TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Oh, it’s the new rough tough MK.

Nice try, nancy-boy.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
It takes no spine to support a war from afar.

And even less spine to fail to do so.

That said, judging by the reenlistment rates, those supporting the war from Tal Afar don’t seem to view the cost as exorbitantly high.
 
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://
Tom, the majority of the Iraqi people do not want us there, and in fact think Americans are legitimate targets. The vast majority certainly have NOT chosen the cost in lives, you are way out of touch with reality if you think that! Your slogans are two years out of date.

Success in Iraq, whatever that is, won’t destroy al qaeda’s world view, and so far it’s weakened us, divided us as a country, overstretched the military, and even now the "surge" is focused primarily in a few regions, especially Baghdad, and the insurgents are adapting and moving. You are making assertions way out of touch with reality.

And the "enemy" (who exactly is the enemy?) isn’t capable of taking "the whole world," they can’t even win over large portions of the Islamic world. We’re helping them by creating an outside enemy that they can use for propaganda purposes. They are playing us like a violin, able to bleed us bit by bit in Iraq, weaken our military, weaken our alliances, and play Russia and China off against us. Meanwhile the taliban is advancing in Afghanistan, controls sections of Pakistan, and really Iraq is a gift we’ve given them to divert our resources and allow them to weaken us at little danger to themselves. This situation is contrary to our national interest, and certainly the next President will dramatically change course. Of course, you’ll try the historical revisionist thing like you do with Vietnam, but I doubt that will be the lesson most people learn.

Now, all that said, there is reason to be cautious about how we leave Iraq and what policies we choose. Those are on the one hand humanitarian and on the other focused on creating alliances to help bring stability and democracy/markets to the region (this is necessary for counter-terrorism). But if you stick with the simplistic claims you’re making, which really have been out of date since 2004, real discussion is impossible. And if that discussion doesn’t take place the choice will be simply stay or go — and ultimately our national interest will direct us to go (as will public opinion) if there are only two options. So put aside the slogans and the black and white world view, and get into the complexities. You can do it!

Oh, and Tom — our war with Vietnam created conditions which allowed the Khmer Rouge to come to power. That’s one reason why that war was utterly immoral and pointless. It’s a lesson that if you intervene in a region with violence, you destroy existing structures and it risks making matters worse than before, even if you came in with good intention. I have absolutely no respect for that kind of revisionist history about Vietnam (and at least am in a position to try to combat it).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Quite the other way around. The Kaplan piece is insulting to most Americans. Kaplan suggests that most Americans are weak minded, lacking the necessary "will" to win.
Yes, but he probably believes it. There are many people who seem to have this romantic view of Islam as something akin to the middle ages strength, threatening the western world like the Ottomans threatened Vienna. They imagine a clash of civilizations, and see the West as weak and hedonistic as a committed, evil, and cruel foe does whatever necessary to destroy the western world. To them the proper response is for the West to rise up, show determination, and defeat this ’demon from the East.’ Of course while people who buy that rather absurd world view can feel romantically part of something bigger themselves and pat themselves on the back for seeing clearly the reality that the ’spineless’ elite deny or masses ignorant because of ’mainstream media’s’ misreporting — only blogs and talk radio report reality — are in the dark about.

There almost seems to be an alternate reality, developed in right wing blogs and talk radio, that posits an invasion from the south of Mexicans (and the compromise bill as threatening the foundations of our republic), of Islam as some kind of unified threat, global warming as a scam hoisted by the left wing to just increase control, Iraq’s surge working and the media not reporting it (just like they weren’t reporting ’slow and steady progress’ before), and a world defined by their political ideology. All that doesn’t fit is ridiculed, those who believe differently are all found incompetent, dishonest, or otherwise failures as individuals, and ideas opposed are dismissed as "memes" of the left. This alternate reality includes revisionist history of Vietnam, a belief that Scooter Libby should be free because it had nothing to do with the crime that was being investigated (ignoring the truth that Grand Jury prosecutors must follow through if a witness commits perjury and obstructs justice the way Libby did). This alternate reality group focuses on extremists on the left to try to paint all "liberals" with a similar brush, and seems to ignore how the political world is moving farther from their perspective. It’s rather fascinating to watch from a sociological perspective. It’s almost like a Gramscian counter-hegemony tactic.

I doubt Kaplan falls for all that — he’s actually a smart and interesting pundit. But read blogs and talk radio, and you see that a lot of people are convinced that they alone see the truth in a world supposedly minipulated by "mainstream media" and "spineless elites" or "government sponsored schools." Even Trent Lott sees how talk radio is "ruining America" (and, I’d argue, is starting to gut the Republican party — though at least my state has a couple Republicans in the Senate I can support).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
”There almost seems to be an alternate reality...”
Heh.

