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Military Morale: Words do matter
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sometime last year, those who spoke out about how we were losing the war, aided and abetted by some in the military of flag rank, convinced themselves that what they had to say, no matter how negative, had no effect on military morale. It was something I never agreed with. I kept wondering what had changed between Vietnam and now, because I know first-hand that such talk had a definite effect on morale then. CPL David Goldich confirms what I thought to be true with his experience:
Marine Corps Cpl. David Goldich, a University of Virginia graduate who spent two tours of duty in Iraq, says Democratic attacks on the war undermined troop morale.

Cpl. Goldich, who returned from Anbar province in November after about 300 combat patrols, stated in a candid account that negative comments by Democrats had "a dramatic effect on morale, especially on troops who are otherwise indifferent and disdainful of politics in general."

"I cannot tell you how many times I have overheard Marines and soldiers talking about various inconsiderate comments made from the likes of [Sen.] John Kerry [Massachusetts Democrat], [Rep. John P.] Murtha [Pennsylvania Democrat], [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid [Nevada Democrat], and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi [California Democrat] about how we cannot win, how we should be brought home, etc.," he said.

"The Kerry comments really cemented his reputation with the troops and upset people more than anything else. It is unnerving to volunteer for service during wartime hoping to be deployed and having to listen to a politician explain how the troops need to come home, especially when we clearly have not finished what we started.

"There is a widespread perception amongst the Marines I know, even those uninterested in politics, that the Democratic Party does not want us to win in Iraq for whatever reason. This is true even amongst Democrats who still maintain the party viewpoint on almost every other issue but the war. Morale is always a tricky issue to deal with, and it is difficult to tell a Marine to buck up when he sees important people back home undercutting his primary reason for existing at the moment."
Now I'm sure there are those who will beam in here and try to convince us that this guy who has "been there and done that" - twice - is full of crap and that those generals and politicians who claimed Soldiers and Marines understood that a "healthy debate" was necessary in a democracy and that politician's words had no effect on morale were right.

But in my experience, that wasn't true before and given this story, it isn't true now. It is self-delusion on the part of those who believe it to be true. Rationalization. And as far as I'm concerned, CPL David Goldich's experience destroys that canard quite convincingly.
 
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Nobody should ever keep quiet about their views on choices to use state power to destroy and kill, no matter what effect it might have on morale. I have absolutely no sympathy for people who can’t stand hearing politicians and citizens say things they don’t like. People should speak out and frankly and bluntly, not give a damn about the impact on the "feelings" of troops. If they can’t take hearing a healthy democratic debate, that’s their problem. I suspect, though, the real impact on morale — the real reasons divorce rates are skyrocketing, psychological problems immense, and morale is slipping, is the impact of having to kill, destroy and see death all around while fighting what is a relatively pointless war. That should lower morale!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Why do you want to deny the CPL’s remarks as part of the debate? If you can’t listen to their input on the debate that’s your problem.
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
That’s fine Erb, open your soup cooler as wide as you want. Of course, my sympathy meter won’t budge (and my jury vote will be to acquit) when someone who takes your Copperhead comments as "fighting words" collects the material for "Copperhead-skin" boots. Words have consequences, no?
 
Written By: SDN
URL: http://
For troops, military affairs and international affairs are viewed from a different point of view than non-military people. Current events have 1st-hand personal, family, and professional impact, and are not merely political issues. The typical non-military, interested observer may ask about anti-war rhetoric by influential people, "what does it mean?". The military participant will ask about it, "what does this mean to me?".

In the late ’90s, when I served, the al Qaeda attacks and Op Desert Fox pretty much cemented in my mind we - by which I mean I and other people who worked for my ’company’ - would be going to war sooner rather than later. Especially when the Cole was hit, I was surprised there wasn’t a stronger American response. As much as I was afraid of going to war, I even asked my OIC at the time, "why aren’t we going to war, sir?". I didn’t ask out of any gung-ho desire for glory, but because my understanding of my job was that the Cole attack should have had us transitioning to war. Because we didn’t, I knew we had effectively taped a big target on our collective back and guaranteed a bigger problem for our ’company’, requiring a harsher, costlier solution by us, in the future. A few weeks before I ETS’ed in early 2001, a buddy who was considering trying for SF asked me whether we would be going to war anytime soon. (At the lower enlisted level, troops tend to believe their buddies in S2 are qualified to answer that kind of question.) I told him we would definitely be at war within 4 years, citing the failing Iraq mission and the escalating al Qaeda attacks as the likeliest reasons - we were past the tipping point. It wasn’t an academic discussion; it was a "what does this mean to me?" discussion between young soldiers.

I went to college after I ETS’ed, took up Poli Sci - IR for my major, which is what ex-MI guys tend to do, I guess. As a student, I constantly had to swallow my stronger reactions during the discussions I engaged in and observed as an academic, because I retained the habit of reacting to them personally as a (former) soldier. I don’t know that the difference is something you can explain to life-long civilians.
 
Written By: Eric Chen
URL: http://
Personally, I find that some politician saying that the war is lost and we cannot win extremely insulting. As if somehow we were not competent enough to do our job.

And to Mr. Erb, what hardship have you ever had to overcome that gives you such a calloused attitude toward the psychological welfare of our troops? Have you ever deployed, have you ever been in a firefight, ever gone weeks without a shower because of water rations, or ever had to carry a casket of someone who used to be a friend? I suggest you stick to commenting on what you know.

LT R
 
Written By: matt
URL: http://
At the University of Maine - Farmington, Scott Erb has never been called upon to risk his life for his country. Cloistered as a student, he worked in pizza parlors until he was in his 30s. How would he understand the feelings of an American soldier who was carrying out the lawful orders of his Commander in Chief authorized by a bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress. Scott is over educated, under experienced, and politically irrelevant. He is free to howl at the moon; that is not the issue.

The issue is that members of Congress who had the opportunity to vote not to go to war in Iraq, cast their votes and the supporters of military action prevailed. On 10 October 2002, when H.J. Res 114 passed, America crossed the Rubicon.

Before the 2004 elections, the democrats began a systematic campaign to undermine the Bush administration’s Iraq policy for domestic political gain. In 2006, it intensified. When Senator Reid announces that the "war is lost," the video makes Al Jazeera and the al Qaeda recruiting videos. It encourages enemy fighters to continue their fight, killing Americans. The worst case scenario for democrats is now playing out in Iraq. They advocated defeat and obstructed a military victory. Al Qaeda in Iraq are running for their lives. The Taliban’s last stronghold in Afghanistan has been captured. The Iraqis and Afghanis have won.

In November 2008, the American people will have an opportunity to elect a new President, House and 1/3 of the Senate. We will all remember who owns victory and who, defeat. It’s on Youtube.
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
People speaking frankly and bluntly have never had a negative effect on morale. Actual democratic debate has never been an issue. Lying about the situation is not frank; and healthy debate starts with acknowledging all the relevant facts, not just the ones that support your view.
The effect on morale starts when the people who are supposed to be ’experts’ (whether they’re on the news or teaching in classrooms) ignore the facts and make false claims in order to further their personal views and their own political agenda. Morale is really affected when people in government that have an actual influence (and who are seen by the outside world as representative of the US government) take action to undercut the forces they voted to send overseas, or raise enemy morale by claiming the situation is hopeless.

It is not a requirement that someone go to war in order to comment on it, but they have a responsibility to learn about the situation first.
 
Written By: Ted
URL: http://
At the University of Maine - Farmington, Scott Erb has never been called upon to risk his life for his country. Cloistered as a student, he worked in pizza parlors until he was in his 30s. How would he understand the feelings of an American soldier who was carrying out the lawful orders of his Commander in Chief authorized by a bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress. Scott is over educated, under experienced, and politically irrelevant. He is free to howl at the moon; that is not the issue.
Your comment reminded me of a couple of lines written in a essay by a young LT who was killed in Iraq:
One thing is for certain, as disagreeable or as confusing as my decision to enter the fray may be, consider what peace vigils against genocide have accomplished lately. Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics.
Amen.

Given that point, take what Erb has to say for what it is worth - and compared to those 19 year old young men Lt Mark Daily speaks about, it’s not worth much at all.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Also keep in mind that Erb believes our current military is the most murderous in American history and defends Murtha’s accusations against the Haditha marines as cold-blooded murderers to be part of "healthy democratic debate."
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
My father (UVA ’42) was a 1LT Infantry Platoon leader who landed on Omaha Beach, was wounded in the hedgerow fighting, wounded again holding Aachen on day one of the Bulge, and killed as his unit moved toward the Ludendorff Bridge. He was 28.

In 1971-1972, as a USAF Captain, I was an F4E weapon systems officer at DaNang AB, Vietnam. While we were getting shot at, wounded and killed, politicians including Ted Kennedy, Dave Obey, Bob Byrd and Frank Church were actively undermining our efforts to win. I had just turned 28 when I was shot down over North Vietnam, made the water and got rescued. My wife and two boys stayed in Sacramento, but I would not release my address for fear that anti-war scum would harm my family.

It is disheartening to be in a government directed, life and death fight and have to listen to American leaders disparage you, your friends and your mission. It matters not if you carry and M-1 rifle in Normandy, fly an F4 over Vietnam or lock and load an M4 before getting out of an armored fighting vehicle in Iraq.
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
It is disheartening to be in a government directed, life and death fight and have to listen to American leaders disparage you, your friends and your mission. It matters not if you carry and M-1 rifle in Normandy, fly an F4 over Vietnam or lock and load an M4 before getting out of an armored fighting vehicle in Iraq.
However many, who have no idea of what they’re speaking about, like our first commenter (who showed up as if in cue), continue to rant and rave that it is important that such undermining be condoned in the name of "democracy" without any inkling of its effect on those fighting a war.

Most of the political leaders who disparage and undermine aren’t strengthening the institution of democracy. They’re instead practicing the most base form of partisan politics - pure and simple. Anyone who lets politics come before national interest deserves all the condemnation and derision their decision to do so brings them.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
If they can’t take hearing a healthy democratic debate, that’s their problem.
Well, yeah, a healthy debate is one thing. Cold-blooded killers (Murtha) and We’ve Lost (Reid) are quite another. Those are political remarks made to score points with sharp-fanged constituents, but with the likely consequence of emboldening an enemy in battle. Defend them. Go ahead. Here, I’ll help you:

"Just part of the healthy democratic process by politicians who want a fair assessment given to the public as a basis for fostering discussion at to the merits of our continuing military involvement."

Clown.
the real reasons divorce rates are skyrocketing, psychological problems immense, and morale is slipping, is the impact of having to kill, destroy and see death all around while fighting what is a relatively pointless war. That should lower morale!
These things have happened in all wars. Were all of them also pointless? Correlation does not mean causation... but you already knew that.
 
Written By: Rob
URL: http://
The healthy democratic debate takes place up front. Two branches of the United States government must agree on war - the President requests and conducts it and Congress authorizes and funds it. When the decision to use military force or the declare war is made, the armed forces of this country do battle with the enemies Congress and the President have directed. Once the decision to fight has been made and it is up to the government to get behind our troops.

There will always be useful idiots such as Dr Scott Erb undermining our efforts and trying to help the other side. What is their purpose? Do they want the Taliban restored to power? Should we bring back the Baathists in Iraq? How can Liberals support radical islamists who execute homosexuals, beat women who wear nail polish, kidnap and murder of political opponents, advocate killing Jews and Christians, and prohibit freedom of religion? How can they condone use of IEDs and human shields? How can they overlook al Qaeda gouging eyes, castrating, electrocuting and dismembering their captives? Do liberals believe these acts are acceptable? If you can explain this position, please step forward.

