October 25, 2004
Why not just say 'the military sucks'?
I'm annoyed that Republicans are letting people like John Kerry or
Andrew Sullivan get away with the canard that the administration bungled the war in Iraq. Sullivan's latest charge is that the military didn't protect Iraq's weapons sites from being looted. Calling it 'criminal negligence' and 'exhibit A in the case for this administration's incompetence', Sullivan tears into the administration for being against gay marriage. Oh, I mean, mishandling Iraq. Same difference.
The truth is, and both John Kerry and Andrew Sullivan know it, that the president has miniscule input into the details of how a war is fought. He does not come up with strategy or troop placements. There are people actually on the ground that do that. So, why not criticize the troops? I mean, I know why, I just want to hear them say it. Criticizing the troops would be a third rail and there is no way Andrew Sullivan, much less John Kerry, would go anywhere near it. But that's what they mean, isn't it, when they say Iraq is a mess? Bush can only do so much from his seat in the White House. The rest is up to the men that are actually there. Are they miserable failures or what?
Mark R. Levin says much the same as me but better.
Posted by Karol at October 25, 2004 03:48 AM
Actually, I can recall a time when troop plans and such were indeed controlled by the President: Vietnam under Lyndon Johnson. We all know how that turned out. The fact that he made it a limitted war cost us the entire war and 50,000 American lives.
A President shouldn't micromanage a war, and the acts of specific troops in specific incidents shouldn't reflect on the President.
The military didn't bungle Iraq, the State Department did:
I think the president does have control of some things, such as increasing the number of troops stationed in Iraq or as John McCain always says "more boots on the ground." The president will not do that of course.
To quote another war president, the buck stops here. As CinC, the president is ultimately responsible, not for every tactical decision but for a lot of the strategic ones: Polk having one army in Veracruz and another at the Rio Grande, Lincoln demaning McClellan defend Washington while still on the Penninsula, FDR wanting more focus on Germany than Japan. While I understand with a week to go, you are in see no evil about Bush, speak no evil about Bush, hear no evil about Bush mode, to write the president off in terms of shaping strategy is wrong. If Bush wanted more troops in Iraq, they would be there. But if he did that Buh-Bye next Tuesday. Come to think of it, that may happen anyways.
Karol, you've taught me two important lesons about the world of the neo-cons:
One is that words speak louder than actions---that's why calling Mary Cheney a lesbian is a thousands times worse than promoting a Constitional Amendment to make her a second class citizen.
The second is that personal responsiblity exists only for the poor---that's why every mistake, bungle, and dropped ball in the Bush Administration is always somebody else's fault.
I realize that you'll never hold Dubya accountable for his despicable job performance. Here's hoping the rest of the nation will.
Bush could have asked Kerry:
“Did your daughters became angry at the world when you deserted your family to chase movie stars? How did they feel when you annulled your marriage to their mother thereby making them illegitimate bastards?”
But Bush did not.
It is a law written in stone that you do not make candidate’s children a campaign issue.
Fine, the buck stops here but in this case that buck isn't make any other stops. How can the president be held responsible for details that go wrong in war? I understand holding him responsible for making the decision to go to war, etc. but not for the things Bush's foes are trying to hold him responsible for.
Karol, I rarely disagree with you, but here I do. The number of troops deployed is very much under the President's control, and I think saying we had too few isn't the same as saying the ones there are screwing up.
Kerry and his reluctant cheerleader Sullivan have plenty of other holes in their arguments, but this critique doesn't hold up.
Aren't there generals that decide how many troops we get? Didn't Bush say repeatedly that if the generals told him they needed more troops, they'd get more troops?
Jake, annulment doesn't make children illegimate, only being born outside of wedlock does that. Furthermore, kerry dated the movie stars before his first marriage.
You are aware that the President, as Commander in chief, does lead the militaey, right? I mean how else would Bush be able to hold back military action in the military triangle until after the election?
I don't know what your last sentence means, Dawn.
I should also make clear, for those that don't get my sarcasm, that I don't think Iraq is 'bungled'. I think it's war and things go wrong in war and people die in war. My point is that the attempt to blame these things on the president is completely wrong.
