Underlying Assumptions

It was a war that was based upon flimsy evidence of attack. The American media was accused of sensationalistically pushing the world towards war. Prominant intellectuals formed societies dedicated to fighting off American "imperialism" as European powers lodged strongly worded protests about American unilateralism and arrogance.

The President was considered a cowboy with very few diplomatic skills and a hair trigger. The Europeans detested him and thought him to be little more than a boor who was trying to create an American empire.

Except all of this happened 100 years ago.

There are those who say that the US is becoming a true empire, that we’re all going to lose our freedoms to some kind of conspiracy. Yet our actions towards Iraq pale compared to those of 105 years ago. The Spanish-American War was a war that had far less ground than the conflict in Iraq, was met with the same opposition as this looming war, and the same concerns about empire and imperialism.

Yet the United States did not become an empire. The terrorities we took became largely free. Even Puerto Rico is but one vote away from full independence if they so choose. Even though the US often acted horribly in the Phillipines and elsewhere, there are not Phillipinos blowing themselves up in the streets of New York and Los Angeles. With the notable exception of Cuba, we enjoy good relations with the nations we formerly invaded and controlled.

This war is certainly controversial, but I keep seeing people who are running as half-cocked as the most fervent End Times believer. This is not the end of the world. The United States will not remain isolated on the world stage – even Europe will soon find that a policy that isolates the US from the EU benefits no one. (And those who ride anti-Americanism to power will find that isn’t enough to distract their people from unsound economies and failing social infrastructure.) America is not without allies in this war – the high-growth and increasingly active Eastern European bloc is firmly in our camp. They know what oppression is like, and they know whose strength liberated them. Unlike the Franco-German axis, they have not forgotten and have not become ungrateful.

As for President Bush, I have a feeling that the anti-war movement is less about Iraq than it is about him personally. To many in the left, they see President Bush as nothing less than evil incarnate. How dare someone defeat the designated successor to the sainted Bill Clinton? How dare someone express their Christian faith in public? How dare he disagree with the liberal orthodoxy. It certainly couldn’t be that he has legitimate and principled disagreements with such policies. It certainly can’t be that he’s legitimately trying to execute the immense burdens of the office of President. No, to many on the left that cannot be true. He must have some evil scheme. He must be someone who has only the most thinly-veiled hatred for democracy itself.

Why? Because they have demonized him for so long that they’ve begun to fervently believe their own propaganda. For a group that supposedly rejects the dogma of the Christian Right, they seem to have the ideological fanatcism of secular Inquisitors. Just read Eschaton’s daily efforts to uncover the hidden conspiracies of the Republican Party. So far he’s found "evidence" that the GOP is part of some neo-Confederate conspiracy, the Unification Church, and next probably the Bavarian Illuminati. For a group that says McCarthyism is a paramount evil, they seem to be engaged in a witchhunt that would make McCarthy himself envious.

I’ve wanted to say that the anti-war left does not hate America. It’s getting harder and harder to do so. This attitude isn’t the overt kind of hate that immediately springs to mind. Rather it’s a prejudice that has taken root in people who see their actions as being perfectly patriotic.

When Colin Powell came out with his UN presentation, I frequently saw this reaction from the prejudices of the left: "it has to be a lie" or "I bet that evidence was faked". This wasn’t based upon any real consideration of the evidence, but it was taken as a prima facia point – it came from the government, so it can’t be true. Especially since the Bush Administration is in charge of the executive branch of that government. The left is viewing the world through the lens that there must be some ulterior motive to the Bush Administration’s plans. It could be oil, or empire, or personal revenge, but there’s no way that the Administration’s case could be what it actually is.

We’ve become a nation so used to sinister conspiracies from The X-Files to JFK that we start seeing them even when they’re not really there.

The anti-war movement is largely predicated on assumptions that the US is doing something wrong and sinister behind the scenes. Yes, it is possible that this war is wrong. It is possible that it will lead to increased hatred of the US. It is possible that Iraq’s WMD capability isn’t what we thought it was. It is possible that this war will be long, expensive, and bloody. It is possible that we will suffer negative and widespread repercussions.

