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January 10, 2007

The War Of Thoughtfulness

Chris Hayes:

Over at TNR, Jason Zengerle strokes his chin long enough to practically rub himself raw with worry that those calling for withdrawal from Iraq “underestimate the consequences of it” Hey, I share the concern about the effects of a withdrawal. In fact the lefty magazine where I’m a Senior Editor ran a story that reported unflinchingly on all the awful consequences that might follow a withdrawal. But this concern sounds a hell of a lot like the “concern” that many had during the run-up to the initial invasion in 2003 that those opposed to the war weren’t taking into account just how hideous the Hussein regime was. OK, fine. But in the end you either have a war or you don’t, you have an escalation in troops or you don’t. Of course there’s arguments on both sides, there always are. But actual lives hang in the balance and making a show of how thoughtful you are ends up looking a lot like moral vanity.

It also exempts you from having to make tough choices. I find that the folks quickest to fall back on moral anguish are the ones most unwilling to say, clearly, what they believe should be done. In that way, substituting your empathy for an actual judgment on the situation is a form of cowardice.

If you believe we should stay, and that will save lives, your responsibility is to further that argument. If you believe we should leave, and that will save lives, your responsibility is to hasten that outcome. Simply ruminating over the value of each human life and the tragedy of each unnecessary death does nothing but prolong the status quo -- a status quo that's not minimizing casualties. Meanwhile, Jason Zengerle may not have looked into this much, but advocates for withdrawal like, for instance, his magazine's former Iraq reporter, have indeed gone through the evidence and done the spadework and they do not need to "watch Bush's speech tomorrow night...[and] listen to what Kennedy and Biden and any other Democrats have to say in response"* in order to make up their minds. Zengerle may disagree with their conclusions (though he certainly doesn't say that), but they've not been reached hastily or thoughtlessly. And the idea that the crucial missing elements are Bush and Biden's prepared addresses strikes me as odd.

January 10, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Good Lord, how many times do angry young bloggers in their fever swamps need to be reminded of this: It is unserious to follow the news coming out of a war for the past four years and to form opinions based off of long-term trends. This indicates that you are a frothing moonbat who hates America.
You may try to emphasize time and again that your suggestion is merely the least bad option among a choice of many bad options, but this is pessimism, and the ears of serious Americans are closed to pessimism.

Serious Americans listen to canned speeches on television and ignore the inherent half-truths and mistruths contained within because they are said by distinguished Americans with loud megaphones. These speeches have the power to whomp all the contradictory speeches given mere months ago into the far reaches of Lexis-Nexis, from which they will never be mentioned again, except by the aforementioned frothing moonbats.

Posted by: jfaberuiuc | Jan 10, 2007 11:18:14 AM

OK, here's my moral choice:

- Bush is moving fast to make the escalation a fiat accompli, so time is of the essence.

- Since time is critical, I'd pass a Resolution (Sense of the Congress) this week saying that escalation is wrong because it will make the situation worse. In the Resolution, I'd make it clear that funding of the $100 billion supplementary budget request by Bush will contain Congressional directives and limits, including changes to the authorization to use military force (AUMF). Bush can't veto a Resolution. But the will of the people will be established.

- Simultaneously, I'd hold hearings on the escalation AND the supplementary budget request. If the evidence is what we think it is (a 20,000 increaase that won't accomplish anything positive and that can't be sustained for maybe two years without real damage to the Army and Marines), then the supplementary budget legislation should mandate fixed numbers of troops as limits at points in time in the future (100,000 by 9/1/07, 75,000 by 1/1/98, 50,000 by 7/1/98, etc (numbers and dates are exemplars). Bush can veto this, or, sign it with a signing statement ignoring the limitations, or, sign it and disregard that law.

Put Bush in the position where he is committing impeachable offenses by ignoring Congress and the people.

Then impeach his ass at the first sign that he won't follow the law. The impeachment process won't be completed before his term runs out, but his 'legacy' will be shit. And we will have established that Congress controls a major share of the national security policy, not the executive alone.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jan 10, 2007 11:58:17 AM

What if you really really dont know yet? Isn't your duty to invite dialogue on the questions on which the issue seems to turn? Isn't there a duty to caveat uncertainty?

