Friday, March 03, 2006


The original poster that supposedly blamed myself and other critics of the war has an update and a follow-up. His argument is now that he never was saying people who criticized the war were at fault for the problems; it was people who use false information while criticizing the war that are the problem. That's a position that very few sane people would argue with, of course, and it should be the standard for the pro-war side as well - they should condemn misleading statements like these.

Well, far be it for me to condemn badly thought out prose, as my original blog entry on this very subject had to be edited itself; see below.

But reading the original entry and the follow-up, the confusion was more than understandable. Look at these sections from the original post that started the fire:

"But why be glib? One of the important points made in this excerpt (the entire piece is available to subscribers only) is that a goodly portion of our success or failure in Iraq has ultimately to do with how we react in terms of either lending our support or leveling our criticisms against the campaign.
And this is (and has been) a crucial component of the war—one that many on the anti-war side are loathe to admit: that their constant naysaying, though it is well within their right to voice, has objectively hurt the war effort, particularly when the criticism incorporates carefully-crafted falsehoods many of the war’s critics
know for a fact to be objectively untrue" (italics added)

And then from his update:

"First, my essay doesn’t concede that we’ve “lost the war”—and in fact, by offering a counter to Buckley, it argues precisely the opposite. Second, it doesn’t “whine” about how some folks didn’t clap hard enough; instead, it makes the observation that relentness naysaying beyond initial disagreement—particularly when those daily critiques involve knowingly perpetuating falsehoods as part of a strategy to undermine the war effort—is objectively damaging, as it meets one of our enemies’ stated goals of dividing the American electorate." (boldface added, italics in original)


"Critics of my essay are free, of course, to misinterpret or refigure my argument any way they’d like (I envision action figure stories or kitty pictures). But it won’t change what I wrote, nor will it alter what are indisputable facts: namely, that the enemy relied on breaking our will, and it relied on doing so by applying the kinds of pressures to which many on the left—already predisposed to disagree with the intervention of US forces—would succumb.
It is also true that, regardless of what we each felt about the wisdom of the intervention, showing a united front against the terrorists (who are now fighting against an elected Iraqi government and the vast majority of those Iraqis who voted for democracy) would weaken the insurgency and show solidarity with a fledgling democracy. Doing so at a time when civil war is possible thanks to the provocations of terrorists is particularly important if our goal is to win the war in Iraq (and not just political control of a future, toothless foreign policy)." (italics added)

In his update, he posts a straw man letter to show the kind of arguments he feels are at fault, which is fair...if he had been much more specific in saying he only meant these kind of Ann-Coulter-on-the-left arguments. But then:

"Whether or not it is appropriate for war critics to criticize the war so vocally and so consistently is for them to decide, ultimately; however, it was my position that the more hyperbolic and vicious critiques—based too often on falsehoods and ideologically-weighted arguments that failed to provide adequate context for their criticisms—were doing damage to troop morale, to the morale of the US electorate, and were helping in the propaganda efforts of the insurgents (who have no legitimate claim in Iraq)—and they were working in this harmful capacity far moreso than they were weakening the President’s resolve or helping the people of Iraq. I suggested that those who were anti-war—having registered their disagreement—are therefore doing no good by working hard to bring about our defeat at this point in the campaign, or by openly crowing for a civil war. But they are making it more difficult for our troops, our State Department, the DoD, and our allies." (italics added)


"What I don’t understand is, why can’t you and your friends on the left who are so quick to (mistakenly, and in my opinion, intentionally) assert that I have laid blame for the failure of the war at the feet of the left take responsibility for what YOUR actions have wrought—even if you believe those actions were justified? The best and worst of (subjective) intentions, after all, have empirical consequences. And to deny that the anti-war campaign, coupled with a media that concentrates on calamity rather than success, hasn’t had a deleterious effect on US will—and a positive effect on the persistance of the insurgency—smacks to me of willful blindness and, frankly, a rather patently obvious defensiveness." (italics added)

The whole essay reads like he can't decide if it's ALL the people against the war, or only those who use false statements in their criticisms, who are causing problems for morale and etc. Yes, he says a few times he only means the hyperbolic people - and then uses the subset while condemning the whole, using words like particularly. If I said stuff like:

And this is (and has been) a crucial component of the war—one that many on the (PRO)-war side are loathe to admit: that their constant (DRUMBEATING), though it is well within their right to voice, has objectively hurt the war effort, particularly when the (SUPPORTING STATEMENTS) incorporates carefully-crafted falsehoods many of the war’s (SUPPORTERS) know for a fact to be objectively untrue

I would understand why people would be confused over who I meant to condemn there - all supporters, or the ones who used false statements in their claims. I'm also troubled by other things, like his questioning if war critics should criticize so often or so vocally (so, less often and more quietly...why?) and the fact that "relentless campaign" has had a deletrious effect on U.S. morale - again, not just the ones using false statements. (I'd also ask how divided is the blame as well - promises of easy victory, less cost, fewer people needed and a short time over there being broken would also cause a loss of morale.)

The relentless naysaying comment is a little confusing as well. Much of the reason I've been pretty constant in my criticisms of the war is because the criticisms haven't been addressed - the lack of planning in the beginning, the failursectarianning Iraqi troops, the secterian conflict we should have seen coming and have yet to figure out how to deal with. When the problems get addressed, then the criticism can be muted.

His comment about showing a united front against the terrorist also gives me pause - why is my criticizing, say, the lack of body armor in Iraq not a united front? Does he only mean the people who want the terrorists to win, and if so, who are they specifically?

As I said, I'm not one to condemn unclear writing. It just seems like this writing may be more clear then intended, with the mixing and matching of problems of false statements and the honest criticisms. Yes, he does say a few times that rational debate is different - and then in the next paragraph includes all war critics as a lump. Perhaps it's just he knows what he means, and the people who are regulars on his site knows what he means...but it doesn't come as a surprise to me that other people don't know.

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