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April 09, 2008

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Bring out the classics: "...the great triumph of their generation: forcing the U.S. to lose the Vietnam War...."

Ah, yes. It wasn't the North Vietnamese, and the Chinese, and Soviets, and the South Vietnamese, and the Laotians and Cambodians, who had anything to do with the U.S. losing the war.

It wasn't the lack of any kind of competent or remotely not overwhelmingly corrupt, South Vietnamese government, that had anything to do with the U.S. and the Southern regime losing the war.

It had nothing to do with Vietnamese nationalism. It had nothing to do with the quite insufficient number of South Vietnamese willing to fight and die for the regime, despite millions doing so over decades, heroically at times, and despite those who genuinely sought a democratic independent Vietnam.

And it had nothing to do with the the overwhelming majority of the U.S. citizenry having long turned against the war, and being unwilling to let more thousands of U.S. soldiers and civilians die to put off the fall of the South Vietnamese regime, by the time of Nixon.

"Peace with honor" had nothing to do with it.

And it had nothing to do with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger's conclusion by 1969, if not earlier, that a negotiated withdrawal, and almost certain ensuing collapse of the South Vietnamese regime, was the only possible end, and the only priority was to make sure there was a sufficient "decent interval" between the U.S. military withdrawal, and the end of South Vietnam as a nation.

No, none of these things are worth mentioning when mentioning why the U.S. lost the Vietnam War, let alone any of the many other reasons: it was the damned hippies who lost us the war.

Traitors. Liberals. Commies.

But I repeat myself.

Yeah I second that. First paragraph - "the 'left' sold us out in Vietnam"; second paragraph - "Neville Chamberlain"

What a joke of a 'scholar' and human being this guy is. Historically and morally illiterate.

But just for the sake of argument, let's assume that he's right. Let's assume there are substantial numbers of progressive Americans actively rooting against the effort in Iraq. If anyone is to blame for this unfortunate state of affairs, however, it's the administration and its pundit cheerleaders such as Kagan who have -- from Day 1 -- treated the war as a partisan weapon.

I don't know about this tactic publius. I think your point here is correct but I have a feeling it will only piss off people who don't already believe it. Hopefully I'm wrong.

The reason I'm suspicious is that this argument still operates within the frame that feelings matter: you're trying to tell war supporters "hey, even if all those liberals really do hate the troops, that's OK because Bush improperly politicized the war". If someone still thinks the war is a good idea at this point, I can't imagine that they'll be able to clear the mental hurdle of "those liberals want us to lose". Group identity and loyalty are powerful things and mere rationality doesn't stand much of a chance against them.

I think a better argumentative tactic would be to push the fact that feelings don't matter and that it is bizarre and pathetic to obsess about the random feelings of strangers. Alternatively, you could push the notion that it is hard to know what anyone really feels and that usually when people try to guess at other's feelings or motives, they guess wrong.

The beauty of attacking the "ZOMG! librulz haz bad feelingz in their heartz!" meme is that it appeals to a masculinity ethos that is a major part of the militarism culture in which so many war supporters live. Real men don't give a rat's ass about the feelings of strangers, they care about actions, so why is this Kagan loser losing his marbles over the fact that some people have feelings he doesn't like?

I find the idea that I want us to fail -- that I don't care about the Iraqi people having a stable government -- a mortal insult. Like the idea that I don't care about the troops.

This isn't the right place to say this, but then there isn't a right place, really: two more men from Andy's unit (which had 11 soldiers in all) were killed Sunday, when their vehicle hit an IED. My thoughts are with their families, and with the other members of the MiTT.

In the days before Andy was killed, people tried twice to put IEDs where his unit might drive over them. The first time they found it before driving over it; the second time, they disrupted people who were trying to place it.

I know that I might have no right to ask this, having put this in the middle of a political thread, but: go ahead and debate the war, but please don't use these deaths while you're doing it. Thanks.

One of my senior-year college instructors was a man who had held a very powerful position in the military before he ran into something and was put out to pasture at my state school. He gave me a ‘C’. After the military released him from service, he took a management assistant job to at some regional garbage incinerator to supplement his pension. Ha ha.

But he had a saying that sticks with me:

“You don’t wrestle with a pig. You’ll get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.”

The Islamic world in general and Iraq in particular is one big pig. If we want to maintain our values system, we need to establish a strict business relationship with the men who control the oil. They don’t want us in their backyard. Speaking for myself, I don’t want them in mine.

Unfortunately, I do not believe that a democratically elected President, be it McCain, Obama, or Clinton (or Gore), will have the strength to leave and face the images. We’ll be in Iraq until the grown-ups cut up the credit card.

Thoughts and prayers with those and their families who will be making the sacrifices that our weakness demands.

Not only does using war as a partisan weapon create screwed up incentives for those of us now, more importantly it unbalances incentives for making a good decision to go to war in the first place.

The single greatest failure in our path into war wasn't problems with intelligence or any military decision. it was that no one, journalists and Democratic leadership alike, had the desire or ability to demonstrate how politically motivated the decision to go to war was.

In the late 90s, a bombing strike ordered by Clinton created wall-to-wall "wag the dog" stories in the press. Where were these journalists in the fall of 2002?

motivated should've been manipulated... sorry.

I should have said: in this picture, one of the men who was killed is standing at the left. The other joined the MiTT after the picture was taken.

Brick Oven Bill: I'm sitting in the middle of the Islamic world at the moment. The people I have met are wonderful, decent, kind people. They are immensely hospitable, honorable, and decent.

Some Muslims, obviously, are not. They have Osama bin Laden. We have Tim McVeigh, the people who kill abortion providers, etc. But it's just as wrong to generalize about Muslims based on bin Laden as it would be to generalize about Christians based on the people who kill abortion providers, or veterans based on McVeigh. That is to say: completely wrong.

Hilzoy;

My Swedish Grandfather was a social worker who worked in Pakistan in the 1950s. My Dad spent his teens there. Got the picture of the herders on the wall. I’d like to think they made a difference. I’d like to think that you’ll make a difference.

I decided to read the texts after 9-11. They were not what I had expected. I wish you the best and admire your work. Take care and I’ll buy you lunch when you get back to the northeast. Stay safe.

First off, what hilzoy said.

The idea that there are more than a tiny handful of Americans of any political persuasion who want our military to fail for any reason is grossly insulting both emotionally and intellectually, and is just plain wrong.

Regarding the politics of it (prefaced by IMHO for all of this):

When you combine the current self-identification of the right as pro-war and the left as anti-war (see note*) with the natural tendency of people to rally around the flag in wartime the result is an asymmetric politics of war and a perverse incentive system (note: I do not mean to imply that either the right as a whole or individuals are compelled to act on these incentives or are lacking in other motivations) such that starting a war becomes a political win-win for the right no matter what happens subsequently:

1) If the war goes well, then anyone on the left who was not sufficiently supportive of the war can be branded as a coward and a demonstrably poor judge of events, hence their opinion should never be trusted again.

2) If the war does not go well, the right can trot out the Dolchstoßlegende and make political hay smearing left-wing opponents as traitors. Right-wing opponents of the war (e.g., Pat Buchanan in the case of the current Iraq war) are either ignored or redefined as left-wing on a case by case basis.

These conclusions do not apply if a war is started by a Democratic administration (e.g., Kosovo ), for reasons that make no logical sense but are derived from the prevailing media stereotype that the right is realistic and tough, while the left is weak and idealistic.


There is a further perverse incentive: it costs less political capital to start a war than it does to conclude one on any basis other than victory. This is probably because in the past long wars have (all other factors being equal) been won by the nation which is most determined to hang on to the bitter end, so a rational (i.e. historically grounded) approach to winning wars combines with the irrational psychology of sunk costs to make it very difficult to decide when to stop.

Consequently the anti-war side has to expend all or most of the political capital it can muster just trying to stop a war, which is an opportunity cost preventing other issues (taxation policy, spending on infrastructure, business regulation, environmental policy, etc.) from being addressed, not to mention the fiscal cost which undercuts domestic spending.

Thus the pro-war side gains a net political advantage from even a failed war, blocking the anti-war side from making headway on other issues. The pro-war side on the other hand does not seem to pay a comparably large political cost for starting a war, but instead is left free to continue with their domestic agenda undisturbed, perhaps because war and domestic issues are compartmentalized in the public mind at the beginning of a conflict.

In this sense wars are like a political option-ARM mortgage where the pro-war side gets to pay the bill for the first couple of years at an artificially low rate, and then hands the bill over to the anti-war side to pay when a rate reset looms and costs explode. This will never stop until the electorate demonstrates that the political cost for starting a war is greater than the cost of ending one.

I don't expect this kind of change in popular attitudes towards the cost of war to happen so long as we have a volunteer Army (not that this is the only reason for it). I think maybe it is time to consider bringing back the draft, and restructuring our military to make best use of a core of long-service professionals (i.e., today's volunteers) supplemented by a larger body of draftees, perhaps with many of the latter serving in a civilian corps which is tasked with infrastructure (re-)building and emergency response tasks.

