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February 19, 2007

Comments

I hope the conclusion will not be "Stay the Course!" because the US would have won in Vietnam, if they had not run away from Tet.
OK, some will definitely come to that conclusion but I hope they will not be able to influence official policy.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if some power plays the same role that the CIA played in Afghanistan: supplying SAMs to insurgents to severely disrupt the air superiority of the occupying army.

It's all about the goals. When you set a goal like "stability" all it takes is a few bombs in soft targets to prevent the attainment of the goal.

Here, there's a double whammy. Suppose that as is reported, the JAM is more or less standing down in Sadr City. A persistent car bomb campaign from Sunni extremists will not only show Americans that "stability" has not been acheived, but will also show Iraqis -- specially those in Sadr City -- that the government/US cannot protect (and avenge) them as well as the JAM could.

The idea that we could displace the JAM in the hearts of militiamen's sisters, mothers, children, etc is farfetched to start with, but if we are unable to carry of the mission formerly undertaken by the JAM, then it's just one more big step down for the government. Which is, of course, a fine strategic reason for the JAM to stand down right now -- show the government to be impotent against the Sunni threat, and when they come back, they'll be greeted as heroes.

Well, we certainly have plenty of Walter Cronkites around – so the stage is set.

I don't know, OCS. I'm not seeing anyone with much credibility still in favor of the war, such that a turn against would be a big deal.

If Limbaugh turned against the war, though, that would be a pretty big deal.

If Limbaugh turned against the war, though, that would be a pretty big deal.

that's not scheduled to happen until January 20, 2009.

I'm not seeing anyone with much credibility still in favor of the war, such that a turn against would be a big deal.

Good point!

von: an interesting analogy, but maybe not so much a reprise, as a variation.

One main difference between the 1968 Tet Offensive and 2007's Baghdad Surge is that the former was a coordinated attack on an occupier by an "insurgency": in Iraq, it is the other way around. The two situations pretty much have to play out differently, both in terms of actual combat operations, and in how the reportage of them is handled by the media (on all sides).

Also: the principal shock of Tet was that it took place in a Vietnam which the US public had been assured (by its military and the media) was being "pacified", and carried out by an enemy who had been thought to be defeated and in disarray. Outside of a delusionary fringe*, few today, I think, would classify the US occupation of Iraq as any sort of "success": the expectations for today's operations, I think, are vastly changed from 1968.

*a large number of whom, unfortunately, hold high office in this Administration.

Um, hasn't the kill rate been something like 5K a month or even more? Perhaps the violence is in a bit of an upswing, but really, one would have to be paying no attention to the last 6 months - heck, the last 4 years - to characterize the current spate of violence as something that is even a standard deviation from what it's been plodding along at.

Really. Tet Offensive? It's been the bloody Tet Offensive for at least 6 months.

Glad you finally notice.

"like helicopters, as noted in a story broken today by NPR"

Minor note: this is a story about a Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan, not Iraq, and it's said to be due to mechanical failure, not enemy fire (though such reports often change).

But the relevance to a "Tet Offensive" in Iraq, is unclear.

(Not really a great analogy, for a long list of reasons, anyway, but I'll give ya a pass for a casual usage, and understanding what you mean, even if the analogy is fairly poor.)

OCSteve: "Well, we certainly have plenty of Walter Cronkites around – so the stage is set."

I'm quite sure there's no media figure in America remotely like Walter Cronkite today: the one news guy whom the majority of people watch on tv every weekday, and greatly trust: he doesn't exist.

Not to mention that there are actually more than 3 national tv news sources nowadays, and most people don't watch any of them regularly.

So I'd say we have a distinct lack of anyone resembling a Walter Cronkite, even remotely.

But maybe you meant something by that term that I'm not following: guys with glasses, or something. :-)

Or guys that use "hinterlands" in any of their sentences at all, straight-faced.

Sitting here waiting for the tow truck to come get my car, in case anyone's interested. Apparently there are still some aspiring car thieves who haven't yet mastered the Honda Accord, which is apparently one of the easiest cars to steal. Even the Honda dealership guy, when I told him what I needed them to fix, told me I should be able to start it with a screwdriver. I replied that there wasn't anything left to stick the screwdriver into, although there were a couple of wires hanging out. My extensive viewing of 24 didn't seem to include starting a car given those two wires, though. Usually you just reach under the dash, rip, and presto! the right three wires are right there, and stripped nicely to boot.

