Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Chaos in Iraq?

I have spent more time than I should have watching TV news over the last few days and it is a constant and universal fact that a bitter, callous and gloomy view pervades all the news about Iraq. It is irritating, to say the least. They lead off with the body count, and give the viewer the impression that the talking heads have a vested interest in Iraq failing. Interview a politician who was always against the war from the start, interview a grieving mother who lost her son and wonders why, show the same truck burning that you have seen a hundred times, and so on. I used to not rave about media inbalance because, what the heck, it was just an extension of politics. But this is different. This is not imbalance, this is recreational pessimism about a war that must be won, and not only for Iraq’s sake. There is a conscious attempt to corrode public opinion about the war in Iraq; this explains why Ted Koppel only showed the names and faces of those who died in Iraq, but not those who died in Afghanistan and elsewhere. These guys remind me of the Copperheads during the Civil War.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this pessimistic George Will column. After all, he claims that pessimism is realism is conservatism. Not quite, Mr. Will. But deep philosophical discussions aside for now, he is wrong to assert that we should not be conserned with what ought to be but only with what is: Too simple, too clever a formulation. Besides, Will is now neocon bashing. If he wants to sign on to the Kerry campaign, that’s fine, but he ought to say so. There are plenty of others out there who are losing their optimism and their nerve about Iraq. They are wrong. Let courage mount with the occasion. And let the Iraqis (with our help) work all this through, but for God’s sake this is not the time to doubt our purposes. This piece by David Ignatius about the good work being done in Nasiriyah is very good. The place was falling into a chaos a month ago, but the Iraqis--frightened by the possibility of falling over the precipice--withdrew from chaos. Very good progress is being made. Ignatius is hopeful, as am I.

Keep in mind that all the chatter and the criticism during a war is not new; it is always thus in a Republic. Everybody is not only an armchair general, but a platoon leader on the ground in real time trying to make decisions; and everyone has an outlet for his views. Pretty messy, all this. Yet it may be a good idea to remind us that it has--more or less--always been so. How was the war going against Japan and Germany in the year after Pearl Harbor? Was the president criticized? John Moser looks at the year 1942, and how hard things were. Good article.   

Discussions - 12 Comments

Optimism would be easier if the administration was more aggressive in allaying our concerns and countering the media Chicken Littles. The administration’s silence forfeits the field to those who want to see it fail. If the Belmont Club can put a compelling positive interpretation on events why can’t the White House and Pentagon?

Good for you Peter in poiting out Will’s utter lack of depth in his understanding of our purposes. But I have to agree with Cleary in that the administration is not helping. I am so sick of hearing about what we are doing for Iraq. What about what we’re doing for ourselves. It’s not good enough to say our guys are dying for Iraqis. They enlisted to protect America. Let’s hear more about how their doing that. If Bush comes out strong on that point, no Democrat will touch him in the fall. Presumptive nominee or otherwise.

Exactly. Americans do not care what we’re doing for Iraq, even if they should. This is about OUR security.

As for the point about World War II --
two huge differences just off the bat. One, it was a war the liberals fully supported -- in part, perhaps, because one of our war aims was to save the Soviet Union. Two, the American people had more unity and character in those very distant days. They had not been subjected to decades of liberal hegemony.

I don’t believe Americans had more character during WWII, but perhaps the Democratic leadership did. Still, Frisk makes a good point about them wanting to save the Soviets. I hadn’t really thought of that. I think the basic character of Americans has remained pretty stable--the elites have just been more successful in the last 50 years. But the elites are only clever, they are not correct. The American people are realizing that in degrees. We have to keep pushing these points.

Americans today are just as unified as ever on the basic point that we don’t want to die. This is not a terribly difficult point to make--even if only in Hobbesian terms! If Bush forcefully starts making this point the Dems will howl but they’ll be howling to the moon. Even fewer of us will listen. Bush will wipe the floor with them. I hope he does it.


Well, if illegitimacy rates, drug use, porn use, and willingness to cheat in school aren’t indicators of character, then I might be tempted to agree with Julie that Americans are still the same great people they were 60 years ago.

Unfortunately, these inconvenient facts stand in the way. And, half of America supports a political party that does not wish to fight the war on terror. We have done nothing to insist that Muslim immigrants assimilate to America and proclaim loyalty to it. The list could go on and on. Our ability to fight this war depends on a spirit of self-sacrifice and a willingness to live with the ugliness that accompanies all real war. It’s not clear to me that this even exists sufficiently in the "warmongering" Bush administration, let alone the public.

Even if everything Frisk says is true (and, to SOME degree, it is but he overstates it in my view) it is not useful to keep hammering on it. Let us take courage and cheer (without deluding ourselves) from the many good signs we can point to about American character. For starters, the many decent young men and women who are willing to DIE for us. Also, when by all media accounts, this should have been a disasterous month for Bush, he still polls ahead of Kerry. What else can explain this? The American people GET it. We are just hungering for a convincing and forceful accounting of the truth from our leadership. Bush needs to offer this instead of apologies to the King of Jordan.


According to the polls, a little under 50 percent of the American people "get it." That is not the same as "the American people." If the American people "got it," Bush would be ahead by 20 points, given the Democrats’ extremism and irresponsibility.

We can wish otherwise, but that changes nothing. Political speech and political action must begin with reality.

Churchill and Lincoln always did.

Bush is not ahead by 20 points because he does not deserve to be ahead by 20 points. If he did what I said above, he would be. It’s amazing that with the kind of news coverage he’s had and the daily assault he’s taking in the culture that he’s ahead at all. But seriously, John Kerry?! There should be no question. But with the "new tone" and his inevitable "Bushiness" it is HE who is too squishy--not the American people. Honestly, I don’t see the point of beating up on the American people all the time. More typical of an admirer of, say Carter, than Reagan.

And it was Churchill who always said: "Trust the people." And Lincoln who said (and I paraphrase) that even though public opinion is everything, it is he who shapes public opinion that is a statesman. In situations like this we need a statesman. Americans are good people. If you don’t believe that, then what the heck are we fighting for?


Well, it should be obvious that one can criticize the American people for losing much of their character and still care about them. I agree that Bush is a mediocre leader. But that shouldn’t make people more likely to vote for the Democrats, who are beyond the pale. When 45 percent of Americans say they’ll vote for Kerry, your rosy picture of them would seem to be inaccurate.

Yes, Churchill said "trust the people."
But I’m afraid that was a long, long time ago in a world far, far away. Peoples change.

And for God’s sake, I did not say that Americans are not "good people." I said they had more character 60 years ago,
less today, and that a majority of them do not seem to "get it" with regard to the war on terror.

It remains to be seen then whether men really are capable of self government. If a people can change as much as you seem to think Americans have changed, the answer would seem not for very long. We will see whether they rise to the occasion. I think they will because I still believe that at their core they are Americans and their habits and their virtues are deeper and more important than the latest political fad or "intellectual" fashion. I don’t underestimate the problems we face in getting back to a healthier state of affairs, but I do take exception to the rhetoric you seem to think will get us there. Or perhaps your aim is a different one?

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