While we are at it, we might want to consider devoting some large fraction of our military manpower to being trained and equipped for mainly emergency response, peacekeeping, constabulary, and COIN tasks, while the other fraction is preparing for high-intensity conflicts against a conventional military adversary. Recently we seem to have been swinging back and forth between these endpoints as a function of whichever conflict has the focus of our attention right now, rather than recognizing that we really need to be able to address both of these very different challenges, potentially at the same time, and this really will require two different kinds of Army.

(note* the current stereotype in US politics that right-wing = pro-war, left-wing = anti-war is a historically contingent association which post dates 1945 and especially 1968 in its origin. I don't mean to imply that it was always so or will remain thus indefinitely, nor to deny that a significant number of individuals depart from this stereotype.)

When we inevitably withdraw (particularly if it's a Democrat), it will be easy for the ultra-nationalists to adopt a "stab in the back" narrative that will further poison the domestic well.

The trick I think is to convince sane conservatives not to join them. Specifically, whether the "hangover" develops depends on whether fact-based conservatives remain focused on the facts or fall under the sway of the "blame the traitor liberals" narrative that Kagan is already pushing.

It's too late to think this won't happen, assuming that a Democrat gets us out, and probably even if it's a Republican. Even if you can convince any "fact-based conservatives" to focus on those facts, unless they actively reject it, every time it comes up, it won't matter. This is what happened with Vietnam, even though the moderate, rational conservatives didn't use the DFH trope, and would likely agree that it was false if asked, it still exists in modern America, and shows no real sign of abating. The majority of conservatives will gladly operate under the rubric that wins them elections, and even the "fact-based" ones will gladly take the tacit benefits even if they don't use it themselves.

Better to find ways to address it now instead of later, manage the narrative before it manages us.

First off, I don't like the Kagans and their neo-conservative ideology, no arguments there. Calling people with anti-war leanings "traitors" is un-American and dangerous to a proper democracy.

Second, speaking as just one military guy, an upsetting thing with regards to policy debate in America about the Iraq war is how heavily politicized it is. When Huffington Post runs a picture of McCain and Bush made up of soldiers KIA in Iraq, that's just disrespectful. It shows a certain callousness to the deaths of their fellow countrymen/countrywomen in that they would turn it into a political agenda. That's just one example.

A lot of this has to do with the cultural problem that America as a whole is disconnected from the military. We usually are hiding on bases in the States or deployed overseas. The current conflicts are paid for on credit, and the only time the public is going to get razzed is when oil prices go up or breaking news interrupts American Idol.

So, really I guess most of my bitterness stems from my generation's apathy about current events. I'm a traditional conservative with libertarian values, and I'm glad there is people being critics on the Iraq war, as it's necessary for proper discourse. I'm also here to dispel a lot of stereotypes about the military as uneducated rubes and yahoos, so that our small community of vets isn't marginalized. So feel free to ask me any questions.

But no the problem with the war on the American side isn't so much broad public debate, but rather just a lack of awareness.

Whether you want to troops to fail realy depends on what you think they are trying to achieve:

If you believe they are on a probably doomed mission to bring true democracy to Iraq - then of course you want them to succede not matter how pessimestic you are as to their chances of success

If you believe they are on a mission to capture Iraqi oilfields for a quasi imperialistic USA, well, I don't see why you should want them to "succede".

And if you think the likely outcomes of "success" are somewhere in between - then clearly you might be somewhat ambivelent.

Guys these are not football teams - these are other peoples futures, including Iraqis. If American success has no benifit for Iraq and Iraqis why should you wish for American "success".

LT Nixon: When Huffington Post runs a picture of McCain and Bush made up of soldiers KIA in Iraq, that's just disrespectful.

That's a fair point.

It shows a certain callousness to the deaths of their fellow countrymen/countrywomen in that they would turn it into a political agenda. That's just one example.

This is not. Yes, I can agree that using the photos in this way will certainly be perceived as disrespectful by some at least of the families of the servicepeople, and that their feelings have a right to consideration.

But, to target the artist with "a certain callousness" when Bush and Cheney are the ones who got those 4000 US servicepeople and over a million Iraqis killed in the service of their political agenda, and who ignore and deny these deaths because ignoring and denying works better for their political agenda than acknowledgement - that kind of misses the point.

In fact, at a guess, though I didn't see it, that was the point of the artwork.

publius wrote, "it's not even an argument."

That's exactly true. It's an appeal to emotion, to primitive, visceral feelings. The proper response is "show me the evidence for this 'generalized glee'."

This war vexes me deeply. I want to say that Bush violated one of the fundamentals of statesmanship by not uniting the nation behind the war to begin with. But that apparently isn't true. Most of the public--as far as I am aware--bought into the administration argument for war. It comes as no surprise, to people who opposed the idea of attacking Iraq from the very beginning, that the whole enterprise turned out to be a disaster and that therefore the public has turned against it.

But because I view the war as ill-conceived and illegitimate, not to mention morally corrupt, does that mean I have a vested interest in Iraq "being" a disaster? It's an awful question, but not without merit. On the one hand I don't want Bush to be rewarded for a depraved decision to pursue unprovoked aggression. On the other hand, ongoing mayhem in Iraq serves no one--in the entire world--with the possible exception of arms dealers.

But no the problem with the war on the American side isn't so much broad public debate, but rather just a lack of awareness.

I'm down with that 100%. And I believe wholeheartedly that if our news media wasn't so grotesquely distorted by the motivation for profit the public would never have swallowed Bush's sales pitch for invading Iraq.

If a disaster in Iraq would lead to Chain-Eye-ism to be discredited forever then that would be about the only positive outcome I could imagine (without saying that it is worth the life of a single decent being) but unfortunately I believe two things to be true:
1.Disaster in Iraq is inavoidable (as a result of applied Chain-Eye-ism).
2.This will not kill the beast but at best send it into hiding for a short while.
The zombies of GIs and dead Iraqis raising from their graves to take revenge on those responsible is, alas, just the domain of http://www.boingboing.net/2005/12/03/tv-movie-homecoming-.html>horror movies.

I’ve tried to stay out of this one for the most part because I reflexively tend to take one side. I realize though that it is an emotional more than a rational response. Realization doesn’t make it any easier though. It’s a struggle to push the emotional components back. I can manage to do it but the emotional aspects remain there in the background - and they never stop looking for the opportunity to leap back to the front, trampling over reason on the way. I couldn’t manage it at all if not for the example of principled lefties such as hilzoy and many others here.

So while the rational part is in control for a moment (I think): It’s only natural for people to look for and highlight events that support their position. Its human nature and it’s an even stronger impulse in pundits of all stripes. It’s not “glee” as in “I’m glad this happened”, but there can be a somewhat disagreeable “I told you so” smugness to it. And that opens the door for the other side to seize on it as an example that supports their position (look at the dirty smelly troop hatin’ hippies). Then the chorus joins in and says Amen and round and round we go…

OCSteve: I’ve tried to stay out of this one for the most part because I reflexively tend to take one side.

As Publius said: "The trick I think is to convince sane conservatives not to join them."

And you are a sane conservative.

it's a war where winning leaves us back where we started - even if Bush's stated goals (ever-shifting, and widely assumed to be not worth the effort) came to pass, we'd be no safer than we were before the invasion (less so, probably). what does it matter to the average American, other than a "U! S! A!" sense of pride, if we win or lose?

and it's a war the cost of which we do not all suffer - the death toll is relatively small; deliberately, there is no draft; and the financial costs have been deliberately deferred. for average Americans, this war is without immediate effect or cost. there are no WWII-style massive outpourings of civic effort to keep our war machines running - no rationing, no war bonds, no draft; there are no propaganda posters in hallways; there are no popular war songs, no movies glorifying The Cause. people are disconnected from the war. there is no common cause, no united front. it's just another activity Bush is failing at.

and again, this is for "most" people - the dead leave families and friends who feel the cost directly, but there are so few, compared to other wars.

the one place discussion of this war gets passionate though, is in a context where emotions and distrust already run high: politics; it's easy to use this war - again, one few of us experience directly - as another thing to beat your political opponent with. the Kagans can air their Vietnam-ear grievances; Sullivan can ironically accuse the coastal elites of treason; the GOP can use it to call opponents of being in league with "the terrorists"; etc.. they benefit from keeping the war as abstract as possible for most people.

if we had to pay even just the financial costs today, instead of deferring them indefinitely, support for the war would evaporate instantly. a draft would kill it for good.

LT Nixon, it's great to get to read the views of a thoughtful conservative and military guy on a left-leaning blog.

I know you mentioned the Huffington Post's picture just as an example, but there is just no comparison between a blog and Kagan, who helped come up with the surge strategy. The rot of politicization and domestic enemy-hatred in lieu or rational thought goes right to the core of the GOP, but not to the Democratic Party.

Also, I don't see the stereotype you describe-- "the military as uneducated rubes and yahoos"-- as at all widely held. I hope you stick around to comment a bunch, but not because there are bad stereotypes that need to be dispelled.

