Reader Request Week 2008 #12: Soldiers and Support

Chris asks:

At what point does or should personal distaste of the War in Iraq translate into disdain or disapproval for the Service members fighting in that fight? Is it possible to support the Soldier but not the War? If not, is it ‘unpatriotic’?

In general I think it’s perfectly possible to support the soldier even if one does not support the war, and I think at this point, regarding Iraq, this is what a lot of folks are doing. Likewise, I think most people are wise enough to recognize that individual service members are responsible for their own conduct (and when under their orders, the conduct of the soldiers below them), not the conduct of the war in a general sense. Distaste or disapproval generally comes when and if a service person’s own actions are reprehensible.

Now, sure: There probably are some folks who believe that war (or this war) is so wrong that anyone having anything to do with it has a mark against their soul, just as there are people who believe there’s no atrocity that we might commit that’s not excusable, simply because “we’re the good guys.” In either case, there’s not much to say about that. However, I strongly suspect most people are capable of threading the moral needle here, and of recognizing that individuals in a war can act and serve justly and with honor, even if the person believes the conflict itself is unjust or dishonorable.

The question to me brings to mind not Iraq, but the US Civil War. Anyone who has read the Whatever over the years knows that I believe that the Confederate States of America was an elementally evil institution, because it explicitly and affirmatively incorporated the institution of slavery into its Constitution, and I believe slavery is fundamentally immoral and evil (before anyone attempts to sidetrack in the comments, yes, the US Constitution made provisions for the accounting of slaves, but neither mentioned slavery by name, nor — key point — was owning slaves encoded into it as a fundamental and constitutional right). So, the CSA was evil, the war it precipitated was to defend an evil entity, and thus the soldiers who fought on its side in the Civil War were ultimately fighting for an evil institution.

But that does not mean the Confederate soldiers were in themselves evil, or that their personal reasons for choosing to fight were necessarily evil. Some fought because they felt obliged to defend their homes or their home states or may have felt that the political concept of states having the right to secede was worth defending (Confederate general Robert E. Lee, for example, opposed succession, but once it happened, chose loyalty to his home state of Virginia over national loyalty; he turned down Lincoln’s offer of command of the Union forces). I suspect the number of rebels who fought because they thought slavery itself was worth rushing the Union forces for was small (although probably not as small as some Confederate apologists would like to suggest).

Overall, I feel sorry for these Confederate soldiers that their efforts were in the service of an evil nation, and it’s well and good that their efforts failed and the CSA was destroyed. But I don’t feel that each and every soldier who fought to establish the CSA was evil, or deserved disdain or disapproval. Ultimately, it’s something like this: “You were a fine soldier. Shame your country sucked.”

I’m explicitly not comparing Iraq to the US Civil War, nor the US with the CSA, to be clear. The Iraq war is its own singular thing in our nation’s history. Nor, to yet again remind people, was I opposed to invading Iraq five years ago, although that was for my own reasons, and even at the time I recognized that the reasons we were going in were bad ones (I wrote: “even those people who fully support a war against Iraq are rather painfully aware that the stated reasons that the Dubya administration wants to gear up for war are window dressing for a revenge fantasy. It is possible to fight a just war for less than entirely just reasons. We’re about to do it”).

In retrospect, I wish I had twigged to the concept that fighting an unnecessary war is never a good thing, even if one has theoretical reasons for not opposing it; I wish we had left Iraq alone and just focused on Afghanistan. I also wish that I had realized the Bush administration had an Underpants Gnome war policy (“Step One: Invade Iraq!!! Step Two: ???? Step Three: Profit!!!”) rather than one that had an actual plan for what to do after we satisfied Dubya’s need to avenge and/or best his dad by deposing Saddam. These are the things one learns, alas at an unfortunate cost which this country will be paying for the rest of my life (and given the deficit spending of the Bush years, for the rest of my daughter’s life, too).

My personal regrets and observations regarding the Iraq war, however, have almost nothing to do with my opinion of those who serve our country there. Our service people went to war and they and their families have disproportionately sacrificed for it, since this is a war that has entailed almost no sacrifice or contribution on the part of civilians (hell, we got tax cuts). The vast majority of those who have served in Iraq (and so as not to dismiss by omission, in Afghanistan) have done difficult jobs in a difficult situation, and have done so with honor. They have done what their country has asked of them, and have done so longer than anyone ever expected — we’ve been in Iraq rather longer than we were in WWII, which is a thing I think people know but may have trouble conceptualizing — and have done so as volunteers. In sum, our service people have worked hard, worked long, and served with honor.

I’m not sure how one disdains them for doing any of these things, except to rig the deck such that there is nothing these service people could do to satisfy one’s sense of personal moral outrage over Iraq. At which point, one may have to entertain the notion that one is being a bit of a dick, and back off and give these service people a break.

Because here’s the other thing: Those folks who have served in Iraq will be carrying around what they’ve seen and done there for the rest of their lives. Even if they acted justly and correctly in all cases, and did their jobs competently and with honor, what one sees and does during wartime is still a burden, and can’t be unseen or undone. They’ve got a lot to carry already. The last thing they need is you putting something else on their back, something they don’t actually deserve to have to carry. Give it some thought before you try to push it on them.

87 thoughts on “Reader Request Week 2008 #12: Soldiers and Support

  1. Just as a note:

    I almost didn’t bring up the Confederacy because doing so inevitably invokes the kind of jackass who doesn’t think the Confederacy was so bad, even though it was explicitly founded on the concept of owning people, and I think these jackasses really tiresome, really quickly. But then I remembered that I actually do control the microphone here.

    So, thread rule: Any comment that tries to sidetrack the discussion into a referendum on the Confederacy (or related topics therein) is going to get deleted as soon as I see it. Because, honestly, I don’t want to hear it. You shut up now. And etc.

    If you see a comment of the sort that looks as if I will soon delete it, don’t respond to it, because then I will have to delete your message, too. Just ignore it and comment on the actual topic at hand. Thanks.

  2. A cogent analysis, and well said.

    Personally, I always urge people who ask this question to focus their anger (or unhappiness or whatever) on our political leaders. If war is an extension of politics by other means — which it sure seems to be — then it is the political process that is responsible for the initiation of, and the conduct of, war.

    BTW, your post reminded me of the only ad for the UN I remember from the 60s: with no music or voice over two groups of formally dressed old men trudge up a hill. Two of them square off and begin to beat the crap out of each other (watching people fight in tuxedos is pretty funny, BTW).

    At that point a voice says “Wouldn’t it be nice if the men who start the wars actually fought the wars?” After which the UN logo came up.

  3. This question does tear me up. Those in the war ostensibly had a choice to join the military or reserves. But how much of a choice is it when you’re poor or between jobs, or any number of circumstances that lead to people entering the military beyond the desire to serve their country? One of my coworkers deployed for the second time to run a POW camp. She loves her country and whatnot, but there was a strong streak of economic incentive when she talks about why she joined. She plans on handing in her retirement papers right before her reenlistment deadline ‘so they don’t have time to come up with a way to keep me.’ (accurate, but a paraphrase)

    So originally, I had very little sympathy for Americans in Iraq – they chose to be there as an adult. But the more I thought on it and met folks I decided that most of them were thoroughly hemmed in by the circumstances of their life when they made their choice. And once in, they don’t have a choice at all. Basically, I just root against the body count on both side at this point.

  4. Agreed: going into the war, wrong time and reason. Iraq was probably a bit more stable and prosperous under Saddam (although the whole genocie thing that Saddam tried wasn’t kosher. Then again, neither are a bunch of countries that we didn’t attack and haven’t attacked.)

    I have a friend who was in Afghanistan and that I know watched at least a few of his friends die. It’s a tough job, and produces an amazing amount of stress. I can’t imagine it, and that phase of his life is over, no talking about it allowed.

