Debate Is Only Good if You Agree With Me

|

Victor Davis Hanson, in his latest backbone-stiffener, issues this dire warning about the 9/11 commission and our current public debate:

But the tragedy is that if we are paradoxical, self-incriminatory, and at each other's throats, our enemies most surely are not. They know precisely what they want from us ? an Islamic world of the 8th century, parasitic on the resources and technology of the 21st, by which all the better to destroy a supposedly soft and bickering West. And if the present chaos here at home continues, they are apparently on the right track.

In other words, if you criticize Bush's handling of the wars against Al Qaeda and Iraq, you're contributing to the mullahfication of America. Color me delusionally optimistic, but I have a little more faith in America, and in the virtues of open debate, than all of that.

NEXT: Return of the Stenographer

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “But the tragedy is that if we are paradoxical, self-incriminatory, and at each other’s throats, our enemies most surely are not.”

    Like the Shiites and the Sunnis, who are never at each other’s throats?

  2. Matt,

    Criticism is fine – where is any constructive criticism (by that I mean, “what you are doing is wrong, here is what I/we think you should do”)

    All we hear is constant bitching and moaning about how Bush lied, Bush knew, Halliburton, war for oil …

    I have not heard one single alternative plan (no, I don’t consider handing over to UN qualifies as a plan) to what Bush is doing. VDH is specifically blaming the crap from the 9-11 commission. Let us pause and understand what the Dem are saying …

    “Bush didn’t do enough BEFORE 9-11 to make us safer”. Can you believe this shit? If he had done anything like what they are demanding he should have done, everyone including myself would have raised hell for that. Even now, AFTER 9-11, for most of the people in this country, Bush and Ashcroft are “the Nazis”.

    If for ALL of the politicians the goal is America’s strength and security, we can all debate on the policies/mechanisms of achieving that goal. But the perception of about half the population is that the other half is not serious of keeping our country #1 in the world.

    Well, why don’t you offer some “criticism” about what we should be doing, instead of whining?

  3. I think you’re misreading the whole piece, Matt. It seems to me to be about the ever-shifting arguments against the war–that the anti-war crowd have opposed Bush’s moves no matter what he did or why he did it.

    We obviously have the freedom to criticize the war, but it seems to me you’re questioning Hanson’s freedom to criticize these critics. The reason freedom of speech is so precious is because speech can be powerful, even dangerous, not because it never makes a difference.

    The only place I disagree with him is in our enemies. They may seem to be united, but that’s only because they all agree they hate us. Once you lose that, they fall into numerous bickering parties.

  4. garym,

    “Shias and Sunnis” are NOT our enemies. There are a billion muslims in the world – and not all of them are our enemies. Our enemies (the Shia al- Sadr followers, the Sunni Saddam loyalists, the terrorist groups of Palestine, the Iranian mullahs) are NOT at each other’s throats.

    We can internally debate about what the highest tax bracket should be, how we can nationalize healthcare, etc. – but it is not too much to ask if we can agree that America (or the so called western way of living) is facing a threat from people who want to establish the Caliphate all over the world.

  5. zorel — That may be all of what you hear, but that is not all of what I hear. I think you, like Hanson, are tuned to a different and apparently alarming frequency. For example:

    Even now, AFTER 9-11, for most of the people in this country, Bush and Ashcroft are “the Nazis”.

    Huh? Has a single Democratic congressman, or respected left-of-center commentator, called Bush or Ashcroft a “Nazi”? Picking up on Hanson, who are these Democrats (besides maybe the odious Cynthia McKinney) who use the phrase “blood for oil”? There are tons of legitimate questions to be asked about our security set-up as regards the next attack on our soil, and many are being asked at the 9/11 Commission.

    Rich — I wasn’t describing the whole piece. I was describing, and criticizing, that passage. How that amounts to “questioning Hanson’s freedom to criticize these critics” is beyond me.

  6. I like Victor David Hanson. He’s a real renaissance man. As in, his thinking is from the 16th century.

    Seriously, how many other Americans are there that can be accurately described as royalists?

