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‘The Folly Of Mocking Radicalism’

Ta-Nehisi Coates on having said “meh” to the prospect of war in Iraq: [1]

I say all this to say that if I regret anything it is my pose of powerlessness — my lack of faith in American democracy, my belief that the war didn’t deserve my hard thinking or hard acting, my cynicism. I am not a radical. But more than anything the Iraq War taught me the folly of mocking radicalism. It seemed, back then, that every “sensible” and “serious” person you knew — left or right — was for the war. And they were all wrong. Never forget that they were all wrong. And never forget that the radicals with their drum circles and their wild hair were right.

This is true. I was all for the Iraq War at the time. The case for it seemed so clear to me that the only reason anyone could be against it was cowardice, stupidity, or some form of bad faith. This magazine, The American Conservative, was launched as an antiwar voice from the Right. Though I certainly didn’t believe its founders were “unpatriotic,” I nevertheless didn’t understand what their problem was.

I covered a big antiwar march in Manhattan in the spring of 2002, and the radicals were a disgusting bunch. “Bush = Hitler” signs, and so forth. As foul as it was, the event was a pleasant thing to see, in a way, because it made me feel more secure in the rightness of the war the US was about to undertake. And it shouldn’t be forgotten in those days that some antiwar people were nasty and hysterical, and impossible to talk to. [2]

For all that … they were right about the only question that counted — Should the US launch a war on Iraq? — and my side was wrong. I was wrong. I had allowed myself to be swayed by emotion, even as I spited the emotional hysteria of the antiwar crowd.

I don’t think this makes radicals always right, or beyond mockery. But I learned that sometimes, radicals of the left and the right see things, however imperfectly, that most of us don’t. When “everybody” knows something is true, right, and necessary, we should damn sure question it.

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231 Comments To "‘The Folly Of Mocking Radicalism’"

#1 Comment By Art Deco On March 6, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

I see Art has a list of countries above where elections were held as if this were “evidence” of something

Keep on spinning, buddy.

#2 Comment By Art Deco On March 6, 2013 @ 8:22 pm

[3]

Here is a rank-ordering of countries on an index of their property rights. The median score for the Near East and adjacent areas is around the global median.

#3 Comment By Noah172 On March 6, 2013 @ 8:33 pm

JonF (and ArtDeco),

The US was going to be in WWII under any realistic set of conditions. Deal with it, and take comfort that, whatever our faults and blunders, it is much, much better than the Allies won than the Axis.

My point with this whole WWII discussion is that the best outcome, for America, every other belligerent nation, and humanity as a whole, would have been a grinding stalemate between Allied (sans the US) and Axis and the collapse of both totalitarian fascism and communism from within (given the burdens of an unwinnable war exposing each system’s inherent weaknesses).

Instead, we defeated the weaker, less ideologically seductive brand (non-ethnic, non-religious Marxism had immensely broad appeal across cultural lines, while German and Japanese racial supremacist nationalisms had little beyond their own ethnies) of totalitarianism; vastly strengthened communism in Europe and East Asia; condemned the world to a half-century of draining bipolar struggle and vast swathes of humanity to unparalleled misery under the many manifestations of Marxist rule.

There is the joke about the Iran-Iraq War: “I just wish they could both lose.” Under better American leadership — less self-righteous, less messianic, less biased in its assessment of the relative evils of right-wing and left-wing totalitarianism — such a just outcome of both communism and fascism losing together was within reach. A certain Senator from Missouri thought so as late as June 1941:

If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Neither of them thinks anything of their pledged word.

#4 Comment By Joe Sansonese On March 6, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

Having perused the copy of the Constitution of the German Empire supplied by Art (thank you), limping along with a German Wörterverzeichnis und Grammatik in hand, I now see plainly that both SteveJ and Art Deco are correct and I was mistaken with respect to Germany. (The case of Japan requires further investigation on my part.) I very quickly was able to locate the place where Wilhelm I would have signed the document and, after a bit of rummaging, the clauses to the effect that whereas the Kaiser could submit a law, it required the approval of the Parliament to take affect. That is consitutional enough for me even if, as Art put it, it was an illiberal constitution, and so deserving of special respect at a conservative website (that’s a joke).

I had always thought, for no good reason, it seems, that the Kaisers of Germany had simply inherited the absolute powers of Frederick the Great. Never again will I characterize the three German Kaisers as autocrats. Thanks for the education.

#5 Comment By SteveJ On March 6, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

Art, the numbers assigned don’t mean what you imply. You act as if the median means average or substantive or semi-acceptable. It doesn’t.

Heritage has a ranking system.

[4]

Even if a country were to obtain a 50 out of 100 on their system, it is clear that such a country has no similarity to the Unites States or other stable Constitutional Republics.

But it really is even worse than that. If you own a home (or property on which you run a business) that can be confiscated at any time, you don’t own it in any meaningful sense of the word.

It seems to me that should garner a sum total of 0 points. Or possibly .0001

There are organizations who assign a number to such home owners. And give a country credit for it. And apparently that is good enough for you.

