T Nation

At War W/ Ourselves?


This author poses a very serious and very legitimate question. Which is the bigger war, the war in Iraq, or the war in the US political landscape over the war in Iraq? You can almost feel the dissapointment from the pundits when the doomsday that they have predicted hasn't happened.

Maybe this war is more like Vietnam than I realized. The more we win the war in Iraq, the more we lose the war at home on our political landscape.


At War With Ourselves
We're winning in Iraq. Let's not lose at home.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

Last week the golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra was blown apart. Sectarian riots followed, and reprisals and deaths ensued. Thugs and criminals came out of the woodwork to foment further violence. But instead of the apocalypse of an ensuing civil war, a curfew was enforced. Iraqi security forces stepped in with some success. Shaken Sunni and Shiite leaders appeared on television to urge restraint, and there appeared at least the semblance of reconciliation that may soon presage a viable coalition government.

But here at home you would have thought that our own capitol dome had exploded. Indeed, Americans more than the Iraqis needed such advice for calm to quiet our own frenzy. Almost before the golden shards of the mosque hit the pavement, pundits wrote off the war as lost--as we heard the tired metaphors of "final straw" and "camel's back" mindlessly repeated. The long-anticipated civil strife among Shiites and Sunnis, we were assured, was not merely imminent, but already well upon us. Then the great civil war sort of fizzled out; our own frenzy subsided; and now exhausted we await next week's new prescription of doom--apparently the hyped-up story of Arabs at our ports. That the Iraqi security forces are becoming bigger and better, that we have witnessed three successful elections, and that hundreds of brave American soldiers have died to get us to the brink of seeing an Iraqi government emerge was forgotten in a 24-hour news cycle.

Few observers suggested that the Samarra bombing of a holy mosque by radical Muslims might be a sign of the terrorists' desperation--killers who have not, and cannot, defeat the U.S. military. After the furor over Danish cartoons, French rioting and Iranian nuclear perfidy, the entire world is turning on radical Islam and the terrorists feel keenly this rising tide of opposition on the frontline in Iraq.

True, the Sunni Triangle, unlike southern Iraq and Kurdistan, is often inhospitable to the forces of reconstruction--but hardly lost to jihadists and militias as we are told. There is a disturbing sameness to our acrimony at home, as we recall all the links in this chain of America hysteria from the brouhaha over George Bush's flight suit to purported flushed Korans at Guantanamo Bay. Each time we are lectured that the looting, Abu Ghraib, the embalming of Uday and Qusay, the demeaning oral exam of Saddam, unarmored Humvees, inadequate body armor or the latest catastrophe has squandered our victory, the unimpressed U.S. military simply goes about what it does best--defeating the terrorists and training the Iraqi military to serve a democratic government. They stay focused in this long war, while our pundits prepare the next controversy.

The second-guessing of 2003 still daily obsesses us: We should have had better intelligence; we could have kept the Iraqi military intact; we would have been better off deploying more troops. Had our forefathers embraced such a suicidal and reactionary wartime mentality, Americans would have still torn each other apart over Valley Forge years later on the eve of Yorktown--or refought Pearl Harbor even as they steamed out to Okinawa.

There is a more disturbing element to these self-serving, always evolving pronouncements of the "my perfect war, but your disastrous peace" syndrome. Conservatives who insisted that we needed more initial troops are often the same ones who now decry that too much money has been spent in Iraq. Liberals who chant "no blood for oil" lament that we unnecessarily ratcheted up the global price of petroleum. Progressives who charge that we are imperialists also indict us for being naively idealistic in thinking democracy could take root in post-Baathist Iraq and providing aid of a magnitude not seen since the Marshall Plan. For many, Iraq is no longer a war whose prognosis is to be judged empirically. It has instead transmogrified into a powerful symbol that apparently must serve deeply held, but preconceived, beliefs--the deceptions of Mr. Bush, the folly of a neoconservative cabal, the necessary comeuppance of the American imperium, or the greed of an oil-hungry U.S.