    Reading Hanson is like entering a time warp. He’s like a particularly hawkish Founding Father who’s not too keen on those radicals down in Philadelphia.

  7. Matt,

    Is Ted KEnnedy – the Liberal Lion – a “respected” enough congressman for you? I didn’t say the “respected” Dems called Bush a Nazi. It is the kooky fringe that calls him a Nazi. And then, “respected” figures like Howard Dean and Gen Clark merely raise the issue and say there are some theories out there, but that they have not investigated the facts.

    Is that close enough to mainstream Dems?

    Your saying that I am tuned to an alarming frequency would be more credible, if most of the lefties don’t keep complaining about how we are all losing our civil rights and blaming Bush for all of that.

    If we look hard enough, we can find some good questions from 9-11 windbags, but what is being reported in the “mainstream media” is not that. I see only propaganda in the evening news and on the liberal press. I hope you don’t ask “what liberal press?”

  8. Mullahfication? Here?

    Anyone paying any attention to the FCC lately?

  9. One thing Bush could’ve done, pre-9/11, is stop coddling the Taliban and stop giving them money as a reward for their stamping out opium production. We KNEW they had Bin Laden and repeatedly refused to turn him over, but Bush figured that Afghan heroin was a much bigger threat to national security than a mere guy who had already blown up a few of our embassies.

  10. Best part of all: now that we’re occupied in Iraq, the Taliban is making a comeback, and so is heroin production! Hooray for our wise administration!

  11. jennifer,

    If you found out that Bush didn’t coddle Taliban in the 8 months he was in office and whatever policies the US had w.r.t Taliban were pretty much the same for a few years before 9-11 …

    it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to you, right?

    (and it was finally Bush who kicked out the Taliban, though the “pro-women’s rights” liberals don’t give him credit)

  12. Taliban is making a comeback, and so is heroin production!

    Blame that on the Afghanis. It’s their country, maybe they should try running it instead of still trembling at the whims of warlords.

    One thing Bush could’ve done, pre-9/11, is stop coddling the Taliban and stop giving them money as a reward for their stamping out opium production.

    We were ineffective because we allowed the U.N. to lead. The events after 9/11 revealed more and more how the U.N. has neither teeth nor clothes, only the hollow words of diplomats and fancy stationery. “stop giving them money” is a great idea for a number of nations, but diplomatically it is not an option. For all the bitching by the downtrodden states of the world, they know they cannot live without our money, and we know that what we give them represents a tiny, tiny percentage of our wealth. It gives us leverage – and rightly so – in our dealings.

  13. “Jennifer” is referring to the Robert Sheer magnum opus Bush’s Faustian Deal With the Taliban.

    What actually happened is described here. All of the links are to PDFs or I’d provide those links instead. Search for “In fact, that money was not given to the Taliban government, but rather to U.S. and international agencies that distributed humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan”

    If we’d let the people of Afghanistan starve, “Jennifer” and her ilk wouldn’t just be talking about how we did nothing. They’d come up with a complicated conspiracy involving depopulating Afghanistan to make it easier to build a pipeline there.

  14. Zorel,
    Here’s a link explaining the story better than I could.

    And, as I already said, the Taliban is making a comeback. Bush did NOT kick them out; he just shunted them to the side for a little while. Had he stayed the course in Afghanistan things would be different, but instead he pulled guys OUT of Afghanistan to focus on Iraq.

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/scheer/2004/04/15/coddle_taliban/index.html

    (By the way, I was NEVER a Bush-lover but I supported his invasion of Afghanistan. It’s when he started focusing on Iraq that I started losing serious respect for him.)

  15. Rich:

    “the ever-shifting arguments against the war-”

    The anti-war arguments are the one shifting? Is this sarcasm or do you have no shame?

    The reasons for the war are the ones that kept and keep changing by the hour. From WMD, to links to Al-Qaida, to democracy and damino effects, etc.

  16. Anonymous-
    Whaddaya mean, the rationale for war keeps changing? Oceania is at war with Eastasia! Oceania has ALWAYS been at war with Eastasia!

