Let's not give up the fight..

Thursday, August 24, 2006
McCain is bashing Bush. Instapundit says it's because Bush isn't running again so Bush is expendable.

I'm sure that's what McCain is thinking. But he's hurting the party. His bashing gives ammo to the anti-war KOS crowd just in time for November.

It seems everyone is turning against the war because nobody is arguing Bush's case. Bush is on his own. The Iraqi people deserve better and I'm ashamed of America right now. No matter what you may think of Maliki, when he was here he looked desparate to let the American people know Iraq appreciates our effort and sacrifice. Iraq needs us yet we're in danger of abandoning them and already have in spirit.

And the Republicans aren't fighting hard enough. They're not leaders, they're followers and are too afraid of the Democrats to demonstrate optimism and the good old-fashioned American way. Republicans are beginning to sound like the Democrats, whining about their pet peeves such as immigration and pork, and completely ignoring the millions of people in Iraq who are depending on us.

And the Iraq and War on Terror rhetoric I've been hearing lately is counterproductive. I don't want to talk to the crazies at Kos, I want to talk to ordinary Americans who think treason rhetoric is over the top (Hannity isn't helping anyone) and who don't have their heads in the sand but simply want some reassurance.

These are the main memes that are out there:

We needed more troops.

McCain is echoing this which is part of the 'incompetence' meme that took over when 'Bush lied' didn't work.

We're fighting an insurgency in which the most important tool is intelligence, not troops. The men have to know where the bad guys are before they engage and the Iraqi people have to give us the information. Flooding the zone with foreign troops is quite frankly no way to win the hearts and minds of the people. The Arab culture is allergic to occupation and to them it has a special meaning far beyond what we consider valid.

So a massive number of troops after the initial take down of Saddam's regime would have been counterproductive. And heaven knows there have been mistakes where innocent Iraqis have been killed by Americans. More troops means more incidents, more targets, and less intelligence. It took a while as it was for the Iraqi people to come forward with fingers pointing to the bad guys.

And once the government was formed, it was important to bring the sunni insurgents into the political process, something that would have been even more difficult if there were thousands and thousands of American boots to plow through first before they would ever consider the political option.

That said, I can certainly see a few more feet on the ground, especially now. But certainly not the huge numbers that some critics have stated were necessary from the git go. It wouldn't have helped with Zarqawi. And certain areas of Iraq under tribal control were left alone which gave the tribal leaders a choice. Go with the violence and let your women and children be killed, or call on the Americans. They chose the latter. And the important thing to note was that it was their choice, it was not imposed upon them.

Anyway 'We needed more troops' is simply rhetoric and hindsight.

Iraq is in a civil war.

There is definitely sectarian violence and the situation in Baghdad is bad. But it is not civil war. For all the sectarian mayhem Zarqawi tried to force on the Iraqis, it didn't really work. The recent escalation started with the bombing of the holiest of the shia mosques back in the spring. Luckily we killed Zarqawi shortly after. But that bombing was the worst provocation possible to pit shia against sunni.

And it looks like it almost worked. But if you look closely you'll find that except for the baathist sunni, the insurgents fighting the 'occupation', the jihadis fighting the Americans and democracy, Sadr's gang and some other excitable shia, most Iraqis don't give a rip if you're sunni or shia.

Now the Americans have moved troops into Baghdad and the violence is beginning to settle down. But often when the Americans move in, the bad guys go into hiding. (I wonder why.) So what can you do? If the Americans leave, the bad guys will just start up again. But, wait. The Iraqi people, who don't hate us, are giving us the information about where the bad guys are hiding.

So I think we'll lick this. And the Iraqi police and troops seem to be doing their jobs!

Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror.

This is a meme that I don't hear much pushback on. It's noted and then the conversation turns elsewhere. I think because it's so difficult to explain. The Democrats have long tried to separate Iraq from the general war and put their little digs in every chance they get. It's a question often pushed in polls then the poll results are reported so eventually the meme gathers legs.

Withoug going into the complex reasons for Iraq, let me just say that if we were to leave Iraq without finishing what we set out to do the jihadi movement would be emboldened and declare victory over America. Bin laden's belief in our weakness would be vindicated.

It's not healthy for your enemies to believe you can be defeated.

So that makes Iraq a HUGE part of the war on terror.

Anyway, why do you think jihadis from around the globe converged on Iraq? Vacation?

