Well, Glenn has put his foot in it this time. See also here. Has there ever been a better demonstration of Instapundit blogospheric hegemony than the recent flap about whether Democratic politicians (and those who oppose the war, generally) are patriotic or are acting in an unpatriotic way? Here’s the bit that, I suppose, started the furor:
BUSH SLAMS HISTORICAL REVISIONISTS ON THE WAR: About time. Jeff Goldstein has more.
And read earlier posts on this subject here and here. Also here.
[And if you’re coming in on a link from elsewhere, be sure to read this later post].
The White House needs to go on the offensive here in a big way — and Bush needs to be very plain that this is all about Democratic politicans pandering to the antiwar base, that it’s deeply dishonest, and that it hurts our troops abroad.
And yes, he should question their patriotism. Because they’re acting unpatriotically.
And, Dean, we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this. The context of the discussion is pretty clear: this war, these politicians, this administration. Raking up old scores about prior administrations, other politicians, and other wars may be true and and are definitely effective in changing the subject but they’re not relevant. At best red herrings and at worst tu quoque fallacies.
I haven’t weighed in on this topic because I don’t happen to think that most of those opposing the war are unpatriotic. I do think that their means are poorly suited to their ends and discussing that will constitute most of the remainder of this post.
I think, however, that Senate Democrats who voted in favor of authorizing the invasion of Iraq and who are now trying to explain their way out of that vote are skating on very thin ice. I think that the preponderance of evidence suggests that the Administration presented the best possible case it could to the Senate for doing what it was convinced was the right thing to do under the circumstances. Subsequent revelations and events may have called the wisdom of that conviction or the details of the case into question but those are all afterthoughts.
Lying has two components: the material of the lie must be untrue and there must be an intent to deceive by telling an untruth. I have yet to see convincing evidence that President Bush knew that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. I doubt that he could have since as best as I can determine we still don’t know for certain whether Saddam Hussein had a few weapons of mass destruction or huge stockpiles which have vanished or active plans for developing them or none at all. It was said four years ago and it’s still true: absence of proof is not proof of absence.
And I haven’t seen convincing evidence that the President intended to deceive the Senate or the American people. I avidly dislike the Bush lied slogan. It’s stupid. And I really believe that it’s shorthand for I detest Bush and all his works which is much less stupid but doesn’t fit on a placard as well.
But I believe that those Senators are on thin ice because they didn’t exercise due diligence in anticipation of the vote and, apparently, made a political calculation to vote Yes. They’re adults and should be willing to take their medicine. If they’re putting political ambition or party loyalty ahead of love of country (in all probability they’ve conflated them), then, yes, they are unpatriotic.
This might be an appropriate time to re-state my own position on the war: I opposed the war in anticipation but I believe that once we had invaded and removed the detestable Saddam Hussein government we were legally, morally, and strategically required to create an environment in which a decent, stable one would replace it.
Prudence requires that we adapt means suitable to that end. Other countries do not understand the degree of openness and self-criticism which we routinely engage in here. We have needed to be much more circumspect in the tone and content of criticism lest it be misunderstood as confusion and weakness. And we shouldn’t demoralize our troops in the field with loose talk. If you are absolutely unable to give open, enthusiastic support to the troops and their mission (which are indivisible), silence is the best recourse. Now. When are boys and girls in the military are out of harms way there will be lots of time for open and even bitter and angry debate.
There are many different strains of thought among those who oppose the war in Iraq and the administration. Some are patiotic. Some are not. For some it’s impossible to determine. Here are a few of those positions.
Those who advocate an immediate withdrawal from Iraq may be patriotic or unpatriotic. If they want to withdraw from Iraq immediately to bring the troops out of harm’s way and don’t give a damn about the consequences, they are patriotic but immoral (and, perhaps, misguided). If they want to withdraw immediately because of the consequences which include the civil war and reprisals which no one can doubt would accelerate in Iraq, a weakening of the American position abroad, and the encouragement it would give to those who wish us ill, they are both unpatriotic and immoral.
Some advocate what I’ll call the Juan Cole plan. The Cole plan is to withdraw Coalition forces from the major Iraqi cities. If most of the insurgency is acting to get the Americans out of Iraq and if the Iraqi police and national guard are capable of subduing the remainder of the insurgency that would attack Iraqis in the cities, this would serve to draw the fire of the insurgency away from innocent Iraqi people. It would make targets of the Coalition forces in Iraq but direct confrontation between the insurgency and our forces is what we want. IMO this position is both patriotic and moral. However, I think it’s mistaken. I think that most of the insurgency either want to restore the status quo ante or a Taliban-style government which is what they’ve done everywhere in Iraq where they’ve actually established control. They’ll keep attacking the Iraqi people whether we’re in the cities or not and withdrawal from the cities will put us at a tactical disadvantage.
Those who want to substitute American forces with UN or NATO forces are deluded but they’re not unpatriotic. They’re deluded because neither the UN nor NATO wants anything to do with Iraq.
Those who don’t want to anything different from what’s being done in Iraq but merely want a Democratic administration to be doing it are just rearguing the 2004 election and, as I have said, are on thin ice. I’m a Democrat but not a highly partisan one and I don’t think it’s self-evident that anything done by a Democrat is ipso facto better than the same thing done by a Republican. That comes very close to substituting the welfare of the party for the welfare of the country and, if so, is unpatriotic.
Are there people who don’t want to change the course in Iraq because it might hurt President Bush or the Republican Party politically? If so, they would be unpatriotic, too.
I’ve tried to be as fair and even-handed as I possibly could in this post. If I’ve misrepresented anything please notify me and, if I’m convinced, I’ll correct it. If you can delineate other positions that I haven’t noted here, point them out and I’ll add them to the mix.