In places like Iraq, you run your business on state owned land after the government says you can do so — something they can rescind at any time. For whatever reason, various groups think this warrants a certain number of points on the property rights scale as well.

But it’s nothing like a business in the West.

#6 Comment By JonF On March 7, 2013 @ 5:21 am

Joe,
True absolutist monarchy (meaning the ruler could do literally anything he wanted) never existed in the West, and I would be skeptical it ever existed anywhere for very long– monarchs who tried that sort of thing tended not to have long life expectancies. France had a Revolution because Louis XVI couldn’t simply order tax and fiscal reforms on his own word, the States General had to do it.

#7 Comment By VikingLS On March 7, 2013 @ 8:13 am

It amazes and confounds me that this conversation is taking place on this forum in the way that it is. Were there anti-war protesters who simply hated Bush or reflexively oppose all war? Sure. However not only were there people who opposed that war for the right reasons and whose predictions about that war have been vindicated, This magazine was founded by such people.

And yes as one of those people who opposed the war for the right reasons, I am annoyed that there really has been no damage to the reputation of the Bill Kristols and Krauthammers, there has been no reward for those who were correct, like Pat Buchanan and Taki Theodopolous. Sure Clinton lost the primary to Obama, but she was still Secretary of State (a job she was utterly unqualified for, John Kerry is not much better. ) Most of the politicians who opposed the war got little to nothing for it, and those who advocated it have mostly advanced.

Even now the arguments for the Iraq war don’t even make sense in hindsight. If, as some people here are asserting, Bush couldn’t gamble on Saddam having WMDs because he might give them to terrorists how did it make sense to take step after step which created the kind of chaos where terrorists could simply take the WMDs outright? How much energy was Saddam going to put in keeping those labs secure when faced with an American led invasion?

The Iraq war was a bad idea and it was executed poorly . There may yet be some good to come of it (I am teaching Iraqis now, and they’re some of the best students I’ve ever had) but we need to make sure its a mistake we don’t repeat.

Unfortunately looking at the way people are talking about Syria and Iran I think many people did not learn and will not learn as long as it isn’t their neck on the line.

#8 Comment By Art Deco On March 7, 2013 @ 10:13 am

Even if a country were to obtain a 50 out of 100 on their system, it is clear that such a country has no similarity to the Unites States or other stable Constitutional Republics.

You have persistently confounded the contours and character of political institutions with the properties of real estate law in various locales, delineated no model which specifies the relationship between the characteristics of the land registry and political practice and offers a specified correllation between phenomenon A and phenomenon B, persistently made claims to granular knowledge about real property in the Arab world that you clearly do not have, and in general given everyone a lesson in the games people play while trying to make a point. Good show.

#9 Comment By Fabius On March 7, 2013 @ 10:54 am

Noah172,

I know this thread has mostly wrapped up, and the WW II counter-factual isn’t directly related to the original topic, but if I can still get a word in, I might as well try.

It’s playing a very dangerous game of hubristic hindsight to think that just because the best option MIGHT have been to let Germany and Russia bleed themselves dry, to therefore assume that it WOULD have happened for sure, and that that outcome was particularly discernible and achievable as the actors involved saw it.

You’re assuming way too much on several levels. Most superficially, assuming that Russia and the UK would have actually held out without US aid. Perhaps they might have, but it’s not certain, and probably more likely that Germany strangles UK shipping (Enigma was not the golden answer you portrayed it as, whenever the Germans changed their codes, it took a while for the British to crack them, and the U-boats went on a tear). Britain was dangerously short of escort vessels and only scratched together convoy protection with the 50 lend-lease destroyers we gave them. Churchill’s whole strategy of holding out was predicated on eventual US involvement.

The amount that US logistical support boosted the Russian war effort is vastly under-appreciated. Tens of thousands of planes, trucks, and other less important gear (e.g. 13 million pairs of felt-lined boots). A huge reasons the Germans lost Stalingrad was that Hitler foolishly reinforced Northern Africa as the Americans/Brits were closing in on Tunisia. He pulled a huge amount of the Luftwaffe’s air transport away from Russia precisely when it was most needed. The eventual surrender of over 300,000 German troops in Africa was the largest Axis defeat at that point in the War, and there’s no way Britain could’ve pulled it off alone. It’s at least as likely (if not more so) that Germany would have knocked Stalin back so hard that he would’ve been forced to sign an eventual truce, one that would’ve played to Germany’s favor in the long run, since Hitler now had control over the Russian population and industry centers. Germany would’ve had the time to re-tool and buildup. In this case, you’d either have Fascism dominant, or a future second round against a weakened USSR. An even more exhausted Britain (if it survived) would’ve lost her imperial holdings just as quickly if not more so, leading to a power vacuum that may well have ended up with more Communist dictators anyway, and no clear, forceful, articulated alternative.

You’re looking at this through rose colored glasses to get the outcome we’d all most have preferred. But that wasn’t likely, even in hindsight, and it was certainly not the most likely outcome as the participants at the time saw it, even Truman was expressing a wish rather than prediction.

