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Middle Eastern Media Take Up Reid's "War Is Lost":

Iranian Press TV reports, in response to Reid's statement:

Leader of the Democratic majority in the US Congress, Harry Reid, has said the US has lost the Iraq war, and Bush's troop surge has failed.... Reid's comments came a day after 200 fatalities were reported in bombings in Iraq, despite a much touted US Security Plan which the White House said sought to root out insurgency."

A Republican party e-mail also reported the following as translations of items from Al-Jazeera Online, and Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, "The Leading Arabic International Daily"; please let me know if the translations are inaccurate:

"Yesterday the leader of the Democratic majority in Congress, Harry Reid, announced that he conveyed to Bush that the United States lost the war in Iraq and that the additional America forces that were sent there will not succeed in the achievement of any positive progress."

"Leader of the Democratic majority in the US Congress, Harry Reid, has said the US has lost the Iraq war, and Bush's troop surge has failed.... Reid's comments came a day after 200 fatalities were reported in bombings in Iraq, despite a much touted US Security Plan which the White House said sought to root out insurgency."

As I have said before, it may well be quite proper -- and certainly constitutionally protected -- for people to criticize the war; and sometimes the benefits of such criticism, even of the "war is lost" variety and even when said by leading U.S. politicians, outweigh the costs. Yet it seems to me hard to doubt that this statement will have grave cost.

If Napoleon was right that "In war the moral [meaning 'morale'] is to the material as three to one," then it seems to me that Reid's statements may prove highly objectively costly, chiefly by strengthening the enemy's morale as well as by weaking our own soldiers'. Likewise if Churchill was right that even statements that "weaken confidence in the Government" and "make the Army distrust the backing it is getting from the civil power" may prove to be "to the distress of all our friends and to the delight of all our foes" (Speech in the House of Commons (July 2, 1942)). How much more distress and delight must be caused by statements that represent that the Congressional majority actually believes the war to be lost.

Maybe, as I said, the benefit of the statements exceeds their harm. And maybe the harm will be modest, because everyone -- among our enemies as well as among our military -- has already assumed that the Democratic leadership thinks this. Yet my suspicion is that the harm will be quite substantial indeed.

Bobbie (mail):
What cost? Beside s rhetoric about “emboldening” the enemy, please explain how this statement will make things worse?

And we have lost. Thousands of people are dieing every day. A day after the VT shootings, 170 civilians were killed in Iraq. We need to leave Iraq. Any statement the increases the chances of that happening is a good thing.

Moreover, according to Secretary of Defense Gates, democrats opposition to the war has been a good thing because it has put pressure on the Iraq Government to get their stuff together.
4.20.2007 4:09pm
AF:
As someone who was against the war from the beginning, I hate the talk about losing on both sides (both "we've lost" and "we refuse to lose"). We already won -- we overthrew Saddam's regime. Unfortunately, despite winning, the war has not been in our national interest.
4.20.2007 4:12pm
Steve Reuland (www):
If Napoleon was right that "In war the moral [meaning 'morale'] is to the material as three to one," then it seems to me that Reid's statements may prove highly objectively costly, chiefly by strengthening the enemy's morale as well as by weaking our own soldiers'.


If Reid is correct, then this is irrelevant. Morale isn't going to save us.
4.20.2007 4:14pm
Bobbie (mail):
AF, if before the war you had asked the American public generally if “victory” means overthrowing Saddam but leaving Iraq in a debilitating and bloody civil war, I think most would have said no. As our own Government has determined, the war in Iraq has hurt our national interest and increased the problem of global terrorism. We lost. And thousands of Iraqis and Americans have had to suffer the ultimate price for our mistake. (But damn that Senator Reid and his comments!)
4.20.2007 4:19pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I hate to be accused of invoking Godwin's law, but no matter no many times Hitler talked about shortening defensive lines or how many counterattacks by the Ninth Army and the reserves he had concealed in Czechoslovakia that would miraculously save Berlin, the war was lost irretrievably lost in late 1944, probably many months, maybe years, earlier. Bush is in a similar situation. His mismanagement and incompetence has made this war impossible to win. That alone is reason enough to impeach him simply because he refuses to change course.
4.20.2007 4:19pm
MS (mail):
And maybe the harm will be modest, because everyone -- among our enemies as well as among our military -- already knows the war is lost, at least as Bush has defined victory.
4.20.2007 4:20pm
Mark Field (mail):
Since Bush can't define what a "win" might be, I have no idea what a "loss" might be either. Reid should have said the war was FUBAR. I'm sure that would have made everyone feel better.

Unmentioned in your post is the cost of not speaking. We've listened to Bush's "Baghdad Bob" approach for long enough; that isn't helping our morale much either. Time to face the facts, even if the facts are unpleasant. Reality may be a bitch, but denying it is worse.
4.20.2007 4:31pm
BobNSF (mail):

Yet my suspicion is that the harm will be quite substantial indeed.


Yeah, if I were a soldier in Iraq, facing death every day, recently told my return home was postponed another three months, wondering what today's strategy was going to be since yesterday's didn't work, I'd be really pissed at Sen. Reid for ruining my mood...
4.20.2007 4:32pm
Henri LeCompte (mail):
Unfortunately, I suspect that the Democrats have decided that the only thing important about the Iraq conflict is its domestic political value. They are being stunningly short-sighted, and I can't help but believe that their personal animus toward the President has blinded them.

There is an absolutism afoot in Washington that is most troubling, and terribly unwise. The "other side" can no longer be "partially right," or "wrong, but with some good ideas." They must be completely, entirely, absolutely wrong, worse than useless, and stopped at all costs. There is no longer a need to collaborate with the "other side," just destroy them.

All this harsh rhetoric, and unyielding attitude is endangering us all. Our leaders are not acting like the wise men of our society. They are acting like high school adolescents who are focused on their own silly, primping self-interest.

I'm afraid that this is what it must have felt like in the waning days of Rome.
4.20.2007 4:32pm
AF:
Bobbie, I agree with every word of your post except "We lost."
4.20.2007 4:33pm
rarango (mail):
I dont know whether we have "won" or "lost." I dont think we will know the answer to that question for at least 50 years. If I was a certain of the outcome as many seem to be, I would much rather be buying futures and making money with my ability to foresee the future in such certain terms.
4.20.2007 4:35pm
arthur (mail):
The harm from Reid's remarks isn't "modest," it is nonexistent. All you've shown is that Senator Reid's remarks were reported in Farsi and Arabic language media. Any effect on insurgents is a figment of Volokh's imagination. If insurgents are rational (but mistaken about Senator Reid's influence over U.S. policy), they may interpret the remarks as suggesting that the United States will be leaving Iraq soon, and will see that there is no need to launch risky or suicidal attacks against U.S. soldiers, in which case Reid's statement will save American lives. More likely, insurgent behavior will not be affected one way or the other.
4.20.2007 4:35pm
AdamL:
It's unclear why you think Reid's statement is likely to weaken the moral of U.S. soldiers. To do so, soldiers would have to think that Reid is the final arbiter on such matters or at least an authority on the matter.

I'm fairly certain no troops think that Reid is the final arbiter on whether we've lost the war or not. I assume they look to people with more military experience for that role.

Even if our troops think he's an authority on the matter (by virtue of his control over the Democrats in Congress), our troops have the political acumen and intelligence to see that Reid's statement was political rhetoric, an inaccurate assumption, or both. None of those possibilities seems like to significantly weaken our moral.

Of course, if they feel he's correct on the matter, it's likely they already came to the conclusion on their own accord.
4.20.2007 4:36pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Middle Easter media--which is uniformly against the war in Iraq and has been since before it started--can only take Reid's statement as confirmation of their opinions. To that extent, then yes, Reid's statement 'undermines' US policy which clearly does support such a war.

For those fighting the US (they are not fighting only Bush, but the US government as a whole), the statement of a senior legislator that the war is lost can only and correctly be interpreted that America has lost the war. These media do not generally draw distinctions between the branches of government, in part because no such distinctions exist to any great extent within their own political systems.

This probably has no long term consequence other than to allow large numbers to say 'I told you so.'
4.20.2007 4:40pm
Shelby (mail):
arthur:
will see that there is no need to launch risky or suicidal attacks against U.S. soldiers, in which case Reid's statement will save American lives

THe history of the Gaza Strip suggests you're wrong. When it was clear Israel was withdrawing on its own, Palestinians increased their attacks to make it appear to the ignorant that they were pushing Israel out by main force. I predict the same result in Iraq, though I sincerely hope I'm wrong.
4.20.2007 4:45pm
JosephSlater (mail):
This will neither embolden the terrorists nor undermine U.S. troops. U.S. troops are well aware that there are increasingly large segments of U.S. society that believe the war was fundamentally misguided and/or is now essentially lost. Heck, decent segments of U.S. troops feel that way. Whatever they believe, they will believe based on what they see on the ground.

Similarly, the people of the mid-East -- terrorists, good guys, folks in the middle -- are much closer to the action than we are, and will base their opinions on what they see and hear there, not what Harry Reid (or George Bush) says.

Is the idea really that some folks on either side will say, "gosh, some U.S. politicians think we're losing, so the U.S. may not just stay here forever, so now we'll . . . um, do something differently"?

I would also suggest that arguing that Reid's statement hurts the war effor in any serious way feeds into a false and possibly dangerous meme that is beginning to appear in nascent forms among some Iraq dead-enders: "It would have worked, but for those awful DEMOCRATS who took over Congress in late 2006." Look for this shameful distortion to be increasingly promoted in certain quarters over the next year or two.
4.20.2007 4:54pm
Joel (mail):
If President Bush had been in office in 1973, would he have prolonged the Vietnam War?
4.20.2007 4:56pm
Adeez (mail):
I know, I'm just adding to the eloquent chorus above. But never before have I seen Prof. Volok this "off," despite disagreeing with him often.

Professor: there is no war between the United States and Iraq. It's an occupation. As AF mentioned, if there was a "war," it ended when the regime was overthrown. It is very disingenuous to criticize someone for saying we lost when one can't even articulate what "victory" looks like.

So insofar as a nation cannot win or lose an occupation, Reid misspoke. However, if we interpret his comments to mean that the occupation is a hopeless quagmire, then good for him for saying it. I bet the majority of his constituents believe it, and the more Americans internalize this, hopefully the more the government is pressured to withdraw.

The only big winners that I can see is Iran and the contractors.
4.20.2007 4:57pm
Adeez (mail):
Sorry Professor Volokh: I violated rule #1 when criticizing someone: spell his damn name right! It was a typo, I swear.
4.20.2007 5:03pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
It pains me to say this about a Republican President's conduct of war because I have been a lifelong Republican/Conservative activist; however, this particular war in Iraq was lost before it even began. First, the objectives for Iraq were wholly unrealistic given the history and nature of the peoples of Mesopotamia. Second, lessons from the United Kingdom's prior attempt to democratize Mesopotamia were ignored. Third, the cost-benefit analysis for conquering and occupying Mesopotamia was grossly deficient. The foregoing points are made even before I make reference to the intelligence estimates on the so called WMD.

Nevertheless, if indeed the war in Iraq is just one of many fronts in this Jihadist War (I prefer this over the War on Terror), then there should be no shame in making the decision for a tactical retreat from Iraq in order to regroup and rejuvenate our military. So what if the Iranians, Moqtada Al-Sadr, or Hezbollah start boasting about having driven the great evil Satan called the United States from Iraq. Their day of reckoning will be forthcoming in the future.

The difference between a great and enduring military power and a great but short-lived military power is that the great nations know when to retreat to survive to fight the remaining battles and win the war. Had Napolean and Hitler ordered tactical retreats from Russia before the military situation deteriorated beyond salvage, they would have survived much longer with their military forces in tact. (Thankfully for the latter half of the 20th Century, Hitler did not order such a tactical retreat).