I don't really like this publius post so much, because I frankly don't like to entertain the idea that it might be rational to "root for failure" in the occupation. It means a lot of people die, we're worse off, and Iraq's worse off. I wish that the fantasy version of Iraq had come true. I (wrongly) supported the invasion initially, but I think this cartoon sums up the views of most of its opponents pretty well.

If one believes that:

a.) The Iraq war/occupation is an illegal, imperialistic enterprise.

b.) The presence of US forces in Iraq does more harm than good, i.e. more people are killed/harmed due to the occupation, less people would be killed/harmed if the US withdrew.

c.) There is no chance that the decision to withdraw will be reached anytime soon, i.e. the situation in Iraq will remain roughly as it is and McCain will be elected or Obama/Clinton do not really withdraw.

Then it is not wholly irrational or immoral to wish for the US troops to fail and the situation to get worse rather than better in the short term, since the only hope for withdrawal lies in the politicians responsible for the continued occupation being forced by either a gradual worsening of the situation or some truly cataclysmic event to change their minds on this.

OCS, it's not like every other utterance from supporters of the war, with regard to the successes of the surge, hasn't been "I told you so." For example, the comments of Rep. Hunter at yesterday's House Armed Services hearing.

One could look at the archives and see that I was saying this four years ago, but I think the President missed a very important opportunity when that Rove memo about how the war would be good for Republicans -- and the President's reelection. The President could have publicly fired him: there's no room in this Administration for anyone who plays politics with the lives of the men and women of our armed forces. This is not a Republican war, it is an American war.

This attitude would not have actually changed the underlying political facts -- success in war is good for the incumbent -- and it might well have led to a reelection of Nixon/Reagan blow-out proportions. As ever, though, Admin thinkers prefer 50% + 1 to reaching across the aisle for the 70% they can easily have by dropping the politics of resentment.

that should be Rove memo . . . was discovered.

I mostly agree, publius, but don't think it's fair to place 100% of the blame for polarizing the war on the GOP. The Michael Moore/Sean Penn types made a contribution, as did the Zell Millers and Joe Liebermans of the world. The GOP deserves about 90% of it, though.

As someone who thought the whole thing was a hare-brained idea from the beginning, I can attest to feeling the pangs of "I told you so" schaudenfreude when things went badly. I don't think that's rooting against the troops, so much, as rooting for the blame for the debacle that has cost so many of them their lives to be pinned squarely and unequivocally on the people who deserve it, e.g., the people who pushed the war, Republicans and otherwise, but mostly Republicans, who deserve to be electorally clubbed with it for the forseeable future.

Conservatives root for policy failures all the time. Their glee when a policy 'fails' (affirmative action, busing, sex education, unemployment benefits, etc.) is proclaimed loudly and obsessively.

Therefore, they are traitors. Q.E.D.

Thatlefturn:This will never stop until the electorate demonstrates that the political cost for starting a war is greater than the cost of ending one.

One way to do this is to increase the actual costs of starting a war, which then transform into political costs. One way to do that is to make it harder to start one by reducing the size and reach of our armed forces by a significant extent, closing our overseas bases and bringing the troops home from Germany, Italy, Qatar, South Korea, Japan, Iraq, Cuba, and some of the dozens and dozens and dozens of other places where we have stationed troops on others' soil, such that starting something like the Iraq war requires a draft. Then the nation can sit up and see if it is really worth it.

There's a reason that the founding fathers wrote into the constitution that congress shall have the power "To raise and support armies" and then limited that with "but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years." Standing armies are bad.

novakant, I agree with you on (a). I don't see a convincing argument for (b), though. Even if our presence is doing more harm than good, it doesn't follow that our absence would do more good than harm. As unproductive as our occupation has been, by far the most likely outcome if we withdraw precipitously seems to me to be the degeneration of Iraq into feuding pseudo-states, followed by civil war, followed by Kurdish secession and the likely Turkish intervention that would provoke, followed by an Iranian intervention on behalf of the Shi'ites, followed by God knows what kind of hellish regional chaos. As badly as the scalding lid of the pressure cooker is burning us as we hold it on, and as unlikely as it seems the boil is going to die down, letting the whole thing blow strikes me as an even worse alternative.


One of the big themes of the New Testament is that God doesn't much care what you claim about yourself. He cares about what's in your heart, and about what you actually do. Jesus said that some of those who say "Lord, Lord" to him will go to hell for their betrayal of his commands, and that some who don't acknowledge him or publicly show any respect for his authority will go to heaven for doing what he commanded we all do for each other. Paul added the complicating factor that making a big show of the right things for the wrong reasons won't help much, either, not if you're trying to hide an absence of actual good intention. Jesus' parables and the stories of his encounters with others in the gospels are full of this: the good men and women are the ones who do good, not those who talk holy.

Many of us aren't Christian, but all the major figures in the administration except Rove make much of their faith, and it's a good standard even in secular terms.

The administration came into power determined to make war on Iraq, and lied about it. Bush and Cheney authorized massive surveillance programs long before 9/11, while ignoring warnings about terrorism left over from the Clinton's staff.

Once the 9/11 attacks did happen, the administration lied about the risks to those heroic men and women who did the rescue work in New York and at the Pentagon, and continues to do so. And Cheney immediately seized on the attacks to use as justification for public war planning against Iraq. Osama bin Laden, the actual mastermind behind the attacks, was never more than an afterthought to them, and just a few years later Bush admitted that he scarcely gave bin Laden a thought.

A whole series of bogus claims came and went leading up to the war, and given the chance to prove their claims about Hussein's dangers, the administration failed every time. People with a reputation for honor sold it out to advance the campaign. It was all a sham anyway. There was literally nothing Hussein could have done to appease the war machine, with plans being made all the time Bush was insisting that the matter was open to discussion. But all the planning in secret didn't include anything like a plan for helping Iraq's people get back on their feet once the war was over, just arrangements for administration favorites in business to get rich various ways, and the designated head of post-Hussein Iraq was known to the administration to be an agent of the Iranian government. Furthermore, all of this was coming at the expense of effective fighting in Afghanistan, culminating in letting bin Laden go so that troops could be sent to Iraq instead.

The administration committed troops to the fight without reliable gear or training - there weren't any weapons of mass destruction, but if there had been, our troops would have suffered and died en masse, because they weren't anything like protected against the weapons the administration claimed were there. Whenever the Democrats tried to establish sensible criteria for troop readiness, Bush threatened to veto them, and all Republican Congresspeople fell in line at vote time, whatever independent talk they might engage in between votes.

The moral scandal of institutionalized torture justified by the most specious of claims about law and in deliberate rejection of all informed advice about effective interrogation is its own sin. And again, every Republican fell in line while Democrats tried to do anything about it.

The administration has fought every effort to investigate corruption and fraud in the war effort. It spent years trying to hide any sign of the human cost - when a TV news program proposed to give a respectful reading of the names of the dead, the administration's allies tried to shut the whole thing down. Nor will the administration authorize a tally of the dead and wounded of Iraq, leaving it to independent groups, whom it then condemns and lies about. Meanwhile, the administration hides the financial costs of the war by shortcutting the usual budgeting process, while slashing spending on soldiers' and veterans' families and the troops' own medical needs. When Democrats propose spending enough to meet these needs, the Republicans in Congress and their supporters in the media fight them every single time, and act as though facing the costs means hating the troops.

But tell me, who is actually acting to get troops properly equipped and trained, ready for battle? Fighting our country's actual enemies? Their families provided for when away, and their injuries treated? Their efforts supported by efforts to build the rule of law and justice in the countries where they fight?

Jesus said that those that said "Lord, Lord" but ignored his commandments would go to hell. I say that those who say "troops, troops" but will not support them with truth or competence can go to hell, too. Real respect for the hard work that is armed service is coming from those who opposed the war in the first place, and who in the second place have tried to see it conducted by high standards of law and justice. And it makes me crazy sometimes to see just how easily people fall for the "troops, troops" lie. But then the spiritual ancestors of the "troops, troops" shouters are exactly those who thought they could fool the son of God, too.

Lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende, as we say over here.
(Better a terrible end than terror without end*)

*doesn't completely transport the vibes, and original does not imply terrorism

don't think it's fair to place 100% of the blame for polarizing the war on the GOP. The Michael Moore/Sean Penn types made a contribution

Just out of curiosity, what sort of opposition to the war would you have regarded
as nonpolarizing? A bad decision to go to war ought to be polarizing, for heaven's sake!

there can be a somewhat disagreeable “I told you so” smugness to it.

In a perfect world, doubtless we'd find a way to remind you that you were wrong, and that you need to correct your mistakes, and that you need to avoid making the same mistakes in the future, and that you ought in the future to listen to the people who were right, rather than those who were wrong, without sounding smug. We're only human, though.

What Gary Farber said. No occasion for surprise: the updated dolchstosslegende has been in the works since the anti-Blix campaign, "Old Europe" and freedom fries.