The reluctant combat harm done by our professional military cannot be compared to the wanton, deliberate, ruthless slaughter encouraged and committed by the Jihadis. What is wrong with establishing a democracy in an Arab country in the Middle East? Why shouldn’t Americans and their politicians support this effort? Is self determination wrong?

If we run away before breaking the back of radical Islam, Scott Erb’s sons and my grandsons will be sent back to finish the job. I, for one, do not want that.
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
"I don’t know that the difference is something you can explain to life-long civilians."

To those who have an open mind, you just did. There are, unfortunately, some who either cannot or will not accept that some people take things a bit more seriously than a theoretical discussion, and even disparage the idea that some people take legitimate offense to belitling remarks that trivialize their experience.


"Well, yeah, a healthy debate is one thing."

Defining what is a healthy debate seems to be difficult. There are those who think that anything other than 100% agreement with whatever the administration (any administration) says or does is, as you might put it, unhealthy. Others who admit that the administration is only 90% right will say that any disagreement with that 90% is unhealthy. Still others think that agreeing that the administration is anything other than 100% wrong is unhealthy.

Myself, I think that anybody who expects that there will not be nasty partisan debate over any military action is at best naive. As far as I know, there has only been one war where there was something approaching universal support, and that was probably due to rather strenuous government action to promote that support and prevent damage to morale.
If there is any significant morale problem, and I doubt there is, I place the primary responsiblility on poor leadership, primarily military leadership. I think another factor, mentioned by McQ in his post on military retention, is disappointment and disilusion with military life and war in general, not with the this war in particular.


 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
So your ball team gets ready for, oh, the super bowl, and the team owners walk into the dugout (okay, I’m doing that on purpose) and look at the players and say...

"Well this is a bust. We lost. No way you can beat those guys."

Nope, that’s not going to have an impact. If the coaches can’t counter that and the players can’t suck that up and play their best game then it’s the players who’re screwed up.



 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
You guys miss the point by going hyper-emotional and hyper-sensitive in your reactions (seriously, you had my eyes rolling on some of those replies). The functioning of American democracy and the willingness of citizens to speak their minds on the most important issues of the day is more important than the morale of soldiers, and I suspect most soldiers are strong enough and believe in America enough to understand that. To those that don’t, well, I do have sympathy, they’re in a tough position and a true lack of sympathy would be heartless. But that doesn’t mean one sacrifices one’s responsibility to speak out on the issues. And, of course, I’m convinced that the anti-war side has been far more truthful than the pro-war side, whose rationales and arguments have shifted to try to cover up the fact that this has gone far differently than they expected. Soldiers should really be mad at the politicians who put them into this mess — politicians who think in terms of abstract power and strategy, without much regard for the lives of the soldiers they regard as mere tools to achieve policy outcomes, and the innocents killed, who they regard as relatively meaningless (due to their lack of wealth and power) collateral damage.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I have absolutely no sympathy for people who can’t stand hearing politicians and citizens say things they don’t like. People should speak out and frankly and bluntly [...] If they can’t take hearing a healthy democratic debate, that’s their problem
Ain’t it interesting how this ’thought’ is thrown by the wayside when the topic is anthropogenic global warming (or school choice, or entitlement reform, or...). Naked partisan politics indeed!
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
I have absolutely no sympathy for people who can’t stand hearing politicians and citizens say things they don’t like. People should speak out and frankly and bluntly [...] If they can’t take hearing a healthy democratic debate, that’s their problem

Ain’t it interesting how this ’thought’ is thrown by the wayside when the topic is anthropogenic global warming (or school choice, or entitlement reform, or...). Naked partisan politics indeed!
For the record, it was wrong for me to say "no sympathy," that was a rhetorical slip up — people in that position deserve sympathy.

Global warming: I think there is anthropogenic global warming, I’m absolutely convinced that the evidence is overwhelming in that regard. This blog has led me to look at it more carefully, but I come away even more convinced. I also do NOT think major regulatory changes are the way to respond, and in general agree on policy with many of the skeptics. There is a chance the global consensus could be wrong, and there are unintended consequences of policy action. I love good debate, with both sides recognizing the other side might be right. But I’ve seen most deniers here refuse to even acknowledge that the scientific consensus could be right, which suggests they are really driven by a desire to avoid real discussion.

School choice: I have no strong views on that, though I don’t think tax money should go to religious schools doing K-12.

Entitlement reform: I’m all for that. What gets done, well, that’s a tough question.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
While I disagree with his opinions about the Long War and I agree with others that much of the anti-war rhetoric from influential, position-of-power-and-responsibility Americans has been contemptible, I actually agree with Scott’s larger point about the importance of protected space for speech in our national debate.

In all of our wars, including our ’good’ wars, we’ve had influential Americans who’ve attempted to corrode the war effort from within. In hindsight, we look upon many of them as pathetic and misguided. But, still, there’s a long American tradition there, and Scott falls in it. It’s not a tradition we should abolish.

At the same time, the priority is to win the war and thereby define our future and deny the enemy the power to do same. If our important protected space for speech allows for a national debate across our public and political spheres, to include partisan, parochial shortsightedness, that doesn’t change the real-world effect and competitive nature of that debate, with winners and losers. Certainly, many on the anti-war side favor non-collegial, guerilla tactics, while many pro-victory, pro-peace supporters make themselves vulnerable because they’re too self-righteous to employ uglier, though proven effective, guerilla methods.

However, if the evidence - as shown by McQ’s cite - that the voice from home most strongly reaching our champions "over there" is hurting their morale, I don’t blame the anti-war activists at all. Rather, I blame the pro-victory, pro-peace proponents who’ve allowed their voice, their message, to be overcome by the anti-war activists.

In our past wars, pro-victory, pro-peace proponents were competitive enough and believed enough in their cause to do what was necessary not to allow their side of the national debate to be defeated and overwhelmed. It would seem, thus far, pro-victory, pro-peace proponents are not competitive and effective enough in the Long War.

If the anti-war voice is harming our war effort, then defeat it. Win the debate, overwhelm the anti-war voice that aids the enemy and make sure the American progressive pro-victory, pro-peace voice is the one that most strongly and consistently reaches our troops who are endeavoring in their progressive mission.
 
Written By: Eric Chen
URL: http://
But, still, there’s a long American tradition there, and Scott falls in it. It’s not a tradition we should abolish.
No one is talking about abolishing anything ... but it certainly isn’t a tradition to "cherish".

Debate is one thing - but when you claim soldiers are cold blooded murderers without proof or are a "leader" and claim the war is lost and American servicemen have died in vain - you’re not "debating" anything.

Those are the people were talking about, Eric. And their words do have an effect on morale, just as they did in a war 35 years ago. Unlike Erb, I have actual experience from that war and know first-hand how it effects troops and their morale. All the pontificating in the world about "debate" doesn’t change one whit what I saw and experienced then. And it is no different now.
If the anti-war voice is harming our war effort, then defeat it.
What in the hell do you think this is about?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
willingness of citizens to speak their minds ....
one’s responsibility to speak out on the issues
There is a responsibilty for those in positions of authority and/ or influence to use their mind before speaking it; and to speak honestly.
 
Written By: Ted
URL: http://
In our past wars, pro-victory, pro-peace proponents were competitive enough and believed enough in their cause to do what was necessary not to allow their side of the national debate to be defeated and overwhelmed. It would seem, thus far, pro-victory, pro-peace proponents are not competitive and effective enough in the Long War.

If the anti-war voice is harming our war effort, then defeat it. Win the debate, overwhelm the anti-war voice that aids the enemy and make sure the American progressive pro-victory, pro-peace voice is the one that most strongly and consistently reaches our troops who are endeavoring in their progressive mission.
Thanks for recognizing that the difference between the US and past military powers is that we don’t demand the public simply follow the leadership when a choice for war has been made, and recognize that the public has a responsibility to be skeptical of how government uses power.

That said, here’s the problem your side is having. Correct me if I’m wrong, but by your use of the term "Long War" I suspect that you believe that Iraq is part of a major global war against Islamic extremism, and that this war is going to be as consequential and perhaps as dangerous and lengthy as the Cold War — or worse. That this is a challenge to the West that has multiple fronts: Muslim migration to Europe, our oil dependency/vulnerability, the fact that globalization makes our economy more susceptible to the kind of terror attacks an otherwise small terror organization might be able to pull off, and a fear that Islamic extremism will appeal to a broader audience given the corruption and lack of popularity of leaders in Arab and many non-Arab Muslim states, and how in especially the Arab world (and Iran) the lions’ share of the population is very young, looking perhaps for a cause.

Am I right that this describes something close to your view? I disagree with it, but putting that argument aside, I’d note that Iraq was sold as a very different kind of war. It was sold as a war against Saddam because of his WMD program and the fact he was a dangerous and erratic leader who could be plotting against the US. Thus we had to get rid of Saddam, and once we did, then Iraq would have the kind of future it deserves. It was sold as a war likely to be quick, and one which would have numerous geopolitical advantages to the US. The treatment of so-called "Old Europe" and the UN in early 2003 shows that the Bush Administration truly believed that the war would be a clear success, and that, following the adage ’nothing succeeds like success,’ the rest of the world would get behind the effort.

Once the war that was "sold" turned out to be a very different war, then the public simply stopped trusting the politicians. When al qaeda proved unable to mount significant sequel attacks, fear of terrorism as a significant threat dwindled. In fact, the President himself dismissed Bin Laden and al qaeda in Pakistan in part to counter the argument that Iraq was an unnecessary distraction. Moreover, recent rhetoric has focused on Iran’s nuclear potential and their leadership (and not near as much on Iran’s support for Hezbollah and the impact that could have — or on Iran’s potential capacity to block the straights of Hormuz).

In other words, the argument that there is a "Long War" or "Global war on terror" has been vague and generally based on emotion, or attempts to compare Iraq to WWII, which seems to most Americans as a bit bizarre (while the comparison to Vietnam seems apt). There are strong arguments for your position, but that would require noting the economic and strategic vulnerabilities of the US, and that the Iraq war failed to gain strategic advantage for the US in that long war. Iraq instead has success defined down to "just letting the Iraqis have a stable government," which, of course, has nothing to do with any kind of Long War in terms of the rhetoric or public perception. To avoid having Iraq recognized as a failed policy (as part of a Long War), the rhetoric ends up diminishing rather than recognizing the threats facing the US. That makes people even less likely to see this as anything analogous to WWII, and in fact most people I know say "what the hell are we there for?" (That is an especially common view from students left and right, and even Iraq vets returning).

So to make your case, you have to argue that Iraq failed to achieve its aims, but that doesn’t make those aims unnecessary to achieve, and perhaps if we alter policy we can still turn Iraq around — noting dangers if we don’t. You need to really paint a picture of an America as vulnerable, and stress the changed nature of politics, our oil dependence, and the role of numerous non-state groups, as well as the corrupt and unsustainable governmental practices of the Mideast. You have to make the case that this is a long war, rather than trying to focus group it like I believe Rove and others did, looking to simply make the policy one that people would accept.

Lastly, I think the Bush administration has switched course here and embraced what Secretary Gates called the "multipolar world." Russia, China, the EU and the US all have a common interest in a strong world economy and weak Islamic extremist movements. They don’t share a belief in western democracy, or even in how to achieve their common interests, but as long as they find a way not to threaten each other, they are the most powerful states and working together can forge a path away from the worst threats facing us. Thus I part with you in your opinion (as I understand it — again, correct me if I’m wrong) in thinking this is an American war. I think the problem with the original policy was that it scared the other great powers into thinking the US was an expansive power, more like Imperial Germany in the early 20th century, trying in this case to push our ideology and belief in a particular kind of governmental system. They thus reacted strongly to contain us. The Administration were idealists, the other powers were realists. So I think the way out is not to treat this as an American long war, but a set of common goals to handle major threats by a group of states that, while often in disagreement, are capable of managing their differences.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
The "bring-em home" comments are/were NEVER intended to hurt troop morale. In fact, they are/were most favorable to all our men and women in uniform. Because, if they weren’t deployed for highly dubious reasons, they would be safe at home with their families.