You'd think that if the fault lay somewhere lower down the food chain then Bush might be inclined to fire somebody for incompetence-apparently not though. I don't think you can blame the troops for large scale tactical errors. Sure individuals mess up, or even small groups, like in Abu Ghraib--but for anyone to pass off the blame to the soldiers is nonsense.
I mean, do you disagree with sullivan, that failing to secure Iraqs weapons was a major error? It clearly was, and someone is at fault? who?
Reducing the number of troops in combat has been Rumsfeld's chief contribution to military strategy. It was wholly supported by the President - over the objections of plenty of career military men. The force we sent in to Iraq turns out to have been grievously inadequate for the post-invasion phase of the war.
Decide for yourself if anyone should be held accountable for the mistake. Even if you don't want to blame Bush, Karol, you certainly have to blame Rumsfeld. And since my vote is for an administration, not just a person, I don't separate the President from the person to whom he delegates responsibility.
If there is a chain of command and a series of decisions that have gone wrong, then I think Bush as the person at the top of that chain should be held accountable. Similarly (and this is where I likely diverge from that "crew"), there are a lot of things that have gone right for which Bush should be praised. Also, the idea that the troops are responsible for the leadership decisions is just silly. Our troops have done what they have been asked to do remarkably well. That certain action was not taken is the sole responsibility of those making decisions about the war.
Based on the fact that additional reinforcements are British, I suspect the generals are wanting more troops and need more troops. I suspect the Bush administration will not do such a thing until after the election for political reasons.
As Novak pointed out, the adminstration has got to increase the number of troops or get out. The present situation is not sustainable.
Again, I understand holding the top of the chain accountable. But to have no one else be held accountable? That's odd. And the only reason I can see for it is that it's easy to criticize Bush and much harder to criticize someone in uniform.
No one is qualified to speak on today’s military tactics unless they have read Tommy Franks’ book “American Soldier”. Tommy Franks is the general that liberated Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Franks’ book you will learn that the capabilities of the New Military are so advanced that no army on earth can fight against us. They are so advanced that no army on earth can fight with us. (I wish Franks had kept some capabilities secret)
The Old Military is massed armies and that is the military of Kerry and McCain. The New Military is minimize the number of men and maximize airpower. That is the army of Bush Rumsfeld and Franks.
Kerry thinks the war should be fought the way we fought in Vietnam. Bush thinks we should fight the way our machines allow us to fight.
Karol, I think you can criticize the middle men and when they fail, hold them accountable. Lincoln went through dozens of generals during the Civil War and when they failed he reassigned them. As was mentioned above, Bush had not held any of his subordinates accountable. I think that makes Bush a fair target of criticism.
Well, Karol, Bush should be holding accountable those military leaders that have bungled the decisions. I haven't seen him fire anyone.
Much of the current situation goes back to us not sending in enough troops for an occupation and that decision very much rests with Bush and Bush's men (i.e., Rumsfeld) and their strategic decisions. Iraq was an experiment that failed.
Is the military some sort of brainless amoeba that just spreads out over Iraq in any direction it feels like? Of course not. The decisions have to come from somewhere -- up the chain of command. And they just keep going up the chain of command to the top.
Losing 380 tons (or approximately 38 truckloads) of a military-grade explosive that can be used to detonate a nuclear weapon, when going to war in Iraq was ostensibly to stop the spread of WMDs *and* when the IAEA warned you about securing the very site that was looted, is a pretty big deal. Someone has to take the blame for that. Of course you can't blame the soldiers in the field. They just follow the orders they're given. You have to blame the leaders -- the generals, the DoD, the CinC -- for making the decisions (basically ignoring the site) that allowed it to happen.
Agreed, our military is so advanced that no army can stand with us. Thus, we've crushed the opposition twice in the Middle East and in Kosovo. The problem is that we're no longer fighting a standing army. These insurgents blend in with the populace and hole up in places no competent battlefield commander would dare touch unless they wanted to anger the locals. As far as I'm concerned, al-Sadr should be a grease spot. Yet he remains a thorn in our side.
