Orson Scott Card/The Only Issue This Election Day

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[edit] Introduction

The quoted text in this article, which appears inside either <blockquote> tags or shaded boxes, is copyrighted and is not being released under the license which otherwise applies to material on this site. It is reprinted here without permission from the copyright holder ("owner" hereinafter) for the purpose of fisking, i.e. a piece-by-piece analysis of its contents, which we believe to be allowed under the doctrine of fair use.

The original text is by Orson Scott Card and was copied from the following location, which we encourage you to visit in order to support any income-streams which the owner may be deriving from such visits: http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2006-10-29-1.html

The responses to the original text appear in normal-sized text outside of the boxes.

[edit] Text

OSC wrote:

There is only one issue in this election that will matter five or ten years from now, and that's the War on Terror.

And the success of the War on Terror now teeters on the fulcrum of this election.

If control of the House passes into Democratic hands, there are enough withdraw-on-a-timetable Democrats in positions of prominence that it will not only seem to be a victory for our enemies, it will be one.

OSC seems to be making an undefended statement here: "If we withdraw on a timetable, our enemies will have won." This is his central thesis, and he explains his reasoning in the rest of the essay. I will address that point when he starts explaining his reasoning, later on.

OSC wrote:

Unfortunately, the opposite is not the case – if the Republican Party remains in control of both houses of Congress there is no guarantee that the outcome of the present war will be favorable for us or anyone else.

But at least there will be a chance.

I say this as a Democrat, for whom the Republican domination of government threatens many values that I hold to be important to America's role as a light among nations.

But there are no values that matter to me that will not be gravely endangered if we lose this war. And since the Democratic Party seems hellbent on losing it – and in the most damaging possible way –

My immediate reaction was that this needs further explanation. What are the alternatives for "withdrawal on a timetable", and how are they less damaging?

  • withdrawing randomly or in an unplanned fashion: I doubt he means this; the costs should be obvious
  • withdrawing immediately: again, I doubt he means this, and again the costs should be obvious (no time to wrap up incomplete projects, train Iraqi replacements, etc.)
  • withdrawing only when victory is clear: this opens up a whole can of worms, starting with:
    • Bush already declared victory; if we're not going by the President's official declaration, then whose declaration are we using?
    • How can we avoid another Viet Nam?
    • The damage to our troops and military readiness is already astounding; surely continuing to pour resources into Iraq would be more damaging than leaving
    • The damage to our national reputation by the way we are handling Iraq is already about as bad as it could be; what could we do differently, while remaining in Iraq, that might counter that? Any continued presence in Iraq needs a plan that takes this into account.

He does explain later exactly what sort of "damage" he fears from a withdrawal, but he seems to make the assumption that the only alternatives are (a) staying the course, and (b) complete and utter withdrawal. This is a false dilemma; I would not attempt to defend the latter alternative.

OSC wrote:
I have no choice but to advocate that my party be kept from getting its hands on the reins of national power, until it proves itself once again to be capable of recognizing our core national interests instead of its own temporary partisan advantages.

This is straight mirroring... the Dems may have their issues, but the party currently demonstrating short-sightedness and corruption is the one currently in power. This does seem to be a very widespread meme in conservative circles, however.

OSC wrote:
To all intents and purposes, when the Democratic Party jettisoned Joseph Lieberman over the issue of his support of this war, they kicked me out as well. The party of Harry Truman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan – the party I joined back in the 1970s – is dead. Of suicide.

[edit] The "War on Terror"

OSC wrote:
I recently read an opinion piece in which the author ridiculed the very concept of a "war on terror," saying that it makes as much sense as if, after Pearl Harbor, FDR had declared a "war on aviation."

Without belaboring the obvious shortcomings of the analogy, I will agree with the central premise. The name "war on terror" clearly conceals the fact that we are really at war with specific groups and specific nations; we can no more make war on a methodology than we can make war on nitrogen.

We are not at war with any specific nation, as I understand it. We were at war with Iraq, but their government is now under our control (even if their people are not entirely). We are at war with specific groups, as he says, but it's not "war" in the same sense. Calling it a war is misleading, and is mainly done to open the door to expanded presidential powers which were designed for use when we were in danger of being invaded – when there were enemy soldiers and equipment on our soil. This is not the case now; terrorists are not soldiers, and you don't fight them the same way you fight an opposing army.

OSC wrote:
However, there are several excellent reasons why "War on Terror" is the only possible name for this war.

1. This is not a war that can be named for any particular nation or region. To call it "The Iraq War" or the "Afghanistan War" would lead to the horrible mistake of thinking that victory would consist of toppling certain governments and then going home.

This much is true. So Bush's declaration was "victory" over Saddam's government, not victory in the War on Terror. But again, how do we know when we have won that? What are the goals, what are the milestones? What is the plan for victory, and how well is it going?

OSC wrote:
In fact, it is precisely the name "War in Iraq" that is leading to the deep misconceptions that drive the Democratic position on the war. If this were in fact a war on Iraq, then in one sense we won precisely when President Bush declared victory right after we occupied Baghdad. And in another sense, we might not see victory for another five years, or even a decade – a decade in which Americans will be dying alongside Iraqis. For a "War in Iraq" to linger this way is almost too painful to contemplate.

