Irreconcilable Differences

Jeff Jacoby has written a Boston Globe column titled “Irreconcilable positions: support troops, oppose war.” It begins:

WHAT DOES IT mean to support the troops but oppose the cause they fight for?

It is not at all irreconcilable to oppose the Iraq War but wish to support the troops fighting the war. “Supporting the troops” means seeing to it they have whatever they need to stay as safe and healthy as possible, both while at war and after. It means providing state-of-the-art body armor now, not three years from now, maybe. If they are wounded, it means providing first-class medical care, not parking them in moldy, roach-infested hospital.

Bill Maxwell writes in the St. Petersburg Times (“White House delivers surge in lies, hypocrisy“):

Here is a substantive example of the reality of who supports the troops and who does not. The Washington Post reported last week that the Army, which has suffered the largest number of fatalities, began the Iraq war in 2003 with an estimated $56-billion shortage of equipment – including advanced Humvees equipped with armor kits designed to reduce troop deaths from roadside bombs.

Well, guess what? Nearly four years later, the Army, the Marine Corps and the National Guard still do not have an adequate number of Humvees equipped with the needed FRAG Kit 5 armor manufactured with more flexible materials that slow projectiles and contain debris, thus causing fewer deaths.

Is this support of our troops?

Pentagon brass and the president have known about these shortages from the beginning. And, while saber rattling, they have known all along that serious shortages of the new armor have been responsible, directly and indirectly, for hundreds of U.S. deaths.

Is this support of our troops?

Yet Jeff Jacoby, who (I infer) “supports” the troops, doesn’t write a word about armor or hospitals. Indeed, he only obliquely refers to the war in Iraq. Instead, he writes about the “cause.” What does it mean to support the troops but oppose the cause they fight for?

But what is the cause? If the cause is making the United States safer from terrorism, then it is perfectly logical to support the cause and oppose the war. The war is counterproductive to that cause. This was the conclusion of a National Intelligence Estimate of April 2006 portions of which were declassified and released in September 2006. It says,

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

• The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.

I also wish everyone could read James Fallows’s “Declaring Victory” article from the September 2006 Atlantic Monthly, which I’m very sorry is available only to subscribers. However, I have blogged about this article here, here, and here, here, and probably elsewhere. In this article Fallows interviews a number of national security experts for their assessment of where the U.S. stands in its counterterrorism efforts. Fallows’s experts and the NIE came to pretty much the same conclusions.

Among other things, the NIE and the Fallows experts agreed that the war in Iraq is growing the threat of terrorism against the United States, not reducing it. Very briefly, Bush’s Folly is not only increasing the number of Islamic hotheads who want to strike America; it is also diverting many national security resources that could be put to better use elsewhere.

I realize that the cause keeps changing even as the war goes on. As Frank Rich wrote,

Oh what a malleable war Iraq has been. First it was waged to vanquish Saddam’s (nonexistent) nuclear arsenal and his (nonexistent) collaboration with Al Qaeda. Then it was going to spread (nonexistent) democracy throughout the Middle East. Now it is being rebranded as a fight against Tehran. Mr. Bush keeps saying that his saber rattling about Iran is not “a pretext for war.” Maybe so, but at the very least it’s a pretext for prolonging the disastrous war we already have.

And then there’s the democracy thing. There’s an outstanding article about this in the March issue of Harper’s magazine (not yet online). It is by Ken Silverstein, and titled “Parties of God: The Bush Doctrine and the Rise of Islamic Democracy.” Silverstein explores a paradox — that, if Middle Eastern countries actually became democratic, Islamists would control large blocs, if not majorities, in every one of those countries. This may account for the fact that the Bush Administration’s best allies in the region are not democracies (e.g., Saudi Arabia; Jordon).

Jacoby doesn’t say what the cause is, either, although I take it he thinks it has something to do with liberty.

America is a free country, but it is not the Michael Moores or the ROTC-banners or the senatorial loudmouths who keep it free. They merely enjoy the freedom that others are prepared to defend with their lives. It is the men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform to whom we owe our liberty. Surely they deserve better than pious claims of “support” from those who are working for their defeat.

Now, I have thought about it at considerable length, and I say honestly that I have no idea what Jacoby is talking about. Exactly what does fighting a war in Iraq have to do with America being a “free country”? And what does Jacoby mean by “free country,” anyway? Does it mean that the United States governs itself, and is not a vassal state of some other country? Or does he mean the people of the United States enjoy political liberty because the government respects their rights? Or both? Those are both perfectly fine things, and I support them. But what does either one have to do with Iraq?

