10 January 2007 by Published in: General musings 28 comments

A certain right-wing knuckle dragging Fascist decided to take a personal shot at me in the comments to this blog because he doesn’t like my politics. Disagree with me all you want and engage me in a dialogue, but don’t take personal shots at me because you think I’m wrong. That’s not acceptable, and I won’t have it. I told him that in an e-mail, and the response was to call me an anti-American leftist because I happen to disagree with this Administration’s policies pretty vigorously. When I responded to him, his latest was to say, “So, along with being anti-American you are a hypocrite.” Nice, huh? Classy, obviously well-thought out, and so eloquent to boot.

In response, I will permit one of the five greatest American presidents–and a Republican, I might add–to speak for me. These are Theodore Roosevelt’s words, not mine:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

And then, there’s this, by no less than Thomas Jefferson:

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

Letter to William Stevens Smith (November 13, 1787), quoted in Padover’s Jefferson On Democracy.

Where I sit, there’s really nothing more that needs to be said.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Ijon Tichy
    Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 5:50 am

    Hear, hear!

  2. Bill Bergen
    Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 9:06 am

    Eric,

    I once had a history professor who insisted that the only lessons that history taught were that the straits of Thermopylae cannot be defended and that one ought not to invade Russia in the winter.

    That said, I agree with your analysis. The persistence of leaders to decide to continue the pursuit of folly is seen throughout history.

    Bill

  3. ptrostle
    Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 9:53 am

    Eric,

    I’m curious – were Roosevelt’s comments pre, during or post presidency? I think they’re on target – I’m just curious.

    Regards,

    Phil

  4. Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 10:15 am

    Phil,

    Post-presidency, but right on the money nonetheless.

    Eric

  5. Michael Aubrecht
    Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 10:27 am

    Eric,

    I’m a right-winger and even I finally realized that “W” is a total bonehead (for lack of a better term). I can’t comment on that other guy’s posts, but rest assured that he doesn’t speak for the rest of us knuckle-draggers. 🙂

    Some of us may be slow getting to the party – but the key is that we finally got there. I commented on this dilemma on my blog the other day (in regards to Olbermann’s speech) and I pity the historians that will have to cover this period in our nation’s history. Not much to celebrate… and you can’t even make this kind of stuff up – it’s so ridiculous.

  6. Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 10:38 am

    Michael,

    Actually, if the truth be told, it’s damned sad.

    How many hundreds of billions of dollars have been wasted and how many thousands of lives, all in pursuit of a completely wrong policy? All of this happened because the neo-cons persuaded Skippy that we owe the world the missionary zeal of spreading democracy to the rest of the unwashed masses whether they want it or not.

    Imagine their shock when they learned that they were dead wrong? It’s not about democracy for the unwashed masses. It’s about putting food on their tables and it’s about their families and who’s going to protect them. That’s why there are sectarian militias.

    The policy was dead wrong. The invasion of Iraq was based on a dead wrong policy and justified with a lie. And now we’ve gone back to the future once more.

    It’s 1965 all over again. All we need is William Westmoreland….we’ve already got the daily body counts…..

    As for your personal politics, there are intelligent people who engage in a respectful dialogue–like you–and then there are the knuckle dragging troglodytes like the bozo who decided to launch personal attacks, such as calling me Mrs. Sheehan, because I decline to drink Skippy’s Kool-Aid.  Fear not, I will always respect you and hold the troglodytes in contempt for choosing to be stupid. 

    Eric

  7. Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 10:48 am

    All:

    I channel surfed around last night after the speech and as a historian I was fascinated how some folks on the right are saying that the new plan surely will work while simultaneously laying the groundwork for its failure…according to Hannity for example, we’d be winning the war already if America was united behind the president. Clearly putting a W sticker on my pick-up would stop Sunni and Shia from hating each other after 1300 years, or defuse a bomb on a road our kids already have cleared several times, only to hand back. So if the war continues to go badly, remember, it’s all our fault, not an incompetent White House’s. Can you say “stab in the back?” Can you say it in German?

    I’m also fascinated how the deliberate comparisons of W to Lincoln are increasing (ie Snow, Giulanni). You know, fading public confidence, dark days of the war, no military success, vocal peace advocates, and then…boom…victory. Even the last paragraphs of the president’s speech clearly were designed to reflect the Gettysburg Address. The problem is, you could apply those same comparisons to Jeff Davis, except for the eventual victory part.

    Well, back to that Civil War stuff since I don’t do Custer.

    Ken

  8. Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 10:55 am

    LOL. Thanks for injecting a note of levity, Ken. It’s much appreciated.