If many are determined to see the Iraqi war as lost without a plan, it hardly seems so to 130,000 U.S. soldiers still over there. They explain to visitors that they have always had a design: defeat the Islamic terrorists; train a competent Iraqi military; and provide requisite time for a democratic Iraqi government to garner public support away from the Islamists.
We point fingers at each other; soldiers under fire point to their achievements: Largely because they fight jihadists over there, there has not been another 9/11 here. Because Saddam is gone, reform is not just confined to Iraq, but taking hold in Lebanon, Egypt and the Gulf. We hear the military is nearly ruined after conducting two wars and staying on to birth two democracies; its soldiers feel that they are more experienced and lethal, and on the verge of pulling off the nearly impossible: offering a people terrorized from nightmarish oppression something other than the false choice of dictatorship or theocracy--and making the U.S. safer for the effort.

The secretary of defense, like officers in Iraq, did not welcome the war, but felt that it needed to be fought and will be won. Soldiers and civilian planners express confidence in eventual success, but with awareness of often having only difficult and more difficult choices after Sept. 11. Put too many troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we earn the wages of imperialism, or create a costly footprint that is hard to erase, or engender a dependency among the very ones in whom we wish to ensure self-reliance. Yet deploy too few troops, and instability arises in Kabul and Baghdad, as the Islamists lose their fear of American power and turn on the vulnerable we seek to protect.

In sum, after talking to our soldiers in Iraq and our planners in Washington, what seems to me most inexplicable is the war over the war--not the purported absence of a plan, but that the more we are winning in the field, the more we are losing it at home.

Mr. Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and the author most recently of "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War" (Random House, 2005)


"War is Peace."
--- George Orwell, 1984


Are you referring to a civil war? Being concerned about dangers and mentioning them, which pundits do, is one way to help ward them off...


As an example...

Negroponte: Iraq May Spark Regional Fight
A civil war in Iraq could lead to a broader conflict in the Middle East, pitting the region's rival Islamic sects against each other, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in an unusually frank assessment Tuesday.

"If chaos were to descend upon Iraq or the forces of democracy were to be defeated in that country ... this would have implications for the rest of the Middle East region and, indeed, the world," Negroponte said at a
Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on global threats.

Negroponte served as U.S. ambassador to Baghdad before taking over as the nation's top intelligence official last April.
What does Negroponte know, he must obviously just be a political hack. It's a shame he is not simply proclaiming about the progress that is happening over there...


You actually think American pundits want Iraq to be a failure? Who are the pundits who want Iraq to be 'doomsday'?


You actually tink that almost the entire democratic party doesn't have a vested interest in Bush not being succesfull in Iraq? Or are you too blind too see that dem leaders and the MSM have been banging the gong of pessimism and defeatism since the begining (even when they were ALL convinced that saddam was a threat). Hacket was spot on when he said that the dems are a party addicted to losing.


[b]MRC Study: Amid Iraq Progress, Networks Continue to Emphasize Violence and Calls for Withdrawal

No End to Media Defeatism
on Iraq War[/b]

According to an ABC News/Time magazine survey of 1,700 Iraqi citizens, released in advance of historic parliamentary elections on Thursday, ?surprising levels of optimism prevail in Iraq,? according to ABC?s polling director, Gary Langer. ?Despite the daily violence there, most living conditions are rated positively, seven in 10 Iraqis say their own lives are going well, and nearly two-thirds expect things to improve in the year ahead.?

Of course, those optimistic Iraqis don?t watch ABC, CBS and NBC every night. A new Media Research Center study of network evening news coverage of Iraq during October and November found the networks maintained the same negative approach our team found during a review of Iraq news during the first nine months of 2005.

In spite of a successful constitutional referendum in October, the start Saddam?s trial for mass murder, successful U.S. offensive campaigns along the Syrian border and the return of a number of cities and town to full Iraqi control, the networks continued to offer mainly downbeat coverage of the situation in Iraq.

MRC?s latest analysis focused on 324 Iraq stories aired on the three broadcast evening newscasts between October 1 and November 30. Unlike the earlier study, MRC found that the three newscasts did not provide relatively similar amounts of Iraq war news.

The CBS Evening News led the way, airing 139 stories on Iraq ? 90 full reports, plus another 49 short items read by the anchor. NBC Nightly News aired 113 stories (81 full reports vs. 32 anchor briefs), while ABC?s World News Tonight aired only 72 Iraq stories in two months (49 full reports and 23 anchor briefs).