This gets back to the point Joe Sansonese keeps making so eloquently, that it’s terribly unfair to judge historical actors with no allowance for understanding the situation as they saw it at the time, with their more limited range of perceived options and lack of perfect knowledge. You’re essentially playing an unfair game with historical actors and judging them by a standard they can’t fairly measure up to.

We can possibly in hindsight say that it would’ve been better for Fascism and Communism to collapse from within and spare us a half-century of Cold War and misery for vast swaths of the globe (though that option would also condemn millions more to death in Eastern Europe and Russia), but the actors at the time had NO WAY of knowing that. At this point, there’s not even any historical value to pose this counter-factual, because there’s no practical lesson we can learn from it. Historical hindsight is only useful if you can show that the historical actors had an easily discernible alternative option that was much more likely to succeed than the one they chose. We can legitimately blame FDR towards the end of the war for giving Staling such a commanding position and making the Cold War worse than it actually was, but that’s a limited, prudential judgement based on information he did in fact have in front of him.

Your counter-factual really only supposes a world (a world based on one of the least likely outcomes IMO) in which we’d be having all sorts of hand-wringing debates about whether “it was worth it” after the fact to let all of Europe muddle on under totalitarianism misery and death, and whether millions of lives could have been saved “except for our isolationism.” Even the eventual collapse of the German Empire from within probably would’ve kicked off another round of extraordinarily bloody and destructive violence.

#10 Comment By Rob in CT On March 7, 2013 @ 11:22 am

VikingLS: well said!

#11 Comment By Joe Sansonese On March 7, 2013 @ 11:30 am

“And yes as one of those people who opposed the war for the right reasons, I am annoyed that there really has been no damage to the reputation of the Bill Kristols and Krauthammers, there has been no reward for those who were correct, like Pat Buchanan and Taki Theodopolous.”

It is this infantile preoccupation that “certain people” have with taking credit for making decisions that had no real-world consequences and were based on nothing factual in particular that one might have pointed to unambiguously at the time/em> that is truly annoying and, in my opinion, verges on plain neurosis. Mentally balanced adults do not whine about not getting credit for who-knows-what exactly when what they really seem to have entered a state of mental imbalance over is that they are not getting credit for who-knows-what from everyone in sight or who has the nerve to peck at a keyboard. get a grip.

Ninety-plus percent of your fellow bloggers here are slapping each other black and blue on the back, man—that would include you—and with nary a care are brain-deadishly glad-handing themselves, one and all, for having guessed—you read that right, plain old guessed—correctly about the existence of WMDs in Iraq. Don’t flatter yourself it was anything else until you can come up with some argument at least formally distinct from “Harrumph—,” or “I knew perfectly well that—” or “A fool could see that—” or “I just knew“—and all of that faux astuteness prompted by a bygone predicament upon which the factual basis of any inference made was mixed, was in fact leaning rather more towards the existence of the damn things in Iraq rather more than not.

Yet no! the all but totalitarian, indeed Stalinesque, level of intellectual conformity of opinion in this neck of the woods is still insufficient! You find that you are “amazed”—nay, you are plain “confounded” that what is obvious to you and to the rest of the Visigoths isn’t as plain as the noonday sun to any that dare darken the door, that not everyone is willing to pin an Order of Buchanan ribbon on your breast is as mysterious as supersymmetric-string theory..

Um . . . . That’s creepy, that’s what that is.

But wait! There’s more. It seems that not only has not enough praise been coming your way, but, what is truly galling, not nearly enough suffering has gone the other way as well, nowhere near enough of the sort of bell, book, and candle anathama-thonicsto suit you, such as one would expect in, say, Salem, Massachusetts, or from the Spanish Inquisition, has gone down, save that, as was once well known, “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

But I digress. The political-science-class traitors Krauthammer and Kristol need something besides argument, something more, punishment is required, a good hiding maybe. After all they still have careers and are not actually starving paupers begging from the gutter. People read what they write, the horror of it!

Do you realize how much like an unhinged Maoist cultural revolutionary you and the rest of the ward sound? Right down to the semiquaver? “Down withall running-dog, neoconservative lickspittles! Down!, I say.” Or perhaps, you will go with some other label besides neocon. What’s the difference when the solidarity of the mob is at stake? They work equally well as mental short-circuiting mechanisms. “Imperialist!” or “Wrecker!” or “Enemy of the Revolution!” Any old iron will do.

Levels of epistemic closure so stratospheric andso sensitive to contrary opinion are rarely found outside police states and mental wards.

Recall this, do you:

“Use every man after his desert, and who should ‘scape whipping? [Hamlet, II, ii]”

I’m quite sure you’re in there too. I know for damn sure Pat Buchanan is—or—say—do you get to decide not only who to damn but what to overlook?

Finally, none of your opinions concerning WMDs included in your last, ahem, thoughts are exempt from the criticisms I’ve made before. I shall not rehearse them. A very good rule of thumb: Possibilities are not facts. And they don’t become so by retrodiction, which is always oh so astute and oh so very boring.