One way to do that is to make it harder to start one by reducing the size and reach of our armed forces by a significant extent, closing our overseas bases and bringing the troops home from Germany, Italy, Qatar, South Korea, Japan, Iraq, Cuba, and some of the dozens and dozens and dozens of other places where we have stationed troops on others' soil, such that starting something like the Iraq war requires a draft. Then the nation can sit up and see if it is really worth it.

Some of these deployments can and should be drawn down/ended (and in fact, that's been happening in places where they're no longer needed, such as western Europe). But in other places they're still necessary. As much resentment as there is of the U.S. presence in South Korea, for example, if you ask Koreans a majority will say they don't want U.S. troops to leave as long as Kim Jong Il poses a threat. Ask Japanese and most of them would rather have the U.S. provide deterrent defense for them than bear the cost themselves. The military being the proverbial hammer that makes every troublesome situation look like a nail is a real problem, but that doesn't mean that having no standing military is necessarily a better alternative. If we'd done what you suggest in, say, 1999, we'd have really been up a creek on Sept. 12th, 2001, having to mobilize an entire armed forces from scratch with which to attack Afghanistan. Standing armies may be an evil, but at least to some degree they're a necessary one.

Before the invasion, Iraq was controlled by a brutal dictator. The US, for moral reasons, has been unable to duplicate Hussein's level of control. It raises the question, can there be stability in Iraq without a brutal dictator?

If we'd done what you suggest in, say, 1999, we'd have really been up a creek on Sept. 12th, 2001, having to mobilize an entire armed forces from scratch with which to attack Afghanistan. Standing armies may be an evil, but at least to some degree they're a necessary one.

not to get too "we had it coming"... but without a standing army, we wouldn't have troops in Saudi Arabia (or anywhere else in the M.E.), which would've taken one of OBL's chief complaints off the table. there might not have been a 9/11. without a standing army, we'd be less inclined to use it here there and everywhere.

But in other places they're still necessary. As much resentment as there is of the U.S. presence in South Korea, for example, if you ask Koreans a majority will say they don't want U.S. troops to leave as long as Kim Jong Il poses a threat. Ask Japanese and most of them would rather have the U.S. provide deterrent defense for them than bear the cost themselves.

While I'm less sure with respect to South Korea, my answer to both is "too damn bad."

And what cleek and Bruce Baugh said.

If critics had warned Napoleon on the infamous March to Moscow that his tactical successes were nice, but he was overextended and didn't have the resources to continue his campaign - it would not have meant that they were rooting for the Russians.

Saying "I told you so - now, will you LISTEN next time?" wouldn't have been rooting for the Russians, either...

Just out of curiosity, what sort of opposition to the war would you have regarded
as nonpolarizing? A bad decision to go to war ought to be polarizing, for heaven's sake!

Yeah, I'm with you. I was protesting against the war on my college campus in 2002/2003, and just as outraged as any liberal about having my patriotism impugned for questioning the wisdom of it. That said, I do think it was possible to oppose the war passionately without stooping to "Bush-is-the-new-Hitler" talk, and in my opinion, a responsible person should have done this.

but without a standing army, we wouldn't have troops in Saudi Arabia (or anywhere else in the M.E.), which would've taken one of OBL's chief complaints off the table.

Two points - 1.)given the Israeli/Palestinian situation, our support for corrupt Arab despots, etc. I doubt it would have made a difference in Al Qaeda's beef with us. 2.)If we'd had no troops in Saudi Arabia, Saddam's excellent adventure in 1990 might very well have resulted in him invading it, which could have caused all sorts of even worse problems, including but not limited to regional war and an oil-shock induced global economic meltdown. Again, just because the solution wasn't perfect doesn't mean it wasn't better than the alternatives.

When Huffington Post runs a picture of McCain and Bush made up of soldiers KIA in Iraq, that's just disrespectful. It shows a certain callousness to the deaths of their fellow countrymen/countrywomen in that they would turn it into a political agenda.

Do you think it's similarly disrespectful for Bush and his minions to justify staying in Iraq so those 4,000 "won't have died in vain"?

Also, what Jesurgislac said above: It isn't even controversial that Bush and McCain have politicized this war all to hellandgone, and even Petreus still won't say whether the debacle in Iraq is enhancing our security, so it's hardly unfair to point out that these American lives have been sacrificed on the altar of Republican political ambitions. I'm sure that isn't a comfortable thought, but it's curious that your problem seems to be with those who point it out, rather than those who use the military for political ends.

It’s not “glee” as in “I’m glad this happened”, but there can be a somewhat disagreeable “I told you so” smugness to it.

Steve, you are a sane conservative, so I'm glad you recognize the perversity of the DFH's being right being used to somehow undercut their credibility.

Waking up, I see that I put this comment there, intead of below my first comment in this thread, where I either intended it, or it does as well or better, as regards how and why the Vietnam war ended.

"These conclusions do not apply if a war is started by a Democratic administration (e.g., Kosovo ), for reasons that make no logical sense but are derived from the prevailing media stereotype that the right is realistic and tough, while the left is weak and idealistic."

Which isn't in the least incompatible, of course, with Bob Dole voicing the classic Republican line, as the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, that World War I, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, were "Democrat wars."

And it's true that Wilson, a Democrat, took the country to war, as did FDR, as did Harry Truman, and as did -- although the American roots started with Truman and Eisenhower -- JFK and LBJ in Vietnam.

Wilson fought for democracy, and FDR told us of the Four Freedom. Truman created the infrastructure to contain and withstand communism. JFK and LBJ, no matter how misguided, took up that banner. Jimmy Carter began the subsequent rebuilding of our military.

But Democrats aren't tough, and aren't willing to fight wars. (For better or worse.)

Sure, that's accurate.

italics off. Sorry.

Drat, never post before coffee. End of italics!

Italics, begone!

OT- I agree with Atrios.

We invaded Iraq, either to remove a gathering threat against us, or to insert a model democracy in the middle east, take your pick.

We defeated and then disbanded the Iraqi military, tried and hung the principals of its government, and killed its leader's sons.

We crushed the infrastructure of the country, and are just beginning to restore it to its pre-war capability.

We have sustained a military occupation of that nation for five years, in the face of significant armed resistance.

Our casualties, as bitterly as we do feel them, have been, frankly, fairly light. Especially when compared to the cost in lives to the Iraqis. As financially costly as the war has been, we will likely absorb it without extraordinary sacrifice.

After five years, we are considering making an orderly withdrawal, because our continued presence there may no longer be helping things all that much. The Iraqis have to sort out their own fate at this point, it's not clear that our contribution is constructive anymore.

If we do leave, and the worst happens -- civil war, internecine bloodletting on a large scale -- the greatest consequence to us going forward is likely to be that we will pay more for gas.

If you have a loved on the service, you've paid a high price. Higher than you deserve to. Otherwise, this war is something that has largely happened on the TV.

No American city lies in rubble. Barring servicepeople, no American citizen has been killed or physically harmed in any way. Again, barring servicepeople, noone has as much as missed a meal.

When I flip the switch, the lights come on, and when I turn the tap, the water runs. Gas and oil cost more, which is inconvenient, but they are available in whatever quantity I care to pay for.

It's only in the mind of someone like Kagan that withdrawal from Iraq at this point can be described as a 'defeat'. We've failed to completely impose our will on the nation of Iraq, but I don't think that's the same thing.

While I'm less sure with respect to South Korea, my answer to both is "too damn bad."

So instead of tying Kim Jong Il up by placing him in a situation in which overt aggression against his neighbors is impossible because he damn well knows it'd be suicidal going up against the most powerful military in the world, you'd let him take a crack at the much smaller and weaker South Korean military (which he very well might - his father did, after all), and thus possibly let millions of South Koreans - people living in a modern democracy, not to mention a key cog in the global economy - suffer invasion by a totalitarian dictator, an event that would also greatly hurt U.S. economic and political interests even leaving aside moral considerations? What ever happened to championing liberal values?
Are you intent on proving the GOP charge that Democrats are weak and irresponsible on national security?

CC: …it's not like every other utterance from supporters of the war, with regard to the successes of the surge, hasn't been "I told you so."

rea: In a perfect world, doubtless we'd find a way to remind you that you were wrong, and that you need to correct your mistakes, and that you need to avoid making the same mistakes in the future, and that you ought in the future to listen to the people who were right, rather than those who were wrong, without sounding smug. We're only human, though.

I’m not trying to justify anything here. Just offering a personal perspective on how this type of thing can be misinterpreted.

I don't think that's rooting against the troops, so much, as rooting for the blame for the debacle that has cost so many of them their lives to be pinned squarely and unequivocally on the people who deserve it, e.g., the people who pushed the war, Republicans and otherwise, but mostly Republicans, who deserve to be electorally clubbed with it for the forseeable future.

Word. I'd add the pundits and warmongering morons like Kagan, who have been wrong about everything with disastrous consequences, but are still treated as "serious" even as they polish up their loathsome Dolchstosslegende.

Kagan's screed is not unique to Kagan. It is the politics of conservative hate, even if you have to make up the facts to support the story line.

That is why the crap since the 70s about liberals selling out the US "victory" in Viet Nam is such a staple. These are people who hate first and make up baloney second in order to give it a gloss.

