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March 01, 2006

Farley Goes To War

This post of Robert Farley's simply devastates the nascent argument that domestic opposition bears culpability for our crystallizing failure in Iraq. It's a brilliant piece on the role and historical recurrence of domestic antiwar movement and the motivations and advantages of insurgencies. It really must be read.

March 1, 2006 | Permalink

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Tell it to the Marines!

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 1, 2006 2:58:46 PM

Farley did an OK job. But the argument is absurd on its face. Who really believes an Iraqi insurgent is listening to statements from Ted Kennedy? Or any public figure in Washington. Face is, the NYTimes and other publications may make their way to the MiddleEast, but ultimately its George W. Bush that is the face of America and its policies. What ever happened to accountability? The person responsible for failure is the person who is in charge.

Posted by: Adrock | Mar 1, 2006 3:07:50 PM

It seems apparent to me that Al-Qaida both in and out of Iraq and various other Islamist groups are quite propaganda savvy and do tailor messages for the U.S. audience. They seem quite adept at 4th gen. warfare. As such, one would expect them to listen to statements from Ted Kennedy (and other's) both as a way to tailor their message, and as a way to gauge it's success. The notion that they don't listen seems absurd.

I think it is a difficult question as to how a 'loyal opposition' should act in a 4G conflict. The enemy in such a situation is trying to bypass a supperior military, and directly attack our will to fight without having to achieve military victory. It is obvious that anit-war advocates share that goal. So, in a sense, they want the enemy to win. In many senses, Democratic portest against a war is a form 4G warfare itself.

I strongly support peoples right to protest a war, however, I certainly reserve the right to criticize them for doing so.

I also suspect that we will have to evolve different social standards of what is acceptable and unacceptable types and methods of criticism (hopefully this will not be legal standards) as a response to dealing with 4G tactics. At this point, I am not sure what those should be.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Mar 1, 2006 3:27:11 PM

Bush himself agrees that bin Laden helped Bush get re-elected. Certainly it is no stretch to agree that bin Laden is very smart, and understands how to tailor a message, so we can agree that the message was tailored with the aim of keeping Bush in office. What do we do about a President who acts in ways that further the goals of terrorists? Perhaps we will need to evolve new social standards on how to deal with totally incompetent Presidents.

Posted by: Mike S | Mar 1, 2006 3:58:25 PM

The enemy in such a situation is trying to bypass a supperior military, and directly attack our will to fight without having to achieve military victory. It is obvious that anit-war advocates share that goal.

Pardon me, Dave Justus, but I take extreme offense to statements like that. I have opposed this war from the get-go, and I have spoken personally to as many as a hundred other active war critics, but I know of absolutely no one that is rooting for failure. We opposed the war because we knew that the administration was wrong, and we did not want to see our young men and women sent into war unless it was absolutely necessary. Many of these war critics I refer to are proud former servicemen themselves, yours truly included. You want to insist that war critics opposed the war simply because we want the enemy to win. It would be a miracle at this point, but all of us would only wish for a peaceful, reasonable solution to this horrible conflict.

Posted by: sprocket | Mar 1, 2006 5:19:26 PM

...all of us would only wish for a peaceful, reasonable solution to this horrible conflict.

The problem is that the anti-war critics have no plan for a "peacefula nd reasonable solution". Exactly how would you propose to go about that?

Suggestions?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 1, 2006 5:31:49 PM

Fred, that is not the "problem" at all. The high level advocates of this war have done everything they have wanted to do every step of the way. No amount of world wide protest or condemnation changed their plans one bit. And now whatever happens is still up to them - it is not up to the anti-war contingent to fix this. Congressman Murtha, for one example, proposed a plan to end the conflict and the administration could not even pretend to consider it - so no, Fred, it ain't up to us. Like you like to say over and over again, we are the minority and we should accept our powerless role. So it is squarely up to your team to fix the mess, as it should be.

Posted by: sprocket | Mar 1, 2006 5:45:39 PM

It seems apparent to me that Al-Qaida both in and out of Iraq and various other Islamist groups are quite propaganda savvy and do tailor messages for the U.S. audience.