  17. Guys-
    If you say it was okay for us to give money to the Taliban, then why didn’t we attach a couple of strings to it? Like, say, demanding that they hand over Bin Laden?

    I assume our Afghan “humanitarian aid” helped the Afghanis as much as the “humanitarian aid” to Iraq helped the Iraqis. We only enriched the corrupt governments; the common people didn’t get a damn thing.

    Maybe our money bought the explosives that destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan, I dunno.

  18. One other thing-feel free to criticize me and those of “my ilk,” but I’ll say these things in our defense: WE are not the ones who say that independent thought and debate only strengthens Al-Qaeda. WE are not the ones who said that anyone who cares about civil liberties only aids Al-Qaeda. WE are not the ones arrogant enough to assume anyone who disagrees with us is a traitor. And WE are not the ones who keep switching our stories on a weekly basis and denying that such changes occured.

  19. I don’t care if the opposition to Bush is constant or unyielding or unmovable. I don’t care if some people will oppose him no matter what.

    The opposition is valuable in a free society with representative government because it operates on the premise that every policy must have some sort of downside, and that downside should always be pointed out. Enjoy the perpetual carping. Relish it. Because sometimes they’ll make good and valuable points that might halt a disastrous policy, and the rest of the time they can be ignored. But please don’t expect me to buy into the notion that their perpetual carping is a menace to society.

    Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with perpetual opposition to the opposition either. Those who think that the perpetual carping is a menace to our nation are of course free to say so, and I’m free to say that you’re full of it. In fact, I believe I just did.

    And the beauty is that the marketplace of ideas is just like any other marketplace: The more the merrier.

    BTW, I think Republicans do a much better job of being the opposition. Democrats whine. Republicans fight.

  20. It’s when he started focusing on Iraq that I started losing serious respect for him.

    Why? Escalation of hostilities in Iraq were consistent with a nation on a war footing. I understand that the stories faded from the front page in 91, but there really was no cease fire and Gulf War I did not end. Resolution 687 claimed that there was a cease fire in effect, but that piece of paper was the only place the cease fire actually existed. This is because when all is said and done the only thing which the U.N. actually provides is that fancy stationery they write their resolutions on. Everything else comes from the member states.

    Skirmishes on both land and air continued throughout the various weapons inspections failures. These were our resources being spent sustaining a stalled U.N. “operation” (and a French slush fund) which we had no desire to continue to participate in given the direction it was heading. Pre 9/11 U.N. indolence against the Taliban from its rise to power on through 9/11 left the U.S. to do something about it with or without their meaningless permission. The similar indolence against Iraq left a foul taste in our mouths. I do not believe you would have felt the same way about an Afghanistan operation pre 9/11, Jennifer. I think you believe that your mindset before 9/11 would have allowed for support of a spontaneous invasion and regime change in Afghanistan, followed by a protracted hunt for that decaying little half-breed, but you believe that with your post 9/11 mind. You’re forgetting the pipeline. Bush would have gotten blasted as an imperialist wanting to install a government that would let him build a pipeline.

    That history notwithstanding, the Taliban has every right to have their voice heard in a democratic Afghanistan.

  21. One important thing should be kept in mind regarding the 9/11 commission: their sole purpose is to make Bush look bad.

    This is not a debatable point. Why is the Clinton administration not on trial here? Because Clinton can’t be punished by denying him reelection. They have yet to explain why Bush is responsible for the middle east situation–he had 8 months to deal with it at that point. Clinton had 8 years. The 9/11 terrorists didn’t wait for the 2000 election results, then move here, plan, train, and test their scheme in spring of ’00.

  22. I should clarify that I’m glad the commission exists–getting the facts is a good thing. Just that we should keep in mind the motivation of the primary characters, and of much of the media reporting it. The daily news isn’t selling truth, they’re selling scandal. The commission is ostensibly investigating pre-9/11 affairs, but how much of the commentary ends up being about Afghanistan, Iraq, the UN, etc…

  23. meep,
    Clinton appeared before the commission (without Gore I might add). So did a few other members of his administration. I would like to see less focus on whose fault it is and more of a focus on what can we do in the future to prevent acts like this and keep our cherished civil liberties.

