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September 20, 2006

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Frank Warner

Liberals are for the little guy. Liberals defend the defenseless and free the oppressed. To liberals, liberation does not become “increasingly unpopular” just because a fascist enemy fights. To liberals, there is no peace without freedom, no liberalism without liberation.

Kevin

Those statements are entirely true for Conservatives and Libertarians as well, Frank. The only difference is Liberals want to help the little guy by supporting him with money, while the others want to help the little guy by making sure he can get a job and support himself. And it goes without saying that Conservatives and Libertarians are all for ending fasist regimes.

I still hold fast to the idea that Frank and Dean's definition of 'Liberal' went down the path of extinction about the same time the meanings of 'a gay old time' and 'a couple of boobs' changed so dramatically.

jj mollo

Whoa, I guess congratulations are in order Frank. This is an awesome response. That phrase has certainly grated on my nerves repeatedly since the war started. I made the mistake of thinking the reporters knew what they were talking about. It comes down to Bush explaining his policies, which he has been trying to do recently. He could still probably do a better job, but he does have other things to do.

I'm also glad to see your definition of liberalism being discussed. It really is not true that conservatives are in favor of helping the "little guy", because they really don't know who the little guy is. They think the little guy is some small businessman who employs less than 100 people. The former definition of liberalism was deliberately abused by Republican activists in order to remove the positive connotation that it has always held, deservedly. Time to take it back.

Mike

One poll does not give enough of an analysis to say that support for the war is increasing. Wait until it's a trend before you start jumping down the throat of the people doing their jobs.

Kevin

The little guy is those 100 employees. The employer is the middle guy. Both are very important. That idea was deliberately abused by Democratic activists in order to remove the positive connotation that it has always held, deservedly. But we already took it back. ;)

JMC

I suspect that the more "popular" the war gets, the more the phrase "increasingly unpopular war" is going to be used. It's the same old propaganda saw: Keep saying something often enough and loudly enough, and people will come to see it as the truth. Only one problem with that: This time, it ain't workin'.

George

Hey Mike:
I agree that one poll isn't enough. However, if you look at the trend, it appears there hasn't been a downward (i.e. "increasingly unpopular") trend since February. That is ample time to conclude that the MSM is wrong. There is no "down the throat jumping" here.

By the way, MSM is doing their job all right. When it comes to the job of misinfomation, they excel.

Frank Warner

I really don't expect reporters to start immediately referring to the "increasingly popular Iraq war."

I'd simply like to see corrections, retractions and apologies for the countless references to the "increasingly unpopular Iraq war" in the months when there was no evidence its unpopularity was increasing.

kcom

I've been sick of that stupid crap for a long time, too. They just repeat it because it sounds good. It's literally the boilerplate you referred to it as; it's devoid of all meaning. (Sort of like "Arab street".) If you asked any reporter who used that phrase to "show me the data", you'd most likely get a slack-jawed, "Uh. Well. Uh..." Reporters, as evidenced by that and numerous other examples, are simply intellectually lazy to a degree shocking for someone in their position of responsibility.

Frank Warner

And how has it made our troops feel in Iraq? Every week, they hear it's an "increasingly unpopular war."

From their point of view: Two weeks ago, our countrymen back home didn't like what we were doing. Last week, they liked what we're doing less. This week, even less.

How much effort would you put into a risky, even heroic job if you were told regularly that your friends think less and less of you for doing it?

Words have power.

kcom

I've always wondered about the simple statistical mechanics of it, too. How can something be "increasingly unpopular" for three years, week after week, and still have any popularity left at all, especially anywhere near 50%.

They do the same thing with violence reports and anywhere else they can fit the word "surge" in. Every statistical blip is a "surge" of some kind. When you look at the big picture averages, things in Iraq have often been pretty much the same for months at a time (not a good thing if you're looking for success) but not demonstrably worse either (even if you are one of those hoping for failure). Yet, so many surges occurred during those time frames you might wonder if there was a single person left alive in Iraq. By going with what feels right, or sexy, or will be most provocative, instead of what the facts actually support, the media is continually surprised by things like elections where 10 million people turn out peacefully to vote. Their incompetence and intellectual laziness is doing no one, as you note, any favors.