But we are not waging a "War in Iraq." We are waging a world war, in which the campaigns to topple the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan were brilliantly successful, and the current "lukewarm" war demands great patience and determination from the American people as we ready ourselves for the next phase.

OSC confirms my earlier guess about the meaning of "victory"; good. He is also correct about the nature of a "War on Terror" being a very different beast from the War on Saddam, being a world-wide war. (So is this in fact World War III that we are waging, then? Are we starting that? I'm not sure it's fair to apply that label, but OSC said "we are waging a world war". Whether or not it's a fair label, it's a sobering thought. The only way out of it, that I see, is to admit that it's not really a "war"; it's a battle, a struggle, yes, with military targets and weapons... but it is not "war" in the same sense as "World War II" or "the Falklands War".)

OSC wrote:
2. We cannot name this war for our actual enemies, either, because there is no way to name them accurately without including some form of the word "Islam" or "Muslim."

I disagree with this. Islam per se is not the enemy; the enemy is certain aspects of Islam which are intolerable to us. I think we would do well to get specific about that. "The war on feudalism", maybe? Or perhaps even "terror" is appropriate, since Islamic fundamentalism is perpetuated largely through terror – on a personal level within fundaMuslim families and communities. I don't disagree with the "terror" part of "The War on Terror", in any case.

OSC wrote:
It is our enemies who want to identify this as a war between Islam and the West. If we allow this to happen, we run the risk of achieving the worst of all possible outcomes: The unification of one or both of the great factions of worldwide Islam under a single banner.

Again, if we define the war in terms of those particular attributes of Islam that we find intolerable, we are less likely to cause this sort of unification. If we say "we must destroy Islam!", then all Muslims see themselves as threatened; if we say "we must destroy injustice, and the use of terror within families, and intolerance of people's differences, and abuse of women!" you'll still get a lot of Muslims feeling threatened, but they'll mainly be the hardliners.

OSC wrote:
President Bush and his administration have shown their grasp of our present danger by stoutly resisting all attempts to rename this war. We call it a "War on Terror" because that allows us to cast it, not as a war against the Muslim people, with all their frustrations and hopes, but a war in which most Muslims are not our enemies at all.

OSC slips in a Mickey here with the implication that the Democrats were trying to rename the war (a straw man argument). Any sources for this? I certainly haven't seen anything along those lines.

OSC wrote:
That can be galling for many Americans. When, after the fall of the towers on 9/11, Palestinians and others poured into the streets, rejoicing, it was tempting to say, A plague on all of them!

But it is precisely those people – the common people of the Muslim world, most of whom hate us (or claim to hate us, when asked by pollsters in police states) – whom we must treat as if they were not our enemies. They are the ones we must win over for us to have any hope of victory without a bloodbath poured out on most of the nations of the world.

A very important point slips by almost unnoticed here: we must win over the common people, which is a different sense of "to win" than the more common "winning a war". That is how this war is different. That is more or less the distinguishing characteristic of asymmetric warfare, which is what the War on Terror is. You don't win people over by shooting at them.

[edit] Nation Building

OSC wrote:
Another charge against the Bush administration's conduct of the war is that they are engaged in the hopeless task of "nation-building." And this is true – except for the word "hopeless."

It is the Republicans who were traditionally critical of the concept of nation-building, and the Democrats who practiced it successfully (e.g. the Balkans); ironic that OSC is defending nation-building as a Republican trait.

OSC wrote:
But what is the alternative? I've heard several, each more disastrous and impossible and even shameful than the one before.

OSC doesn't bother to name these alternatives, so he doesn't have to defend against them. The whole point of "withdrawal on a timetable" is to have a sensible alternative, because what we have now is just "whatever we're doing, keep on doing it, even if it's wrong" which inevitably leads to the impossible disastrous shamefulness OSC mentions.

OSC wrote:
In the New Testament, Jesus once used the analogy of a person who was possessed by a devil. When you cast out the devil, don't you leave an empty house, swept clean, to which seven devils will now come to live, making things worse than ever?

No matter which miserable dictatorship we moved against after the Taliban – and we had no choice but to keep moving on if we were to eradicate the grave danger we faced (and face) – we would have faced the same problem in Syria or Iraq or Sudan that we had in Afghanistan: We had to establish order in a nation that had never actually become a nation.

The boundaries on the ground in the Middle East were not formed in the traditional way – by compromise or war. Instead, European powers drew lines that pleased their fancy. The lines did not create the hatreds that plague the region, but they guaranteed that traditional enemies would have to face each other within these boundaries.

It is in part because of the resulting chaos and oppression that groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and the Shiite fundamentalists of Iran have been given an opportunity to offer the solution of returning to the core values of Islam – as defined, of course, to their private advantage.

If we topple one government and then walk away, the result in any Middle Eastern nation would be civil war, and the probable winner would be the well-funded international terrorist groups that do not shrink from wholesale murder in pursuing their cause.

Just as Kerensky's attempt at a liberal government in revolutionary Russia was almost instantly snuffed out by Lenin's Bolshevik thugs in 1917, so also would any attempt at unified democratic government in Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Afghanistan be quickly converted into Islamo-fascism of one stripe or another.

