The MSM Disconnect

Interesting piece in the CS Monitor on how the troops view the war. Hint- it ain’t the same way many in the media do:

Like many soldiers and marines returning from Iraq, Mayer looks at the bleak portrayal of the war at home with perplexity – if not annoyance. It is a perception gap that has put the military and media at odds, as troops complain that the media care only about death tolls, while the media counter that their job is to look at the broader picture, not through the soda straw of troops’ individual experiences.

Yet as perceptions about Iraq have neared a tipping point in Congress, some soldiers and marines worry that their own stories are being lost in the cacophony of terror and fear. They acknowledge that their experience is just that – one person’s experience in one corner of a war-torn country. Yet amid the terrible scenes of reckless hate and lives lost, many members of one of the hardest-hit units insist that they saw at least the spark of progress.

“We know we made a positive difference,” says Cpl. Jeff Schuller of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, who spent all but one week of his eight-month tour with Mayer. “I can’t say at what level, but I know that where we were, we made it better than it was when we got there.”

Read the whole thing. The question I have is whether we can attribute this to something other than media bias (which I hate doing)? is it possible that the reporters get only a small glimpse, or go for short stays, and therefore do not witness the slow progress that a unit sees over the course of the year. Is it that the media’s acces is restricted? is it that many of these soldiers have been deployed to Iraq 2-3 times, and are seeing vast differences from when they first were depoyed?

I don’t know.

*** Update ***

From the comments:

I’m an Iraq veteran…….I think you’d get a thousand different perspectives from our troops, but here’s my two cents.

1) The media is driven by a profit motive that is best fed by reporting bad news. From murders to child abductions to war deaths, bad news sells. Nothing partisan or betraying a notion of “liberal bias”. It’s just that – unfortunately – what gets ratings is what will be broadcast. Broadcast media especially has lost all semblance of having any responsibility to educate or journalize; we have degenerated into infotainment.

2) Before and after I was in Iraq, I did my best to educate myself on “the big picture”. But while you’re in country and doing your job, you don’t have the time or inclination to engage in broad policy analysis. I think it’s natural for individual soldiers to speak favorably about how they think “things are going”, but the soldier-level view is not the proper lens for strategic decisions.

3) On a related note, this notion that we’re “making a difference” is not a valid justification of our overall policy. Of course I believe that my unit and my fellow servicemembers “made a difference” to Iraqis and to each other. We could plop down American troops in most any country and “make a difference”. But that doesn’t answer important questions such as: What vital national security interest are we accomplishing by our presence? Is nation-building in Iraq really an effective strategy in the War on Terror?

It’s a complex situation there, and while I would like to see more in-depth discussion and analysis from “the media”, I don’t expect to see it anytime soon.

He has a point about the perspective of the individual soldier. Even from a unit level, when we would do company level AAR’s it was amazing how disjointed just the different perspectives from the four platoons in my unit would be. let alone a soldier trying to take his perspective and analyze those experiences in regard to the overall war effort.






95 replies
  1. 1
    Geek, Esq. says:

    I think it’s safe to say that there is no crystal-clear, perfect perspective on what is happening in Iraq.

    I would also posit that soldiers can see how a battle goes, but not the larger war. English soldiers in the 100 years war would have reported that things were going great on the battlefield–the English didn’t lose a major battle–but we know how that turned out.

    Militarily, the soldiers know exactly how well we’re doing–which I fully believe is really damn well. However, they probably don’t have a handle on the politics or on what happens where they’re not stationed, or what happens when they leave.

  2. 2
    Geek, Esq. says:

    Regarding the media, remember that the media reports events. It doesn’t report processes very well.

    Is the process in Iraq leading towards the construction of civil society and Iraqi unity, or towards civil war and anarchy?

    I don’t think anyone knows that.

  3. 3
    Nikki says:

    Is it possible that an unbiased source could do a poll so we could get a more clear picture of how ALL of the soldiers view the Iraq war and not a select few (I counted 5 for this story)?

    Is it that the media’s acces is restricted?

    If the media cannot freely travel to document the good things, that alone specifically tells one how well things are going in Iraq.

  4. 4
    MMM says:

    Or is it cognitive dissonance?

  5. 5
    ppGaz says:

    Anecdotal stories of warm fuzzies in the middle of a shitstorm are fine, but they don’t change the larger truth … whatever that is.

    Right now, the larger truth appears to be that Iraq is not really under control, and there are no immediate prospects for it to be. The experiment in which we try to set Iraq up to govern itself is … uh … ongoing, and right now isn’t looking too good. At best, it’s just an experiment. The American people are pretty dissatisfied with the way it’s going, dissatisfied with the leadership, dissasitsfied with the way they were led into the war.

    What exactly is the disconnect? That MSM isn’t (a) pimping a happy story from Iraq, and (b) pimping a happy story from the States back to Iraq to put a smile on the troops’ faces?

    There would be a “disconnect” only if the profound realities there, and here, were being misrepresented. They aren’t, are they? Unless we want to focus on Darrell’s “They were handing out candy!” version of the war.

  6. 6
    Sam Hutcheson says:

    It would probably be wise to keep in mind the basic human psychology at work in the soldiers’ stories as well. I have no doubt that many (if not most) of the guys in theatre come home believing they accomplished good things and were helping win the war. I’m not sure that their belief is necessarily proof that as much is the case. Humans will always tend to see their actions as successful and right, even if the “big picture” is counter to that belief.

    Note that I’m not accusing anyone of lying or anything immoral, etc. I’m simply pointing out that the self-perception of the soldiers themselves and their own needs to be part of a successful, moral outcome is as likely to bias their reporting as anything else is going to bias reporters’ reporting.

  7. 7
    Kevin says:

    I’m an Iraq veteran…….I think you’d get a thousand different perspectives from our troops, but here’s my two cents.

    1) The media is driven by a profit motive that is best fed by reporting bad news. From murders to child abductions to war deaths, bad news sells. Nothing partisan or betraying a notion of “liberal bias”. It’s just that – unfortunately – what gets ratings is what will be broadcast. Broadcast media especially has lost all semblance of having any responsibility to educate or journalize; we have degenerated into infotainment.

    2) Before and after I was in Iraq, I did my best to educate myself on “the big picture”. But while you’re in country and doing your job, you don’t have the time or inclination to engage in broad policy analysis. I think it’s natural for individual soldiers to speak favorably about how they think “things are going”, but the soldier-level view is not the proper lens for strategic decisions.

    3) On a related note, this notion that we’re “making a difference” is not a valid justification of our overall policy. Of course I believe that my unit and my fellow servicemembers “made a difference” to Iraqis and to each other. We could plop down American troops in most any country and “make a difference”. But that doesn’t answer important questions such as: What vital national security interest are we accomplishing by our presence? Is nation-building in Iraq really an effective strategy in the War on Terror?

    It’s a complex situation there, and while I would like to see more in-depth discussion and analysis from “the media”, I don’t expect to see it anytime soon.

  8. 8

    […] From the comments: […]

  9. 9
    Jorge says:

    Wonderful comments, Kevin.

    From my years working in TV news, I’ve learned that you won’t very get a balanced view of general trends and societies from “the news.” The news is heightened reality that brings you the most interesting, unusual and extreme happenings. From elections to crimes to trials to building roads, the media concentrates on the new and the abnormal. As someone else pointed out, the main stream media, especially the TV media, is not the place for deep analysis or even to become truly informed. It is just the place to get the highlights of the interesting and fantastic happenings of the day.