    The fact that there are people who’ve gone through that and have been undercut and had their trauma being worse than not supported by their own government is an abomination.

  5. As a veteran, I sincerely appreciate the distinction you made in this post. It’s nice to know that the profession of arms is no longer held in contempt in this country.

  6. My great-great-grandfather (and namesake) was a CSA infantryman in the Civil War. I’m definitely not at odds with your stance on that war, but I am at odds with much of what is taught about it in our schools. But I definitely don’t want to get off track on that, either. So don’t delete me :)

    I’m also a former infantryman myself.

    As for Iraq, well, I think it was long past due. Dubya Sr. should have taken care of it, and damn the Coalition. Slick Willie should have taken care of it in ’98 in the hubbub of Operation Desert Fox (or “Operation Monica” as we called it). Non-compliance with various and sundry UN resolutions, kicking out WMD inspectors, etc etc. Dubya Jr. had a bit too much on his plate. I wish he would have pursued the war in Afghanistan to a successful end before he got us involved in Iraq. I agree that his espoused reasons for invading Iraq now seem tenuous at best, but I think it was a thing that needed doing. I just don’t think that it was a good time to do it.

    That being said, I have a good many friends who either ARE in harms way over there or have been (some for multiple tours). For them I have only prayers for safe return. And perhaps a little bit of guilt that I’m not there with them.

  7. Ian wrote:

    Those in the war ostensibly had a choice to join the military or reserves.

    Yes, but they did not get to choose how they would be deployed. If circumstances had been entirely different and our military had responded to a mainland invasion (yes, I know, it’s entirely hypothetical) I imagine the perception of their involvement might be much different for anyone who thinks their role in the current war somehow “taints” those who serve.

    In other words, in a “just” war, would we even be having this conversation? Point is, those people who volunteered to serve don’t get to choose their battles. I suspect many or most of them would prefer to be maintaining a peace or at least defending us against a true military threat.

  8. Although a person who is a soldier is a person just like anyone else, in the abstract sense of military conflict, a “soldier” is a weapon in the inventory of weapons available.

    For whatever reason – and most often for what I believe are quite honorable reasons – a person who becomes a US soldier (all volunteers nowadays, remember) surrenders themselves to be wielded as a weapon by the military organization they join. I think this is a really selfless thing to do, no matter for what reason they decide to do it.

    I can’t have any animosity for soldiers because of this. It would be like being angry at an F-16 or an Abrams tank for being what it is.

    I hate war, but I’ll always respect and honor the soldiers. They’re going through hell on earth and deserve nothing less.

    If you want to be angry at someone, be angry at the policy-makers and leaders who are wielding them as weapons… and maybe at us all, a bit, for failing to find a way to resolve the conflict without throwing selfless honorable people into hell.

    One of my best friends is now in Afghanistan. I’m really unhappy about it. However, he’s a particularly dangerous weapon in our arsenal… and one hell of a dedicated, honorable man. He knows what he’s doing. I just want him to come back.

  9. I (state your name) do solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. To obey the orders of the President and the orders of the Officers appointed over me in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and (in my case) Naval Regulations.

    Ian M. Some do join the military for economic reasons. Some join to see the world, or get an education, or for adventure, or to serve their country. In my case it was all of the above. But whatever the reason, we all swear an oath to support and defended the Constitution and to obey the orders of our elected leaders. WE didn’t choose to go to Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Kuwait, or Panama, or Bosnia, or any other damn place. WE chose to uphold our oath – and you should be damned grateful that we do.

    WE don’t chose the wars that we will fight in – Americans do.

    Americans chose those conflicts by voting, or not, for those who send us. Americans chose those conflicts when they continue to reelect short-sighted and corrupt politicians, when they vote for political parties instead of for individuals, when they don’t hold those same politicians accountable. The current batch of jackasses who hold the majority in Congress were elected for a specific reason, and yet they have repeatedly failed to hold this administration in check, have repeatedly failed to stand up when called, have repeatedly relinquished their duty to the Constitution, have repeatedly failed in their Constitutionally designed role as representatives of the people, have repeatedly failed live up to the promises they made. They full of wind, shit, and excitement – and yet most of them will get reelected.

    Americans chose those conflicts when they spend most of their lives with their heads in the sand. Americans chose those conflicts when they continue to drive bigger and bigger SUV’s that demand more and more resources. Americans choose those conflicts when they continue to think that they can take from the rest of the world without giving back.

    You want to blame somebody for Iraq? Take a good look around. The vast majority of Americans have slapped a yellow ribbon, made in China, on the backs of their SUV’s and have gone back to sleep.

    Bottom line, I and my comrades in arms did our duty and upheld our oaths when called – it’s about damned time demand that the people we elect to office do the same.

  10. Thank you so much John for putting in print how I feel about this “war.” The many reasons for not supporting the our invasion of Iraq actually happened – greater destabilization of the Middle East, house to house and guerilla fighting, falsified documentation to gain support. My heart, prayers and support goes out to the families and loved ones of service members killed, injured and put in harm’s way by this ill-conceived and poorly planned invasion.

  11. But how much of a choice is it when you’re poor or between jobs, or any number of circumstances that lead to people entering the military beyond the desire to serve their country?

    Except… let’s not denigrate the motives of those who choose to join the military for reasons other than desperation or economic necessity. There are many men and women in uniform who choose to join, and to serve (I use that word advisedly) because they see this as the best use of their talents for their country. They’re not all poor or ignorant folks who couldn’t do any better. There is excellence there, and the military shouldn’t be looked at as a dumping-ground for those who couldn’t make it as programmers or lawyers–or baristas.

    In fact, I would go so far as to say one of the biggest problems this country faces is the way the military has been segregated from civil society: those of us who are not in uniform often see them as Other. We make a show of honoring them (not that you’re doing that, Scalzi), while basically implying that they’re dumb, manipulated, or easily misled. At least give them the honor of making their own choices: nobody who signed up in the last seven years did so without knowing they were going into battle, and we should respect that.

    I’m not saying I necessarily agree with the politics and the reasoning of many of our troops. But I’ve never worked as hard as them, under as difficult circumstances and at such risk to life and limb and mental stability, either. That, and the fact that they volunteered to serve–that deserves our respect.

    So thanks for this post, John.

  12. John,

    You knew my opinions before the war and they haven’t really changed. I hope when the US next gets a woody for action and the authoritarians (not just the leaders but the followers too) get control you will caution them with not only “look what happened in Iraq” but also “look what happened in Viet Nam.”

    They won’t listen of course because nothing beats righteous wrath. Nothing. But at least I will have passed the torch on and I be proud of you while looking down (or up).

    To not be too grim I’ll mention that I intend to live until the Vikings win the Superbowl because then even if I go to the hot place it will be frozen over.

  13. Ian M. @ 14 – I don’t want to speak for Jim Wright, but the US military takes an oath to defend the Constitution. “Defending the Constitution” means going where the elected civilians send us. It’s one of the reasons that the US has never had a military coup.

  14. Interesting post and one I agree with. But I think, at base, it is begging the question. The question isn’t whether soldiers fighting in an unjust cause are evil, it’s whether they should be “supported”, whatever that means.

    I agree that the average Confederate soldier was undoubtedly a good guy regardless of the cause he was fighting in. But wouldn’t we all have been better off if the southern populace had not supported him? Obviously that’s a total counterfactual since the south as a whole agreed with the seccessionist cause, but speaking hypothetically the world would be a much better place had the average southern citizen not “supported” the troops.

    Isn’t going along to get along being a “good German”?