By contrast, the Romans swallowed their pride and retreated before Hannibal's forces numerous times only to bide their time and make the final assault on Carthage. Similarly, General Titus retreated from Jerusalem to lick his wounds for four years only to return and utterly destroy Jerusalem after the Jewish factions virtually annhilited each other during his absence.

So, we lost this particular war in Iraq. After the Shias, Sunnis, Wahabbis (sic), and various other sects annhilite each other, we will return and deal a death blow to whichever terrorist sect emerges victorious from this civil war. And may God have mercies on their souls because we surely shall not.
4.20.2007 5:04pm
Martin Ammorgan (mail):
To the extent the war's aim was to remove Saddam from power, Bush was correct: those "major combat operations" ended four years ago.

To the extent the present aim is to create an Iraq that can "govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself" or whatever nonsensical formula is the newspeak du jour, only the most dangerously deluded and historically ignorant can maintain that fiction.

To the extent Reid voices a reality many Americans acknowledge, more power to him. If anything, given the sickening reality that is the Bush administration, Reid is too reserved in his criticism.
4.20.2007 5:13pm
Mark Field (mail):

If President Bush had been in office in 1973, would he have prolonged the Vietnam War?


Only if he was no longer eligible for the draft.
4.20.2007 5:15pm
RAH (mail):
Reid and the Democrats have invested heavily in the position that it is better to lose the war rather than support Bush to win, since if Bush losses the war then they can get elected.. He is simply leading the pack by saying this and then the others follow and agree and then the media starts repeating. It is the old saying if you say a lie enough then everyone will think it is true.

Bush has not been effective enough to articulate the need or actually what he would consider a win. The vaguenes bothers a lot of people including those who support the war.

But Reid is an idiot and everyone knows that. But on what basis have we lost? WE conqured Bagdad and toppled Saddam Hussein. WE have instituted a new government that works with us.
Al Queda forces are getting kicked out of An Abar province by the local tribes who decided to come over to our side.
The Shite militia under Sadr has been inchoate and have fled. The Shite militia political leaders are no longer poisoning the government by working against the government from within.
Sadr has not yet been brave enough to come back in Iraq.
The car bombings are a desparate attempt to antagonize the Shia into attacking the Sunnis. But that has been neutralized.
18 provinces are quiet and no problem.
So the only basis is the mass fatalities from the recent bombings. I regret that I can not consider a mass murder or several, the reason to said we have lost.

The down or upside is that the enemies, terrorist groups and Iran, will think we are leaving and consolidate and try for a mass attack. That actually would be nice so we could kill them and destroy sufficient enemy forces.

Reid does not command the military and Bush will not retreat while he is office. The forces in the field know that and they are trying to pacify and destroy the enemy as fast as they can.

The additional losses are from the fact that our forces are actually fighting rather than staying out of the cities and in our bases. I did not realize how much our generals had let the offensive disperse and was just tring a holding action. That was from 2004- 2006. Americans want a victory, not a loss. But they won't wait forever.

So the only basis is that
4.20.2007 5:15pm
JosephSlater (mail):
RAH:

So if things are going that well, we can leave pretty soon, right?
4.20.2007 5:21pm
Bobbie (mail):
And if things are going so well, we certainly don't need to send more troops or increase tour lengths, right?
4.20.2007 5:24pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
As you've noted, Eugene, it's a cost benefit analysis.

The cost of Reid's criticism: lower morale among our troops, perhaps strengthening the morale of the enemy.

The benefits? Maybe our soldiers can come home that much sooner. Maybe fewer of them will die.

They'll leave Iraq in really bad shape, quite possibly worse than they found it, but does anyone have any other solution, except sitting by, day after day, hoping things will get better, without knowing how to make them so?

Now, if you still believe the Iraq war is winnable, then yes, Reid's comments are a net harm. If, however, you believe we're just getting our soldiers killed while our president bumbles around and/or looks for a politically acceptable way to withdraw, then Reid's comments are a net benefit.
4.20.2007 5:25pm
TaxLawyer:
Normally Professor Volokh's logic is hard to assail (although I often disagree with the premises from which he reasons). In this post, however, it's the other way 'round. I think Napoleon was right that morale is as important (or three times more important) than material in the fighting of a war. But it does not follow that Reid's comments will affect morale, on either side of the divide. The motivation of those we're now fighting in Iraq is really quite unaffected by our attitudes toward the war. They're fighting what they see as the latest battle in a dispute that predates our presence and will outlast us. Right now we're simply a convenient foil for both sides (all three sides?) in the midst of a civil war in which we have no vital stake.

As for the morale of our troops: It's harmed a hell of a lot less by Reid's comments than it is and has been harmed by, inter alia: (1) a President who feels compelled to rush to Blacksburg VA to mourn with those victims, while making sure that the suffering of the families of our military's fallen is lonely and unabated by a Presidential visit; (2) a defense department whose medical facilities are unfit for dogs; (3) stop loss orders that keep military families rent asunder for years; and (4) under-equipped and under-manned units resulting from Don Rumsfield's insistence on fighting the "war of the future" he fetishized about rather than the war he was in, which he and the rest of the administration failed from the get-go to properly understand.
4.20.2007 5:55pm
curious:
What emboldens the enemy more: Reid's statements or McCain/Pence saying that Baghdad markets are safe for a leisurely stroll and like those in Indiana, respectively?

I think the recent attacks inside the Green Zone--a clear message that things are inherently unsafe--answer that question loud and clear.

This all assumes that our troops being there isn't emboldening itself . . .
4.20.2007 5:57pm
Houston Lawyer:
It's quite clear that we haven't yet won this war, but to claim we have lost is just silly. We'll lose many more people to DWI accidents than we'll lose in this war.

The morale of our soldiers is quite high, despite the spouting off of fools like Reid. Those counseling withdrawal from Iraq will counsel retreat any time that America faces a guerilla action. The costs of defeat will be much higher than the costs of victory. The killing fields of Cambodia may seem tame by comparison.
4.20.2007 6:09pm
CollegeProf:
I think Reid should say, "We've won!!! In fact, our victory in Iraq is so overwhelming that we should leave now. Dick Cheney doesn't even think we have won -- he keeps saying that we are in a tough struggle. Why is Cheney trying to help Al Qaeda's morale?"
4.20.2007 6:10pm
Kazinski:
I wonder what those of you that think we should abandon Iraq think would happen if we left? I see two possible scenarios:


1) The Shites realize that they are on their own and start the civil war in earnest, with large scale ethnic cleansing of the Sunni's. With the potential of a wider conflict starting with the Iranians moving in on the side of the Shites, the Gulf States and Jordan backing the Sunni's, and Turkey moving in on the Kurdish regions to "maintain order".

2) A collapse of civil order with various militias taking control in urban areas, tribal leaders taking control in more rural areas, with Al Qaeda elements taking control in some zones, continuing the terrorism and car bombings in an effort to expand their control.


If Bush had been President during the Vietnam war, he might have dug in his heels and not let Congress abandon the region, and there might be 3 - 5 million more Cambodians alive today, even at the cost of 50,000 more American lives it would have been worth it. Anybody that thinks we should pull out of Iraq regardless of the consequences should look at the history of what happened in the decades following our abandonment of Southeast Asia. But at least it didn't cost any more American lives.
4.20.2007 6:11pm
Randy R. (mail):
Henri: " They are being stunningly short-sighted, and I can't help but believe that their personal animus toward the President has blinded them. "

Right. The only reason Reid and the Democrats are saying the war is lost is because they hate Bush.

Here's some other quotes by newspapers, and even SEcretary of Defense Robert GAtes. Are they all saying these things just out of blind hatred of Bush? And why doesn't anyone else think say that THESE comments don't embolden the terrorists?

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI): Mr. Gates, do you believe that we are currently winning in Iraq?
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: No, sir.
(Armed Services Committee Hearing, 12/4/07)

Debate Over Who Lost Iraq Already Begun. James Dobbins, a former assistant U.S. secretary of state and special envoy for Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, directs the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation: "As Iraqi and American public opinion pushes the United States inexorably toward the exit, a debate over who lost Iraq is already gaining momentum." [The International Herald Tribune, 4/17/07]

Editorial: President Has Lost the War and His Honor. "The president might win this battle, but he already has lost the war in Iraq -- and the one for his honor." [Editorial, Santa Fe New Mexican, 3/24/07]

Military Expert Says View Around the World Is that the U.S. Lost the War. "Military expert Anthony Cordesman concludes that even if the current U.S. troop increase is a success and creates some degree of stability and political unity, the perception of most Iraqis and others in the Middle East and Europe will be that the United States 'lost' the war in Iraq. " [Washington Post, 4/13/07]

Newsweek's Eleanor Clift: "The Iraq war was lost long ago, probably at Abu Ghraib" [The McLaughlin Group, 3/30/07]

Commander of 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq Says U.S. in Danger of Losing in Iraq. "Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, 'I think strategically, we are.'" [Washington Post, 5/9/04]

Iraq Exhibits Dangerous Parallels to Vietnam, Says Army Strategist. "I lost my brother in Vietnam," added Army Col. Paul Hughes, a veteran Army strategist who is involved in formulating Iraq policy. "I promised myself, when I came on active duty, that I would do everything in my power to prevent that [sort of strategic loss] from happening again. Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win every fight and lose the war, because we don't understand the war we're in." [Washington Post, 5/9/04]

Reagan NSA Director See Similarities to Vietnam in Iraq Conflict. General William Odom, who served as President Reagan's head of the National Security Agency, said the Iraqi insurgency parallels Vietnam. "I see a lot of similarities to Vietnam. It seems to me the persons who have the greatest interest in the U.S. being in Iraq are Osama bin Laden, Iranians and other radical movements in the Middle East. We made Iraq now safe for those kinds of movements and they're breeding them rapidly." [NPR "Morning Edition," 4/15/04]
4.20.2007 6:12pm
deweber (mail):
But let us look at this from the other side for a second. Imagine:

Al Jazzera shows a video of a senior Al Qaida official(or a senior insurgent, or Mahdi Army leader-your choice) saying that he believed that the war against the Americans was lost. That the surge was working. That while the top leadership wanted to keep fighting, he thought is was a waste of life and lucre.

Would the President's supports be emboldened? Would those who oppose him be quieted for a short while at least and force to examine the assumption that the war was lost? Would the leader's own troops and allies be stunned and made concerned about the future?

This is the concern that arises when someone of Reid's position speaks out. And as a statesman and leader of the country, he is obligated to history to consider more than the domestic implications of his words, but also how it will be perceived. Is not President Bush being constantly castigated for not keeping the concerns of the world foremost in his mind when he speaks? Do we expect less from the leader of "The Greatest Deliberative Body"?
4.20.2007 6:13pm
Justice Fuller:
Professor Volokh,

Can you be a bit clearer on what the "grave cost" is likely to be? You state that this could be very harmful, but you don't actually say why or what harm you have in mind. Also, doesn't the real fault belong with those who started and encouraged the war, not those who just point out how badly it's doing?
4.20.2007 6:14pm
Advantage?:
Churchill also said that "Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
4.20.2007 6:18pm
RAH (mail):
Joseph Slater.
I was indicating the current condition. The object is to obviously pacify the country. I see signs it is being done, whether it will be done fast enough to satisfy the democrats is debatable. However the American populace does not want to be in this situation for 10 years. They will allow until the end of Bush's term. If this is not accomplished then we will get out except for some remote bases.
The American military is great at battles but not good at occupation. So bad that there was all the dancing around calling it an occupation. When a country goes to war it should be honest that after the battles is the occcupation. Americans hate occupations it goes against our grain and we don't have the ruthlessnes to take the Roman solution. Occupations can be sucessfull. Just be ruthless. But we wanted the long and chancier road of setting up a western/ US ally. Not so sure that 10 years is enough.