And if that happened, Islamicist puritanism would be seen in every nation as the "wave of the future." Just as, when Nazi Germany was in the ascendant, the nations of southeastern Europe quickly made their accommodation with Hitler, since the alternative was to be swept away like Poland, France, or Yugoslavia, so also would nominally democratic nations adopt the trappings of Islamicism -- if they weren't already toppled by puritan revolutions from within.

OSC starts from a reasonable premise – the "countries" in the Middle East are largely based on lines drawn rather arbitrarily by foreign powers, and do not accurately reflect a stable division of power which we can expect to be maintained in the event of any one country being "conquered". What is his implication, though, and how does it support his "stay the course" argument? Is he arguing that we need to stay in Iraq indefinitely? If so, how does he expect the US to be able to afford to do so? Or is he proposing that we also need to conquer Iran and Syria as well (utterly beyond our ability at this point)? He needs to spell it out.

[edit] Democracy – the Other Hope

OSC wrote:
Wherever Islamicism has been tried, the result has been identical to Communism's miserable track record. The people are oppressed; the worst sort of vigilantes and thugs terrorize the population; the new power elite, regardless of their supposed piety and dedication to a holy cause, is quickly corrupted and comes to love the wealth and privileges of power.

No argument on that one.

OSC wrote:
When there is no hope of deliverance, the people have no choice but to bow under the tyrant's lash, pretending to be true believers while yearning for relief. In Russia it came... after more than seventy years. China and Cuba are still waiting – but then, they started later.

So it would be in the Muslim world – if Islamicism were ever able to come to seem inevitable and irresistible.

You know: If America withdrew from Iraq and Afghanistan and exposed everyone who had cooperated with us to reprisals.

(jab: You mean like we did back in 1991, under Bush Sr. and Cheney?) This is why we need a plan for withdrawal – to ensure that these people are protected when we do withdraw, as we one day surely must.

OSC wrote:
As happened in South Vietnam. The negotiated peace was more or less holding after American withdrawal. But then a Democratic Congress refused to authorize any further support for the South Vietnamese government. No more armaments. No more budget.

In other words, we forcibly disarmed our allies, while their enemies continued to be supplied by the great Communist powers. The message was clear: Those who rely on America are fools. We didn't even have the decency to arrange for the evacuation of the people who had trusted us and risked the most in supporting what they thought was our mutual cause.

Again... a plan is needed. As it is, if we are one day forced to withdraw unexpectedly – either by a turn of events in the region, or by protests at home – we have no way to ensure that this mistake is not played out again.

OSC wrote:
We did it again, this time in the Muslim world, in 1991, when Bush Senior encouraged a revolt against Saddam. He meant for the senior military officers to get rid of him in a coup; instead, the common people in the Shiite south rose up against Saddam.

Ok, OSC gets points for mentioning what I was jabbing about earlier.

OSC wrote:
Bush Senior did nothing as Saddam moved in and slaughtered them. The tragedy is that all it would have taken is a show of force on our part in support of the rebels, and Saddam's officers would have toppled him. Only when it became clear that we would do nothing did it become impossible for any high-ranking officials to take action. For the price of the relatively easy military action that would have made Saddam turn his troops around and leave the Shiite south, we could have gotten rid of him then – and had grateful friends, perhaps, in the Shiite south.

And OSC wants us to vote for the party that supported the same bunch of people, with nary a word of criticism?

OSC wrote:
That is part of our track record: Two times we persuaded people to commit themselves to action against oppressive enemies, only to abandon them. Do you think that would-be rebels in Iran and Syria and North Korea don't remember those lessons?

Fortunately, there are other lessons as well: West Germany and Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, where liberated nations were protected. In the first two, we took on the task of nation building and transformed both political cultures into democracies. In the latter two, we tolerated strongman dictatorships for many years, but eventually we made it clear that it was time for democracy, and under our protective umbrella, the governments were transformed and oppression ended.

Yes, a protective umbrella – which is not what we are now providing in Iraq. We should have been fighting this poorly-named "war on terror" using a cleverly-devised set of carrots and sticks, to encourage moderation and punish terrorists. Instead, under GWB we've been little more than a bull in a china shop (excepting for a few well-planned military operations early on, before we ran out of clear goals and got to the "well, what now?" phase), and are winning the enemy's war for them. Under those circumstances, our presence is doing nobody any good, and our inevitable exit will be even more embarrassing if not planned.

OSC wrote:
So ... which America is operating now in the Muslim world?

In Iraq and Afghanistan – but especially Iraq – President Bush is behaving according to America's best and most honorable tradition.

I'd say "WTF??" except I think he's about to explain which traditions he means...

OSC wrote:
We did not come to destroy, we came to liberate and rescue, he says – by word and deed. We bring freedom and opportunity. Our money will help rebuild your devastated (or never built-up) economies; our expertise will help train your most talented people to be ready for prosperity and self-government; and our military will keep enemies from overwhelming you as you reinvent yourselves.

This is what he should have done. I haven't seen any evidence of this attitude. We toppled Saddam, and then we just kind of hung around getting in the way. After the Gulf War, Iraqis rebuilt their own country, without monetary assistance, much faster than we've been able to do with our oh-so-civilized no-bid contracts. So I say again: WTF??

OSC wrote:
Instead of leaving an empty house, swept clean but unprotected, waiting for the devils of Islamic puritanism to come take over, President Bush has sworn that America will bring democracy, and that American soldiers will do their best to protect the decent, ordinary people until they are able to protect themselves.