But ARE we talking about Al-Qaida? A message from Zarquai or Bin Laden would obviously include language designed to fester politics. However, as we've seen recently, an attack (most likely) by Al-Qaida on a holy site incites sectarian violence of two groups, unrelated to the War On Terror, against each other. This is an insurgent military tactic designed to cause civil war. What Ted Kennedy says has no bearing on that initial attack one way or the other. It wouldn't even matter. And clearly the resulting violence is only born out of the attack on the holy site, irrespective of anything happening in the U.S.

It is my opinion that this intentional conflating of Al-Qaida and the Iraqi insurgency as completely one and the same is suspect at best.

Its not doubt that Al-Qaida wants to see the Iraq adventure fail. But I think its pretty clear from their recent manuevers that they have learned they can do more political damage to the situation by attacking Muslims than Americans.

Posted by: Adrock | Mar 1, 2006 5:59:03 PM

The enemy in such a situation is trying to bypass a superior military, and directly attack our will to fight without having to achieve military victory. It is obvious that anit-war advocates share that goal.

I think its obvious that many anti-war advocates simply don't want young men or women dying anymore. This isn't even a conventional us v.s. them war anymore. The 'them' is very hard to define. I'll give you that there may be some activists who could care less about the actual outcome of Iraq, maybe 'victory' isn't something they see as a possiblitiy.

There is a difference between not seeing this conflict as something worth American lives v.s. actually wanting the mission to fail. To intentionally confuse the two is a complete bullshit excuse for an argument.

Posted by: Adrock | Mar 1, 2006 6:08:06 PM

It might be easier to form a resolution to the Iraq war if we knew why we were there in the first place....WMDs? Terrorism? Oil? Democracy? Revenge on Sadaam? Creating a strategic base to invade Iran? The whole thing still baffles me and I have virtually no faith in our brush-clearing President to do what's best for America. Count me as Pro-America but anti-war.

Posted by: Steve Mudge | Mar 1, 2006 8:01:37 PM

Before we get all huffy here, in so far as anti-war folks and the insurgents want there to be no U.S. troops in Iraq, there's an obvious coincidence of goals. That's an objective rather than a normative statement, and as long as it is used in that matter, it should be pretty uncontroversial.

Posted by: Pooh | Mar 1, 2006 8:03:14 PM

Well, there are a lot of pro-war folks who want there to be no U.S. troops in Iraq; they just want to "win" before the troops pull out. That effectively means the troops will be there forever, of course, but the supposed goal is zero troops. (The people who want permanent bases in Iraq, like most people in the administration, are another story.)

Posted by: M.A. | Mar 1, 2006 8:46:06 PM

"Well, there are a lot of pro-war folks who want there to be no U.S. troops in Iraq; they just want to "win" before the troops pull out."

Exactly. Very few people are actually pro-war. This is what infuriates me about the cliche that "most of the [Northern Irish, Bosnian, Lebanese] population wants peace." Of course they do. It's a question of what sort of state they want things to be in when peace is achieved, and how far they are willing to go to get it. The IRA want peace in Ireland and always have; it's just that they wanted peace in a united socialist republic of Ireland and were willing to kill lots of people (with US-supplied weapons) to get there.

I mean, Hitler was pro-peace, for heaven's sake. He wanted a peaceful Europe. He just wanted a peaceful Europe that was dominated by a far larger Germany, and was willing to use military force to get it.

Basically, a) the insurgents, b) the domestic "anti-war" movement, and c) most of the domestic "pro-war" movement all want an independent Iraq with no US troops in it. (Let's put the "permanent bases" movement aside for a moment.)

The points we differ on are:
the governmental structure we'd like to see in place - this is a faultline between a), who have several different ideas about how they want Iraq to be run, none of which are very nice, and b) and c) on the other side, who both would rather like a peaceful, democratic Iraq;

and how much death we believe to be an appropriate price for achieving it - this is a faultline between a), who don't care, b) who think we've already paid too high a price and should get out, and c) who presumably have a price in mind, but think we haven't reached it yet and so shouldn't get out.

Posted by: ajay | Mar 2, 2006 6:54:22 AM

As an addendum, it's worth pointing out that, of course, there is no such entity as "the insurgents". There are Shiite militias killing Sunnis and vice versa. There are ditto, ditto, in police and army uniforms. There are Kurds killing Sunni Arabs and vice versa. There are ditto, ditto, also in police and army uniforms. There are irritated Shiites killing Brits and Americans because they want to run Iraq themselves. There are Sunni (and Shia) Baathists who want the old regime back. There are foreign jihadis detonating themselves all over the place who just want to kill infidels. There are secular smugglers who find that the occupation is cramping their style. There are people who are Sunni and Shia who just want revenge for a family member killed or tortured by the occupation or the interim government. Not all of these have any clear idea about how they want things to run, and certainly there's no unified command structure, and - oh yes - a lot of those Venn circles overlap, or do business with each other.