  10. 10
    Bob Munck says:

    To expand on some of the above comments, he trouble with the “sparks of progress” is that they don’t show the sum total. For example, 100 GIs could report their completely justifiable pride in having rebuilt 100 different neighborhoods of 100 homes each. But reports also say that we destroyed 36,000 homes in Fallujah. The sum is that we’ve eliminated 26,000 homes and put another 10,000 families through the trauma of having their home destroyed and rebuilt. And, of course, that example uses only a tiny fraction of the total number of gains and loses.

  11. 11
    Brad R. says:

    I think that the troops are doing terrific things on a small scale, but on the whole I think the media probably have it right- there’s only so much that the American troops can do to make a difference in a country of 26 million people. I mean, even FOX News, who were cheerleaders for the war in the early days, report a steady stream of gloomy news from Iraq on a daily basis. Here are the Iraq headlines on their website today:

    -“Saddam Back in the Docket”
    -“Iraqi Cops Nab Eight in Saddam Judge Plot”
    -“Two Congressmen Injured in Crash”
    -“Allawi: Rights Abuses Worsening”
    -“Warner Suggests Iraq Fireside Chats”
    -“Four Aid Workers Kidnapped”

    Not really up-beat happy stuff.

    Also, what Sam said about the soldiers’ psychology.

  12. 12
    Brad R. says:

    Also, this gets a “heh-indeedy”:

    On a related note, this notion that we’re “making a difference” is not a valid justification of our overall policy. Of course I believe that my unit and my fellow servicemembers “made a difference” to Iraqis and to each other. We could plop down American troops in most any country and “make a difference”. But that doesn’t answer important questions such as: What vital national security interest are we accomplishing by our presence? Is nation-building in Iraq really an effective strategy in the War on Terror?

  13. 13
    p.lukasiak says:

    A lot of very astute comments above…

    I’d just like to point out that we’ve been hearing the “soldier’s anecdotes” tales of progress from the very beginning of the occupation, yet we have precious little that suggests that significant progess is being made on a national level.

  14. 14
    SeesThroughIt says:

    Wow, great comment, Kevin. Thanks for that much-needed perspective.

  15. 15
    emily says:

    For what it’s worth, a talking head-type on CNN yesterday did hypothesize that the media’s view of what is happening in Iraq is distorted by their limited access. If you are a reporter in Iraq, you are probably stuck in the green zone, hearing about every suicide bombing and ied. The person on CNN said there is a tendency to lump all these actions together, as though it were all coordinated violence when there are actually multiple, fragmented antagonists.

    So it is not surprising that the troops would have a very different sense of what is going on even without any intentional distortion.

    I’m sorry I can’t reference any of this. I wasn’t paying very close attention.

  16. 16
    neil says:

    Well said, Kevin. Thank you.

  17. 17

    You want my take on it? It is a media bias, a media bias on the Republican part.

    Let the troops listen to someone other than Rush Limbaugh for political commentary and then see what their views are.

    It is completely outrageous that a lying sack of shit like Limbaugh is just about the only source for political commentary that Armed Forces Radio recieves. Talk about bias.

    Thankfully–after much protest–they have finally added Ed Schultz.

  18. 18
    ppGaz says:

    You want my take on it? It is a media bias, a media bias on the Republican part.

    Let the troops listen to someone other than Rush Limbaugh for political commentary and then see what their views are.

    Last time I looked, Faux News was the ratings leader in cable infotainment … er, I mean news. Enough so to out perform both of their major competitors combined. The network news products are off the radar in terms of viewership. If the you take the grand total of all viewers for all MSM tv news products, you don’t even have ten percent of the American people, do you?

    Where exactly is this big bias, and who does it affect? Who wants to step up and claim that Fox News has a liberal bias? Anyone?

    It’s the Darrell effect, in which you are made to think that since the NYT doesn’t talk enough about the troops handing out candy, the American people are being misled.

    Sorry, I ain’t buyin’ that brand of bullshit today.

  19. 19
    Mo says:

    One problem is that one platoon of Marines may come in and clear a city. But they move on and it is lost. So now the Army comes in and clears it. Another group comes in to hold the city, but is called away to elsewhere…

    So both the original Marines and the followup Army group would report success, while the city remains basically not under control.

    If a different set of players came in for every offensive push in a football game, and didn’t know the overall score, players from both teams would have successes to report.

  20. 20
    stickler says:

    is it possible that the reporters get only a small glimpse, or go for short stays, and therefore do not witness the slow progress that a unit sees over the course of the year. Is it that the media’s acces is restricted?

    The reporters are either embedded or they’re stuck in the Green Zone. In either case they don’t know what the hell is going on. One suspects that a reporter could deduce from the occasional mortaring that things are not going as well as they might be.

    So either they’re stuck in their hotels because they’re lazy (plausible, but greed works against this), or because the security situation is so crappy that they have no choice. Which do we really think is the case? And what are the obvious implications? If the situation in Baghdad in 2005 is less secure than Saigon in 1971, I know what conclusions I’d be drawing.

  21. 21
    neil says:

    Yes, Mo, I was going to say something like that — our troops aren’t the only actors here, and most of the things that hinder our war progress probably happen when they’re not around.

  22. 22
    John S. says:

    But that doesn’t answer important questions such as: What vital national security interest are we accomplishing by our presence? Is nation-building in Iraq really an effective strategy in the War on Terror?

    It’s a complex situation there, and while I would like to see more in-depth discussion and analysis from “the media”, I don’t expect to see it anytime soon.

    Great comments, Kevin, though I am reluctant to add that an in-depth discussion and analysis needs to be done by the POLITICIANS who started this war rather than the MEDIA. The problem there is that they don’t really have answers to your questions, like:

    What vital national security interest are we accomplishing by our presence?

    Which is usually greeted by screams of “you don’t understand the war on terror” or “Saddam was a bad guy”. Anything to get off the topic since our national security interest isn’t being served by being in Iraq.

    Is nation-building in Iraq really an effective strategy in the War on Terror?

    This is a particularly difficult question since Bush ran in 2000 on NOT doing any nation-building (glad to see he hasn’t waffled). But again, such questions are greeted with howls of “coward” and “cut-and-run” on Capitol Hill, so this question will go unanswered as well.

    All in all, I wish your questions (and mine) could be answered, but there doesn’t seem to be any adults sitting in the captain’s chair capable (or willing) of answering them.

  23. 23
    Far North says:

    The real story of Iraq, for me at least, is that, here we are approaching the end of three full years of war in Iraq and our soldiers are being killed at the rate of 2 or 3 per day. The reality for me is that, a full 30 months after the Commander-In-Chief declared that “major combat operations had ended”, our troops are hunkered down in the green zone and security, or lack thereof, is still the single biggest issue.

    The real story for a lot of us is that we are still debating what success in Iraq should look like a full 32 months after we invaded.

  24. 24
    Jon H says:

    “It’s a complex situation there, and while I would like to see more in-depth discussion and analysis from “the media”, I don’t expect to see it anytime soon.”

    The place to look for that certainly isn’t TV news, nor the weekly newsmagazines, and probably not newspapers. They really aren’t set up for that kind of analysis.