#12 Comment By Joe Sansonese On March 7, 2013 @ 11:35 am

“And yes as one of those people who opposed the war for the right reasons, I am annoyed that there really has been no damage to the reputation of the Bill Kristols and Krauthammers, there has been no reward for those who were correct, like Pat Buchanan and Taki Theodopolous.”

It is this infantile preoccupation that “certain people” have with taking credit for making decisions that had no real-world consequences and were based on nothing factual in particular that one might have pointed to unambiguously at the time/em> that is truly annoying and, in my opinion, verges on plain neurosis. Mentally balanced adults do not whine about not getting credit for who-knows-what exactly when what they really seem to have entered a state of mental imbalance over is that they are not getting credit for who-knows-what from everyone in sight who has the nerve to peck at a keyboard. Get a grip.

Ninety-plus percent of your fellow bloggers here are slapping each other black and blue on the back, man—that would include you—and with nary a care are brain-deadishly glad-handing themselves, one and all, for having guessed—you read that right, plain old guessed—correctly about the existence of WMDs in Iraq. Don’t flatter yourself it was anything else until you can come up with some argument at least formally distinct from “Harrumph—,” or “I knew perfectly well that—” or “A fool could see that—” or “I just knew“—and all such faux astuteness prompted by a bygone predicament upon which the factual basis of any inference made was mixed, was in fact leaning rather more towards the existence of the damn things in Iraq rather more than not.

Yet no! the all but totalitarian, indeed Stalinesque, level of intellectual conformity of opinion in this neck of the woods is still insufficient! You find that you are “amazed”—nay, you are plain “confounded” that what is obvious to you and to the rest of the Visigoths isn’t as plain as the noonday sun to any that dare darken the door, that not everyone is willing to pin an Order of Buchanan ribbon on your breast is as mysterious as supersymmetric-string theory..

Um . . . . That’s creepy, that’s what that is.

But wait! There’s more. It seems that not only has not enough praise been coming your way, but, what is truly galling, not nearly enough suffering has gone the other way as well, nowhere near enough of the sort of bell, book, and candle anathama-thonics to suit you, such as one would expect in, say, Salem, Massachusetts, or from the Spanish Inquisition, has gone down, save that, as was once well known, “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

But I digress. The political-science-class traitors Krauthammer and Kristol need something besides argument, something more, punishment is required, a good hiding maybe. After all they still have careers and are not actually starving paupers begging from the gutter. People read what they write, the horror of it!

Do you realize how much like an unhinged Maoist cultural revolutionary you and the rest of the ward sound? Right down to the semiquaver? “Down withall running-dog, neoconservative lickspittles! Down! I say.” Or perhaps, you will go with some other label besides neocon. What’s the difference when the solidarity of the mob is at stake? They work equally well as mental short-circuiting mechanisms. “Imperialist!” or “Wrecker!” or “Enemy of the Revolution!” Any old iron will do.

Levels of epistemic closure so stratospheric andso sensitive to contrary opinion are rarely found outside police states and mental wards.

Recall this, do you:

“Use every man after his desert, and who should ‘scape whipping? [Hamlet, II, ii]”

I’m quite sure you’re in there too. I know for damn sure Pat Buchanan is—or—say—do you get to decide not only who to damn but what to overlook?

Finally, none of your opinions concerning WMDs included in your last, ahem, thoughts are exempt from the criticisms I’ve made before. I shall not rehearse them. A very good rule of thumb: Possibilities are not facts. And they don’t become so by retrodiction, which is always oh so astute and oh so very boring.

#13 Comment By Scott S On March 7, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

An Orthodox Christian writes to Sullivan about his opposition to the Iraq invasion:

“It wasn’t a question of knowledge. I had access to much less information than those who were in power. It was a question of values. As much as I was castigated at this time for this view, I believe strongly that military force should only be used when absolutely necessary to defend oneself. I also believed strongly in deference to international authority, not American unilateralism. I knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, because the U.N. inspectors said there were none, and it was the height of arrogance to denounce their conclusions and insist there were WMD anyway.

“At the time, I was a pretty lone voice against the war, except for my dad and my 11th grade history teacher. It’s strange to me that public opinion came around to my view, but only after the war took longer than anticipated. No one seemed to consider that invading a country that hadn’t done anything was inherently wrong AND ALSO anti-Christian. I’m a devout Orthodox Christian, and what I hated most about the Bush years was how the Christian message of love and forgiveness was co-opted into something ugly.”

[5]

#14 Comment By VikingLS On March 7, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

Joe

You know you have a real talent for saying very little in a lot of words.

I really could careless if you compare me or other Paleos to Maoists because we’re not Maoists and we’re not calling for anybody to be arrested. Free speech doesn’t mean that there are no professional consequences when a person says something and they turn out to be wrong. Krauthammer and Kristol are essentially professional prognosticators, if they turn out to be very wrong then their reputation should suffer. Since Pat Buchanan was right on this his should be enhanced. That’s how the free market should work.

This isn’t to say people should never listen to Krauthammer and Kristol ever again (though in the case of the latter I don’t recall him ever being right about anything) but when they give advice on military matters it should be taken with a grain of salt.