    The point being that once the cause reaches a certain threshold of evil and villainy, supporting the troops itself becomes an evil act. Note that, like John Scalzi, I’m not equating us with the CSA. But, like I said, I think John begged the question of supporting the troops in favor of a much, much easier question; whether the troops fighting in an unjust cause are necessarily “evil”.

  15. Ian M.

    I didn’t say you should be grateful to me, or to anyone else who served. Personally I don’t care one way or the other. I’d be the last guy to demand gratitude for my service, I’m uncomfortable when people thank me.

    What I said was that you should be damned grateful that the members of the American military choose to uphold their oath and obey the elected leaders of this country – no matter who they are, no matter whether we like them or respect them. You should be grateful that you live in a country where the vast majority of your military is made up of men and women of honor and integrity, who will give up their lives in a conflict they might adamantly disagree with, who will defend you and your right to look down your nose at those of us you perceive as “hemmed in by circumstance” – simply because they gave their word to do so.

    Whether or not you actually are grateful – well, I really don’t care.

  16. David @16,
    I believe there is a distinction between an unjust cause, which is the responsibility of the citizens as mediated by the government, and an illegal order (given or obeyed), which is the responsibility of the individual soldier.

  17. Jim Wright @10: Bingo.

    Ian M., you should be grateful (IMO) because if ever there does come a time when we really, really NEED our military to defend us (unlike the “conflicts” we’ve seen since 1945), they will do it – without hesitation, to the very best of their ability, and most likely to the last soldier, if necessary.

    What they’re doing right now is projecting the policy of a bunch of hyperegotistical dominance-obsessed sociopaths, because we elected said sociopaths and gave them the power to “pull the trigger,” as it were. Those sociopaths are the face of America to the world, and we picked ‘em to do it.

    Who’s the actual problem in this case?

  18. I find it interesting that many try and assign some sort of moral equivalency test to war.

    World War Two was “good” because the Germans were “bad”

    Vietnam was bad because…

    Iraq is bad because…

    Afghanistan is good because…

    At the end of the day, All war is bad. No matter how you want to dress it up, justify it, condone it. And I suspect that the people who know this, and accept it more than anyone else, are those soldiers and sailors on the lines.

    Andrew

  19. #21: All war is bad, but sometimes the alternative is worse.

    If you don’t see that, allow me to tell you something about my wife’s family tree. Where the Date of Death of her parents’ European aunts, uncles, and cousins is simply listed as “1944?”

    I don’t simplify it to “World War II was good because the Germans were bad,” but I will claim that “World War II was ‘good’ because not fighting World War II would have been worse.”

  20. You know, I can’t think of anything more honorable and mature than sticking to your obligations, especially when you personally disagree with the situation.

    I’m sure that there are plenty of service members who agree that we should not be in Iraq. But they’re there and doing their job because they took an oath to the country.

    Our military operates under theories and methods that draw a line between the civilian government and the military branches that was first articulated by von Clausewitz; the military MUST be subordinated to civilian control.

    Since this country is ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’, its US that sent them over there. We the people. We elected this government.

    We (civilians) are allowed to question – military folks can’t. The real issue is that the civilian population has little understanding of or regard for the nature of the relationship. Civilians are responsibile for not asking our military to do things we disapprove of. Its my responsibility for not having done enough before hand – and yours and everyone else’s – not the men and women in the field.

    I say ‘thank you’ for honoring your obligation, and for being willing to go places you shouldn’t be because we asked you to.

  21. @ Andrew #21

    WWII and the first Gulf War were good because the US was opposing evil governments who were invading other countries and we were asked to help.

    Afganistan is good because we are responding to an attack on US soil.

    Vietnam was bad because there was no compelling national interest for being there, the French had already failed, there was no plan for dealing with guerrilla warfare and the soldiers serving were overwhelmingly poor and minority.

    Iraq is bad because we were already fighting a war, there was no immediate threat to the US even if there had been WMD, and there was no plan for the occupation.

    Of course, all war is bad. But sometimes it is necessary and sometimes it isn’t .

  22. How does this discussion reflect on those Iraqi fighters that are defending themselves against (in their eyes) an unjust invading force?

    Are the insurgents un-evil “because they felt obliged to defend their homes or their home states” or they simply the bad guys? I know that, were the situation reversed, I could very much see myself in their shoes – fighting against an invading army using any means necessary.

    Obviously I am not condoning religious murders or the intentional taking of civilian lives, but isn’t there the same Iraqi obligation to defend Iraq that obliges US soldiers to defend the US (and US “interests”)?

    There is obviously a definite distinction between insurgent and terrorist in any discussion of this. A terrorist who targets innocents and kills indiscriminately is certainly evil. But can you say the same for the Iraqi insurgent that believes that he is defending his home, his family, his religion, and his culture against an external enemy? Are they not in the same category as the CSA soldier? Or are they automatically evil because they are fighting and killing our boys?

  23. In this case, I believe that “supporting our troops” means advocating an end to the war but not abusing the troops when they come home. Make sure the VA is adequately funded. Write to your congresscritter to complain about servicemen and women having their disability discharges improperly downgraded and inadequate funding and facilities. Write to your congresscritter and explain in a rational and polite way why you do not support the war (assuming you do not), why you want the troops home, and how you will be voting for and financially supporting candidates willing to do so.

  24. Cynthia @#25:
    Actually, if I could engage in some historical nitpicking, in World War II we were responding to attacks by a sovereign government on American territory (Hawaii, the Phillipines, and others) and a declaration of war against us by Germany. The German, Italian, and Japanese nations were invading other countries and we were “asked to help” before December, 1941, and we did not go to war (although conservative isolationists argued that Lend-Lease and other actions of the Roosevelt administration were tantamount to war, but that’s another discussion entirely).

    In that strict sense, WWII was therefore “good” only inasmuch as it was justified by self-defense.

    But I think most people view WWII as “the good war” in more than a strict legal sense of justification – it was a war fought for a higher moral purpose.

    Steve Davidson @#23:

    I think the idea of the military being subordinate to civilian control predates Von Clausewitz. Some guy named Washington seemed to be a pretty big advocate of it.

  25. Regarding whether or not his was a “just” war….let me put it this way:

    1. Bad guy invades neighbor.
    2. Bad guy gets whacked by overwhelming coalition, agrees to surrender.
    3. Bad guy repeatedly violates surrender terms.
    4. Bad guy gets whacked again, this time permanently.

    I have no problem with those who say the war was not the wisest policy choice, which involves weighing all kinds of considerations. I have a huge problem with saying it was unjust.

    Also, saying we have now been in Iraq longer than WWII is somewhat inaccurate. To make it truly comparable, you have to include the occupations of Germany and Japan, which, come to think of it, have never totally ended….. just a quibble.

  26. Jim Wright @10

    The current batch of jackasses who hold the majority in Congress were elected for a specific reason, and yet they have repeatedly failed to hold this administration in check, have repeatedly failed to stand up when called, have repeatedly relinquished their duty to the Constitution, have repeatedly failed in their Constitutionally designed role as representatives of the people, have repeatedly failed live up to the promises they made. They full of wind, shit, and excitement – and yet most of them will get reelected.

    I think you may have misinterpreted the “mandate”. Just because someone is a Democrat does not mean they are against the war. And just because a group of people elected a Democrat to represent them does not mean they did so because they want that person to end the war.

    If the members of Congress who were elected truely had such a mandate, the war would have been ended. The fact that it isn’t ended, argues against the “mandate” as you perceive it to be.

    Case in point: Ned Lamont ran for the Senate as a Democrat against former Democrat Joe Lieberman in a “blueish” state. Despite all his money and his anti-war stand, they reelected Joe Lieberman and his decidedly anti-anti-war stand.

    David Bilek @16

    I agree that the average Confederate soldier was undoubtedly a good guy regardless of the cause he was fighting in. But wouldn’t we all have been better off if the southern populace had not supported him?…The point being that once the cause reaches a certain threshold of evil and villainy, supporting the troops itself becomes an evil act.