    It’s probably better to look for such coverage in places like James Fallows’ stories for The Atlantic Monthly.

    To the extent that deeper analyses appear in Time, Newsweek, or on air, it’s probably in the context of discussing articles that appeared in places like the Atlantic.

    The unfortunate fact is that good analysis requires lots of work, so such articles don’t appear very often simply because it takes a long time to put them together.

  25. 25
    Jon H says:

    emily writes: “there is a tendency to lump all these actions together, as though it were all coordinated violence when there are actually multiple, fragmented antagonists.”

    Whew! Good thing we don’t just have to tackle one enemy! What a relief that we’re beset by multiple enemies! That’s *much* better.

  26. 26
    Steve S says:

    I want to thank Kevin for his perspective.

    One of the things I find very troubling is how some people would turn a debate of the overall strategic nature of the conflict into a partisan sniping point. That is, the people who claim that criticism of the war is attacking the work of the soldiers.

    We have the finest army in the world. They’re exceptionally well trained, and they do a fantastic job with what they are given. But they’re not solely responsible for the outcome of what happens in Iraq. That responsibility lies on the policy makers in Congress and the Administration.

    We need a broader debate, and the partisan sniping that if we pull out we’ll hurt Johnny’s feelings is not helpful for that discourse.

  27. 27
    Lines says:

    How come no one talks about the schools that MSM bias has built in Iraq?

  28. 28
    baltar says:

    Just FYI, I think that the DoD’s official policy is that surveys cannot be given/taken by troops (I googled, but couldn’t find a site to confirm this). This is for a couple of reasons: first, DoD doesn’t want to find out that a majority of troops don’t believe in whatever they are being ordered to do (think about the effects on morale of the troops, and what this would provoke domestically); second, it would be very difficult to randomly survey enough troops to get an accurate and representative sample.

    I think the first reason is actually more important than the first, in that the military is a policy arm not a policy-making body. If we start doing democracy on the Army, that could get very ugly, very quickly (and I don’t mean just Iraq, but in general).

    Anyway, I think this is why you see surveys of just-retired military, or just-mustered-out military, but no surveys (that I can recall) of active-duty (or even reserve or Guard) military.

  29. 29
  30. 30
    Lines says:

    baltar: Do you mean to say that the administration and Pentagon would willingly allow favorably partisan military people to be interviewed while restraining those that are against the invasion of Iraq?

    No, that would almost be like making soldiers sign loyalty oaths, or cherrypicking military members to attend a plastic turkey Thanksgiving!

  31. 31
    Steve S says:

    How come John isn’t commenting on his buddy Duke Cunningham?

    http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITI.....index.html

    :-)

  32. 32
    Marcus Wellby says:

    You expect accurate information regarding a war from the same institutions that think a squirrel on water-skis is the top story of the day?

    Besides, the point is mute. Its the season of shopping stories anyhow. The 24-hour Walmart/Target commercial disguised as “economic analysis” is about to begin. Think Iraq is worthy of coverage when THIS YEARS TOP TOY needs hyping?

  33. 33
    Jorge says:

    One thing on Fox News. Yes, it outperforms CNN and MSNBC combined. However, the ratings on Fox don’t come close to touching the ratings on the CBS, NBC or ABC nightly news. It is a misconception that Fox has become the top dog. They are the cable top dog and they’ve done it by finding a specific audience and catering to them. It really helps to keep it in perspective – Fox gives a particular kind of news for what ammounts to a niche audience. A strong niche but a still niche. The vast majority of Americans still turn to the style of news done by the broadcast networks.

  34. 34
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    Q) How do you lose a war to a country with no real government or military?

    A) Put George W. Bush in charge.

  35. 35
    baltar says:

    Lines,

    No, I meant that soldiers are free to (individually) speak their minds (hence, the CSM story) – First Amendment and all that – but for very good reasons the Pentagon refuses to allow official polling/surveys to be done of the troops.

    Thus, we don’t really know what the opinion of the troops (in general) is. These stories, like the CSM story, do not represent any sort of academic/scientific survey that we can really draw any conclusions from.

  36. 36
    Randolph Fritz says:

    I think if I were a solider in Iraq, I would believe the war was going well, simply because the alternative is too depressing. As if that is not enough, the news the soldiers get is heavily filtered; it is after all part of the job of the general staff to keep morale up.

    So I don’t think there’s much here, really. And as far as anyone can tell, we have lost.

  37. 37
    Lines says:

    Actually, I’m in agreement with you. I’m just saying that the Administration and Pentagon are definately not above using favorable soldiers to tout their shoddy wares on the street corners. Somehow the “thin blue line” concept in the military keeps the dissenters quiet. I know quite a few who are in Iraq that don’t believe in the mission, but do their jobs because its what they are trained to do. However, none of them ever go to the press, the ones I’ve talked to are afraid of losing pensions, scared of being hurt or killed.

    None of that allows us to get a good “man on the ground” coverage. The faithful are encouraged to speak while others are threatened as part of the military version of the “thin blue line”.

  38. 38

    […] John Cole takes a look the perception gap between the media and the soldiers and marines and has a particularly astute soldier write in with another look at why the differences are there. […]

  39. 39
    jack says:

    I’ll thank Kevin for his service…but his perspective?

    He tell us that we should not accept the perspective to easily of the soldier-on-the-ground…and then goes on to offer his perspective–with some interesting items to note.

    Kevin points out that he “educated himself on the ‘big picture'”. What is to stop any other soldier from doing the same? And, for that matter, from keeping himself educated while in-country? Are other soldiers incapable of this?

    Kevin then, after educating himself AND having been in-country, asks what the strategic importance of Iraq is. I know green recruits who can answer that question. The ‘nation-building’ is a….side effect. Though, being a positive notion, it recieves much attention.

    Kevin firstly offers his perspective on the media, how ‘bad news sells’. His simple point is lost in the fact that the news that’s reported always seems to be bad news for those who support the war, the president and most things on the right. Good news sold in WW2. It sold in WW1 as well. Sucessful battles got the troops morale–and the morale at home soaring. Of course….that might be the whole point, no?

    Again, I thank Kevin for his service, and even for his perspective. I question them, but, after all, they are his right. Just one small example of the big picture he fought to protect.

  40. 40
    jg says:

    Good news sold in WW2. It sold in WW1 as well. Sucessful battles got the troops morale—and the morale at home soaring. Of course….that might be the whole point, no?

    ANY news sold in WWI and WWII I’d bet. But I don’t agree its the role of the news to improve either ours or the troops morale. They tell us what happens and nowadays they tell us what they think we want to know based on whatever it was that got you watching them last sweeps period. There’s volumes of data to support this and I’ll point you to it right after this commercial break…….

  41. 41
    Steve S says:

    He tell us that we should not accept the perspective to easily of the soldier-on-the-ground…and then goes on to offer his perspective

    The only perspective Kevin offered was an admission that he probably doesn’t know all that much. Good grief, you’re attacking him for that?

    Kevin firstly offers his perspective on the media, how ‘bad news sells’. His simple point is lost in the fact that the news that’s reported always seems to be bad news for those who support the war, the president and most things on the right. Good news sold in WW2. It sold in WW1 as well. Sucessful battles got the troops morale—and the morale at home soaring. Of course….that might be the whole point, no?