And unfortunately there is no polite or nice way to deal with such ideology. Kagan is vile and unprincipled, and it does no good to soft pedal the response to the moral depravity of fomenting hate as an ideological tool.

Xeynon - I'm perfectly willing to be convinced that the only thing (or the major thing) keeping North Korea from invading South Korea is the presence of US troops in the latter. If that's the case, then they can stay.

But the idea that US troops need to stay in Japan because the Japanese prefer that we pay for their security is ludicrous.

So instead of tying Kim Jong Il up by placing him in a situation in which overt aggression against his neighbors is impossible because he damn well knows it'd be suicidal going up against the most powerful military in the world, you'd let him take a crack at the much smaller and weaker South Korean military (which he very well might - his father did, after all), and thus possibly let millions of South Koreans - people living in a modern democracy, not to mention a key cog in the global economy - suffer invasion by a totalitarian dictator, an event that would also greatly hurt U.S. economic and political interests even leaving aside moral considerations?

We don't necessarily need to have the US Army in a position to be overrun in order to deter North Korea. Leaving aside the possibility that removing the US forces might reduce Kim's paranoia -- not that I'd bet the farm on the prospect -- an ironclad defense treaty like the one we have with NATO would do the trick. If KJI understood that any invasion of SoKo would be regarded as an attack on the US, the way the NATO mutual defense treaty works, hey presto, you have your deterrent without the ongoing troop presence.

What ever happened to championing liberal values?

Since it isn't necessary to maintain an overt military presence in SoKo in order to defend it, doing so or not has nothing to do with "liberal values."

Are you intent on proving the GOP charge that Democrats are weak and irresponsible on national security?

As we can see, the GOP will make that charge regardless of the reality.

Two points - 1.)given the Israeli/Palestinian situation, our support for corrupt Arab despots, etc.

again, much of this support is military, made possible by our standing army and perceived willingness to use it.

almost nothing about US foreign policy would be the same, if we didn't have that big army to swing around. all of our relationships would be different - some better, some worse; but all would be different.

2.)If we'd had no troops in Saudi Arabia, Saddam's excellent adventure in 1990 might very well have resulted in him invading it, which could have caused all sorts of even worse problems, including but not limited to regional war and an oil-shock induced global economic meltdown.

maybe, maybe not. and again, if we didn't have an army to use on a whim, there would be huge shifts in the political dynamics of that region. it wouldn't be 1990 but without the US pushing Iraq out of Kuwait, it'd be a whole different region.

OC Steve:

I’m not trying to justify anything here. Just offering a personal perspective on how this type of thing can be misinterpreted.

Unfortunately, I don't think the reaction you are describing is the result of "misinterpretation." Since 2002 when war talk first started, war advocates have been demonizing war opponents as unpatriotic, etc. in order to politicize the cost of war opposition. War supporters have been actively encouraged by the war advocates to think these ugly things about the war opponents.

If as a conservative you reflexively feel these ugly pangs, which seems to be what you are describing it your post, perhaps those feelings are the result of manipulation by those you trusted with regard to the decision to go to war. Perhaps they are the intended result by those war advocates who urge you to make your decisions based on their principles of hatred.

I get the sense that right-wingers enjoy watching the US military kill and get killed because it satisfies their desire for war porn and satisfies their wet dreams of “victory” and “honor.”

But then that’s a petty observation.

This, Bruce Baugh's 08:53 AM, is an example of why I worship him like a god -- almost -- and also provides an example of why I admire some Christians, as Christians, greatly, despite, you know, some unfortunate history (and my atheism).

LT Nixon: "A lot of this has to do with the cultural problem that America as a whole is disconnected from the military. We usually are hiding on bases in the States or deployed overseas. The current conflicts are paid for on credit, and the only time the public is going to get razzed is when oil prices go up or breaking news interrupts American Idol."

I agree; the military/civilian split is a very bad thing indeed, and I mostly blame civilian culture, and to some degree some elements of of the left I regard myself as part of.

All I can say is that I try to do what little I can about it.

So instead of tying Kim Jong Il up by placing him in a situation in which overt aggression against his neighbors is impossible because he damn well knows it'd be suicidal going up against the most powerful military in the world, you'd let him take a crack at the much smaller and weaker South Korean military (which he very well might - his father did, after all), and thus possibly let millions of South Koreans - people living in a modern democracy, not to mention a key cog in the global economy - suffer invasion by a totalitarian dictator, an event that would also greatly hurt U.S. economic and political interests even leaving aside moral considerations?

OK, I call foul. Aside from this being perhaps the longest sentence I've ever read, it's promoting a total straw man argument.

Ask anyone who's served on the DMZ. Our current forces in N. Korea are a speed bump. They are no more capable of stopping the North than the South Korean forces.

That most powerful military in the world would have to deploy to either defend or liberate S. Korea. Unfortunately they are a little bit tied up right now.

cleek:

I don't know if the point is really about standing armies per se, but about an all volunteer army that ends up being used like mercenaries by the Cheney's of the world (they volunteered for it!).

You can have a standing army created as a result of a draft or other form of compulsory service, and not have the current political problem in which the burden of going to war is not borne by the citizenry in general. I think this factor, as noted already by Gary, has more to do with the politics of opposition to the Iraq war than any other factor -- people had no expectation of suffering from the war, and were therefore more easily committed to war.

The fear of standing armies as of the time the Constitution was drafted was based on models that existed at that time for standing armies, which were basically private armies for the benefit of the monarch, and the soldiers were not drawn from the general citizenry. The concept of a citizen army resulting from a draft was not the European model in 1789 -- it first appeared in the following decade as a product of the French revolution (levee en masse).

Also, US troops in Japan are stationed mainly in a region (Okinawa) with people that are considered by many Japanese as "not really of us". So, there may even be a "benefit" of US troops misbehaving (mild form of the old French custom of dragonnades, so to speak).

A credible threat towards North Korea concerning aggression towards the South would probably do the same job as stationing troops there. I doubt that US infantry would actually be the force to repell a Northern invasion at the start anyway.

As for resentment towards US troops that would have to be seen in context. From Germany I know that people love to complain about US garrisons but on average don't actually want them to leave (although West Berlin may be a special case. Railing strongest against what you love most is a trademark). So, if public opinion is used as an argument one would have to look closely, whether it is true sentiment or just facade (that can go in both directions).

But then that’s a petty observation.

Petty, stupid, and a useless generalization. Not to mention insulting in exactly the same way that hilzoy is insulted.

Puzzling why you chose to post it, though, after you'd realized that it was petty. Maybe you were striving for extreme irony, in which case please disregard this entire comment.

Ask Japanese and most of them would rather have the U.S. provide deterrent defense for them than bear the cost themselves.

That depends on which Japanese you ask. The ones who bear the burden of hosting Americans (primarily in Okinawa, which hosts 75% of the US bases in Japan) have made their desire to have Americans leave clear any number of times. Current government policy is to pour money into Okinawa. Furthermore, goverment pressure on the media has prevented widespread reporting of protests, for example here.

The recent case of a Okinawan 14 year old has not generated some protests, but not in the way the 1995 incident, which forced a revision of the SOFA agreement, did.

But the idea that US troops need to stay in Japan because the Japanese prefer that we pay for their security is ludicrous.

Yeah, I don't think that's sufficient reason either, and in the case of Japan, I'm willing to concede that Kim may not be enough of a clear-and-present danger to justify our continued presence. It's open to debate. I don't think it's an open-and-shut case to pull them out, though - the vast majority of troops stationed in Japan are either Air Force or Navy, and hence could readily be deployed to defend SoKo as well.

an ironclad defense treaty like the one we have with NATO would do the trick. If KJI understood that any invasion of SoKo would be regarded as an attack on the US, the way the NATO mutual defense treaty works, hey presto, you have your deterrent without the ongoing troop presence.

Maybe. The thing is, SoKo is a small place, and if we had no troops whatsoever in the region, and no standing military anywhere to move there posthaste, the North Koreans could quite possibly overrun it by the time we got our act together. If they control the entire peninsula, all of a sudden the overwhelming superiority of our military isn't such an advantage anymore. The 50,000 or so troops we have stationed there are a speed bump - you're right, Dave - but that's all they need to be, because they're enough of an obstacle that they'd prevent Kim from achieving any kind of quick victory before we could bring in reinforcements.

Since it isn't necessary to maintain an overt military presence in SoKo in order to defend it, doing so or not has nothing to do with "liberal values."

As to whether it's necessary, see what I said above. Re: liberal values, though, I was responding to what I felt was a rather flippant remark by Ugh that at least came across to me as evincing a lack of concern for our democratic allies.

I don't know if the point is really about standing armies per se, but about an all volunteer army that ends up being used like mercenaries by the Cheney's of the world (they volunteered for it!).

true.

i suppose i was assuming a standing army is a handy tool for Cheneyism. if we had to man the army from scratch every time we wanted to use it, it would be less handy and therefore less tempting to use.


Xeynon - I'm perfectly willing to be convinced that the only thing (or the major thing) keeping North Korea from invading South Korea is the presence of US troops in the latter. If that's the case, then they can stay.