    Eric

  9. Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Also one of the right-wing knuckledraggers here, but Eric and I have always had fun discussing our politics 🙂

    I’m also one who has grown entirely sick of the Iraq situation, and I’ve been doubting the sense (and urgency) of invading in the first place. But I’m looking to the future, because no one can bring back the 3000+ slain soldiers…

    At this point, regardless of how the situation was created, there remains the goal of “winning” the war on terror. I firmly believe that we can’t allow Iraq to further degenerate, nor turn it over to the miltias. If we allow our enemies to take control, we’re going to have a situation that makes the present look like choir practice.

    The Iraqi PM needs to climb out of bed with El Sadr, and that needs to be made clear. The Iraqis have to get their house in order. Whether it’s a democratic house or not, I don’t give a shit. As Eric said, the very idea of forcing democracy down the throats of Arabs who have been fighting since the dawn of time was ludicrous to begin with. As long as they become civilized citizens of the world, I don’t care what their religion or governmental base is. They can worship little furry puppies if they want, just stop killing and maiming in the name of God (IMO the radical Islamic god is actually Satan, but that’s another matter).

    Then we need to get the hell out this year. We’ll have our plates full with Iran, Syria, North Korea, et al. But if we’re going to fight a war – and maybe this has been the problem all along – we need to FIGHT the war. Blow hell out of your enemy, and stop feeding the meat into the grinder. We get caught in a years-long ground war, letting our boys and girls be targets in the crossfire, and we get what we deserve – body bags. We have way to many digitally-guided missiles on ships to be letting that happen again. You act up, we push buttons. That simple.

    But we have to win. If there’s anything that dooms civilization on this planet, it’s radical Islam. We have a long hard road ahead, and we need to fight to kill, period.

    J.D.

  10. Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 3:58 pm

    Those comments are dead on. Glad you chose to support your arguement that way. Many today just want to yell louder and longer, that solves nothing.

  11. Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 4:22 pm

    JD,

    You don’t qualify as a knuckle-dragger. Knuckle-draggers are the idiot Kool-Aid drinkers, and you don’t qualify as that.

    Your points are well-taken.

    However, how do you “win” this when this is not a traditional war of army vs. army? How do you militarily defeat crazy people who are determined to blow themselves to smithereens because they think they will be rewarded with 72 virgins in heaven if they do? How do you develop a strategy, let alone tactics, when the enemy can’t be identified, or if it can, is protected by the civilian populace?  How do you militarily defeat an enemy that does not share your definition of either the basic conflict or what constitutes defeat or victory?

    Short of turning the entire Muslim world into a parking lot, I simply don’t see how a military solution is possible.

    Eric

  12. Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Chris,

    Thanks for chiming in….were your comments directed to JD’s comment? Or to something else? It’s unclear….

    Eric

  13. Michael Aubrecht
    Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 5:55 pm

    “How do you militarily defeat crazy people who are determined to blow themselves to smithereens… Short of turning the entire Muslim world into a parking lot, I simply don’t see how a military solution is possible.” = Eric THAT is one of the smartest statements that I have read anywhere – at anytime in regards to this topic.

    The only logical answer is to wage TOTAL war – or NO war at all. If the history of warfare has taught us anything – it is that you have to KNOCK IT ALL DOWN – before you can properly build it back up. It’s a ugly answer – but IMO – the ONLY answer. In other words Mr. Bush… either DO IT and DO IT RIGHT – OR DON’T DO IT AT ALL. And STOP sacrificing our troops while you entertain these 2 options. Thanks Eric for summing up all of our frustration with that one brilliant comment. Well done!

  14. Mike Nugent
    Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 7:24 pm

    The problem as I see it (and a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle seem to agree) is that the forces initially committed were insufficient to “win” (however you choose to define winning). If that’s the case then either send sufficient force to “win” or willingly accept what can only be called a defeat. As an old soldier I can’t do that. I agree with the comments that we either need to do it right or not do it at all, but at this point not doing it at all is to me an unacceptable option.

    Send the forces with some warriors in command. Get rid of the asinine restrictive rules of engagement and kick the ass that needs to be kicked then kick it some more. Tell the Iraqi’s to get their shit together because after we’re done “setting the stage” so to speak, it’s their show and we’re
    outta there.

    Just for some perspective, during our involvement in Vietnam, not a single year went by with fewer casualties than we’ve incurred during the entire Iraq war. During WWII we could lose 3,000 troops in an afternoon. Of course every one of those deaths is tragic. Nobody knows that better than someone who has had the privilege of commanding soldiers. Even more tragic though would be having them die in vain by “cutting and running” (and let’s make no mistake, that and the defeat that it entails is exactly what Pelosi and company intend).