I personally figured 10 years when we invaded to get the country settled. But Bush did not have the US backing for that long and the democrats are whittling that backing as much as possible.
So whether Reid said we lost or not is immaterial. But I do like when the Democrats goes the cliff like lemmings and he just may be doing that. Americans hate to be losers and they will blame the Democrats since they have set up to be the loser party.
4.20.2007 6:30pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Deweber:

The problem with your counter-hypo is that people develop their opinions from facts on the ground, not pronouncements of leaders. So, my first reaction to a hypothetical Al Qaida leader saying what you suggest would be, "how could he say that, given what's going on?"

Secondly, as another commenter pointed out, we're not in a war with Iraq. We're caught in the middle of a civil war.

Along those lines, Kazinski, yeah, if we pull out, bad things will probably happen. It's just that if we stay, bad things will probably happen too. And that we are in this position is the fault (primarily) of George Bush, not Harry Reid.
4.20.2007 6:33pm
JosephSlater (mail):
RAH:

So you knew from the start that this would require 10 years of "ruthless occupation" (after which, presumably, a friendly stable democracy develops)? It's tragic that Bush couldn't come out and say that would be needed when he was promoting the war, and instead we got this "five weeks, five months, certainly not five years"; "they'll greet us as liberators"; "the oil revenues will pay for the reconstruction"; etc.

Oh, and tragic that he trumped up evidence of non-existant WMDs and Al Qaida and even 9/11 ties to promote the war too. Remember when THAT was the point, not bringing democracy to Iraq? But that's another issue.

As to your observation that Americans hate occupations and they need to be ruthless, my father (and father-in-law) were part of the occupying force in Japan. I don't recall Americans hating that, or it being particularly ruthless.

Thanks, finally, for being evidence of what I predicted earlier in this thread would be the new dead-ender meme: "the Dems lost the war."
4.20.2007 6:41pm
gab:
Reid says that believes the President and others in the administration think the war is lost. "I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and — you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows — (know) this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday," said Reid.

Not to pick nits, but nowhere in that quote does it say that Reid says the war is lost. It's in plain and easily understandable English. Why is CBS saying Reid says the war is lost?
4.20.2007 6:45pm
Bruce:
EV, are you suggesting Reid refrain from saying what he believes, purely to promote morale? Doesn't that seem a little disingenuous? When does he get to start criticizing the war effort -- after it's all done? Isn't the whole idea of the First Amendment that it's better to have a harmful truth than a comfortable silence?
4.20.2007 6:46pm
K Parker (mail):
Why is everybody thinking the harm to morale must be among the troops? It's on the home front where opinion really matters, I would have thought; that that's where American resolve is fading, not in the field.
4.20.2007 6:51pm
BChurch (mail):
As I believe was mentioned earlier on this thread, the statement is only damaging if it is false. (If it is true, it cannot do any damage to a cause already lost).

But imagine he said we "are losing" (instead of "have lost"). Such a statement, by Prof Volokh's standards, could be both damaging and true.

I am interested in the professor's opinion as to which interest he feels should take priority in such a situation-- truth or morale?
4.20.2007 7:08pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Morale on the home front -- or, more specifically, opinions as to whether the war is going well or badly -- is not shaped by Harry Reid in any significant way. It's shaped by facts on the ground: news reports from Iraq. Should we censor such reports if it interferes with "all is going well" fantasies?
4.20.2007 7:14pm
CJColucci:
Is it just an oversight, or is it deliberate that in EV's analysis whether Reid's statements are actually true seems to be irrelevant? Yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is OK if there's actually a fire.
4.20.2007 7:18pm
submandave (mail) (www):
"Thousands of people are dieing [sic] every day." - second sentence
"A day after the VT shootings, 170 civilians were killed in Iraq." - next sentence

I can feel your passion and sincerity, but perhaps you should have studied a bit harder in basic mathematical principles.

As long as you continue to measure the success of the enemy by how many random, unprotected civilians they can slaughter it only serves to fuel their desire to kill more and make this tactic appear successful. They know that they don't have to defeat us, they simply have to wait until we leave. If we, together, resolutely demonstrate that we will not leave, it somewhat lessens the incentive for sensationalist acts to make us leave.

And categprizing what we're doing as a "ruthless occupation" seems quite the hyperbole, considering that the enemy has been far more ruthless in their random violence against the citizenry.
4.20.2007 7:25pm
NicholasV (mail) (www):
It's shaped by facts on the ground: news reports from Iraq.


What do facts on the ground and news reports from Iraq have to do with each other?
4.20.2007 7:30pm
NicholasV (mail) (www):
Actually, snark aside, media reports are becoming slightly more accurate.. some of the progress of the "surge" is actually being reported.

There's still a lot of bias-via-admission - I know this because the people who are actually there are not paid reporters tell a very different story of the situation than you get from news reports - but I'm glad to see that more and more major media outlets are at least grudgingly admitting that progress is being made in some areas. Even if they have to tack on "But..." paragraphs lest you forget the latest bombings or what have you.
4.20.2007 7:37pm
Bobbie (mail):
submandave, as should be evident from my numerous typos, my sentence was hastily written: I meant to say that thousands have died. Clearly, thousands don’t die every day.

Regarding your substantive point that we shouldn’t measure the successes of the insurgency by how many people they kill because that encourages more random killing: I’m not sure anybody is measuring the insurgents “success” by solely on how many people they kill. Much of the country with large civilian populations is a disaster. The problems go way beyond the number of civilians killed or maimed.

And as Secretary Gates has noted, if we “resolutely demonstrate that we will not leave,” -- your suggestion -- we’re simply providing cover for the Iraq Government so they don’t have to make any tough decisions.

Finally, to lose that are tarring the “democrats” on this issue, how do you respond to the fact that opposition to the war is now very much a bipartisan issue?
4.20.2007 7:52pm
T Dean (mail):
The gross rationalization that Harry Reid's words have no effect on our enemy's belief in our resolve to continue fighting them is grindingly disingenuous. Obviously our military leaders - as well as any good American - would be very happy if such a highly placed leader of our enemy were to declare that they have lost the war.
4.20.2007 7:52pm
Gandalin (mail):
"Maybe, as I said, the benefit of the statements exceeds their harm. And maybe the harm will be modest, because everyone -- among our enemies as well as among our military -- has already assumed that the Democratic leadership thinks this. Yet my suspicion is that the harm will be quite substantial indeed."

You are too kind.

In a robust democracy he would be tried for treason.
4.20.2007 8:06pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
Wouldn't Reid's key defense be that he spoke accurately?

At this point -- we have been at war against and in a non-industrial nation for more days than we were in WW 2 -- isn't it pretty obvious that we are at the very least losing?
And if you look at the preponderance of American opinion, no one sees a strategy for wining.
Professor, how do you define losing?
4.20.2007 8:15pm
Francis (mail):
In a robust democracy he would be tried for treason.

actually, he'd be prime minister.

Prof. V.: could you be a little more precise, please, on the nature of the substantial harm engendered by Reid's comments?
4.20.2007 8:23pm
SuperChimp:
Eugene,

Two points...

First, this has always been, and forever will be, a 'danger' in a democratic society--that open debate and criticism can be used by everyone, everywhere. The simple fact that an authoritarian regime has done so doesn't, in my opinion, change the equation at all. Such governments will always be more than willing to pick up on anything like that and use it as an excuse for something or another. How does their cynical (and quite obvious) exploitation of it do anything to affect the war? More importantly, why on earth should we allow an authoritarian regime to dictate our own speech and free speech principles??

Second, when, if ever, under your concept of the world would Reid be 'allowed' to claim that the war has been lost? This is perhaps what scares me most about your argument. Is no criticism allowed because it might someday be used by someone, somewhere against us? Must we hold our words for fear that some dictator or king will exploit them? Should we allow more soldiers to die because of this supposed danger? And, what sort of morality equation figures into the concept? That is, is it not more 'moral' to call for an end to the war because one believes we are wasting lives than to pretend otherwise to appease foreign governments while thousands of our soldiers die??
4.20.2007 8:28pm
Adeez (mail):
Randy R (5:12): Bless You.
4.20.2007 8:47pm
Russ (mail):
Here are the practical effects of Reid's words. First, the folks who are helping us(translators, informants, tribal leaders, etc.) are taking enormous risk just by assisting us over there. When they see this kind of stuff, they don't see the political machinations behind it - they see us abandoning them, making them less likely to help any further. You might not like that, but it is true.

Second, the center of gravity in the insurgency is popular support, and popular support usually galvanizes behind a winner, and crumbles behind a loser. The insurgents can more effectively recruit simply by pointing to Reid's words - "See, we are winning! Even the Americans think so."

Third, it hurts recruiting over here. Most soldiers I know are tired of hearing the defeatist rhetoric, and a lot have asked, "Why did we even join if the folks in charge are going to put us in a fight and then give up when it gets tough? Why should I fight to win when the leadership doesn't believe in me?"

I've been over there(in OIF-1) and have several friends over there now. I am likely to go back by April of next year. We have not been beaten in any engagement. The enemy, fractured though they may be, stinks on the battlefield.

We've overthrown a tyrant, put a democratically elected government in place, and are re-training an effective army. How exactly are we "losing?" Don't give me garbage about how "everyone knows it," but give me metrics. Are you saying we're losing simply because the enemy is able to cause casualties? If that is your argument, then thank God you weren't around during some of our more difficult fights, where we lost many more people, yet were ultimately victorious in the end, like:

- Bastogne
- Okinawa
- Meuse-Argonnes
- Cold Harbor
- Spotsylvania
- Churubusco
- The Burning of Washington DC
- Valley Forge
4.20.2007 8:54pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
It’s curious that the people reporting that we are losing the war are not the ones who are fighting it. The Democrats have a vested interest in losing. Imagine their political situation is we won! They would be devastated. If we do a Vietnam style exit they are validated.

One little thing should trouble them: North Viet Nam never attacked the US on its soil. Islamofascists did. I realize that to the Left, a pullback from the Middle East would have no other consequences that did our pullback from Vietnam: a few million brown skinned people killed.

But: there are going to be quite a few pissed off Iraqi veterans who are not going to sit still to be spat on by the local Leftist as they come home. There is quite a big, new and vocal support system for them which did not exist when our troops came home from
Vietnam. Second, the Left will have to deal with the Islamofascists that follow our retreat home.

I’m sure the NY Times will blame it all on George Bush. Will the American People whose sons and daughters came home from “lost” Iraq?

Think Germany after the Armistice.
4.20.2007 9:09pm
MLJohnson (mail):
Russ (7:54) Bless You. And keep you safe.
4.20.2007 9:31pm
BD (mail):
Russ:

Glad to see a few people around here get it.

Oh, and it's interesting how many people critical of Bush spend all their time talking about the past and none talking about the future. They seem to think "declaring defeat" and going home will have ZERO consequences.

And while they'll deny it, denounce it &otherwise go into hysterics about it, we've been down this road before.

Osama's central thesis is "his side" will win because it is the "strong horse," that the United States, for all its raw military power, we are weak of mind &spirit - all "his side" has to do to win is endure, because we'll eventually tire of the fight and quit.

Now, why did he think this?

I think we can take his invocation of Vietnam and Beirut as instructive:

* In Vietnam, Democrat majorities in Congress refused to support an aid package to the South Vietnamese government sought by a Republican President. That the United States had been instrumental in securing a peace agreement in Vietnam and had pledged its support to South Vietnam in the event the North violated the agreement was irrelevant to the Congress - it was content for us to lose.

* In Beirut, a Republican president withdrew American forces after 241 Marines were killed by a suicide bomber despite pledging that he would not do so (to the consternation of Democrat leadership in Congress, which was eager to abandon the mission).

From such events Osama came to conclude the United States would abandon the field without attaining victory if his forces could simply survive and continue to inflict casualties. He doesn't care if he lost 10 for every 1 of ours he kills - he's not fighting a conventional war where his forces meet ours directly on a battlefield.