"...highlight our vulnerabilities and, ultimately, may overshadow any good news resulting from the surge."

Just preparing the Dolchstosslegende, which is actually morte important and useful than military victory anyway, huh.

There really are no useful analogies to Tet, so this must be about premptively seeking political advantage from defeat, if it happens. "We had it won, til the hippies and lefty media stole it out from under us."

Disgusting.

i move for a one-week moratorium on Vietnam references.

The Murtha Smear is On

"This potential legislation terrifies the Republicans. They face having to vote against ensuring that our troops are properly trained and equipped before they are sent into battle in Iraq. And after four years of the Republicans looking the other way while the administration over-extended our military, they know that it can't be done. Finally facing the possibility of acting in the best interest of the men and women of our military rather than continuing with their empty, mewling platitudes about supporting the troops, they attack. And the target is squarely on John Murtha's back."

The War is lost. Bush and the Republicans lost this war years ago. The.War.is.Lost.

Only one week?

Well, I suppose we can't have everything. Where would we put it?

Well, I suppose we can't have everything. Where would we put it?

I woke up this morning and everything in my apartment had been stolen and replaced with an exact replica.

Synchronicity?

OT: Bush = Jesus? only in B.W..

(link to B.J., because R.S./B.W. has blocked my I.P. Addr, thus preventing me from casting my evil gaze on their site)

Synchronicity?

Heh.

I woke up this morning and Slart and Ugh had been stolen, and replaced with exact replicants of Philip K. Dick's robotic head.

I woke up this morning and Slart and Ugh had been stolen, and replaced with exact replicants of Philip K. Dick's robotic head.

Hal nails it. Von, I can't say I'm following this.

Your point seems to be something like this:

Violence in Iraq has been really, really bad for years. The surge might have bought five days of relative calm. Also, some of the perpetrators of violence might be laying low to feel out the surge, and its implications. But in the meantime, there are still enough militants to maintain roughly the same level of violence that we have witnessed for the past 3 years or so.

And with that in mind, you suggest Tet? That now, as opposed to the prior 3 years of insurgent/militia violence, the insurgents/militia members are acting out of desperation and a desire to overshadow the...progress?

Maybe. I guess. Though might I suggest an alternative interpretation: same old, same old.

Maybe Von is just seizing on the occasion of the lunar new year (yesterday)? That's the biggest similarity to Tet I can see.

Ya know, it had really crossed my mind in 2003 that the entire purpose of the invasion of Iraq was to create a Dolchstosslegende. In other famous words, "there was no incompetence" but that the intention all along had been to lose the war and then blame Democrats, the press, whomever. The looting of the American Treasury a side benefit, and the bad treatment of veterans and wounded equally intended in order to create bitterness and resentment in the troops.

Talk about Deja Vu all over again, anybody seen John McCain's neo-Riefenstahl website?

As I said, in 2002 I thought:"This is an 8-12 year plan, and a lost war is the key."

The (potentially) scariest four words five years from now:

bob mcmanus was right!

"The.War.is.Lost."

No -- the war was won.

The.Peace.Is.Lost.

Except in Kurdistan. Which of course will also be lost, if we precipitously abandon Iraq.

"The.War.is.Lost."

No -- the war was won.

The.Peace.Is.Lost.

This is a distinction without a difference - at least in terms of addressing the initial comment. Either way, the conflict is lost. Whether you wish to parse that into different stages - perhaps as a learning/teaching exercise for future reference - at the end of the day, we are right where we are.

Except in Kurdistan. Which of course will also be lost, if we precipitously abandon Iraq.

Not so sure about this one. Who, exactly, is going to take Kurdistan should we leave Iraq? The Shiites? The Sunnis? Turkey?

Also, which political leaders are advocating for a precipitous withdrawal?

Pardon the open tag at the end of the second quote.

get these mummyfudgin italics off this mummyfudgin plane!!

Bob, that is weird enough and goofy enough that I can't put it past the Cheney machine.

Von, the problem with this sort of argument is that it leaves no room for the notion that, you know, things actually aren't going all that great for our mission in Iraq.