It is when the pro-war chickenhawks spin these messages and even lie to discredit the rhetoric that the soldier becomes confused. Soldiers naturally want to do what they have been trained to do, so anything short of "you go for it" confuses their thinking.

I am sure there are a considerable number of other factors that lowers troop morale, and many of them more than a "bring-em home" statement.

Besides, the troops in the Iraq only have access to the rosy noise machine of Fox Noise anyway.
 
Written By: Frank
URL: www.myway.com
It was sold as a war likely to be quick
As you yourself have stated, getting rid of Saddam’s government was quick. The reconstruction of the government was to be in the same manner as Japan. Go look up how long that took.
Iraq instead has success defined down to "just letting the Iraqis have a stable government,"

Which, coincidentally, is EXACTLY what what success was defined as before the war.

It doesn’t matter where you go from there, the two basic premises of your argument are completely false.


 
Written By: Ted
URL: http://
Soldiers naturally want to do what they have been trained to do, so anything short of "you go for it" confuses their thinking.
You know, I understand that with a BS in Aerospace Engineering and a qualified Nuclear Engineering Officer I may not be very bright, but as an officer I would like to think that I am capable of independent thought. I reviewed the intel and as such made the decision to volunteer to deploy to Iraq. Comments like that are vaguely reminiscent of John Kerry’s "If you don’t so well in school you’ll end up in Iraq".

LT R
 
Written By: matt
URL: http://
Frank;
Maybe my sarcasm meter is broken, if so ignore-
The "bring-em home" comments are/were NEVER intended to hurt troop morale. In fact, they are/were most favorable to all our men and women in uniform.
Yours is the first comment on the "bring-em home" aspects of the comments. Honest pacifism isn’t being debated. The problem is people claiming the war is lost, or that servicemen are murderers when the evidence clearly shows that isn’t true. (And stating "I support the troops" while falsely claiming they are failing is not a favorable comment).
It is when the pro-war chickenhawks spin these messages and even lie to discredit the rhetoric that the soldier becomes confused. Soldiers naturally want to do what they have been trained to do, so anything short of "you go for it" confuses their thinking.
US Servicemen have been acting under the Geneva convention for a long time; actions short of "you go for it" have been routine for decades. The soldiers get direct quotes and know that Congress voted for military action in the first place, so the reaction has nothing to do with spin. Soldiers are trained to have honesty and integrity, so it is confusing for some when people reach a high level in the government then don’t display either, placing political power above all else. But Congressman’s faults don’t hamper Soldier’s thinking.
I am sure there are a considerable number of other factors that lowers troop morale, and many of them more than a "bring-em home" statement.
Yes, there are lots of things that affect troop morale. None have as wide spread an effect as when members of the government try to undercut you for political gain, or claim they support you while quietly cutting funds to the depots that maintain their equipment.
Besides, the troops in the Iraq only have access to the rosy noise machine of Fox Noise anyway.
The troops that have TV or radio get news from all the major sources. Stars and Stripes publishes a full spectrum of stories from wire services, including every death in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many have access to the internet. Lastly, if you had any real-world experience to compare your news to, you would know that Fox is not a rosy noise machine.

0-3-1
 
Written By: Ted
URL: http://
People speaking frankly and bluntly have never had a negative effect on morale. Actual democratic debate has never been an issue.


McQ is disagreeing with you.
Debate is one thing -
No, actually, it’s not. Actually, you’re creating a false dichotomy between some imaginary "nice" way of saying I think this war is stupid which you’d like to label "acceptable behavior" and some not-nice way of saying it, wherein you’re pretending that the problem is that we’re not "nice" enough about it.

And yet, you make sure to run something here every day which makes it clear you are personally offended by people saying things to the effect of "we’re losing this dumb war" and you want people to stop doing it. It doesn’t matter how carefully they phrase their message.
Anyone who doesn’t self-censor, you put them on the Hit List. All anyone gets from being more careful about phrasing their opinions is a steady moving of the goalposts.

Thanks, but we’re free citizens and we don’t express our opinions with the goal of making sure you - or anyone else, soldiers included - feel better about stuff. We’re not second-class citizens. You’re not aristocrats. We’re not here for your convenience. In short, take responsibility for your own fuc*ing morale. We are in no way whatsoever obligated to avoid saying *anything* because someone’s morale might be affected. This isn’t a tea party or a kid’s birthday party, it’s governance.

Democrats had "a dramatic effect on morale, especially on troops who are otherwise indifferent and disdainful of politics in general."

This guy embarrassmes his profession.
Fuc*ing deal with it. Feel free to vote against democrats if you don’t like it. Quit whining and do your job. Or feel free to quit: it wouldn’t disturb my sleep a whole lot. But excuse me if my lip doesn’t quiver with sympathy that the guys with the guns and the unreserved hero-worship of the nation’s elite to begin with get all sad when the citizens dare to criticize their professional behavior.

And The hypocrisy here is breathtaking from people that think that financial caps on the size of political donations are a threat to free speech.


Oh, as a bonus:
Debate is one thing - but when you claim soldiers are cold blooded murderers without proof or are a "leader" and claim the war is lost and American servicemen have died in vain - you’re not "debating" anything
Thanks for being kind enough to clearly demonstrate in the above blockquote - not that I have a problem with Murtha or anything he said - the complete lack of any meaningful distinction between "debate" and "slander". One of these statements is a (fake) example of unjustly accusing someone of an immoral and illegal act, and the other is the very essence of a citizen’s right to independent judgement on the success of government policy. It’s all slander to you: you’re definition of acceptable speech is
"whatever makes the US Army feel all special and loved and validated".

Not. My. Job. Not the job of the citizens of the united states of america. We’re here to judge you and control you, not to suck up to you. Just the same as for every other branch of the US government.

Chr*st.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
I am sure there are a considerable number of other factors that lowers troop morale...
And Frank, I’m quite sure you would like to use all of them. Your seething hatred oozes from your every word, even while you pretend elsewise. And you claim FNC a noise machine...
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
People speaking frankly and bluntly have never had a negative effect on morale. Actual democratic debate has never been an issue.
McQ is disagreeing with you
No, he’s not. Apparently you missed this:
healthy debate starts with acknowledging all the relevant facts, not just the ones that support your view.
My definition of acceptable speech by a high-ranking member of the government is whatever they can back up with facts. Private citizens are free to say whatever they want, but spouting off uninformed opinions on a situation is not debate.
One of these statements is a (fake) example
"I will not excuse murder and that what’s happened," Murtha told ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos
Yes, a very fake accusation.
Claiming the war is "lost" is far different from saying ’we are losing’ or ’it isn’t worth the price’, especially when it comes from a member of the government.

It’s not your job. No one’s saying you don’t have the right to say any fool thing you please. It is John Murtha’s job. When you are a member of the government you have a responsibility to be truthful with anything you present to the public as fact. He is free to disagree with the conduct of the war or whether we should still be there. He already had his vote on whether we should go to war in the first place, and he does a responsibility to respect the outcome of that vote.
As a member of the government, one is no longer free to say absolutely anything that pops into your head. For someone that feels so strongly about your role in judging the government, you’ve got a severe lack of knowledge of what it means to be a member of the government.
 
Written By: Ted
URL: http://
Scott:

Please stop trying to describe why you think other people wanted to go to war in Iraq, and tell us what you would do to meet a threat to our national interest in the Middle East.

Please tell us why, if you and your political allies knew before we invaded that doing so was wrong, so many prominent liberals looked at the intelligence and voted to send our forces unnecessarily into harm’s way.

Please tell us why we should not take seriously the chemical-nuclear-biological threat from a dictator who has recently invaded two countries, used poison gas on his Iranian neighbors and on his own Kurdish population.

Please tell us why you do not believe Iraq was part of the war on radical islam, when Osama Bin Laden and his lieutenants announced it to be the major front in their Jihad.

Please tell us what you and your political allies want us to do with Iraq now that the Iraqis have established a democratically elected government, built military and police forces and expelled Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Please explain why Iraq is a "failed policy." The people of Iraq would like to know. They believe Americans and Iraqis won.

Please explain why we have not been hit with another terrorist attack since 9/11.

As for the US being an expansive power similar to pre WWII Germany, that notion is just silly. Look at the Philippines, Cuba, Panama, Kuwait, Japan, Germany, El Salvador. America is the least colonial power on earth.
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
Arch, I can answer your questions (many of which are based on a false assumption of what I or others who realize Iraq was a mistake believe), and will when I have time tonight. But my point is that given public opinion, it’s really the pro-war side who needs to make their case, the public is with "my" side at this point. Also, I even think the President, with the leadership of Secretary Gates and Rice, has come to a realization that in a multipolar world a ’realist’ rather than idealist solution is best (see my blog for more on that). So, yeah, I’ll give it a go at your questions later (no time now), but in the larger picture, it’s your side that is on the defensive, appears to have been very wrong, and needs to make a case. Within blogs like minded people can try to bolster each other, but the political discourse is at this time against you. If you want to win it back, you need to make a positive case.

Still, I’ll answer your questions...but I’m about to embark on a busy day so it’ll be tonight or tomorrow...
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"Public Opinion?" Do you believe the 2006 election was a referendum on Iraq?
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
I’d feel a whole lot better about the intellectual honesty of Iraq war critics and "War on Terror" critics generally if they would acknowledge one simple truth: In this conflict, however you define it, the enemy’s basic strategy is to convince us via terror to let them do what they want to do. That is, they want to convince us that the price of opposing them outweighs the benefits of defeating them (both in the long run).

The corollary to that is that the enemy’s attacks are primarly to affect our psychology. Therefore to the extent that we give them feedback that we are so affected, that encourages them to do more attacks.

To the extent that we put forth a perception that we are not affected and will not give in to the influence of terror, their motivation to use terror as a weapon is diminished.

Now, you anti-war folks may not think the Islamists are that big a threat, and that the price of opposing them is too high, and that Bush is a complete fool who has made many mistakes. I’d actually agree on that last, and I understand that the first two are intellectually respectable though I don’t agree and think the evidence is heavily against you. But please don’t deny that telling the rest of us that this conflict cannot be won has no effect on the enemy, and by extension on our own troops. It does. It’s what the enemy wants. You may still think you’re doing the right thing to oppose the war, but just as those who are pro-war have to look at the cost both human and financial and factor those into our judgement, you have to look at the cost of giving aid and comfort to the enemy as part of your position.

Admit those negative effects of your strenuous opposition to the war, and then justify why they are worth it. Don’t deny them; that just makes you look either clueless or disingenuous.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Don’t deny them; that just makes you look either clueless or disingenuous.
...or hopeful for the defeat that completely humiliates Bush, regardless of the cost.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
But my point is that given public opinion
So your entire position is based upon public opinion? Based upon that would you care to tell us why the war was such a bad decision when the public opinion of the day prior to the war was 70%+ in favor of war?

You remind me so much of all that was bad with Bill Clinton. He made no decisions until he tested the wind. Why? Because he had no belief system, no moral center. His only true belief was in that he knew he desreved to be presidnet. He would rock and roll with the wind competely dependent upon the winds of the day.