I admit all those things, even though I think they’re not likely. We heard many of those arguments for Afghanistan, and none of them were correct. We won easily, we’ve kept an uneasy peace that is still better than that nation has had in 75 years, and we have not seen waves of terrorism as a result.

Iraq will not destroy this country. It will not turn us into an empire. President Bush is not evil. The US case against Iraq may not be predicated on some hidden conspiracy for oil, empire, or retribution.

The fact that so many people can’t see past those hasty assumptions worries me far more than any attack on or by Iraq.

10 thoughts on “Underlying Assumptions

  1. In all your wrongheadedness, I at least believed you were not the kind of conservative who would stoop to the level of questioning the patriotism of those who disagree with you. Apparently, I set the bar too high for you. I’m willing to go head to head with any conservative in a mudslinging duel, but one place I’m not willing to go is where your just did with your dispickable suggestion. It defies belief that a conservative could revoke an effective 50-year-old mutually assured destruction strategy towards WMD in favor of “preventative war,” and then suggest people who disagree “hate America.”

    Buddy, if war is so great, why are you just writing about it in the comfort of your college dorm room rather than on the front lines yourself? Or like most chickenhawks, is war only something that’s good for the kid who lives across the tracks from you? Even though I oppose the war, I extend my deepest support to the soldiers doing their job and putting their lives on the line for our national defense. I have no respect whatsoever for armchair warriors who will never get closer to a combat zone than watching CNN a half a world away, who then wag their righteous fingers at those who oppose war and tell them they “hate America.”

    Your Spanish-American War analogy inspired another epiphany for me. As we march into the 21st century, the conservative dogma can be summed up in eight words….”we had it right back in the 19th century.” Conservatives wish to disassemble every progressive institution established in the 20th century that have enhanced the quality of life in civilized societies, everything from labor unions to social safety nets to the income tax. They constantly long for the glory days of the Gilded Age and Industrial Revolution that existed before the Progressive Era emerged to slow chip away at their excess and maldistribution of resources and living standards. Since conservatives have to look to the 19th century to craft social policy, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they also wish to resurrect 19th century foreign policy, prefering the imperialistic approach used in the Spanish-American War rather than containment or mutually-assured destruction strategies that have been effective for modern civilized societies. “We had it right back in the 19th century.” That should be the campaign slogan for Bush in the 2004 Republican Convention.

  2. I don’t think that (the vast majority of) the anti-war left "hate America" – at least not in the direct sense. I think that they have a prejudice towards the Bush Administration that biases them in their appraisal of this war. That doesn’t mean they want America to lose this war (although some of them certainly do), and that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a right to speak out. However, I think that bias influences their position regardless of the substantive arguments of the case.

    As for the whole "chickenhawk" argument, it’s a pile of shit. If you want to make it so that only those who serve in the military have the right to criticize or support policy, then you’re welcome to support the removal of democracy. Until then, I have as much right to speak of foreign policy as anyone else.

    Again, you’re committing a logical fallacy by assuming that because I pointed out that this period of history resembles the Spanish-American War that I support going back to the 19th Century. In terms of foreign policy, our actions then did help ensure our national safety and did not diminish our democracy. That has absolutely no bearing on any of the other accusations you made.

    The fact is, this Bush Doctrine is the right doctrine from the time. We no longer have the luxury of waiting for New York to be vaporized before we act to contain or eliminate weapons of mass destruction. This isn’t the Cold War where we can watch armies amass at the border before acting. If we fail to act in a "pre-emptive" manner, millions die.

    We all saw the result of September 11. An attack with chemical, nuclear, or biological weapons would make that horrific event pale in comparison. It is illogical and unwise to wait for that to happen before we take action.

  3. You made the direct dot-to-dot parallel that liberals are more motivated by hatred of Bush than actual opposition to the war….and in so doing hate America and want to “throw” the war just to undermine Bush.