Posted by: RW | Jan 10, 2007 11:58:32 AM

What amuses me is that Zengerle seems to think he's offered an original thought. But his post belongs to a year-old trend in which a supporter of the war claims that even though opponents of the war may have been right all along and may be right now, their motives are dark, their rhetoric is harmful, and their certainty equals a lack of concern for the outcome. Really, there have been a hundred pieces along these lines. Just this week in the New Yorker Jeffrey Goldberg claimed that John Edwards, by advocating withdrawal, betrays his disregard for the consequences. Leaving aside the question of whether supporters of the war have given sufficient thought to the consequences of staying, the irony is stark and amusing. Here we have "civilized" mainstream journalists (using blogs!) to chide "irresponsible" bloggers for their hateful rhetoric at the same time that they're charging said bloggers of irresponsibility, thoughtlessness, and a lack of concern both for Iraqis and America's standing in the world. (Those niggers sure are angry!) The only hatred in this discussion is the hatred that Joe Klein and other ostensible liberals have for actual liberals (and, it seems, for themselves.)

Posted by: david mizner | Jan 10, 2007 12:31:59 PM

Put Bush in the position where he is committing impeachable offenses by ignoring Congress and the people.

I think those are good tactics. But I think Dems have another reason to act fast: Iraq is done. All the talk about "victory" is meaningless, because this country will never commit anything close to the resources necessary for a satisfactory outcome. (If Bush and Wolfowitz and the Crewe had been honest about costs, we'd never have gone in.) Since the Iraq adventure is doomed to an unsatisfying outcome, it's essential that it be wrapped up while its architects are still in office. Otherwise, liberals are going to spend another generation taking the blame for "losing" Iraq, and some long overdue arguments about American Grand Strategy are never going to be heard.

Posted by: sglover | Jan 10, 2007 1:26:23 PM

One more thing: in the estimation of the Zengeles of the world, it's the opponents of the war who don't care about the consequences of withdrawal, yet it was fear of *precisely these consequences* that led them to oppose the war in the first place.

Posted by: david mizner | Jan 10, 2007 2:12:57 PM

It isn't opposition to current policy that shows lack of proper consideration for the effects of withdrawal. It's the lack of proper consideration in the arguments for withdrawal that shows it. Very few of the arguments for withdrawal give a realistic assessment of the consequences; many don't consider anything but the effects on US troops. That's a problem. People, it seems to me, are very much distracted by the old arguments about whether we should have invaded. That's a different question the answer to which doesn't entail anything about whether we should leave.

I'd pass a Resolution (Sense of the Congress) this week saying that escalation is wrong because it will make the situation worse.

Not likely to pass. I think the positions of politicians on this are as much a matter of politics as conscience (both, not only one), and the politics for this would be bad. The rest of your plan is no more realistic, for similar reasons.

The only hatred in this discussion is the hatred that Joe Klein and other ostensible liberals have for actual liberals (and, it seems, for themselves.)

Uh, right. I can feel the love for Joe Klein, for Bush and Cheney, etc. No hate here!

Posted by: Sanpete | Jan 10, 2007 4:11:58 PM

It isn't opposition to current policy that shows lack of proper consideration for the effects of withdrawal. It's the lack of proper consideration in the arguments for withdrawal that shows it. Very few of the arguments for withdrawal give a realistic assessment of the consequences; many don't consider anything but the effects on US troops.

WTF are you smoking? Kick down.

Posted by: LWM | Jan 10, 2007 4:17:57 PM

Very few of the arguments for withdrawal give a realistic assessment of the consequences; many don't consider anything but the effects on US troops. That's a problem.

I don't think that's true at all. Almost all of the arguments I see for withdrawal say something like, "If we withdraw it's going to really, really suck, particularly for the Iraqis. But it's going to really, really suck in any case--we're in no position to affect the outcome in a positive way."

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Jan 10, 2007 4:23:26 PM

Zengerle says:
"Granted, these are all things Bush and supporters of the war should have thought more about before we invaded Iraq; but now that we're there--and we're all so sick of this war that many of us want to get out--we can't afford to ignore them again. The question about the surge to me is: are the consequences of defeat so dire that it's worth one final attempt to avoid it?"

If he actually thinks that withdrawal advocates have taken their position because they are "sick of this war" and are willing to accept the consequences of "defeat", then he has no buisiness opining on the topic. Mr. Z: Withdrawal isn't about giving up, it's about understanding that we do more good by leaving than by staying. Is that so complicated? You can disagree, but it's easy to understand.

The party's over and it was a flop. Paying the band more to play louder and faster isn't going to help, in fact it's making the hosts hate you and pissing off the neighbors. Go home.