You don’t need to answer any questions for me. I know you have no backbone. I know you have little or no understanding of why anyone in the military would knowingly done a uniform. I know you have little or no understanding of honor. How do I know these things - just look at the people you depend upon for your opinions.

You defer opinions to people like Murtha, who was judge, jury, and executioner for the Marines of Haditha (How goes that trial by the way?).

You defer your opinion of Iran to the likes of Juan Cole - a so-called expert on Iran and Farsi who has never stepped foot in the country and who is routinely an apologist for the regime there and whose translations differ from that of Al Jazeera and the Official Iranian Public Affairs Agency. (I don’t even want ot think about you attitude toward Noam Chomsky?)

You defer your opinion regarding military matters vis-a-vis Iraq to the likes of Ricardo Sanchez - a retired Lieutenant General who commanded the ground forces in Iraq and was the author of most of the bungling of operations there in 2003-4 - and who came out against the Bush administration for his very own bungling.

And I won’t even mention the likes of Jimmah Carter.
it’s really the pro-war side who needs to make their case
No, it’s not. We are in the war. The House and Senate voted for the war. The UN Security council vote unanimously in favor of the war. The war has the legal mandate. It is you who needs to make the case.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Our politicians should take their responsibility to declare war or authorize the use of force as if they were sitting on a jury in a capital punishment case, because they are many times over. Many of those young soldiers and a lot more enemy troops are going to die violent deaths based on their decision. Once those people die, renouncing your vote will not revive them. There are no "do-overs".

Listening to them today, the democrats apparently voted for H. J. Res 114 to look tough on defense and keep their miserable seats. They didn’t really mean it. The US Congress has an obligation to the men they send to war. They gave them the job, and they should have the balls to see it through, despite what the polls show.

There is one former democrat in the Senate for whom I have great respect, although I disagree with him on almost every issue except Iraq – Joe Lieberman.

We are not talking about polls or public opinion or elections. We are talking about right and wrong.

Undermining our troops may not bother Scott Erb, but to me it is treachery of the first magnitude. Why can’t the Left see it?

Major Arch S. Arthur, USAF (Retired)
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
We are the hope of the Iraqi people. They want what everyone else wants in life: safety, security, somewhere to call home. They want a country that is safe to raise their children in. Not a place where their children will be abducted, raped and murdered if they do not comply with the terrorists demands. They want to live on, rebuild and prosper. And America has given them the opportunity, but only if we stay true to the cause and see it to its end. But the country must unite in this endeavor...we cannot place the burden on our military alone. We must all stand up and fight, whether in uniform or not. And supporting us is more than sticking yellow ribbon stickers on your cars. It’s supporting our President, our troops and our cause.
Written by SGT Eddie Jeffers, US Army, infantry. KIA Iraq, Sep 27, 2007.

Read it all.
Maybe the reality of politics makes all political action inherently crude and immoral. Or maybe it is these adventures in philosophical masturbation that prevent people from ever taking any kind of effective action against men like Saddam Hussein. One thing is for certain, as disagreeable or as confusing as my decision to enter the fray may be, consider what peace vigils against genocide have accomplished lately. Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics. Often times it is less about how clean your actions are and more about how pure your intentions are.
Written by 2LT Mark Daily, US Army, KIA Iraq, January, 2007

Read it all.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Please stop trying to describe why you think other people wanted to go to war in Iraq, and tell us what you would do to meet a threat to our national interest in the Middle East.
In analyzing foreign policy one tries to understand the past decision making process. You seem to want to brush it away, and thereby the mistakes. The puzzle to me is why they were so wrong about Iraq and got us involved in a costly, pointless conflict. I find that interesting. You may not. I think my Dec. 26 blog on the new multipolarity explains how I’d deal with the threat — a threat that is only made worse by Iraq and our active military presence in the region.
Please tell us why, if you and your political allies knew before we invaded that doing so was wrong, so many prominent liberals looked at the intelligence and voted to send our forces unnecessarily into harm’s way.
The politicians weren’t listening to the people who really understand the region and the nature of modern war. Modern Democrats and Republicans both are so caught up in strategic and partisan power thinking that they don’t grasp the nature of culture, unintended impacts, and the fact that bombing and destroying creates a lot of ill will. Bill Clinton’s fiasco in Kosovo (though he managed to try to PR it into something that appeared successful) is an example of that kind of thinking from the left. I find myself at odds with both "liberals" and "conservatives" in foreign policy because I am at base an anti-interventionist, whose roots are with the anti-imperialist thinking of Thomas Reed and Charles Eliot Norton of the late 19th century.

Please tell us why we should not take seriously the chemical-nuclear-biological threat from a dictator who has recently invaded two countries, used poison gas on his Iranian neighbors and on his own Kurdish population.
Because he wasn’t making threats, we had him under surveillance, he was weakened, and weapons inspectors were there assuring nothing offensive could be done. You have to mix almost irrational fear and intense imagination to really consider Saddam much of a threat by 2002. I’m convinced the neo-conservatives, now thankfully in retreat, thought they could use American power to reshape the Mideast and spread democracy, and instead created a huge mess. Luckily, the President seems to have learned a lesson and has drifted back towards a more realist policy.
Please tell us why you do not believe Iraq was part of the war on radical islam, when Osama Bin Laden and his lieutenants announced it to be the major front in their Jihad.
Do you take Osama’s propaganda seriously? They knew we were stuck there and wanted a PR benefit. Meanwhile, the taliban is resugent in Afghanistan and Osama must be laughing about how we hurt ourselves in Iraq.

Please tell us what you and your political allies want us to do with Iraq now that the Iraqis have established a democratically elected government, built military and police forces and expelled Al Qaeda in Iraq.
I’m not sure who you think my political allies are, but I’ve been pretty clear in the last year or so what I think we should do, and it dovetails with much of what the Iraq study group concluded. I’m happy to report that the President seems to have moved this way. No longer are we trying to defeat the insurgents and stop Shi’ite militias — al Sadr is no longer an enemy. We’ve stopped trying to create a secular, pro-western Iraq. Instead, we’ve limited the focus on only al qaeda, ended the conflict with Sunni insurgents (and not with any surrender on their part — they remained armed and in control of chunks of the country, not under the control of the government), and tolerate Shi’ite militias, who also are outside the governments’ control.

This means we’ll leave with Iraq still unstable, but the future will be in their hands, not ours. On January 17, 2007 my blog predicted a "peace with honor moment," and things seem to be moved that way.

Please explain why Iraq is a "failed policy." The people of Iraq would like to know. They believe Americans and Iraqis won.
You have no standing to speak for the people of Iraq. The policy has hurt the US immensely, has not made us more secure, and has created more geopolitical uncertainty and danger in the region. It has strengthened Iran, who will greatly influence Iraq in the future, has not yielded a pro-western Iraq, has taken vastly longer than expected, found reconstruction not something quick and paid for by Iraqi oil revenue, but something that has stagnated. Iraq today is immensely corrupt, the central government has little power, militias and local tribes run much of the show, the Kurds control their region, and...well, I can go on and on. None of this is what the Administration envisioned. That’s why the President wisely dumped Rumsfeld, and shifted from the neo-conservative "reshape the Mideast" idea to a more realistic approach embodied by Rice and Gates. This was a needed lesson in humility.
Please explain why we have not been hit with another terrorist attack since 9/11.
If you think the Iraq war is the reason, you’ve got some explaining to do! We weren’t hit from 1993 to 2001 either...eight years. It takes awhile to plan and pull things off. There were in that time, and in the last seven years, terror attacks elsewhere, to be sure. I do think there has been a good increase in homeland security, people watch for things they didn’t watch for before, and the war in Afghanistan threw Al qaeda off its feet for awhile, they are still recovering. But none of that has anything to do with Iraq. Indeed, the Iraq debacle has allowed the Taliban and al qaeda a chance to regroup as Afghanistan is worse off now than anytime since 2001.

Now, can you defend your positions on this, or do you just ask questions and try to avoid actually explaining why you believe what you do?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

Admit those negative effects of your strenuous opposition to the war, and then justify why they are worth it. Don’t deny them; that just makes you look either clueless or disingenuous.
Since I believe the war in Iraq hurts our interests, helps radical Islamists in their global efforts, makes it harder to develop a coherent positive alternative, damages our economy, and has us fighting a war with the last century’s tactics and means rather than confronting the new reality, then anything that makes it less likely that we continue this path is worth it. I actually think the enemy wants us to keep up that sort of thing, and the neo-cons are actually the best ally the enemy has — they know we cannot win a war on those terms against them. Look at how little we’ve been able to do in tiny Afghanistan and Iraq, and Iraq isn’t even mostly about Islamic extremism, it’s about Shi’ite-Sunni sectarianism.

In short, I don’t read it at all the way you do, Billy. I interpret it in a vastly different manner. Also, I have a distrust of big government using massive force to try to socially engineer polities. In Iraq, you’re seeing anti-libertarian policies manifest themselves, no one who claims to be at all libertarian should support this kind of big government mess.

However, perhaps surprisingly, when you say this:

Now, you anti-war folks may not think the Islamists are that big a threat, and that the price of opposing them is too high, and that Bush is a complete fool who has made many mistakes.
I agree Bush has made many mistakes, but I also think he is not a fool, and I agree that Islamic extremism is a big threat. My point is that we are not countering it effectively, and in fact likely helping the extremists with our policies. However, Bush’s shift towards realism, diplomacy, and the move away from neo-conservatism suggests he has learned (something awfully hard for politicians to do, and thus something I respect) and has made fundamental policy judgements. That’s not the actions of a fool. I give a lot of credit to Robert Gates and Condi Rice for making 2007 the year the realists took back policy from the Neo-cons — but it couldn’t have been done without the President wanting to make that change.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
," so anything short of "you go for it" confuses their thinking."

I am sure you didn’t mean that to sound as insulting as it does.

"Soldiers are trained to have honesty and integrity, so it is confusing for some when people reach a high level in the government then don’t display either"

You too? If they can handle all the death and gore of war I think they should be able to bear up under the impact of coming face to face with the horror that is American politics. I am pretty sure they have all coped with the fact that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are fictitious. Accepting the fact that not all politicians are honest or intelligent should not be too difficult. They have, after all, been exposed to television and movies for a few years prior to volunteering.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
SShiell,

There are many ways of being dishonest, and here you demonstrate your dishonesty with the old ’partial quote’ method. Note:
But my point is that given public opinion

So your entire position is based upon public opinion? Based upon that would you care to tell us why the war was such a bad decision when the public opinion of the day prior to the war was 70%+ in favor of war?
I give long posts explaining my position, you snip that out and try to pretend that I’m basing my position on public opinion?! Oh well, at least you’re wearing your dishonesty on your sleeve. You insult experts like Professor Cole of the University of Michigan with flip comments. Frankly, I don’t think you even think about this, you just react. Now, this comment of yours requires you to look in the mirror:

I know you have no backbone.
If you had even a modicum of backbone you wouldn’t hide behind the vague insults and partial quotes, you’d actually address an argument honestly, and recognize that differences of opinions are good, and one can learn from interacting with those who have a different point of view. You’re so into the personal attack game that you’ve apparently lost the desire to actually think critically and learn. Pity. (And as far as Bill Clinton goes — I’ve never supported him or thought him a very good President, so I’m not sure why you’re asking me about him).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
, Scott Erb has never been called upon to risk his life for his country. Cloistered as a student, he worked in pizza parlors until he was in his 30s.
Being in the military, which is more closed off from the "real world" than most other professions, including academia, does not give you any special status to claim superiority, any more than I get special status being a Ph.D. Everyone has their experiences, with both biases and strengths. That’s why we learn more when we talk with each other than trying to claim one side is good and the other side is evil. I’ve always learned a lot when talking with people from other backgrounds and perspectives, and try never to denigrate their experience vis-a-vis my own, noting we all experience very little of the totality, and we become wiser by learning from others, not by thinking we know it all ourselves, or that our own experience is the best.

