Friday, November 18, 2005

All This Talk Going Round About Fifth Columns

There is finally dissension and balking in the ranks, even though our President gave a historically partisan Veterans' Day speech; still, his war is attacked, with Congress demanding timelines and verifiable goals and such. Yesterday, Democratic Representative John Murtha, a former Marine who has voted stauchily for the Iraq War and its appropriations, gave the most excoriating in a series of recent speeches attacking the Bush strategy. While he suggested that an "over-the-horizon" force be kept ready for emergencies, he essentially called for a troop withdrawel from Iraq. The tide seems to be shifting--although, given the extraordinarily tight adhesion that the Majority leaders and administation held before, any slip seems a landslide.

So it is with some rueful humor that I note the launching a new site by Josh Trevino (Tacitus): Here is the mission statement, sorry, manifesto. Long on attack, short on specifics, I would say. The very abbreviated version, as I understand it, is that America should, rather must, muster its will to prevail in Iraq--and that all those who doubt our ability to "prevail" are born doubters and naysayers who probably hate America.

And here's another link that I've always wanted to have handy: William M. Darley's article "War Policy, Public Support, and the Media" (Parameters, Summer 2005), which attempts to rebut the idea of the traitorous media head-on. Remember, Parameters is a publication of the Army War College. He conducts a fascinating study of public attitudes towards the war and stated policy of the war in Vietnam, compares it briefly with a few other wars, and concludes that:
when boldness, clarity of objective, and effectiveness of policy are reflected in deeds in accordance with Clausewitz's theory, the nature of the ruthlessly competititve modern media system ensures that the media will report that clarity and resolve to the public as the factual content of its news message. The news media remain the principle messengers of bold policy, and they will report it as a consequence of relentless marketplace competition, irrespective of whatever baggage of bias some quarters of the media establishment may attach to it. As a consequence, assuming the correctness of the policy in its articulation and the boldness of its execution, domestic public support will take care of itself.
If I may translate that: if the public understands clearly what the war is about and sees what the war-effort is accomplishing, then the public will support the war, no matter what interference some bias of some part of the media might effect.

So that's my advice to Trevino and his associates. Don't attack the doubters. Don't accuse us of treason or of being--what was the most recent neologism?--oh yes, being "flee-bitten." Instead, convince us. Present a coherent policy for success. Show how current efforts in Iraq are leading to that success. And, above all, show how that success is important to the lives of Americans today. If nobody can articulate what we're trying to accomplish in Iraq or why Americans should care about the future of Iraq, well then, guess what? Americans are going to disengage with this war.

So, please: if it's so important to stay in Iraq, if we really can accomplish something there besides smashing and dying, if it's not too late to avert a civil war, please, talk to us like adults. As Darley says, if you can come up with a coherent, forceful policy met with effective deeds, we're more than likely to wish you well.


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