  24. Thoreau-
    “Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with perpetual opposition to the opposition either. Those who think that the perpetual carping is a menace to our nation are of course free to say so, and I’m free to say that you’re full of it. In fact, I believe I just did.”

    I agree with you but I’ll tell you what scares me: the mindset that allows these folk to completely deny the obvious. How can one simultaneously insist that yes, the WMDs are there and, simultaneously, insist that WMD wasn’t why we went into Iraq; it was a humanitarian mission. No, wait, I mean Al-Qaeda was there. Whatever.

    I feel like I’m in the Space Shuttle with a member of the Flat Earth Society, and no matter how many times I keep pointing to the round Earth visible out the porthole he keeps inventing ever-more convoluted explanations as to why it’s all a big hoax. I swear, in the hands of some of these people, Occam’s Razor couldn’t slice through thin air.

  25. I’ve been watching this thread for a while, and even started to post a couple of times. I’ll open with, I’m glad someone brought this up.

    I have been mostly annoyed with the way the inquiry has played out, but much of that is because I haunt blogs like this one. Folks on blogs feel that they have something to say, and I think that my view of the actual discussions that politicians are having has been colored by some of the fruity Bushitler-ism that comes out on the web. The real politicians have been much more reasonable as opposition than the Raimondo crowd, for example.

    Thoreau is right, the opposition is valuable no matter how shrill they are, and calls for ‘earnest discussions’ are inevitably given by those on the defense in the Coliseum of Ideas.

    These calls are matched by something I find a bit more distasteful, though. When a group of people pretend that in the face of a concerted effort, THEIR guy would have been ready for this; when they act as though something of the nature of 9/11 had more to do with the failure of a single personality than a broad misapprehension of the tradeoffs of pre 9/11 American life, I don’t know. That is a heavy burden to lay at the feet of one guy, and even if you are successful in doing so in the court of public opinion, you haven’t really penetrated the tough questions. Those relate to our complicity and risk tolerance. A separation between national intelligence and law enforcement is a damned good idea, but it has a cost. Easy travel in the US is a good idea, but one with costs. Open borders are great, but they have costs. We have to be prepared for the idea that some we invite in will try to kill us. We have to be prepared to fight an enemy who doesn’t wear a uniform and can’t be arrested. We want to uphold libertarian values in foreign policy as well as domestically, but what if they don’t care? What does national defence mean when dealing with this kind of threat?

    Anyway, for all that the opposition always has SOME value, it is hard to find fault with meep’s analysis. The marketplace of ideas probably works better any time other than during an election year.

  26. “I agree with you but I’ll tell you what scares me: the mindset that allows these folk to completely deny the obvious. How can one simultaneously insist that yes, the WMDs are there and, simultaneously, insist that WMD wasn’t why we went into Iraq; it was a humanitarian mission. No, wait, I mean Al-Qaeda was there. Whatever.”

    I would probably point out here that it is only obvious to you because you are predisposed to a certain conclusion. A laundry list of reasons were given for the war, and WMD was among them. Nearly every intelligence agency on earth believed the WMDs existed, and even the skeptics acknowledged that they were unaccounted for. The obsession of the anti war crowd is to find THE ONE BIG REASON for the war, and that is why it looks to you like the other side is changing the subject.

    You say: “This was about WMD, where are they?! Aha!”

    They say: “This was about WMD and reestablishing a credible military threat to terrorism and bringing him in compliance with UN charters and there is a humanitarian component, and …

    You say: “So this is NOT about WMD? You are changing the subject! YOU LIEEEE!”

    They say: “Well, no, we said that WMD was one reason, but there was also …”

    And you demand the REAL reason, then another REAL reason. It doesn’t take very sophisticated thinking to see that the other position is based on an aggregation of reasons, and, by the way, the fact that WMDs were not found doesn’t alter the fact that nearly everyone believed they were there at the time of the invasion. Remember the gas masks and full chem suits issued to the Republican Guard?