It’s ironic really that you chose Maoists to compare me to since I’m applying the rules of the free market here (if you do your job badly your reputation should suffer) and you appear to be insisting that what truly matters is sticking to the theories no matter how badly they fail in practice.

Of course the problem with the rules of the free market is that, much like most people would rather eat junk food than broccoli, most people would rather hear what they want to hear than what they need to hear.

#15 Comment By JonF On March 7, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

Re: My point with this whole WWII discussion is that the best outcome, for America, every other belligerent nation, and humanity as a whole, would have been a grinding stalemate between Allied (sans the US) and Axis and the collapse of both totalitarian fascism and communism from within

So the “best” result would have been a longer war that would have killed far more people– and given the likelihood that someone would have gotten nukes (and it wouldn’t have the US) the final death toll might have made WWII as it actually happened look like the Toledo War.
Noah, that’s misanthropy on such a grand scale that even good old Florence King might turn tail and run from you.
And I really don’t get why you (and old Pat Buchanan*) think it so awful that the US joined the war effort and was one of the principle victors– if not THE principle victor. Sure, we had a Cold War afterward, and yes there was a very dangerous nuclear standoff– but the Soviet Union has long since rotted to compost on history’s slag heap too, so that did not end badly either. Concerned that the US became an imperial power? Goodness, but that was already the case and had been for some time. We treated the whole western hemisphere like our backyard, and we had established ourselves across the Pacific too. So even if your scenario came true, the US was going to end up pretty much where it was after the USSR shriveled up and died: the Hyperpower.

* OK, in Buchanan’s case I think he has an old Irishman’s hatred of Britain and secretly wishes the Nazis had won and had stomped their jackboot firmly down on John Bull’s neck

#16 Comment By JonF On March 7, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

Joe Sansonese,
You have a lot of gall (or maybe that was just some good hooch talking), coming into these parts and mocking someone’s religious beliefs, which beliefs he shares with our host, and goodly number of the blog regulars.
I marvel at Rod’s tolerance…

[Note from Rod: Uh-oh, I’d gotten out of the habit of reading Joe’s long, long, long posts. Let me go back and check. — RD]

#17 Comment By Joe Sansonese On March 7, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

“You have a lot of gall (or maybe that was just some good hooch talking), coming into these parts and mocking someone’s religious beliefs, which beliefs he shares with our host, and goodly number of the blog regulars.
I marvel at Rod’s tolerance…”

The gall, it seems to me, lies entirely with someone claiming that the United States action in Iraq, and in particular President Bush, who at least we have reason to believe is a devout Christian, uncontroversially violated Christian “love and forgiveness” by taking his responsibility as president seriously. And what is the sole reason for this anonymous slander against the president, which somehow eludes your indignation, the UN weapons inspectors said something so, of course it had to be true, even though, as I have been at pains to point out those same inspectors could not detect a nuclear-weapons program carried out under their noses for an entire decade (1981–91) and, after the armistice of 1991, failed to detect the fact that Iraq had also had an active bio-weapons program until it was divulged buy the Iraqis in 1995. Those same inspectors until this day cannot tell you what happened to 10,000 liters of biological and chemical weapons. But of course their say so is enough for a soi-disant “devout Christian” to condemn the “Bush years” out of hand on religious grounds. You see no possible irony here?

[Note from Rod: Joe, I took that response of yours down, because it was really personal and provocative. You’re not a regular here, so you may not know this: I try to be really tolerant of various points of view, but I work to make sure that the discourse remains civil. — RD]

#18 Comment By Joe Sansonese On March 7, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

Rod, I appreciate the explanation, and of course you have final say, but I am baffled by exactly how any criticism, be it never so aggressive, criticism, not, mind you, of any identifiable person actually posting here but of an entirely anonymous and, in my opinion, sanctimonious, third-party quotation taken from a submission to another site and dating from God-knows when, might possibly be described as “personal.”

#19 Comment By VikingLS On March 7, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

Thank you Rod

#20 Comment By AnotherBeliever On March 7, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

I don’t clearly remember what I thought about the invasion of Iraq, except I was quite surprised that it really happened, at least on the timeline it did. I expected there to be the usual endless UN talks, maybe a UN resolution, then a few bomb runs to decapitate Saddam’s government. Things might or might not escalate from there, depending on the course of events. Much like our actions in the Balkans. I thought the accusations that anyone opposing the war was unpatriotic were dumb, though.