This all boils down to hubris. There have been reports that the DoD kept troop numbers down against the advice of battlefield commanders. Hubris is a sharp-toothed critter, so when it bites you in the tush, it smarts. I think if Bush is serious about winning in Iraq, he needs to think long and hard about the Pentagon's performance.
My roommate's dad and brother and sister are of some merit in the military. All three of them believe it is impossible to "support the troops" but not "the mission." They have a point there.
Until Bush personally holds someone else responsible, we get to hold him responsible. Executives are ultimately responsible for the decisions of the subordinates. This is largely because nobody on the outside can quite perfectly lay the blame. Was it Rumsfeld, a Chief of Staff, a field officer, a contracted analyst? I don't know, do you? When we find out (which would require GWB telling us), we can start blaming that person. Until then, Bush needs to face the fact that he made yet another bad appointment and may lose his job because of it.
That's unfortunate. Obviously, the folks in the military are the ultimate measure, so if they don't believe in a distinction, they won't benefit from it. But conceptually, and in the eyes of many other enlistees, you can seperate criticism of the mission from criticism from the troops. That is because it is not the troops' responsibility to make decisions about the mission, it is their responsibility to obey orders and do what they are led to do as efficiently as possible. With the exception of last week's fuel-truck incident, our troops are among the best in the world--if not the best in the world--when it comes to fulfilling those duties. As such, many who criticize the mission wholehartedly support them for showing such courage in the name of their country--perhaps doubly so since they must feel conflicted about the legitimacy of their risk. There is no common association between the role of a military soldier and the aims to which he or she works; the only exception is for war crimes, by writ of international treaty.
"It clearly was, and someone is at fault? who?"
hmmm the UN. The UN knew where the weapons where, and still let Saddam have them. They could have blown them up a long time ago, but left them their so they could get lost.
We should have secured the area by blowing it to hell and back.
The explosive weren't illegal. They were approved for industrial use, and I'm sure that the U.S. had a say in letting that distinction stand. Anyone who would have blown them up pre-invasion would have been committing an unjust Act of War, without even having a pretense of enforcing some law or resolution. And anything happening during or after the invasion is the responsibility of the Coalition, which was led by the U.S., so now answer the question: "It clearly was, and someone is at fault? who?"
Karol, you've said you're voting for Bush because "The War On Terror" is your number one issue. You believe that "the war on terror is just that, a war, and [Bush] will act accordingly".
However, you now say you do not believe that the Commander in Chief can be be "held responsible for details that go wrong in war". I would quibble with the word "details" when used to describe decisions (like when to go to war, how many troops to send, and who to take advice from) that are (a) made -- or should be -- by the President and (b) determine not only the outcome of the war but whether and how many of our soldiers die, but I don't want to seem petty.
In short, you want a president who "falter or waiver from the war on terror", but also will not concern himself with (or be held responsible for) the "details" of such a war. Based on that criteria, Bush is surely the right candidate for you, but don't you care whether we win the war?
Bush isn't concerned with "details" like casualties because he believes he fights on the side of God, and thus will ultimately prevail. That's nice for him, but the Lord helps those who help themselves. And a little planning, a little common sense, and a little attention to detail might have made us all a lot safer, and saved a whole lot of lives.
Well I'm glad Mr. Levin is able to excuse Bush by looking at Guadalcanal and saying they had old maps. If I recall correctly, quite a bit of technology has been invented from 1942 to the present day.
Levin also reminds us if we "know, if you study any war, including our most important wars -- especially the Civil War and World War II -- you understand why this is not an exceptional story."
Then how do you explain this comment:
"At the time, the Allies had not yet conducted any offensive landing operations in the entire Pacific theater, and had only confronted the Japanese in the successful battle of Midway."
That would have been news to the men of the Lexington which was lost at Coral Sea (for those who came in late Coral Sea was a tactical defeat but something of a strategic victory for the Allies a month before Midway) as well as the Yorktown which was damaged badly at that battle. At Coral Sea, the Allies sunk a Japanese carrier and severly damaged another. They also repelled an invasion of Port Moresby, which would have risked Australia and set back Allied operations for months, maybe even years. I guess the 750 or so Americans who lost their lives and the crews of the Lexington and the Sims who lost their boats did not know they were not confronting the Japanese.