Americans have turned against the war in Iraq.

Americans are unhappy about how long it's taking but Americans also know we can't just leave. They intuitively understand that Iraq IS a part of the war on terror and we can't just walk away.

Well, enough of that. I'll just end this by saying Americans and fools rush in where angels fear to tread. But the angels follow the Americans and help them make things right.

It's the American Way.


truepeers said...

I really appreciate your optimism, Syl. There is one question or "meme" (some day I'll give you my whine about that concept) however that I think is pretty central at the moment that you haven't touched: can the Muslims change? - with the most popular answer, I suspect, being no, since antagonism to change is inherent to a theology that proclaims the Koran the eternal and uncreated truth: hence the lack of optimism in many quarters of the west and the many rants, even from conservatives, against the neocons and the Bush Doctrine.

As humans we can all (and to some degree must) change or die: even Muslims have conflicts which must either kill everyone or be transcended by rejigged understandings of the religious, political and economic scenes on which they live. As hard-core Muslims, maybe people can resist change to a maximum and remain in good part stuck in a 7thC. tribal theology (even as they live with cell phones and AK47s).

Perhaps what we, who would like to pursue the imperative of hope in dark times, need to do more of is showing how some admixture of Islam and humanity can bring about some outcomes that, if not perfect, can at least give us more reason to hope.

I admit I often indulge the emotion that we must wall ouselves off from the Islamic world, but in my more sober moments I realize that is no more realistic in any absolute sense than turning OBL into a Christian: any "wall" would still imply a lot of engagement between both sides of gatekeepers. So there have to be rules of engagement, which implies influencing and shaping Islamic society to some degree. And if that influence is to be kept to a minimum, are we really prepared to remove all technological and other economic assistance from the Muslim world which would precipitate a massive decline in their ability to sustain a population? Much of the Muslim world is effectively a giant welfare state (with or without the oil to exchange) and can we really allow our humanity to let the dependents die or to let the survivors live in 7thC brutality as the rest of the world leaves them farther and farther behind. They are humans, after all.

Even though countries like Turkey may be going in the wrong direction now, back towards fundamentalism, we have to see how they presently mix a healthy human desire both to make money in the global economy, to be consumers, and to have a national and political (even secular) identity distinct from Islam, with that kind of Islamism under which many Turkish nationals also live. In short, we need to talk about possibilities of engagement, and to be aggressive in pushing them (Bush doctrine on steroids, perhaps) against all the nay sayers on both sides, even if there is yet little in the past to justify hopes for change. There are a lot of htings that seem impossible until they happen. Human freedom is a function of human necessity. That is the fundamental truth that Bush grasps and which suggests he is smarter than a lot of his "realist" critics who call for a return of tyrants, even if for the time being needs will go unfulfilled, and more will die and BUsh will seem a failure in terms of executing his doctrine.

Syl said...


I just included the bits that are openly spouted by politicians and tv pundits right now.

I don't know the answer to that question and I'm not even sure it's the right question anymore.

But the religious sectarian violence in the bowels of this Arab society causes the citizens to say 'enough'!

And the citizens have a say now. And it's up to them to decide how far to take the 'enough!'.

Will it work in the long term? I doubt you and I will ever know.

Coisty said...

It seems everyone is turning against the war because nobody is arguing Bush's case

No, everyone - Ralph Peters included - is turning against the war because it is obviously a complete failure. Politicians and commentators who deny it are discrediting themselves.

The Iraqi people deserve better and I'm ashamed of America right now.

Already 2500 Americans (and over 100 Brits) have had their lives snuffed out needlessly in what appears to have been a war to change human nature and thousands year old cultures. The American people have been obtuse and far too tolerant of Bush's adventure but now they are starting to get it.

Republicans are beginning to sound like the Democrats, whining about their pet peeves such as immigration...completely ignoring the millions of people in Iraq who are depending on us.

How dare they want to preserve their own country from foreign colonisation! What about the millions of Americans whose lives have been badly impacted or even ruined by so-called immigration?

A recent study concluded there are quarter of a million illegal alien sex criminals in the US. About 93 sex offenders and a dozen serial offenders enter the US every day. How dare those selfish Americans care more about such "pet peeves" than Iraq!

McCain is echoing this which is part of the 'incompetence' meme that took over when 'Bush lied' didn't work.