    Well if we are going that route, I think most would agree that Saddam and his government were evil. And wouldn’t it be better if al Qaida, Iran, and all of those who oppose a less evil representative government would just stop shooting people and blowing folks up and join the political process?

    Many say that war is politics by other means. But I say politics is war by other means. War is more fundamental to our nature than politics. Voting for one’s side is better than eliminating the opposition by violence.

    Andrew @21

    t the end of the day, All war is bad. No matter how you want to dress it up, justify it, condone it. And I suspect that the people who know this, and accept it more than anyone else, are those soldiers and sailors on the lines.

    Tru dat.

    DG Lewis @22

    All war is bad, but sometimes the alternative is worse.

    And, of course, there’s the rub.

    Andrew @21

    Vietnam was bad because there was no compelling national interest for being there, the French had already failed, there was no plan for dealing with guerrilla warfare and the soldiers serving were overwhelmingly poor and minority.

    One could argue that it was our most altuistic war precisely because we had no compelling national interest. All we tried to do was to stop a violent evil regime from enslaving another country.

    We left and the enslavement happened.

  27. I’ve always thought the acid test for a democracy waging war is whether or not it is willing to institute a draft. If the polity is unwilling to force its members to fight on behalf of the polity, then probably that’s a fight you ought to not enter.

    Heinlein had an interesting wrinkle on this which he surfaced in For Us The Living: war could not be declared without a majority voting in favor of it in a plebiscite…and a positive vote in the plebiscite is your induction notice if the vote is to go to war.

    Are there problems with that? Sure. But I find it intriguing.

  28. [makes wry face]

    Sounds like Krissy has her head on straight. Why would you want to go play with that nest of vipers?

    I think it’s possible to support the troops (and what they do) without supporting the mission, but I suspect that it calls for a kind of denial. We elect people to make this decision, and as you so correctly point out, the troops are a tool of those elected. That they’re in a war is not their fault; the blame goes to the politicians, and even those who did not vote for those politicians (s/he’s your congress critter even if you didn’t support them!)

  29. Frank, I didn’t say anything about ending the war or a mandate. Your perception of my perception of the mandate is a bit off :-) But, I do largely agree with you. However, Nancy Pelosi made very specific promises, she specifically said more than once, that the Democratic majority had a mandate to stand up to the White House. So far, I’ve been less than impressed with either her or the majority to carry through on those promises.

    For the record, I fought in this war – and I would again. I had serious questions regarding the intelligence prior to the war, because as an intelligence officer what I was seeing in Southern Iraq didn’t square with the reports from D.C. – at least as far as I could tell from my position – however, it was my sworn duty to carry out the orders I was assigned and to trust in my elected leaders. I did so, but I also reported everything I saw and raised hell over every discrepancy. I had to assume that those making the decisions were in a better position than I was and knew what they were talking about. In retrospect, I would do nothing different today. I am recently retired now, and I have no illusions about this mess, however, pulling out is not the answer and I don’t advocate it. But, I also believe that we cannot continue on in the same manner we have for the last five years. There must be a foreseeable end. There must be goals. There must be a plan. There must be more than the vision and megalomania of one man, even if he is the President. Otherwise when this conflict is finally over, there will be nothing to show for it but yet another moment engraved with the names of the dead on the D.C. Mall.

  30. Frank @31 – One could argue that [Vietnam] was our most altuistic war precisely because we had no compelling national interest. All we tried to do was to stop a violent evil regime from enslaving another country.

    Two notes:

    1. The U.S. architects of the war *did* argue — vehemently, repeatedly, working from elaborate intellectual foundations — that we had a compelling national interest to be there. I believe they were incorrect, and indeed many policy makers came to believe they were incorrect by, say, 1968. But our involvement was not altruistic in its conception.

    2. Remember that not only “violent evil regime” but also “another country” are matters of intense historical debate, not subject to glib formulas. Retrospectively, Eisenhower acknowledged that the 1956 election, if fairly administered, would have returned an overwhelming popular mandate in favor of Ho Chi Minh. It was for this reason — the frustration of the will of the Vietnamese people by Ngo Dinh Diem and his backers — that South Vietnam was never regarded as “another country” according to any legal, moral, or historical measure acceptable to a majority of Vietnamese people.

  31. Matt @ 26: “Are the insurgents un-evil “because they felt obliged to defend their homes or their home states” or they simply the bad guys? I know that, were the situation reversed, I could very much see myself in their shoes – fighting against an invading army using any means necessary.

    I know that, were the situation reversed, I’d seriously have to look at the fact that most of the people I was killing were my own countrymen, and the people I was fighting beside were blowing up civilians, and the government I was fighting against was duly elected by my countrymen (who, I may have mentioned, I’ve been killing), and, well, I think I’d have to decide that maybe my cause wasn’t as just as I’d been led to believe.

    To the extent that those shooting at our guys have been brainwashed to believe that we’re an occupying force, and that the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Government are our puppets, I may cut them some slack. But it’s not very much slack, because it should be obvious to these guys that their neighbors are overwhelmingly not in agreement with them.

    As far as support for the troops goes, I think it entails wishing them success in their mission and safe return when their mission is fulfilled. I think it entails sending them good wishes to let them know their service is appreciated, and perhaps some creature comforts to ease their living conditions. I understand that this makes me look like a red-meat rah-rah patriot, but frankly, I care about the well being of my friends in the service more than I care about the opinions of my friends at the public radio station.

  32. I’m just encouraged to see some in the military who recognize this Iraq mess for what it is – FUBAR – and how and why it is such. A very good friend of mine, who happens to be in the Army Reserve, fails to accept that this latest Iraq War is anything but the noblest undertaking.

    He has lost buddies over there, and any talk from anti-war folks that Iraq is a “bad” war, or that we need to get out now, or that we can never really win there, sounds to him like they are saying that his buddies “died in vain,” which sends him completely off the handle (to the point of threatening physical violence).

    I completely understand his anger, but he needs to direct it toward the people who sent his friends there to die, not the ones who are trying to get the rest of them home.

    Another friend of ours, an inactive Marine (I learned a long time ago never to refer to him as a former or ex-Marine), gets this, and he’s lost buddies over there, too. But we just can’t get it through our Army friend’s thick skull.

  33. We have 50,000 troops in Japan, 70,000 assigned to Germany, and something 140,000 in Iraq.

    Which “war” was longer? I do believe that there is a difference between a war and an occupation. The decade+ long war in Iraq that started in ’91 was completed with the overthrow of the government. An exurgency of foreign fighters, augmented by a malleable counterinsurgency then followed.

    I really think this national discussion should have shifted from the Iraq war to the Iraq occupation a long time ago. Debating the “justness” of the war doesn’t make sense when what should be debated is the proper execution (or termination) of the occupation.

  34. John,

    Whilst I agree with what you say (apart from supporting the war at the start, which I didn’t), I have one nit to pick with how you said it.

    Confederate general Robert E. Lee, for example, opposed succession

    The last word there should be secession.

  35. Squid @ #37

    “I think it entails wishing them success in their mission and safe return when their mission is fulfilled.”

    But what is our mission, exactly? The goalposts keep getting moved such that we can keep them there forever.

    In March 2003, we heard “our mission is very clear: disarmament.”

    Then in November 2003 we heard “our mission all along, to develop the conditions such that a free Iraq will emerge.”

    The mission mutations continue up until last month when it became “Work with Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people, pressure [sic] the enemy into strongholds, and deny the terrorists sanctuary anywhere in the country.”

    This nebulous and ever-changing “mission in Iraq” can go unfulfilled indefinitely. Meanwhile, more of our troops will never realize a safe return home.