    I don’t want to get into this again, but I do want to point out that the straight line you are drawing is one from the conclusion you find obvious back to selected facts, not the other way around.

  27. I think Mo had a good point that I neglected. The tone of the proceedings (or at least much of the coverage of it) is that if we can just somehow firmly attach *blame* to someone, preferably Bush, then we’ll feel a sense of accomplishment–without actually accomplishing anything. That seems to be the mindset of many career politicians.

    9/11 was caused by fanatical murderers, not a politician. Bipartisan screwups contributed to allowing it. But more important to me than what wasn’t done then is what is being done now. The Democrats don’t seem to have any ideas on how to handle the present, so they turn to finger-pointing in the past.

    In my ideal fantasy world, people most responsible for said screwups should have been fired long ago, or resigned–but this inquiry isn’t going to help with that. Sadly this country has no tradition of hari-kiri when administrators screw the pooch.

  28. Jason:
    “Saddam bought yellowcake uranium.” Bush knew this was a lie when he put it in his speech. (and never did bother finding out who leaked Valerie Plame’s identity after her husband blew the whistle.)

    “The occupation of Iraq will be a cakewalk and we don’t need that many troops for it.” The military brass who argued THAT lost their careers.

    Et cetera.

  29. The only people who said the occupation of Iraq would be a cakewalk were those who opposed the war, so when it predictably wasn’t, they could complain. I can point you to many statements by Bush and his people stating the occupation will be difficult and filled with violence.

    And I can’t believe people are still repeating the lies about Bush and what he said about uranium.

    So I guess I’m wrong, the lies of the anti-war side aren’t ever-shifting, they’re pretty consistent.

  30. Nice simplification, Matt. He’s talking about the open airing of partisan cries by the 9/11 commission, not debate itself. You may remember that foreign policy was relatively bipartisan several decades ago – not even FDR’s opponent in his last run criticized him on the war. You have undoubtedly seen today’s op-ed in the NYT by two former members of the previous counterterrorism commission, which stayed quiet until its final report came out, and who urged the current commission to do the same. Debate is great, but we need to remember who our real enemies are.

  31. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cheney said the Bush administration believes the Iraqis “want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.”

  32. “The only people who said the occupation of Iraq would be a cakewalk were those who opposed the war, so when it predictably wasn’t, they could complain”

    Cakewalk In Iraq

    By Ken Adelman
    Wednesday, February 13, 2002; Page A27

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A1996-2002Feb12?language=printer

  33. jennifer,

    If you are going to quote Scheer as your bible, I will raise you and quote Ann Coulter 🙂

    “Saddam bought yellow cake from Africa” is not the statement made by Bush. That is a “lie” perpetraded by the frigging lefties in the MEDIA.

    Bush said, “The British intelligence has learned that ….yellow cake … blah …”

    That was the truth on the day Bush gave his speech and the British intelligence STILL maintain that to be the truth.

    It is easy to quote your friends in the media to “prove” Bush lied. Try a bit hard and find out the original statement and your case will go away.

  34. Zorel-
    Bush putting the blame on the British intel sources does not let him off the hook; instead, it shows he doesn’t even have the balls to lie outright, but puts the blame on someone else.

    However, I’m really not interested in any specifics at this point; my question was, WHY can’t Bush supporters, or Bush himself, admit when they were wrong? I don’t even mean a complete mea culpa; I’d settle for “It was foolish of us to go into Iraq with no clue what we’d do after Saddam left,” or “It was wrong for us to think Iraq had anything to do with 9-11, but now that we’re there we have to stay the course.”

    Better yet, “I was an asshole to go on record to say that God put me in the White House and God wants me to start this war.” Jeebus Exmas, what a scary solipsistic mullah-lovin’ thing to say. Hmmph. When God picked Moses, he gave mMoses the ability to be a good public speaker. Too bad he forgot that detail for Dubya.