McCain is a vile man. He and the Andrew Sullivans are just looking for scapegoats to deflect criticism from themselves. There's nothing the Bush and Rumsfeld could've done to make it work. At least Ralph Peters has been honest and admitted to being wrong. (Though he still doesn't seem to understand why the democracy-building adventure was doomed from the start).

It's not healthy for your enemies to believe you can be defeated

That's why AQ wanted a US invasion of Iraq. They knew it would make America look weak.

truepeers said...

Coisty, the Bush Doctrine is not bound to fail - there is too much ultimate, if not pragmatic, truth in it for that. But whether there is ever going to be the will to pursue the doctrine or something like it for the several decades it will require to make much change is another question.

All cultures change, some more quickly than others, or they go extinct. To talk of a thousand-year old culture as if it is changeless and cannot entertain democracy is simply wrong and ahistorical. Democracy is easy enough to install, if not so easy to keep. (And there is nothing in the Bush doctrine that says we can't go to war with democractically-elected entities we despise, like say Hamas)

Anyway, what is truly hard to develop is the sense of nationhood on which a truly self-ruling people must be based (if they are to be anything more than a primitive, ritual-bound tribe). Nationhood. being a Judeo-Christian concept, is a very difficult to sell in the Muslim world. But Muslims and Arabs have to face the same imperatives as everyone else: change or die, change or fall farther and farther behind, and then die out. This story make take a few more centuries to play out, but play out it will. In the meantime, the Arabs can probably become welfare dependents of a Eurabian empire - if the Europeans go down that imperial road. Again, it comes down to a fight between the spirit of empire and the spirit of tribe or nationhood (and so the American doctrine needs to be as much focussed on saving Europe for nationhood as on anything else - but that takes a certain attitude to freedom in the rest of the world too...).

The nation and tribe are the only political entities that can be truly self-sustaining over a long period of time, since uncreative though attractively vainglorious empires always crumble in time (none of which have ever lasted as long as the oldest nation, Israel). So I have no doubt the Eurabian "dream" will crumble in time too, though whatever self-ruling and creative localities emerge again after it can always in turn be brought under the fantasy ideolgy of empire.

The genius of the Bush Doctrine - which is a nation-building, not imperial, project - is that it understands all this. The failure, so far, is not understanding what it will take to advance nationhood in the ME and the multi-generational patience and committment that it may require. The allure of empire/Caliphate will always be strong for those inclined to control and to faintheartedness. But the Arabs will change, or they will die, in a world in which the truly creative peoples have a strong national spirit.

Syl said...


Ralph Peters was never a Bush fan. He's been criticial of the Iraq war almost all along. It's just that he is not a moonbat and doesn't make sh*t up like other people I know and also praises when it is due.

Of all the Arab countries in the M.E. Iraq has the highest education rate--even the women are educated unlike Afghanistan--and in many areas sunni and shia live, work, and play side by side.

You don't know Iraq or Iraqis and are dismissing 27 million people for the sins of a few.

And that frosts me.

You can't even be happy for the Kurds!

No, you dismiss all those little crappy people as not worthy of our efforts.

Oh, and btw, Bin laden didn't even know we were going to invade Afghanistan, how could he know we would invade Iraq?

Fresh Air said...


Thanks for the thoughtful posts. One question to ponder, as it relates to living in an unwalled world with the Muslims.

Why don't they ever give China any trouble?

TP said...

McCain is a hardliner on the war. All he is doing in the end is giving Republicans cover to run against Bush in much the same way that Lieberman's 1998 Senate speech about the morality of the Monica Lewinsky affair gave Democrats cover to run against Clinton.

Bush has made huge tactical and domestic political errors in this war in much the same way that Roosevelt did with the North Africa invasion in WWII.

I don't care for McCain too much and I am a Bush supporter, but, let's face it, nobody can claim that Bush is infallible and keep a straight face-- particularly if they are running for office.

truepeers said...


I suspect they don't give China any trouble because China is not yet a big enough player in the Middle East, because China seems strong while the west seems decadent and exposed to the tactics of the predator. Most important, the west opens its doors to millions of Moslem immigrants whose presence creates various tactical possibilities while much of the west seeks to transcend calls to a unifying nationhood in various syncretic, ecumenical, multiculti fantasy ideologies, all the while showing a willingness to appease angry third world "victims" of the west. If my one Chinese Moslem friend is any indication, the Moslems (Hui) in China are pretty Chinese in cultue, and in the cities their Moslem identity is reduced to little more than dietary habits. There's not the same kind of opening to be exploited, except in China's far west. Strategically, it makes sense for the Jihad to focus on the decadent, accomodating, west first. What's more it may well appear in China's interest to sit back and watch the other two to go at it, so who knows what they may be doing to encourage this. No doubt they tell many in the region that we are all in this together against the westerners and especially the Americans.