  36. Ok, I’ll habitually agree it’s unfair to levy a blanket assessment upon an individual due to the actions of the larger group. This is your basic political correctness for racism, sexism, etc. No problem with that. However, I can’t help but notice certain consistent attitudes and beliefs running through military-type people.

    Therefore I’ll take the contrarian position and suggest that the military mindset contributed to this predicament back during the lead-up to war. Look predominance of pre-existing military personal who shared the presidents vision to invade Iraq. Look at the numerous individuals who enlisted during the patriotic fervor of the 9/11 aftermath. Look at the collective pride of all the military-types who were saving our country, way-of-life, and the world from tyranny. They wanted a blind rush to violence. They had a burning desire to discover an excuse to go kick some ass.

    Does this aggressive military sentiment permit our gung-ho leaders support the policies they do? Sure. Does a revenge gut response not contribute to the overall public perception? No doubt. Does this fight-response from the military community provide our elected leaders an entrée to “do something”? Most certainly.

    Sure, military life is rough. Sure, soldiers have disproportionally taken the burden of our nation’s decisions. And sure, the troops are not able to control where and how they are deployed. Yet I cannot help but notice that the same blood lust attitudes of our leaders seem to be mirrored in our military. I suspect there’s feedback mechanism. I suspect the same breed that makes one choose to sign up for the military also promotes support for a rush to war. A blind patriotic belief in the good intentions of our God-blessed nation seems to run high within the armed forces. Are they 100% free of culpability? Can you blame leaders without looking at those that fervently supported and encouraged them?

  37. JLR, there is certainly a grain of truth in what you say.

    We in the military were all filled with righteous anger over the events of 911 and we were spoiling to get back at those who attacked us. And we were, to a certain degree, ashamed that we had let America be attacked – even though there wasn’t much we could have done about it.

    And yes, when asked the Generals and the Admirals said that they could accomplish the mission, and they were right to do so – just as the firemen who rushed into the World Trade Center towers were right to do so, even though they knew the danger, when they were asked.

    But, I can’t let your comment go without pointing out to you that a significant number of us, who very well knew what the face of war looked like, including General Colin Powell did warn the President and Congress against going to war in Iraq. A large number of us in the intelligence community raised merry hell over the discrepancies we saw in the information used to justify the invasion.

    But once the decision was made, it was our duty to carry on as best we could. And we did. We made it to Baghdad in 28 days. We did everything we said we could and more, and we did it supremely well and with minimum casualties. It is the occupation that has gone so disastrously wrong – and that was not our responsibility. When we asked about post-war plans, we were told that was not our responsibility.

    Again there were many who wanted war and revenge, but there were many, myself included, who advocated caution and restraint. Our elected leaders, on both sides of the aisle, heard what they wanted to hear as they always do.

  38. John,

    If you think that this:

    I also wish that I had realized the Bush administration had an Underpants Gnome war policy (”Step One: Invade Iraq!!! Step Two: ???? Step Three: Profit!!!”) rather than one that had an actual plan for what to do after we satisfied Dubya’s need to avenge and/or best his dad by deposing Saddam.

    doesn’t equally apply to the Civil War, you should probably do some refresher reading. It took two years and five generals before Lincoln found a way past his own Underpants Gnome problem (”Step One: Free the slaves!!! Step Two: ???? Step Three: Profit!!!”). Oddly enough, the Step 2 solution in both the Civil War and the current Iraq War are the same: let the successful leaders, tactics and strategies develop, then implement them. David Petraeus started the Iraq War as a major general — the same rank Ulysses Grant held in 1861.

    The Iraq war is its own singular thing in our nation’s history.

    Probably best to defer that judgement a while. I’m guessing the Kurds of 2023 might have a few relevant opinions on the matter.

  39. zakur @38

    I completely understand his anger, but he needs to direct it toward the people who sent his friends there to die, not the ones who are trying to get the rest of them home.

    In your humble opinion, understanding completely that you might be on the wrong side of history, not him.

    Another friend of ours, an inactive Marine (I learned a long time ago never to refer to him as a former or ex-Marine)

    Right. John Murtha is the only person I know of that is referred to as an ex-Marine by Marines.

    But we just can’t get it through our Army friend’s thick skull.

    Why is it so important to you that he agree with you? Are you that convinced that are correct?

    Anonymous @41

    But what is our mission, exactly? The goalposts keep getting moved such that we can keep them there forever.

    It is only necessary to refer to the governing documents

    1) The Authorization for use of Force in Iraq says

    (a) AUTHORIZATION.—The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to—
    (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
    (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council
    resolutions regarding Iraq.

    2) UN Reolution 1483 Recognises Britain and the United States as occupying powers (‘The Authority’), and calls on them to attempt to improve security and stability, and provide opportunities for the Iraqis to determine their political future.

    So it is over when security and stability is established to the extent that Iraqis can themselves determine their political future. or it is determined that this is not possible.

    JLR @42

    …blood lust…rush to war

    Sheesh

  40. First John, thank you. I am a veteran of the Viet Nam Era – non combatant, but uniformed and available. Even as I was drafted and then commissioned in the Navy, I was opposed to the war. However, I was not then, and am not now, a pacifist. War and violence are rarely, but occasionally, necessary.

    As a non-pacifist, I felt it was my duty to be in the military. Ironically, I was the only one of my peers who did so. All had managed to avoid either the draft or full time military service. I couldn’t. A) I was drafted (twice-long story), B) I felt it was deeply dishonorable to run. My choice, in the end.

    What is difficult to convey to most of you, who were not around in that era, is the openly demonstrated disdain that many of our contemporaries demonstrated to those of us in uniform. We were frequently treated by our peers as either simply stupid or moral imbeciles.

    The one thing I can say is that today’s military people do not seem to be receiving the same treatment. I have been quite active in the peace movement here in the People’s Republic of Portland (OR). I have encountered only one instance of anti-soldier activity since I started working in the movement. That was by a group of balaclava-clad idiot anarchists (none of whom had ever read Kropotkin, I’m sure).

    Finally, as Charlie Rangel said some years ago, if we had a true universal conscription, this and future wars would never be fought. That alone is the single strongest reason for reinstating compulsory universal service for all 18 year olds. There are many others.

    I have come to believe, contrary to the Generals, that the professionalized army, with its attendant mercenaries, may well be the final blow to our constitutional republic. We have a frightened public willing to trade liberty for security. Benjamin Franklin told us over two centuries ago that when you try that, you end up with neither.

    Praetorian Guard, anyone?

    Rick York

  41. @ Cynthia

    @ Andrew #21

    “WWII and the first Gulf War were good because the US was opposing evil governments who were invading other “countries and we were asked to help.”

    Not exactly. We entered WW2 because Japan attacked us, and a couple of days later Germany, in fulfillment of its treaty obligations, declared war on us as well. But what if Germany hadn’t declared War? Through Lend Lease Roosevelt was doing all he could to support England under the constraints of the law, but an unofficial shooting war was taking place.

    “Afganistan is good because we are responding to an attack on US soil.”

    So why the reluctance to do anything in 1991? Or go after Al Qaeda after the embassy attacks of 1993, Khobar Towers, the Cole incident? All of those were attacks on US Soil or US citizens.

    “Vietnam was bad because there was no compelling national interest for being there, the French had already failed, there was no plan for dealing with guerrilla warfare and the soldiers serving were overwhelmingly poor and minority.”

    Fighting in Europe in 1944 was bad because there was no compelling National Interest to be there. France had already fought and failed there…h, nevermind…

    As for your other assertion, the army in 1970 was not overwhelmingly poor or minority. Any basic search will show as much.

