Saturday, June 18, 2005

NYT Letter With Which I Regretfully Must Agree

Neglected to link to this when it appeared, so I'll just have to type it all in:

From the NYT 6/7/2005:

To the Editor:

Thomas Friedman says liberals "deep down don't want the Bush team to succeed." I am, admittedly, part of that faction, and I have no doubt that there are a lot more people in this country like me. But I dare say that there are more like us, even a majority, in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

We're fighting this sentiment as much as we're fighting the insurgency itself. If America were led by a more diplomatic, reasonable, respectful administration, one that was a little less arrogant and contentious, maybe we wouldn't have to win an image war as well as the war on the ground."

Mike Polikoff,
Evanston, Ill., June 15, 2005"

Hear, hear, Mike.

I'm fighting these sentiments in myself much of the time. If I could flip a magical Iraq war switch with 'succeed' and 'fail' settings, I'd flip it to 'succeed.' But that doesn't mean that I don't sometimes realize that deep down I'm sort of hoping that they'll fail. I believe that they are bad and not terribly bright people who in essence stole the election of 2000 and deceived the American public into an ill-advised war that undermined our efforts against al Qaeda. I can't help but hope with part of my heart that they get what they deserve. Then, reflecting on that and recognizing what that means for so many innocent people, I hate myself for having such feelings. But it would be dishonest to deny that they are there. And, like Mr. Polikoff, I know that many, many other people feel like I do--they, too, would flip the switch to 'succeed', but they have the other feelings, too.

So, once again, I think Friedman is right about something important.

I've been meaning to write about this for a long time, but it's a complicated and embarrassing subject. Quickly, though, I'll say this much: this whole Iraq adventure has been rather like watching a good friend make a series of stupid and immoral decisions. In the end, you wouldn't want him to suffer irrevocable tragedy...but part of you can't help being so mad at and disappointed in him that you feel some weird sense of satisfaction when you contemplate him reaping what he has so foolishly sown. Especially when you've been giving him good advice all along, and he's been not only assiduously ignoring it but making the most outlandish accusations against you for trying to convince him to do the right thing.

None of this is particularly pretty, but note that conservatives feel the same way about liberal presidents. In particular, many conservatives spent most of the Clinton presidency hoping for something--anything--to go wrong enough to bring him down. The glee in some of their voices after things went badly in Somalia was unmistakable, and it was clear that many were hoping for us to fail in the former Yugoslavia. The feelings liberals are having about Iraq are, for what it's worth, far more understandable than those.


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

That's why I enjoyed Adam Smith's other book, The Theory of the Moral Sentiments so much. Man, he really had us humans wired:

That wherever we cannot sympathize with the affections of the agent, wherever there seems to be no propriety in the motives which influenced his conduct, we are less disposed to enter into the gratitude of the person who received the benefit of his actions.

This accounts for why there seems to be so little sympathy for the continuing victimization of the Iraqi people and their pathetically hopeful purple fingers.

8:15 PM  
Blogger rilkefan said...

I think I'm both more anti-Bush and less divided re success in Iraq than you, but it seems to me you leave out the argument that it might be good for America in the long term for Bush to fail clearly enough that the christianist elements of the GOP are broken and that the American people develop a lasting revulsion for reckless, non-transparent, unchecked, divisive, emotionally manipulative, Lysenkoist, extremist governance.

10:48 AM  
Blogger rilkefan said...

Oops, to go honeymooning and on returning to respond to the top post at a favorite blog without reading beyond the next few posts is a classic dumb mistake - I see you've made exactly the above argument already.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Azael said...

Seems to me that you're misreading Friedman. From his op ed:

Liberals don't want to talk about Iraq because, with a few exceptions, they thought the war was wrong and deep down don't want the Bush team to succeed.

Now, what you are saying is that deep down, some people don't want Bush to succeed. That may well be true. In fact, it may even be universally true amongst all liberals.

What is definitely not true is the statement which preceded it - i.e. Liberals don't want to talk about Iraq. I defy you to prove that this is anywhere close to the truth. Liberals of all stripes, whether they want Bush to fail or not, are discussing Iraq quite a bit. Regardless of whether you think an exit strategy is a good idea, it is being seriously discussed. The fact that Bush doesn't want to talk about it is immaterial.

Quite frankly, I think it is completely wrong to assume that a victory for Bush and success in Iraq are the same thing. Bush has already lost. And lost big. As Henley has stated, He’s turned Iraq into Jihad University. We will not kill every foreign fighter in Iraq. We will not kill every native-born Iraqi bent on revenge. Our Iraq strategy amounts to promiscuous use of insufficient antibiotics on a sinus infection - we’re culling the lame terrorists and breeding a newer, stronger strain. Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya aren’t enough for this Administration. They needed to create one more petri dish of Islamist militancy.

Again, I'll just state it for the record. Bush has already lost. He hasn't succeeded. So any fantasies you may have about Bush losing big are already tragically true. The only thing that is left is the realization and admission of this fact by the supporters of this mad adventure (admission that there is a problem is the first and necessary step to fixing the problem). The disconnect between the "happy happy happy" crowd and the reality is astounding and growing larger every day.

