I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

War advocates v. flatworms

(updated below)

Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds, today:

DAVE WEIGEL NOTES the Ohio gun control rollback that I mentioned earlier and observes: "this is just one policy area where Democrats have finally caved to the libertarian consensus, to avoid another decade of drubbings over the gun issue."

Even a flatworm is smart enough to turn away from pain. Which means that political parties eventually manage, too.

Talking Points Memo, today:

Just to put things in perspective... with public approval solidly in the 20s, the war in Iraq is now less popular than a bevy of social issues that have long been considered political poison for Democrats. Imagine if a Democratic president and Congress had made any of these issues their #1 priority, as Bush has with Iraq.

And they wonder why they lost the election?

The Iraq War is less popular than gay marriage, legalizing pot, banning handguns, and rescinding the death penalty.

Rich Lowry, National Review, today:

This LA Times piece Kathryn noted says the Pentagon favors a surge [it reports: "strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to 'double down" in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops"].

This Washington Post story says the State Department favors a surge: "Other options under consideration include a short-term increase of 15,000 to 30,000 additional U.S. troops to secure Baghdad, a plan supported by the State Department..."

The New York Times has Hadley talking up a surge: "The idea of a surge has been raised repeatedly by Stephen J. Hadley."

Not only is the Iraq War itself less popular than legalizing pot, gay marriage and gun control (which Instapundit notes is so politically unpopular that even a flatworm would be smart enough to avoid supporting it), but the specific proposal which seems to be the administration's leading contender right now -- adding 20,000 more troops as part of a "surge" -- is so unpopular that it is literally about as fringe as a view can be in the U.S. (its support ranges from 8% to 16%).

Even the craziest, most despicable ideas can attract more than 8%-16% in polls. More and more Republicans realize the grave political danger posed to them by this war. Are they going to just sit by and let the President sink their party for a generation by "doubling down" and continuing to worship at the altar of its most extremist warmonger elements?

Lowry notes that the "only" group opposed to more troops is the military, specifically Generals Abazaid and Pace, which leads to a glaring question that never seems to be answered by the increase-troop proponents: namely, what are these additional 20,000 troops supposed to accomplish exactly? If Generals Abazid and Pace have no answer to that question, isn't it a pretty good bet that there is no good answer?

What the dead-ender war advocates really seem to crave is not so much an increase in troops but an increase in our willingness to use military force -- i.e., indiscriminate killing. When they urge greater "resolve" to achieve "victory," they don't really talk about strategies that increased troops could enable as much as they excitedly beat their chest and spit out extremely vague and manly phrases such as: "do we have the will to do what needs to be done"?

The only specific plan one ever hears from them is that we can go and kill Moqtada al-Sadr, but that is certainly something we can accomplish without more troops. Independently, is killing one of the most popular and powerful Shiite leaders really going to help stabilize Iraq and help us achieve our goals? While that would be very emotionally and psychologically fulfilling to some, doesn't that choice seem far more likely to have the opposite effect -- which is almost certainly the reason we haven't done it since 2003?

The problem with fighting insurgencies, of course, is that they are blended into the population itself. They aren't sitting in a field somewhere waiting to be engaged by more brigades. The problem we've had isn't a lack of desire and attempt to kill insurgents. That's what our soldiers have been doing in Iraq for almost four years now. The problem is that you can't actually end insurgencies using military force without using extremely indiscriminate force that slaughters enormous numbers of civilians, and flattening whole neighborhoods wholesale is one of the few things we haven't done during the Bush presidency.

Isn't all this talk about "more resolve" and "doing what needs to be done" -- while it is masquerading around as a strategic call for "more troops" -- really about demanding that we step up the indiscriminate bombing, violence and killing, including -- especially -- of civilians, based on the theory, as immoral as it is misguided, that that is the real way we will "win the war" and drive "our enemies into submission"?

As bad as this war is being managed now, the only thing that's certain is that whatever "new way forward" the President is about to embrace is only going to make things much, much worse. Everything he does has that effect.

UPDATE: Via Blue Texan, this is what a flatworm looks like:

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