We're all familiar with the Dick Cheney iteration of this fallacy: the violence is nothing more than the insurgency's last throes. If there's a decline in insurgent attacks, why that's great, of course. And if there's an upswing in attacks, that just shows how desperate the enemy has become!

Von sees a parallel between the recent violence and the Tet Offensive; maybe yes, maybe no. But my question to him is simple: if the recent attacks are not merely a symbolic effort to break the will of the American public, but an actual sign that we're not having much success in taming the violence in Iraq, how are we to know? What are the empirical benchmarks by which we might be able to conclude, gee, the enemy can still grab a headline once in a while, but in the big picture we're making real progress? Because it all strikes me as quite faith-based.

What are the empirical benchmarks by which we might be able to conclude, gee, the enemy can still grab a headline once in a while, but in the big picture we're making real progress?

well, in that case, you need more data. for example, in, say, six months we will be able to tell if things are improving or if they're getting worse - more attacks, fewer, different attacks, poll numbers, etc..

then after we have that data, we can start to think about what we could possibly consider as a possible future course of action - but not until then. it would be premature to try to draw any conclusions a mere 4 years into this.

As to Update 2, I will gird myself as many times as I feel like, thanks very much

Von sees a parallel between the recent violence and the Tet Offensive; maybe yes, maybe no. But my question to him is simple: if the recent attacks are not merely a symbolic effort to break the will of the American public, but an actual sign that we're not having much success in taming the violence in Iraq, how are we to know?

I don't (know whether it's the former or the latter). I'm arguing -- inelegantly, perhaps -- that the notion that folks are all going to lie low and let the surge pass is not necessarily correct. Some -- probably the Shia -- will, because it's in their best interest to maintain as much force strength as possible for the aftermath. Others, however, may decide that now is the time to try to break the will of the US and actually attempt to increase the level of violence in Iraq.

Von- This is what I take the most issue with; "The true audience for such attacks is, of course, the US electorate."

I think its completely wrong to believe that any significant number of Iraqis is going to invest a lot of effort, or for that matter even much interest in the perceptions of the US electorate.

Iraq has had ~70% unemployment for years now, and at this point more than 10% of Iraqs population are either refugees or dead. The insurgents especially, have more important things to worry about than the opinions of a group of people so misinformed that most of them think Iraq had something to do with 9-11.

No...take issue is too mild. I think anyone who seriously believed, "The true audience for such attacks is, of course, the US electorate." is just plain crazy.

On the other hand someone who tried to circulate that idea without believeing it would just be despicable.

I largely agree with Frank.

Oops. I agree with Frank's 3:47 PM; not with his 03:52 PM.

Well, that didn't last too long.

The true audience for such attacks is, of course, the US electorate.

I think the problem with this is that it implies that, were the U.S. electorate to stop paying attention, the attacks might cease or at least decline by some significant percentage.

But, to paraphrase my comment of the other day: the presence of over 100,000 heavily armed foreign soldiers that don't share the language, culture, religion and alphabet of the locals is a sufficient condition for never-ending attacks upon said soldiers by said locals.

No...take issue is too mild. I think anyone who seriously believed, "The true audience for such attacks is, of course, the US electorate." is just plain crazy.

Why is it unreasonable to assume that Iraqi insurgents have some modicrum of strategic awareness? And why wouldn't they follow the debate in the US over the war? Wouldn't that be in their interest, just as it's in our interest to try to figure out what the Iraqi insurgency (and sympathizers) are thinking? The difference is that it's relatively easy to see the direction of US policy -- we have a bunch of folks giving speeches and the like. Not true for the Iraqis.

Now, obviously, acknowledging that some Iraqis may be playing to the US electorate is not the same thing as saying that the electorate should practice superviligence to ensure that no enemy, foreign or domestic, gets wind of the fact that democracies can be messy affairs. To do so would be to give up on democracy, the quintessential case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Public debate has it incidental disadvantages, sure -- but only the stupid or misguided prefer the alternatives!

On the other hand someone who tried to circulate that idea without believeing it would just be despicable.

Obviously so, because if you can't or won't understand someone's point, they must be evil. Res ipsa, et al.


Personally I don't doubt the various insurgent groups are aware of what's going on in U.S. domestic politics, but I think it's a huge stretch to say influencing the aforementioned is a primary goal of their grand strategy. A "happy" by-product, sure. But all politics is local.

btw, "modicrum" is a great typo.

btw, "modicrum" is a great typo.