Here are a few of my other "overused by the media" phrases:

volatile - when it's used as an official part of the name of a city or province

restive - same as volatile above (i.e. some loser with a bomb blows up a fruit market full of children and suddenly the whole city is "restive" - no, it's been invaded by losers, why don't they report that?)

increasingly brazen (or bold) - when used to describe attacks using the exact same tactics the thugs have been using all along (not to mention the disgusting aura of unspoken admiration masquerading as concern that usually accompanies its use)

What a worthless, self-righteous, self-congratulating bunch of folks they are, by and large.

jj mollo

Invaded by losers, that's a very good point. When drug dealers take over a city street corner and start killing each other, no one says the city is "restive", or the situtation is "volatile". They say criminals are controlling the streets and terrorizing the citizens. There is no implication that the city folk sympathize with these criminals. We know that they do what they must and say what they must because of fear and intimidation, which is what is going on in Iraq.

Mike Johnson

This blog entry and just about all of the commentary accepts a major piece of misdirection. Namely, it equates support of a war with popularity. You can support a war, in the sense of wanting the United States to still fight it and win, even if you think that the United States is losing and will lose.

If you look at the actual poll results, http://www.foxnews.com/projects/pdf/FOX232_rls_web.pdf , questions 36 and 37 show that more Americans think that the United States will lose the war in Iraq than will win it, regardless of whether the next president is a Democrat or a Republican. Fox News didn't ask, and probably didn't want to ask, whether the US is winning the war in Iraq now. In light of the answers to related question, probably a majority would say that the US is not winning.

Personally I'm convinced that the United States has no chance whatsoever of winning the war in Iraq, in fact that it has already lost most of Iraq to Islamic extremists. I think that the right question is not whether voters "support" the war, but what they will think when they are finally told that the war is lost.

Actually the Fox News poll has a depressing answer to that too, again looking at questions 36 and 37. Democrats think that party affiliation won't have much bearing on whether the US wins in Iraq; most of them think that it will lose either way. But Republicans overwhelmingly believe (73% to 11%) that the US will lose the war in Iraq if Democrats are in control; they also overwhelmingly believe (63% to 19%) that the US will win the war in Iraq if Republicans are in control.

So the political course for Republicans is set. They will continue to believe that the US is winning the war in Iraq unless the next president is a Democrat. Then, boom, that Democrat snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Most Republicans will be furious; many of them will see it as high treason.

If the next president is a Republican, then the politics will be a little more interesting. Republicans will probably be disoriented for some time. They will have trouble believing that the United States lost. Some of them will feel betrayed that the man that they voted for pulled the plug on success. Others simply won't know what to believe or who to blame, except that they will be uniformly angry with "the media".

There is also some chance that the war will turn for the worse before Bush leaves office, in some way that even hits the Republicans in the face. For instance, the dysfunctional Iraqi government could be sacked. Or the day that more Americans have died in the Iraq war than in the 9/11 attacks (which will be early next year) could make a big impression. But probably Bush will be able to string his base along until he leaves, and the **** will really hit the fan with the next administration.

Frank Warner

It is difficult for any poll to measure the popularity or unpopularity of the U.S. military campaign to stabilize Iraq's new democracy.

The polling questions are inevitably unacceptable because they oversimplify.

When I hear, "Do you support/oppose the U.S. war in Iraq?" I immediately ask, is it the "U.S. war"? Isn't someone else involved? And then I get to the basic: Do I support "the war"?

I don't support war or even "the war." War is never popular with me. I support ending the war by winning it in freedom's favor. I know that if Iraq's democracy takes root, the odds are that fascist repression and war will not return there.

Maybe the polling question should be, "Are you in favor of continued U.S. participation in the Iraq war until Iraq's democracy can defend itself?"