  35. Greg —

    You may remember that foreign policy was relatively bipartisan several decades ago

    I’m too young for that particular memory; it certainly doesn’t describe the 1986-2004 I was paying something like close attention to, nor the 1962-74 period I’ve read quite a bit about. At any rate, if the need for unity beyond the water’s edge governed Republicans’ approach toward Clinton’s foreign policy, or the Democrats’ approach toward Reagan’s second term (at the least), that would be breaking news to me.

    And I don’t really see any confusion about who the enemies are, despite Hanson’s attempt to conflate partisan-laced 9/11-commission criticism with the goals of Al Qaeda. I assume most of the time that most people place a high priority on preventing future terrorist attacks; where I disagree with many is that I don’t believe the 9/11 commission (whose daily transcripts, which are available all over the Net, I highly recommend) is counter to that goal.

  36. What we really need to do is start declassifying government documents by the warehouse full, and start OCR’ing them into Google unredacted. Let’s say all the way back to LBJ for starters.

    The 9/11 commission has hit on the cause of our symptomatic failure: secrecy.

    Open it up. Everything.

    Now.

  37. Jennifer:

    When God picked Moses, he gave mMoses the ability to be a good public speaker.

    Moses was a poor public speaker, which is why he took his brother Aaron with him to do the talking when they went to see Pharaoh. [Exodus 6 and 7, et seq. In Ex 6:30 he says he has “uncircumcised lips,” whatever that means; consensus opinion seems to be that he suffered from stuttering.]

    If Moses were uranium, and you were the President, would you be a liar?

  38. I assume our Afghan “humanitarian aid” helped the Afghanis as much as the “humanitarian aid” to Iraq helped the Iraqis.

    So you’re saying you actually don’t know, right?

    The aid we gave was distributed primarily as grain, seeds, food oils, and other nonperishables rather than as cash; some cash was included to fund programs to teach farmers to switch from poppy production to other sustainable cash crops. That aid was delivered to the U.N.’s World Food Programme, which goes to great lengths to develop local supply lines in Third World countries from point of delivery to the people to whom the aid is targeted.

    We weren’t dealing with the Taliban, and in fact, as the State Department briefing announcing the aid made clear, we were continuing to invoke sanctions on the Taliban even as we delivered food aid to the WFP and other NGOs.

    Does that help you with your assumptions, or are you just going to rely on the lying Robert Scheer crap some more so you don’t have to look anything up?

  39. Jennifer:

    I didn’t take my Bible off the shelf to look that up, I Googled it. You have a computer that’s connected to the Internet. You can do the same thing.

    You didn’t even attempt to answer my question, but instead said that it was presumptuous of me to hold your discourse to any kind of standard of verifiability. The principle involved would be whether one dubious statement in a complex argument invalidates the entire argument. The line about the uranium was one sentence in a long speech. Your line about Moses was one line in a long sequence of posts. Something easier to fact-check than where the darn uranium ore was. And if it’s nothin’ but “a casual remark on an Internet comment site”, well then, that’s cool, who cares, chill out, nothin’ happenin’ here.

    More on topic: Iraqi Nuclear Gear Found in Europe. Those WMD’s were there, they went somewhere, and pieces of them are starting to turn up. David Kay quit in a fit of pique long before his job of inspection was finished: the “Kay Report” is barely a preliminary draft. There’s much more to come.

    From Matt’s post:

    if you criticize Bush’s handling of the wars against Al Qaeda and Iraq, you’re contributing to the mullahfication of America. Color me delusionally optimistic, but I have a little more faith in America, and in the virtues of open debate, than all of that.

    This seems dreadfully oversimplified. Open debate is just dandy, but there’s a wide spectrum of dissent, and some of it is over the line to being “not anti-war — just on the other side.”

    Matt’s writing for Reason now, but he’s an old liberal, self-proclaimed, and maybe doesn’t understand the self-defense part of the non-aggression pledge. Plenty of big-L Libertarians (Harry Browne, e.g.) don’t seem to get it either. This war is self-defense. We were attacked. I hear that one translation of the latest Osama tape refers to 9/11 as “The Battle of New York.”