But the idea that US troops need to stay in Japan because the Japanese prefer that we pay for their security is ludicrous.

IIRC the stationing of US troops in places like Japan (post-1952 in Japan's case) originated in part as a Cold War counter-proliferation measure, the idea being to suppress the desire of US allies and clients to acquire nuclear weapons of their own for deterrence purposes. These deployments may have outlived their usefulness in this regard, or not. Would things be better or worse on the Korean peninsula today if South Korea possessed their own nuclear arsenal? What if the Japanese felt the need to follow suit?

Lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende

Ironically this was one of the main underlying arguments in making the case for war, so I'm not sure if it's wise to use it in making the case for ending the war - it might come back to haunt you.

Personally, I don't know what to think anymore on this issue, but I do know that we have an obligation towards the 2-5 million refugees/displaced and I think we should focus on what can be done to help them.

Someone may have mentioned this above and I missed it, but Kagan's statement that oil prices rose during the Iraq-Iran war in 1980-88 is transparently false. Historical oil prices are, like everything else these days, incredibly easy to find on Google. So I looked them up. Oil was selling for $37.42 in 1980 as the high prices brought on by the energy crises of the 70's were beginning to wane. They declined every year thereafter (the years of the Iran-Iraq War), hitting $14.87 in 1988. These low prices put a huge strain on the Soviet Union at the same time that Reagan was ratcheting up the pressure on them by raising our defense spending (in the Reagan myth anyway, which of course contains a few grains of truth). They also put a huge strain on oil companies (I know, boo-hoo) and tens of thousands of jobs were shed. Auto manufacturers and consumers took advantage of these low prices by respectively manufacturing and purchasing ever-larger vehicles.

But anyway, Kagan just flat lied about something he felt was worth a bullet point in his published piece. This utterly cavalier disregard for the truth runs through his entire piece and everything he's written. It is shameful that the right believes that it has no obligation to the truth.

you'd let him take a crack at the much smaller and weaker South Korean military

It's a little OT, and I'm not up on these things as much as I might once have been, but my general impression is that the ROK army is a pretty tight outfit.

I think they have about 500,000 standing and about 5,000,000 in reserves. We have 30,000 folks there. Maybe it makes sense for us to be there, maybe not, but I don't think we're the thin line holding back a North Korean invasion.

My general impression is that it's the North playing defense, rather than the other way around. At least, at this point. I could be wrong.

In any case, IIRC the ROK army has a pretty solid reputation as a tough, competent force.


The fear of standing armies as of the time the Constitution was drafted was based on models that existed at that time for standing armies, which were basically private armies for the benefit of the monarch, and the soldiers were not drawn from the general citizenry. The concept of a citizen army resulting from a draft was not the European model in 1789 -- it first appeared in the following decade as a product of the French revolution (levee en masse).

The problem we have now is that increasingly sophisticated military technology and the training requirements imposed are driving us from a 19th - 20th cen. style of mass conscription based citizen army back towards an 18th cen. long-service professional army.

The European 18th cen was the period of "cabinet wars" which were started and stopped by elite decision makers with little input from the population as a whole. This is what Washington, et. al. were warning us against.

Democracy and mass conscription are related to each other - it is no coincidence that Democracy replaced other forms of government during the era of mass infantry warfare. To the extent that we are exiting that era, our politics may become less democratic over time.

SoKo is a small place, and if we had no troops whatsoever in the region, and no standing military anywhere to move there posthaste, the North Koreans could quite possibly overrun it by the time we got our act together. If they control the entire peninsula, all of a sudden the overwhelming superiority of our military isn't such an advantage anymore.

Oh, yeah, our military would be helpless in the face the NKors controlling the entire peninsula. Right.

Presuming that the US gets to maintain a standing Navy and Air Force -- the latter isn't provided for in the Constitution, but bear with me -- it's silly to suggest the US would not be able to retaliate against North Korea for invading, even short of the nuclear option, and KJI knows it.

I'll note you didn't address my suggestion that the removal of US troops might lessen KJI's paranoia.

The 50,000 or so troops we have stationed there are a speed bump - you're right, Dave - but that's all they need to be, because they're enough of an obstacle that they'd prevent Kim from achieving any kind of quick victory before we could bring in reinforcements.

As you said, maybe -- and then again, maybe not. In any case, though, you've hardly established that the presence of US troops around Seoul -- which you concede aren't enough to stave off an invasion by themselves -- is any more effective a deterrent than anything else the US can muster. I too am willing to be convinced that they are, but so far you haven't delivered.

The concept of a citizen army resulting from a draft was not the European model in 1789 -- it first appeared in the following decade as a product of the French revolution (levee en masse).

The first point here may be correct, but I think the second is not.

The idea of a citizen defense force based on universal obligation goes back a very, very long way, at least in the English common law tradition that our politics derives from.

I could be misunderstanding the history here, but my take is that this goes back at least to the Assizes of Arms of 1188. That itself is often seen as a revival of an even older tradition, reaching back to Alfred the Great's hundreds.

It's possible to see a historical line when there really isn't one there, but in this case I think there is a very long, even ancient, common law tradition of obligatory military service by common citizens.

To the extent that we are exiting that era, our politics may become less democratic over time.

I agree with this completely.

Did any of us have a choice about the war being turned into a partisan thing? The whole reason Bush et al *could turn it into a partisan* weapon was that *invading Iraq* only made sense as a strategy from a wholly republican perspective. As a progressive Democrat I did not then think (and have not now changed my mind) that it *made sense for us as a country* to bomb an innocent civilian population, to engage in pre-emptive war, to present false evidence to the UN, or to invade and try to occupy a fragile state--whatever the ostensible purposes. From a purely patriotic and selfish standpoint all these things seemed utterly wrongheaded, to me. There was no argument that Bush could make to me then that made these make sense. And in fact he *didn't* argue that these things made sense for me as an American citizen. He split the country rhetorically into people who would benefit from the war and people who wouldn't and he very specifically claimed to be going to war for all those "real" american citizens who were republican and who supported a violently militarist and imperialist solution to america's problems--whether oil or 9/11.

I couldn't sign on for that project because it was a profoundly unamerican project (to me) but I'd say I wasn't even asked to sign on. This whole "you support the troops" or you "don't support the troops" thing which the right keeps pushing doesn't make any sense to me. No one asked me if I supported the war--no one was interested--and frankly my support or lack of it in the form of tinkerbell like enthusiasm for the soldiers as fighters in Iraq is neither here nor there. As an american citizen and a taxpayer and voter I would put my "support" for the troops over any republican I could name since I happilly support the funding, equipping, and medical care our soldiers and their families need--something that our own govenrment and the republican party do not. If I don't support any particular deployment I am no more "against the troops" than I am "against cardiologists" when I suggest, mildly, that a heart operation is not needed for a patient with appendicitis.

aimai

"As much resentment as there is of the U.S. presence in South Korea, for example, if you ask Koreans a majority will say they don't want U.S. troops to leave as long as Kim Jong Il poses a threat."

Pew, 08.22.03:

[...] Half of South Koreans surveyed in May 2003 by the Pew Global Attitudes Survey held an unfavorable view of the United States, up six percentage points from July 2002. Anti-Americanism has risen particularly sharply among the young. A year ago, half (51%) of the 18-29 year olds surveyed had a somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of the United States. This year, seven-in-ten (71%) young South Koreans expressed such views.

In most nations, critics of the United States say their sentiments reflect opposition to President George W. Bush, more than a general problem with America. But in South Korea, 72% of those who hold unfavorable views of the United States express general hostility toward America that goes beyond criticisms of the president.

U.S. efforts in the six-party negotiations on North Korea may be further complicated by widespread sentiment in South Korea that Washington acts unilaterally in foreign policy. Three-in-four South Koreans (76%) believe that the United States does not take into account South Korean interests when making international policy decisions. Such criticism of U.S. unilateralism is shared by publics in Russia (71%) and Japan (59% in 2002) – two other nations that are parties to the Beijing talks.

South Korean disapproval of the conduct of U.S. foreign policy reflects public opposition to particular American international initiatives, including the war on terrorism and the Bush Administration's policy of preemptive military strikes against U.S. foes. Seven-in-ten South Koreans (71%) oppose U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism. More than half (55%) of South Koreans also say that it is rarely or never justified to use military force against countries that may seriously threaten South Korea, but have not attacked it.