Reid &his cohort are intent on proving Osama right. NOTHING good for our future comes from doing that.
4.20.2007 9:53pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Francis (at 7:32), re Reid being Prime Minister: Excellent.

NicholasV: Thanks for reminding us of the other dead-ender talking point -- it's the (for some reason traitorously dishonest) MEDIA'S fault! Yeah, them and the Dems! That's the ticket!
4.20.2007 10:01pm
NickM (mail) (www):
If we lost, who won?

No one on this thread has mentioned partition of Iraq (most prominently advanced by Sen. Biden), which is looking better every day as the desire of many Iraqis for ethnic/sectarian cleansing shows itself again and again). How do Reid's comments affect negotations toward a peaceful and orderly partition?

Nick
4.20.2007 10:09pm
deweber (mail):
Joseph Slater:

Sorry, but I fear neither response actually addresses the issue I hope to raise. Yes, people make judgments on many pieces of data. But one of them is definately their perception of their own and their opponents perception of the situation( hows that for over recursion). Just as many of the people in this country(but not all) would take heart as a declaration for the other side that they were losing. So, by the necessity of commonality of humanity, some on the other side take heart on hearing that some on our side think things are lost. The exercise was intended to get people to examine this from the other side and, hopefully, gain insight.

Nor does our not being at war with Iraq affect the analysis.

The intent was to get people to see that words do have consequences. Statesmen know this. Diplomats know this; why do you think they all use such indirect language. While our legislators are domestic in nature, if they wish to be taken seriously internationally, they need to understand, all the time, that what they say is seen by others. This does not disallow them from saying things. But do I not have the right to judge them for what they say? Is it not my Constitutional right as an American to judge the Reid and the party he represents is not competent to be trusted with international relations when one of its most senior members speaks so?
4.20.2007 10:43pm
deweber (mail):
Joseph Slater:

Sorry, but I fear neither response actually addresses the issue I hope to raise. Yes, people make judgments on many pieces of data. But one of them is definately their perception of their own and their opponents perception of the situation( hows that for over recursion). Just as many of the people in this country(but not all) would take heart as a declaration for the other side that they were losing. So, by the necessity of commonality of humanity, some on the other side take heart on hearing that some on our side think things are lost. The exercise was intended to get people to examine this from the other side and, hopefully, gain insight.

Nor does our not being at war with Iraq affect the analysis.

The intent was to get people to see that words do have consequences. Statesmen know this. Diplomats know this; why do you think they all use such indirect language. While our legislators are domestic in nature, if they wish to be taken seriously internationally, they need to understand, all the time, that what they say is seen by others. This does not disallow them from saying things. But do I not have the right to judge them for what they say? Is it not my Constitutional right as an American to judge the Reid and the party he represents is not competent to be trusted with international relations when one of its most senior members speaks so?
4.20.2007 10:44pm
RAH (mail):
Joseph Slater:
Bush did say this campaign would be long and would not be a fast effort. Actually Iraq is one front of the Jihadist War as one commenter said. Afghanistan is another. The decision to invade Irag was made based on a multitude of factors. Bush never made the arguement that Saddam was involved in 9/11. However Al Queda was supported and Zarquawi was in Iraq before 9/11 . Al Queda set up various organizations in many countries. The basis to invade Iraq was done on the 17 or more resolutions they failed to honor.

Try not to reinvent history.

As to WMD, Iraq had them. Biologicals had been documented used on the Kurds. Also some of these stocks have been found in Iraq. Never was it asserted that he had functional nuclear weapons. But all western intelligence indicated that he was working on them. The centrifuges were found underneath a rose garden of one of the Iraq nuclear scientists.

Also the Democrats have been crying that the cause is not worth it and that we have been losing for a long time. They have been esposing that issue so I think they will get stuck with it.
4.20.2007 10:51pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Deweber:

Words can matter, but reality matters more.

RAH:

I'm afraid it's you reinventing history.
4.20.2007 11:55pm
Mark Field (mail):
Those who condemn Harry Reid might want to stop the American public from talking to pollsters. Check out questions 18 and 19 here.
4.21.2007 12:01am
amused 3L (mail):

“As a matter of general principle, I believe there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government ... too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think that it will give some comfort to the enemy to know that there is such criticism. If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it as far as I am concerned, because the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy, and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur.”


– Sen. Robert Taft (R-OH) (“Mr. Republican”), Dec. 19, 1941
4.21.2007 12:11am
amused 3L (mail):
another fun quote:


"We do not lose our right to condemn either men or measures because the country is at war."



-Justice (and Civil War veteran) Oliver Wendell Holmes
4.21.2007 12:16am
David W. Hess (mail):
Fortuitously I just read "Remembering Vietnam" by H. J. Kaplan who was councilor to the American embassy in Saigon between 1965 and 1966. He basically discusses his own memories and "The Palace File" by Nguyen Tien Hung and Jerrold S. Schecter.

arthur:
. . . If insurgents are rational (but mistaken about Senator Reid's influence over U.S. policy), they may interpret the remarks as suggesting that the United States will be leaving Iraq soon, and will see that there is no need to launch risky or suicidal attacks against U.S. soldiers, in which case Reid's statement will save American lives. More likely, insurgent behavior will not be affected one way or the other.


Hanoi certainly recognized the political aspects of the war and when it became generally known that the U.S. was removing its forces, causing casualties became a priority just for the political effect. This actually fits well with Mao Tse-tung's writings: "The enemy advances, we retreat; The enemy camps, we harass; The enemy tires, we attack; The enemy retreats, we pursue."

Joel:
If President Bush had been in office in 1973, would he have prolonged the Vietnam War?


Nixon was crippled by political scandal making support of the Republic of Vietnam untenable despite already given assurances. The situation now with Gonzales and an executive that has not remained above reproach is uncannily similar.
4.21.2007 12:18am
LM (mail):
I mostly agree with Henri LeCompte’s earlier comments. I’ll repeat them here rather than struggle to duplicate his eloquence:

"Unfortunately, I suspect that the Democrats have decided that the only thing important about the Iraq conflict is its domestic political value. They are being stunningly short-sighted, and I can't help but believe that their personal animus toward the President has blinded them.

There is an absolutism afoot in Washington that is most troubling, and terribly unwise. The "other side" can no longer be "partially right," or "wrong, but with some good ideas." They must be completely, entirely, absolutely wrong, worse than useless, and stopped at all costs. There is no longer a need to collaborate with the "other side," just destroy them.

All this harsh rhetoric, and unyielding attitude is endangering us all. Our leaders are not acting like the wise men of our society. They are acting like high school adolescents who are focused on their own silly, primping self-interest.

I'm afraid that this is what it must have felt like in the waning days of Rome."

I see the Democrats’ myopia as the understandable byproduct of years of frustration that their more tempered criticisms, many of which have been borne out by subsequent events, elicited mostly attacks on their bravery and patriotism. That doesn’t excuse their now resorting to language that may be harmful to our national interest, yet seems unnecessary to conveying the substance and purpose of their remarks.

However one sees the political conflict behind such rhetoric, the animus is clearly bi-directional. With each side now routinely painting the other as somewhere between dangerously ignorant and irredeemably evil, there are no good outcomes if the partisan voices are to be believed. If either side is right, then the other half of the population, derived purely by the coincidence of political affiliation, has driven us by stupidity or malice to the brink of annihilation. If both sides are right, we’re doubly doomed. And if neither side is right, then we all hate each other for no good reason but hate itself.
4.21.2007 12:43am
Eli Rabett (www):
Anyone want to claim that the US is winning? and oh, by the way, if you do, please define winning.

Volokh set a trap that everyone fell for. He first has to show that the Us is winning or has a conceinvable chance to do so, defining what winning is/would be before he can even get to misquoting Sen. Reid's statement.
4.21.2007 1:01am
peter jackson (mail) (www):


"The benefits? Maybe our soldiers can come home that much sooner. Maybe fewer of them will die.


You're not thinking about the future. What about the soldiers ten years from now, when my children—and perhaps your children—will be of military age? What about those inevitable soldiers?

To put it in TeeVee baby terms: we're not currently fighting "The Iraq War," we're fighting "Iraq—The Sequel." Looming in the wake of this fact is the question of how many wars are we prepared to fight in Iraq before it finally occurs to us that we're going to have to stick one out until the end, even it means that we go into triple-dipple overtime before we rejoin our regularly scheduled programing already in progress?

The very strong will, in every case, overcome the very weak given time. Our jihadist enemies understand this unequivocally, and cling to their prayers of our quitting as tightly as they cling to the bosom of the Prophet. but in spite of our history in modern warfare only a portion of us seem to understand:

World War I: Germany "loses" without the first foreign boot touching her soil. A single generation later Germany initiates the biggest catastrophe ever endured in the history of civilzation.

World War II: In an astounding effort on two fronts, the US fights until both the European and Asian enemy capitulates totally, at which point we spend years and billions of dollars rehabilitating their societies under peaceful governments. The vanquished now stand as two of the most peaceful and prosperous nations in the world, posing a danger to absolutely no one.

Korea: our first UN war. We succumb to the previous failed strategy of Euro-war, where the goal is not the destruction of the enemy but rather to coerce the enemy to do our bidding. The nuclear-armed North Korean famine state of today is the result of our tens-of-thousands-dead efforts.

Vietnam: another UN war. Instead of having the goal of vanquishing the Northern regime, we instead fight to convince them to stop trying to take over the South, just like Korea. We "succeed." South Vietnam grows capable of defending themselves from the northern regime and US forces leave, only to have Congress halt all support of the South a couple of years later. The North eventually over-runs them. Millions eventually die throughout the region as a result.

Desert Storm 1990-91. We've now begun naming our wars like feature films. After killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers with a massive months long air assault, President George Herbert Walker Bush gains the participation of a huge contingent of troops from neighboring nations by promising to stop the war short of removing the Hussein regime. After over a decade of Iraqi intrasingience, belligerence and miscalculation the war against Hussein is resumed in 2003.

If you look closely, you'll notice a pattern here.

In spite of the gross inarticulateness of Bush and his administration, he has managed to repeatedly and publically define the end of America's military commitment in Iraq as the point where the Iraqi government—a legitimately elected, completely viable government—can defend itself from those intent on violently destroying it. Just like we did in Japan. Just like we did in Germany.

If Reid had instead come out and said "The United States will never leave Iraq. Ever. We will remain in Iraq for long after the enemies of peace and freedom are dead and forgotten, just as we did in World War II. You might as well choose the real estate for Disneyworld of Arabia, because America will be in Iraq forever," the war would be over tomorrow.

yours/
peter.
4.21.2007 1:59am
MDC (mail):
I've often seen such an amazing lack of critical thinking skills, but rarely here...

... I had a rambling diatribe, but I'll just answer Eli Rabbett's question.

Sure, Eli, I'll claim that we are winning. What is winning? It's been expressly stated any number of times and not really that big of a mystery: Iraq under democratic rule with sufficient stability and ability to maintain same.

Have we WON yet? No, but I don't think anybody is saying we have. If we have a continuum running from Saddam Hussein to those victory conditions, are we closer than we were before? Definitely. Does the situation improve in a net manner (be that three steps forward for two back or ten steps forward for nine back)? Yes. I could post the dictionary definition of "winning," but I think we can all see where this is going.

Personally, I've been over there three times and am preparing to go for a fourth. I work directly with Iraqis in implementing local and provincial governance and with Iraqi security. Things ebb and flow, some times are better than others, work is destroyed, money is spent, Iraqis and Americans die. Okay. Here's a good example: in Ramadi last year I was waiting for a helicopter ride and got to talking to a reporter who asked me if things weren't going really poorly as there were all sorts of problems going on. I asked him how many police stations were open and staffed in Ramadi now and how many were running last year. He had no idea, so I told him (4 and 0, respectively, at that point). I asked him how many Iraqi battalions were operating independatnly in Ramadi now and a year ago. He had no idea, so I told him (2 and 0, respectively, at that point). I asked him who controlled the city hospital a now and year ago. This one he got right (us and them, respectively). Do you see where I'm going with this? Bad news can be reported all day... we were still getting hit with IEDs, people were still dying... but without the larger context, the APPEARANCE of losing is easy to focus on, and given the way the media works (not crying slant here, just recognizing what makes it above the fold), appearance often becomes reality.