By the update, von clearly removes himself from the group of Dolchlessors.

The varied and various components of the insurgencies are obviously playing to their own domestic and regional audiences, and I am still not certain if anyone but the innocent Iraqi civilians & the American people want the Americans to leave Iraq.

"On the other hand someone who tried to circulate that idea without believeing it would just be despicable.

Obviously so, because if you can't or won't understand someone's point, they must be evil. Res ipsa, et al."

von, I am not sure why you said what you said in response to what was said. This is not a question of "can't or won't understand someone's point", it is referring to the concept of someone circulating an idea that they themselves don't believe in in order to score certain points. And that is despiciable.

Why is it unreasonable to assume that Iraqi insurgents have some modicrum of strategic awareness?

The underlying assumption is that the violence in Iraq is directed at us, with the strategic goal of forcing us out of Iraq. This is a sloppy overstatement of a complex situation where the great majority of the violence has little to do with us.

When a Shia minister gets gunned down or a Sunni mosque gets blown up, I can't for the life of me understand why anyone's first assumption should be that it's all about us and that someone committed the act with the intent of convincing the American public that the violence is out of control. Surely we all understand, on an intellectual level, that the Sunnis and Shiites (and the various factions within those groups) have all sorts of sectarian rivalries. So why, then, do we indulge in thoughts like the ones in this post, where we talk about the perpetrators of Iraqi violence as having a primary goal of sapping the will of the American public?

Sometimes (indeed, often) a sectarian killing is just a sectarian killing.

modicrum

We aim to please, even when it's unintentional.

The activity has next to nothing to do with the surge. It's just the ongoing civil war, which has nothing to do with our internal political concerns.

It is time to stop seeing what they are doing through the lens of how it affects our local politics. Yes, there is a minuscule chance than some of the attacks have this secondary agenda in mind. But analyze the issue -- there have been hundreds of these attacks for years. Why are these particular ones now motivated to affect our domestic agenda, rather than the ongoing struggle in the country?

The true audience for such attacks is, of course, the US electorate.

I think you may want to replace "of course" with "I suspect". And, my vote is that you suspect wrong.

I doubt the Iraqi insurgents care much about what the American public think. I doubt they have any "audience" in mind. I think they just want us to leave. If we won't leave, they'll kill us if they can. I doubt there's much more to it than that.

Some insurgents and troublemakers have decided to lay low (whether in Iran or elsewhere).

From the link, I assume this refers to Sadr.

Here's a funny question. How does Sadr fall into the category of either "insurgent" or "troublemaker"? Both imply that his claim to political consideration is something less than legitimate.

Sadr and his family have been Shi'a partisans for a very long time. His father was killed by Hussein. Unlike many in similar circumstances, he and his family remained in Iraq. A section of Baghdad bears his family name.

How is he anything other than one of the more significant political actors?

Thanks -

One of the tactics of the surge, which is to create more local outposts, is almost certainly going to lead to attacks on those more exposed positions. vons' linked WaPo article refers to one such attack.

Since the surge automatically is going to result in more confrontations in order to retake control, it makes little sense to suppose that increased violence is an insurgent tactic intended to undermine domestic support for the surge. It is literally what we are seeking via the surge.

The only reason these attacks seem notable is because of the nonsense hype regarding the five-day lull as somehow showing the surge was working. And now the increased violence is supposed to be an attempt to undermine domestic support for that success? Please.

And why wouldn't they follow the debate in the US over the war? Wouldn't that be in their interest, just as it's in our interest to try to figure out what the Iraqi insurgency (and sympathizers) are thinking?

They probably do but not to the extent that where it makes any impact on their actions. By all means study their numerous interests and motivations and co-opt who you can.

But the GOP and their enablers have come down to the point where "message sending" i.e. Kerry sends mixed messages; the house resolution embiggens the smallest terrorist, etc. etc. The fact is "message sending" is pointless because you can never ensure that the "message" is the same one you want to send.