Nov. 24th, 2004:
[...] A recent online poll conducted in conjunction with one of South Korea's newest online news websites, the Frontier Times, indicates that about 20% of Koreans surveyed believe the South should ally with the North in the event of a US attack, with a further 30% not sure which side they should take. Of course, the specific phrasing of the question and the manner in which the poll was conducted can affect the efficacy; however, anecdotally, the numbers seem roughly consistent with what is felt on the ground in South Korea: most specifically, the undecided 30%.
June 8th, 2004:
[...] Survey data suggests that South Koreans have been increasingly critical of the US since the 1980s, and that negative views have become more widespread since George W. Bush took office. An August 2002 poll by the Pew Research Center revealed that South Korea ranked eighth among the 44 countries surveyed in terms of unfavorable attitudes toward the U.S, with higher rates of disapproval than Indonesia and India. Only 53% of South Koreans had a favorable view of the US, while 44% were unfavorably inclined.
July 6th, 2006:
[...] Anti-Americanism is rampant in Korea, starting with President Roh Moo Hyun. An expert at the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Larry Niksch, reported last week: "Polls have shown majorities or substantial pluralities of South Koreans in favor of the withdrawal of U.S. forces."
Another account:
[...] In February of this year – in a much calmer situation, I do admit – a survey of the younger generation was done that focused on the question “If the US [unilaterally] strikes North Korea, what should Seoul do?”

In a survey done by the Korea Times and Hankook Ilbo in February 2006, 1000 youth between the ages of 18 and 23 were asked that question. 48% said that Seoul should act on Pyongyang’s behalf and demand that Washington stop the attack. Some 41% said that ROK should take a neutral stance, while 12% supported the US.

[...]

Turning specifically to the question of the opinion of the young voters on US Armed Forces in Korea, I would like to share with you some of Korea Gallup polling done in 2003. Admittedly, this information is a few years old, but it is interesting data nevertheless. In a question with 203 respondents, 3.9% called for immediate withdrawal; 51% for gradual withdrawal; 26.8% “after a proper term;” 16.4% indicated that US forces should stay indefinitely, and 1.8% had no opinion. Those 50 and above (239 respondents) replied 1.8% for immediate withdrawal, 19.8% for gradual, 34.8% after a proper term, 34.6% wanted US forces to stay, and 9.1% had no opinion (Korea Gallup DP2003/09/24, http://gallup.chol.com). This latter group, as little as we may like it, is decreasing in number. In 2005 the minimum age for voting was reduced to 19. The election in 2007 will have 4.2 million additional voters. And of these voters, 50.1% consider themselves “progressive” (Korea Times 21 February 2006).

If we, as Americans, are disturbed by these youthful trends, we must face up to the reality that two thirds of the Korean population is under the age of 40. Of the voters under 40, some 32% had a good view of the US. Voters over 40 and in the 50s had a 69% favorable rating.

"...if you ask Koreans a majority will say they don't want U.S. troops to leave as long as Kim Jong Il poses a threat."

What cites do you have on that, please? Thanks!

Incidentally.

"As much resentment as there is of the U.S. presence in South Korea, for example, if you ask Koreans a majority will say they don't want U.S. troops to leave as long as Kim Jong Il poses a threat."

I have a comment regarding this being held in the trap. Please someone to release? Thanks!

I think they have about 500,000 standing and about 5,000,000 in reserves. We have 30,000 folks there. Maybe it makes sense for us to be there, maybe not, but I don't think we're the thin line holding back a North Korean invasion.

Every South Korean male aged, I believe, 20 or 21, is a member of the military. They're not all in combat-ready brigades, though. Broadly speaking, however, you're correct - they do have a large and well-trained army, and we aren't responsible for the bulk of the defense of the ROK. NoKo's army is much larger, however (upwards of 1 million standing), so they would still need our help in the event of an invasion.

My general impression is that it's the North playing defense, rather than the other way around. At least, at this point. I could be wrong.

I think that's correct - but I'd argue that's the whole point. If Kim's too busy playing defense to attack anyone, we can wait until he dies and someone hopefully more liberal replaces him.

The problem we have now is that increasingly sophisticated military technology and the training requirements imposed are driving us from a 19th - 20th cen. style of mass conscription based citizen army back towards an 18th cen. long-service professional army.

A very good point. Conscript armies aren't really very good at fighting today's war.

Oh, yeah, our military would be helpless in the face the NKors controlling the entire peninsula. Right.

Presuming that the US gets to maintain a standing Navy and Air Force -- the latter isn't provided for in the Constitution, but bear with me -- it's silly to suggest the US would not be able to retaliate against North Korea for invading, even short of the nuclear option, and KJI knows it.

Yeah, of course we'd be able to retaliate. And we'd eventually be able to win. The thing is, at what cost? Millions dead on each side, minimum - Seoul is located less than 100 km from the border. If keeping 50,000 troops in South Korea provides an additional deterrant to prevent a war, isn't that a pretty small price to pay?

I'll note you didn't address my suggestion that the removal of US troops might lessen KJI's paranoia.

I agree with you that there's reason to doubt this. Firstly, if our 40,000 troops aren't really the decisive factor in the ROK's defenses, then by the same token they shouldn't be any cause for concern about an invasion on his part. Secondly, Kim's a Stalinist dictator - paranoia is his whole M.O. and the way he clings to power. Nothing we can do will change that.

I think the best policy on North Korea is to keep it on a tight leash and make sure it doesn't disseminate any nuclear or other weapons until somebody more amenable to change than Kim comes into power. There's room for some carrots in that approach, more than the Bush administration has been willing to offer IMO - but keeping troops in the south is fine as the stick part of the strategy.

Ack... sorry about those italics. Too late at night...

Better.

italiexo!

Yeah, of course we'd be able to retaliate. And we'd eventually be able to win. The thing is, at what cost? Millions dead on each side, minimum - Seoul is located less than 100 km from the border.

A fact that isn't changed by keeping 50,000 American troops stationed there. Indeed, your "speed bump" argument pretty much presupposes that garrison getting wiped out, delaying the NKors enough to prevent them taking, say, any more of the peninsula than up to Pusan. Which simply adds that 50,000 cost to the millions dead on each side, while doing nothing that you've established to prevent it.

It's the "millions dead on each side" -- which would surely include KJI from a dedicated effort to decapitate the regime -- that deters him. You still haven't established how our presence there is any more of a deterrent than an ironclad, NATO-style defense pact.

If keeping 50,000 troops in South Korea provides an additional deterrant to prevent a war, isn't that a pretty small price to pay?

But you haven't established that keeping 50,000 troops in South Korea does in fact provide an additional deterrent to prevent a war. I think we've had enough of justifying military policy based on dubious hypotheticals and assertions.

dmbeaster: If as a conservative you reflexively feel these ugly pangs, which seems to be what you are describing it your post, perhaps those feelings are the result of manipulation by those you trusted with regard to the decision to go to war. Perhaps they are the intended result by those war advocates who urge you to make your decisions based on their principles of hatred.

Not exactly. I reflexively jump to the defense of the military at any perceived slight. I have to be careful not to take someone’s apparent satisfaction at being proven right by events to be satisfaction with the actual events.

The American troops in South Korea have a political function more than a military one. They are not so many as to have a strategic impact, that is, the North can hardly consider them a menace given the balance of forces on each side. On the other hand, they represent America's commitment to defend the South in the event of an attack, which is why the Korean government would not want them to leave.

A treaty--which I'm sure already exists--does not at all provide the same kind of reassurance. Both North and South might calculate that, in the absence of American troops, a rapid surprise attack might conquer the South before the US has the time to join the fight decisively. Washington would then be faced with a fait accompli. Washington might well decide not to try to reconquer Korea from an opponent with nuclear weapons.

The fact that a Northern offensive would have to drive through 50,000 US soldiers, on the other hand, would make it almost inconceivable politically that America would not join the fight with conviction, as we saw at Pearl Harbour.

The fundamental guarantee of deterrence is that American blood would be spilt with Korean.

Sounds as if we definitely need to start withdrawing from South Korea, doesn't it?

"Xeynon - I'm perfectly willing to be convinced that the only thing (or the major thing) keeping North Korea from invading South Korea is the presence of US troops in the latter. If that's the case, then they can stay."

I'm not convinced that we're doing much to stop it. South Korea has an excellent army, would win in a fight with a North Korea not supplied by China, and has completely different ideas about how NK diplomacy should be dealt with than we do.

We should withdraw all of our troops from there immediately or in short order. South Korea doesn't need our guarantee, and whether the actual number wanting us out is just below 50% or just above it, it is far too many people to be stirring up resentment for no good reason.

Although I dunno when my longer comment will show up, released from spam prison, I have to point out that there are 28,500 U.S. troops deployed to South Korea, not this "50,000 troops" number you guys keep throwing around.

And the phrase you want is "trip wire."

And of course the approval rating of almost (if not all of) our entire government being what it is, perhaps we should throw the lot of them out and start afresh.

I actually wasn't thinking of that when I said we ought to get out of Korea, FWIW.

Great. I not only can't even post a single link, I can't repost the same sentence with no link.

My point was that there are 28,500 is the current number U.S. troops deployed to South Korea, not "50,000 troops."

Also: "trip wire" is the cliche of choice.

I have to be careful not to take someone’s apparent satisfaction at being proven right by events to be satisfaction with the actual events.

That's well said OCSteve.

"Sounds as if we definitely need to start withdrawing from South Korea, doesn't it?"

One way to look at it is that it's 28,500 troops very badly needed in Afghanistan.

And thanks to whomever, Seb or Slart, Slart or Seb, for releasing my 11:43 AM comment.