Again, that's a lovely story, but the evidence for real action in this direction is sorely lacking. Bush is notorious for making grand gestures verbally and then later approving legislation which cuts off real action at the knees; this sounds like more of that.

[edit] The Competing Stories

OSC wrote:
Here's the story the Islamic puritans are telling: The West is full of terrible evils – atheism, sexual filth of all kinds – in defiance of God's will. So seductive are the wiles of Shaitan that many Muslims aspire to dress, act, and live like westerners. Only by turning to full enforcement of ancient Muslim law can Islam purify itself and resist the blandishments of the west. It's evil on one side, God on the other.

If all we had to answer them was Hollywood movies, politically correct anti-religious dogmas, and the other trappings of a West that is almost as decadent as the Islamicists claim, then we would only prove their point.

Instead, President Bush has offered something quite different. We don't want to turn you into mini-Americas, he says. We offer you, instead, democracy, in which you can choose for yourselves what parts of western culture to adopt. You will govern yourselves. It isn't a choice between wickedness and righteousness, it's a choice between freedom and oppression.

OSC continues to hammer on the same point, which would be valid if the premise were true. This is what we should be doing and are not doing.

OSC wrote:
In other words, through nation-building, through the promise of democracy, Bush has created a rallying point with far stronger resonance than anything the Islamic puritans have to offer.

I need to see evidence of this resonance, please. Yes, early on we were greeted as liberators. Do we have any ongoing Iraqi approval ratings for the USA and for Bush? From everything I've heard, our approval rating has plummeted; so much for resonance.

OSC wrote:
What is their program, after all? We'll take your sons and get them to blow themselves up in order to murder westerners! Forget the rhetoric – Muslim parents are human beings, and there is nothing more devastating than to lose a child. The only consolation is when it seems to be in a noble cause. But because of President Bush's promise of democracy, the Muslim puritan cause does not seem noble to more and more Muslims.

Yes, the American/Western message should be more powerful than the Islam Fundamentalist one. No, Bush has not succeeded in getting it across, if he ever really was trying to do so.

OSC wrote:
Even if they live in countries (or neighborhoods) where they dare not speak up – yet – they do not want any of their children to die just so that the rest of them can live and suffer in slavery to a privileged, selfish class of elitist tyrants.

President Bush's story offers the common people hope of living decent lives and seeing their children live to adulthood, to grow old surrounded by grandchildren.

The Al-Qaeda, Ayatollah story promises them dead children and the lash.

There are, of course, fanatics who will embrace Islamic terrorism because they choose to blind themselves to the truth and embrace the noble-seeming lies of the tyrants. Al-Qaeda does not lack for recruits.

But it also does not lack for people who fear and hate them. There are few pro-Al-Qaeda demonstrations on the Arab street. The people remember the images of liberated Iraqis tearing down the images of Saddam. And they know – because they have relatives and friends, they hear from merchants and travelers – that in most of Iraq, there is freedom and prosperity like never before.

Continuing to hammer on the same point, with more tugs at the emotional strings; are we supposed to ultimately cave in and accept, by sheer repetition, that Bush is somehow succeeding at reaching the hearts and minds of Iraq?

OSC wrote:
They're getting the story, at the level of gossip and personal anecdote, that the anti-American media – you know, Al-Jazirah and the New York Times – never report: The Americans really mean to give the Iraqis self-government.
  1. Apparently we are, in fact, supposed to start to believe it... and...
  2. Whoa, when did the NYT ever say anything like that?
OSC wrote:
You hear about the power outages in Iraq and it's always somehow Bush's fault. What nobody points out is that these outages come in places where Saddam barely offered electricity at all. The reason the new power systems can't cope is because the newly prosperous Iraqi people are buying – and plugging in – vast quantities of electrical appliances they could never afford to buy before! When a town that used to have two dozen refrigerators and washing machines now has two thousand of each, the old power supply is never going to do the job.

Um, Orson, dude, got any sources for this? If it's true, that would certainly be an encouraging statistic. But I haven't heard anything like this, and my gut feeling is that you're making that up because you want to believe it.

[edit] "Americans Won't Stay"

OSC wrote:
How do the Islamicist tyrants answer the obvious success and growing appeal of Bush's democracy program?

They kill people, of course.

But they also tell the story, over and over: "America will never stick it out. We'll keep killing Americans till they give up and go away, and then you will answer to us!"

Although it has the ring of truth, this is another unsupported statement. As much as the powers-that-be of Islam might like to have us out of the way, they may be just as happy to have an Evil Enemy around, accidentally killing civilians every now and then (whom the P-T-B have, of course, placed in harm's way for just such a purpose), so as to drive the fanaticism engine upon which radical Islam depends. So... got any quotes or data on this? Until that data surfaces, I have to dismiss this as an empty argument.

OSC wrote:
Until they believe that the Islamofascists are never coming into power, many people will remain afraid to commit themselves to democracy.

Although there certainly must be some truth to this. The question is, what is the balance? Are we doing more harm by staying than we would do by leaving? Kuwait didn't exactly collapse into chaos after we left, so it's not automatic. What is the sitation, really?

OSC wrote:
Under those circumstances, the remarkable thing is how courageously the Shiites of the south have embraced democracy, and how many of them are beginning to trust that we mean what they say.