I had a very limited but extremely interesting view of the actual invasion. I started Army Basic Training the first week or two of March, 2003. They keep trainees on a near news-blackout. We’d get little glimpes of video when we walked by the Staff Duty desk in the barracks, or a few minutes of news the few times they turned on the radio on over the PA system while we were cleaning gear. Some people’s folks sent them news clippings – if they were about the war, the Drill Sergeants would let us keep them, all other forms of media were contraband. When the first casualties were reported, we were introduced to the traditional ground pounder memorial: a rifle stuck in the ground, with a helmet and boots. Other than that it was just them shouting things like, “82nd Airborne is 150 clicks from Baghdad!!! 82 push-ups for the 82! IN CADENCE exercise!” And, “You guys are GOIN’ TO WAR soon as you ship out of here, so get your heads out of your fourth point of contact, get your A**ES up OVER THAT WALL! MOVE!!!” And so on…

The next stop was Arabic language school. That took more than a year. Got to watch the insurgency start, in real time, live on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. At first, we all laughed off the pathetic road bombs. But they got better. By the time they really got going, my class could actually understand the details in the local language. Had started picking up the geography and names of cities which will stick with us for life. Ramadi, Fallujah, Najaf, Sadr City, Mosul, Tikrit, Abu Ghraib. None of us in that classroom could have known how bad it would get or how long it would go on – one of the officers dropped himself from the course and assigned to a line unit, for fear he might miss his war. Heh.

I do not remember being particularly surprised or disillusioned when the intelligence turned out to be bad. War is a tragic farce by definition. And the basic mentality by then was, “You broke it, you bought it.” So just pile it on, it made no difference to most of us when we got there a year later – like I said, a fascinating view of the whole thing.

#21 Comment By Selvar On March 7, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

@Joe Sansonese

“those same inspectors could not detect a nuclear-weapons program carried out under their noses for an entire decade (1981–91)”

Iraq was not considered a rouge state during that time. Many western nations traded to Iraq parts that could be used in a nuclear weapons program and generally supported Iraq’s war against Iran. The US refused to condemn Iraq’s use of chemical weapons at the UN. Under these circumstances, do you honestly expect any “inspection” by the UN to be successful? Why would Saddam feel any pressure to cooperate with the UN inspectors, if one of the world’s main superpowers was on his side?

As for 1995, UNSCOM uncovered evidence of a bio weapons program by virtue of its own investigation. They did not know the full extent of it, until the defection of Hussein Kamel, but they knew it was there. Feel free to correct me If I have gotten any of the facts wrong. You seem intent on making the UN inspectors seem more incompetent then they were.

[6]

#22 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 8, 2013 @ 10:07 am

Scott,

“I’m a devout Orthodox Christian, and what I hated most about the Bush years was how the Christian message of love and forgiveness was co-opted into something ugly.”

I am in deep sympathies with you here. I felt as though the Christian Community had left me. And the vehemence of what they believed seemed a call from God. Had it nor been for the Muslim component, I am not sure it would have developed as it did.

But despite that, the entire country still hasn’t come to grips with our act. Voting for the current admin out of some delayed penance is another poor choice. Not expecting the Mulims that arrive here to bend to the Constittution or leave is another bad choice. Mohhammehd will just have to take his rhetorical ‘licks’ just a Christ has, does and will.

#23 Comment By Joe Sansonese On March 8, 2013 @ 10:14 am

Selvar writes:

“Iraq was not considered a rogue state during that time. Many western nations traded to Iraq parts that could be used in a nuclear weapons program and generally supported Iraq’s war against Iran.”

Technically true but largely irrelevant to the dispute between us, namely, how much confidence might one reasonably claim in nuclear-weapons inspectors; in the instant case, that would have been the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) part of whose job was to monitor compliance with the 1974 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iraq was a signatory.

For the back-and-forth at the IAEA concerning the efficacy of inspections of Iraqi compliance: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Educational Foundation for Nuclear Science, Inc.) 47 (8): 5. 1991. The best that might be said about the matter was that it was decidedly mixed before the 1981 Osirak bombing, an admittedly controversial military strike that might have been expected to heighten IAEA efforts vis-à-vis Iraqi nuclear-weapons programs, particularly when Iraq was at the time waging war on Iran and considering as well that, before the Israeli strike, the Iranians had unsuccessfully attempted to bomb the facility once or twice precisely because they too suspected its (dual) purpose was to produce plutonium for a fission bomb.

As for afterwards, the period (1981–91) we are discussing now, here is what Dr. K. Hamzi, a defector and an Iraqi nuclear physicist, at one point deputy head of Iraq’s weapons-development effort, had to say in February, 2003. (NB: Dr. Hamzi testified before Congress, and no one has ever disputed a single fact he adduced then.):

“Israel—actually, what Israel [did] is that it got the immediate danger out of the way. But it created a much larger danger in the longer range. . . . [W]e were 400 . . . scientists and technologists running the program. And [by the time of the bombing] had invested $400 million. . . . When they bombed it out we became 7,000 with a $10 billion investment for a much larger underground program to make bomb material by enriching uranium. We dropped the reactor totally, which was [to supply] plutonium for making nuclear weapons, and went directly into enriching uranium. . . . They [Israel] estimated we’d make 7 kg [15 lb] of plutonium a year, which is enough for one bomb. And they get [sic] scared and bombed it out. Actually [Osirak] was much less than this and it would have taken a much longer time. But the program we built later in secret would make six bombs a year [emphases supplied].”

