How should a peaceful society approach fighting a just war? Should we fight with gusto, relishing every victory and eager for more, or should we approach it grimly, with reluctance, and mourn every loss, innocent, friendly and enemy?I wasn't lost on the first sentence. It was a nice try, though. :-)
The answer is: both.
In the policy-making plane, when we are deliberating what to do, how to pay for it, etc., we absolutely need to be sober and grim about the momentous choice of going to war. But in the operational plane, the people, resources and activities involved in actually conducting the war, unwavering commitment is critical to good performance. It is the operational plane I will discuss in this post, and show that neither recent efforts to muzzle a politically incorrect General nor the idea of reinstating the draft are useful to enhancing the war effort.
Carpe Bonum commenter Mark, proprietor of The Moderate Liberal blog, calls me out on a comment I made regarding Marine Corps Lieutenant General James Mattis:Mattis: "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."A discussion of whether the Iraq war is just belongs in the policy-making plane, so I'm not going to get into it here. And if you don't believe Iraq is a just war, I'm sure I lost you on the first sentence of this post anyway. So, assuming we are fighting a just war in Iraq, do we need to enjoy it? Answer: no, but we need to maintain and maximize our troops fighting spirit any chance we get.
CB: "Thank God we have people like General Mattis to do it."
Jesus: " But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer. But whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well." "...I say to you, love your enemy..."
Now, I'm nowhere nearly as liberal as Jesus and think in the real world we really do need to resist the evil doer. But do we really need to enjoy it?
There are many just reasons for this war, a couple of them where even mentioned quietly once or twice before we invaded: for example this war was probably the only way to lift the sanctions that were seriously hurting the people of Iraq while their brutal dictator continued to live in luxury.
The reasons usually stated for invading Iraq weren't particularly just reasons, but there were others. But the main reason I opposed this war wasn't due to it's legitimacy, but it's wisdom. I believed the war would hurt our fight against Islamic Fundamentalists by driving moderates away from us and towards the radicals. But now that we are in, I agree we need to see this through, as I've said a few times before while still believing the real goal is to win the hearts and minds of moderate Islam.
Anyway, CB raises an interesting issue of liberal and conservative PCness. Conservatives have been trying to enforce a form of political correctness where no one should ever criticize the war, the decision to go to war or the Commander In Chief. He brings these points up again, pointing to the need to keep moral high in Iraq. While I think there is some truth to this, I believe the American system of open and honest government is far more important, both in general and to the success of the mission. Many mistakes have been made in the war and many of them came from this administration ignoring alternative views, particularly from it's own State Department. It's messy and annoying, but the American system of government is based on openness. debate and dialog. It works.
That said, it works both ways. Some of the right's complaints about the left's complaints have been on the money. But not most. Most on the left have been very careful to support our troops and not repeat the mistakes made during the Vietnam war.1
Now I certainly won't support the rhetoric of those extreme left wing wackos we hear about from time to time (though, of course, I'll defend their American right to say it), but it's vital our nation's civilian and military leaders listen to the criticisms from the left. They need to stop saying inflammatory stuff like Mattis' quote, "our God is bigger than their God", etc. It isn't because I care what they say, it's because people in the Middle East care. Once again, and I need to repeat this over and over again, the real fight is for the hearts and minds of moderate Islam. Right now we are losing that fight.2 If all we do is push them into the radical fundamentalists' camp we have truly lost. We can't kill them all, as much "fun" as that may be.
For the record, this is what Republicans who push the hard line patriotic support of our troops and Commander In Chief say when it doesn't meet with their own political agenda. I remember hearing this stuff several years ago and easily googled it up, I'm sure anyone can find other, similar quotes. I got these from Salon:
"Once the bombing commenced, I think then [Slobodan] Milosevic unleashed his forces, and then that's when the slaughtering and the massive ethnic cleansing really started," Nickles said at a news conference after appearing on Meet the Press. "The administration's campaign has been a disaster. ... [It] escalated a guerrilla warfare into a real war, and the real losers are the Kosovars and innocent civilians." On Fox News Sunday, DeLay blamed the ethnic cleansing on U.S. intervention. "Clinton's bombing campaign has caused all of these problems to explode," DeLay charged in a House floor speech replayed on Late Edition.I'm not complaining about this criticism, mind you. They were part of a healthy dialog, just like the one conservatives keep trying to discourage today.
"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning," Lott offered on Late Edition. "I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area." Nickles called NATO's prewar peace proposal to the Serbs "a very arrogant agreement" that "really caused this thing to escalate."
1 Think of it as hate the sin, love the sinner, if that helps. Nah, never mind, that just confuses me as well.
2 The war is hurting us terribly on this front. On the other hand, a free and democratic Iraq will help us tremendously. Will the good stuff make up for the bad stuff? If I'd thought so I'd have supported the war, but we've already got most of the bad stuff. Let's see if we can get some good out of it now that we're there.