Mike, it's clear you're hoping the U.S. loses the war in Iraq simply because you want Republicans to look bad. You have that poisonous Democratic Party team mentality, interpreting everything as Democrats against Republicans.

Give that up. It's democrats against totalitarians, and difficult as the battle is, freedom has to win.

Mike Johnson

I support ending the war by winning it in freedom's favor.

Then you "support" something that won't happen. Okay, Iraqis may be free in 50 years, who knows, but that isn't what you are talking about. It certainly won't happen because of the US invasion.

I "support" a profitable Amtrak, but that won't happen either.

It's democrats against totalitarians, and difficult as the battle is, freedom has to win.

In Iraq, no it isn't, it's totalitarians against totalitarians. The US Army is just kicking around and getting hit too. That's the whole problem. If it were democrats against totalitarians, it would be totally different. If you really think that it's democrats against totalitarians, you ought to be able to name some of these democrats.

It's clear you're hoping the U.S. loses the war in Iraq simply because you want Republicans to look bad.

No, it's the other way around. The Republicans should look bad because they started and then lost the war in Iraq. If your point is that I want the Republicans to look bad, then I must have some prior reason for wanting it. I can't think of a more serious reason for a politician to look bad than that he started a half-trillion-dollar, unwinnable war.

I am willing to be even-handed. The Democrats also spent about a half-trillion dollars (in 2006 dollars) on another unwinnable war that they started. That was the Vietnam war. They equally deserved to look bad for that war.

The word "unwinnable" is a little counterintuitive for war boosters, so let me explain it. It's not that the militias that roam Iraq are in any sense more powerful than the United States. No other military force in the world can directly defeat the US. But the US can defeat itself with stupidity. It can shoot itself in the foot with a war that damages its security. That is exactly what has happened in Iraq. The US Army is more fighting for Islamic extremism than against it. What you think you fight for and what you actually fight for can be two different things.

Mike Johnson

One more comment: The Fox poll clearly shows that it is the typical Republican voter, not me, who defines the war on terrorism in a completely partisan manner. That voter believes that Republicans would win the Iraq, but Democrats would lose the war in Iraq. It doesn't get any more partisan than that.

I don't see things in such a partisan way. The United States will eventually admit defeat in Iraq regardless of whether the next president is a Republican or a Democrat. Democrats cannot make 2 minus 5 equal 4 just like Republicans can't. 2-5 = -3 no matter what, and I cringe when I hear Democrats imply that they can do better.

Anyway, as I said, the heart of the matter is the war is anything but democracy versus totalitarianism. All you have to do see it is to name the Iraqi leaders who oppose Islamic fundamentalism. Or rather, fail to name them, because there aren't any.

Christopher Taylor

I love to read comments like Mike's because in 10 years he's going to have forgotten what an idiotic thing he said but its on the internet forever now.

Frank Warner

I'm happy for the debate. I'll think about it.

jj mollo

Mike,

In Vietnam we faced a fanatical enemy driven by an idealistic worldview. Our local allies were relatively unsure and unmotivated, certainly not idealistic, and unable to see a way to win. Our soldiers did not really understand why they were there.

In Iraq there are multiple groups of fanatics as well as determined nationalists, and many of our own soldiers believe in the righteousness of our cause and understand that the stakes are high.

Therefore, the psychological parameters indicate that a strong willed agent, such as ourselves, can impose an eventual outcome of our own choosing by playing adversaries against one another. In that regard, the war is indeed "winnable" if we choose to win it. The military parameters are not even an issue. The only issue remaining in question is the cost. Are we willing to pay it? Now or later?

Mike Johnson

In Vietnam we faced a fanatical enemy driven by an idealistic worldview. Our local allies were relatively unsure and unmotivated, certainly not idealistic, and unable to see a way to win. Our soldiers did not really understand why they were there.

In Iraq there are multiple groups of fanatics as well as determined nationalists, and many of our own soldiers believe in the righteousness of our cause and understand that the stakes are high.

