Devistating Critique of Bush's Iraq War

"A failure in generalship", by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, in "Armed Forces Journal."

This guy served as a combat officer in two Iraq tours, and he summarizes my view of this war thusly: "Armies do not fight wars; nations fight wars." T

his observation is crucial, and the Bushies ignored it completely. They failed to account for the fact that about 20% of Americans hate America, blaming it for all problems on earth, and will during many war situations oppose and scrutinize every step taken by US forces, effectively serving as the enemy's public relations arm. Accounting for this population of Americans should have caused Bush to avoid many of his critical mistakes, such as declaring without qualification the existence of WMD and claiming imminent threat, permitting any sort of torture, populating the initial post-Hussein govt with Americans, building the world's biggest and most elaborate embassy, making stupid blustery speeches ("They will hear you!" "Mission Accomplished!") etc, etc.

Through the march into Baghdad, US troops really did get met with cheers, and this anti-US faction in America mostly kept mum, and the entire nation effectively waged the war. Then the mistakes materialized, and the devoted anti-US population piled on, and this took us to where we are.

Instead of ignoring this faction of the US population in its war plans, and railing against it rhetorically, the Bushies should have utilized the concerns of these people, and catered to those concerns. In a democracy, it is not, and cannot be, an assumption of war strategy that once the president and congress authorize and implement a war that citizens will unify and maintain support, simply because loud criticisms by citizens of a democracy at war undermines that war effort. Ultimately I fault not the devoted anti-US Americans for all their angry rhetoric helpful to the tyrants, but rather I fault Bush for not effectively accounting for this phenomenon.


Tom Philpott said...

Paul, this is fantasia. Do you honestly believe that the war has come to its sad state because of protesters? Or are you claiming that the US media that reported on Abu Graib, etc, "hate America"? Is there not a patriotic anti-torture position? Would you not prefer to live in a country where executive-branch bureaucrats who write memos justifying torture get fired, rather than promoted to attorney-fucking-general? (After Ashcroft--author of the Patriot Act, a man who thinks calico cats represent the devil--and Gonzalez, will anyone ever take the "Justice" Department seriously again?

Do conditions on the ground in Iraq not have something to do with the state of things there? If war criticism was limited to America-haters, then wasn't Bush's strategy of demonizing critics and questioning their patriotism in fact the correct one?

You're unwittingly regurgitating Rovian spin. This comes off as a patronizing version of Six's shrill screeds against the "enemies" in the media. Yes, they were wrong, you're saying, yes, they are America-haters, but Father Bush should have indulged them more.

By the way, no need for Six to delete his blustering response. I won't take offense.

Paul Hue said...

Tom: You are reading into my comments all sorts of fantasies about my position on this matter.

1. Not only have I not here advocated patriotism, nor have I claimed that war criticism is anti-patriotism, I have many times in these pages rejected patriotism as an abomination.

2. Please go back and read my commentary, and discover if you please my incomplete list of Bush mistakes. Some of these I believe have contributed to "problems on the ground" (torture, building a US embassy palace, populating the interim govt with USers). Others represent merely poor rhetoric (the WTC speech, overstating WMD and imminent threat, mission accomplished show), though democratic presidential rhetoric matters.

Both sorts of mistakes fed you US-haters, and did so unnecessarily, creating the new problem of giving you guys legitimate complaints.

3. At this point, opposition to Bush's war has spread even to people who do not blame the US for all the world's problems, and who in the absence of these legitimate bush mistakes would (unlike you US haters) support a genuine effort led by the US military to eradicate Hussein's govt and replace it with an independent constitutional democracy.

4. Please notice in your re-read that I advocate against the notion that once a president and congress initiate a war that they should expect US citizens to support that war unconditionally and without articulation of criticism.

Nadir said...

This is such a ridiculous statement that it doesn't deserve a comment. Paul's hero, Thomas Jefferson, is rolling in his grave.

Your contention that criticism of America is tantamount to "hating America" is the most undemocratic tripe imaginable. The right to criticize this nation is the most American of rights.

Idiots who run this country, the people who place their economic gain over the American ideals of freedom of speech, self-determination and HELLO, the Constitution, are the ones who are hurt this nation. Some of us just want the United States to live up to its promise and potential. What's wrong with that?

