Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Blair’s "Watershed" Interview on Iraq

The eloquent and courageous Tony makes four key points: 1. Our Iraq policy has been a disaster. 2. The failure is mainly the fault of willful and violent Iraqi minorities. 3. The stakes there are so high that we can’t withdraw. 4. There’s no alternative to not only talking tough to but also actually being tough with Iran. Thanks to Gary Seaton for deeming this postworthy.

Discussions - 18 Comments

God - and Free Men everywhere - bless Tony Blair. If the Dems were smart (and I’ll not rise to my own bait), they’d install Blair as Chairman of the DNC. Rove’s (and Hillary’s?) worst nightmare.
Question: Does James Baker understand that the Islamofasicts are intent on ONLY either converting or killing us? Will his commission’s report and recommendations reflect that understanding.....and the requisite commitment to the long-term fight?

How many folks on NLT have see the independent film "Obsession"? You can purchase it from the following weblink: Obsessionthemovie.com. If even half of what the filmmakers conclude about Islamofacism is true, we really are headed for WWIII...sooner or later. I suspect that it’s more than half true, given our failures in that part of the world and plausible explanations for Islamic radicalism (e.g., Bernard Lewis). Our problem is we don’t have the "demographic depth" to fight another world war...we have no Sullivans to contribute multiple sons to the cause.

Let me try that link again...this one should work.

Our problem is we don’t have the "demographic depth" to fight another world war...we have no Sullivans to contribute multiple sons to the cause.

U.S. Population in 1940, on the eve of our last world war, was approximately 131,669,000. In 2000 it was 281,422,000--more than double.

Are you talking about the fighting age population? In 1940 there were around 21,339,000 people between the ages of 25 and 34; today there are 39,891,000--not quite double, but nearly so.

Perhaps I should have said "family depth." The fact is, it’s not simply a matter of warm bodies to put in uniforms. In the West, we need public support for real warfare. Unfortunately, our family size has shrunk. You lose your son in a pitch battle and your name is snuffed. I guess what I’m saying is that total war will be far more psychologically devastating in the future. We just don’t have "deep" families anymore, and a single lose means much, much more. I suspect any real war, with thousands of casualties, will quickly breed strong anti-war sentiments.

I suspect any real war, with thousands of casualties, will quickly breed strong anti-war sentiments.

You’re right, but I think there’s a tendency today to overstate the willingness of Americans during World War II to endure sacrifice. This was a constant matter of concern for FDR, so he insisted on careful censorship, to a degree that is likely impossible today. Americans didn’t get, during every newscast, a running tally of how many of their soldiers died that day. Can you imagine hearing that "2,452 GI’s died today, making June 1944 the deadliest month yet in the war against Germany"? It never would’ve happened. Today Americans know too much about what goes on at the front to tolerate heavy losses. It’s our media that’s the problem, not demographic patterns.

John, they knew. Some of my family lived in smallish towns, and when neighborhood boys began to drop like flies, they knew. The difference was Pearl Harbor and the fact that people were habituated to hard times...and that many families had multiple children. Not so today.

"Today Americans know too much about what goes on at the front to tolerate heavy losses. It’s our media that’s the problem..."

Come on, John. Are you serious? You actually want Americans to have even less knowledge? And you think the media shouldn’t report deaths of American soldiers? Instead of embedded reporters, would you propose no reporters at all?

If we’re to treat it as a real war, in which the outcome is critical to America’s survival (important enough to have a draft, in other words), then the answer is yes. Management of homefront morale is a vital concern of government, as FDR knew.

Oh, well, "management of homefront morale" certainly sounds benign. And we’ll know that such morale (shouldn’t it be called "homeLAND morale"?) has been properly managed when approval ratings for the war are at what percentage, exactly?

During World War II pollsters never asked the American people whether they approved of the war. Was that wrong?

By the way, I should make it clear that I am not endorsing such a policy for the Iraq War, but only in case of a conflict where the survival and independence of the nation is at stake. Say, in a war against a nuclear Iraq or (God forbid) China.

As I’ve said earlier, this is why I think we need to bring back the idea of a congressional declaration of war. When such a declaration is made, it’s clear that certain liberties that are protected in wartime must be curtailed.

Americans are not ever going to stand a war of attrition. We can’t stand it, and will not stand it, for a variety of reasons. I am sure the family issue dain mentions pertains, but as the mother of many sons, the death of any one would not be assuaged by the presence of the others. Love does not work like that. To have a son (or daughter, given our forces, now) who dies, apparently not solving any problem, or accomplishing any goal, just adds pain to the pain. The name is the least of it. I would also suggest that "a pitch battle" would be one thing. This something else.