Posted by: ajay | Mar 2, 2006 7:06:04 AM

The high level advocates of this war have done everything they have wanted to do every step of the way. No amount of world wide protest or condemnation changed their plans one bit.

Are you insane? Of course they are in charge.......they were elected. Protest is an attempt to change that elected officials direction through tantrum by unelected nobodys. All the anti-war protesters have done is bitch with no alternatives.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 2, 2006 9:14:24 AM

Sprocket,

I think you misunderstood me. I explicty said that anti-war advocates don't want America to lose (in a conventional military sense at least) but for America to stop fighting withoit having to be defeated militarily. I don't think that this is very controversial.

I suppose that there are a few who DO want us to suffer horrible military defeats, but really don't have anything to say to them.

I don't think that anti-war people and the terrorists have the same goals in a whole slew of areas, but in the limited area of ending Americas will to fight without having to have Americas armed forces be defeated their goals are the same. Obviously, their tactics are quite different but complimentary.

While we disagree on this particular war, I can certainly imagine myself being anti-war in some cases. How to express anti-war ideas in a 4G warfare environment is therefore of interest to me from both sides. I think we will have to evolve different social norms, but I am not sure what they will be, or what they should be.

Adrock,

Zarqawi is in Iraq and part of the 'insurgency.' He is also, of course, Al-Qaida. Whether or not Iraq should have become part of the war on terror, from their perspective it is quite obviously a central front in the Jihadist struggle. The entire 'incite a civil war' strategy seems to be an Al-Qaida one, rather than a native Sunni insurgency one. It makes a whole lot more sense for Al-Qaida to pursue such an outcome, which would cause the U.S. to most likely leave Iraq if successful, than for the Sunni Iraqis to pursue it which would almost certainly result in their failure.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Mar 2, 2006 10:16:10 AM

I agree with your response 100%, but I still don't see how that leads to anti-war activists being responsible for a losing battle. But whatever.

I think whats more important is this: "in the limited area of ending Americas will to fight without having to have Americas armed forces be defeated their goals are the same."

If the activists disagree with the President's current goal in Iraq, then its not a matter of breaking America's will. One not need will for a mission not deemed worthy, especially if its believed that there are higher priority uses of the military. Unfortunately (for them) elections do have consequences. But that doesn't mean they should quell their voices. Yes, which then leads us to the methods you mentioned. Defending certain methods isn't something I really feel like getting debating. I just wish to defend the idea that the right to voice sharp criticism of a war be protected and legitmized completely, thats all.

Posted by: Adrock | Mar 2, 2006 1:03:27 PM

"Before we get all huffy here, in so far as anti-war folks and the insurgents want there to be no U.S. troops in Iraq, there's an obvious coincidence of goals. That's an objective rather than a normative statement, and as long as it is used in that matter, it should be pretty uncontroversial."

Posted by: Pooh

Al Qaida and the GOP both sought a war in Iraq, for political gain. Both have used a war for their political purposes, to the extent of their ability to do so. Both have eagerly sent others to their deaths, for political gain. Neither wanted democracy or human rights for the Iraqi people. That should be pretty uncontroversial, as well, being the truth.

Posted by: Barry | Mar 2, 2006 4:09:21 PM

Al Qaida and the GOP both sought a war in Iraq, for political gain.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...........

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 2, 2006 8:48:53 PM

"Al Qaida and the GOP both sought a war in Iraq, for political gain."

From the 'war is politics by other means' perspective this is undeniably true. The rest of your statement is neither undeniably true or uncontroversial.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Mar 3, 2006 8:28:02 AM

It might be easier to form a resolution to the Iraq war if we knew why we were there in the first place....WMDs?

Res. 1441

Please don't make me make the long post of all of the Democrats from Kerry to Hillary who supported and voted for this war and if you read the resolution, all 15 members of the security council believed he still had WMD. Every western intelligence agency stated that he still had WMD. Your memory is short.

Next question?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 3, 2006 8:58:11 AM

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