Towards a taxonomy of positions on the War on Terror in the blogosphere

It’s no secret that Americans are divided about the War on Terror and how it’s being conducted. Any country as diverse as the United States is bound to have many differing opinions about so important a topic and what should be done about it. While cruising the comments sections of various blogs I’ve noticed that although the opinions may differ they appear to fall into some regular patterns.

This post is an attempt to identify the more commonly held positions and to associate the positions with prominent blogs or bloggers. I’m not making a critical survey and no attempt is made to evaluate the various positions. I’m just identifying and classifying. I used a combination of approaches in doing this study including reading current postings from a variety of blogs, archived postings, and Google searches.

The list is not exhaustive. There are several positions I’ve seen argued in comments sections that I couldn’t associate with actual bloggers. In addition there are quite a few theoretical positions that I’ve never actually seen articulated. I’ll try to identify some of these in the text. I would very much appreciate any corrections, amplifications, additional positions, or bloggers that fill in the blanks in my taxonomy.

Although the most fundamental dichotomy in positions would appear to be between those who oppose the War on Terror and those who support it, I have found that there is an even more basic duality between those who support or oppose the War on Terror on purely partisan grounds and those who support or oppose the WoT on principled grounds. Sometimes it’s extremely difficult to distinguish between a blogger’s knee-jerk antipathy or support for the current administration and opposition or support for the policies, actions, or purported intentions. I’ve decided to avoid any discussion or analysis of this position in blogs.

I don’t want to give the impression that the positions advocated in the examples below are the sole positions held by any of these bloggers. But based on my reading they are typical. All of the examples below are from posts written by bloggers. None are from the mainstream media or comments sections of blogs.

Bloggers who oppose the War on Terror fall into a number of different classifications. Some bloggers are simply pacifists. A typical example of this is Gutless Pacifist:

“My hope here at gutlesspacifist web log is to be relevant and gutsy. I hope this because I agree with John Howard Yoder ‘The church is called to be now what the world is called to be ultimately.’ We are on a modeling mission. Think of it as one big Children’s Moment on Sunday mornings. You know — the kids come down to hear a cute sanitized message about Jesus and our neighbors. Often times those cute messages use an object lesson — a map, a bowl, an egg… and out of it comes something that people of all ages and places can understand. That is the church a big object lesson in grace, peace, and love.”

Every example I could find of genuine pacifist bloggers were pacifists on religious grounds. While there are probably some non-religious pacifist bloggers I couldn’t locate any within the top 1,500 or so blogs.

There’s one position in opposition to the War on Terror that, although bitterly criticized by those who support the War on Terror, is actually fairly rare: the idea that the U. S. deserves whatever it gets in way of terrorist attacks with the obvious implication that all that really needs to happen is for the U. S. to alter its policies and the problem would go away. I only found a single example of a blog taking that position, Democratic Underground:

“I do believe the attacks were some country’s ‘retaliation’ against our selfish, bully-like, isolation,etc. foreign policies”

By far the most common opposition position is that the War on Terror is strictly a law-enforcement/intelligence matter. That’s the position advocated by Tom Tomorrow:

“It should go without saying that no decent person believes this act should go unpunished, that the men responsible should not be brought to justice. Anyone who confuses a desire to avoid responding to the senseless slaughter of civilians with more of the same–a desire to, perhaps, avoid World War III–anyone who confuses this with a desire to do nothing…sees the world in much too simple of terms.

This is not ‘appeasement,’ as some have claimed. We are not at war with a nation state. We are up against a loose network of what is estimated to be perhaps three thousand right wing religious fanatics, spread across two dozen countries on five continents.

Tell me, exactly, who we should bomb to make it all better.”

A variant on this position is that, while it was necessary to remove al Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan, whatever else needed to be done is law enforcement/intelligence. That’s Hesiod’s position:

“You might argue that we had a moral purpose in our actions in Afghanistan. I agree. But, when the Taliban fell, and Al Qaeda scattered to the four winds, it became a totally different proposition. “

Very nearly the same point is made in New Media Musings:

“I happen to favor what appears to be the Bush administration’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks: a limited (spurred partly by our allies) and targeted military response to wipe out terrorist bases in Afghanistan, to the extent that’s feasible. I’m a patriot. I fly my flag, hug my kid, and love my country, its Constitution and republican institutions.

But I’m growing increasingly frustrated with the jingoistic drumbeat of nationalism emanating out of the Washington war machine and its mainstream media allies.”

Finally, although it’s right on the border of being a purely partisan attack, there is the position that the Bush Administration has hyped the risk of terrorism in order to gain power. This position is articulated here by Daily Kos:

“Ultimately, this is symptomatic of Bush’s skewed priorities. Bush expects its armed forces to do the dying in pursuit of his 2004 re-election effort.”