  40. Jim — I’m not “old,” I’m 35. And though it’s perhaps kind of you to inform me that we have indeed been attacked and are at war, I’m actually not a total retard, and have been reading the newspapers now and then since Sept. 11, 2001.

    VDH wasn’t talking about that thin minority (not your “wide spectrum”) of people who are, in that charming phrase, “not anti-war — just on the other side.” The people he directly referenced and criticized, just before that foolish paragraph, were: Richard Clarke, Paul O’Neill, Al Franken, Kevin Phillips, Craig Unger, Ted Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter. There are certainly gasbags and foreign-policy naifs in that bunch, but to characterize their collective public discussions about the 9/11 commission’s work & the war on terror as something that will give tangible aid to Al Qaeda is, to my eyes, laughable & semi-poisonous rubbish.

    Stacy — Sure, there are extreme partisans who spout horrifying & even dangerous-sounding nonsense; I just don’t think that A) that list includes Richard Gephardt (who I truly loathe) or the members of the 9/11 commission, nor B) do they have enough influence on U.S. foreign policy to produce tangible benefit to our enemies. In fact, I think the introduction of outlying opinions on the war actually *improve* our ability to prosecute it.

    Take Senator Chappaquiddick’s quagmire/Vietnam comment, which was taken somewhat out of context, although he knew that those words were triggers: What if a U.S. Senator does warn of a Vietnam-like quagmire? Well in this instance, he was shouted down pretty handily by the Administration and the public. And second, running our policy through the question of “what if it was a quagmire, and how can we avoid making whatever similar mistakes were made in Vietnam,” strikes me as something that will in the end produce better, not worse, policy.

    I just did a Lexis search from March 1 to May 1 of 1999, on the terms “Kosovo,” “Congress,” and “quagmire.” 288 results, the first one a quote from Tom DeLay. Now, did those analogies lead to a better or worse policy? Who knows! But I truly believe that allowing for a range of public opinion & debate — and that includes shouting people down for saying foolish things — is the best hope we have for crafting wise policy.

  41. I’m not saying that any of that dissent should be suppressed, of course. Just that the dissenters should think a little before speaking, to contemplate if what they are proposing is self-destruction, and whether that’s what they really want. If we, the representatives of Western Civilization, are too busy tearing each other apart to pay attention to the fact that we are under deadly attack, our response may not be adequate to meet the threat.

  42. Matt Welch is guilty of treason and slander. He’s just another example of the liberal media.

  43. zorel writes: “Can you believe this shit? If he had done anything like what they are demanding he should have done, everyone including myself would have raised hell for that.”

    Actually, such measures wouldn’t necessarily be required.

    The CIA asked for two Al Qaeda people to be put on the INS watch list. They were already in the country, and the FBI didn’t know where.

    They could have done something as simple as putting their faces and names up on America’s Most Wanted. That might have provided important leads on their whereabouts.

    Had the FBI followed up on Moussaoui in time, they might have been able to get the names of Arab flight students. That might have allowed them to round up all the pilots, which probably would have stopped 9/11. (They clearly expected that they couldn’t force an airline pilot to fly into a building, so the ‘muscle’ alone wouldn’t have sufficed. Thus the need for trained Al Qaeda pilots.)

    The 9/11 plotters weren’t exactly under deep cover. They weren’t using false identities.

    A certain amount of luck might have been needed to stop them, but it wouldn’t have required a miracle.

  44. > the Taliban has every right to have their voice heard in a democratic Afghanistan.

  45. Jennifer,
    Didn’t one of the guys that God sent have his mouth burned with a hot coal?
    Also, why would Bush appologize for saying that he was there for devine reasons unless he no longer believed it? Do you know something we don’t?

  46. I remember reading a sarcastic article in National Review a good many years ago about the Clinton support for the Taliban. The headline was that it was good to know that not all Clintons friends were liberals. It then talked about how women were treated in Afganistan and a bunch of other stuff. This was before the Taliban blew up the statues. For some reason blowing up some stone carvings was worse than committing half the population to worse than slavery.