Of course the domestic colliary (sp?) of that thesis is that effective action and planning are less important than the will to win and managing public perception and attacking the biased, librul MSM. The whole of their strategy at this point seems to be "if you can't say something nice about the surge, perhaps you shouldn't say anything at all, you pinko-traitor-Commie"

The fact is debate about proper strategy and diplomacy (which, of course, only "rewards bad behavior" if you have a weak hand and is "negotiating with yourself" if you have a strong hand /snark) is the only thing that can strengthen our behavior. We cannot control the conclusions all our (varied) enemies draw from our "message sending" and due to cultural differences and experiences it seems highly unlikely that we can make them draw the conclusions we want them to.

Sometimes (indeed, often) a sectarian killing is just a sectarian killing.

True, it's like trying to solve the crime problem by saying "don't mention that crime is on the increase, it only emboldens the criminals."

And then we end up with more people (in absolute and per capita numbers) than communist China because we need to "send a message to the criminals" and show that we are "tough on crime".

Our discourse has sunk to such a level that whether a policy is effective at achieving its goals is less important than "the message it would send to group X" if we changed the course.

"the domestic colliary (sp?)"

Ah: plainly a misspelling of colliery: a coal mine, along with its various buildings. Though hwat the discovery of this new alternative energy source has to do with atttacking the librul media is more than I can fathom.

(/snark) (but I couldn't resist)

Hal nails it.

I take it back.

::chuckles::

Though hwat the discovery of this new alternative energy source has to do with atttacking the librul media is more than I can fathom.

noted without comment. (kidding)

" You may stop the girding now. Really, I didn't expect you to just keep on girding yourself like that. People are starting to talk."

I... I can't stop, von!

For the love of God, von! Somebody stop me from girding!

Checking for the etymology at dictionary.com, I see there is an adverbial form, girdingly. FYI

Forgive me if I'm repeating something that's already been covered; I saw this, uh, 'statemment' by Von referenced by Jim Henley, and didn't read the whole thread.

Statements such as 'americans are the audience' are part of the Dochlosslegende, as has been noted. Another way to put it is that the very people who've screwed it up are now basically blaming *us* for *their* screw-ups. I say 'their' because there are a number of people who had supported, have supported, do support and will support, these screw-ups. All the way into the ground.

The proper treatment for such people is one that you'd give somebody who screwed up something, despite every sound warning that you could give him/her, and who then looked you in the face and blamed *you*.

Namely, STFU and stop lying.

Thanks for reminding me why I don't come here anymore. You're about 2 months late on the latest Bush Tet meme.

A sad end to what was once a respectable site.

Barry: saying that the true audience people who blow up markets etc. have in mind is Americans is, in my opinion. wrong. (One audience among others, maybe. The true audience: surely not.) But there's a long way between saying that and the Dolchstoßlegende, and an equally long way between what von said and something that merits violating the posting rules.

SRV [Socialist Republic of Vietnam??]: Given that "the latest Bush Tet meme" is essentially nonsense, I'm not sure what the harm is in coming two months late to it. Since you appear anxious to be among the trendier believers of the improbable, I imagine we can bear your continued absence with the same stoicism - bordering on complete indifference - with which we have managed thus far.

***


Von: I agree with many of the critiques of your piece above, but would like to home in on a rather obscure, yet critical, aspect of your comparison:

The true audience for such attacks is, of course, the US electorate.

Others have pointed out how unlikely it is that "the true audience" [sic] of the current attacks in Iraq is "of course" just that. I have no new insight to add on this issue.

I can point out, however, that neither was the US electorate the "true audience" of the Tet Offensive, according to most Vietnam specialists. Rather the consensus among historians seems to be that Hanoi actually thought the offensive would succeed in RVN - for varying values of succeed, ranging from a complete "people's uprising" to the establishment of some "liberated" cities - and that its failure in those terms came as an unpleasant surprise to them. They were trying to carry out a revolution in Vietnam, and to that end trying to influence Vietnamese opinion (including "influencing" it at gunpoint, if appropriate).

After the fact, they learned that they had enjoyed something of a public relations coup in the USA, and they were more conscious of this factor in the remaining years of the war. But the assumption that Tet itself was intended primarily to affect US public opinion seems to be a variation of the rare "pre hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy. It is found (this particular error, not the fallacy in general) primarily among Americans, who tend in general to assume that everything that happens in the world is About Us.

It's not.

I... I can't stop, von!
For the love of God, von! Somebody stop me from girding!

Obsidian Wings - made on the Internet from girders.

Though hwat the discovery of this new alternative energy source has to do with atttacking the librul media is more than I can fathom.