 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
McQ:
You stated the situation now and in Vietnam well. I know veterans of combat in Vietnam and conservatives and liberals who despise what is being done in Iraq and others who support it. So there is, in my mind, no clear cut type of person who supports the effort in Iraq or doesn’t. However, it seems to me that so many of those publicly opposed to the war have never been there done that in any form that requires them to actually defend themselves or their family nor for that matter contemplate having to do so.

My son is serving in Iraq and when he was on leave we have had long conversations on the effort, including would his death be worth the fight. He thought the overall goal was possibly worth his death, but he doesn’t view Iraq as the war, just a front in the war, as I do. He and I try to look coldhearted at the facts as we find them.

I have a problem with politicians undercutting the war effort with sacrifice being born by our warriors and their families, as does my son. These politicians do not support the troops, regardless of what they say. Much of the rhetoric serves only our enemies and possibly the election/reelection of the politician. There is a need to discuss tactics, but to publicly, negatively exaggerate the situation in Iraq, lie by omission and display a defeatist position, such as Senator Reid’s, is not serving our country; to be blunt, it is unpatriotic.

Statistically, it is safer to be in combat in modern warfare than in a modern peace time American military. That does little to console military families after a loss, but it speaks to the comparative safety in combat in Iraq compared to previous wars. And the only way I can see the American people being war weary is that they have to listen to the elites debating the war with few facts being engaged. There is little or no sacrifice by those in America other than the military and their families to warrant any war weariness.

I would like for once to see NBC, MSNBC and the other media, when giving the latest American death toll, include that an estimated 6500 Americans died in the battle for Iwo Jima or another causality fact to give perspective to the present conflict. BTW, the ROE then was one that would be very unacceptable today. We now fight what could be called a gentlemanly war and the enemy uses tactics reminiscent of Genghis Khan, yet America and their military are the evil ones; the media then insults us buy minimizing the enemy’s gruesome tactics. Go figure.
 
Written By: AMR
URL: http://
The problem I see here is that many people whose frame of reference was the Cold War; a war against a giant, organized, evil empire bent of world domination with a massive army and nuclear weapons with which to carry it out; are trying to fit "radical Islam", whatever that is, into the same frame of reference.

But the communists enslaved 1/3 of the world’s population and desired to enslave the rest. Their goal was well documented and not in serious dispute. Most of the communist theoreticians believed that communism couldn’t work properly as long as there were significant parts of the world trading and living freely (and they were half right). What is at issue when reviewing the Cold War from a historical point of view is whether they had the resources or ability to actually conquer the world, which is a different argument. The various communist dictatorships around the world murdered more than 100 million people who were under their rule. That doesn’t include wars, and it also doesn’t take into account that those who weren’t murdered wasted their lives in fear and slavery.

Communism was evil and needed to be opposed.

"Radical Islam" is none of those things. "Radical Islam" is a small minority of a much larger group of people, it is not organized, nor centralized, nor is it an empire, nor does it have any sort of significant army or military presence of any kind. That is why this small group of people resort to terrorism in the first place: because they don’t have the military power to be able to fight an military war that could actually threaten the sovereignty of a country. They have no ability whatsoever to invade this country, or any other, and take it over. All they can do is kill small numbers of people at random with the goal of scaring the larger population.

Whether "radical Islam" has the goal of world domination, it certainly doesn’t have the means. What it does want is American and other Western governments and armies out of their countries. A very reasonable request, I think.

To be perfectly clear: I think the Cold War was worth fighting and the human race as a whole is better off for America taking the lead role in that. However, that doesn’t mean there was nothing to be learned from the various military adventures the US government embarked on in the 20th century. The Cold War largely ended communism but it also lead us to do a lot of things around the world that have led us to where we are now. On balance I think they were worth it, but now we are cleaning up the mess. Meddling in the local politics of the Islamic world, and the horrible backlash it has created, was one of those consequences. World War II is looked at as the noble war that defeated Hitler and Tojo but it was also the war that empowered Stalin and Mao to enslave a large chunk of the world, which required 50 years of wasted resources and lives trying to undo that mess. World War I was probably the most counter productive of all and America’s involvement in breaking that tie was tipping point in history that in hindsight, was not wise. It just creates an endless cycle.

The point is that after the Cold War a lot of people who had come of age in a time when we always had an enemy to square ourselves up against, consciously or unconsciously, went looking for another great enemy to fight. "Radical Islam" was the closest thing they could find. But "radical Islam" is not communism and should not be treated as such.

Do we really want to go back to the Cold War anyway? Do we really want to be the world’s policeman any more?

I don’t.

I have become an isolationist not because I think the world is too good for America, but because I think America is too good for the world. Bring ALL of our troops home and let the world solve its own problems without us. Hail Bob Taft!
 