Is it a question of "no quick fix" or just no perception of "fix"? This is not just a matter of memories of Viet Nam. Our "War on Drugs" fails for the same reasons, as has our public resistance to illegal immigration. (Actually, selling anti-immigrant measures to a nation of immigrants seems doomed to failure, even to one who does not like illegal immigration.) Americans will sacrifice to accomplish something, but to sacrifice with no clear goal, or with goals that seem unattainable and therefore become vague - why do that?


We had to have treated the Iraq conflict as "real war" from the beginning. For whatever reasons, we did not. It is certainly too late, now. Was there a point when Congress would have made a formal declaration of war, in this case? And it would have been a formal declaration of war against whom?


this is why I think we need to bring back the idea of a congressional declaration of war. When such a declaration is made, it’s clear that certain liberties that are protected in wartime must be curtailed.
John Moser, I do not know that the American people take their legislative representatives that seriously as representative of themselves, anymore. I sense no "fellow-feeling" towards Congressmen. Perhaps districts are too large, or America has too many people for the sense of direct representation to apply, I don’t know what, but something is missing there. I do not see how what you suggest would be clear, would be clear to almost anyone I know.

I’m glad you’re not endorsing curtailment of freedom of the press during our current war (I presume that’s the "policy" to which you referred in 9 and 12 above), because if it is still being touted as part of the Global War on Terror (aka Global War on Violent Extremism) - I haven’t checked the Daily War Justification Update - the press could be facing a rather long-term shutout - a permanent curtailment in a never-ending war?

If it’s true that during WWII "pollsters never asked the American people whether they approved of the war" then I’m curious why you say that "there’s a tendency today to overstate the willingness of Americans during World War II to endure sacrifice." What information was FDR’s concern based upon? It seems like evaluating the collective consciousness and psychological frame of mind of a group of people in the past is complicated quite a bit when there is the absence of survey or polling data.

No, I don’t think it was necessarily wrong if pollsters during WWII weren’t making such assessments. Assuming that people have adequate representation in Congress, and that body is basing its decisions on the best interests of its constituents, things could function reasonably well. That said, even if we’re operating on the idea that government should stay out of citizens’ lives and its primary duty is to protect its citizens, it seems only fair that those citizens be adequately informed of, and be able to have some say in, what actions are being taken in their names under the rubric of "protection." For instance, a sizeable portion of American citizens today feel that recent actions of the U.S. govt. have not only failed to protect them but also made them LESS safe than before.

Also, looking at comments 9 and 12, is it safe to assume that you don’t consider the current Iraq War "a real war, in which the outcome is critical to America’s survival"? (I’m also not 100% sure which question I asked in 8 that you were responding to with a "yes")

"Management of homefront morale" strikes me as problematic, at best - a euphemism for government aiming to manipulate, propagandize and (to the extent this isn’t redundant) lie to its own citizenry (allegedly for their sake) as they provide the warm bodies in return.

In today’s world, we could never have fought a war such as WWII. Our ’elites, media, and a lot of Democrats would make sure of that, unless, of course, it was a Democrat prosecuting the war.

It seems like evaluating the collective consciousness and psychological frame of mind of a group of people in the past is complicated quite a bit when there is the absence of survey or polling data.

There was plenty of other evidence; one was enlistment levels in the Marines. After the battle of Tarawa (which began 63 years ago today, incidentally) FDR authorized release of the images of the dead on the beaches. He did this because he believed the nation was growing complacent (he once said that it was too bad a few German bombs couldn’t be dropped on the United States to remind Americans that there was a real war going on). However, what people saw shocked and horrified them, and enlistment in the Marines dropped precipitously in the next few months. Then there were, starting in 1944, regular demands that the boys be brought home, even though the enemy had not yet been defeated. Army Chief of Staff George Marshall complained about all the time he had to spend rushing off to Capitol Hill in order to prevent Congress from passing bills calling for the early return of GIs.

For instance, a sizeable portion of American citizens today feel that recent actions of the U.S. govt. have not only failed to protect them but also made them LESS safe than before.

And once we start basing national security policy on people’s feelings, we’re really in trouble.

My basic point is that the demands of modern war are incompatible with those of a free society. The draft is the most fundamental expression of this--what’s a greater violation of the individual’s freedom than being forced to join the military? But when the very existence of the free society is at stake, it temporarily has to become, well, unfree. Existence, after all, is a precondition for liberty. That’s something that was understood by all of those who served as presidents during truly large-scale wars. Every one of them engaged in manipulation, propaganda, and outright lying--and it’s a darn good thing they did.

John Moser - What’s the best source for such facts about the home front in WW II?

There are a number of excellent works on the subject, but the best I’ve found that deals with these particular problems is Michael D. Pearlman’s Warmaking and American Democracy. It’s a broad synthetic work covering all of U.S. military history, but the chapter on World War II is well worth reading.

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