Data? Quotes? This sounds like more wishful thinking.

OSC wrote:
But against Bush's promises and the actions of our brave and decent soldiers, the tyrants can set the behavior of Bush's political opponents, who are doing their best to promote the propaganda of the tyrants. Every Congressman who says "We must set a timetable for departure" is providing ammunition to the tyrants in their campaign of terror.

Again, this supposes that our withdrawal does more damage to the cause of freedom than does our continued presence. We don't know this; we just hear it asserted repeatedly. Where is the data? What does the military leadership think would work best? Has anyone considered any plans for a carefully-calculated tactical presence (i.e. not hundreds of thousands of troops, but a much smaller number with a few significant armaments and an intelligence network)?

OSC wrote:
Because even more than they fear terrorist bombs, the pro-democracy forces within Iraq and Afghanistan fear American withdrawal. Every speech threatening withdrawal is a bomb going off in Baghdad, killing, not people, but the will to resist the tyrants.

Again... says who? Quotes, please?

OSC wrote:
Bin Laden predicted it. The Democratic Party in America is following his script exactly.

Unsubstantiated. It always seemed to me that our invasion was following Bin Laden's script (and that was before I saw this article) – coming in with guns blazing.

[edit] Can We Win?

OSC wrote:
That is certainly not what most who call for withdrawal intend.

Why so? I want to win against terror, but I think our continued presence in Iraq is doing more harm than good on that score. I can only presume that OSC is equating "withdrawal of troops" with "losing" – which would certainly be true if this was a conventional "war". It is not, as he has pointed out.

OSC wrote:
They see Americans dying and they have no hope of victory. The Iraq War (as they call it) is costing lives and shows no sign of ending. Meanwhile, Iran is getting nuclear weapons, North Korea already has them, Syria and Iran are sponsoring continuing and escalating attacks on Israel -- how can we possibly "win" a war that threatens constantly to widen? Let's cut our losses, retire to our shores, and ...

Yes to the "Americans dying" part; absolutely No to the "no hope of victory" part – unless we continue to play the bully in the mid-eastern china shop, driving everyone there into the enemy's hands.

OSC wrote:

And will you please stop and think for a moment?

There is no withdrawal to our shores. American prosperity requires free trade throughout most of the world. Free trade has depended for decades on American might. If we withdraw now, we announce to the world that if you just kill enough Americans, the big boys will go home and let you do whatever you want.

Every American in the world then becomes a target. And, because we have announced that we will do nothing to protect them, we will soon be trading only with nations that have enough strength to protect their own shores and borders.

This is a straw man argument; OSC is suggesting that cries for "planned withdrawal" equate to "let's all go home forever, and lock the door". Nobody is suggesting anything remotely like that.

OSC wrote:

Only ... what nations are those? Not Taiwan. If they saw us abandon Iraq, what conclusion could they reach except this one: They'd better accommodate with China now, when they can still get decent terms, than wait for America to walk away from them the way we walked away from Vietnam and Iraq.

We cannot win by going home. In a short time, "home" would become a very different place, as our own prosperity and safety steadily diminished. Isolationism is a dead end. If we lose our will to protect the things that support our own prosperity, then what can we expect but the end of that prosperity – and of any vestige of safety, as well?

OSC expands on the same empty argument.

OSC wrote:
The frustrating thing is that if people would just look, honestly, at the readily available data from the Muslim world, they would realize that we are winning and that the course President Bush is pursuing is, in fact, the wisest one.

And again... which data are you looking at?

[edit] Mistakes

OSC wrote:
Critics of Bush love to cite the many "mistakes" his administration has made. Most of these "mistakes" are arguable – are they mistakes at all? –

Yes, they are, but I'm always willing to be proven wrong. The evidence has been sitting out there for over a year now, and it only looks worse and worse; very few positive things have showed up, and they are mostly trivial. Show me what I'm missing, please, and we can re-evaluate.

OSC continues...
and when you sum up the others, with any kind of rational understanding of military history, the only possible conclusion is that this is the best-run war in history, with the fewest mistakes. And most of the mistakes we've made are the kind that become clear to morning-after quarterbacks but were difficult to avoid in the fog of war.

You have just left reality. Come back soon!

OSC wrote:
Worse yet, Bush's opponents invariably depict these mistakes as being the result of deliberately chosen policies – a ludicrous charge, but one that is taken seriously by an astonishing number of people who should know better. The game, you see, is blame. It's not enough to say, Bush made a mistake. You have to say, Bush deliberately did it wrong for evil purposes and he must be punished.

The jury is still out on whether Bush was so stupid that he made these mistakes honestly, or whether the stupidity is just a cover for more sinister motives (i.e. a kleptocracy permanently run by Bush, Rove, and their ilk, possibly with some oil-based puppet masters calling the shots).

But certainly Bush's policies were deliberately chosen, and certainly many of them were monumental obvious mistakes if the goal was really as stated (i.e. spreading freedom throughout the world and nurturing it at home). Ask for details.

OSC wrote:
But let's accept the fairy tale that this war has been badly run. That still does not change the fact that on all of the biggest points, Bush has made exactly the right choice – and he has been the only one who has even seen the need to make those choices!