But your bio of me is also wrong, so I’ll let you know a bit about myself. I worked from age 16 to 17 as a busboy/dishwasher in a steak house (was told I was the fastest dishwasher they’d seen and I could go far in that field). Then at 17 I got a job at a pizza place and within a month was a supervisor (night manager). I worked during college thirty hours a week partially at the pizza place, partially for a law firm. In summers it was 60+ hours a week. Then when working on my MA at Johns Hopkins (first year in Bologna, Italy, second in Washington DC), I had one summer on an assembly line at a kitchen cabinet place, before working first part time then, after getting my MA full time, for Senator Larry Pressler of South Dakota (Republican). I started as Assistant Press Secretary, then worked on various issues, including foreign affairs committee work. I learned a lot working there a couple of years, but decided that politics was not really my calling, I thought it was too much about power games and ideology, and too distant from real people. I briefly worked assistant managing a pizza parlor (less than a year) after that stint. It drove my dad batty that I quit a good job in DC working for a Senator in order to end up basically a night manager at a Rocky Rococo’s pizza parlor in Brooklyn Park, MN, but it was more real than the political world. I met a lot of military people at Hopkins and in DC, and learned a lot about the military perspective (including some friends who were officers going to earn their degree at SAIS).

Well, I didn’t want to become a lawyer, and while I liked the restaurant job, it’s not a good career. I had fallen in love with Europe while in Italy (though German politics is my specialty) so I decided to get a job that could keep me learning about and traveling to Europe: get a Ph.D. and teach. I got my degree at the University of Minnesota (teaching constantly to earn money while working towards it, including stints at St. Olaf College). My goal was to focus more on teaching than research because I’m not convinced academic research is as valuable as many academics think it is, but helping young people find their way in life is precious — when I get thank you cards, have parents tell me that I helped their daughter get focus, etc., it’s tremendously uplifting.

You have powerful experiences in your world, I have many in mine, as do others posting here. Better, I think, to say "hey, we can disagree, even profusely, but that doesn’t mean we can’t respect each other and learn from each other."
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
You insult experts like Professor Cole of the University of Michigan with flip comments.
And you recognize the authority of his words based upon what? Go ahead - tell me what this particular man has accomplished that you bow to the throne of his words. I gave you a snippet of why I think little of him and you say:
I give long posts explaining my position, you snip that out and try to pretend that I’m basing my position on public opinion?!
What else are you basing your adoration of Juan Cole on? I, and others, have asked you on more than one occasion why his translations differ from that of Al Jazeera and the Official Iranian Government PA site regarding the translations of various Iranian digataries speeches. And you respond by calling the man an expert and leave it at that. No back up. Nothing except you bowing and scraping to a man whose credentials regarding Iran are minimal. Cole has never set foot in Iran. Yet you bow and scape to his words on the subject when faced with more than just anecdotal evidence to the contrary. If there is anyone who is wearing his dishonesty on his sleeve - and forehead - etc - it is you.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
And you recognize the authority of his words
Yup. And given his background, the fact he’s put on TV and radio as an expert, and his degree, you’ve given me no reason to doubt him. You simply hurl childish insults. I’ll continue to assign him.

I also find al jazeera a good media outlet. Did you ever see Control Room or read Captain Josh Rushing’s book?

Educate yourself! Expand your horizons! Because right now I see you as someone talking from a very narrow perspective, not truly understanding the complexities out there. It’s hard to take you seriously when you simply insult that which you apparently do not understand.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Let’s pull this discussion back to its original point. In any war but especially in a counterinsurgency, the constant partisan political cheap shots at the troops, the mission and the administration concerning the conflict is detrimental to our troops’ morale and encouraging to those who are actively trying to kill them. In short - words matter.

Scott has spent his life in college or doing part time jobs to support his education. That distinction is not meant to demean his effort to get an education. It adds context to his opinion. If he had a boss he did not like or a set of tasks he found unacceptable, he could quit. In the service, quitting is a capital offense. Working "60+ hour weeks" struck me as particularly amusing. If General Petraeus mandated a 60 hour week, it would be met with thunderous ovation from the troops. In Iraq and Afghanistan, our military routinely put in 14 to 16 hour days and there are no weekends. Combat is often 24/7. Point: Scott Erb lacks the perspective and experience to understand why words matter.

The experts Scott cites are also telling. In his comparison of Vietnam and Iraq, there is a link to Bill Odom - a retired Army 3-star and former Carter aide. Look at General Odom’s assignments. He spent 8 years in Europe, 7 at West Point, 3 at Columbia University, 2 in the USSR and 1 as a LTC plans officer at MAC-V in Saigon. He also had a hand in Carter’s Desert One hostage rescue fiasco. 2.9M Americans who served in Vietnam. I would cite an expert who actually engaged in the fighting. Of course, most of them would not agree with Scott’s non-interventionist "let’s all be friends" foreign policy and the few who did would know that words matter.

Did anyone noticed how my statement, "Scott Erb has never been called upon to risk his life for his country. Cloistered as a student, he worked in pizza parlors until he was in his 30s." has drawn such an over-the-top defense from him? There is nothing wrong with working as a dishwasher/busboy. [In 1960, I was a dishwasher/busboy at the Viking Hotel in Newport RI, but I moved on.] His reaction confirms my statement and accuses me of not respecting him. What I do not respect is Scott’s opinion that our soldiers should accept the cheap shots they are getting from partisan politicians. Perhaps the young professor realizes that words matter!
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
Let’s pull this discussion back to its original point. In any war but especially in a counterinsurgency, the constant partisan political cheap shots at the troops, the mission and the administration concerning the conflict is detrimental to our troops’ morale and encouraging to those who are actively trying to kill them. In short - words matter.
And if one doens’t think the mission is moral or worthy of continuation, one shouldn’t hold back criticism. That is what protects us from going the path of imperial Germany or Japan, we can pull our government back from mistakes, we aren’t expected to simply toe the line when they choose to go to war. And so I’ll speak out, as will others. I will also do it respectfully. Remember how some on the right attacked the Kosovo war as the Lewinsky scandal ’wagging the dog.’ I totally opposed that war, but did not go that route, instead, stuck with the ideas. In this war I’ve not going the ’bush lied people died’ route of attack rhetoric, I’ve focused on the ideas, the policy and its consequences. That’s what our democracy is all about — to hold oneself back from criticizing especially a war one considers immoral and dangerous to the country would be an abdication of responsibility.

The rest of your response is personal, suggesting that there is something inferior in one life course of action than enough. The reason I told you a lot about me is so that you would know me as a person better rather than as a caricature. Instead, you read it as defensive. You ignore my point: your life experiences give you some biases and insights, mine give me others. I know many things you don’t, you know many things I don’t. We interpret the world differently due to our biases. We could accept that and have a discussion, or we can see it as a kind of holy war where the other side simply is to be torn down. You even decide to go after Gen. Odom personally, rather than deal with the ideas. That’s what I’m trying to break through here — the belief by some that if someone else looks at an issue differently, the best thing to do is attack that person with ad hominems. That stifles real discussion and learning.

 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
" It was the result of the failed strategy which was being followed during those first months of the year."

(From a post today by McQ)
Presumably this failed strategy has been followed for a couple of yearss. I would submit that any significant drop in morale was due at least partially to this failed strategy. As I have repeatedly said, our service men and women are not stupid, nor are they entirely ignorant of military matters.


" And given his background, the fact he’s put on TV and radio as an expert, and his degree, you’ve given me no reason to doubt him."

I don’t suppose you have thought of confirming his ’expertise’ for yourself? I am sure there are independcnt sources you could check. You do know how to do research, don’t you? Other than Wikipedia and The Guardian?

"the fact he’s put on TV and radio as an expert,"

This statement deserves a moment in the sun of its own.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Quit getting so emotional, pizza-boy.
 
Written By: Jeff
URL: http://
And so I’ll speak out, as will others. I will also do it respectfully.
When you become speaker of the House then what you say might matter to the troops. Till then, a lot of them will just think you’re a pencil neck geek who wouldn’t know cheese from chalk when it came to the military, and they’ll give your speech the courtesy due based on that opinion.
Point being, they aren’t worried about what you think, they’re concerned over the statements from the US Senate Majority leader, and the US Speaker of the House of Representatives.
You even decide to go after Gen. Odom personally, rather than deal with the ideas. That’s what I’m trying to break through here — the belief by some that if someone else looks at an issue differently, the best thing to do is attack that person with ad hominems. That stifles real discussion and learning.
It’s inevitable that citing some one’s career history is going to be considered ’personal’. But like experts you tout (Juan Cole and others), you like to cite their career history as the reason you believe in them.
Arch has done nothing more than cite Odam’s career history as a reason he doesn’t consider him a valid expert on the subject, the animus is perhaps an emotional interpretation on your part. It’s merely discussion, you present him as a valid expert, Arch presents the reasons he thinks he’s not.

On the other hand, you seem unwilling to allow for the validity of opinions of ’experts’ that disagree with your view. The guy on the ground who talks to other guys on the ground about how the politics in the country make them feel are ’experts’ in their subject matter.

Yet, here’s your arguments for what’s really going on
I suspect, though, the real impact on morale — the real reasons divorce rates are skyrocketing, psychological problems immense, and morale is slipping, is the impact of having to kill, destroy and see death all around while fighting what is a relatively pointless war. That should lower morale!
In other words, you know better than they why they feel what they feel.
(Ah, yes, you ’suspect’....how well I recall how that word is wielded in your arsenal).
If they can’t take hearing a healthy democratic debate, that’s their problem.
A debate?
Murtha stating he thought we should withdraw over the horizon to Okinawa, now that was debate.
Where’s the debate in Murtha calling the troops murders, saying that the Army is ’broken’.
Where’s the debate in Harry Reid flatly stating we’re losing? That the surge is failing even before it started?

Those aren’t debate statements, those are newspaper quote one-liners.


 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
" It was the result of the failed strategy which was being followed during those first months of the year."

(From a post today by McQ)
Presumably this failed strategy has been followed for a couple of yearss. I would submit that any significant drop in morale was due at least partially to this failed strategy. As I have repeatedly said, our service men and women are not stupid, nor are they entirely ignorant of military matters.
That’s correct, but there are other things which effect morale just as much. In this particular case, we’re talking about the effect of words from leaders which claim the war is lost and that the effort has been in vain and how that effects morale.