This comparison of Vietnam and Iraq is a mixture of distortions and fair truth. To be sure, many American soldiers did not understand why were in Vietnam, just like many don't understand why we are in Iraq, and many did not understand why were fighting either the Civil War or World War I. But many soldiers in Vietnam believed in the mission in exactly the same way as many soldiers in Iraq do. That range of opinion is not really different and is in fact common to wars that America has both won and lost.

The key point about Vietnam is that it was strategically erroneous. The country and the troops were told a story about why it was good for America to fight in Vietnam. But it was actually bad for America to fight in Vietnam. If we had fought longer and harder in Vietnam, we would have lost worse. If we had quit before the Gulf of Tonkin, we would have lost relatively little.

The war in Iraq can be described in exactly the same way, even though it is strategically erroneous for somewhat different reasons. But one aspect that is common with Vietnam is, as you said, a complete absence of local allies. Grand Ayatollah Sistani is not our ally; he is an Iranian theocrat. Prime Minister Maliki is not our ally either; he is a graduate from the school of Iranian-sponsored Shiite terrorism. The speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Mashhadani, talks the same way as Yasser Arafat. President Bush has implied at times that each of these men is our ally, but it is just not true. (And I'm sure that Bush knows that it is not true.)

None of these men have as much real power as Moktada al-Sadr or Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. If Sistani is merely not our ally, these men are our complete enemies. The parties that they control largely won the Iraqi elections, and they also control large militias. They have so much power both within and without the government that there are no good ideas for how to fight them. They are much worse than the Sunnis that the US has been fighting for three years.

Anyway, since you mention cost, yes, the cost of the war in Iraq is enormous. By January 2009, it will have been more than a half-trillion dollars. But that does not mean that we will win if we pay some big-enough cost. On the contrary, we will pay the cost indefinitely until eventually we get tired of it and quit. What we are doing in Iraq is like treating pneumonia with leeches. (People really did used to treat pneumonia with leeches.) In both cases, resolve hurts more than it helps, despite noble intentions.

kcom

"Then you 'support' something that won't happen."

Excuse me, Mike, I'm just curious when you were granted your god-like omniscience? Make any kind of argument you want and feel free to hold any opinion you desire but don't try to tell me as a fact what will happen or won't happen. And, if you want to be taken seriously, cut out the patronizing "I'm the only one who knows anything" vibe that goes along with it, as evidenced by this sentence "[the question should be] what [voters] will think when they are finally told that the war is lost."

In case you haven't noticed, we're all grown-ups and any news organization that stooped to being that patronizing would, or should, be run out of town. Despite what you might think, all kinds of people make their own judgment about all kinds of issues every day without waiting to be told. Puh-lease.

Your entire comment immediately after my last post, was full of examples of you assuming your opinion was equivalent to fact and that we should respond as if it were so. I don't think the American people owe you a response to your opinion, unless and until we see your credentials confirming your omniscience.

I know this comes off, perhaps, like a personal attack but it's not meant to be so. It's meant as constructive criticism. I think you have some interesting points, some knowledge on the issue and something useful to say and/or discuss. I'd like to study it further but the patronizing wrapper it's all tied up in makes it almost unreadable at a certain point. If that's intentional, then I won't waste my time reading it and you have a good day, but if it's unintentional, then I wanted you to know.

psacman

I do agree with (only) one of Mike's points. Yes, the U.S. can defeat itself with stupidity - the stupidity of allowing a bunch of self-important, ignorant reporters (who mostly don't leave their Baghdad hotel rooms and take the word of local "sources" for their information) to dictate our policy in Iraq. It's the equivalent of letting our enemies tell us how we should feel about the war. The facts on the ground have no relevance to the news stories, and the reporters are too lazy &/or cowardly to actually scope out what's really happening. And if the facts happen to inconveniently contradict the reporters' worldview, then the facts can be "altered", which was Frank's original point in this whole exercise. If we're told often enough that the war is "increasingly unpopular", it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thank G-d there are bloggers like Frank & others who can hold the media's feet to the fire; and as we've seen with the infamous doctored Reuters photos, the blogs are finally starting to have an effect. Frank is the one "just doing his job", not the media.

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