    Let slip the dogs of war. Do it right and be done with it. There is no “silver medal” for the second place finisher.

    Gotta go spray some bactine on my knuckles. They’ve been scraping the ground a lot lately.

    Mike

  15. Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 7:50 pm

    Mike,

    You, by definition, are NOT a knuckle-dragger. Knuckle-draggers are incapable of generating an intelligent thought of their own. That’s not you, old friend.

    I certainly understand your frustration, and I definitely appreciate it.

    My problem with letting slip the dogs of war and doing it right is with defining what constitutes doing it right. What, precisely, does it mean when you say “do it right and be done with it”? Given the fact that nobody seems to be able to define what it means to “win” this war, how do you even determine what constitutes doing it right? How do you define “winning” in this context?

    I’m not trying to badger you here, just to understand.

    It bears noting, by the way, that fully 60% of the American population thinks sending more troops is a poor idea and an equal percentage think we have no business being there. Assuming for a moment that you’re right about the intentions of “Pelosi and company”, wouldn’t they just be executing the will and desire of the American electorate who put them there in the first place?

    And if we simply declare victory and leave, how is that a defeat? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time we did that……

    Eric

  16. Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Michael A.–

    You are, of course, correct. And you help to make the same point I’ve been trying to make: what IS the definition of “win” in this context? If we can’t even define the term, how is it possible to accomplish that objective?

    Eric

  17. Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 8:12 pm

    I wouldn’t say it’s Vietnam all over again, though there are similarities. Iraq is far more foolhardy, and has the added horror of being based on a pack of lies (even LBJ, we now know, really believed there was an attack in the Tonkin Gulf).

    And it was the majority suffering at the hands of the minority, in the case of Iraq. Either way, it’s an ancient blood feud, and putting more American targets on the ground there will only result in more American dead and maimed.

    But I would disagree about Bush gambling his presidency with this new decision. He gambled and lost his presidency when he elected to invade in the first place. By contrast, now he has nothing left to lose. Indeed, by pouring more troops into the country in 2007, and gaining even a semblence of stability, he can neatly hand off the problem to the next president, and blame him (or her), and Congress, for failing to see it through to victory when we inevitably pull out.

    David

  18. Andy Papen
    Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 8:45 pm

    I think the 2008 election is going to be one of the most critical ones we’ve seen, not that all presidential elections aren’t critical. I have been a huge critic of the war in Iraq from the very first; on the other hand, I voted for Bush both times. Both times I had misgivings, especially the second time, but one of the main reasons that I voted for him was because I thought he was the lesser of two evils. Now I’m not so sure. Gore, Kerry and Bush were all shockingly weak choices, and we can only hope that the candidates in 2008 are stronger.

    The really scary thing about Iraq is that, regardless of what you think about the party in the White House, presumably the president is surrounded by intelligent people. LBJ was, also. However, the short-sighted policies pursued by these folks is almost mind-boggling. How anyone thought that democracy could be force-fed to a region that has never known anything like democracy in thousands of years is beyond me.

    Statesmanship is all but dead, and it probably has been for some time. Most of the national and state elections I’ve voted in have been a choice between two equally uninspiring candidates (I live in Missouri, and we have lots of uninspiring candidates). I’ve gone from a serious conservative 20 years ago to very much a moderate, and unfortunately moderates seem to be squeezed out of the political process anymore. I don’t know if a viable third party is the answer, but I’d be willing to try it.

  19. Thu 11th Jan 2007 at 8:48 pm

    Andy,

    Well said.

    As for me, I would have voted for a cinder block if that’s what the Dems had nominated in 2004. For me, it was a vote against nimrod and not a vote for John Kerry.

    Sadly, there’s absolutely no incentive for the best and the brightest to run due to things like swiftboating, so we end up with mediocrity, or, in the case of Skippy Bush, flagrant incompetence.

    We get what we deserve.

    Eric

  20. David Kelly
    Fri 12th Jan 2007 at 7:55 pm

    Ladies and Germs….(whacka,whacka,whacka)

    You folks write history. You should know better than to bemoan the “current” lack of leadership. Like this is new. The American Civil War is the essence of bullshit politics and strategic misagenation gone to hell. None of those politicals could see beyond the inside of their navels ’cause you know what theirs heads were stuck up. That includes Father Abraham.