    You certainly have the right to promote war for everyone but yourself, but I have the right to expose you as a hypocritical buffoon for doing so. There’s a definite responsibility one should feel when so publicly endorsing war as you are doing, and that responsibility does not mean simply passing the buck to the neighbor kid who you deem more worthy to serve while you pursue “other priorities.”

    And what has changed so much between now and the Cold War that MAD can no longer apply? Just saying September 11 is a copout since it presumes present enemies are somehow worse than past. What could possibly warrant the resurrection of a long-dead-for-a-good-reason foreign policy of putting young mens’ lives on the line in battle under the assumption that we THINK the bad guys have something up their sleeve? The worst mistake we can make is using 9-11 as a justification for socially engineering the world to our viewpoint through force…and we’re making it.

  4. This interests me. I am opposed to this war and I would agree that it’s an anti-Bush stand. I believe there is a case to be made for liberating Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam. I believe that if Colin Powell or Tony Blair had been president, we would not have to defy the world in order to do it. They exude reason and principle. Bush exudes arrogance and contempt. Whether that’s a true reflection of his character I don’t know, but I don’t think the signals it sends around the world, and the “face” it puts on America, are less than catastrophic for the safety of Americans in the world.

  5. Mark I’m glad that your “Liberalism” shows, personally, it’s more of a political pacifism than a true liberalism. The chickenhawk comment was truely comical, only someone against war would be stupid enoughto use a comment like that. On that subject, what about those like myself who supprot the war, but cannot fight, because the military doctors found blah blah blah that is a disqualification from service? does that make me a chickehawk? i take great offense at that comment to Jay, who is good friend. people have different arenas in life, some political, some military,insulting somebody for doing their part in their arena is Anti-American, so yes, in many cases you Anti-War people turn to antiamericanism inorder to offend those who you oppose, in an aparent effort to insult them into submission with insults the 10 year olds that i counsel at camp would find whitty and hilarious.

  6. Looks like I’ve flared up some conservative tempers by pointing out what would be obvious hypocrisy to most people. I love when I’m able to do that. When someone thinks they’re qualified to tell someone else they “hate America” because of a dissenting viewpoint about waging war, they should be able to handle an aggressively-worded rebuttal. Jay handled it reasonably well. You did not.

    It’s only in the past 30 years of US history that your “we all have different arenas in life” argument would even apply. In the past, all able-bodied young men were eligible for the military draft, and many had to serve even in peacetime. If conflict extends to North Korea beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, the draft will very likely have to be reinstituted. At this point, I would suspect a very large number of war-mongers would suddenly soften their position. Granted, war-mongers in previous generations such as Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft were able to push for other people to fight in brutal wars while still pursuing deferments for themselves, presumably using the same hollow argument that their “arena in life” is different. Even Lincoln permitted chickenhawks during the Civil War the opportunity to evade military duty if the price was right. But for those people, the prospect of a violent death in war is far more real than people of our generation who view the draft through the same nostalgic lens as going to the bathroom outside. It was something our grandparents had to deal with. That’s why even though I oppose the war and would prefer not to fight in it, I would welcome the resurrection of the draft. Trigger-happy armchair warriors and their soccer moms would be much less likely to get us into “preventative wars” if they or their loved ones were in danger of dying a slow death-by-suffocation following the inhalation of nerve gas in Iraq.

    As a rule, you could probably say I lean to the pacifist side. When an act of war is waged upon us by our enemies as it was on September 11, 2001, I am certainly willing to “give war a chance.” But again, since no act of war has been waged, attempted, or reasonably inferred upon us by Iraq, that premise doesn’t apply here. Discussion over on that topic.

    But if history is any indication, those who endorse this war the strongest will be the political leadership, who current be bothered to participate in the wars of their own generation,
    but will be toasting Budweisers with their friends at the Heritage Foundation at the first CNN reports of foreign blood being spilled. Then there’s the younger generation of war-mongers currently avoiding the frontlines like the plague and who will likely be the next generation of political leaders. And like their mentors, we can expect future politicians to vote to gut promised health benefits for veterans of this war 30 years down the road in the name of “personal responsibility” or “fiscal belt tightening,” all after voting to raise their own salaries of course.