Ok, so now we're going to see a list of instances where Bush got it right, even if the Iraq war was handled badly. This has very little to do with why the Democrats are evil and must not be allowed to have power. Bush may have done a few things right, yes... but he has made a large number of tragic mistakes, and furthermore has been unwilling to listen to criticism. A Democratic congress will make it much more necessary for him to listen to criticism and hopefully prevent more tragic errors, so that we can get back to the business of successfully nurturing and spreading democracy (instead of accidentally killing it by "watering" it to death as we have been doing lately).

OSC wrote:
Take North Korea, for instance. Bush recognized instantly that North Korea, with China as its sponsor and protector, is simply beyond the reach of American power at this time. This will not always be true, but his administration is pursuing a careful, quiet, firm policy of diplomatic pressure on China to do what must be done to curb North Korean insanity.

What about Iran? The idea of a ground war in Iran – especially when we're still fighting in Iraq – seems impossible.

But it is also probably unnecessary. Because Iran's present government is not just hated, it is also losing its grip on power.

Not on the trappings of power – they control the "elections" to such a point that nobody can be nominated without the approval of the ayatollahs.

But government power – even in democracies – depends absolutely on the will of the people to obey. And when you rule by tyranny and oppression, the obedience of the people comes from the credibility of the threat of violence from the government.

The obvious examples are Red Square in Moscow and Tiananmen Square in Beijing. In Moscow, when Yeltsin and the pro-democracy demonstrators defied the tanks, the Russian Army did not open fire. Why not? Either they refused to obey the order to shoot, or the order was not given – but if it was not given, it was almost certainly because the tyrants knew that it would not be obeyed.

In other words, the government had lost the ability to inflict deadly force on its own population.

In Tiananmen Square, however, the government gave the order and the troops did fire. As a result, the tyranny continued – and continues to this day.

Tyrannies only continue in power when they can give the order to kill their own people and be obeyed.

In Iran, there have been several incidents in the past months and years where troops refused to fire on demonstrators. This is huge news (virtually unreported in the West, of course), because of what it means: The ayatollahs' days are numbered.

If President Bush invaded Iran on the ground, bombing Iranian cities and killing Iranian soldiers, he would accomplish only what Hitler did by invading Russia – uniting an oppressed people in support of a hated tyrant.

But, as was pointed out in a pair of excellent analytical pieces in the most recent Commentary magazine, we don't have to do anything of the kind.

Well, at least we agree about that. Invading Iran would be a mistake, for any number of reasons (I haven't started a page about it yet because I didn't think it was seriously being considered, although it has certainly been discussed an awful lot.)

[edit] Oil Is Our Weapon, Too

OSC wrote:
Iran's ace-in-the-hole is not its nuclear weapon – in their rational moments, even the most rabid of the ayatollahs must understand that if they ever used (or allowed someone else to use) a nuclear weapon, we would destroy them, period. That nuke is meant only as a deterrent – it can't be used any other way – and while there's a remote chance that Iran might allow their nukes to be put into the hands of some terrorist group, it would have to be a group they control absolutely. In other words, it would not be Al-Qaeda. (Though Hezbollah would be bad enough.)

I'm not so sanguine that the extremists would be loathe to use nukes; provoking Armageddon is one of the stated goals of some varieties of Islam (not to mention some home-grown varieties of Christianity here in the US). However, I tend to think that nukes would be too impersonal – you can't fight an A-bomb with a flaming sword – so it may lack emotional appeal. Here's hoping.

OSC wrote:
The real threat from Iran is their ability to shut down the Persian Gulf and cut off the world's supply of oil from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and the Gulf nations.

That would not really bother the United States – gas prices would shoot up on the open market, of course, but we can get by on oil provided by non-Gulf sources.

Not so for the rest of the world, though. And Iran is poised, with small boats and thousands of missiles, to shut down all oil production and transportation in the Persian Gulf.

What few seem to realize (according to the article in Commentary) is that Iran is far more dependent on oil revenues than we are on getting their oil. When President Bush determines that he has given the Iranians ample chance to demonstrate to the few rational statesmen left in Europe that there is no possibility of meaningful negotiations with the tyrants of Tehran, his obvious course of action is to shut down Iranian power in the gulf and seize their oil assets.

If we strike first, we can eliminate their ability to do mischief in the gulf quite readily. Their forces, however numerous, are pathetically vulnerable. Unlike their dispersed and shielded nuclear development capability, their military forces in the gulf are in obvious and accessible positions.

So are their own oil assets. They are as dependent on the Gulf to reach the world oil market as any of their neighbors. If we seize their oil platforms, destroy their shipping, and impose an absolute blockade on Iranian shipping in the Gulf – while eliminating their ability to damage anybody else's shipping – how long do you think the tyranny would remain in power?

Here's a hint: They'd run out of money very, very quickly.

Here's another hint: Their military is already refusing to obey their most outrageous orders. When the military finds themselves saddled with a government that has brought the destruction of most of their oil revenues, all because of their insane determination to take on the United States, how long before the ayatollahs are arrested and sent home? Or else made irrelevant by placing a "committee of public safety" above them, to veto their decisions and make peace with the West?

This suggestion at least strikes me as reasonable, and a smart way to wage "war" in the 21st century. I don't know that it would work (Iraq didn't exactly cave in under similar sanctions), but it's at least an option worth thorough investigation... and seems to me an obviously vastly better idea than reprising our bully role yet again.