For someone who claims to kjnow so much about war, specifiacly WW2, Mr. Levin really flopped on this one, let us hope out of ignorance instead of for partisan reasons.
While I leave the historical distinctions in the good hands of Von Bek, I think Levin is off the mark on a more basic level. Safeguarding weapon stores from the use by terrorists was one of the principal goals of the invasion. The site in question was earmarked by the IAEA for heightened scrutiny because of its prior connection to Iraq's nuclear program. This isn't simply some random site that happened to be overlooked. The official response has been that the military was overwhelmed by the number of munitions and was unable to safeguard them all. Fair enough. But they're also now admitting that sites with even higher priority were not protected from looting. This may not be Bush's "biggest blunder" as Kerry calls it, but I think it's fairly clear that mistakes were made, and I think someone should be held accountable for them. And as the president of the US, I don't think it's unfair to hold Bush accountable for the acts of his administration even in the absence of direct "fault" on his part. At this point, I wouldn't even mind if Bush simply acknowledged mistakes were made...
I think Karol is trying to make the point that the war has not been "bungled". I think as Americans we want things to happen too quickly. Expectations are way too high for things to be perfect in Iraq right now. There are good and bad things going on in Iraq but we focus too much on the bad.
Germany was not rebuilt in a year and neither was Japan right after WWII. It took until 1989 to sort Germany out. We lost over 1500 men in Germany in 1945.
The President can be criticised because he is the ultimate boss, but the criticism is not holey warranted or justified. I think it is very telling that liberals and Democrats benefit from bad news in Iraq. They almost crave it by how they revel in every single piece of questionable news that comes out of Iraq. I am not to the point where I believe they want us to fail but I am pretty close.
There is wisdom in Michael's words. However this president also held a pep rally on an aircraft carrier. Mission Accomplished. The CinC went out of his way to set expectations high. He has sown the whirlwind and he is reaping the hurricane. How much he reaps remains to be seen.
Liberals and Democrats benefit from bad news in Iraq? What a narrow-minded way of looking at it. How about the broader "America loses from bad news in Iraq"? Oe "America loses when terrorists obtain a cache of almost 400 tons of military-grade explosive"? Or "because this site, which had previously been earmarked, wasn't secured, more Americans -- soldier and civilian alike -- will probably die"?
*That* is why "liberals and Democrats" are so up in arms when events like this take place in Iraq. Any concerned American would be. Also, I'm sort of curious what you mean when you say "the President can be criticised because he is the ultimate boss, but the criticism is not holey warranted or justified." Why not? Simply because Rome wasn't built in a day, major mistakes should be shrugged off?
It just seems that liberals get awfully gleeful about bad news. Like, they don't care about what it actually means, as long as it looks bad for Bush (see: Blaine, Rick).
That is correct. We all know that war is dirty and reconstruction hard, so we just have to deal with what comes. It's silly to quabble over little subjective measures like "how dirty does this war have to be?" or "how hard does reconstruction have to be?"
Clearly, President Bush must be doing the best job anybody could do. We know this because he is President, and Presidents (except Clinton, Carter...) always make the wisest decisions for the American people. They contemplate and pray and never make a decision that they should be faulted for (except Clinton, Carter...). That's their job, you silly socialist!
Maybe we look happy about bad news before the election, because it makes us hopeful that a solution is in the wings? Maybe we just want the bad news to end, but think that Bush isn't helping that to happen? Maybe we find minor solace in bad news because we know what it means: that somebody's going to be held responsible for it? Maybe?
Nah. We just like bad news and can't wait for even more bad news when Kerry gets elected. That's why I want him elected, for God's sake, because I want more bad news. In fact... I think I want some bad news with my dinner tonight; maybe some with dessert too. Nothing like some bad news with a few nuts and some whipped cream. Mmmm...
Karol, you can call me "boring" and "corny" all you want.
But if you're going to accuse me of "get[ting] awfully gleeful about bad news. Like, they don't care about what it actually means, as long as it looks bad for Bush", you had best back it up -- or stop doing it.
Rick, just like in Asphynxma's comment section today, you get seemingly happy about bad news because it proves you 'right' somehow and Bush 'wrong'. And, this seems to matter to you more than any deaths that your being 'right' can produce.