    Everybody forgets Korea! Sigh…

    Maybe you ought to go look at the history of those wars, compared to Vietnam and Iraq. WWI, WWII and even Korea, we had a known enemy and we had a known border. Our soldiers are told “Go take Bastogne” and they do it. They poor everything into the endeavor, blood, sweat and tears. And when they take the town, they cheer for joy and then prepare to move on to the next town.

    How do you define “Successful battle” with regards to Fallujah? We’ve level the city, then we leave, then we come back.

    The historical parallel to Iraq is not WWII, or WWI… It’s the Phillipines. Not in 1942, but in 1901. I don’t know if it’s selective memory or what, but I notice some people always forget the wars which were not terribly successful.

  42. 42
    James says:

    OT, sorry John, but I stumbled upon this and it’s just too good to keep to myself.

    Check these guys out: http://www.therightbrothers.com/index2.php

    Click “Music”, then scroll down for some samples.

    “Tolerate This” and “Dear Mr. Reagan” are personal favorites.

  43. 43
    John S. says:

    The historical parallel to Iraq is not WWII, or WWI… It’s the Phillipines. Not in 1942, but in 1901. I don’t know if it’s selective memory or what, but I notice some people always forget the wars which were not terribly successful.

    Not I.

    I have brought up the Philippine Insurrection several times here in relation to this war, but nobody pays attention when you don’t call them names.

  44. 44
    Lines says:

    jack:

    your poorly hidden contempt for Kevin and his personal views are apparent, despite your attempts to cover it up.

    For the soldier on the ground, its not about “finding out the whole truth” because thats not what is expected of you. And what you find out, you may not like. Its better to keep a clear head focused on immediate objectives and orders, rather than attempt to judge the mission as a whole. Besides, thats for the politicians and bloggers, and as a general rule, this war is a screwed up ballyhoo of epic proportions.

    Soldiers maintain their own moral, not the press nor the public.

  45. 45
    Ckrisz says:

    Good news sold in WWI and WWII because the government actively censored anything else. It’s not like there was any sort of freedom of information.

    Kevin speaks eloquently and sensibly. I’ll throw my own two cents in from 2 different perspectives.

    1) When I was 18, I joined an organization called City Year in Boston. It is basically a national service organization where you serve on a team of 10-12 very diverse young people ages 18-24 in a community service capacity. I was a teacher’s aide in a 5th-grade classroom for half a year and worked in a homeless veterans’ shelter and afterschool program for the other half. It was a great experience and I strongly suggest that if anyone wants to contribute to national service or mentoring programs, you couldn’t find a better one around. Did I make a real difference in the lives of the kids I tutored or the homeless guys I helped feed? I suppose, for the time I was there, perhaps I did. Did that translate into real, genuine, positive change that would not have occurred had I not been there? I have no idea. Listening to the stories of the 3/25 Marines, I don’t think you can really say they know either. Did giving an Iraqi girl pens help democracy? Alter perceptions of Americans? Who knows. I’m reminded of the passage from Anthony Shadid’s book where an American patrol walks down a street and thinks that the people love them, while Shadid follows and speaks to the Iraqis in Arabic and finds nothing but bitterness and contempt.

    2) I ship to Parris Island in June. I really, really hope that these guys are right.

    Some additional links. A TIME article from Ramadi:

    http://www.time.com/time/magaz.....74,00.html

    “Although a U.S. Army brigade hunts them daily, the rebels move freely among a supportive populace. U.S. troops are despised here. The insurgents are embraced. ‘They are the people we see every day who give us a loaf of bread on a patrol, the people we will be fighting that night,’ says Lieut. Colonel Robert Roggeman, whose 2-69 Armored Regiment is battling to control the eastern part of this city of 400,000.”

    A Michael O’Hanlon op-ed where he addresses the comparatively optimistic view of American junior officers in Iraq:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....41_pf.html

    “But it is striking that most lower-ranking officers seem to share the irrepressible optimism of their superiors. In talking with at least 50 officers this year, I have met no more than a handful expressing any real doubt about the basic course of the war.”

  46. 46
    Retief says:

    Since you’re linking to stories from the CS monitor I thought you might enjoy this prescient one that addresses your “what linking” question from last week. The impact of Bush linking 9/11 and Iraq

  47. 47
    texas dem says:

    Just as a one-off comment, this notion we have here that individual soldiers and platoons report that things seem to be going well where they are, and yet the big political picture somehow doesn’t look to be improving, tracks well with the narrative that “this would have worked if we had 3x as many troops.” If each platoon manages to “make things better” in their collection of 5 cityblocks, but only 10% of all iraqi cityblocks are receiving any attention in any given month, then you could have every one of our soldiers feeling like things are going well, and yet we’d still be losing the war. Just cause there aren’t enough soldiers.

    At least that narrative seems capable of taking account of both realities. Maybe it can stand alongside the other good arguments offered here, such as the cognitive need to believe things are going well at least locally, and the fact that everyone is rotating through neighborhoods. Alongside those is the fact that at no given moment are anything like a majority of neighborhoods being patrolled. Observer’s bias: where soldiers are, things are great, but most of Iraq is places where no soldiers are.

  48. 48
    Red State Respons says:

    How come John isn’t commenting on his buddy Duke Cunningham?

    Um…ah…”Clinton lied about a blow job”!

  49. 49
    Andrew says:

    OT, sorry John, but I stumbled upon this and it’s just too good to keep to myself.

    Check these guys out: http://www.therightbrothers.com/index2.php

    Click “Music”, then scroll down for some samples.

    “Tolerate This” and “Dear Mr. Reagan” are personal favorites.

    I wish DougJ much luck in his musical endeavors.

  50. 50
    RSA says:

    Back to John’s question:

    The question I have is whether we can attribute this to something other than media bias (which I hate doing)?

    An analogy occurs to me when I think about reporting on the war in Iraq. I don’t have any special knowledge, so I don’t know if it’s accurate, but for what it’s worth:

    Imagine reporting on crime fighting in a major city, with some restrictions. City officials can’t give you a lot of details about what their plans are, for security reasons; most of the people you have access to are police officers and crime victims (leaving out, for example, the court system); the statistics you have access to are either very abstract (size of the force) or generally downbeat (numbers of officers killed, etc.) You get some good human interest stories once in a while, but mainly it’s pretty depressing stuff.

    It’s no wonder, in the real world, that people think crime is worse than it really is. If this analogy is at all accurate, the same will generally hold for people’s view of a war.

  51. 51
    SeesThroughIt says:

    Holy crap, that Right Brothers stuff is hysterical–and I just read the lyrics. Dare I listen to the music itself? I don’t think it could be half as transcendently ridiculous as the lyrics are.

  52. 52
    RTO Trainer says:

    Militarily, the soldiers know exactly how well we’re doing—which I fully believe is really damn well. However, they probably don’t have a handle on the politics or on what happens where they’re not stationed, or what happens when they leave.

    You might be surprised.

    There is one thing in particular that I really miss from my time in Afghanistan and I’m really looking forward to having again when I go back. Access to my SIPRNET account.

    By reading up what on SIPRNET I can and did have the big picture well in hand, not just in Afghanistan, but in Iraq, HoA, the Philippines, Colombia….

    Comming home and having only the commercial internet and the MSM was like loosing an eye and an an ear.

  53. 53
    RTO Trainer says:

    It is completely outrageous that a lying sack of shit like Limbaugh is just about the only source for political commentary that Armed Forces Radio recieves. Talk about bias.