Posted by: brent | Jan 10, 2007 4:41:07 PM

"Isn't there a duty to caveat uncertainty?"

We never caveated stupidity so why start hedging the obvious now? Anyone who hasn't made up their mind yet doesn't genuinely give a flying fuck.

Posted by: chris from boca | Jan 10, 2007 4:48:49 PM

It, doesn't matter, if you blame Iraqis, anyway, for not arming themselves, into miltias, to fight all the armed "Militas" and "Insurgents", if we leave them now, or not. All, of which, begs one important question, are "Citizen Iraqis" allowed to bear arms? Or, are the "Government of Iraq" "Militias" and "Insurgents" only allowed to be armed? Would it, then, ever make a difference, at all, if there are no armed "Iraqis" other than "Government" "Angry militias" and "Insurgents", if we just leave now, with our "Guns?"

Also, we have a real problem to deal with at home. Remember, all that concern over 9/11? And, our having our troops killed abroad, to keep it from happening, here, again? Well, since we would not let, "Them" close the ports, until "We" found a way to make sure of "What" is passing through "Then" "Everyone" might as well, bring "The troops" "Home" to join "The rest of us" waiting for the "Invitable." "They" can be passing truckloads, of automobiles, packed with explosives through "Our ports" and "We" would not "Know."

It is, as it has always been, no longer a question of, "If?" It is now, as always, with open ports, a question of "When?" "We" expect the next 9/11.

Copyright 2007, Mark Robert Gates

please my blogs:

http://lokieponaphoenix.blogspot.com/
http://wellnessempowered.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Mark Robert Gates | Jan 10, 2007 4:49:05 PM

If a bull walks into a china shop and destroys the place, then obviously the bull should be expected to pay for the damage and clean it up, right?

Or is the 'bull' the wrong party for this kind of job?

We can't fix Iraq. Its too late. We can make it last forever by staying. Cheney and Rumsfield have told us that we'll be fighting this war for decades. Bush hays he doesn't intend to win this war. But he intends to keep winning. Its clear that what we have is what the White House wants. They keep telling us that this is what victory looks like. We should listen.

I say, pull our troops, let the UN clean up Iraq as they always do when we screw up, and get the reconstruction monies moving to employ Iraqis.

Dump Halliburton and let the UN and Iraqis decide who pumps the oil.

Posted by: Weaseldog | Jan 10, 2007 4:51:06 PM

On armed Iraqis...

Under Saddam, Iraqis were required to bear arms as defense against invasion from Iran. It was the law.

The US has been disarming the private citizen, but arming the police and miltias, who then go and kill the disarmed citizens.

We've been supporting the Shia's because they got the voted and they are backed by Iran. Saudi Arabia wants us to save the Sunnis, whom we are fighting.

So soon we are going to arm the Shia's and Sunnis so they can defend themselves while we fight the Shia and Sunni's to stop the resistance.

This is how we keep winning.

Posted by: Weaseldog | Jan 10, 2007 4:55:31 PM

Zengerle puts down some opponents of the war who were formerly supporters of the war as a means to indicate his distrust of the antiwar position. The moral and intellectual superiority of his position is that he supported the war in the beginnning (an admitted mistake) and now continues to support it (a transparent idiocy). Ahh the intellectual discourse in America today. Is he really paid for this?

Posted by: della Rovere | Jan 10, 2007 5:00:14 PM

Not likely to pass.

Well, looks like the leaders think otherwise, so maybe it will pass. If we don't do the "surge," the supporters of the war will of course blame all subsequent failures on that, which the politicians must know.

"If we withdraw it's going to really, really suck, particularly for the Iraqis. But it's going to really, really suck in any case--we're in no position to affect the outcome in a positive way."

Most of the arguments I've seen are more like "This wars sucks, Bush is a moron, and more are being killed every day. We should get out now." I've also seen arguments like the one you point out, Tim, which is indeed a more suitable one, but I don't consider it a realistic appraisal of the consequences of each choice. Right now things are better than they'll probably be if we leave. That makes "it's going to really, really suck in any case" far from obvious. Why isn't it all-out hell already? It seems it's at least partly because we're there keeping it from being even worse.

let the UN clean up Iraq

How? The UN won't be able to do anything more than we have, due to the high risk to life.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jan 10, 2007 5:12:14 PM

"Why isn't it all-out hell already? It seems it's at least partly because we're there keeping it from being even worse." - Sanpete

Its not all out hell, because Faux news says it isn't.