  47. Matt,

    You do your argument a disservice when you refuse to acknowledge that extreme partisanship is helpful to Al Qaeda. Arguments made by anti-war groups (and Kennedy, Dean, Gephardt and others) in the USA are echoed by extremists in other places to rationalize violence.

    Does this mean we shouldn’t debate? No, but it does mean we should do it with care and consideration for those who are at risk, like our troops. Was Ted Kennedy’s quagmire comment helpful or damaging? How about calling the POTUS a “miserable failure”, does that advance the debate?

    I have become somewhat amused by the Dems perpetual rightious indignation over having their “patriotism questioned”. They use this as a shield to prevent anyone from questioning their foreign policy positions, or lack there of. So, the Republicans avoid the debate using VDH’s position, and the Dems avoid the debate by accusing the republicans of questioning their patriotism – Nice. Who benefits? not us.

  48. Isn’t there a huge confict of interest in the 911 commission as one of the members wrote the law that prevented the connecting of the dots? Isn’t that a huge gaping no-no.

    Why don’t we just have Bill Gates investigate software monopolies.

  49. Jim-
    I don’t have a Bible on hand to look up the story, but answer this: are you seriously saying that a casual remark on an Internet comment site and a speech given by the Leader of the Presumptive Free World should be held to identical standards? I recall something in Exodus about God giving Moses what skills he needed, when he needed them. If so, Bush would be justified to cry out “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

    Only he wouldn’t say anything so elegant.

  50. Rob wrote: “The only people who said the occupation of Iraq would be a cakewalk were those who opposed the war, so when it predictably wasn’t, they could complain.”

    Rob, you’re a lying sack of shit. Here’s two superhawks grilling one of the very few antiwar witnesses called during the Congressional hearings before the war (this transcript does not seem to be available for free on-line, but if you have LexisNexis or Westlaw access, do a search in their congressional testimony databases for the passages below):

    FDCH Political Transcripts September 19, 2002 Thursday
    —————–
    Ms. JESSICA TUCHMAN MATTHEWS (President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace): We’re talking about urban warfare. A great many innocent Iraqis will die. I don’t believe that is going to be looked upon as a wonderful event by Iraqis any more than an invasion of the United States under what any conditions would be felt that way by Americans. The only–if…

    Representative TOM LANTOS (Democrat, California): You are not drawing an analogy between a free and open and democratic society and…

    Ms. MATTHEWS: Of course not. I said that–of course not.

    Rep. LANTOS: …a society living under a ruthless and bloody totalitarian dictator, are you?

    Ms. MATTHEWS: No, of course not. But I am just trying to point out that it’s, I think, easier from this distance to use the word ‘liberation’ to what I believe will feel more like an invasion.

    Representative DANA ROHRABACHER (Republican, California): And I think that there is some type of a fundamental misunderstanding that you have about what people who live under such tyrants really feel. Because if you lived under this kind of tyranny, and you saw some Americans working with Iraqis to get rid of Saddam Hussein, I think you would be doing what they will be doing when we liberate Baghdad, and that is they will be dancing in the streets, waving American flags, thanking us for ridding themselves of this gangster who’s been murdering their own people for so long.
    ————————–

  51. Jack:

    Do you have a link for that transcript?

    My preliminary view of your excerpt is that it almost perferctly exemplifies one of the most dysfuctional aspects of our current approach to foreign policy. Call it Bi-partisan Groupthink.

    However, I’d like to look at the whole thing before I jump to any forgone conclusions, or make any bold assertions and/or sweeping generalizations.

  52. Jack:

    Do you have a link for that transcript?

    My preliminary view of your excerpt is that it almost perferctly exemplifies one of the most dysfuctional aspects of our current approach to foreign policy. Call it Bi-partisan Groupthink.

    However, I’d like to look at the whole thing before I jump to any forgone conclusions, or make any bold assertions and/or sweeping generalizations.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.