    Dude. He’s on for one hour.

    And to listen you have to be off duty during that hour.

  54. 54
    RTO Trainer says:

    One problem is that one platoon of Marines may come in and clear a city. But they move on and it is lost. So now the Army comes in and clears it. Another group comes in to hold the city, but is called away to elsewhere…

    You come by your operational insight how exactly?

  55. 55
    RTO Trainer says:

    Which is usually greeted by screams of “you don’t understand the war on terror” or “Saddam was a bad guy”. Anything to get off the topic since our national security interest isn’t being served by being in Iraq.

    Our Commander in Chief has not always effectively communicated the future vision that justifies the costs. In brief it’s not about oil or even Iraq as an entity. Its about the region as a whole (actually all the “third world” regions where “strong man governments” and corruption hold sway) ; demonstrating that the bad actors (ex: Hussein) will be removed if they won’t step aside and then inviting that part of the world to reject the tribalism and isolation of the past and to embrace the connectivity and industry of the future. It’s worth fighting for.

    When we let the “third world” rot in a Hobbsian existence we are culpable for what happens to them. It reduces the potential for global progress. That’s just the moral and financial arguments. The practical argument is perhaps more compelling; no nation has, within its borders the commodities and resources to meet all its needs, and certainly not indefinitely.

  56. 56
    RTO Trainer says:

    One of the things I find very troubling is how some people would turn a debate of the overall strategic nature of the conflict into a partisan sniping point. That is, the people who claim that criticism of the war is attacking the work of the soldiers.

    Depends on how its couched. Ted Rall’s recent cartoon? Someone who doesn’t know what WP is or how it is employed but is willing to accept the worst uninformed theory? A greiving Mom insisting to be told what the “noble cause” is?

    I have no ill will or thought for anyone who sticks to the facts and simply disagrees with me. Who would complain about informed dissent? It’s the ones that either won’t check the facts, make the facts up, rely on lay understanding of technical principles, portray their otheriswise honest opinions as facts, or ignore the facts when presented that get me going.

    We have the finest army in the world. They’re exceptionally well trained, and they do a fantastic job with what they are given. But they’re not solely responsible for the outcome of what happens in Iraq. That responsibility lies on the policy makers in Congress and the Administration.

    In my view, we won the military contest a long time ago. At this time we have a requirement for military shepherding of the diplomatic conclusion. Even though we have won, we can still lose. Loss will come though a failure of will. There’s really no “strategy” at least no military strategy to discuss anymore. Our part, the militarly’s part, is to stay the course–keep as many protected as we can, get the Iraqi army and police built up and let them get their government in place. Not that we’ll pass on the opportunity to attrit AIF targets nor cease actively hunting down the leaders of the jihadist cause. But those things aren’t required to win the Iraq Campaign.

    We need a broader debate, and the partisan sniping that if we pull out we’ll hurt Johnny’s feelings is not helpful for that discourse.

    It also can’t be ignored. If you want to hollow out that fine fighting force you praised, kill it off with faint praise while writing off 2100 of its members like so much bad debt and allowing a nation that we’ve fought for and over to drift back into Islamist or totalitarian control.

    We did not go to Iraq to make a desert and call it peace. Not doing so costs in blood and treasure. The price paid so far has to be a part of that debate.

    If a broader debate merely means keeping precipitous withdrawl on the table then I can’t agree.

  57. 57
    RTO Trainer says:

    the Pentagon refuses to allow official polling/surveys to be done of the troops.

    Not so.

  58. 58
    RTO Trainer says:

    The faithful are encouraged to speak while others are threatened as part of the military version of the “thin blue line”.

    Nonsense.

  59. 59
    John S. says:

    Our Commander in Chief has not always effectively communicated the future vision that justifies the costs.

    I don’t think he’s EVER effectively communicated anything, especially when it comes to Orwellian visions of the future.

    Its about the region as a whole (actually all the “third world” regions where “strong man governments” and corruption hold sway)

    If that were the case, then what about Myanmar? Or Cuba? Or any of the other “strong man governments” in third world countries around the world? What made Iraq so *extra* special? (If you say WMD, you get a gong.) Why don’t we hust go in and mop up everywhere that fits your rather broad definition of “what’s worth fighting for”?

    When we let the “third world” rot in a Hobbsian existence we are culpable for what happens to them.

    We do it all the time. This is what a lot of people in the rest of world despise us for: Selectively choosing who we allow to rot based on our needs – not theirs.

  60. 60
    RTO Trainer says:

    Why don’t we hust go in and mop up everywhere that fits your rather broad definition of “what’s worth fighting for”?

    Becase we don’t have to. There are processes in place, dialogues ongoing and diplomacy underway that make it unnecessary. Or at least, not necessary yet. We don’t talk directly with Iran, but the EU-3 are. Look at what we and Britain achieved in Libya without resort to force. We’ve dealt with Cuba militarily when they tried messing with their neighbors (Grenada).

    We do it all the time. This is what a lot of people in the rest of world despise us for: Selectively choosing who we allow to rot based on our needs – not theirs.

    And when we try to do the right thing this time we still take it in the teeth. At least part of it is based on our capabilities. We still can’t save the whole planet. And part of it is based on politics, less cynical than you might imagine, such as whether our action will undermine someone else’s, or just piss of folks that don’t want us in thier “backyard” (China, Russia…) even if we are genuinely there to help.

    No, I do not deny that we have and likley will do things for striclty self-interested reasons. But self-interest is not, nor has been, our sole motivator.

  61. 61
    John S. says:

    RTO-

    You still haven’t answered the question as to what made Iraq such an extraordianry case. At the time Bush decided on war, there were processes in place, dialogues ongoing and diplomacy underway that made it unnecessary.

    Your quip about Grenada relative to all this is highly amusing, though.

  62. 62
    RTO Trainer says:

    I don’t know why Grenada would amuse you.

    Ignoring that you’ve changed the terms of the question asked…

    You are quick to lay the decision solely at the President’s feet, despite a UN resolution and an Congressional authorization…still.

    Iraq was an extrordinary case. The only times in which Hussein ever made any move on his obligations under the Gulf War cease-fire was at the point of a gun. Aside from these brief interludes there was 11 years of stand off, teh UN begging him to do what he was obligaged to do, what he’d agreed to do and he, refusing.

    You can talk all you like to a brick wall, it doesn’t make it a dialogue. The processes, sanctions, oil-for-food…I don’t want to defend these, do you?

    The point was made–gun point was the only way to make progress. How much longer to keep that up–threaten->some progress->backing off->backing off->threaten->…one step forward and two back comes to mind.

    I understand if you don’t agree with my calculus. My conclusion was that getting Hussein out was the only way to get the terms of the cease-fire fulfilled. Reasonable minds can differ on that–there is no lab to test the other proposition. It just gets tiresome to be accused of dishonesty for believeing as I do, so please, lets not take that path here.

  63. 63
    Steve S says:

    My conclusion was that getting Hussein out was the only way to get the terms of the cease-fire fulfilled.

    The thing is… The terms of the cease-fire were being fulfilled when Bush invaded.

    That’s the unpleasant little fact that changes your calculus. Reasonable people can disagree on opinions, but it’s hard to ignore facts.

  64. 64
    John S. says:

    I don’t know why Grenada would amuse you.