    But that does bring me to a point: If the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are wrong, why is reenlistment rates for the Armed Forces as a whole up? In some cases over 100%? These are the men and women who see the consequences of their actions first hand, see what hey are doing and the impact it has. Surely, if it was wrong, they;d be leaving in droves?

    “Iraq is bad because we were already fighting a war, there was no immediate threat to the US even if there had been WMD, and there was no plan for the occupation.”

    I’ll agree with you wholeheartedly on the no coherent plan for occupation.

    “Of course, all war is bad. But sometimes it is necessary and sometimes it isn’t.”

    Again with the equivalency test…so what makes a good check list for a “necessary” war?

    Andrew

  42. gerrymander:

    “It took two years and five generals before Lincoln found a way past his own Underpants Gnome problem (”Step One: Free the slaves!!! Step Two: ???? Step Three: Profit!!!”).”

    Yes, curse that evil Lincoln for freeing the slaves! He must have been high or something.

    In any event, considering that the Confederates started the war (either by seceding or by attacking Fort Sumter, take your pick), I’d say that the Underpants Gnome issue was on the other side of the fence (“Step One: Start a War! Step Two: ???? Step Three: Profit!”), or at least, there first.

    However, I’m coming dangerously close to having to delete my own comment here, so let’s move on.

  43. For the record, the precise quote is:

    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor security.” has been attributed to Ben Franklin but it is not clear that he actually wrote this.

    But clearly the exchange of an essential liberty for a temporary safety is not a great exchange. But it begs the question “How about an essential liberty for long term safety?” Or “What about a non-essential liberty for short term safety?”

    Clearly societies in general sacrifice liberty for safety; the question is what is the proper balance.

    What is attributable to Behjamin Franklin is “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.” -Poor Richards Almanac -1738

  44. To be precisely precise ““Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    Sorry

  45. John @ 48:

    I’m just saying. If we’re going to fault the current Chief Executive for a failure to, you know, execute, we need to be honest enough in our assessment to see where that same criticism applies in other situations. And to be fair, it’s a criticism Lincoln would have agreed with; see again the five generals example. (Insert the “borrow the army” quote here.)

    As an amusing side note: after being cashiered from his general’s post, McClellan ran for president against Lincoln on an anti-war platform. Because a hundred thousand casualties and trillions of dollars — adjusted for 2007 currency values — are just too much to bear, don’tcha know. I swear, the more I learn about history, the more convinced I am that there’s not a damn thing exeptional about our modern times.

  46. Gerrymander:

    “If we’re going to fault the current Chief Executive for a failure to, you know, execute, we need to be honest enough in our assessment to see where that same criticism applies in other situations.”

    Well, no. The entry is an opinion piece, not a historical survey. And in any event one can say “Bush had an Underpants Gnome war policy in Iraq” and have it be true without the need to reference previous examples of Underpants Gnomery. The only reason to do it is to implicitly suggest that hey, if Lincoln did it, and he’s the greatest president ever, how wrong can Bush be to do it, too? Which is not a particularly good implication, to my mind.

  47. Actually, Lincoln did not have an Underpants Gnome strategy for the Civil War. He had the Anaconda Plan, written by Winfield Scott in early 1862. The plan was to seal off the Confederacy, carve it into pieces and let the pieces die.

    Which is what they did. Much of the mucking about in Virginia was an attempt to short-circuit (or prevent, depending on point of view) Anaconda.

    Sorry if I’m over the line on CSA stuff, Mr. Scalzi.

  48. this is a war that has entailed almost no sacrifice or contribution on the part of civilians (hell, we got tax cuts).

    Well, nah. Our sacrifice is just less direct and obvious. You can’t throw a gazillion dollars down the rathole, destroy the currency, and transfer the manufacturing base to China without ultimately causing the civilians to make “sacrifices” and “contributions”. What was the opportunity cost, what did the civilian economy give up in order to fight this war? What would a gazillion dollars buy – energy independence for the entire country? That’s what we sacrificed, that’s our “contribution”.

  49. Squid @#37: Too bad that everybody in Iraq considers the current government as a sockpuppet of the occupying troops, and the only thing in common among shia and sunni is the “strong desire” that the “American invaders” finally go away.
    But of course, they were all brainwashed.

  50. One day, I hope, disputing about Iraq will be, like disputing about the Civil War, a pastime for enthusiasts.

  51. Gerrymander wrote:”I’m just saying. If we’re going to fault the current Chief Executive for a failure to, you know, execute, we need to be honest enough in our assessment to see where that same criticism applies in other situations. And to be fair, it’s a criticism Lincoln would have agreed with; see again the five generals example.”

    Well, no. See, the Iraq war was not thrust upon Bush.

    Bush could have waited, enlarged the military, done a massive recruiting effort using post-9/11 patriotic fervor, trained linguists, printed up lots of ‘stop’ signs in Iraqi languages, and planned for an occupation. And he could have honestly presented the likely cost of the war.

    He could have planned it all out at leisure before the first bomb was dropped and prepared the *ideal* $500 billion invasion and occupation force, a military effort tailored for the target to fit like a fine leather glove.

    Lincoln didn’t have those luxuries because the South started that war.

  52. I finally googled “Underpants Gnome”… since it seemed so very important to the thread. Sorry to say I’m a bit under whelmed.

  53. War is the failure of diplomacy. War is the equivalent of a fist fight, only on a national scale. When is ok to get into a fist fight?
    Did the US have the right, legal or moral to attack the CFA? I don’t think so. Am I glad they did? Yes.
    Did we have the right to go into Vietnam? Legal or moral? I don’t think so. Did we have the right to give Vietnam back to the French after WWII? No.
    How much of the current problems in the middle east are a dirrect result of British colonial policy?
    Everyone likes things nice and simple. Black and white. Good guys vs bad guys. Life doesn’t work that way.
    What’s the best way to support our troops? Put real work into deciding who you vote for. Write your representitives. They represent you even if you didn’t vote for them.
    Son of Citizen Soldiers.

    I am the son of citizen soldiers
    Mom was a WAC
    dad was a sargent
    My brother and sister joined up too.
    They all volenteered for low pay and the chance to die for their country.
    Dad fought in the pacific.
    and He fought in Korea too
    we should of stopped at the 38th.
    Retired as our government got ready to waste 60,000 lives to kill uncounted asians.
    but those are opinions and they let you keep your opinions and send them off to war with you.
    And you go
    and you fight
    and maybe die
    at best you kill
    and thats a high price to ask a citizen soldier to pay.
    and still they volenteer
    doesn’t matter why they do
    I’m just glad they’re here.

  54. JLR@59: “I finally googled “Underpants Gnome”… since it seemed so very important to the thread. Sorry to say I’m a bit under whelmed.”

    I’m sorry to hear that. Authorities Who Know say ‘Underpants Gnome’ will be a central organizing principle for the 21st century, in spheres of commerce, religion, politics, and scrapbooking.

  55. Andrew @#47

    If I recall correctly, the treaty obligation between the Axis powers was only to respond if one of the powers was attacked. And as Japan attached the United States, not the other way around, there was no obligation on the part of Germany to declare war on the US.

    But it’s very late and I could be misremembering.

  56. John,

    A quibble, perhaps, but:
    You said “individual service members are responsible for their own conduct (and when under their orders, the conduct of the soldiers below them).”
    As someone who is less than two months away from Commissioning as a Naval Officer, I have to say I disagree with the “while under their orders” part. Leaders are responsible for their subordinates at all times whether they are following express orders or not. Leaders are responsible for creating a climate in which rules of law and decency are followed.

    If a Navy ship runs aground, crashes, whatever, the Commanding Officer loses his job. Period. End of discussion. Even though most likely someone else was actually directing the ship’s actions at the time, the CO failed to train his people well enough to do their jobs. That means he failed at his job.