I don't know anybody's views on AGW, but this thought occured to me today: how come daily weather shouldn't be interpreted as world climate (in that April snows south of the Mason-Dixon line don't falsify claims of GW), but local casualties are interpreted as representing Iraq-wide failure? Two different things, I know, but it might be healthy for people to try to look for at least as much context in one as the other.
4.21.2007 2:01am
Maximillian:
The Copperhead's Creed:
-"Resolved, that this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretence of military necessity, or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the States or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of the federal Union of the States."-- 1864 Democratic platform
Linoln was an incompetent boob who trampled the Constitution in order to further his imperialist dreams.
4.21.2007 2:21am
carol (mail):
We haven't lost. This is going to be a long war. It is working both in the fact that even some of the sunnis and shiites are finally getting that Iran and Al-qaida are not their friends. It is working because the passive countries, i.e. sweden and france, the netherlands and yes I still have hope for england and even australia are realizing the muslim menace is there and are awakening to the danger (though it is taking some time). It is working because we must win. Harry Reid is a low down dirty lying through his teeth scumbag. He is a loser because he believes in being a loser. But if the country and the world do not wake up to the danger of Jihad, then we are all dead and the world will not be a tolerable place to live. We have been fighting these Jihad scumbags for centuries. It is time for us to really get ugly. I hate to tell you folks, but this is just beginning. The end is a long, long long way from now. Your Grandchildren will be fighting these militants if we don't get it done now. Iraq is not the only place this war is taking place. Either get the right mindset or lose your head. Simple as that.
4.21.2007 2:30am
Visitor Again:
Hey, we lost the war, we lost thousands of American lives, we lost international respect and good will, we lost fiscal health and stability. Defining victory in Bush's own terms--a stable, democratic Iraq--it's been plain for a long time that this war is going nowhere. Thank God we have elected office holders blunt enough to stand up and say enough, we've lost that war.

The logic of Volokh's position is that all must blindly follow Bush wherever he wants to lead us--because any lessening of support for the war could be said to hurt our morale and help the enemy's morale. In fact, since Volokh has opened up the morale-measuring business, I'm sure enemy morale got a much bigger boost from recent public opinion polls and Congressional resolutions than from anything Reid has to say.

Volokh wasn't around for the Viet Nam mess, of course. Had he been, he might have learned the costs of staying in a war for years and years merely to avoid the appearance that we lost it. Many of the 57,000 or so names on that memorial wall in Washington, D.C. are evidence of one of those costs. Many of those lives were lost during the years we purportedly waited for the emergence of a South Viet Nam capable of taking on the fight itself. It never emerged--and it never would have. What we're staying in Iraq for is just as elusive.
4.21.2007 2:37am
Reid States the Obvious - Harm?:
The harm of not saying it would be infinitely more substantial than stating the obvious.
4.21.2007 4:23am
Bill R:
There's no question, we won the war (if there are any doubts about that, the cell phone videos of Saddam hanging at the end of a rope, the morgue pictures of his sons, Baghdad Bob's absurd appearances, and videos of purple fingers surely eliminate those doubts). Hence, Senator Reid's statement perplexes me.

OTOH, how successful we are in our roles as occupiers trying to urge a nation not used to a democratic process to adopt one is a bigger question. All we owe Iraq is to HELP them achieve a democratic form of government IF THEY WANT IT and ARE WILLING TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ACHIEVING IT. If they don't care that much, we owe nothing and can leave today. IMHO, Bush has done a very poor job of communicating this because he's unwilling to truly stand tall and take unpopular positions (such as suggesting that people, including Iraqi residents, should be expected to take personal responsibility). If Senator Reid meant to refer to THIS aspect, he should have said it. After all, if we left Iraq this afternoon we still won the war (not something to be very impressed by given the asymmetric force, but nothing to be ashamed by either).

Somewhat off topic, but in the early days of the war (i.e., before victory) Bush set some VERY bad precedents. One that I vividly recall nearly screaming at as I watched it on CNN was "going around" an insurgent stronghold (IIRC, it was Fallujah) on our way to Baghdad. I felt (and still do) that we should have changed plans (after all, about the only thing in war that you know WON'T happen is whatever you planned for) and spent the necessary time (three weeks?) aggressively occupying Fallujah, if necessary removing EVERYBODY from the city (providing tents/food etc) and declaring that anything that moved after we emptied it would, quite simply, be assumed to be a combatant and terminated w/o fanfare. Than, as residents were screened, they could have been returned to the city and we would have left enough military assets (it wasn't like we needed them for Baghdad) to make sure that NOTHING came in or out of the city w/o our approval. A stand taken decisively and early is worth 100 similar stands taken later. This would have sent a clear message that we would not tolerate insurgency and that the cost was elimination. We continue to pay the price for failure as occupiers before we set foot in Baghdad.
4.21.2007 5:30am
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
The point isn't to decrease violence but to strenghten the Iraqis enough so that they can handle it. The Iraqis aren't leaving soon, and that solves the problem.

So increasing violence isn't a marker for losing the war. It could just as well be positive.

The strategy is to leave no place on earth where terrorism can organize to a large enough size to work serious damage, without being hunted down, betrayed and kept on the run.

An organization small enough to escape detection can't work serious damage ; a larger one exposes itself to hostile government action and is destroyed before it gets anywhere.

The Iraqis are our hunters and destroyers in Iraq.

And of course they get something for it too.
4.21.2007 7:12am
markm (mail):
Reid's speech assured the insurgents that if they can just hang on a little longer and keep killing people (not necessarily our troops, Iraqi civilians seem to do just as well for the purpose of media reports), they'll win - not on the battlefield, but in the American Congress. This is far more important than the insurgents view "from on the ground" - because what's been happening on the ground is a lopsided American victory every time they come face to face with our combat troops. That they keep fighting at all is because they believe their leaders' claim that they can wear us down until we give in. Reid just supported that claim. He gave the enemy a reason to keep fighting, disheartened the Iraqis that are on our side, probably caused the deaths of many more Iraqi civilians and a few more American troops, and increased the chances that we will "lose".

That said, this isn't treason, or anything that is or should be illegal. The job of a Congressman includes exporessing honest disagreement with the administration on public policy matters. I just think that expressing disagreement as Reid did was most unwise, and hope that the Democrats will eventually suffer electorally suffer for promoting such people to where they may be taken as speaking for the country rather than one small left-leaning district.
4.21.2007 12:22pm
Russ (mail):
No one, so far, has given me any metrics indicating we're losing besides "the enemy is inflicting casualties."

Here are the metrics to winning:

- Saddam gone...check
- Mass genocide of Shi'ites and Kurds stopped...check
- Democratically elected government in place...check
- Stable...still working
- Able to defend itself...still working(MiTT teams are there, success is still limited)
- Peaceful transition of democratically elected government...unknown for now

As I said before, you can't state winning or losing based solely on the fact the enemy can still do what folks have done throughout the history of war - inflict casualties.

Additionally, Reid's words do have a practical effect on how the Iraqi people respond to us. You might not like that, but it's the truth.

Finally, I like how some bring up that folks want to crush dissent. Untrue. But let's remember that when Senator Robert Taft was talking about dissent, I think he was talking more about tactics than giving in to Hitler and Hirohito.

I would honestly like to hear cogent thoughts on what to do now, beyond "LET"S PULL OUT IMMEDIATELY!"
4.21.2007 12:44pm
T Dean (mail):
As a Viet Nam veteran and long time member of the U.S. military, it is clear to me that the leftists in our nation are engineering yet another unnecessary defeat of our nation by media manipulation of public perception and political erosion. The left either does not understand or does not care that - should they have their way - it will not be Bush who they forced a loss in Iraq upon, it will be America.

The ramifications are profound should the the left be allowed to declare, and drive to fruition, an artificial defeat and disasterously premature exit from Iraq. First, Iraq will probably turn into a chaotic killing ground from which can only emerge a demented, dangerous, Islamist regime. A regime whose power would be increased rapidly, and algebraically, by oil revenues. Think Al Sadr or Zarqawi with more money than they know what to do with. They will make the Taliban look like a Sunday school group. Yet will the left stand up and take responsibility for the all-too predictable outcome? No. They have managed to persuade the gullible amongst us that they somehow managed to both force the U.S. out of Viet Nam, but were not responsible for the post-war disaster in that country - so the ignorant sheep will believe such about Iraq as well.

Once we begin to exit Iraq, there will begin a legitimate debate as to whether the U.S. is, or will ever be, capable of executing a successful military/diplomatic campaign. We will have clearly demonstrated a ingrained national trait of cowardice for difficult conflicts - essentially anything beyond a video-game length, bloodless (as seen on TV) 'conflict'. In that sense we will have become European. Real war, with all its ugly, bloody, uncertainties, will be effectively impossible for the U.S. to contemplate. The left will achieve one of its greatest goals: the gutting of America's power with respect to maintaining a credible threat of sustained military action. Our enemies and allies will know this to our enemies benefit and allies detriment. We will have proved true Osama Bin Ladin's assertion that America is, in as far as really matters, a paper tiger.
4.21.2007 2:13pm
Michael B (mail):
The many rhetorical uses of the omniscient voice ...
4.21.2007 3:19pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Amused 3L:

Great quote, which should have been the final word.
4.21.2007 4:48pm
Russ (mail):
JosephSlater,

Yeah, you're right - a quote about the importance of dissent should have been the last word to shut down debate.

You have yet to refute the point substantially. You simply seem to believe that b/c the words are criticized, that's shutting down debate. You've totally ignored both the substance and the ramifications. But at least you feel better about yourself.
4.21.2007 4:57pm
Michael B (mail):
"I hate to be accused of invoking Godwin's law, but ..." J. F. Thomas

Godwin's Law: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." The Great Wiki also reminds us: "It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued, that overuse of the Nazi/Hitler comparison should be avoided, as it robs the valid comparisons of their impact."

During the Weimar Republic – Germany's perpetually nascent, deeply troubled democracy, formed in the wake of the Treaty of Versailles – there were deeply divided polities, Constitutional crises, emergency decrees, massive unemployment and economic crises, civil unrest including Nazi Party initiated street protests and violence (e.g., via the SA), other institutional crises such as in the executive, VDS (Versailles Derangement Syndrome), ideas published across a wide range theorizing democracy was unworkable (e.g., Schmitt), etc.

So in the midst of Weimar's trials and crises the defeatists and the forces of dissolution won, Germany caved under all the pressure, also under Hitler's and the SA's machinations, and from '33 to '45 - certainly a memorable, historic period - representative govt. was put on hold.

Analogies are only analogies, not at all exact parallels, but sufficiently apt analogies should be given their proportionate due, their due measure.

Sen. Reid, in this instance at least, is a vapidist of the first order. It would be one thing if Reid had responsibly and conscientiously delineated the reasons why his defeatism needs to be accepted, to mount and work through a sound explication of why we need to accept Reid's pontifical announcement, also giving an account of the likely ramifications of accepting defeat and withdrawal. But Reid abjures such a responsibility and that is telling. Very likely it's telling of highly partisan motives, but regardless of the underlying motives it is certainly telling of a profound lack of responsibility and accountability. (Reminiscent, btw, of at least some strains of partisan incompetence and irresponsible representation late in the Weimar era.)
4.21.2007 5:01pm
LM (mail):
Joseph Slater:

Which one? I see two.
4.21.2007 5:07pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Bush loses a war, and Harry Reid is at fault for stating the obvious?
4.21.2007 5:54pm
M:
I can't stand this absurd argument any more. I expect this type of reasoning from representatives of the administration who have an interest in protecting themselves from criticism, but to see this facile argument perpetuated here makes no sense at all. If you believe that Reid's statements are weakening the war effort then you will also have to lay the blame on most people in this country and the world.