Posted by: Weaseldog | Jan 10, 2007 5:15:17 PM

Weasel, do you think things will get worse if we leave?

Posted by: Sanpete | Jan 10, 2007 5:20:38 PM

"How? The UN won't be able to do anything more than we have, due to the high risk to life." - Sanpete

I thought you just argued that Iraq isn't that hellish. Sounds like you want it both ways.

Do you really think that Iraqis can't tell a Frenchman from a Texan when their wearing diferent uniforms and carrying out different missions?

Are you arguing that the doesn't have the capability to carry out missions in unsafe regions of the world?

Are you also making the argument that no one can stop this situation from getting worse?

I don't think you're arguing from a very consistent viewpoint. You suggested that others come up with a consistent plan. Yet you don't seem to be able to decide for yourself how you would assess the operation in Iraq.

And just to be clear, are you saying that no one can make Iraq better because its too dangerous, yet its still pretty safe there?

Posted by: Weaseldog | Jan 10, 2007 5:26:30 PM

"Weasel, do you think things will get worse if we leave?" - Sanpete

I believe that things will get worse if we stay, and things will get worse if we leave.

Posted by: Weaseldog | Jan 10, 2007 5:27:38 PM

"What you're doing is the opposite of helping." - Shrek

I believe that chaos is exactly what the administration wants. As long as there is chaos there will be dithering and Halliburton and other corporations will stay and soak up freshly printed US funds.

Thats why everything we do seems to be designed to incite more violence.

The war will not end while we are there. Peace will mean an end to wartime profits. It will not be allowed.

Posted by: Weaseldog | Jan 10, 2007 5:30:41 PM

Most of the arguments I've seen are more like "This wars sucks, Bush is a moron, and more are being killed every day. We should get out now." I've also seen arguments like the one you point out, Tim, which is indeed a more suitable one, but I don't consider it a realistic appraisal of the consequences of each choice. Right now things are better than they'll probably be if we leave. That makes "it's going to really, really suck in any case" far from obvious. Why isn't it all-out hell already? It seems it's at least partly because we're there keeping it from being even worse.

Uh huh. In one paragraph you go from accusing withdrawal advocates of inarticulate ignorance, to doing a Frist-worthy remote assessment of conditions in Iraq (Mad Max-style dystopia, maybe, but not "all-out hell"! Sweet!). No inconsistency here, no sir.

I don't know what tomorrow's bound-and-tortured-corpse count will be, but I do know that yesterday afternoon saw a pitched battle right outside the Green Zone. You'd think that if there's any place where "we're... keeping it from being even worse", it'd be right outside the Green Zone. Episodes like this are no longer a fluke. So your assertion that U.S. forces are somehow keeping the lid on things is really no more valid than those of people who believe that American occupation exacerbates factional violence. Oh, and what about what the goddam Iraqis want? All evidence to date strongly suggests that they want the occupation to end.

Throwing lives and dollars at a problem, when the likelihood of a useful outcome is nil, isn't noble. Particularly when they're not really yours.

Posted by: sglover | Jan 10, 2007 5:50:57 PM

Weasel--
There is a big difference between the status quo in Iraq and what happended in Rwanda or Bosnia. I am concerned that the difference between the two is that the US propping up a Shi'ite puppet state that is not capable of using quite every state resource to round up Sunnis and massacre them. If the US ceases to do so, my concern is that the Shi'ite militias that are currently out of power will take over the state, and be able to more efficiently exterminate a Sunni minority.

Tell me why I'm wrong. I'm listening.

To be clear, the war is awful and 100% Bush's fault. Every commentator that created the public atmosphere for the war shares the blame. Any candidate that supported it should be held accountable at the ballot box, irrespective of the wisdom of their forward looking approach. I marched against it when it happened.

But now I want to talk about what comes next.

Posted by: RW | Jan 10, 2007 5:54:13 PM

I believe that things will get worse if we stay, and things will get worse if we leave.

Yep. Pretty much what every war sceptic's been saying for years now, but it's never enough for wankers like Sanpete. So turn it around -- How the hell is continued occupation going to make Iraq any better, Sanpete? Pretty much every quality of life index that I'm aware of has declined substantially since the invasion. How are we going to reverse the trend now? Let's hear it, Sanpete.

Posted by: sglover | Jan 10, 2007 5:57:41 PM

I think that we will see things rapidly calm down when we leave. The US army is like kerosene poured on a fire.

Posted by: daniel | Jan 10, 2007 6:02:15 PM

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