OSC wrote:
Maybe it wouldn't turn out that way. But it's our best chance – and that's the chance that Bush is obviously preparing for. He has made no attempt to prepare the American people for an invasion of Iran. But he has made it crystal clear that Iranian misbehavior will not be tolerated – and that regime change is the desired outcome.

If Iran's ayatollahs were toppled, how long would Syria continue to misbehave? Answer: About fifteen minutes. Syria is a poor country. They are only able to make trouble because they have Iran's support.

Let us also hope that OSC's interpretation of Bush's posturing toward Iran is correct.

[edit] Shiites and Sunnis

OSC wrote:
Here's the other asset we have that no one seems to take into account when judging Bush's conduct of the War on Terror: We are really caught up in an ancient civil war between Shiites and Sunnis.

Al-Qaeda on the Sunni side and Iran's ayatollahs on the Shiite side have both been playing the same game all along. They don't seriously think that they can conquer the United States (yet) – so why have they been provoking us?

Because they're belling the cat. Or poking the bull with sticks. Why? Because they are performing on the stage of world Islam, putting on rival plays. Both plays have the same message: Look, we're the heroes who have God on our side, because we're the ones who have provoked the great Shaitan and gotten away with it!

Again, OSC sees what I see – the enemy has deliberately provoked us into playing the bully, and we have played our assigned role... though his spin is that the enemy "got away with it"; he seems to be missing that even when we retaliate and don't let them get away with it, we're still doing what they want by playing the bad guy.

OSC wrote:
Iran's Shiites had the upper hand for quite a while, bringing down one U.S. President (Carter) and getting another – tough-guy Reagan – to withdraw the Marines from Lebanon and then come begging to Iran's door in his stupid, cowardly arms-for-hostages deal.

Then Al-Qaeda had the upper hand in their play, showing the Muslim world that it was the Sunnis who were blowing up American boats and embassies and, finally, the twin towers in New York City itself.

It's all theatre. It's all an effort by Bin Laden to restore the Caliphate with himself, of course, as Caliph – spiritual dictator of the Muslim world. The goal? Not just to unite Sunni Islam under a Caliph again, but to then make war on and crush Shiite resistance. That is the prize. Only when it is won would a united Islam be ready to conquer the rest of the world, finishing the task that was left unfinished by previous waves of Muslim conquest.

I think we agree about the "theatre" aspect of terrorism's motives; what needs more careful analysis and investigation is our understanding of what our possible reactions might mean, in the light of the "plot" of this theatre. Are there any well-regarded writings on that subject?

OSC wrote:
Meanwhile, Iran's ayatollahs are trying to show the Muslim world that it is they, the Shiite leaders, who have God on their side. That was what the recent campaign in Lebanon was all about – to steal the glory back from Al-Qaeda.

But wait. It's even more complicated than that. Because there are other divisions within the Muslim world. Iraqi Shiites have no love for, and do not accept the authority of, the Persian clerics. Arabic-speaking Shiites have no desire to have Farsi-speaking Shiites rule over them.

So we have an amazingly convoluted situation in the middle east. Iran and its puppet, Syria, are cooperating support of the Sunni resistance in Iraq. Why? It's not because Syria's rulers are nominally Baathist as Saddam was – Baathism is dead. Instead, it's the ancient tribalism that is at the fore. Syria's rulers are members of a tiny religious minority that is an offshoot of Shia, and thus they help Iran maintain access to its Shiite allies in Lebanon partly in order to shore up their own position vis-a-vis their own mostly-Sunni population.

So why are these Shiites and crypto-Shiites supporting the Sunnis in Baghdad?

Because anything that keeps America distracted is good for them. And if the Americans do pack up and go home, then the Shiites can claim the victory – even though it's mostly Sunnis who are blowing themselves up in Israel and Baghdad.

"...anything that keeps America distracted is good for them." Point in favor of an exit plan. "And if the Americans do [leave]... the Shiites can claim victory..." I think I'm missing the point on that item.

OSC wrote:
Besides, the Sunni insurgents in Iraq are keeping the Iraqi Shiites off balance. The last thing the Iranian ayatollahs want is for Iraq to become a democratic nation with a Shiite majority, because at that moment it will be the Iraqi Shiite leaders who will have the most credibility as leaders of the Shiite wing of Islam.

So the leadership of the Iraqi Shiites are perceived as rivals by the ayatollahs of Iran. Thus the Iranians support the Iraqi Shiites' enemies – providing the weapons that are used to murder Shiites in Iraq.

It's an astonishingly twisted game – and as long as we don't do anything really, really stupid, like withdrawing from Iraq,

...

Like staying in Iraq when we plainly don't know what we're doing, and when our presence there is only exacerbating the situation (page to be created, but I've given some of the arguments already)

OSC continues...
all these various treacheries will inevitably lead to the fall of the tyrants in Iran, and therefore in Syria, and therefore the taming of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Bush's game is to keep from letting any of these faction unite, while preparing to deliver strategic blows that can bring down the ayatollahs at relatively little cost.

Bush has a strategy? News to me. Ok, if this is really his strategy, then I'm delighted to hear that he has one, and it's worthy of further examination. Where is this strategy discussed? Where is the data on how it is proceeding?