Republicans’ hysterical shrieking
notwithstanding, Islamist jihadists are not an existential threat to the United States. And Geoffrey Stone notes today that the Bush Administration has has broken new ground in gathering information about protesters of the war. What does that say about the connection between the Iraq War and liberty, pray tell?

But let’s pretend for a minute that there is a cause, that we all agree on what it is, and that it serves the interests of the whole United States, not just some special interest groups therein. With that assumption in mind, let’s go back to Jacoby’s question, What does it mean to support the troops but oppose the cause they fight for?

The answer to that would, I think, depend on what the cause is. And since we’re dealing with a hypothetical cause, we can only give a hypothetical answer. But I still don’t think such a position is necessarily irreconcilable.

Jacoby continues,

No loyal Colts fan rooted for Indianapolis to lose the Super Bowl. No investor buys 100 shares of Google in the hope that Google’s stock will tank. No one who applauds firefighters for their courage and education wants a four-alarm blaze to burn out of control.

The Colts fan may have bet on Indianapolis, but otherwise there’s no rational reason for anyone to do any of those things. But the situation in Iraq is not comparable to any of those things. There are a great many rational reasons to be opposed to the war there. Jacoby seems to be saying that opposition to the war is irrational. Then he goes on …

Yet there is no end of Americans who insist they “support” US troops in Iraq but want the war those troops are fighting to end in defeat. The two positions are irreconcilable. You cannot logically or honorably curse the war as an immoral neocon disaster or a Halliburton oil grab or “a fraud . . . cooked up in Texas,” yet bless the troops who are waging it.

Again, I don’t see why not. The troops are our fellow Americans who have been put in danger, and the “cause” for which they fight makes no sense. We want to get them out of danger, but for a lot of reasons (Republicans) we are unable to do that legally. Until we can get them out of danger, we support them in any way we can.

Jacoby’s position makes sense only if one assumes that the troops and the cause are, somehow, indivisible. Jacoby doesn’t seem to grasp that “the troops” are individual human beings and not some amorphous, soulless entity created by the military-industrial complex.

Jacoby, unfortunately, continues,

But logic and honor haven’t stopped members of Congress from trying to square that circle. The nonbinding resolution they debated last week was a flagrant attempt to have it both ways. One of its two clauses professed to “support and protect” the forces serving “bravely and honorably” in Iraq. The other declared that Congress “disapproves” the surge in troops now underway — a surge that General David Petraeus , the new military commander in Iraq, considers essential.

And which the Joint Chiefs unanimously opposed. See also Gen. William E. Odom, “Victory Is Not an Option.”


It was a disgraceful and dishonest resolution, and it must have done wonders for the insurgents’ morale. Democrats hardly bothered to disguise that when they say they “support and protect” the troops, what they really intend is to undermine and endanger their mission.

The Democrats want to endanger their mission? The troops‘ mission, which is indivisible from the troops? Never mind that no one knows what the bleeping mission is any more. Jacoby has decided there is no rational reason for opposing troop escalation, and now he’s saying the Democrats are trying to “undermine” it. Makes them look pretty bad, huh?

The Politico, a new Washington news site, reported Thursday that the strategy of “top House Democrats, working in concert with anti war groups,” is to “pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration’s options.”

“The Politico” has turned out to be the new online branch of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Politico congressional bureau chief John Bresnahan coined the phrase “slow-bleed” to characterize the Democrats’ strategy in dealing with the administration on Iraq. But the RNC then circulated a letter that attributed the phrase to the Democrats, claiming that “slow bleed” is what the Dems call their Iraq policy. Expect “slow bleed” to be the Right’s favorite phrase for a while.

Can we say “disgraceful and dishonest,” Mr. Jacoby?

If they had the courage of their convictions, they would forthrightly defund the war, bring the troops home, and brave the political consequences. Instead they plan a more agonizing and drawn-out defeat — slowly choking off the war by denying reinforcements, eventually leaving no alternative but retreat.

After yesterday’s farce in the Senate, in which Republicans blocked a bleeping debate on a bleeping nonbinding resolution, I’m not entirely sure what Jacoby thinks the Dems could do. At this point I believe most of them want to end the war and bring the troops home as quickly as practicable. If there’s to be a “slow bleed,” as opposed to a quicker and cleaner redeployment, it will be the Republicans causing it.

That is how those who oppose the war “support” the troops — they “slow-bleed” them dry. Or they declare that the lives laid down by those troops were “wasted,” as Senator Barack Obama did last Sunday. Obama later weaseled away from that characterization , but the gaffe had been made. And like most political gaffes, it exposed the speaker’s true feelings.