    I guess you mentioning Grenada, Iraq and strong man governments in third world countries in the same breath seemed a bit – ironic.

    You are quick to lay the decision solely at the President’s feet, despite a UN resolution and an Congressional authorization…still.

    The UN Resolution that authorized the invasion of Iraq? I must have missed that one. “Resolution 1441!“, you will cry.

    Well, certainly it promised “serious consequences” if Iraq didn’t give “an accurate full, final, and complete disclosure” of its WMD programs, but as you yourself said:

    The only times in which Hussein ever made any move on his obligations under the Gulf War cease-fire was at the point of a gun.

    Which is, of course, to say that Hussein was complying with the wishes of 1441 – albeit at gunpoint. Which might explain Kofi Annan’s remarks about the war.

    Therefore in terms of your argument:

    My conclusion was that getting Hussein out was the only way to get the terms of the cease-fire fulfilled.

    In regards to your conclusion, I couldn’t agree with Steve S more.

  65. 65
    RTO Trainer says:

    The thing is… The terms of the cease-fire were being fulfilled when Bush invaded.

    Some; agonizingly slowly in the same attempt to grind down the resolve of those who would insist on it that had worked for him for over a decade. By no means all the terms.

    I applaud your optimism if you think it would have turned out differently; that Hussein would not only have made a full disclosure and accounting of his WMD programs, but also returned or accounted for the kidnapped Kuwaiti nationals and stolen Kuwaiti property, revealed the fate of our missing pilot and repudiated all terrorism, terrorists and terrorist groups, things he was required to do and had agreed to do and even after 1441 made no action toward. Call me cynical if you will, but I just don’t see any of that happening and only more of the same, per the previous 11 years.

  66. 66
    RTO Trainer says:

    1441 did not authorize war. 678 did that. 1441 just clearly applied 678 to the conditions extant in early 2003.

  67. 67
    www says:

    John S sez

    In regards to your conclusion, I couldn’t agree with Steve S more.

    Hmm, are you two dorks married to each other?

  68. 68
    RTO Trainer says:

    www,

    This has been a civil discussion. How about keeping it that way?

  69. 69
    www says:

    RTO Trainer said

    www,

    This has been a civil discussion. How about keeping it that way?

    Sorry, but they really are a pair of annoying pricks.

    Carry on.

  70. 70
    Kimmitt says:

    I wanted to chime in on Kevin’s post; (3) is particularly insightful, I think.

  71. 71
    John S. says:

    1441 did not authorize war. 678 did that.

    Are you serious? You’re gonna trot out Resolution 678 which authorized the invasion of Iraq in 1991 (and is based on Resolution 660 and the invasion of Kuwait) as justification of invading them on the grounds of non-compliance with WMD inspections?

    Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt. Unless Iraq was still in Kuwait.

    Sorry, but they really are a pair of annoying pricks.

    Yes ideas that don’t conform to your perception of reality must be really annoying.

  72. 72
    Brian Patterson says:

    The media also has a well known “event bias” that effects whether or not an issue becomes part of the national adgenda. A bomb going off is an event. An aid worker getting kidknapped is an event. An election is an event. They fit nicely into the headlines and the soundbites that the media, perhaps by its very nature, is forced to comform to. Reporting on slow steady progress is hard to do ona daily basis. It just doesn’t sell air time.

  73. 73
    Jorge says:

    RTO Trainer,
    Thank you for giving us a differing but equally well thought out military POV. I fundamentally disagree with your belief in the ability of western powers to transform the Middle East. I look at the West’s involvement beginning with the fall of the Ottoman Empire and I don’t see how western intervention has done anything but aggravate regional problems.

    As far as the talk about the world being better off with out Saddam. There was the same kind of talk about the Shah of Iran and the Soviets in Afghanistan. And the alternatives turned out to be just as bad. I know there is a belief that by staying the course that this time things will be different. But time and time again ethnic hatreds and extreme ideologies have proven to be able to last way past an occupation period.

  74. 74
    Steve S says:

    www – I’m sorry if the truth hurts you so much that you must lash out at me and call me names.

    RTO Trainer – Optimism? Nay. Pragmatism. All of the points you mention, yeah sure they suck… but they’re fucking reality.

    Look. Life sucks. Not everybody is going to love and respect the US. That doesn’t mean we have to invade them.

    It still strikes me that you guys used the threat of WMD to justify this invasion, and now that that hasn’t panned out, you’re looking for further excuses.

    This whole Iraq war is a terrible black mark on the history of the United States. I hope we can recover from the damage it has wrought.

  75. 75
    RTO Trainer says:

    Are you serious? You’re gonna trot out Resolution 678 which authorized the invasion of Iraq in 1991 (and is based on Resolution 660 and the invasion of Kuwait) as justification of invading them on the grounds of non-compliance with WMD inspections?

    Okay, 678, et. al. Then why was it included in 1441’s language?

    The Gulf War was never concluded. We only had a cease-fire conditional on Hussein living up to his obligations.

    In fact, if it weren’t for the reference to 678 in 1441, I’d almost be willing to join the “the invasion of Iraq is illegal” side of the argument. There’s also the cite of Chapter VII that would have to be removed from 1441 to get me fully into that camp.

  76. 76
    RTO Trainer says:

    I look at the West’s involvement beginning with the fall of the Ottoman Empire and I don’t see how western intervention has done anything but aggravate regional problems.

    It’s a good point. I don’t have good answer either. I think our intent, knowledge, awareness,and understanding are better than that of the old men hovering over a map in Paris in 1919.

  77. 77
    John S. says:

    RTO-

    First of all, I just wanted to thank you for the marvellous exchange. It has been refreshing to be able to converse with someone who thinks differently than I do in a civil and constructive fashion.

    Okay, 678, et. al. Then why was it included in 1441’s language?

    1441 set out to give Saddam a final opportunity to comply with the disarmament obligations set forth in Resolution 660, Resolution 661, Resolution 678, Resolution 686, Resolution 687, Resolution 688, Resolution 707, Resolution 715, Resolution 986 and Resolution 1284.

    Most notably, it sought to provide “an accurate full, final, and complete disclosure”, as required by Resolution 687 of “all aspects of its programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles”.

    The only terms of any of those resolutions that allowed for military intervention in Iraq specifically revolves around the premise that Iraq was expected to withdraw from Kuwait no later than January 15, 1991. When Saddam failed to comply, the involvement of security council members (and others) to act was authorized. This was predicated by Resolution 660, which condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and demanded a withdrawal of Iraqi troops.

    If you look very carefully through the various resolutions, it will become clear that the conditions that warranted military invasion of Iraq ended the moment that Saddam withdrew from Kuwait. Now of course Saddam had other terms with which he was supposed to comply, and for years he did not.

    But at the end of the day, Saddam did comply (with a loaded gun to his head) with the terms of all the previous resolutions and no other resolution was drafted that explicitly allowed for a new incursion onto Iraqi soil – hence Annan’s characterization that the war was ‘illegal’ as far as the UN was concerned.

    I admit, it is difficult to follow the trail of all this (and the UN language of these resolutions makes it doubly so), but if you find a flaw with any of these assessments, please point out to me where my logical error is based on the trail of UN resolutions.

  78. 78
    Dave M says:

    Our Commander in Chief has not always effectively communicated the future vision that justifies the costs.