People in this country and in the Middle East who have access to any objective information about this war do not need Reid's comments to understand what they can see with their own eyes: this war is a tragedy.

Instead we are told that the press is losing the war because they are not effective propagandists. And average Americanss are losing the war because they are not turning a blind eye to our president's arrogance and incompetence.

The administration is peddling a self-serving ideology, asserting that they cannot be effective unless they have our unquestioning support. But in a democracy our leaders must earn our support and be held accountable for their failures. A democracy relies upon a well informed electorate that is ready to withdraw support for leaders who betray the public's trust and squander our resources. A theory of political legitimacy that requires loyalty in the face of all evidence of failure is something else entirely.

The next time you want to parrot the administration's line that those who speak the truth do more damage than those who created the tragic reality we now face, be equipped with a few facts to support your claim.
4.21.2007 6:03pm
Henri Le Compte (mail):
M:
There is more involved in losing in Iraq than simply packing up and coming home. There is also the problem of what comes after. Why do we never hear the Left expending one erg of mental power anticipating the consequences of their preferred policies?

Hmmm.... I wonder.
4.21.2007 6:56pm
Michael B (mail):
Sound critiques, sound criticisms, which take the broader strategic significance into account, should be encouraged and further explored, not discouraged (e.g., The Myth of the Invincible Terrorist), but that is not what Reid has done. Hence - oh my! - Reid's pontifically intoned defeatism, additionally used by Arab media, is being criticized. Hence - all the self-referential arguments, the tautologies and blandly repeated insistencies, used to support Reid - in lieu of substantial critiques which can be held accountable in their own right.
4.21.2007 6:56pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Russ:

The "debate" raised by EV's initial post is about whether it's appropriate to question the conduct or criticze the course of a war. Bemused 3L's quote -- it's the Taft quote, by the way, LM -- is an eloquent explanation of why that is appropriate, and why it's appropriate even when one side claims criticizing the war gives comfort to the enemy (although again, I don't grant that Reid's statement will have any particular effect on the civil war in Iraq).

I see how you might be confused, as much of this thread has, predictably, devolved into a debate over whether we are actually losing or not. But that's not the issue I was referring to. If you had read and thought about the Taft quote, you should have noticed that.
4.21.2007 7:01pm
LM (mail):
M:

I don't see where Eugene said that "those who speak the truth do more damage than those who created the tragic reality we now face." On the contrary, while exressing the opinion that Reid's statement would exact serious costs, he allowed that the benefit conferred by criticism such as Reid's may well outweigh those costs.

I'm not convinced that what Reid said will hurt morale, but ranting at straw men sheds no light on a thorny issue.
4.21.2007 7:05pm
Russ (mail):
M,

Great argument - exactly zero metric measurements; just slamming of people on the other side of the debate. Your entire argument can be summed up as "Everyone who believes in the war is a Bush Administration shill."

JosephSlater,

I understood the point, but still thought it quite amusing that you would use a quote about the value of debate as a way of saying that should have ended the thread. Did I totally lose you in the irony?

Finally, this is the biggest problem with any kind of thread on Iraq - it turns into a red vs blue argument, and both sides end up quite shrill in the end.
4.21.2007 7:27pm
Michael B (mail):
4.21.2007 7:31pm
Anonymous Reader:
Can someone please tell me when Sen Reid was last in Iraq? When was his last "fact finding" mission to see for himself the conditions on the ground in Iraq? It seems to me to be pretty easy to armchair quarterback from the states based on partial info from the media.

Also, has he even spoken to any servicemembers who have served or are currently serving over there? What is he basing his decision off of?

Anonymous Reader
4.21.2007 8:37pm
A Naval Officer:
These comments are not just harmful, they are simply devastating to morale. It is no secret amongst the enlisted men and women who serve proudly that much of the general public has lost the will to win the war on terror. Despite the public misgivings, confidence in the ability to win amongst the troops is still high. As officers, we emphasize the positives of the war on terror and in Iraq -- no major terrorist attacks on American soil in over five years, the truly changing tide in Iraq and Afghanistan, the nobility of the cause, etc.

It is easy enough to dismiss the rantings of the most visible critics of the war. But to see Reid, not a fringe politician like Kucinich, nor a transparent opportunist like Kerry, but a major player in the majority party, concede the war is simply devastating. And unacceptable.

To the serviceman, there is no such thing as supporting the troops by opposing the war, and certainly not by conceding defeat.
4.21.2007 9:06pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
We start the thread with
And we have lost. Thousands of people are dieing every day. A day after the VT shootings, 170 civilians were killed in Iraq. We need to leave Iraq. Any statement the increases the chances of that happening is a good thing.
from someonw who can't decide if 170 or thousands is higher. And, of course, with no substantiation for the "thousands" killed every day.

But let's just assume for a minute that he is right - a minimum of 2,000 dying every day. That would be approximately 2/3 of a million a year. And in four years, almost three million, out of a population of, what, somewhere around 20 million. If true, that is a lot of people dying. I would expect at a minimum to see mass graves being dug daily to handle the numbers.

But, of course, thousands aren't dying every day. The 170 was notable because it was so high. And, esp. after the initial successes of the "surge" when civilian casualties dropped significantly, it was notable. But also notable not because there are more explosions, because there aren't. There are significantly fewer than even a year ago. But rather, because they are increasingly deadly.

In any case, this was about the extent of the argument that we have lost already in Iraq. That thousands are dying every day, which is, of course, ridiculous. Or that one day, 170 died.

It is accepted wisdom by a distinct majority on this thread that we have lost already. But that accepted wisdom was trotted out almost without any facts to back it up. And, when facts are trotted out, they are almost invariably taken out of or absent context. Besides, why should 170 people, almost all civilians, dying in one day indicate that we have lost? Or, indeed, that we are even losing?
4.21.2007 10:29pm
Anonymous Army mom:
Thank you Navy Officer.

I really can't understand why so many people such as the democratic members of congress are thirsting for another Pol Pot, and millions killed.

Also I don't see why the constant need to equate this struggle with past wars like WWII as seen on some prior posts. This is a new age of warfare and as much as it is distasteful and unwelcome, wishing it away and trying to blame its existence on Bush or some imagined sin is infantile. It is also very narcissitic and self absorbed. I know it is hard to believe but sometimes belief systems develop in other parts of the world independently of what some western government does or doesn't do. The threat has been wished away for decades and it's time to face reality.

It's a very tiny percentage of Americans who make up the military, their families, and certainly those who are actually engaged in combat. Apparently, it is too much to ask of our fellow citizens to recognize that whining about the real world doesn't make it go away.

Never has so many who have been asked to do so little complained so much about the few who actually are heroically combating evil.

And Al Queda in Iraq (and the ideology that propels it) is evil and perpetuating a horrendous murder upon the people of Iraq (and many other places). Abandoning these Iraqi civilians and our Iraqi allies is cowardice. And it should never been expected of our military to do such a terrible thing.

Some constructive criticism and evaluation of strategy and tactics is one thing, but that isn't happening from the dems in congress. That is their greatest failure besides their desire to abandon the civilians, and allow a tremendous murder.

This isn't Germany or Japan. This is something different that requires different thinking. As the Iraqi Army continues to take control of the provinces, the need for American troops will be less with time. So sorry fellow citizens that it isn't happening fast enough for you but the solution to the situation is not quitting.

Most people in this country don't even know someone in the military even less someone who has been in combat. So it's not surprising they don't know what they don't know. It would have been helpful for the military to have at least some democratic leadership in the congress that had some respect, and at least a few more citizens with the fortitude to see this through. Because this threat is not going away because you wish it would.
4.21.2007 11:33pm
LM (mail):
Anonymous Army mom,

As someone who believes the Iraq mission under General Petraeus should be given time to turn things around, I sympathize with your frustration. Still, I'd encourage you to consider some "What ifs."

What if you honestly believed that more innocents would be slaughtered if we stayed in Iraq than if we left? Wouldn't you consider it your duty to say so, loudly and repeatedly, irrespective of those who disagreed?

What if those who believed that staying in Iraq will cost more lives than leaving will, were actually right? However unlikely that may seem, it is possible. In that case, wouldn't we be wrong for dismissing their predictions out of hand, just as we know they should take ours more seriously? Since we can’t be certain they’re wrong, shouldn’t we admit as much?

What if we credited our political opponents with the same good faith for their opinions as we deserve for ours? Wouldn't we talk about them and their views more respectfully, just as we know they should about us and ours? And if we talked about an honest disagreement reflective of the vitality of our democracy instead of cowardice and narcissism, wouldn't that positively affect how the critics and their views were perceived by the troops? In fact, if our only objective was to lift military morale, shouldn't we characterize the opposition positively even if we doubted their bona fides?

You needn't point out what the Democrats should also be doing to ennoble the debate and lift morale. I agree with you, and those are the arguments I‘m usually making. My point here is just that inasmuch as the future is not in fact certain, there's as little evidence of the appropriate humility in our pronouncements as in theirs. This makes us as culpable as they are for the lack of any serious collaborative effort to find the best result. We also play a vital role in the toxic discourse that encourages troops to believe that one half of the country is good, but the other half neither appreciates nor deserves their sacrifice.

Their defects are just no excuse for our own. So until we're ready to lead by example, we'll deserve no more than they do to lead at all.

My thanks and prayers for your family.
4.22.2007 3:09am
Public_Defender (mail):
The debate comes down to whether you think Bush has already lost the war. If Bush has already lost the war, then there is no use in sending even more good people to die. In that case, Sen. Reid's statements will protect American soldiers, Marines and sailors from dying needlessly.

If Bush has not lost the war, then we should do what we can to prevent the catastrophe that a loss would bring (and Sen. Reid made things worse).

I'm in the first camp. For many of the reasons the anti-Reid people have explained, Bush's loss in Iraq is catastrophic. Bush has turned a stable totalitarian state into dangerous anarchy. But I just don't believe him about this "surge." When this fails, what will he ask us to support next?
4.22.2007 6:50am
Public_Defender (mail):
LM, that was perhaps the most thoughtful comment I have seen on the "surge" debate. Thanks.

I agree that withdrawing from Iraq would have catastrophic consequences, I just don't see a less bad plan.
4.22.2007 8:58am
JosephSlater (mail):
Russ:

I'll grant that you have a point about irony if you grant that it's unlikely that when I say (or anybody else says) "this quote should have ended the debate" they really, literally mean that nobody else should debate the point anymore.
4.22.2007 12:38pm
Randy R. (mail):
To all those who say that we are winning in Iraq:

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI): Mr. Gates, do you believe that we are currently winning in Iraq?
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: No, sir.
(Armed Services Committee Hearing, 12/4/07)


To all those who say that the Democrats are saying we are losing just to help themselves, then which side is Gates on?

According to all of you, then Gates doesn't know anything about this war. In that case, you should be howling for his removal. Also, according to all of you, he is merely helping the Democrats in a political battle. Again, where is your outrage?
4.22.2007 4:29pm
Public_Defender (mail):
To Anonymous Army mom, Bruce Hayden, A Naval Officer, and others who say Reid was wrong to say the war was lost, what should a responsible opposition politician say when a war really is a lost cause?

Is an opposition politician morally required to vote to send more American soldiers, Marines and sailors to be killed and maimed in a cause he believes is lost? That sounds immoral to me.

Also, if (when) the surge fails, what will you argue we must do next? At what point would you say that the war really is lost?

Your arguments make war critics like me even less inclined to support Bush's "surge." I was one of the people who gave Bush the benefit of the doubt at the beginning because I realized that Saddam was a brutal thug who ran a brutal totalitarian state. But Saddam was a contained brutal thug, and Iraq was a stable totalitarian state. Now Iraq is a terrorist cess pool and life is even worse for ordinary Iraqis.