    Do you honestly feel that you are qualified to so strongly endorse something as brutal as war if you have no intention of taking part in it yourself? Do you honestly feel that simply waving around your American flag and slandering war opponents as “America-haters” qualifies you to send the kid across the tracks into a war zone? If so, you are a far graver threat to the integrity of our country than any war protester could be.

  7. no, I myself don’t face the peril of combat, though, you can bet your lifesavings that if i woke up tomorrow without certain health conditions, I’d be down at the recriuting office as soon as it opened. Instead, I have to face a different danger, I have to face the constant personal attack by those who disagree with me. wnen the doctors told me I was disqualified for health reasons, I knew that I had to stand up for what I believed in a different way. Instead of facing bullets, I face the constant barrage of insults, and attacks on my integrity and intelegence by someone who doesn’t know me. Someone who simply thinks less of me because I disagree with them, and have the nerve to say it. Personally, I apologize for the Insults I have thrown today, It was below me to do so. But i will not back down from my convictions. you got me angry at first, you won that round. but that is the reason that we will win the war, because, as it apears, you feed off of negative energy, it’s sad, you have good arguments, truely worthy of debate, but your inability to tell the difference between two people who share the same view, and the inability to direct your responses accordingly is your biggest failing, because all you did is start to confirm some of my fears, that many liberals are simply out there to attack those of us who call ourselves conservative. you are the only liberal i have truely no respect for, that I have had the pleasure of debating. you lose, you just lost the chance of convincing me of the justness of your cause. Please remember that when you debate others, this isn’t the place for personal attacks. so while you may not hate America as some people say anti war people do, you hate the other half of america, the half that disagrees with you, i guess that makes you some what of a Semi-America-hater. you show no real patriotism, you just call out patriotism you simply remember that it is patriotic to exercize your freedom of speach, and then only after you have said what you want. you say it not in the spirit of patriotism, but in the fervant hate of war, and anyone who might support it.

  8. For the record, I don’t think a majority of the anti-war movement hate America or want to undermine the war per se. They do want to stop it, however, and their actions may serve to undermine the national interest even if that is not the intention.

    My point is that much of the anti-war movement’s thinking is predicated on a dislike of Bush, which biases their logic to some extent. It doesn’t mean that they’re evil, anti-American, or shouldn’t be listened to. It does mean that what they say should be taken with a grain of salt.

  9. If the best argument you have is “The Spanish-American War didn’t turn out so bad so this one will be ok”, I fear for our nation. The Spanish-American war was ultimately the most needless war we’ve ever fought, driven purely by corporate interests.

    I’m in favor of a war on Iraq but comparisons to stupid wars don’t further that cause. Instead your logic hinders.

  10. erik, it’s hard for you to effectively claim a moral high ground on me since you were the first to sling personal attacks in this specific debate. I had not addressed you in of my previous points, but you came out the gate with both barrels smoking. The debate up to that point was hot-blooded, but not hostile. I still maintain that I made an effective argument in regards to a moral responsibility that should be felt by people actively rallying for war…a responsibility to put their livelihood where their mouth is. You are certainly free to disagree with that, but I refuse to be gentle in my response, especially with the phrase “America-haters” hanging out there, even if it was supposed to be “taken with a grain of salt.”

    I realize my debate approach can be arrogant at times but a great deal of political debate is. And considering the headline of this message board is “Conservatism with attitude….” I would think its regulars would have a thicker skin for having the same “attitude” shoved back down their throat from the other side. Kind of reminds me of the Garrison Keillor uproar after his statements about how Minnesotans dropped the ball electing an opportunist like Norm Coleman over Walter Mondale….and the conservatives went on a monthlong session of self-righteous finger-wagging at Keillor, even though their spokespersons spew the same kind of political venom hour after hour after hour on talk radio.
    “Conservatism with attitude” is gonna inspire “liberalism with attitude” in response. As you can say, I can be just as obnoxious as a conservative when given the opportunity. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to the individual, but the determination of its worth has to be consistent from both camps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.