Written By: DS
URL: http://
I’ve always been "isolationist" in the anti-interventionist manner (including during the Cold War, when I thought it was ridiculous to risk all out war since the Soviet system could not economically survive anyway), so I agree with much of what DS says. DS is right that radical Islam is a minority. I disagree with the claim Iraq is a front in a broader war. The best way to undercut Islamic extremism is to avoid playing into their world view, which is a huge clash of the West and Islam, and recognize that the real battle is within Islam, and we can quietly support moderates and gradual change. Going in with guns blazing really only helps the extremists.

The comparisons to WWII only apply if one see the war as a WWII like war. But otherwise comparing death counts is meaningless. If a loved one was murdered would it really make one feel better if you were to be told, "yeah, but he’s the only one that this guy murdered, a serial killer last year killed 42." Comparing things like that and saying "it’s not as bad as it once was" is really a bad argument. And if one doesn’t see this as worth it, it’s a meaningless argument as well.

There are issues about how to disengage from Iraq that are serious — how do we help assure violence doesn’t grow once we’re gone, and how can we support gradual change away from extremism. We also have to take seriously our oil dependence and vulnerability. Those are tough issues. But dealing with that requires breaking out of the mentality that this is somehow some major world war, and recognizing that Islamic extremists are a minority fighting mostly to avoid change in their world, and they have no chance of conquering the planet or anything like that.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"...they have no chance of conquering the planet or anything like that.
Yeah, just a bunch of wackos in a beer hall. No chance they could cause any real trouble. Just give them what they want and everything will be all right.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
Yeah, just a bunch of wackos in a beer hall. No chance they could cause any real trouble. Just give them what they want and everything will be all right.
Who wants to give Islamic extremists everything they want? I’m saying the current tactics serve their interests and makes it harder to defeat them. Also, I doubt they spend much time in beer halls.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Oh, I get it, he’s trying to compare Islamic extremists to Nazis. First, the analogy doesn’t apply because Germany was a first world country and world power. Second, that kind of analogy would mean we’d have to fear any minority since it seems to imply we can just ignore the analysis of the situation and say "a minority has wrecked havoc before and can do so again." OK, so let’s fear the Trotskyists, neo-Communists, right wing radical parties in Europe, etc. Of course, even then Germany didn’t have the power to conquer Europe — once it attacked the Soviet Union it’s days were numbered (the idea the Nazis could have taken the planet is absurd).

But that’s the kind of propaganda one uses when one wants to replace reasoned analysis with emotion and fear. "Yeah, they may be a small minority but so were the nazis, so let’s have war!" That’s not a rational approach. There are rational arguments for not leaving Iraq, for seeing Iran as a threat, and to oppose the policy preferences those of us who think this policy is a failure espouse. But seeing this as a battle of civilizations is not one of them.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"Oh, I get it, he’s trying to compare Islamic extremists to Nazis."
Always with the re-framing. I am comparing you to the liberals who made the disaster of WWII possible by poo-pooing the threat posed by the Nazis.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
"It takes no spine to support a war from afar."

That would depend on where and how you support it. I think on some college campuses, for example, it would take a certain amount of spine.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
What "liberals" poo-poo’d the Nazis? Neville Chamberlain was a Conservative, after all. But if you’re trying to raise the Nazi spectre to avoid discussing the specifics of the current situation, you’re pretty much admitting you’re not bringing much to the table here.

Actually liberals like Wilson had it right on how to avoid WWII. He wanted to have a League of Nations, allow Germany not to have war guilt declared, and opposed the harsh reparations and penalties/limits that the French and British demanded in order to assure Germany was kept down. The Versailles Treaty was not acceptable to any part of German society, it made the democratic system of Weimar untrusted by most, and set up economic disasters that allowed extremists to come to power of one of the world’s leading industrial states. J.M. Keynes predicted disaster in his book on the treaty (published I believe in 1924, he was an economic advisor to the British government at the Versailles negotiations and thought the treaty a disaster). So really, the fact that liberals weren’t listened to created the conditions that led up to WWII. Many conservatives considered Nazi Germany a good balance to the threat of bolshevism.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
MK asked:
BTW, if it is a war, who is our enemy in Iraq?
Deserves an answer - Iran, Syria, Saudi.

As MK says this is an "occupation" only and these enemies are not being fought.

To these enemies both camps (irrespective of spine) respond the same - do not attack.

Rationally it can be seen that to confront these enemies would damage American intersts (oil, economy, religious tensions). Rationality says conflict should be avoided. But this is apparently of only secondary concern to this discussion of "will" and "moral stamina".
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
"...you’re pretty much admitting you’re not bringing much to the table here.
Of course, that is not the case at all. You accurately regurgitate the liberal pap you received in exchange for your tuition dollars. That is a poor substitute for reasoning. History refutes you.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
Gee, Robert, can you be any more vague and meaningless? *eyes rolling*
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
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Written By: vhirqpzvkkg
URL: http://ixeajgwcalyw.com/

 
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