What about his comment at Ftrain implied that he was "happy" about the development. I'd peg his mood as "resigned." He knew that this sort of thing would happen, and he isn't the only one.
Call me sentimental, but all they're doing is preaching to the choir. Let 'em.
Is there then any acceptable use of the facts that may put a negative light on the administration? That the positive facts have been woefully underreported does not make the negative ones any less real or important. The fact that "liberals" have attempted to use the facts to buttress their arguments is the only thing making the arguments worth discussing in the first place.
I don't know Rick, and I certainly don't purport to speak on his behalf; but for a lot of us on the left or otherwise against the management of the war, it's not about being "right" (most would rather be wrong) - it's about having a leader who will make a fair and reasoned assessment of what has happened (both for good and for ill) and what still needs to be done. I for one don't trust Bush's willingness to make that assessment.
Alceste, I believe you that you'd rather be wrong. I don't believe the same of Rick.
That's just nuts, Karol.
You don't have to break bread with the guy but you have no reason to believe that he actually wishes harm on the country or the troops. If you actually read what he writes, you have plenty of reason to believe the opposite.
I think he'd rather be right than anything else.
It's easy for someone like Kerry to snipe at every mistake, at everything that doesn't go perfectly according to plan. He wants us to believe that were he running things, there would be fewer mistakes and things would go more according to plan. But he provides no reason to believe that, he simply asserts that he would do it "better, smarter," etc. All the second-guessing and backbiting is getting really tiresome.
Instead of criticizing the troops you may want to criticize their method of training. I am a big america fan (i'm dutch) and hope to live there someday. But it does always seem to me that the americans are just not trained well enough or are even professional enough to handle the situation they have gotten bogged down in. I agree they are a formiddable force to be reckoned with but if one compares the way america deals with the local population to the European way British/Dutch/Polish they fail to connect more often than not. Further more I am appaled by the obvious disrespect of the geneva convention. There have been multiple reports where the enemy was unarmed and wounded and yet still they are shot. However when the military was asked if the appropriate people were detained they said no. This is in contrast to the dutch case where a group of looters were about to rob a supply convoi and a warningshot ricocheted and killed an iraqi. He was immediately detained and brought back to holland for trial. Although this was a little extreem (he was found innocent) it did send a message to the population that they respected the iraqis.Which is a message i think the US military fails to deliver.
Dammit Vincent, please keep your sensible arguments out of this. It's much more entertaining for Karol and Michael to throw tasteless insinuations, for Von Bek to "get all historical", and for me to make flippant-but-not-actually-funny remarks.
(Just kidding. You make a good point.)
Geneva Convention?!? Are you cracked? We're fighting an enemy who spits on the Geneva Convention and on the conventions of human beings in general and you want the US to follow some wacky code in how to fight with them?! Let me know when the Geneva Convention sanctions cutting off the heads of prisoners on tv and then we'll talk. Till then, kill all the terrorists, kill them all, and kill them quick.
Oh, Karol, you are so right. I mean, who cares if we torture a bunch of ragheads who turn out not to be terrorists. They probably would have tried something eventually, right? And the American citizens in Guantanamo? Fuck it, you want to make an omelette, you got to break some eggs. And the use of depleted uranium (technically, I am led to believe, not a violation of the Geneve convention) by our troops that not only puts them and their children at risk but means serious trouble for anyone living in "liberated" Iraq? Well, no use crying over spilt milk, right?
We're facing EVIL, people!
The funny thing is, I think we call people like al Qaeda and the Nazis "evil", and distinguish them in that way, because we don't want to admit the possibility that they are NOT freaks or abominations, but merely the actualization of something that exists in all of us -- the evidence of human nature's baser side.
Either way, though, if we shed the "baggage" of ethical, mindful behavior, we become no better than them. And THAT is when the terrorists have already won.
Karol, you really set yourself up for this. People in glass houses shouldn't go throwing stones at Rick.
But honestly, you don't even sound like yourself, so I'm thinking that it might be good for everybody here to let up a little. I'm sure that with the campaign's wrapping up, you're probably stressed and overworked out of your gourd, and interchanges like this probably don't help. So I apologize for all of us, and I'll try my best to keep it civil. But please be careful to do the same.