Your case for the "surge" is little more than emotion (an appeal to the natural desire not to lose) and partisan scorn. Your ad hominem attacks are either dishonest or careless. Do you really think Harry Reid and those of us who support his remarks want Iraq to descend further into chaos?

While I think many war supporters honestly want to avoid the chaos of defeat, I give Bush much less credit. He doesn't enjoy killing Iraqi children as some in the Arab world have suggested, but it looks like he is just trying to 1) delay the inevitable withdrawal and chaos to someone else's watch and 2) blame his loss on the people who dared point out that he has, in fact lost. Bush is clearly a coward. I haven't figured out whether he's delusional, a liar, or both.
4.22.2007 5:23pm
Michael B (mail):
12/4/06, during Gates' confirmation hearings. Firstly, Gates didn't suggest, a la Reid, anything about "defeat." Too, Gates' followup comments and clarification follows, emphases added:

"... I certainly stand by my statement this morning that I agreed with General Pace that we are not winning but we are not losing.

"But I want to make clear that that pertains to the situation in Iraq as a whole. Our military forces win the battles that they fight; our soldiers have done an incredible job in Iraq. And I'm not aware of a single battle that they have lost."

[...]

"My greatest worry, if we mishandle the next year or two and if we leave Iraq in chaos, is that a variety of regional powers will become involved in Iraq, and we will have a regional conflict on our hands."

What does Gates begin to forward here? Well, to begin with, cogency and accountability.

Likewise, it isn't about failing to respect someone's opinions, qua opinion, or beliefs, qua belief. Though in part it is about those who falsely represent insubstantial and poorly supported opinion and belief as responsible, cogent argument, within which accountability also inheres.

Mohammed at Iraq The Model: End the war: Right message sent to the wrong address, excerpt:

"What did the last wave of terror attacks and the many crimes committed against our people all this time reveal?

"If we look at how the media handles the situation we'll find something like this almost everywhere:
Dozens killed, scores wounded in attacks suggest failure of security measures ...
"It's as if the speaker here wants to only emphasize the defect in security measures in a way that honestly angers and disgusts me. When shall they realize, if ever, that we are dealing with brutal crimes against humanity, a genocide against the people of Iraq? Why don't people talk about the cruelty of the crimes and expose the obvious goals of the terrorists behind the crimes?"

Genocide? Brutal crimes? Never again?!?

Priorities. And BDS is always and ever vying for top-of-the-list. Too, as with Rwanda (a former Belgian/European colony), perhaps a movie can be made, allowing our ethical/moral angst to be combined with our aesthetic sensibilities - and prerequisites. Or, as with S.E. Asia, publish volume upon volume of revisionist history, documentary film, more Hollywood productions, etc. Priorities.

It isn't respect for opinion and belief as such that's lacking, what is lacking from the pro-Reid factions is cogency and accountability of argument within the various relevant contexts (short term, longer term, within Iraq per se, regionally in the M.E., the WoI, the War on Islamofascism, etc).
4.22.2007 5:33pm
Anonymous Reader:
Public_Defender,

Well, when was the last time Reid went to Iraq and actually got the ground truth? When did he speak to Petraeus and ask him how things were going?

If you or anyone else can answer those questions, then your argument will have weight.

Randy R.,

I wonder what Mr Gates would say now? I mean, at the time of his confirmation hearings, what type of access to information did he have? Did he ever talk to Petraeus to discuss our past strategy and our future strategies?

Anonymous Reader
4.22.2007 5:38pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Anonymous reader,

Have you been to Iraq? Have you spoken with Petraeus? and what would Reid learn from selective and military guided tour of Iraq that he can't in the US? He may very well have been in Iraq, but I think it's a pretty stupid argument to say that you can't comment intelligently on a war without visiting the front line. That certainly didn't help stroll-through-the-market McCain.

To Anonymous Army mom, Bruce Hayden, A Naval Officer, and Anonymous reader, why is it OK for the Bush administration to argue that Democrats support defeat but some major trangression for Democrats to say that we're already there?

In lawyer speak, Bush opened the door for Reid's comment.
4.22.2007 6:11pm
Jacobus:
monkeyrunner43:

One little thing should trouble them: North Viet Nam never attacked the US on its soil. Islamofascists did.

Come on; the post-dated "September 11th attack" justification for the Iraq war has even been discarded by the Bushies. If retribution for that attack and the "end of Islamofacism" were REALLY our main concerns, why wouldn't we go after Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Iran instead? While Saddam was a madman and a shithead, he was a relatively secular ruler, definitely less hard-line religious than some of the people who are in charge there now.

A Naval Officer:

we emphasize the positives of the war on terror and in Iraq -- no major terrorist attacks on American soil in over five years

The Spanish and British love it when we bring this up.

Anonymous Army Mom:

Most people in this country don't even know someone in the military even less someone who has been in combat.

With 26.4 million veterans and about 2.7 million active and reserve duty members, I don't know how this could possibly be true. I assume you mean "someone in the military/in combat currently."

Even though: I'm not sure what you want us to do? Just have faith? What about people who, with eyes wide open, opposed this war from the start? I knew what Saddam was. I still didn't want American soldiers over there to begin with. It breaks my heart every time I hear about more Americans dead.

Obviously, I don't have a direct line to someone on the ground in Iraq (as you do) to tell me about the small victories. To the extent that those are happening, I am heartened.

However, the facts remain: a country that did not have suicide bombers now has suicide bombers, there are packs of gunmen roming the streets killing religious minorities, and the "government" that was established just lost MAJOR support from a very influential Muslim cleric. I don't care HOW slanted the news is; the fact that these things happened is enough for me to demand an end to our occupational involvement in Iraq.

Oy, this is long. Point is, I didn't need to know somebody at Virginia Tech to know that the situation there was not what it should have been, and I don't need to know somebody in Iraq either. The situation there is bad; there needs to be (at least) a change in strategy.
4.22.2007 6:25pm
Anonymous Reader:
Well, Public_Defender, yes. I have been to Iraq AND Afghanistan. But that alone doesn't make me an expert on our overall strategy. But then again, I'm not a high profile public official. I don't have the chance or opportunity to request an audience with high ranking officials, but Sen Reid does!

As for Sen Mccain's stroll through Baghdad, can you name one celebrity who doesn't have an entourage? ESPECIALLY in a place where they would like nothing better than to kill a high ranking public official? Hell, congressmen have body guards here in the states!! What does THAT tell you about the level of violence here in the states?

Anonymous Reader
4.22.2007 9:59pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Anonymous_Reader,
Have you been to Iraq since the surge started? I mean, how can I trust your assessment of the surge unless you have seen it in action? And of course, I would only trust the opinion of someone who has been throughout the theater in the last month. How could I trust the opinion of someone who only has seen some of the country?

Sarcasm aside, my point is that it's just silly to argue that politicians must do a military-escorted junket to Iraq and then consult with a specified military leader (who they very well might have spoken with anyway) before forming an opinion. You can always add something that your want your opponent to do before commenting. And so you know for certain that Reid hasn't done an Iraq junket? Or are you just speculating?

As to Reid consulting top Pentagon brass, you are right, he does have that ability. But Congress has held hearings, they have access to briefings, and Sen. Reid recently met personally with the Commander in Chief to discuss Iraq. What gives you the impression that he hasn't consulted military officials (other than your disagreement with his policy)? What information could Gen. Petraeus have given Reid that Bush could not have?

As to McCain, my point was that he came back and said it was safe to stroll the market because he could do so with a heavily armed entourage. That tells me (and pretty much the rest of the world) that going to Iraq doesn't necessarily increase your ability to offer thoughtful assessments.

And, despite our disagreements, if you were in Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of the military, thank you for your service.
4.23.2007 6:16am
Randy R. (mail):
People keep complaining about "the Left" wanting to leave this war. But about 70% of all Americans want to leave this war. Are you claiming that American is filled with Leftists and Defeatists, who only want to destroy Bush, and help the Democrats?

Get real. The majority of Americans want to leave this war before it gets any worse.

Remember -- several years ago we were told by Bush that we can't leave this war or else they will decend into civil war. So we stayed, and we got a civil war. Can any of you defenders of this war claim that Bush &Co. have persecuted this war anything other than imcompetent? We were all told that the reasons to go to war, and all those reasons turned out to be wrong. So either Bush lied, or his adminstration was totally imcompetent to fish out the truth. Then we were told this war would last until August 2001, and the troops would begin to pull out. Instread, six years later, we need a 'surge'.

I honestly don't know how ANYONE can have any confidence at all that NOW, after all the lies and imcompetence, we can trust Bush to tell us the correct thing.

And what exactly IS his strategy to end the war? There is none. Why can't he come up with any plan whatsoever? And you still trust this guy?

We are in a situation now when the boy who claims that the emporer isn't wearing any clothes is not punished for hurting the morale of the troops, and is therefore unpatriotic and somehow wants America to lose this war. This is total insanity.

If Bush has a plan to end the war -- and after six years, you think he would have SOME clue -- then let's hear it. If he can't perhaps he should step aside and allow someone else who can. Until then, we shouldn't let any more of our people die.
4.23.2007 2:33pm
Michael B (mail):
100% of Americans want to leave this war, the debate is over how and when and under what conditions to leave, how to make the transition, minimizing human and other costs, how to turn around the present deterioration, optimizing both short and long term prospects within Iraq per se, also within the general War on Islamofascism, etc. I.e. offering sound, thoughtful, accountable alternatives; not merely sniping in a partisan manner.

In precisely that vein, as to Reid, it isn't simply his "the war is lost" statement, it's the attendant fact that he fails to offer alternative tactics/strategies in a responsible, accountable and cogently argued manner.

As to "the Left," they weren't even terribly supportive concerning the Afghanistan campaign. Recall all the talk about how Afghanistan had never been subjected, analogies drawn with the Soviet and other failed historic campaigns; support for a cruise missile campaign but nothing more than that; the hyper-leveraged concern with civilian casualties once the war in Afghanistan began in earnest; the voiced fear of "imperialism" in that theater; the Tariq Ali (personifying much of the Left) vs. Christopher Hitchens brouhaha, which began during Afghanistan campaign, not later; Walzer's "Can There Be a Decent Left?," which was written during the Afghanistan period; Esposito's "The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?" (just guess what the answer was); Cold War analogies were raised, and not in a manner that was favorable to the U.S. or the West; cries for "legal actions" and "police work" in lieu of war. All that during the nascent period of the Afghanistan campaign, not Iraq.

I could go on at great length yet (e.g., reflexive anti-Americanism in general, "root causes" of 9/11), but what's the point when BDS and the emotive rationales stemming from BDS reign supreme? Even now, when things seem to go badly in Afghanistan there is a notable attenuation of vocal support for that theater from the Left, then when things are going better talk of support resumes and the earlier Leftist arguments against the effort in Afghanistan are discarded in the memory hole.

The Left's sunshine soldiers. But of course they're not soldiers, they're nay-sayers, pontificators, commentators, talking heads, emotive BDS neurotics, etc.

100% of Americans want to leave this war, the debate is over how and when and under what conditions and to do so in a responsible, thoughtful, accountable manner.
4.23.2007 5:28pm
Randy R. (mail):
"100% of Americans want to leave this war, the debate is over how and when and under what conditions and to do so in a responsible, thoughtful, accountable manner."

Terrific. And where is George Bush in this debate?
4.23.2007 6:00pm
Michael B (mail):
You might more fully comprehend what was said prior to responding. It seems you missed, or failed to comprehend, the part that said "the debate is over how and when and under what conditions to leave [cf. So. Korea vs. So. Vietnam], how to make the transition, minimizing human and other costs, how to turn around the present deterioration, optimizing both short and long term prospects within Iraq per se, also within the general War on Islamofascism, etc. I.e. offering sound, thoughtful, accountable alternatives; not merely sniping in a partisan manner."