And just as the LCpl I cited - and the other two I cited in comments say in their essays - what is said, in that regard, definitely has an effect on troop morale.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
It was sold as a war against Saddam because of his WMD program and the fact he was a dangerous and erratic leader who could be plotting against the US.
You’re talking about Clinton and Albright now, right? No?
Besides, the troops in the Iraq only have access to the rosy noise machine of Fox Noise anyway.
This is ridiculous. As if the others are any better and our poor troops aren’t allowed to make their own choice of news outlets. The dreaded Jooz of FoxNooz. Too much DemUnderground, dude.
And yet, you make sure to run something here every day which makes it clear you are personally offended by people saying things to the effect of "we’re losing this dumb war" and you want people to stop doing it. It doesn’t matter how carefully they phrase their message.
We want politicians to stop the boldfaced lying. Yes.
But my point is that given public opinion, it’s really the pro-war side who needs to make their case, the public is with "my" side at this point.
When public opinion has been manipulated by 24/7 gloom n’ doom by the networks, is it really a surprise that its "on your side"? It’s not to me, evidenced by the fact that "public opinion" has inched away from you as the bad news bombardment has slowed down. You have zero evidence that the American people want to quit on this war. I don’t care that Wolf Blitzer has a poorly-sampled poll that tells you otherwise.
The puzzle to me is why they were so wrong about Iraq and got us involved in a costly, pointless conflict. I find that interesting. You may not.
Actually, I do find it interesting. Particularly the part that continually eludes you: that this view was shared by all major intelligence communities and by the freakin’ Clinton Administration. Why does your side continue to shine this over? Did Bush/Cheney have their own intel that knew what no one else on the planet did, but hid it because they really, really wanted to do it? You have the list of Clinonista quotes from pre-2000, I’ve given them to you before, you have them printed up on a piece of paper somewheres in your office, meaning to read them but somehow forgetting. How convenient.
I find myself at odds with both "liberals" and "conservatives" in foreign policy because I am at base an anti-interventionist, whose roots are with the anti-imperialist thinking of Thomas Reed and Charles Eliot Norton of the late 19th century.
I think we’re onto something here. To you (and the left), intervention = imperialism or the appearance of imperialism (apparently). By that definition, we can’t have even a hint of impropriety regarding our actions or it’s a no-go. That would keep us out of just about everywhere. How far do you take this? No aid to Israel, Africa, anywhere? Our allies? Er, I’m sorry... the ones we used to have before Bush squandered our global good will? Heh.
That is what protects us from going the path of imperial Germany or Japan,
Wow, this really is your fear, isn’t it? Does it also mean we can only intervene against imperialists, stated or otherwise? Actually, probably just stated, eh? Gotta take them at their word.
You insult experts like Professor Cole of the University of Michigan with flip comments.
What does this mean? Should one not insult a professor (assuming one did) due to their obviously superior community standard in status, intellect, morality or achievements? Is Cole some sort of Pope figure now? Just because of his supposed blogosphere influence and the twelve dollars that’s worth? What is the implication of this statement? For someone who just scoffed at taking offense to silly comments, you sound offended.
And given his background, the fact he’s put on TV and radio as an expert, and his degree, you’ve given me no reason to doubt him. You simply hurl childish insults. I’ll continue to assign him.
Well, of course you will. As a vitriolic leftist in the anti-Bush bag, he backs up what you believe. This is called appeal to authority.
Educate yourself! Expand your horizons!
...with the screeds that Scotty’s peddling! That’s the only way to free your mind from the FoxNoise! Reminds me of when a feminist site told me to get educated then gave me a reading list from what appeared to be the UC Santa Cruz speaker series. What you call education, professor, we call indoctrination and it goes on all over the country now under the guise of critical thinking and "expanding your horizons".
In this war I’ve not going the ’bush lied people died’ route of attack rhetoric, I’ve focused on the ideas, the policy and its consequences.
Huh. So you haven’t accused Bush of lying? How many people are you? Dude, you don’t even know how to sockpuppet correctly. You don’t do it under the same name.
 
Written By: Rob
URL: http://
Scott:

We are discussing a problem American troops are having with partisan politics while they are waging a bitter counterinsurgency campaign against a fanatical, ruthless enemy.

Senator Harry Reid stands at a podium before TV news cameras and makes the statement, "This war is lost." False.

Congressman John Murtha, chairman of house appropriations accuses US military members of "cold blooded murder." False.

Senator John Kerry accuses our soldiers of terrorizing innocent Iraqi women and children. False.

Congress has tried 41 times to force a US withdrawal from Iraq to deny the Bush administration credit for a success. Their stated motivation - to pick up seats.

You believe we should intervene in international conflict. You have the right to express that opinion nay time you wish. If the President or a majority of the house and senate agree with you, we will stay home. We do what the majority want.
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
you’re a pencil neck geek
Hey, come on, I work out every day! Seriously, though, your post is itself just personal, not about the ideas. That works against real discussion.

Rob, I don’t think public opinion has been manipulated against the war, I think it was driven by a very establishment pro-war bias that only by 2006 started to show weakness. Reality took awhile to undo the illusion. Also, there was stated uncertainty in the UN Security Council and by the French President himself about the evidence of a current WMD program in Iraq. That is why they wanted the weapons inspectors, who also stated uncertainty and even skepticism that such a program existed, to stay and work longer. Instead of taking the now vindicated Hans Blix and Nobel prize winner El Baradei seriously, they were personally attacked and ridiculed by those whom history has proven wrong.

And I do have a very ’libertarian’ view of foreign military policy. I don’t think we should be active all over the planet, I think it weakens ourselves ultimately, weakens our democracy and creates a more powerful and potentially repressive government. I don’t mind that you have a different view. What would be cool is if we could have a real discussion about the issues involved. Instead you and others get irritated by my perspective and throw out an insult instead. OK, but that really doesn’t accomplish much. And I was just as publically critical of President Clinton’s foreign policy. I don’t fit into your left/right dichotomous view of the political world.

Arch, I do not believe our elected officials should keep quiet if they think the President’s policy is immoral or misguided. And some of these people, like John Kerry and John Murtha, have seen military action and put their lives on the line for the sake of the policy preferences of American political leaders.

Because, ultimately, whining about what politicians or others say is irrelevant. Calling each other names is irrelevant. What matters is discussing the ideas. But some people don’t like to hear opinions different than their own, and some people are unable to be self-critical as well as other-critical. I’m reading things I disagree with to learn other perspectives.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I don’t suppose you have thought of confirming his ’expertise’ for yourself?
Oh, I have. Beyond the prima facia evidence that the University of Michigan does not grant full professorships to slouches, I read his blog for months, and saw his analysis proven correct so often that I realized he really knows the region and the nature of the conflict. His blog is useful especially for its reporting of media coverage in the Mideast, and how the perspective there is different. I’m also convinced that the people trashing Cole haven’t done one iota of work to check out his blog and look fairly at what he writes and how it’s backed up. It appears to be the typical "smear anyone who is on the other side" approach (and, to be sure, many on the anti-war side do that too). I have no respect for that kind of approach to political debate, and I think a lot of people posting here are smart enough that they could really increase the level of discourse by pulling themselves out of the personalized/emotionalized aspect of modern political mudslinging.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
To understand the damage words are doing, you need to think of the Iraqi people as battered wives. The must believe their security is not temporary. The support groups are wonderful. The police restraining orders are great, but one phone call from that familiar voice that says, "I’m coming back," destroys all the good that had been done.

If we want Iraqis to stand on their own two feet, they must believe we will stay until they can. The old US strategy: "They stand up and we stand down" did not work.

Counterinsurgency is not about guns and bombs. It is about competing narratives. Al Qaeda is run out of a village by a joint US/Iraqi force. On the way out, Al Qaeda tells the villagers, "We will be back. If you cooperate, we will kill you."

Some of the security forces take up residence in the village while the main force pursues the terrorists. The security forces work with the locals who express their doubts. "Al Qaeda will come back and kill us," they explain.

We reply, "How is that going to work? They are all dead." Our narrative is winning the war of words for now.

The two people responsible for this new strategy are General David Petraeus and LTC David Kilcullen - both soldiers, both PhDs. Kilcullen is an Australian who works for Condi Rice. His essays can be found at Small Wars Journal.



 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
Scott Erb said,
"People should speak out and frankly and bluntly, not give a damn about the impact on the "feelings" of troops. If they can’t take hearing a healthy democratic debate, that’s their problem. I suspect, though, the real impact on morale — the real reasons divorce rates are skyrocketing, psychological problems immense, and morale is slipping, is the impact of having to kill, destroy and see death all around while fighting what is a relatively pointless war. That should lower morale!"
The points I am trying to make are (1) we do give a damn how the troops feel and we consider morale of American forces our problem, (2) you have absolutely zero experience and have offered no evidence of factors which are lowering morale, (3) a war is not pointless just because it conflicts with your political philosophy.

Scott. Don’t take this personally, but If you get down to Hanover NH, try the pizza at "Anything but Anchovies". My youngest son worked there as an undergraduate at Dartmouth.
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
Arch, I understand the change in strategy and for the most part have welcomed it. I was convinced in a discussion here over a year ago that like it or not, we do have an obligation to leave in a manner that takes into account Iraqi domestic stability. That doesn’t take away from my belief that this has been a fiasco that should not have been fought — I see the neo-conservative idealism behind it similar to the JFK/LBJ idealism behind Vietnam — but realistically you can’t undo what is done. The shift towards realism, of which the changed military strategy is only a part, has been something I’ve publicly praised the President and Secretaries Gates and Rice about. I do think that the Administration’s path and rhetoric before 2006 was out of touch with reality and dangerous, and it was at that point I was most critical, and the quotes from politicians focus on that point. Morale may be important, but pressuring the administration to switch policies is more important.

I’m still skeptical of long term success, not so much due to al qaeda but due to Shi’ite militias and corruption, but we’ll see. What we need now is what Nixon would have called ’peace with honor.’

I called the war ’pointless’ because I do not see it having improved America’s security or served America’s interests — in fact, I see the negative consequences as exceeding any positive impact. To me that’s not a ’political philosophy,’ but an assessment of the results. In fact, I tend to be anti-ideological when it comes to politics, I see ideologies as generally dangerous and unsupportable. I also fear that Afghanistan may be falling apart, and that war did have a point.

I’ll certainly try the pizza place, especially given the name!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Hey, come on, I work out every day! Seriously, though, your post is itself just personal, not about the ideas. That works against real discussion.
Stopped at the pencil neck geek thing eh?
It was an observation about what the troops might think, not necessarily what I thought.

As a pencil neck geek myself and all it wasn’t necessarily what I think about you. In fact I wouldn’t give a rat’s-@ss if your claim to fame was you ran a damn fine bait & tackle shop near Grand Lake stream.
I worry less about your geekiness than your certainty that you’re right nearly all the time.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I worry less about your geekiness than your certainty that you’re right nearly all the time.
How many times can I say that not only am I not certain I’m right, but that I read this and other sources because I want to learn to understand different perspectives! Yes, I’m reasonably "good" rhetorically so I come off sounding perfect and making hard hitting arguments. But an unintended consequence of that is that it creates an illusion of certainty. I’m also more likely to do that when I think the person I’m responding to is conveying a sense of certainty that he or she is right (and perhaps I’m misreading that as well). Moreover, when an argument goes against what I believe true, I really test it — I make the strongest argument I can against it and see what the counter-argument is. Often in "real world" debates this brings me to modify my opinions slightly only in retrospect (during the give and take there isn’t always time to reflect), in these debates I have time to think about issues and try to reflect when answering. One reason I complain about the personal stuff is not that it bothers me, but that I really want to see the arguments behind the counter perspective and understand them. I’ll try to modify my rhetorical style — I already have learned not to hold any grudges and to try to avoid the temptation to insult — but for now I’ll just ask you trust me that I don’t believe I’m right nearly all the time. I’ve changed my mind so many times in life about a variety of things (including major policy issues like health care reform) that I’d be a fool to think I had it right finally at this particular juncture in my life.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"Beyond the prima facia evidence that the University of Michigan does not grant full professorships to slouches,"

Oh, please. I have enough experience in the halls of academe to know that the Peter Principle is alive and well.

" I have."

Right. Another assertion that will never be backed up.


"How many times can I say that not only am I not certain I’m right,"

You are certainly confident that everyone else is wrong. What is the difference?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I’m a glass half full guy.

In Iraq, the Shiites, Sunnis and Christians are sick of violence. The are coming together to resist Iran, al Qaeda, the militias and violence in general. In the recent past, the Iraqis have exceeded most of our expectations. The Sunni tribes now know that boycotting the elections was a serious mistake. Oil production is now above pre war levels. With security and revenue, will come political reconciliation.