Tsk, tsk. As any schoolchild know, it's "Hwaet" not "Hwat" -- obviously, you're going for the Old English for "listen up."

SRV: Thanks for stopping by. We try to be original in our memes but, frankly, sometimes we get lazy. So I had to resort to the whirl-a-wheel-of-insight -- the dart bounced off "Theme: Sound pretentious and deep by comparing the Demoracts to Nicias," so I was forced to throw again. Narrowly missing "Theme: Re-enforce independent cred by attacking right-wing blogger," it struck "Theme: Make a reference to Vietnam that puts Democrats in a vaguely bad light."

So I went with it, of course.

dr. ngo:

I can point out, however, that neither was the US electorate the "true audience" of the Tet Offensive, according to most Vietnam specialists. ***

After the fact, they learned that they had enjoyed something of a public relations coup in the USA, and they were more conscious of this factor in the remaining years of the war.

I thought about posting this idea, but making this point is complicated by the fact that Giap has claimed in interviews after the war (one example) that part of the planning for Tet was the intent to undermine the American will to continue to support the war.

Personally, I wonder if the North would have committed so much resource and suffered such egregious casualties on the premise that they would nonetheless benefit from a negative reaction from the American public. I think your description that the consensus among historians seems to be that Hanoi actually thought the offensive would succeed truthfully describes what motivated Tet. Negatively affecting American public opinion was more likely an unintended side benefit from a war policy that was mistaken in its premise but reaped this unexpected side benefit. Giap may be crediting himself with "genius" to cover up what was otherwise a blunder. If Tet had this intent, why waste so much resource on Khe Sanh pre-Tet as a diversion (a diversion before the main campaign allegedly not expected to succeed but just drive up casualties to affect American public opinion)?

And Tet influenced American public opinion primarily because the enormous amount of false propaganda spewing from the US government was exposed by Tet. That says more about the danger of a democracy fighting a war based on lies than about the alleged capacity of the enemy to undermine American will. That is the true lesson to take from Tet and apply to Iraq -- don't premise American public support for a war based on baloney. Also, don't try to sell fighting in a local civil war as part of some grander strategy to fight some larger threat.

I thought about posting this idea, but making this point is complicated by the fact that Giap has claimed in interviews after the war (one example) that part of the planning for Tet was the intent to undermine the American will to continue to support the war.

I tend to think that this is post-war revisionism on Giap's part. The important point for my purposes is that the NV, as well as others (here, I posit the insurgents) learned from Tet that an effective way to erode democratic support for a war.

Agreed, of course, that some of Tet's effects were self inflicted -- but, then, some of the current effects are as well ("Mission Accomplished," et al.).

I have actually enjoyed reading this thread, partially because I was particularly aware of Tet at the time it was happening, and because of how things look different in retrospect. A couple comments.

For those accusing von of saying the current situation is like Tet, he never said that. He said he is reminded of it. Two different things.

Although I think von overstated the "intent" part in regard to influencing public opinion, a do think one of the elements in Iraq is taking that into account, and that is al Qaeda in Iraq.

OBL has always indicated that he considers the American public as having little willingness to accept the loss of American lives. The emphasis needs to be on American.

However, I also think he has a pretty good grasp of GWB's character, and realizes just how stubborn he is. Thye "surge" therefore, plays right into al Qaeda's hands.

Where he may be making a mistake (emphasis on may) is thinking that if the US leaves, al Qaeda will have a free rein in Iraq. It wouldn't surprise me if al Qaeda suddenly finds itself in big trouble once we leave. At least that portion of it that is in Iraq, and maybe more so if we redirect some of our attention back into Afghanistan and the border with Pakistan.

According to intercepted internal AQ communication, AQ wants to keep the US bogged down in Iraq because it is the #1 recruiting tool. That the US could deploy those troops otherwhere is probably a positive side effect from AQ's POV.
OBL&Co would also probably be delighthed, if the US would attack Iran (or Saudi Arabia for that matter). It would go against their enemies and inflame the Muslim world even more (independent of sect/confession/religious school inside Islam)

Dr. Ngo:

It is found (this particular error, not the fallacy in general) primarily among Americans, who tend in general to assume that everything that happens in the world is About Us.

It's not.

Whenever Americans discuss international affairs, this statement should be put up in 1000-foot tall flaming letters in the sky, with fireworks constantly going off around them.

