I was planning to blog today about the excellent contribution of the California Court of Appeal opinion in the Apple Computer case toward the public's right to know, but I made the mistake of reading the paper first. The New York Times gave its prime op-ed real estate over to one Owen West, a reserve Marine major whose point seems to be that we should all shut up and follow our fearless leaders over the cliff.
West positions himself as a neutral, condemning the "squabbling" over the Iraq War, rather than one side or the other, but somehow I was not surprised to find that the site he is listed as founding proclaims, "[w]e believe in our missions in Afghanistan and Iraq and we are proud of what we have fought for" but "have become frustrated with the way the operation has been politicized and reported to the home front." The site itself has links to articles portraying the heroism of U.S. servicemen, raising internal military issues and suggesting some military tactics.
What is missing from the article and the site is exactly what West seems to think should be missing from our national dialogue: any sort of political context or tactics. These people do not realize that the soldiers who they properly idolize are the victims of hare-brained political strategy concocted by the neo-cons whose personal idea of a battle is a tennis match down at the club.
West gets one thing right. The lack of a draft has resulted in a group of fighters who are isolated from most Americans, certainly from the opinion makers, But he draws the conclusion that this has prevented parents from gaining a "martial perspective," which West somehow thinks would make the war seem more sensible and the loss of life seem more worthwhile. The truth is that it put the children of the powerless at the disposal of Cheney, Wolfowitz and Feith .
West attempts to appear even handed:
"Somehow Operation Iraqi Freedom, not a large war by America's historical standards, has blossomed into a crisis of expectations that threatens our ability to react to future threats with a fist instead of five fingers. Instead of rallying we are squabbling, even as the slow fuse burns.
One party is overly sanguine, unwilling to acknowledge its errors. The other is overly maudlin, unable to forgive the same. The Bush administration seeks to insulate the public from the reality of war, placing its burden on the few. The press has tried to fill that gap by exposing the raw brutality of the insurgency, but it often has done so without context, leaving a clear implication that America can never win."
This is really stacking the deck. "Sanguine," according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, means "confident" or "optimistic." This is not exactly the word I would use to describe those prosecuting the war. (The word also means "bloodthirsty," but I assume this is not what West meant.) How about "wrong?"
"Maudlin" means either "drunk enough to be emotionally silly " or "weakly and effusively sentimental." How about "angry and what this war has done to our country, not to mention our soldeirs and, probably, Iraq?"
West's problem, along with other military bloggers such as Bill Roggio and Michael Yon, is that while they properly celebrate the heroism and sacrifices of the military, they completely fail to understand the manner in which the international political process works and the way the domestic political process should work. Although they are concerned about the military, they are oblivious to the fact that the soldiers are the children of someone and very well could be back with their families had the intelligence not been fixed toward a predetermined conclusion, had we listened to other nations and had we used the United Nations in Iraq instead of just seeing it as an obstacle to our pre-ordained battle.
West seems to think that our political perspective should come from our soldiers. He sees the two big interferences with paving Iraq and putting park.. ,er, ... installing a democratic government and creating stability in the Middle East as (1) our failure to "put 2003's debates behind us" and do what you have to do in battle, "move forward from where you are," and (2) excessive self-flagellation. As he has in at least one other article, West complains that "Iraq's most famous soldiers are Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England, respectively a victim and a criminal. Abu Ghraib remains the most famous battle of the war."
The real problem is that 2003's debates were rigged and had no effect on whether our soldiers were going to be put in harm's way. Also, of course, the Democrats, with a few exceptions such as Al Gore and Russ Feingold, must have gotten stuck in the flag factory, because they forgot to show up. Moreover, no matter how brave our soldiers were, their leaders were not and consented to lead them into battle with poorly thought out plans and no provisions for contingencies. Our soldiers might not have to apologize for a "sliver of malcontents" if they had not been put in an untenable situation in the first place.
West ends his article as he begins it, with a quote from Abraham Lincoln. ". . .we should heed Lincoln's call: "With malice toward none, with charity for all,. . . let us strive on to finish the work we are in."
I would use another quote. "When you are in a hole, stop digging."