Afghanistan would be better if NATO met their commitments. The Taliban’s last major stronghold was overrun last week. Not only did the forces route them from their sanctuary, it also deprived them of their opium poppy fields, their major source of income. Chasing a guerilla army through Afghanistan in the dead of winter makes it harder for the insurgents to find food and shelter. Like the Iraqis, Afghans are not in favor of the return of the fundamentalists.

In the mid 1970s, the USAF sent me to Iran three times. It is difficult to under estimate the technical abilities of the average Iranian or over estimate the political volatility there. War with Iran would be foolish until they test a weapon. After a successful detonation, someone [Europeans] will have to act.
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
Rob, I don’t think public opinion has been manipulated against the war, I think it was driven by a very establishment pro-war bias that only by 2006 started to show weakness. Reality took awhile to undo the illusion...
This is the approved revision 2.0 that whitewashed and absolved the previous administration of perpetrating a "pro-war bias". Enough time had to pass before Carville-style bombardment of the Big Lie: that Bush and the Neocons had crafted this loony idea of WMD. Repeat ad nauseum at every news cycle. Rinse. Repeat.
...Also, there was stated uncertainty in the UN Security Council and by the French President himself about the evidence of a current WMD program in Iraq. That is why they wanted the weapons inspectors, who also stated uncertainty and even skepticism that such a program existed, to stay and work longer...
Well of course there was stated uncertainty. If you stand to make a zillion dollars by undercutting the sanctions via Oil-for_Food, you’d have "stated uncertainty" yourself. Are you familiar with Claudia Rosett or is she a neocon hack?
...Instead of taking the now vindicated Hans Blix and Nobel prize winner El Baradei seriously, they were personally attacked and ridiculed by those whom history has proven wrong...
Are they now vindicated due to the Ultra-Left Paperweight that is now the Nobel Prize? Why does this Norwegian committee of droolers get to designate the annual King of the World? More appeal to authority that doesn’t swing outside the world of elites. Were there WMDs? Ever? Or did history begin in 2000, which by the way, is another implied axiom at the root of the Left’s arguments?
 
Written By: Rob
URL: http://
Funny how things change. Just a few weeks ago, in another thread, Erb was criticizing President Bush for saying things like, "You’re either with us or with the terrorists," and the whole Axis of Evil speech. He said that Bush had made us sound like bullies, and his word had a deleterious effect on our standing in the world.

But it’s okay by Erb for members of Congress to say inflammatory things about the troops or the war effort.

Look, no one is denying that anyone — even members of Congress — have the right to speak freely. But it’s intellectually dishonest to criticize one side for the effect their words have and not criticize the other side. It’s time to own up to the damage you cause, even if you don’t intend it.

 
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://
intellectually dishonest
Stererino, with those two words you have defined Erb!
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Funny how things change. Just a few weeks ago, in another thread, Erb was criticizing President Bush for saying things like, "You’re either with us or with the terrorists," and the whole Axis of Evil speech. He said that Bush had made us sound like bullies, and his word had a deleterious effect on our standing in the world.

But it’s okay by Erb for members of Congress to say inflammatory things about the troops or the war effort.
Hmmm, Steverino logic: if one criticizes A for saying something, then one must criticize everything anyone says.

Your complaint is illogical. One can criticize someone for saying something, but think something someone else says is accurate.

But it’s intellectually dishonest to criticize one side for the effect their words have and not criticize the other side. It’s time to own up to the damage you cause, even if you don’t intend it.
Except, of course, I thought the impact of Bush’s words was very bad for America, while the criticism of the war from 2004-06 helped force a change in policy last year. Murtha’s criticism helped lead to the "surge."

In any event, if you want intellectual dishonesty look at the partial quoting from SShiell to try to pretend someone argued something he didn’t, and then his refusal to discuss issues and hide behind potshot insults. That’s the low ground of political discourse — a cowardly refusal to actually address issues and engage in honest exchange. Luckily, that kind of thing works best in blogs where like minded folk can try a collective covering of the ears when someone argues something they don’t like. They bask in the illusion that somehow that has an impact on the real world.

 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Well of course there was stated uncertainty. If you stand to make a zillion dollars by undercutting the sanctions via Oil-for_Food, you’d have "stated uncertainty" yourself. Are you familiar with Claudia Rosett or is she a neocon hack?
Except they were proven correct. And France had a lot to gain if they had gone along with the war. As long as Saddam was in power, they’d not get a lot of money they were owed, the US essentially made it clear they’d get oil contracts and the like if only they’d get on board. If France thought success was likely, it was in their interest to join the US. Chirac knew better than Bsh what a war would mean, and has been vindicated by history — he was right.
Are they now vindicated due to the Ultra-Left Paperweight that is now the Nobel Prize? Why does this Norwegian committee of droolers get to designate the annual King of the World? More appeal to authority that doesn’t swing outside the world of elites. Were there WMDs? Ever? Or did history begin in 2000, which by the way, is another implied axiom at the root of the Left’s arguments?
No, they were vindicated because it’s been proven they were right. Reality bites. Your silly attacks can’t sting because, well, the people you are attacking were right in their claims, the Bush Administration, especially the now discredited neo-cons, have been proven wrong. You can close your eyes, give rhetorical bravado to avoid admitting the truth, but deep inside, you have to know that you’re wrong here, and it would be more honest to admit it.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
They bask in the illusion that somehow that has an impact on the real world.
Very much like your own blather. Erb, you are a fool. And worse you are a fool with some letters after your name that you believe gives you some level of validity. Maybe in your sequestered world of acedemia, where such letters have meaning, it may stand for something. Outside that world it is just a set of letters. Pot, come on over here and meet kettle. Black as its soul.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
"Yes, I’m reasonably "good" rhetorically so I come off sounding perfect and making hard hitting arguments."

"perfect". Yessuh, thet muss be it. Us semi-literate, poorly educated, easily led neocons jist caint stand it when we is so outclassed. We gits frustrated and resentful and stuff when your perfection is thrown in our face. Yup.

 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
...the people you are attacking were right in their claims, the Bush Administration, especially the now discredited neo-cons, have been proven wrong.
Prof. Erb — As usual, you overstate your case entirely. "Proven right"? "Proven wrong?" On something as complex, mixed, and unfinished as the Iraq War? Or the neocon position—whatever that is or whatever you think that is.

IMO you receive too much ad hominem crap here, but nonetheless your posts are so filled with these incautious, pompous, absolute pronouncements that come off to me as just typical, no-nothing, anti-war propaganda, and not at all the "hard-hitting arguments" that you imagine yourself to be making.

For instance, do you know anything about Chirac beyond that he was Prime Minister of France and blocked the Iraq War? That’s true, of course, but he was hardly the wise statesman that your tiny precis makes him out to be. He was corrupt and personally involved with Saddam Hussein. Chirac himself brokered the deal for Iraq to acquire the Osirak nuclear reactor that Hussein planned to use for nuclear weapons had not the Israelis destroyed it with an air strike.

One can’t know Chirac’s full motivations before the Iraq War, but there are good reasons to suppose that they were not limited to his estimation of the war’s difficulty. Besides, if France had supported the Iraq War, it would have been a different war, and possibly an easier one.

More facts and logic, fewer pronouncements, please.
 
Written By: huxley
URL: http://

For instance, do you know anything about Chirac beyond that he was Prime Minister of France and blocked the Iraq War?
He was Prime Minister back when Mitterrand was President — the two managed to create the way in which "cohabitation" would work when the President and National Assembly are controlled by different parties. He was President when he worked against the Iraq war. He was also mayor of Paris, and always hated by the Left. Chirac was a Gaullist conservative, and I have no doubt that he (like probably all politicians) had some corrupt business connections. However...

The US had close ties with Saddam for quite awhile, and were involved in helping the Shah start work towards a nuclear program in Iran. By funneling money via Pakistan to Afghan "freedom fighters," we directly supported the most radical elements of the mujahedeen, including folk like Bin Laden. Nothing Chirac did in that regard was out of the ordinary — yet it turns out he was correct in his claim that there was no real proof Iraq had an active WMD program, that the war would not go as easily as the Americans thought, and that the emotions it would arouse could have a negative impact by radicalizing some of the Muslim population of Europe (a major reason why he didn’t want the war — never discount domestic politics!)

SShiell — you should realize by now that insults don’t matter to me — and in a debate like this, my ’letters’ are irrelevant as well. Do you have the capacity to actually talk about the IDEAS — a place where relevance is only in the argument, evidence, and give and take, not in the person involved.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Erb claims:
By funneling money via Pakistan to Afghan "freedom fighters," we directly supported the most radical elements of the mujahedeen, including folk like Bin Laden.

We did not directly support folks like Bin Laden. The assistance the US sent was directed to the native Afghan mujahideen. Bin Laden and the foriegn fighters (often called the Arab-Afghans) came in with their own lines support. Bin Laden and his people never saw any aid from the US.
 
Written By: anonymous
URL: http://
"How many times can I say that not only am I not certain I’m right,"
You are certainly confident that everyone else is wrong. What is the difference?
Heh! No real difference I can see, but I’m sure some sort of nebulous difference can be manufactured by someone who wants to find it badly enough. Of course, it might take ten thousand words or so...
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
By funneling money via Pakistan to Afghan "freedom fighters," we directly supported the most radical elements of the mujahedeen, including folk like Bin Laden.

We did not directly support folks like Bin Laden. The assistance the US sent was directed to the native Afghan mujahideen. Bin Laden and the foriegn fighters (often called the Arab-Afghans) came in with their own lines support. Bin Laden and his people never saw any aid from the US.
Well, since Pakistan handled the money and directed it to groups they liked, often without our really knowing where it was going, you certainly can’t say for sure that none of the money got to Bin Laden. None of it was "direct support," it was almost all through Pakistan — and they wanted the Islamic extremists not the moderates to get the lions’ share.

I think you know that there is a lot of evidence and reporting that Bin Laden got some of the money, or perhaps even worked awhile for the CIA. Officially, of course, that’s denied. What is undeniable is that our money went to fund the extremists of the sort who would make up the Taliban and its allies.
You are certainly confident that everyone else is wrong. What is the difference?
Obviously I am not confident everyone else is wrong — and it’s amazing that some of you get so sensitive to my rhetoric while not noticing how "confident" (bombastically and insultingly so) the certainty is professed that I’m an idiot, incompetent, wrong, etc. When your side does it to someone you disagree with, hey, that’s OK. But when the other side does something much milder to someone you agree with...well, yikes! It’s pretensience! It’s someone who sounds like he thinks he’s CERTAIN and that he thinks others are wrong. How dare he! He must be attacked and insulted! I mean, some of you (including you, Billy H.) take the old parable about noting the speck in another’s eye and ignoring the log in your own to extremes!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Prof. Erb — OK, I vote for turning the heat down on the ad hominem stuff.

Meanwhile, are you espousing an equivalence between Chirac personally brokering the Osirac nuclear reactor for Saddam Hussein, and the US indirectly funding Bin Laden in the 1980s to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan?

This sounds like more knee-jerk, anti-war bluster. Chirac was friends with Hussein—a known thug even then. Selling Hussein a reactor may not have been "improper," as you delicately put it, in the sense that O.J. did nothing improper, but the Israelis sure were able to connect the dots on what Hussein wanted with that reactor.

This strikes me as very different from helping Afghanistan fight against the Soviet invasion of their country.
 
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
No, Erb, there is not a lot of evidence (given your scholarly background, you would have presented the lot of evidence, lol) what there is are a lot of claims that Bin Laden recieved aid from the US, and worked for the CIA, but never is lots of evidence or even any evidence presented (rather like what you have just done).