It's what I try to do.

The statement that's gotten Von into trouble here is this one:

The point is that the strategies are similar: an enemy seizes an opportunity to inflict high-profile casualties in order to establish (in Tet) that the North Vietnamese still had capacity to wage war or (in response to the Surge) that the pacification of Baghdad will be impossible. The true audience for such attacks is, of course, the US electorate.
My observation is that, as usual, sprawling generalities tend to go beyond simplification, and into being outright misleading, and that we're best served by looking at specifics.

Let's take yesterday, and actually look at the facts, as best we know them at the moment.

In a rare coordinated assault on an American combat outpost north of Baghdad, suicide bombers drove one or more cars laden with explosives into the compound on Monday, while other insurgents opened fire in the ensuing chaos, according to witnesses and the American military. Two American soldiers were killed and at least 17 were wounded.

The brazen attack, which was followed by gun battles and an evacuation of the wounded by American helicopters, was almost surely the work of Sunni militants, most likely Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, according to American and Iraqi officials.

By definition, an attack on Americans, not Iraqis. This one could certainly be argued as supporting Von's claim; there isn't going to be much of a better case.

Of course, one alternative explanation would be that the primary audience is the ummah, and the vast online jihadi audience of fans of stirring videos of the jihad's success against the Crusader/Americans. Some might find it more likely that this audience is the primary concern of the jihadi network, which goes directly from those making videos of spectacular or successful attacks on Americans, to the online Islamist-fan world, which applauds and celebrates the videos, and from which further recruits and supporters are encouraged.

But maybe the attackers care more about impressing Americans, whom they believe are accessing their videos, than they care about their fellow Iraqis and Islamists and jihadists. Maybe. As I said, one won't get much of a better case than an attack on an American base, other than a video directly addressed to Americans.

Next event reported from yesterday:

As the Iraqi government and the American military struggled to build public trust in the security forces, a Sunni woman publicly charged that she had been raped by members of the largely Shiite National Police, causing a furor.
I think we can assume this wasn't staged for a primarily American audience.

Next:

In addition to the assault in Tarmiya, militants on Monday struck at Iraqi security forces and government officials near Kirkuk, Ramadi and Tikrit, and attacked civilians near Falluja.
Proably done for local and specific reasons, I would think.

Next:

A family of 13 was killed on the road leading to Falluja, about 12 miles northwest of Baghdad, because its members were from a tribe known to oppose Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, witnesses said.

The family, including an elderly woman and two small boys, was dragged out of a minibus, lined up and shot. The bodies remained on the highway for hours because people were afraid they would be ambushed if they collected the dead, witnesses said.

Again, probably done for local reasons, rather than to be reported in America, I should think.

Next:

The family was part of the Albu Farag tribe, which has made an alliance with the Anbar Salvation Council. The council has been trying to undermine the militants, and its leader, Abdul Satar Abu Risha, was himself the target of an assassination attempt on Monday when a suicide bomber drove into his home in Ramadi. He survived, but five of his guards were killed.
Done for local reasons, I'd think.

Next:

In the west of the country, three marines and an Army soldier were killed over the weekend, the United States military said Monday.
Maybe that was done to get in American newspapers, rather than just to fight Americans and drive them out. Could be. Put it in the "Could Support Von's Claim" column.

Next:

Even as Iraqis and Americans stepped up security efforts in Baghdad on Monday, a day after bombs killed 61 people in a downtown market, there were at least three bombings and one mortar attack that killed 11 people, Iraqi officials said.
I would suspect that these are most likely to terrifify Iraqis, and are part of the Sunni-Shi'a sectarian fighting, but who knows? Maybe they were primarily to increase the sense of chaos in the eyes of Americans, rather than that of Iraqis. Consider it as possibly going in Von's column.

Next:

There was also an increase in the number of bodies found around the city after a brief lull, officials said. At least 20 bodies showing signs of torture were found on the streets of the capital on Monday.
I would think this is apt to be more sectarian killing; maybe it was done primarily to impress Americans, but I can't bring myself to think it likely. Von can argue it, though, if he likes.

Next:

An Iraqi unit, aided by American advisers, caught militants in the act of constructing devices known as explosively formed projectiles in a house in Hilla, south of Baghdad, on Saturday, according to the American military.
Seems like just another day in Iraq, folks doing their business; hard to argue that they deliberately got captured for the sake of American press, though, I think.