Now think that over—personnel 7000, funding $10 billion—yet year after year, the IAEA signed off on Iraq as being in compliance with the NPT. The last two or three years, the signature at the bottom of those IAEA reports was that of Dr. Hans Blix! Who later assured one and all that he and his team of 100 inspectors could find a garage-sized weapons stockpile, not production facility, stored by a murderous police state bent on deception with 170,000 square-miles of hiding places at its disposal while refusing Blix and his merry band the right to interview with any remotely relevant personnel who were unaccompanied by secret-service handlers.

I for one foresee insuperable problems on a time scale less than the half-life of plutonium.

You then go on to write:

“As for 1995, UNSCOM uncovered evidence of a bio weapons program by virtue of its own investigation. They did not know the full extent of it, until the defection of Hussein Kamel, but they knew it was there. ”

They sure did, not by dint of any effort of their own, which after all is the subject of the argument here, but because in July, 1995, Israeli intelligence informed UNSCOM (see [7]). Prior to that time UNSCOM had succeeded in discovering, with respect to bio-weapons, only what the Iraqis had told them in three WMD declarations (the last dating from March, 1995) that (a) denied any such programs existed, (b) claimed that, in any case, no biological agents had ever been weaponized, and (c) that all had been destroyed in the summer of 1991 sans UN supervision, which was itself an unambiguous violation of one of the conditions of the armistice.

The following may also be of interest (from a source skeptical of the existence of Iraqi WMDs, [8]🙂
“Further, the inspectors’ record on unmasking Iraq’s biological weapons was particularly weak; although UNSCOM had managed to confirm the existence of a biological weapons program after their first inspection at Salman Pak in 1991, biological weapons inspections became a priority only after the 1995 defection of Saddam’s son-in-law. Still, if UNSCOM, and later UNMOVIC, had been allowed by either Saddam or the United States to proceed with their work unhindered in 1998 and 2003, their plans called for devoting the greatest attention and monitoring the most sites in the biological weapons sector.”

Plans are admirable; demonstrated capabilities are far more so. As to the latter, one can only chuckle ruefully at the blasé manner in which the chief Iraqi bio-weapons scientist, a Dr. Taha, deflected the attention of UN inspector Rolf Ekeus in late 1990 (after the invasion of Kuwait but before Operation Desert Storm) when they inquired about what looked to even a casual observer to be some sort of weapons facility. “Not to worry, iIt’s a chicken-manure fertilizer plant,” she said.

Of course, being a proper Swedish gentleman, Dr. Ekeus took the lady at her word and seems to have dug no further. That might have been interpreted as prying.

#24 Comment By collin On March 8, 2013 @ 11:13 am

I have simplified that World War 2 was won because of Soviet winter/blood, English war intelligence and US manfacturer and the leaders worked relatively well together. (Considering FDR/Churchill did not trust Stalin anymore than Hitler.) If we were taking the WW2 further, it proved FDR was incredibly more savy politician than Jr. (or likely anybody in the last 100 years.) I suspected FDR knew the US would be in WW2 at some point, but knew he needed increased population support. He built up the army, lend lease for war goods in UK and Soviet, oil embargoes guaranteed the Axis knew the US was an enemy of their efforts. That did not guarantee are entry but prepared America for it. The war was not undersold to America and Congress declared war.

#25 Comment By Richard Gadsden On March 9, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

June 1941:

If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Neither of them thinks anything of their pledged word.

The problem with this position is that in June 1941 there were very few other democracies in the world, and the vast majority of them were in a life-or-death struggle with Hitler’s Naziism. We’ve grown accustomed to a world – even during the Cold War – where there are a lot of democracies, and where the question in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has been answered with a resounding “yes”, so much so that we’ve forgotten that it was a live question until 1945.

America could not afford the risk of being the last democracy left in the world. Look at how the PRC has been unable to be the last communist country in the world, or Franco’s Spain was unable to be the last fascist country.

As a question in 1939, over whether Britain and France should sacrifice Poland to let Hitler and Stalin fight each other, your quote makes sense. As a question in 1941, with half of Europe occupied, and Britain hanging on by a thread, it’s insanity.

Is there a case for ending Lend-Lease to the USSR in 1943? Sure. A case for not landing in France in 1944 but concentrating on the Balkans and the Baltic to put the Iron Curtain as far east as possible? Certainly. But the case for not letting Britain fall in 1941? “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

#26 Comment By JoyousMN On March 9, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

As one of those who protested, called my Congressperson, and finally led a delegation to talk to him I would like to say that most of the people protesting were NOT the crazy, fringe. Most were like me, middle and older-middle aged, and we were driven by the facts. It became more and more obvious if you were paying attention that Cheney, Bush and the rest were shifting from reason to reason to justify what they wanted to do. The crazy fringe was at rally’s and the media focused on them, but they were by no means the majority.

And I agree with the people calling for, at minimum, an apology by those who were so wrong (so thank you Rod), but I too think that they owe it to the rest of us to be aware that they were very loudly wrong. Perhaps there is nothing more that can be done, but it’s really bad to see the same people who were wrong on this, and taxes, and many other policy decisions still opining with the same level of influence as before, while those who got this and other things right are still vilified in much the same way.