And don't forget, Paul. This isn't just Bush's war. This is your war too. You wanted it as bad as he did. You're just upset with how he's mishandled it.

Paul Hue said...

Nadir: You and Tom are both assigning attributes to my statement which are not only not there, but are contradicted by my statements.

I do not equate criticism with "hating America." I do not consider you and Tom USA haters merely because you have many criticisms of the US; I consider you guys USA haters because I perceive you guys as blaming the US for most of the world's woes, as believing that the US is generally a horrible place with a negative role in human history, etc.

In my statement here I explicitly embrace Americans publicly criticizing the conduct and policies of their official leaders even in time of war, but recognize that such criticisms undermine the war effort. Americans who believe that the war effort is counter-productive, immoral, or illegal have an obligation to exercise their rights of free speech and electoral franchise to end the war, even though that assists the aims of the opposing military forces.

I ask not that you citizen US haters silence yourselves, or that the US booster critics of this war to silence themselves either. Instead I demand that the leaders of this war effort take both types of criticisms seriously, and address them genuinely, as one of the must vital and necessary war efforts. And if leaders of such a war cannot prosecute their war without keeping domestic criticism to a minor level (using of course only democratic means that respect the universal concept of free speech), then they should either end their war or not initiate it in the first place. As we learned (or should have learned) from the Vietnam war, genuine domestic support for war in a democracy is even more important than battlefield outcomes.

Nadir said...

I suppose I must concede the point. I have every intention of undermining the US war effort because I believe it is an unjust war.

However, my actions are not a threat to the lives of the soldiers who are in harms way. The actions of the illegitimate bastards who illegally launched this imperial adventure are the true threat.

Your beloved president Bush doesn't care what I think and frankly, he doesn't care what you think. He may be happier that you support his invasion and occupation, but ultimately, if you change your mind, he will not bend.

I am most frustrated, however, with Congressional Democrats who could simply stop funding the war and force a withdrawl. Without such action, Bush won't stop until all the US soldiers are dead or he is out of office, whichever comes first.

But Dems should call his bluff.

Paul Hue said...

The issue of your and Tom's protests of this war and its impact on the safety of US troops is a bit harry. Outright, I am certain that it does harm the troops, by emboldening the enemy, convincing them that they are winning. Let's say that this increases 10% the deaths of US troops.

However, I also believe that if the war is inherently unjust, which is what you believe, then 100% of the US troop deaths are unnecessary, and even worse, as the efforts of US troops advance an effort that worsens the world.

And even if the war is just, the leaders and supporters of the war have unnecessary US troop deaths that they must account for: are the leaders of this war enacting effective strategies? Are they doing an effective job of supplying the troops with proper equipment and training? If I assign 10% of US troops deaths to the US hating peaceniks here at home, what percent must I assign to the consequences of using US troops to torture prisoners? To lack of properly equipped vehicles? To lack of proper strategies? To resentment over the US embassy palace? To lack of enough troops? To failing to protect Iraqi museums as ardently as oil facilities?

Furthermore, should I -- a inherent supporter of the use of US troops to topple Hussein and build in his place a civilized government -- publicly voice my outrage at these mistakes? Certainly not. And would not my criticisms join with yours in emboldening the enemy? Yes, they certainly would. "Even Bush's supporters are angry that he...." would surely please the tyrants as much as those throngs at the white house shouting for Bush's imprisonment.

So what is Bush's way out? To imprison you US-haters huggers of Mugabe and Castro, along with we liberty-loving opponents of all tyrants? No. Bush's way to have avoided this would have been to respect both types of critics and to genuinely address as many of our concerns as possible. Obviously the only way to make you and Tom completely happy would be for him to have never invaded Iraq and to instead simply kill himself.

But aside from that there were many things that Bush could have done to reduce the number of complaints that you guys have, to keep people like me from piling on, and most importantly: addressing all of my complaints and most of yours would conceivably have led to more favorable outcomes "on the ground", as they say. And that conceivably would have reduced the protests from devoted US haters domestically to negligible background noise.

I agree with you, Nadir, that in regards to Iraq, Bush completely disregards his domestic critics, when instead he should respect their concerns. I agree that on this topic he considers himself to have all the answers, that he exists to inform the rest of us of the best course of action, and that he rejects the possibility that he might be wrong, that he might have overlooked something, and that his critics might have something useful for him to employ.