OSC wrote:
Every action has repercussions. Just as our withdrawal from Iraq would terrify and silence our allies everywhere, and embolden our enemies, so also would the fall of the ayatollahs – particularly if it is as the result of an American intervention in the Gulf – make waves everywhere. Democracy would be perceived as the wave of the future. Our friends in many countries would feel free to speak up for democracy and pro-American policies – and their enemies would be afraid to silence them.

North Korea might go through a paroxysm of defiance – but they would still understand the lesson. America will not be bullied by tyrants. We will stand for democracy, destroying our enemies at the "time and place of our choosing." Negotiations with North Korea would instantly take on a very different tone; and China's attitude, too, would become considerably more cooperative with us.

We've already discussed the "withdrawing from Iraq would be bad for our allies" statement. The rest of it is based on the presumed eventual fall of the ayatollahs, which is based in turn on the validity (and it is arguably valid) of the strategy Bush is supposedly pursuing. Show me the beef, and I'll be happy to do lunch.

OSC wrote:
This is the victory that awaits us – and it remains possible for two reasons only:

1. America's brilliant, brave, and well-trained military, which projects not just power but decency and compassion wherever our soldiers go, and

I'll go for that one. I used to be anti-military, but I've realized that they are not synonymous with war and killing. It is when they are misused (most notably as in Viet Nam) that more people begin to think of them that way.

OSC wrote:

2. President George W. Bush, who, regardless of his critics and detractors, has steadfastly pursued the only course that holds the hope of victory without plunging us into a worldwide war with a united Islam or isolating America in a world torn by chaos.

...and there he loses me, because he has not established the truth of this at all. Prove his earlier arguments, and I'd have to buy this one too.

OSC wrote:
Those are the scylla and charybdis that threaten us on either hand. If we do not win this containable war now, following the plan President Bush has set forth, we will surely end up fighting far bloodier wars for the next generation.

It's true that withdrawing from Iraq won't make Islamofascism go away. It might even make it worse, in the short run. It may get worse in the short run no matter what we do. My contention is that staying there exactly as we have been doing, with no real strategy and no exit contingency-plan, will do more damage in the long run.

OSC wrote:
And the rhetoric of this election proves that we have precious few politicians in either party who have the brains, will, or courage to be taken seriously as alternatives to George W. Bush in the guidance of our nation through this dangerous, complicated world.

If we, the American people, are stupid enough to give control of either or both houses of Congress to the Democratic Party in this election, we will deserve the world we find ourselves in five years from now.

I dearly hope that the now-dominant Democratic party proves him wrong, because the danger is very real.

OSC wrote:
But Bush, being the wise and moderate politician that he is, may actually be able to continue his foreign policy despite the opposition of a Democratic Congress.

"Moderate"? When was Bush ever moderate? Oh, he means with respect to foreign policy. I suppose that's arguable, if you grant that Bush's strategy is what OSC says it is; same with "wise".

OSC wrote:
What really scares me is the 2008 election. The Democratic Party is hopeless – only clowns seem to be able to rise to prominence there these days, while they boot out the only Democrats serious about keeping America's future safe. But the Republicans are almost equally foolish, trying to find somebody who is farther right than Bush – somebody who will follow the conservative line far better than the moderate Bush has ever attempted – and somebody who will "kick butt" in foreign policy.

Clinton wouldn't have appeared as such a clown if the GOP hadn't insisted on putting on a side-show. But seriously: I haven't noticed a preponderance of clowns in the Democratic party recently; who is he referring to, and what does he mean by "recently"? Examples, please, of Democrats being booted out for being "serious about keeping America's future safe".

Both parties are deeply flawed; the whole two-party system, in fact, is flawed, and what we should be talking about here is electoral reform – getting rid of gerrymandering, to start with.

OSC wrote:
So if we get one of the leading Democrats as our new President in 2009, we'll be on the road to pusillanimous withdrawal and the resulting chaos in the world.

This is an unsupported conclusion; Clinton supervised the successful Balkans intervention and the planning of the Bush-led invasion of Afghanistan. Should we create a chart showing foreign interventions and their degree of success, and correlate it with party affiliation? I don't know if it's worth the bother, but Democrats are hardly the utter cowardly isolationists OSC seems to want to paint them as.

OSC wrote:
While if we elect any of the Republicans who are extremist enough to please the Hannity wing of the party, our resulting belligerence will likely provoke Islam into unifying behind one of the tyrants, which is every bit as terrifying an outcome.

Amen to that, of course.

OSC wrote:
I hope somebody emerges in one of the parties, at least, who commits himself or herself to continuing Bush's careful, wise, moderate, and so-far-successful policies in the War on Terror.

If that is in fact what his plan has been, and if the data can be shown to support it...

OSC wrote:
Meanwhile, we have this election. You have your vote. For the sake of our children's future – and for the sake of all good people in the world who don't get to vote in the only election that matters to their future, too – vote for no Congressional candidate who even hints at withdrawing from Iraq or opposing Bush's leadership in the war. And vote for no candidate who will hand control of the House of Representatives to those who are sworn to undo Bush's restrained but steadfast foreign policy in this time of war.

Aw rats, those darn cowardly Democrats won. Better start learning the Koran.

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