    I suspect that he may have reasons for this, other than his lack of eloquence. The “future vision” may not have been the one the country held back in 2002; moreover, settling on a single vision would allow people to evaluate the progress of the effort. If your rationale is indeed the animating vision behind the war, then it’s probably politically prudent for the administration to avoid articulating it. It’s neither prudent, nor possible.

    In brief it’s not about oil or even Iraq as an entity. Its about the region as a whole (actually all the “third world” regions where “strong man governments” and corruption hold sway) ; demonstrating that the bad actors (ex: Hussein) will be removed if they won’t step aside and then inviting that part of the world to reject the tribalism and isolation of the past and to embrace the connectivity and industry of the future. It’s worth fighting for.

    So it’s the inverse domino theory, eh? In theory, I wish this would have worked. I’d love to see dictators across the world quaking in their boots. The problem, of course is that they’re not; in fact, their positions have been strengthened. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, we had strategic ambiguity on our side; dictators and strongmen were never able to accurately guage our true capabilities. Now they can, and what they see is not likely to impress. We can blow a lot of people up, but only at enormous cost to our treasury and our national reputation.

    The war has undermined our ability to achieve diplomatic progress. Before, we had global prestige, international sympathy, and a mighty military backing our diplomatic positions. Now we have Abu Ghraib, wounded allies and emboldened enemies, and a demonstrated inability to militarily disseminate democracy. The diplomatic achievements since 2002, including Ukraine and Iran (to an extent) have happened despite Iraq, not because of it. Libya may have been an exception, but I’m fairly resigned to the fact that we were only able to extract paper concessions from the regime.

    Rather than working to ensure that tottering dominos fell under the diplomatic winds, we cemented them to the ground. Tinpot dictators can rail against imperialists in Washington whenever the mood suits them now; their victims are freshly willing to believe the charges.

    When we let the “third world” rot in a Hobbsian existence we are culpable for what happens to them. It reduces the potential for global progress.

    Agreed. Fighting against oppression and for human rights — including food security, environmental protections, women’s rights, and rights to democratic governance — should animate our foreign policy. The administration has chosen exactly the wrong means to go about doing so, however.

  79. 79
    RTO Trainer says:

    I got a lot of practice defending ATF to the militia crowd on USENET in the 90’s.

    But at the end of the day, Saddam did comply (with a loaded gun to his head) with the terms of all the previous resolutions and no other resolution was drafted that explicitly allowed for a new incursion onto Iraqi soil – hence Annan’s characterization that the war was ‘illegal’ as far as the UN was concerned.

    We have a major disconnect in hwo we see thigns right here. I don’t find that Saddam ever complied fully, even with a gun to his head. He remained defiant right up to the end and I find no reason to believe he ever would have fully complied.

    I admit, it is difficult to follow the trail of all this (and the UN language of these resolutions makes it doubly so), but if you find a flaw with any of these assessments, please point out to me where my logical error is based on the trail of UN resolutions.

    The flaw: The UN never rescinded nor even dropped the requirements, language or excluded the authorization for force. The scrupulously did with other provisions such as when sanctions were lifted.

    These are treated in International law very much like contracts are in civil law. One tenet is that no provision in it, has no force.

    If they didn’t intend the authorization of teh use of force, then they should have removed that reference from the langaue of the resolution, or added language nullifying its effect. Neither was done.

    And there is still the reference to Chapter VII, which is the one common characteristic of all UN Security Council resolutions which have authorized the use of force. Citing Chapter VII in itself is, of course, not sufficient, tehre is much in Chapter VII besides that, but in conjunction with phrases like “all necessary means,” and “serious consequences,” and that teh Chapter VII reference has never been specific (i.e; “Chapter VII, Article 42,” or some such) I find the meaning clear.

  80. 80
    RTO Trainer says:

    Dave,

    I think you seriously underestimte where we are and overestimate where we were.

  81. 81
    jack says:

    RTO, there are so few who seem to understand that, in violating the terms of his surrender, Saddam effectively kept the original Iraq war hot.

    Additionally, there are few who grasp the strategic position of Iraq, smack in the center of our most beloved muslim friends.

    The leftist who infest this site are incapable of understanding that this situation in Iraq is not a ‘war’, it’s a battle in a much larger conflict. Democratising and stablizing Iraq are secondary goals. The primary goa is killing terrorists–and thereby making the practice of terrorism unworkable.

    The War on Terror is social engineering on a massive and very violent scale. We seek to curb the practice of terrorism as a thing by making it clear that there is no benefit whatsoever gained by acts of terrorism–in fact, a single act of terrorism can get you, your cadre, your group–and even your family wiped of the face of the earth. Far better to form a PAC and lobby for the issues you care about.

  82. 82
    John S. says:

    The flaw: The UN never rescinded nor even dropped the requirements, language or excluded the authorization for force.

    There is a flaw in what you see as a flaw: The authorization for force was explicitly based on Iraqi soldiers occupying Kuwaiti territory.

    If they didn’t intend the authorization of teh use of force, then they should have removed that reference from the langaue of the resolution, or added language nullifying its effect. Neither was done.

    Why remove something that wasn’t there to begin with? There is absolutely NOTHING in the previous resolutions that explicitly allows for the use of force on the grounds of failure to comply with weapons inspections in the way that failure to withdraw troops from Iraq DID carry with it military consequences.

    I hate to say it, but I think you are arguing from a position of trying to back up what you think is right rather than what is actually written in the resolutions. If you care to assert that there is something in the language that backs up your case, please link to it or provide a valid frame of reference.

  83. 83
    John S. says:

    RTO, there are so few who seem to understand that, in violating the terms of his surrender, Saddam effectively kept the original Iraq war hot.

    This is absolute nonsense. The original Iraq War was over the moment Saddam withdrew his troops from Kuwait as far as the UN was concerned. There were no other provisions that explicitly allowed for further military intervention beyond that condition.

    If you found something in the UN resolutions that indicate otherwise, by all means cite that information. Otherwise, spare us the heated rhetoric.

  84. 84
    Jorge says:

    “The War on Terror is social engineering on a massive and very violent scale. We seek to curb the practice of terrorism as a thing by making it clear that there is no benefit whatsoever gained by acts of terrorism—in fact, a single act of terrorism can get you, your cadre, your group—and even your family wiped of the face of the earth. Far better to form a PAC and lobby for the issues you care about.”

    This approach has failed considerably for a long time for Israel. Killing Vietcong after Vietcong did nothing to slow their resolve. And the more people we kill in Iraq the more attacks there are. If the point is to turn this into a killing contest then we are in big trouble because Islamist are more than ready to die. Even Donald Rumsfeld has wondered if for every terrorist jihadist we kill we don’t create 2 more.

    By thinking of all issues related to the Middle East as a single, massive “war on terror” we are beginning to look at all of these groups and issues as being the same – which they most certainly are not. The group that should concern us the most are the well-educated Islamist radicals that want to create a caliphate and get western influence out of the Middle East. These folks are going to become more stringent, more determined and more violent the more the US tries to influence the region.

    Simply put, the more influence that the US exerts in the Middle East, the more terrorist acts we are going to see against the west. Al Qaeda was formed as a reaction to the US’ influence on Saudi Arabia during the successful campaign to liberate Kuwait from Iraq. If Neocons want to truly be honest with themselves and with the American people they will admit that the US’ involvement in the Middle East is going to provoke rather than ease terrorism. If we continue to be as proactive as we’ve been in the region then the people of the west need to be prepared for escalating attacks like we saw on 9/11, in Spain, in London, in Casablanca, etc.