    In the same way, if an infantry officer fails to make absolutely clear to his men that raping, or indiscriminate killing, or whatever evil act will not be tolerated he has failed at his job. He is responsible for the actions of his men, and nothing he can do or say can change that.

    Jim

  57. A few of thoughts.

    I understand your point and would hope that more people who stand on the anti-war side would take as reasonable position as what I read here.

    The initial strategy didn’t seem to be through as many would have liked. But, in fact, no initial war strategy tends to survive its implementation. When Eisenhower et al were planning D-Day, I don’t think anticipated the massive casualties, missed drop zones and heavy resistance at the beaches. What I think is rather unfair on your part is the rather insulting “Underpants Gnome” analogy. And “profit”?!? Where, other than the hotbeds of the far Left Bush Derangement Syndrome, does that come from?

    Mr. Scalzi, you strike me as a decent fellow, with whom I would likely disagree, I hope reasonably on some matters regarding this subject. However, I don’t think you help your case by claiming that the Bush Administration went took on the Iraqi front in this war against Islamo-Nazism for profit.

    And regarding tax cuts, they actually increased revenues. Unfortunately, the Republican controlled Congress couldn’t keep its hands out of the cookie jar and did nothing to control domestic spending, which represents a far larger portion of the federal spending than does the military budget. In fact, domestic spending sadly, from my perspective, increased. Not a wise move for a party that is supposed to be strong fiscal conservatives. I guess they aren’t called the “Stupid Party” for nothing.

    And finally, I hope that Mr. Scalzi is as disgusted as I am with the insulting and hateful protests by far Left anti-American groups like Code Pink against military recruiters, such as that which is going on in Berkeley and elsewhere, and which resulted in a military recruiting station bombing in New York. When this kind of stuff happens these folks have moved from simple policy disagreement to actually taking up the cause of those with whom we are at war.

  58. Jim:

    “I have to say I disagree with the “while under their orders” part. Leaders are responsible for their subordinates at all times whether they are following express orders or not. Leaders are responsible for creating a climate in which rules of law and decency are followed.”

    This is a useful clarification. Thank you.

    Daniel:

    “What I think is rather unfair on your part is the rather insulting “Underpants Gnome” analogy.”

    Oh, well. You’ll just have to live with it. Also, it’s not “rather insulting,” it’s “totally insulting,” because to my mind that’s what this administration’s post-invasion planning rates. Naturally, you are free to disagree.

    As for unfair, please read the site disclaimer, which should help calibrate your expectations about the site.

  59. First off, I’m an infantry NCO in the Army, writing this from my laptop in Baghdad in a rare moment of downtime. I don’t usually waste it commenting on crap threads like this one because there are so many of them and they all spout the same tired blather. I enjoy Scalzi’s books and thought this might be a cool site about sci-fi nerd stuff. But what do I get? Just more antiwar BS, aka a bunch of civilians whining about a war they’re not even fighting. Boo f-ing hoo.

    You want to know the truth about the military? This is no “typical” service member. Some join merely to serve their country, some join for money, some for adventure, some for the hell of it, some to become better, more disciplined people, some join and instantly regret it. But in the combat arms there is a definite warrior culture. As in, people who are more than happy to take a righteous fight to a vicious enemy anywhere, anytime, anyplace. If you’ve been over here, then you’d know that this enemy’s vileness and barbarity is unparalleled by any our country has ever fought. They make the WWII era Japanese look positively sporting by comparison. They are not patriots. They are by definition, sadists.

    They are not “defending their country,” as some of you yahoos love to posit. The leadership is not even from this country. They swarmed here from every dark corner of the Middle East because this is where we were operating in large numbers. It’s how they earn their Jihad merit badge. They didn’t quit their Subway day jobs to come wage a guerrilla war. THIS IS WHAT THEY DO. THIS IS ALL THEY DO. The Iraq War has simply made it much easier to find them. They’ve come to us. We didn’t have to invade 7 different countries to do so. You’d prefer we all shift gears back to Afghanistan? Then prepare for an onslaught because from the enemy’s perspective that will again be where all the action is.

    If you don’t want us fighting this enemy anymore because it gets your panties in a twist, then fine, go vote for antiwar candidates and pretend you care about things like “peace.” But just know that the price of peace is precisely what’s going on every day in places like Baghdad and Basra and Mosul. Peace comes at the barrel of a gun, and anyone who says otherwise has either never fought Islamic radicals or is currently buried somewhere in a mass grave.

    Do I do this crap-ass job for you? No. I don’t know you. I probably wouldn’t like you if I did. And I sure as hell don’t care about what happens to people too lazy or stupid to take an iota of responsibility for their own security. I do it for MY family, and MY loved ones who aren’t as capable as I am at this. I am a warrior and a sheepdog who looks after his own flock. I volunteer to go house to house in miserable wrecks of countries so that even the very thought of having to do so in my own is virtually unthinkable. But why do you suppose this is so unthinkable? Precisely because our military has always taken the fight to the enemy long before it could ever come to us.

    It’s not the precise nationality of the enemy that matters. We slammed Afghanistan within months of 9/11. Why? Not a single Afghan on those planes. It’s the ideology, stupid. Iraq was (and still is) the best possible place to start rewiring by force that destructive ideology. It wouldn’t have made any difference in Afghanistan (and IMO never will) because that place is culturally hopeless.

    Insurgencies historically take ten years to successfully counter and then peeter out. This one will be no different, provided we don’t quit early, take our ball and go home.

    You don’t feel you’ve sacrificed enough as a civilian? You don’t feel you’re paying enough in taxes? I’ll gladly help you out with that. I accept cash, check, or Paypal, and I hear my 5 month old has gotten so big in my absence that he’s already outgrowing his clothes.

    Or you could just stop your endless bitching and just nod your head in appreciation. But either way, stop enlisting me or my brethren in service of your stupid little rants because we could give two shats what you think.

    Buck Sargent
    Baghdad, Iraq
    OEF 2003-04
    OIF 2005-06
    OIF 2008-

    http://americancitizensoldier.blogspot.com/

  60. Buck Sargent:

    “I enjoy Scalzi’s books and thought this might be a cool site about sci-fi nerd stuff.”

    Well, it has that. It has other stuff, too (thus the name of the site). This site rather substantially predates my science fiction career.

  61. Buck Sargent @#66: They are not “defending their country,” as some of you yahoos love to posit. The leadership is not even from this country. They swarmed here from every dark corner of the Middle East because this is where we were operating in large numbers. It’s how they earn their Jihad merit badge. They didn’t quit their Subway day jobs to come wage a guerrilla war.

    First thing: thank you. I love this warm fuzzy feeling of seeing my own prejudices about military people, the one I was a bit ashamed of, confirmed by the living voice of those same military people…

    That said: what’s wrong if they’re not originally from Iraq? We, as human beings, have a long tradition of foreign volunteers fighting and dieing for their ideas on a country which is not their own: the International Brigades in Spain, the Polish Legion in Italy, the Czechoslovak Legions, Ko?ciuszko, La Fayette and their Polish and French volunteers… IMHO the jihadists are better compared to the Freiwilligen Battalions of the Waffen-SS but I fail to understand why the “they’re not from Iraq” argument alone is significant.

  62. Wow. I’m thinking “Buck Sargent” got Whatever confused with Baen’s Bar. My guess is he’d be much happier there.

  63. It might help if the “foreign volunteers” in Iraq were like, fighting for Iraqis. I’m reading a book called “The Siege of Mecca,” which is about a proto Al-Queda group who took over the main mosque at Mecca in the late 1970s.

    The goal of the takeover was to impose their flavor of Islam on everybody – or kill those who didn’t agree with them. That’s the same goal of the foreign fighters today.