There is a final argument that I’ve seen articulated in the comments section of Tacitus but I haven’t been able to associate it with an actual blogger: the position that everything that needed to be done had already been done by sundown of September 11, 2001. Proponents of this position basically argue that all was needed was increased vigilance by law enforcement and the citizenry to prevent catastrophic terrorist attacks.

Interestingly, the pro-War on Terror position complained about most bitterly by opponents of the War on Terror—that the Middle East should be turned into a radioactive slag heap—while a commonplace in the comments sections of many blogs does not seem to have been advocated by any warblogger in the top 1,500 bloggers. Something just short of that has been advocated by Kim du Toit:

“It is time we bombed the Arab ‘street’, and reduced it into fragments. It is time we targeted Iraq’s chemical-weapons factories, and leveled them. It is time we stopped expecting these unspeakable bastards to behave like civilized human beings, because the fact of the matter is simply that they are not.

Every time a mullah speaks of Jews using Arab blood to make pastries, we should assassinate him.

Every time Saddam Hussein sends money to the family of a suicide bomber, we should bomb his palace.

Every time an Arab leader makes a statement that says one thing in English, and its polar opposite in Arabic, we should bomb his residence.”

Opinion among those who support the War on Terror seems less divided than among those opposed. The main differences are illustrated by Steven Den Beste:

“Instead, we establish an entirely different one: we make clear that we can be mollified by empty gestures and insincere promises. That is not the message we want to send to the governments of that region; it will ultimately cause far more damage than we would suffer even if all three of those nations were ultimately taken over by radical Islamists.

What I sincerely hope is not the case is that Bush and/or his campaign strategists have decided that we Americans can be mollified by empty gestures, insincere promises and tough talk. This war isn’t even close to being over, and this is no time for Bush to start taking his foreign policy cues from Senator Kerry.”

and Tacitus:

“I just read yet another piece on how Fallujah is controlled by Islamists, etc., and it basically set me off inside. (No link, sorry, there are plenty of these around.) As thinking about Fallujah usually does. Our vaunted Brigade-in-lieu-of-Marines (of course, competent leadership ought to know that there is nothing in lieu of Marines) has done precious little beyond pop open a weapons cache or two, strut about, and act Vichy to the fanatics’ ad hoc government of occupation. Perhaps that’s too tough a term: most of the fanatics and killers in charge of the town are presumably from the town, so “occupying” may not be the right word. Whatever — let’s not slay the metaphor for mere accuracy’s sake. Two months after the atrocities, and a full year after Fallujah raised rebellion’s banner, the town is still defiant, still unoccupied, and still breeding killers of your brothers and mine. A microcosm of the occupation as a whole: tentative violence in pursuit of the right goals, subsumed by institutional timidity in the face of hard tasks, in turn giving our enemies their refuge and their victory.”

The main difference appears to be one of degree—how “wobbly” they have gone. It’s interesting to observe that most pro-WoT bloggers appear to be somewhat concerned that the U. S. hasn’t been tougher in Iraq.

There is a final position that I’ve frequently seen advocated in comments sections but been unable to associate with any particular blogger: support for the War on Terror generally and Afghanistan in particular but opposition to the war in Iraq. The main concept here is that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and is a distraction in the War on Terror—resources could be used more effectively elsewhere. I believe that American Footprint articulated this position but the site seems to be down.

This is just a start on cataloguing the various positions held by bloggers on the War on Terror. I would very much appreciate any additional ideas and citations.

2 comments… add one
  • Monopticus Link

    I would say there is at least one other position, if I cant necessarily find a blogger to support it per se (in hindsight I would think that some of NRO held roughly the same)

    1) we should set “US interests are served” as a pretty high bar – I and many others werent completely convinced that it was right before hand. I was convinced after Powells speach, but definitely NOT because he said anything new, but because he sounded as if the specifics of what HAD been known were enough to keep him up at night

    2) once it was started , we should get behind it and finish it well. – This was my atitude towards the Clinton wars of the 1990’s in which I was in the service. I was generally not behind them because they appeared to violate rule #1, but once we were engaged it seemed that we should finish them, and keeping people alive, american and otherwise, was a high priority for “succes”.

    The biggest problem I had with the 1990’s wars was that Clinton never seemed like he was willing to do what was necessary to stop the humanitarian crises he chased after – like he took the rights advice too late.

    I may not WANT to run off to a foreign country and get shot at if my my country’s interests aren’t at stake, but once I’m there, dont expect me to watch innocnet people getting butchered and tortured and not DO something about it.

    This is ingrained in the mindset of most US service people and about 180 out of what most lefties think of us.

  • Monopticus:

    It’s a valid point and I’ll try and see if I can find a prominent blogger who’s held that position. If you find anyone, I’d appreciate an update.

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