And that's all that's mentioned in that report, save for more detail on the various incidents, including the reported rape.

So, everyone can decide: how much of this sounds as if it were created for the primary purpose of being reported in America, and demoralizing us, and how much sounds as if it happened for reasons local to Iraq?

For more comprehensive judgments, run through this examination on each day's Iraq news. Then, if one wants to convince others of a plausible-sounding generalized observation, do so, perhaps, by actually using facts in one's arguments.

It's a pretty effective technique, I find, compared to simply stating a vague and assumed generality as fact ("of course").

Jim Henley has taken issue with Von, as well -- as have his own commenters (some of whom are commenters here, of course).

And Tet influenced American public opinion primarily because the enormous amount of false propaganda spewing from the US government was exposed by Tet. That says more about the danger of a democracy fighting a war based on lies than about the alleged capacity of the enemy to undermine American will.

This strikes me as an especially important point. The insurgency only has the ability to influence the American electorate by increasing the level of attacks because we were fed so much BS along the way about the true state of affairs on the ground. In particular, during the 2004 election campaign, it was especially critical for the administration to convince everyone that everything was going according to plan, we had turned a corner or two, and so forth. Those who claimed things were going less than swimmingly were smeared as defeatists rooting for an American loss.

A little more honesty might have gone a long way towards shoring up public support for the war effort. Fundamentally, we all just want to believe that the administration fighting the war has everything under control. When we hear deeply deluded statements ("last throes"), we naturally lose confidence. If the administration chooses to believe that people hate bad news, and thus they must be fed nothing but good news, they need to accept that there will be a shortage of confidence once the facts on the ground catch up with their misstatements.

"Those who claimed things were going less than swimmingly were smeared as defeatists rooting for an American loss."

That's the story of Vietnam, vis-a-vis the American government, through 1966-67, of course.

It didn't stop then, of course; it simply was unsuccessful enough by 1968 that a majority of Americans realized to at least some extent how much they were being lied to, and turned against the war. This was the famous original "credibility gap."

When the New York Times and Washington Post finally published the actual facts of the war, up to 1967, as recorded by the U.S. government, in the Pentagon Papers, in 1971, it all blew completely open, of course, and no one but those wilfully blind could deny the facts of the lies and deceptions, from the very Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that allowed Johnson's plunging us into full-blown massive ground warfare, to the way Johnson had lied to the public time and time again, about his plans to bomb and escalate, to endless strikes the U.S. public had never been informed of (including bombing Laos, and entirely separate country), and on and on. (Summary here.)

It's unclear to me if Charles has ever read The Pentagon Papers. (It's all right here!)

Chalk it up: Farber has convinced me. The “of course” phrasing of my post, and the implicit suggestion that the sole goal of the insurgency was to influence the US electorate, are mistakes. I stand by the rest, including the argument that affecting US domestic concerns is a significant (tho' not necessarily the primary) goal of the latest rounds of attacks.

Incidentally, when I cited this:

An Iraqi unit, aided by American advisers, caught militants in the act of constructing devices known as explosively formed projectiles in a house in Hilla, south of Baghdad, on Saturday, according to the American military.
I neglected to digress into a quite interesting point: these are the "EFPs," the ones we've learned can be easily made with copper disks, and moldable explosive, that constitute the major claim that Only Iran Could Supply Such Sophisticated Weapons, and Thus All EFPs Are Evidence Of Iranian "Meddling."

Yet here were ordinary "militants" making the dread super-sophisticated weapons in a house in Hilla.

"Chalk it up: Farber has convinced me."

Thanks, Von. Scanners do not live entirely in vain.

Well, "of course" -- not exactly the 16 words in the SOTU that should never have been spoken.

An attack on the Green Zone -- that would be something aimed at US public opinion.

As I can see from Cagle's daily political cartoons, the Dolchstoß (stab in the back) is already catching on with the editorial cartoonist right of center. Today I spot several with Congress sticking a knife into the back of US soldiers in Iraq (also popular are white flag waving donkeys).
I just hope the artists didn't know that they are imitating Nazi/DNVP cartoons likehttp://www.fkoester.de/kursbuch/img/13_2/Dolchstoss.gif> this .

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