    Eric: It’s your board, of course. But venting on current events does reap it’s own whirlwind. I happen to agree that Baby Bush screwed the pooch on the whole Iraq deal. But JD has a point about strategic profundity. Islam is in turmoil. Is it worse to have 3000 dead in Iraq in 4 years, or a quadrennial WTC center incident in a major US metropolitan area?

    This whole thing could be resolved to our advantage if Baby Bushh would go on TV and announce that we have the answer. We just nuked Tel Aviv. (Oh Gawd; don’t give the schmucks any ideas….) (Whacka, whacka, whacka.)

  21. Fri 12th Jan 2007 at 11:39 pm

    LOL Dave. I think 🙂

    I agree with Mike Nugent and others who have said, like I, that if you’re going to fight a war, you fight it. Eric, you’ve asked lots of questions, and they are the right questions to ask. They are exactly the questions that we have now – there’s no enemy government, there’s no enemy uniforms, there will be no table around which the loser surrenders to the victor.

    The simple answer to your questions is: kill ’em.

    And boy, that sounds much too simplistic and elementary.

    But it’s the only way this type of “war” can be won. As you said, these people have no qualms about suicide. They have no ethical or moral dilemmas. There are no battlelines. There’s no “territory” in this war. As we’ve seen in at least two instances, even the American soldier you’ve been bunking with for the last five years could be a radical Muslim just waiting for the opportunity to throw a grenade in a tent full of his buddies playing poker.

    When we went after bin Laden, we should have sent 200,000 of our best American boys at him until we strung him up. And everyone else be damned. 9-11 gave us the one chance to have the clear and unambiguous opportunity to tell the rest of the world to go to hell. We had the right to demand the high road. Iran, Syria, Pakistan – you name it – we’re hunting bin Laden and every one of his minions, and if you get in the way you die. Simple as that. If you want to see Iran, or Syria, or Pakistan, or anyplace else erased off the map, just piss us off. There will be unnecessary civilian casualties but war sucks. Deal with it. I know, I know, if I were on the other side of the coin I wouldn’t want my family subjected to it, but when you’re out to save the world (and this is what it’s all about – see my previous comment) innocents will die too. God has a plan – he intends to kill us all. Sometimes righteousness speeds that process.

    Sadly, we’re not in that position anymore. Now that we’re where we are, the Iraqi government needs to be given a time limit and a set of rules. Rules we demand. Because we can, that’s why. Then we’re out. One problem, just one little problem, and we unleash hell. Let them know that we will demand the high road. Not earn it – demand it. And it won’t be by troops on the ground. Planes will shut out the sunshine for as long as it takes.

    As I said before, the one major problem this planet faces is radical Islam. If America and any other civilized land will ever go down, it will be because of them. As long as they behave they live. If not, we kill them. And keep killing until there’s none left.

    That’s the point we’ve reached. And I think it’s abundantly clear that we have, by your questions, Eric.

    J.D.

  22. Paul Taylor
    Sat 13th Jan 2007 at 8:15 am

    Just finished watching a very interesting two-hour documentary on the History Channel which covered Reconstruction entitled “Aftershock: Beyond the Civil War.” It seemed well done and discussed much of the south’s post-war violence including the formation of the Ku Klux Klan. At one point, the show even referred to some as the “Al-Quaida of their day!”

    Here’s the point, which the show acknowledged: In each and every instance where the “good guys” prevailed (i,e., post-war Arkansas, Tennessee, etc.) , the “bad guys” were ultimately defeated only by the overwhelming use of force. No mamby-pamby negotiations or hand-wringing hopes that if only we changed our ways, then the bad guys would leave us alone. Local pro-Union militias meted out justice and retribution using the same cutthroat tactics as the Klan and other pro-Confederate, white supremacist groups of the day. That’s all they understood…

    History often repeats itself. We can debate in a gentlemanly fashion all day why we are in Iraq and whether it was a just, noble idea or not. I think all will agree that major mistakes have been made since the war supposedly ended, including how we sent in “just enough troops to lose.” IMO, another huge error was our belief that we would be greeted as liberators. It now appears that a key tenet held by the locals is “better to live under the bootheel of a Muslim despot than to be liberated by the infidel.”

    Personally, I think it’s time to bring the troops home. I believe our intentions were noble and honorable, however, the Iraqi people’s apparent unwillingness or inability to seize what we gave them now makes me question our largesse. If they’d rather settle old scores than build a model democracy, so be it.

    Paul

  23. Sat 13th Jan 2007 at 10:14 am

    Eric:

    Just the intial piece itself, not any comments afterwards, although you have good debate on your blog.