BTW, as one other person pointed out, Hilary Clinton did lose the Democratic nomination over her Iraq vote.

#27 Comment By Barry On March 10, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

Richard Gadsden:

“Is there a case for ending Lend-Lease to the USSR in 1943? Sure. A case for not landing in France in 1944 but concentrating on the Balkans and the Baltic to put the Iron Curtain as far east as possible? Certainly. But the case for not letting Britain fall in 1941? “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.””

First, FDR and the US and the UK were not sure what was going on on the Eastern Front. Cutting off Lend-Lease would have had effects which were unknown. Landing in the Balkins and the Baltic would have been insane – no matter what Churchill thought, the former were not a soft underbelly of anything, and landing in the latter would not have been doable at all (it would have made the Normandy landings look like a heavy holiday across the channel).

And then there are the domestic political implications – after motivating the US people to go to war, openly and cynically backstabbing an ally would not have been the way to keep them motivated.

#28 Comment By Joe Sansonese On March 11, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

“. . . I don’t like it under Obama, though I trust the latter far more.”

For the attacks of September 11, 2001, to have succeeded, it was necessary that a whole bunch of liberal policies that made terrorism primarily a law-enforcement problem to be in place, from segregating the CIA from the FBI, to the fastidiousness over the privacy of Moussaoui ‘s computer, to lax visa-enforcement standards, indeed to culture that resisted doing anything that my offend the liberal universe of sensitivities until something bad happens, and maybe not even then. The amnesia about 9/11 on this site approaches the incredible.

We have had no catastrophic attacks now for a decade, possibly because, as far as prevention goes, the Obama Administration has adopted the same policies as George W. Bush and with precious little by way of political push-back. It’s certainly nothing at all compared to the deafening, nonstop screeching as of all the demons of Hell in chorus combined when Bush was in office.

George Bush was in office at the time the 9/11 attacks occurred, and that is something for which he will have to bear responsibility. But two of the attackers had been in the country for nearly two years before he took office, shielded by loony-liberal, Clinton-era policies that camouflaged them from view and left them unmolested.

I know it is a prevalent fantasy at this site that all the probms we have stem from our imperialistic mindset or because of our alliance with Israel. First of all, that we are in fact imperialists is debatable, depending on a novel, neo-Leninst deployment of the word imperialism in which fact and reality are linked only coincidentally. Secondly, that is definitely not how Al Qaeda, the folks who actually carried out the attack and would, if they could carry out another, approaches the conflict. For Al Qaeda it is all about a clash of cultures and strong versus weak horses. Israel and Imperialism or even Israeli Imperialism are secondary irritants to them. As Osama bin Laden himself ruefully pointed out the great catastrophe for Islam occurred on March 3, 1924, when the Ottoman Caliphate became a mere fact of history. Islamists with a taste for jihad suffer fatally from serious nostalgia, a longing for a political hegemony that is two or three centuries in the past but that they imagine can be resurrected. It was a wholly imaginative conception of Islam regnant, in my opinion, that guided the planes into the towers and the Pentagon, having not much to do with the problems on the West Bank or the insidiousness of oil diplomacy. They want their sultan back badly.

Until that world-historical event is undone by whatever means necessary, jihadists everywhere, and I with them, believe the struggle with the United States will never end. Their determination to attack us as lethally as possible has not abated. It remains to be seen, therefore, what new and improved methods for letting down one’s guard the folks on the left, including the current President, will discover and deploy. It’s happened before.

#29 Comment By Fentex On March 11, 2013 @ 7:19 pm

One wonders what you think was wrong.

The selfish use of force and careless murder of many, or failing to benefit from it?

Are you only sorry it didn’t work out? Would you think you were wrong had the consequences not been so disastrous for the U.S?

I suspect a person who thought the idea was good at the time, who didn’t question the nonsensical justifications and self serving rhetoric when they were offered, would not now think it an error had benefits accrued in their interest.

No matter how many innocents died.

I don’t think I’ll believe you really think you were wrong until an opportunity to be right in the future comes to pass.

#30 Comment By Joe Sansonese On March 12, 2013 @ 10:55 am

“The selfish use of force and careless murder of many, or failing to benefit from it?”

Smug self-serving, question-begging rubbish on stilts! You have no claim to the high ground here, none whasoever, based on the outcome, whatever it was, of a legitimate controversy in which you were not a responsible party. So please cease from this childish I’m so good–you’re so bad smarminess. it’s unseemly in an 11-year-old. In an adult it is repellant.

#31 Comment By Mightypeon On March 16, 2013 @ 4:09 pm

Concerning the USSR, one should note that the misery became a lot less after Stalins death. With Mao, there were also strong differences before and after his death (and Maos deathcount was more incompetence than Malice, compared to Stalins), and the Pol Pot situation got “fixed with extreme prejudice” by the Vietnamese.
The time under which communism was “unparalleled poverty” was quite limited, and calling it unparalleled is also far fetched.

To acutally forestall communism, one would have needed a global equivalent of Roosevelts New Deal, and that would have been far fetched too.