Fresh Air said...

I think the part about China being strong is the key. I would imagine that, to a radical Muslim cleric, the Chinese are at least as bad as Christians and Jews--if not worse--since many of them are Buddhists and therefore don't even quality for dhimmitude.

I think the reason is that China has a lockdown society. They can't freely blow up Chinese. Moreover, they know the Chinese would cause terrific trouble and have no moral qualms about it were something to happen.

I think the lesson there is that strength deters terrorism--something the loony left still doesn't get.

terrye said...


Thank you for the post. I agree with everything you said.

As to whether Muslims can change, can anyone? I don't know but the truth is I do not care what their religion is so long as they are slamming planes into buildings. In that regard, I think that chances are they can change.

As for mistakes, I am not so sure about that. The critics of the war both right and left have too often approached the war with this "If they had only listened to me" attitude. They are not the ones making the decisions and so they are free to critcize because after all we can not know if they are right or wrong can we? All we know for sure is that they think they have all the answers. People make mistakes, that is inevitable. I think it would have been a mistake to ignore Saddam. He was not going to change and as to whether or not he was a threat, or linked to terrorism, no one seriously doubted any of that until it was politically advantageous for them to do so.

However, if Bush had come into office and pushed for an end to sanctions and ignored the oil for food scam and the weapons programs and the ties to terrorists and had turned Saddam loose allowing him and his sons to go back to what they were doing...well then the same people would have criticized Bush for being weak.

McCain has always been something of a backstabber here and like Kristol thinks that more troops were the answer, but sooner or later those troops have to leave. The point is to make Iraq as independent as possible.

I know there are people who think the Iraqis are barbarians and who see any attempt to bring them into the 21st century to be counterproductive. I disagree. And I think that attitude is bigoted. What are we supposed to do build a wall around the Muslim world?

terrye said...


The Iraqis had a real election for the first time in their history. The point is to let them decide their own future without some strong man putting them in mass graves in the hundreds of thousands.

terrye said...

fresh air:

The chines have a policy when dealing with Islamic radicals, they kill them and Amnesty International has precious little to say about it.

terrye said...

Here is a link that has some really good news about progress in Iraq. Read it Syl, it might make you feel better:

Luther McLeod said...

Great post Syl.

China is not a player as yet, because China does not need to be. We are the player that draws the attention. Individual freedom is the true threat to Islam.

In the fantasy world of the Islamofacist nihilist we are the cat's meow. The top banana.

Besides, in the end, there is not that much difference between totalitarian communism and totalitarian Islam. They both rule by complete subjugation of the individual. Actually I can see them being partners in quite a few things. There would be a clash eventually, of course. But for now they are each advantageous to the other.

vnjagvet said...


I like your style, and I agree with your analysis.

On the issue of mistakes during wartime.

The only wars without mistakes (and big ones at that) are the wars fought in the imagination, in novels or in the movies.

I am rereading Manchester's biography of Churchill, surely one of the heroes of WWII.

He was a man who made a ton of mistakes, and some real big ones. But he generally made decisions that moved his country in the right direction.

In times like this, that is all we can ask of a leader.

gumshoe1 said...

not to cut into
vnjagvet's post too much,
but the whole issue is about
*leadership*...most people
are unequipped to discuss it.

i'll include myself in that number.

terrye said...


You are right about that. It is about leadershiop and the aiblity or willinlness to make the decisions. I know I could never do it.

TP said...

vnjagvet, I agree with your analysis. Churchill is the prime model of a man who made enormous mistakes and was also enormously wise. I would contend that Bush knows he made mistakes and there are a lot of things he might do differently. He has not made the mistake of stifling dissent within the Republican Party. He is better off with the thoughtful and sometimes self-serving criticisms of people in his own party if that helps him maintain a majority in Congress. The Republicans running for election and Democrats like Lieberman face a skeptical electorate. They have to engage that electorate in the coming months. If that means running away from George Bush for the next three months, so be it. It is better than having the House and Senate full of Ned Lamonts.