    Chris

  24. Sat 13th Jan 2007 at 10:31 am

    Paul,

    I agree with you, but I worry about your last part – if we leave Iraq to its own devices, the threat to our national security is too great. Iraq will become a breeding ground for terrorists that we’d have to deal with all too soon. I agree with giving them a time limit and getting out, and being only interested spectators if they choose to kill each other. But radical Islam must be either contained (which is just as difficult as what we’re facing now) or they must die.

    Either the Iraqi government fights the war with us, and they keep doing so, with our support for a limited time, or we’ll have more problems than I’m afraid we can handle. As you also eluded to, force is the only thing that will solve this.

    I’m also afraid that the next President is going to be facing the decision of bombing targets in Iran and perhaps other locations. If we get a pantywaist in the White House in a couple years, we’re all doomed. And that’s not just dramatics – I really mean it.

    J.D.

  25. Sat 13th Jan 2007 at 11:25 am

    All good points, guys. In theory, I agree.

    Again, though, we have yet to define what “winning” means in this context. I think we can all agree that this battle can be won and the war lost–if we come down on Iraq with too heavy of a hand and prevail in settling things down, it is entirely possible that it will further radicalize even those Arab populations that are pretty tame and supportive now, such as Jordan. Let’s not forget that just 35 years ago, King Hussein had to fight off the PLO’s attempt to overthrow him.

    That, my friends, is my fear. And I have no solutions to the problem and no ideas how to solve it. I just know that the present policy doesn’t work and is an unmitigated failure.

    JD, I have absolutely no doubt that the next president will be the one to deal with this situation. Bush’s inability to admit errors–and let’s be quite clear about this: his so-called acceptance of responsibility the other night was not an acknowledgement of HIS bad decisions, and was stated in the passive voice. It was to appease the public, but NOTHING has changed, and he has yet to acknowledge a single specific error. That means that, unless Congress pulls the plug on further funding, it will be “stay the course” until he leaves office and leaves the mess to his successor. Who that successor will be remains to be seen, but it’s quite clear to me that if this policy doesn’t succeed quickly, it WON’T be John McCain, who will be seen as the driving force behind this build-up, for which he’s been agitating for months.

    Eric

  26. Dave Powell
    Tue 16th Jan 2007 at 8:41 am

    And here I expected all these comments to be about rush’s Lancers.:)

    I understand frustration with restrictive ROE, limited force, etc.

    However, the essence of good CI requires a good deal of counter-intuition, not force.

    In the long run, extreme force and brutality do not win the war. Massive anti-partisan actions waged in the USSR and in Poland by the Germans during WWII, for example, did very little to remove the partisan problem in the German rear. Extreme French measures in Indo-China didn’t work either. We are talking about wholesale liquidation, civilian round-ups, 10 for 1 punishment rules, etc.

    changing the ROE slightly in Iraq, or even sending 100,000 more troops, will make little difference. We have already lost. Now we are just quibbling over how badly we lose. I have studied too much military history to not recognize that fact.

    However, I don’t really understand why so many folks are so terrified of the “monolithic Radical Islamic threat.” No such thing exists. That very lesson can be learned right now, in Iraq, simply by reading the headlines. The various denominations are even right now largely fighting each other, and will continue to do so. Both the Shia and the Sunni are conducting ops against one another, not primarily the US. We are the 800 pound Gorrilla they have to work around. War in the Mideast will certainly be ongoing now, thanks to some really idiotic foreign policy decisions, but it will be largely between Iran and various proxy groups aimed at limiting Iranian spread.

    Think the collapse of Yugoslavia here, not Mongol-Horde-ravaging-Europe time.

    Unless, of course, you think that the Iranians and Iraqi Shia will somehow be able to defeat a well-supported Sunni/Kurd Insurgency against them, when we could not. If so, I’d like to hear how anyone thinks that might happen, tactics-wise.

    Certainly we will face terroristic threats. Conventional ground ops are not the ideal counter to those threats.:)

    Dave Powell

  27. Tue 16th Jan 2007 at 10:43 am

    Dave – what I’m worried about is them getting the nuke. That, in my opinion, is really the only problem we face – and that’s enough.

    J.D.

  28. Dave Powell
    Tue 16th Jan 2007 at 3:49 pm

    JD,

    Understood. And one of the big consequences of this war, IMO, is that it has made the international climate more accomodating – either openly or covertly – to allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons.

    Trying to find the best course now is very much more difficult, and it may no longer be possible to prevent proliferation in Iran.

    Dave Powell

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