Rick called me a racist and actually used the word 'raghead' as if I would say something like that. This is exactly how I sound when I think someone is a loser scumbag.
It was a caricature. And while I sincerely doubt it matches your true viewpoint, it does fit reasonably well with the comments you expressed in this thread. Saying that the Geneva Convention doesn't apply to alleged terrorists reaches much farther than you might expect. It hinges fully on who we allege to be terrorists. Unfortunately, without judicial protections like the Geneva Convention, the scope of those kinds of allegations tends to grow uncontrollably.
Our country was founded on those kinds of judicial protections, because we were fed up by British and European abuses. We demanded a set of guidelines wherein those who we believed guilty of a crime would be presumed innocent for the due process of a trial, the conduct of which would be open to monitoring and review. When you say that "terrorists" shouldn't receive those kinds of simple protections, you lose control over what consists in "terrorists".
So before rushing out with your comment, and some of prior ones, you may have wanted to elaborate and explain how you didn't mean quite what you said. That's generally less stressful than raising the ante and insulting your opponent by saying that he revels in Iraq War casualties, that he always must be right, or that he should go fuck himself. That just makes a shitty climate for everyone, and makes it that much more likely that he'll go and retaliate with something even more inappropriate.
I honestly think Rick is a shitty person who is only concerned with being right or W looking bad, with secondary concerns being for the well-being of our troops or our country. I stand by that comment. You should check out his blog (be prepared to get very sleepy).
I think the Geneva Convention does not apply when we're dealing with terrorists. Again, they don't even follow the conventions of humanity (and again I'll use the example of cutting heads off on tv, blowing up civilians), why should we afford them our laws? The thing is, I see America as ultimately just and good. Even Abu Ghraib, which I found repulsive, wasn't nearly as bad as what I've described our opposition doing. It wasn't even in the same category. So, I believe that Americans will still treat the prisoners they catch humanely (and they do) and punish the people that don't treat them thus (and they do). If we wait for an enemy in uniform (as the Geneva Convention stipulates they must be) to appear, we'll all be dead. This is no time for agreements or treaties. This is a time for war.
Fair enough. There's no reason that your belief in American justice can't be squared with the legalities in place. Rather than disregard it, we can show leadership and compassion (remember: that's a virtue!) by giving a fair shake even to those that do us ill. This means little more than having hiding no prisoners, accepting international norms for human rights (which still allow plenty of wiggle room for coercion), and due process for American citizens, if no others.
This is a war against a puny and disorganized enemy; if we can't win this one while staying within the rules, I'd hate to see us up against China or Russia, where we'd really want every advantage on our side.
But by and large, the Convention's terms aren't about the enemy you're fighting now. It's about the enemy you fight later. Every time we break the rules, we set a standard for other countries with other ideas of who is incontemptably evil. Some day, that might even be us, and it'll be nice if we can still expect some protections.
Oh, and you're probably right about Rick's blog--I probably would fall asleep. Except for a couple of the biggies to keep me up-to-date, the only blogs I find worth visiting are the conservative or vaguely non-partisan ones. The liberal ones never give me neither the intrigue or the "car-crash" excitement.
Andrew, don't take her word for it. Visit and get sleepy for yourself. Here's a link.
How would you judge your military? By comparing them to the militaries of other nations? By living up to the standards of international treaties? By ability to blow stuff up? By the ability to mount a massive logistical operation? By fact that they were sent to protect the nation? By the fact that when one signs up he knows his life might be at risk someday?
To me being non-american the obvious chocice is comparing them to others and how they live up to international treaties. And out of that analysis as i stated they do not come out squeaky clean.
Furthermore I think that if one has an agreement and does not live up to it because it is hasslesome one should cancel the agreement. If you do not you definately lose the moral highground, but if you do you lose alot of popularity. The reason I say it is hasllesome is that I think the american principle is that everybody is innocent until proven guilty. If you just go out and kill everybody that might be a terrorist is just wrong according to your american ethics (the ones in the constitution). And of course more practical it works against you in the long run.