In the real world, it is better to have a House and Senate majority who have criticized the tactics than a House and Senate who have criticized the strategy.

Syl said...


In the real world, it is better to have a House and Senate majority who have criticized the tactics than a House and Senate who have criticized the strategy.

It's even better when they know the difference. :)

Terrye, thanks for the link.

And thanks for the comments all.

There's a link from Instapundit to a post on a recent poll in Iraq that shows more Iraqis think their country is heading in the right direction than Americans do.

Makes one want to hit certain people on the head with their own comic book.

Coisty said...

truepeers - All cultures change, some more quickly than others, or they go extinct. To talk of a thousand-year old culture as if it is changeless and cannot entertain democracy is simply wrong and ahistorical.

An atomised, deracinated society under a secular God ("democracy", the "propositon nation", "workers paradise", etc) is more likely to change and go extinct than one based on loyalty to one's own extended family (ie., tribe) and genuine adherance to religion - even if it is Islam. Even our genes are disappearing due to low birthrates. The West may have been more successful (technology, freedom, prosperity), but if the Arabs outlast us then they are the ones with the more successful culture where it matters: survival.

I see little evidence to suggest that democracy has much staying power. (The US itself is supposed to be a republic, not a democracy). There's not even much support for it in the West never mind the Arab world.

Just think of how Paul Martin got away with his contempt for our democracy by refusing to seek the confidence of parliament in May 2005. Most of the people were just happy to avoid having an election during the summer when they'd be busy drinking and sunbathing. With the exception of isolated pockets in the US and maybe Denmark it's no different anywhere else in the West.

A new tribalism is more likely to be our future than liberal democracy. People aren't willing to fight for abstractions. Stalin had to appeal to Russian patriotism to get his people to put up a fight in WW2. Canadians, Aussies, and Kiwis didn't volunteer to help Britain in order to defend democracy in the Boer and world wars - they were fighting for blood and Empire.

The US armed forces are also packed with the minority of Americnas who could still be described as traditionalists - and are ridiculed for this reason by non-tribal successful cosmopolitans. They don't sign up due to a desire to spread democracy around the world but for patriotism, family tradition, or because they want a career. They are more rural South than Silicon Valley. Those who see loyalty to kin, hometown, nation, and religion as backward tribalism don't seem to be joining up. Yet liberal democracy only seems to have won the hearts of those cosmopolitans who sneer at the traditional society which is an obstacle to the constant change required in a modern democracy. Why don't they mind so much change? They would say it's because it's more exciting, and besides they are smart and can adapt. I would say they embrace change because they have nothing worth preserving in the first place - and so nothing worth dying for. How is an ideology that is attractive mainly to people who won't fight for it going to survive? I bet on the Arab tribalists to win in the end.

terrye said...


I have relatives in the military and they tend to be very traditional, but they also think that democracy is part of that tradition. Just because they are conservative or are from a rural area does not mean they are tribal and backward.

And the Iraqis will chose their own destiny in the long run. They chose to vote in the millions and believe it or not they do not need western people telling them what they are. It seems to me that many of the people who complain that the US is shoving democracy at these people is more than wlling to shove tyranny at them. So how does that make you any better? And besides tribal societies can still practice self government.

truepeers said...

Coisty I agree with much of what you say, which is why i emphasized nationhood over democracy. Yes, if people cannot see the need and good in defending some kind of tribe, or national covenant, or republic, then they are likely to fall into a kind of nihilism and not be very (re)productive, until the day a culture with greater existential weight puts them to their death bed.

But the reason we still need to speak of democracy is that we cannot expect to propser or perhaps even survive in a world where tyrants or oligarchs rule millions or billions, and are continually focussing the resentment that tyrranny inevitably engenders on foreign scapegoats. Saddam really was a threat to us, just as the likes of Hamas or Hezb. can only exist as the kind of entities they are if they have/create an enemy like Israel to focuss the negative energy they cannot disperse through the mechanism of an advanced consumer society.

So, where does this all leave us? I agree that democracy cannot succeed long term in defense of some abstraction. It has to be made real and concrete in relation to nationhood. Yes, the Arabs might win the present conflict in the long run, but unless they learn technology and science and reason there will still be a lot fewer of them, of anyone, in future. SO I think it more likely that the current stress will act to bring an end to liberalism, but not to western nationhood. SOme western nations may well fold and disappear, but the stronger will survive and hopefully learn from the ordeal.