    Regarding the occupation, I recently read another book, “Desert Queen” which is a biography of Gertude Bell. She was the brains behind Lawrence of Arabia and created modern Iraq. It’s interesting because many of the problems we’re having now in Iraq are the same problems she had in the 1920s. Not only that, one sees the same families involved then and now.

    Iraq is a terribly complicated place, more a geographical expression then a unified nation. Our failure to understand that before going in is costing us dearly now.

    Chris Gerrib
    LT, USN (1989-1994)

  64. Chris Gerrib @#71: Well, I didn’t compare the jihadists to the foreign volunteers in the Waffen-SS because I respect their ideals… It’s just the “they’re not even from Iraq” argument who annoys me.
    That said, as far as I can read in the international press, there’s a significant number of native insurgents in Iraq, and a common dislike for the coalition troops among the population.

    Giacomo (who’re going to use his real name instead of a pseudonym from now on).

  65. Jihadists “not from Iraq” infiltrate uninvited and simultaneously kill and maim the local populace while trying to overthrow the freely elected government that said populace risked death to vote for. So, what you’re saying is that you have no problem with this?

    One can read the all-knowing “international press” all day long and still not have the foggiest clue what really goes on here from day to day. I’m not going to readdress every single misconception because that’s what I already spent an entire year doing during my last tour and frankly, I’m sick of wasting my time on people who refuse to change their mind.

    But Iraq really isn’t all that complicated. It’s problems (the same ones that existed prior to March ’03) have been exacerbated by a committed enemy of the United States that has a real stake in seeing Iraq self-immolate. They don’t care about Iraqis and never have.

    The Iraqi people HATE these foreigners who are reigning death and mayhem upon their neighborhoods, and doling out cash payments to restless teenagers who don’t know any better to plant bombs and commit crimes. But they’re too scared to stand up to them and their own police and military don’t have enough of an institutional history yet as a legitimate fighting force to take them on alone. The Iraqi military and police are still recovering from 30 years of being used as terror tools of the state. Nothing we coulda/shoulda/woulda done “better” from the beginning was going to change that fact.

    I’m not going to get sucked into this argument any further, because I’ve already broken my own rule about not banging my head against the wall on this one any longer. But it still rankles me to listen to civilians so grossly misinformed about a war their country is participating in. Well, .001% of us are, anyway.

    But what do I know, I’m just a redneck ignoramus who couldn’t get a job at Taco Bell so he joined the Army to go kill brown people for oil. Or maybe I’m just your average college graduate who joined out of a sense of duty to the country he loves and would gladly die to preserve, regardless of the utter contempt he holds for many of his fellow citizens. Or you can just insert your own preconceived notion HERE. Either way, one thing I’ve learned over the past five years is that the truth behind something really doesn’t matter to a lot of people if it doesn’t jibe with their own perfectly constructed worldview. To think otherwise is to argue with orangutans.

    If my wife knew how much computer time I just wasted on all this she’d divorce me.

  66. In the Everything Old is New Again department

    Saturday Evening Post Jan 26, 1946 the Feature Story was
    “How we botched the German Occupation”

    Berlin

    Everywhere I’ve traveled recently in Germany I’ve run into Americans, ranging from generals down to privates, who ask perplexedly, “What are we Americans supposed to be doing here? Are we going to take over this place and stay here forever?”

    The Jan 7 1946 Issue of Life Magazine had a piece entitled “Americans Are Losing the Victory”

    It is important to note, that it would be nine more years before the Allies would end the occupation of Germany.

  67. Frank @ 79 – interesting link. We do forget at times how difficult it was (and can be) to get stuff done.

    Buck Sargent – I hear and sympathize with you. I’m just saying that Mucqtada Al Sadr’s grandfather was giving the British fits in the 1920s. Some of the problems with Iraq go back a ways.

  68. I tried to insert my preconceived notion into Buck’s thread, but no joy. Must be another design problem.

  69. I am glad Buck Sargent took up the cause.

    I like him signed on to check out Mr. Scalzi’s web blog. I was going to thank him for making me stay up all night to finish Android Dreams and to look for clues when his next book is due.

    I am one of the faithful “Bushies” who think that this war was righteous, and that history will show this as being a watershed moment. Our generation has grown up with countless bad news about the Middle East. It’s about time we tried to do something about it.

    I believe history has shown us the price of inaction in the face of rising religious/ political enemy states. Germany and Facism in 1930s and Communist USSR (Russia) last century are the 2 most famous. Had we acted quicker against the rise of those nations, would we have been able to avoid or minumize both of these conflicts?

    The political forces against quick action was the belief that our nation should not get involved with the internal policitcs of other nations. Isolationism. What would have been the polictical fallout if Patton got his war against the Russians? What if we or the world had acted to prop up the German economy pre-Hitler?

    Unfortunately, we can only postulate.

    My agreement with Bush is that when unconfronted (is that a Bushism, or should I use “non-confronted”?), terror tactics against our nation by Islamists have only gotten worse. Should we have waited for Iraqi fingerprints behind a Pearl Harbor before acting? Hussein was an experienced poker face who felt all he had to do was keep surviving one president after another. Eventually someone in power would have tried to normalize relations without changing the environment.

    That may have been okay in 1912, but it is very scary when the technology means that today’s Hitler can kill millions with ease. Who would want to trust Hussein with a planet buster bomb? Many people don’t trust our own President with all the safeguards our society has.

    Our society has an MTV attention span and a Polyanna attitude. Not everyone wants to be like us. A large amount of people in this world hate us. Take the bad we do, take the good we do, and if they could wipe us off the map, that would be okay with them. 250 million people dead would be okay even if 90 percent of that number were thier own dead. I call that insanity. To ignore that hate is insanity.

    Drive on Buck Sargent. God bless you.

  70. Alan Jordan

    It’s about time we tried to do something about it.

    Which is fine and some people agree with that and some don’t.

    But the point now is different; we should stay and finish the job because we agreed to do it at the beginning. And some decisions you can’t just “take back” because its hard or people got bored.

    Our society has an MTV attention span and a Polyanna attitude.

    Correct. As I pointed out here

    Back when the War began, 72% of Americans, and 70% of Congress were all for it. So close to three-quarters of America thought it was the right decision at the time.

    But the problem with such a monumental decision is that you can not take it back so easily. Once you have taken that step, you have to go forward, you have to remain committed.

    American’s have to remember that it was we who decided to go this route and pulling out now, especially at a time when we have gained a strong foothold, would be a disaster.

    Fortunately, many may have buyers remorse, but they are not willing to abandon Iraq either…

    And this ain’t a world that caters to an MTV attention span.

  71. Chris wrote: “I’m reading a book called “The Siege of Mecca,” which is about a proto Al-Queda group who took over the main mosque at Mecca in the late 1970s.”

    Nor was that the first time that this happened. If I’m not mistaken, the Wahhabis pretty much did the same thing, with added sacking, a century or two earlier.

  72. Daniel wrote: “However, I don’t think you help your case by claiming that the Bush Administration went took on the Iraqi front in this war against Islamo-Nazism for profit.”

    Invading a secular Middle Eastern dictatorship, with the predictable outcome of putting it under the control of Iran, is hardly an effective method of fighting this ‘Islamo-Nazism’.

    And if you look at how the war was carried out, it’s clear that WMD wasn’t a concern – Saddam’s weapon stores weren’t secured, and neither were the WMD sites.

    What Bush/Cheney did secure was the oil ministry.

    So, yes, all signs point to the goal being profit for their friends in the oil industry.

    They just failed miserably.

  73. Jon H @ 86 – Yes, this history of Wahhabism was discussed in the book. What really got everybody’s panties in a wad was that the folks taking over the mosque were preaching the same doctrine as the mainline Saudi imans. The difference was that the government was paying the imans lip service – or more accurately, a stipend – while ignoring their religious demands.

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