The CIA looked into the matter and said no, it did not happen. The State Department researched it and said no. Bin Laden was asked, and said he and his got no aid. Zawahiri said wrong, no aid from the US. Terrorism expert Peter Bergen reseached the matter, he said no aid was given. Same with investigative journalist Richard Miniter.

Not to mention that you claimed it was direct and now claim indirect.
 
Written By: anonymous
URL: http://
"By funneling money via Pakistan to Afghan "freedom fighters," we directly supported..."

direct;
"3. Having no intervening persons, conditions, or agencies; immediate: direct contact; direct sunlight"

Actually, that pretty much seems like a good example of INdirect support to me. Perhaps you need some ’hard hitting’ definitions to go with those ’hard hitting’ arguments.

" None of it was "direct support,""

Perhaps you misinterpreted that famous old quote; "A FOOLISH consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds". Does it hurt when your ’hard hitting’ arguments hit back?



"It’s pretensience!"

Jeez, how about learning to spell, or at least use spell check. How on earth do you grade papers?

"and it’s amazing that some of you get so sensitive to my rhetoric while not noticing how "confident" (bombastically and insultingly so) the certainty is professed that I’m an idiot, incompetent, wrong, etc"

Oh, we notice. The bombast and insults are usually quite well thought out, probably more so than your ’hard hitting’ arguments. Our spelling and rhetoric is certainly better. Tell me, why do you think so many people have such a low opinion of you? Inherent malice? Jealousy and envy? A dastardly neocon plot to stifle all dissent? Do you ever wonder why, although there are one or two other posters who habitually personally insult McQ et al, you are the one most viscerally disliked, widely excoriated, and mocked?

"When your side does it to someone you disagree with, hey, that’s OK. But when the other side does something much milder to someone you agree with...well, yikes!"

Oh stop whining. The only reason you continue to post here is the attention you get. And we do spell your name right.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Prof. Erb — Again, I renew my preference against ad hominems.

However, I would tell you that my exasperation with your posts comes from my sense that you are an intelligent, articulate guy who has read more than an article or two about these matters, yet you persist in making the same stupid, unsupported claims I hear from the average know-nothing, anti-war guy spouting off at a blue-state party.

Considering that you are a professor and this discussion overlaps the area of your expertise, it seems to me that you should know better—both the facts and how arguments are presented—so when you post broad, careless, easily disputed generalizations as though they were facts, it comes across to me as a sort of an insult, a talking-down-to, a blithe willingness to use this forum for propaganda, and as intellectual dishonesty.

I call you Prof. Erb to remind you and other readers that you hold an important position in our society when it comes to historical and political discourse. You keep your temper admirably in these hot discussions, but I also expect you to have higher standards in the claims you make.
 
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
No, they were vindicated because it’s been proven they were right. Reality bites. Your silly attacks can’t sting because, well, the people you are attacking were right in their claims, the Bush Administration, especially the now discredited neo-cons, have been proven wrong. You can close your eyes, give rhetorical bravado to avoid admitting the truth, but deep inside, you have to know that you’re wrong here, and it would be more honest to admit it.
And now you seem to be projecting. I understand your frustration over the fact that tactics that seem to impress you, particularly appeal to certain talking-head scholars, fall flat in this forum. You can write it off as simple-minded contrarianism and I understand that gives you your manufactured out-pitch. I mean, that’s why you come here in the first place, right? See what the rabble are saying, drop some artful knowledge on the place, and watch it blow up. IMO, your clumsy dodging of my questions is pathetic. And you won’t answer them because the true answers don’t matter to you. They don’t fit the Vanity Fair narrative. Just repeat the mantra. After all, The Polls Are On Your Side(TM).
Well, since Pakistan handled the money and directed it to groups they liked, often without our really knowing where it was going, you certainly can’t say for sure that none of the money got to Bin Laden. None of it was "direct support," it was almost all through Pakistan — and they wanted the Islamic extremists not the moderates to get the lions’ share.
Good gracious, how many degrees of separation are you willing to go here? When I bought my Ipod a coupla months ago, I can’t guarantee that that money will, after I assume several changes of hands though you cant be too sure with Steve Jobs, not make it into Bin Laden’s hands. Again, how much aid money do we give to Pakistan, Africa, and the like and not know who it’s funneled to or even if it’s being used for its intended purpose? I seriously doubt we have an effective accounting system for those funds. Yet another good argument for not giving aid to anyone anywhere at any time for anything. Nice job, Erb, and, on that, I guess we’ll partially agree, even if for different reasons.
 
Written By: Rob
URL: http://
Anonymous: you’d be surprised what happens and gets routinely denied. However, that was a discussion about Bin Laden getting direct aid and working directly for the CIA. My original claim is:

By funneling money via Pakistan to Afghan "freedom fighters," we directly supported the most radical elements of the mujahedeen, including folk like Bin Laden.

In my response to your first response, I admitted I used the word "directly" wrong:
Well, since Pakistan handled the money and directed it to groups they liked, often without our really knowing where it was going, you certainly can’t say for sure that none of the money got to Bin Laden. None of it was "direct support," it was almost all through Pakistan — and they wanted the Islamic extremists not the moderates to get the lions’ share.
All your claim addresses is a small part of this (in bold):

I think you know that there is a lot of evidence and reporting that Bin Laden got some of the money, or perhaps even worked awhile for the CIA. Officially, of course, that’s denied. What is undeniable is that our money went to fund the extremists of the sort who would make up the Taliban and its allies.

Since I wrote "perhaps even" it’s clear I doubt he actually worked for the CIA (though it’s possible). But the main point remains: What is undeniable is that our money went to fund the extremists of the sort who would make up the Taliban and its allies.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
However, I would tell you that my exasperation with your posts comes from my sense that you are an intelligent, articulate guy who has read more than an article or two about these matters, yet you persist in making the same stupid, unsupported claims I hear from the average know-nothing, anti-war guy spouting off at a blue-state party.
That accusation is unsupported — if I say something you think is stupid, point it out specifically and ask for clarification.

As for Chirac and Saddam, I think you’ve bought some right wing propaganda. Here is an old CNN article that explains’ Chirac’s pre-war position, and also notes that Chirac never ruled out military action against Iraq:
http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/02/26/sprj.irq.france.chirac/index.html

Note that Chirac doesn’t see Saddam as an enemy, but a bad brutal dictator. The US has also supported a number of bad brutal dictators. To go back and claim he and Saddam were ’friends,’ or that policies in the seventies when the view of Saddam was much different, even by us, say much about Chirac now stretches the imagination. You have to make your case if you want me to buy that.

Chirac obviously denies that
:
AMANPOUR: The fact is, Mr. President, that in America many people think it’s just because you are a friend, a pal of Saddam Hussein. That you have had long contacts with him, that you helped build the nuclear reactor there, that there are the oil deals. You invited Saddam Hussein to France. There is a famous picture of you toasting him. They think it is about a personal and a business relationship

PRESIDENT CHIRAC: That is a myth. I did indeed meet President Saddam Hussein when he was vice president in the mid ‘70s but never since. But in those days everybody had excellent relations with Saddam Hussein and with his party …it was seen as progressive. Everybody had contact with them… including some important figures of the current US administration who had contacts with Saddam Hussein as late as 1983, but not me.
Again, it seems clear that Chirac and much of the world thought the Baath party was progressive, and the US (Remember the Rumsfeld photo) and other states tried to win over a secular government. I don’t see substance in your claims.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Good gracious, how many degrees of separation are you willing to go here?
We’re talking about giving Pakistan money to give directly to the Afghan freedom fighters. Not much separation. It’s not like buying something without knowing where the money is going! We let Pakistan choose who got the money, and they found it in their interest to give it to extremists (and ultimately it was the Pakistan secret police that helped form the Taliban).

Even now I think Pakistan is really doing more for than against the Taliban, and that’s one reason they are resurgent in Afghanistan.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
We let Pakistan choose who got the money, and they found it in their interest to give it to extremists
We let everyone who gets aid decide where it goes. Sure, we say we gave it for X and they grin and nod. But you know the likelihood that it actually goes to Y is quite high. Where has the billions in aid to Palestine gone? We give money to African dictators under the guise of food aid and no one jumps up and down about whether or not it actually goes toward food. They still require an Aid for Africa concert every decade or so and nothing seems to change. I suppose you would use some sort of Jedi diplomacy to ensure that our agreement to X Aid will indeed go toward X. What sort of arm-twisting does this require to actually get that result? I thought this diplomacy thing was supposed to take... nuance. You make it sound so cut-and-dry here... and yet what you’re inferring involves extremely aggressive diplomacy along the order of that dreaded Cowboy Diplomacy that you so despise. First order hair-splitting, sir.
 
Written By: Rob
URL: http://
We let everyone who gets aid decide where it goes.
It wasn’t aid to Pakistan. We gave Pakistan the money with the understanding they had to funnel it to Afghanistan. They were a middle man in the deal so we could try to hide our involvement. Do you really not know that?

The rest of your post suggests you don’t understand the basics of America’s involvement in arming the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan. I suggest you learn a bit more about it before you try to make an argument.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
The rest of your post suggests you don’t understand...
Scolded by the white-tower. I suppose I have some remedial assignments. Who would you suggest, Professor? Someone with a more refined pallette? A Zinn or a Chomsky, perhaps. Here’s what I understand. I understand there is a great need by some in this country to adjust facts to fit their worldview. My understanding of the facts do not fit with your "conventional wisdom" or whatever your fellow travelers are calling it today. The intense desire you have to draw a straight line from today’s situation to past American supposed sins or misdeeds, if you will, clouds your neutrality.
I have to admit, though, your triangulation of a topic is impressive, even if you are borrowing your talking points from those in the intelligencia who you admire from afar. Plum gig you got there.
 
Written By: Rob
URL: http://
Hell, Rob, you probably can find out the basic background information about the America’s involvement in Afghanistan on Wikipedia; there’s even a movie out now that deals with it. Just do some web research, you don’t need no fancy academic reading to find out the basics.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Gee, Scott, I dont know. Charlie Wilson’s said the movie’s not entirely accurate and I know Wikipedia’s reputation, so... I guess we’re at an impasse. Either I accept your view or not, eh?
Yeah, I don’t know how I got through the engineering program without doing any fancy booklearnin’. That’s the card you like to play at this stage? The scholarly dismissive sniff and wave o’ the hand. Do you wonder where the elitist charge comes from? Asshat.
 
Written By: Rob
URL: http://
Erb still has not provided a lot evidence, or even any evidence, that the US gave aid to UBL or any of the Afghan-Arabs (who in reality came in with there own funding and support lines through the Gulf States).
Though Erb claims there is lots of evidence.

And when the actual facts are noted all Erb can do is make speculative claims sans evidence, and dismiss the fact that those in the know (US and UBL himself say it did not happen).
 
Written By: Anonymous
URL: http://
Funny — you guys want to pretend that you don’t know that Pakistan funnelled billions of dollars and weapons to the most extremist Islamist groups fighting the USSR? Ok, make that your stand. People can judge your integrity by your willingness to pretend that didn’t happen simply in order not to give rhetorical points to me. You’re only hurting yourselves (well, one of you seems to know that, he’s not letting us know who he or she is).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
And still none of the "lot of evidence", that Erb claims there is, that the US gave aid to UBL or any of the Afghan-Arabs, or worked for the CIA.
UBL was extremely Anti-American, even back then. Dana Rohrbacher travelled into the area back in the 80’s, and his guides at one point told him not to speak, as they were pass near a Bin Laden camp, and if an American was heard Bin Laden and his folks would kill him.
 
Written By: Anonymous
URL: http://

 
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