South Korea has an excellent army, would win in a fight with a North Korea not supplied by China, and has completely different ideas about how NK diplomacy should be dealt with than we do.

I'm sure that that the Korean government is not nearly so sanguine about the possibility of war as you are. "winning" has little meaning when the South has so much more to lose. It's domestically and diplomatically useful at times to distance themselves from the US, but I can't imagine them ever wanting to be left to their own devices. Nor can I imagine the US pulling out of Korea; America has fought three major wars to establish itself as the dominant power in Asia. Korea is very much the pivot on which the Sino-American balance of power teeters.

OCSteve: In case it's not obvious, I'm responding to things like "Not exactly. I reflexively jump to the defense of the military at any perceived slight." with an effort at retargeting a bit. This is something I learned about in dealing with depression and mood problems rising out of my autoimmune hangups. Sometimes it's not feasible to just outright stop a reaction, but it can be feasible to notice it coming out and turn it a bit. Conscious thought can discipline emotional reactions even without altogether turning them off, and this is fortunate. :)

Cite:

[...] About 90 percent of the 28,500 troops now deployed to South Korea are not authorized to bring families; most of those who can are among the more senior-level officers.
"Nor can I imagine the US pulling out of Korea...."

Keeping Osan, and the 51st Fighter Wing, and relying on ROK Army and Marines to defend it, but reducing our troop commitment to that, maybe (or not) Fleet Activities Chinhae, the Marine guards at the embassy, and maybe a few other tiny bits and pieces -- DIA, NSA, COMINT support in general, etc. -- wouldn't be "pulling out," but would free up 2nd Infantry Division.

the Marine guards at the embassy???

The point is that you need ground units to be the 'trip wire' -- you call it a 'cliche', but it's not an aphorism, it's been a cornerstone of the American projection of power since WW2. It would have been much more useful in a military sense in the 1950s and 60s to move all those units in West Germany far back from the front lines, given that they might well have been wiped out in short order should the Red Army start rolling. But then the West German government is not going to be very confident that, push comes to shove, you're going to spill your boys' blood to save someone else's bacon.

Dead American soldiers: US public demands vengeance!
Dead Koreans: meh, terribly sad, but it's not really our fight is it?

Or if not Iraq, we could at least redeploy them (with apologies to liberal_japonicus) to Okinawa.

Which is just a stone's throw from Iraq, I hear.

The division you're now seeing in the US command is between those, like Petreus, whose military and political careers are now staked on success in Iraq and, on the other side, those who are greatly concerned that Iraq is debilitating their ability to maintain commitments elsewhere, such as Korea. These are the commanders who talk about the army 'being broken,' and they're horrified by suggestions that America should pull out of hard-won positions in places like Korea in order to keep feeding a war they see as a lost cause, a mistake, and a total side-show to the nation's long-term and established strategic posture and global interests.

I happen to agree with them. If anything, you should be taking people from Iraq and putting them in Asia.

Do you think the killing in Iraq is going to slow down if we pull out, byrningman? Why are actual dead Iraqis worth less than potential dead Koreans?

Why are actual dead Iraqis worth less than potential dead Koreans?

We have forces in Iraq now, and there are hundreds-of-thousands dead Iraqis. I don't think deterrence is working in Iraq.

In case it's not obvious, I'm responding to things like "Not exactly. I reflexively jump to the defense of the military at any perceived slight." with an effort at retargeting a bit.

Given the efforts of this Administration and its minions (like Kagan) of framing criticism of Administration policy and incompetence as "slights on the troops," retargeting of this sort is probably wise.

"The point is that you need ground units to be the 'trip wire' -- you call it a 'cliche', but it's not an aphorism, it's been a cornerstone of the American projection of power since WW2."

Yes, it has been.

We're now in the 21st century, though, long past the post-war period. Are you saying that if the the 51st Fighter Wing, and Osan air base, as well as the DMZ, Seoul, and much of the ROK army, get overrun, that the U.S. won't respond identically as it would if we had 2nd Division sitting there as well?

As we all agree, the current forces, or the forces we had there 40 years ago, weren't sufficient to repel a full-scale North Korean attack, or anything close. Our strength now lies in our missiles, air power, space power, naval power, and the overall deterrent effect.

If North Korea did roll across the DMZ tomorrow, and set about firing all their artillery and missiles, and the like, the South would be devastated, tens, if not hundreds, of thousands would be killed, and there's be nothing we could do about a major ground counter-attack, in the sense of significant roll-back, for many months.

So why, exactly, beyond tradition, is keeping elements of 2nd Division, to the tune of ~24,000+ troops, going to make a critical difference?

But for the record, two hours ago:

SEOUL, South Korea — President Lee Myung-bak said Thursday that he would focus on repairing South Korea’s strained relations with the United States during a visit to Washington next week, his first since his inauguration on Feb. 25.

In an hourlong interview, Mr. Lee, a conservative, unequivocally stressed the importance of maintaining United States troops on the Korean Peninsula and said the two countries shared objectives in their policies toward North Korea.

[...]

“During the last 10 years, this relationship, of course it hasn’t been damaged beyond repair, but there were some instances where we did experience some difficulties and some damage has been done to the relationship between Korea and the United States,” Mr. Lee said. “So during my visit next week to the United States, I hope, first of all, to repair this and to bring about trust and to rebuild the trust between the two countries.”

During Mr. Roh’s administration, officials on both sides had warned, though privately, of serious problems in the security alliance. Instead of stressing the alliance’s importance, Mr. Roh talked of South Korea’s role as a “balancer” in the region while Americans spoke privately of the possibility of one day withdrawing troops from the South.

But Mr. Lee dismissed the idea of withdrawing American troops.

“Number one, the role of the U.S. forces in Korea, as we all know, is deterrence — is to prevent a war from breaking out here on the Korean Peninsula, and in that sense, they do a tremendous job,” he said. “Secondly, it goes beyond that because by the mere presence of the U.S. forces in Korea, they contribute to the peace and stability of East Asia and beyond Northeast Asia as well.”

It seems to me that 2nd Division is needed more urgently in Iraq, but I'm just in my chair here, in need of buying jammies.

Do you think the killing in Iraq is going to slow down if we pull out, byrningman? Why are actual dead Iraqis worth less than potential dead Koreans?

Well for starters, I don't think such a pullback would cause a war in Korea, so I'm not especially worried about dead Koreans. It would, however, represent a significant shift towards China replacing the US as the hegemon in East Asia. For all that Iraq has cost the US, it hasn't yet required it to start trimming back the strategic hegemony steadily built up over the past one hundred years.

Of course you could argue that it would be the US' interests to trim back its commitment in any case. I would sympathetic to this argument, but surely it's better to do so in a measured and deliberate way, rather than being forced to do so by the situation in Iraq.

Likewise, in Iraq, the US will be forced to pull out some troops by next year whatever happens--if we believe what the military authorities tell us at any rate. Surely it's better to do so now than wait until you absolutely have to. Pulling troops out has no political impact when everyone knows you have no other choice. If Bush and Petreus cared about what happens next year, they might tell the Iraqi government they are pulling out 40k now. Instead, the both know they're gone next year, so they're just thinking very short-term.

In other words, in both Iraq and on a global scale, US strategic choices are currently completely reactive. Even if it sucks in the short-term, surely it's better to start being proactive again.

"The point is that you need ground units to be the 'trip wire' -- you call it a 'cliche', but it's not an aphorism, it's been a cornerstone of the American projection of power since WW2. It would have been much more useful in a military sense in the 1950s and 60s to move all those units in West Germany far back from the front lines, given that they might well have been wiped out in short order should the Red Army start rolling. But then the West German government is not going to be very confident that, push comes to shove, you're going to spill your boys' blood to save someone else's bacon."

A trip wire for what? I understood, and completely agreed with the concept when we were trying to keep Russian or Chinese proxies from acting on their behalf by invading Western countries during the Cold War.

But we aren't in the Cold War now.

North Korea isn't a proxy for a larger Communist government.

South Korea shouldn't be any more confident that we would spill our boy's blood if North Korea invaded them than anyone else should be. Which is to say that in a Kuwait-like situation, if the international community could be roused to South Korea's defense, that would be great.

It is very clear that for an enormous plurality, if not an outright majority, of people in South Korea, the US presence causes a lot of resentment. There is no longer any strategic reason to stoke that resentment. So we shouldn't do it.

Equally important, South Korea wants to take a dramatically different diplomatic tact with North Korea than we do. They should be free to persue that (in my mind foolish direction) if they want to. We can't really let them do what they want when we have our troops on the line but I see no more substantive reason to interfere with their desires.

"It seems to me that 2nd Division is needed more urgently in Iraq, but I'm just in my chair here, in need of buying jammies."

Argh, I meant Afghanistan!

I blame Douglas Feith.

So why, exactly, beyond tradition, is keeping elements of 2nd Division, to the tune of ~24,000+ troops, going to make a critical difference?

Well, I can only say it again: their role is not military, it's political. Deterrence is based on perception.

But you seem to understand this, since you quote the Korean president making this exact point, so i guess I'm not sure what you're position is exactly.

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