We know where the President is. Where is Reid and Co.? is the question, including the question that originated this very thread (too, for additional context, viz. here for additional global/strategic context).

Again and for emphasis: accountable, cogent articulations, whether pro or con, are what is needed, not partisan hackery, not avoidance of cogently argued critiques and not avoidance of accountability.
4.23.2007 7:58pm
Randy R. (mail):
"d "the debate is over how and when and under what conditions to leave [cf. So. Korea vs. So. Vietnam], how to make the transition, minimizing human and other costs, how to turn around the present deterioration, optimizing both short and long term prospects within Iraq per se, also within the general War on Islamofascism, etc. I.e. offering sound, thoughtful, accountable alternatives; not merely sniping in a partisan manner."


And when Bush puts forth a plan, then I will listen. Saying that you have a plan doesn't mean you actually have one. Sounds bites like "We'll stand down when the Iraqis stand up" is not a sound, thoughtful, accountable plan. So far, I only know that Bush has said that we will be in Iraq far after he has left office.
4.23.2007 9:57pm
Michael B (mail):
Once again, expressive of a continued avoidance of the issues addressed in the original post. Too, when you demand this "plan" from the President, you essentially intend something that will make you and likeminded persons feel better? There has obviously been evolving and contingent plans resulting from various consultations and various developments on the ground.

Clue: it's a war, it's a war that ranges across a set of global theaters, i.e. we are in the midst of a global, broadly based ideological war which has various militant/terrorist fronts. Some of the tactical/strategic fronts in that war include: southern Thailand, Chechnya, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Waziristan/Baluchistan, East Timor/Indonesia, Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon, Hamas/Fatah, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria, etc. - not to mention individual instances such as 9/11, 7/7, 3/11, Casablanca, Bali, Beslan, Istanbul, Amman and others still.

It's a war, no one likes that fact, but that's what it is and BDS and the emotive, knee-jerk animus and partisan hackery expressed by Reid and crew is a form of vapidry and worse.
4.23.2007 10:45pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
"we have lost... 170 civilians were killed in Iraq..."

by our enemies. Apparently there is widespread feeling that if ruthless terrorists murder enough innocents, decent people must yield to them.

"We need to leave Iraq..."

Why? So the terrorist murderers will have complete control of the country?

As to the wisdom or unwisdom of Reid's blatherings: the initial victory over Saddam had salutary effects throughout the region. Qaddafi geve up his nuke project. Syria bowed to the Cedar Revolution and withdrew from Lebanon. Mubarak in Egypt conceded bits of political liberalization. But it didn't take long for the gangster-rulers of the Middle East to realize that in striking down Saddam, Bush had to buck a huge and influential section of western sentiment, ranging from the French énarques to the Oxbridge/Ivy League professoriate to the "realists" in the State Department. They noticed the way left intellectuals lined up with Islamist fascists like Hezbollah, and the headline coverage which major news organizations gave to any claims about civilian deaths caused by America or Israel. They noticed how Democrats backed off from their tepid, nuanced approval of liberating Iraq to relentless attacks on Bush for doing it. They surely noticed that the Democrats nominated and nearly elected President a man whose entry into public life was a campaign for U.S. defeat in a previous war.

And they reached the obvious conclusion: the will of the West and of the United States to fight is broken. None of them were in any real danger - Bush had shot his bolt, and they could return to business as usual.

That includes promoting terrorism against the people of Iraq. They do it because they know they can get away with it. They can get away with it because the "anti-war" left (and its allies, now including Reid and Pelosi, though they won't admit it), would rather see Islamofascist triumph than success for American arms.

In an honest world, the Left would be staging daily demonstrations outside the White House, demanding U.S. invasions of Iran and Syria, and perhaps Saudi Arabia. They would speak of the martyred children of Iraq, slaughtered with guns and bombs and money from these countries, and demand justice upon the terror masters (who are also brutal reactionary dictatorships or oligarchies). The leftist professors who dominate Middle Eastern Studies would be taking sabbaticals to work with U.S. forces in the Middle East, or devoting their spare time to tutoring U.S. soldiers in Arabic language and culture. The heroism of American (and allied) soldiers fighting the monsters would be headlined.

And the villains in the Middle East would be afraid.

But none of that is happening. Instead, Senator Reid is telling those villains that they have won.

There's a good question. If the U.S. has lost, who has won, and what have they gained?

Will any of the defeatists dare to answer?
4.23.2007 11:51pm
LM (mail):
Rich Rostrom:

The defeatists asked me to tell you that your demagoguery has so discredited those of us who believe in the Iraq war effort that they’re taking the rest of the week off. In other words, “No,” no takers for your dare.

But since I’ve already teed it up for you to label me a RINO or something equally pithy (Surprise me) let me ask you a question posed recently, and more eloquently, by Andrew Sullivan to Mark Levin: If the United States were actually to lose a war, would you ever admit that it had happened? And if so, would that make you disloyal?
4.24.2007 4:08am
Michael B (mail):
LM,

You've avoided a great deal, so let's cut to the chase. Of Sully's hypothetical (not to mention demagogic) question, the obvious answer would be "of course not." But do we really want to play dueling hypotheticals? (Too though, that's not really your or Sully's point, is it?) So avoiding both hypotheticals and demagoguery, lets review some real-world, present day realities. Michael Barone (known more for his reportage than demagoguery, cf. Andrew Sullivan) reports in a column titled Funding the Troops, emphases added,

"What's curious is that congressional Democrats don't seem much interested in what's actually happening in Iraq. The commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, returns to Washington this week, but last week Pelosi's office said "scheduling conflicts" prevented him from briefing House members. Two days later, the members-only meeting was scheduled, but the episode brings to mind the fact that Pelosi and other top House Democrats skipped a Pentagon videoconference with Petraeus on March 8."

As a related column titled Democrats Skipping Military Briefings - Where's the Media Outrage? notes, (again, emphasis added) "It has also been reported that one recent meeting with Gen. Petraeus on the Hill only saw one Democrat in attendance, that being Senator Carl Levin of Michigan." Not Harry Reid, but a single Democratic senator only, in a meeting with General Petraeus no less. (Levin favors funding.)

The Dems, so very concerned about "the troops" (because they wouldn't want to demagogue the issue, no doubt), yet General Petraeus is making the trip from Iraq to D.C. and the Dems don't have time for him - "scheduling conflicts."

But it's good to know we're concerned with the realities and facts, about empirical/rational reviews of the subject, rather than hypotheticals and shoddy demagoguery.
4.24.2007 12:33pm
Michael B (mail):
A related Barone blog note: On al Qaeda and Iraq.
4.24.2007 12:41pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Demagoguery? I call 'em as I see 'em.

As for Sullivan's hypothetical, a nation loses a war when it is physically incapable of fighting, or it decides to stop fighting. Either could happen to the United States. Admitting the latter is hard to distinguish from advocating it - which could be disloyalty.
4.24.2007 2:50pm
LM (mail):
Michael B:

When a government's critics are accused of disloyalty on no evidence other than their criticism, that's demagoguery as I understand it. When it's done on behalf of a policy I believe in, I consider it my duty to call it out and dissociate myself from it in order to preserve the legitimacy of the policy.

A hypothetical that puts someone in the shoes of a person they’ve accused of disloyalty isn’t demagogic as I see it, but instead a useful and important exercise.

That was the scope of my prior comment. If it means I've "avoided a great deal," please enlighten me.
4.24.2007 3:57pm
Michael B (mail):
LM,

A reasonable question, much moreso than your immediately prior comment imo. Though upon considering it I may need to be a bit elaborate. Let's begin with a definition, perhaps something of an unabridged version thereof, but relevant to all that is being addressed.

demagoguery - to help create and/or further inflame and appeal to popular sentiments, impressions, prejudices, emotions, biases, etc. in an attempt to solidify one's own position and/or weaken the position of one's opponents. Typically forwarded in a manner that is more rather than less opaque, i.e. less rather than more susceptible to transparent/honest counter-critique and examination. Also, conceived in a strictly pejorative sense and in lieu of forwarding better arguments and appeals where "better" might refer to appeals that are more thoughtfully articulated; that are more transparent, cogent and better grounded along empirical, rational, reasonable and contextualized lines; that in general are more responsible and more rather than less susceptible to being held accountable.

Again, the unabridged version, but helpful in revealing what is being plyed by the Dems and Left/Dems, a few others as well.

Also, I think RR made several extremely valid points concerning the salafists/jihadists, the Islamicists, also concerning elements in the West that are less than helpful. There may be some hyperbole and flowery language in what he offered (something I would never do :-/), but I don't see any demagoguery per se, so I'd be interested in knowing what, within his comment, you consider to be demagoguery. For example I think his closing question is very much on-point and in fact could be elaborated further still (which constitutes part of my own criticisms in this thread). Surely, asking the Harry Reids of the world, additionally their emulators and epigones, to further clarify their "criticisms" is not improper or lacking relevance, is it?

I'll need to finish in a follow-up comment late this evening or early tomorrow, but if you could answer that it might be helpful. Also, perhaps indicate if you have any problems with the definition. Thx.
4.24.2007 8:59pm
LM (mail):
Michael B,

First, I’m sorry this is appearing so late. I was away all day, and I had to watch American Idol when I got home.

I’m OK with your definition. I also have no problem with RR's closing question, which, by the way, I suspect Harry Reid would answer the same way you or RR or I would, were we forced to accept the war as lost, i.e., the winners would be the bad guys. What they would have won is more speculative, but we should all at least be able to agree that anything won by them would be more than they deserve.

I won't be more specific than that, aside from the speculative nature of the answer, for the same reason I won't fly-speck RR's argument for how closely it conforms to my own version of history. It all leads inevitably to the partisan blood sport of rehearsing blame for every past setback and future horrible. And wartime is not the right time to play that game.

If your news consumption were limited to partisan blogs (both sides) and talk radio or its left wing equivalents, e.g., The View, you could go meaningful stretches without a reminder that we're engaged in an actual war with actual enemies, but you couldn't go more than a few minutes without a fresh diatribe against Americans. A cosmic traveler in for the weekend could be forgiven for taking away the impression that the worst threat we face isn’t Islamic Jihadists who have already killed us by the thousands and pray daily for our total destruction, but fellow Americans who hold either of two opposing political ideologies. That's pathetic, and the disgrace is bipartisan.

But it's also a digression. You asked me what I found demagogic in RR's comment. Well, it's not the bulk of his comment, much of which belongs to the category of stuff I've just been whining about, ugly but somewhat vague, left-directed smears. While that kind of partisan antic covers nobody in glory, it’s also to a sad extent just routine politics. Much of it probably does meet your definition of demagoguery, but it takes an especially pernicious brand of demagoguery to get me typing.

In this case, it’s the barely submerged stream running through RR’s comment that finally surfaces with “[...] the "anti-war" left (and its allies, now including Reid and Pelosi, though they won't admit it), would rather see Islamofascist triumph than success for American arms. ” Bad enough ever to attribute state of mind without evidence, a hallmark of demagoguery. But it can’t get much worse than an unsupported accusation of disloyalty by named public servants during wartime. It’s the moral equivalent of the too-familiar accusations that Bush and Cheney had self-serving motives for taking us into war, a claim equally unsupported by anything but the desire by its accusers that it be true.

I’m sure you agree with my characterization of the latter example. I hope you can see the stark similarity to the former. And I assume you know that two wrongs do not make a right.
4.25.2007 2:41am
Michael B (mail):
Well, we decidedly disagree about how Harry Reid would answer the question. Only today he finessed a very similar question by evading it via equivocation, stating his and General Petraeus's position was essentially the same. Beyond that and on second thought, I don't care to quibble or argue over this aspect of the topic, so will more simply wish you well, also acknowledging I may have been ungenerous in suggesting you avoided "a great deal."
4.25.2007 3:41pm