    It is misleading to tell the American people that by fighting to bring democracy to the Middle East we are fighting terrorism. Terrorism is the tactic of those that want to make the Middle East the opposite of a pluralistic, secular democracy. By fighting in the Middle East we are engaging and provoking terrorism. I would like to see supporters of the current policy deal with that issue and ask the American people if bringing liberty to the Middle East is worth the price. Heck, the people might say, “Yes, it is worth the price.” But that won’t happen as long as they believe that if we just keep fighting in Iraq we will eventually kill all of the terrorists and that Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc will be so awed by Iraq that the will decide to completely transform their societies.

  85. 85
    Ha T. Nguyen says:

    Jack says:
    “The War on Terror is social engineering on a massive and very violent scale. We seek to curb the practice of terrorism as a thing by making it clear that there is no benefit whatsoever gained by acts of terrorism—in fact, a single act of terrorism can get you, your cadre, your group—and even your family wiped of the face of the earth. Far better to form a PAC and lobby for the issues you care about.”

    If this was really true, we would have Osama Bin Laden in hand by now. However, in reality, Osama is looking well-rested (according to the last video of him) and healthy. Whereas, before the War on Iraq, he was visibly having health problems to the point that he was not expected to live much longer.

    Osama and his band of merry henchmen are having a grand old time there in Pakistan. They’re getting what they wanted. A clash of civilizations. Western Civilization may yet win. But, we’re going to have spend LOTS more blood and money, if we continue to do this the hard way.

  86. 86
    RTO Trainer says:

    Why remove something that wasn’t there to begin with? There is absolutely NOTHING in the previous resolutions that explicitly allows for the use of force on the grounds of failure to comply with weapons inspections in the way that failure to withdraw troops from Iraq DID carry with it military consequences.

    I hate to say it, but I think you are arguing from a position of trying to back up what you think is right rather than what is actually written in the resolutions. If you care to assert that there is something in the language that backs up your case, please link to it or provide a valid frame of reference.

    From the test of 678:

    1. Demands that Iraq comply fully with resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions, and decides, while maintaining all its decisions, to allow Iraq one final opportunity, as a pause of goodwil, to do so;

    2. Authorizes Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before 15 January 1991 fully implements, as set forth in paragraph 1 above, the above-mentioned resolutions, to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area;

    You remove it to avoid giving force to something you don’t wish to have force any longer. Including it in the resolution means it has force, just as in a civil contract.

    The key lies in the phrase that appears in each paragraph, “and all subsequent resolutions.” 678 was not about just 660. Even if it were 660 still requires Iraq to settle it’s differences with Kuwait–somthign it had not doen (and, I don’t know, perhaps still has not done) in failing to return or account for missing Kuwaiti persons and property.

    Going back to 1441 you can see the list of resolutions still in force including 678. Subsequent resolutions, like 687, also listed in 1441, required the WMD inspections and accounting. By the plain language of all these resolutions, it applies and is included under the 678 authorization for the use of military action.

  87. 87
    RTO Trainer says:

    The War on Terror is social engineering on a massive and very violent scale. We seek to curb the practice of terrorism as a thing by making it clear that there is no benefit whatsoever gained by acts of terrorism—in fact, a single act of terrorism can get you, your cadre, your group—and even your family wiped of the face of the earth. Far better to form a PAC and lobby for the issues you care about.

    I don’t agree and I don’t think you could back that up with statments from the administration either.

    Make no mistake, we will not and do not pass on the opportunity to attrit the enemy. That is not a wining strategy, however, and not one which we are persuing. The part about going after a person’s family is also, plainly put, repugnant. We don’t do that.

    The strategy that will win is the accurate identification of those things the terrorists need in order to operate and to deny those to them: money, weapons, movement, are some of the more apparent commodities tehy must have. There are others that are less tangible, more subtle, harder to define or illustrate…. This is the strategy we are persuing an its largely not a military, and by no stretch a military only, effort.

  88. 88
    RTO Trainer says:

    By thinking of all issues related to the Middle East as a single, massive “war on terror” we are beginning to look at all of these groups and issues as being the same – which they most certainly are not. The group that should concern us the most are the well-educated Islamist radicals that want to create a caliphate and get western influence out of the Middle East. These folks are going to become more stringent, more determined and more violent the more the US tries to influence the region.

    There is a new CRS report out on measuring effectiveness in combating terrorism. You should read it as I think it will show that we are addresing the things that appear to concern you here.

  89. 89
    Jorge says:

    RTO –
    Where would I get the document?

  90. 90
    RTO Trainer says:

    jorge:

    http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL33160.pdf

    FAS has a growing library of these Congressional Research Service prodcuts that are public domain, but never publicly announced.

  91. 91
    John S. says:

    Going back to 1441 you can see the list of resolutions still in force including 678. Subsequent resolutions, like 687, also listed in 1441, required the WMD inspections and accounting. By the plain language of all these resolutions, it applies and is included under the 678 authorization for the use of military action.

    I’m sorry RTO, but I don’t see the same thing you are seeing. Perhaps you could explain why out of the entire United Nations, only the United States and Great Britain see what you are seeing and the large majority of other nations see what I’m seeing?

    Regardless, they need to make these things have clearer language so they read less like the PATRIOT Act.

  92. 92
    RTO Trainer says:

    Funny. I found the PATRIOT Act to be pretty clear. :)

    Trust me when I say that I don’t know why you or anyone else don’t see it. Gets frustrating. Must be soemthing to it though that so many don’t.

    Maybe it’s the three years I worked for an International law attorney doing research and it’s easier for me. Maybe I’m just crazy; but then everyone who saw what I do would be crazy too….

    I don’t know.

  93. 93
    jack says:

    I am at a loss to see how making an act of terrorism as sure way to a)not get any of your demands met and b)very likely get dead in the bargain is not a winning strategy.

    I will cry mea culpa to my clumsy wording regarding reprisals to families–in that I was referring to terrorists tendency to work under cover of their own women and children. My wording was not only sloppy, but downright…misleading.

  94. 94
    RTO Trainer says:

    I am at a loss to see how making an act of terrorism as sure way to a)not get any of your demands met and b)very likely get dead in the bargain is not a winning strategy.

    Same reason attrition didn’t work in Vietnam.

    Don’t get me wrong. Atrrition has it’s place. For my own part, I’ll sleep warm the rest of my life if I can be the guy to put several grains of lead at high velocity through center mass of a terrorist. But as a main effort strategy it’s a recipe for defeat. We can’t use a Network-Centric force that way.

    Thanks for clarifying on the “family” reference. I feel better about having you on my side of the argument.

  95. 95
    Barry says:

    What we’re seeing in Iraq, in terms of some soldiers saying that they’re doing good, is called military leverage. We’re in a situation where we don’t have leverage; Al Qaida has huge leverage. For example, they’ve got tens of thousands of soldiers fighting for them that they didn’t have before, soldiers who are well placed to hit us.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] John Cole takes a look the perception gap between the media and the soldiers and marines and has a particularly astute soldier write in with another look at why the differences are there. […]

  2. […] From the comments: […]

Comments are closed.