At issue is how we can best salvage the situation so that we don't end up losing our army. What's being debated by everyone except the supporters of this war is how we're going to minimize the damage caused by the incredible lack of planning. What's being hoped for by liberals is that - somehow - we can at least partially reverse the stunning damage done to our credibility.

What's sad about Tommy's column (and apparently how you've interpreted it) is that he is completely lying about the fact that liberals aren't talking about Iraq and what to do about the cluster fuck we've found ourselves in.

It's a transparent attempt at framing the debate and cutting off options which should be discussed. So far, the crowd in charge has done nothing but screw the pooch consistently and - amazingly - doing it worse on each attempt. Friedman's idiotic suggestions (hey Tommy, we didn't have 2x troops in the first place so where the heck are you going to get them now) are just proof that he isn't seriously thinking about the problem, he's just trying to save face and look important.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

"...the christianist elements of the GOP are broken and that the American people develop a lasting revulsion for reckless, non-transparent, unchecked, divisive, emotionally manipulative, Lysenkoist, extremist governance."

7 pejorative adjectives (and a noun and an adverb in there for good measure) in a row. My compliments.

Congratulations on your marriage, rilke. It has not diminished you.

10:35 PM  
Blogger rilkefan said...

Well, tvd, we're thinking about having kids, and the prospect of them growing up in a country weakened and divided by Bush's spendthrift and knee-jerk-partisan ways in a world made more dangerous and splintered by his arrogance and stupidity - well, seven adjectives don't do justice to my fear and anguish for them.

12:39 AM  
Blogger Bromides said...

Bush's program has been an enormous success. The war is a small part of that program. He doesn't govern on behalf of the country. He governs first for his cronies and then for the Republican movement. The opposition to that movement is reduced to people who have no chance of ever gaining power and a huge, disorganized mob of feckless triangulators. The latter tie themselves in knots trying to appear reasonable to the constant, goading jeers of angry loons.

No matter what happens to the occupation forces or Iraq, Bush wins. Friedman is setting up a face saver for himself and a scapegoat for the wingnuts.

5:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rilkefan posted
"...the christianist elements of the GOP are broken and that the American people develop a lasting revulsion for reckless, non-transparent, unchecked, divisive, emotionally manipulative, Lysenkoist, extremist governance."

Seven accurate adjectives (and a noun and an adverb in there for good measure) in a row. My compliments on your succinct summation of this administration's actions in the run-up to its invasion of Iraq.

(Well, maybe not Lysenkoist in the run-up to the invasion. But, if we turn to global climate change we can find Lysenkoist.)

And, my congratulations on your marriage -- may your time together be healthy and happy.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I feel you, Rilke, but what if the christianists are right?

I'm doing enough worrying for the three of us.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Azael said...

WS: it now appears to be a completely moot question as to whether the Iraq war was a success or not.

Iraq May Be Prime Place for Training of Militants, C.I.A. Report Concludes

They said the assessment had argued that Iraq, since the American invasion of 2003, had in many ways assumed the role played by Afghanistan during the rise of Al Qaeda during the 1980's and 1990's, as a magnet and a proving ground for Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries.

The officials said the report spelled out how the urban nature of the war in Iraq was helping combatants learn how to carry out assassinations, kidnappings, car bombings and other kinds of attacks that were never a staple of the fighting in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet campaigns of the 1980's. It was during that conflict, primarily rural and conventional, that the United States provided arms to Osama bin Laden and other militants, who later formed Al Qaeda.

As they say in the old country, the country of my birth: thanks.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But remember, we're fighting them in Iraq so that we don't have to fight them in St. Louis.

I've always wondered how the Iraqis would feel about that. Making sacrifices to keep Americans safe.

so sez The Duke of Prunes

6:27 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Funny you should mention that... I just had a similar thought while driving down the road. Even if it were true that we were fighting them there so we didn't have to fight them here, it would still be wrong. It's roughly equivalent to saying "Hell, it's better to tear up Iraq and get some Iraqis killed than to risk similar death and destruction in America."

Because, of course, American lives are worth more than any other lives in the world. Perhaps because of our special national relationship with God...

1:07 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

What is strange is the Muslim-on-Muslim suicide bombing of innocents, which was more characteristic of places like Pakistan.

We hope that these tactics, if you can call mindless murder "tactics", are making even the Sunnis realize that al-Qaeda, et al., are the enemy of all humanity, not just the West.

It's they who are to blame, not St. Louis.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Uh, I think you may be missing the point here, t... Nobody's blaming St. Louis...

7:04 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Aw, I don't miss much, WS.

What the soldier meant was that if al-Qaeders want to obliterate themselves to gain a ticket to heaven, better they present themselves to a fully-armed member of the United States Armed Forces than to public transportation in Missouri or Madrid.

Had the US/UK invaded some innocent bystander like Jordan to create a magnet for Islamicist terror, that would of course have had been unconscionable and I would agree wholeheartedly with the above, but that's not the case here.

These guys are blowing themselves up along with innocent fellow-Muslim Iraqis instead of heartland Americans. Unfortunately for humanity, they don't care which. Magnetism simply draws them to the nearest place to die.

1:36 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Um, false dilemma?

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