One rarely finds a column by Jacoby that isn’t pure weasel. This one is a fine example. Anyway, I’d like Jacoby to explain to me how American lives aren’t being wasted in Iraq, seeing as how there’s no discernible cause or mission they’re fighting and dying for.

And why wouldn’t Obama feel that way? If an American serviceman dies in the course of a war that toppled a monstrous dictatorship, opened the door to decent Arab governance, and has become the central front in the struggle against radical Islam, his death is not in vain.

Actually the war toppled a monstrous dictatorship and replaced it with a monstrous chaos that Iraqis hate even more than they hated Saddam Hussein. It no more opened a door to “decent Arab governance” than I can fly. And I’ve already discussed what a crock it is to think the Iraq War is going to reduce radical Islam.

It is the sacrifice of an American hero, the last full measure of devotion given in the cause of freedom. But if he dies in the course of a senseless and illegitimate invasion — which appears to be Obama’s view of Iraq — then his life was wasted. If that’s what you believe, Senator, why not say so?

I guess he did, and the Right threw a fit about it.

Obama’s is merely the latest in a series of senatorial comments that offer a glimpse of the left’s anti military disdain.

By now it should be pretty obvious that it’s righties like Jacoby who truly disdain the military. They’re just cannon fodder to him, not people.

Smart people who work hard become successful, John Kerry “joked” last fall, but uneducated sluggards “get stuck in Iraq.” Osama bin Laden is beloved by Muslims for “building schools, building roads . . . building day-care facilities,” Washington Senator Patty Murray explained in 2002, while Americans only show up to “bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan.” Obama’s Illinois colleague Dick Durbin took to the Senate floor to equate US military interrogators in Guantanamo Bay with “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags,” and similar mass-murderers, such as “Pol Pot or others.”

Three lies in a row, Jacoby. Jacoby cannot so much as sneeze without being disgraceful and dishonest. Here are links to the facts about each quote: John Kerry, Patty Murray (see also this); and Dick Durbin.


It goes without saying that many Democrats and liberals take a back seat to no one in their admiration and appreciation of the US military. But there is no denying that a notable current of antimilitary hostility runs through the left as well. Examples are endless: ROTC is banned on elite college campuses. San Francisco bars a historic battleship from its port. Signs at antiwar protests urge troops to “shoot their officers.” An Ivy League professor prays for “a million Mogadishus.” Michael Moore compares Iraqi insurgents who kill Americans to the Minutemen of Revolutionary New England.

I’m not going to fact check those. By now it’s clearly established that “facts” and “Jeff Jacoby” have irreconcilable differences. Even if true, these are isolated incidents, and anyway, Jacoby wants to keep the troops in Iraq. I’d say that’s antimilitary.

From the Bill Maxwell column linked above:

To surge or not to surge could be a great and honest national debate. It certainly is a needed debate. But we are not having an honest debate.

We are being fed devious semantics about who supports our troops and who does not. To Republicans backing the surge, wanting to bring our troops home and take them out of harm’s way is tantamount to being the enemy of our troops.

Think how illogical this position sounds: If you want to save the lives our soldiers, if you do not want to see another limb blown off, if you do not want to see another brain pierced by shrapnel and if you want little children to see their parents return home safely from the battlefield, you do not support the troops.

Back to Jacoby, final paragraph:

America is a free country, but it is not the Michael Moores or the ROTC-banners or the senatorial loudmouths who keep it free.

Nor, might I add, disgraceful and dishonest Boston Globe columnists who can’t string two sentence together that aren’t a lie.

They merely enjoy the freedom that others are prepared to defend with their lives. It is the men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform to whom we owe our liberty. Surely they deserve better than pious claims of “support” from those who are working for their defeat.

They deserve better than pious claims of “support” from the disgraceful and dishonest likes of Jacoby. They deserve to be brought home from Bush’s Folly.

See also:

Glenn Greenwald, “Gen. Odom explains basic reality to Hugh Hewitt and the ‘Victory Caucus‘”

Rep. Jerry McNerney: “Why supporting the troops means opposing the president.”

Also also: “Bring Them Home” bumper sticker, t-shirt; “Love America, Leave Iraq” t-shirt.

Update: Mark Steyn descends into madness.


Because of a spam surge I’m holding comments for moderation. I trust the surge will be over later today.

Update: The surge seems to be over. Comments can be posted without going through a moderation filter.