The other day Jeff Goldstein produced a monster post
that's drawn an incredible number of accusations and counter-accusations. Very illuminating. The nut of Jeff's essay is this, I think:
From my perspective, there comes a time when, having registered disagreement with the war, the war’s critics (and here I’m not talking about critics of individual strategical or tactical initiatives, but rather those who have been against the effort from the start) simply wait and—if things fail—rush to brag of their prescience and perspicuity. But in the meantime, actively working to undermine the effort by presenting our enemies with a rabidly partisan divided front (one of their chief aims, remember)—whether it be through suggestions that we are in Iraq “illegally”, or that the President “lied” to take us to war, or seemingly hoping, on a daily basis, that the whole thing devolve into a civil war—matters. And not just rhetorically.
The fact is, the insurgency simply cannot succeed militarily. And Iraqis have voted in spectacular numbers for an attempt at democratic governance.
Which means the only hope of the insurgency from the start has been to break our will [...]
[Some emphases mine, some are original.]
Which is, in the end, where I come out as well. It's all well and good to declare your disaproval of our efforts in Iraq, this isn't a debate over the right to dissent. But it's quite another thing to actively hope for failure
, because when the dust settles, if this little experiment in democracy ultimately fails, isn't it better to be able to point and laugh with a clear conscience, free from the nagging suspicion that you helped cause extra
death and suffering? If the principles that led to our decision to go to war are ultimately proved wrong, is that not satisfaction enough?
Apparently not. Jeff addresses this in his extended update. It's positively scary the way some Americans are happy to misrepresent the intentions
of this administration in an effort to disprove Bush's methods
As an example let me single out Mona
from the comment section of Jeff's post:
I voted for Bush in ‘04, and I supported the Iraq war. I did so not for neocon reasons— because I have always understood that social engineering cannot work, either domestically here in the U.S. or in foreign policy. We can’t “make them” into rule of law, civil-society minded folks at will.
See, whether intentional or not, this misrepresents Bush's motivations in a fundamentaly false way. Bush isn't on a mission to remake Iraq into a facsimile of Texas, and had Mona actually listened to the speeches Bush has been giving for years, she would know (or at least acknowledge) this simple fact. Rather, Bush and others believe that a "yearning for freedom" (you hear that phrase repeated over and over in Bush's speeches) is the natural state of human populations all over the world, and that by removing obstacles to that natural predilection (like Saddam,) we are giving the Iraqis a great gift. The gift of self determination. The gift of freedom from tyrany. The goal isn't to force
societal change in Iraq, but rather to remove the forces preventing
But I believed Saddam had been a belligerent against us, and that after 9/11 it was time to say “f*ck you” to him and others, so that bad guys would fear messing with us. I also believed George Bush would be competent to execute the war and its aftermath.
I was wrong.
And Mona's initial support for Bush's campaign in Iraq believing that we were just sending a "Don't mess with us" message is to completely misunderstand the larger point
of the campaign. Our President is no isolationist. The general plan is to spread freedom abroad, thereby increasing security here at home. Without understanding the theory, how can you evaluate Bush's competence?
Her evidence of Bush's cluelessness? She once met an Army Dude:
[...] While traveling from the midwest to the East coast last November, I was seated next to a soldier returning from Iraq. He was a conservative, Xian evangelical, smart, and had his own criticisms of the media. But he told me civil war was nearly inevitable, because of the various tribal factions in Iraq itself. He said that some of these factions are so backwards as to be unbelieveable, and that there is no reasoning with them.
This young soldier said civil war was truly the most likely outcome. But he did not think that would be a “good thing.” He did not think our troops should remain in the middle of that.
At what point does “I was wrong” enter into an honest person’s thinking? [M]aybe, just maybe, Bush totally screwed things up?
Mona, your conversion from a Bush supporter into a Bush critic is unfortunately based upon your
failure to understand the principles behind our efforts, not
Bush's competence or incompetence in executing those efforts. Many reasonable, rational, educated military types (myself, for example) have long since left behind the notion
that Iraqis are incapable of practicing democracy, or that civil war is "nearly inevitable." So you sat next to some soldier on a plane once. Big deal. Got any family in the military? Just how regularly do you talk with service members? Do you think that young soldier's opinion is representative of all
the military? At what point does my
conversion deserve some respect?
Again, this isn't a debate over the right to disagree, it's about the misrepresentation of honorable motives, and the dangers of slinging dishonest words. In the end, the only way we'll lose this war is infighting, and the only way we fall prey to infighting is by accusing our opponents of arguing in bad faith.
(I've emailed Mona to tell her she's free to elaborate on her opinions or to disagree with mine in the comment section here. And expect fresh posts about the other issues raised in Jeff's essay.)