More than any overt editorial judgments, our researchers were interested in the agenda of the networks' Iraq stories. How many stories focused on pessimistic developments (such as terrorist attacks or U.S. casualties) and how many told audiences about positive news (such as military victories or progress on the political front)?

We catalogued each story, counting as ?positive? any story where optimistic news or analysis eclipsed any pessimistic news by at least a three-to-two margin, while ?negative? stories emphasized bad news by the same ratio. If a story could not be assigned to either group, it was counted as balanced or neutral.

Using these criteria, we could classify only 34 stories (10%) as positive or optimistic, compared to 200 (62%) that emphasized negativity or pessimism about the Iraq mission, a six-to-one disparity. (The remaining 90 stories were neutral.)

During the first nine months of the year, we found 211 stories (15%) emphasizing positive developments, compared with 848 (61%) that relayed mainly bad news. For the year, the number of negative stories on Iraq stands at 1,048 (61%), to just 245 positive stories (14%).


One reason for all the negativity was heavy coverage of suicide bombings and other terrorist violence. The networks collectively aired 125 stories about such attacks, about 39 percent of the total. Some of the carnage seemed aimed at getting media coverage, and the networks did not resist those who murdered their way onto TV screens.

NBC?s Mike Boettcher, for example, reported on November 18 bombings that nearly demolished the hotel he was sleeping in. ?I thought, ?Oh, my God! I hope this hotel does not collapse,? Boettcher told anchor Brian Williams. CBS?s Bob Schieffer introduced an October 24 story about bombings near another hotel housing journalists. ?

The whole thing was caught on tape,? Schieffer announced before reporter Kimberly Dozier narrated the grisly scene captured by hotel security cameras. ?The vicious attack shows the insurgents are studying their targets carefully, biding their time, and waiting for that moment?s lapse that leaves their victims vulnerable,? Dozier relayed.

The networks also emphasized the number of American dead and wounded in Iraq, with 98 stories on casualties in October and November. ABC?s World News Tonight led their October 25 broadcast with the news of the 2,000 U.S. death. ?It is a milestone,? claimed anchor Elizabeth Vargas.

That same night, CBS?s Schieffer could not resist taking a political jab: ?More than 90 percent of the 2,000 who died in the war have died since the President declared major combat was at an end in May 2003.?

As we found earlier this year, few stories (just five in two months) featured stories of American soldiers? heroism, while nearly four times as many (19) focused on allegations of U.S. wrongdoing, including the accidental killing of civilians and claims of prisoner mistreatment.

ABC?s Jake Tapper on November 14 offered a long report (touted as ?exclusive?) on two Iraqi men who said they were beaten, tortured and sexually humiliated by American forces. Tapper spent most of the story uncritically relaying the Iraqis? claims, except for one sentence mentioning that the Pentagon denied any U.S. wrongdoing.

But CNN?s Tom Foreman, in a story on the same two men shown the next night on Anderson Cooper 360, found a number of ?strange? elements to their story, including claims by one of the men that American soldiers tormented him with lions. ?

This lawsuit may produce evidence that more Iraqis were brutalized by American soldiers, or it may show that American soldiers are being unjustly accused of things they did not do,? Foreman skeptically concluded.


The networks devoted relatively heavy coverage (64 stories, or 20% of the total) to the debate over the war. That is a significant change in focus from the first nine months of 2005, when such stories only accounted for just seven percent of Iraq news.

Continuing a trend that began in August with heavy coverage of Cindy Sheehan?s anti-war protests, the networks mainly focused on the complaints of those opposed to the administration?s Iraq policies.

On October 10, after months of negative coverage, CBS?s Bob Schieffer reported how a new poll found ?nearly two-thirds of the American people, 64 percent, now believe the war in Iraq was not worth the cost.?

In a November 21 profile of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, CBS?s Wyatt Andrews could not accept her optimistic assessment of Iraq: ?Is it typical political stagecraft from someone critics fear is over her head, or could it be bedrock belief??

And all three networks led their November 17 newscasts with Representative John Murtha?s call for withdrawal. NBC?s Brian Williams began by touting Murtha?s authority: ?When one Congressman out of 435 members of Congress speaks out against the war in Iraq, it normally wouldn?t be news, but it was today, because of who he is: Congressman John Murtha, a Vietnam veteran.?

But the networks paid almost no attention to Murtha before his liberal-pleasing call to withdraw. A Nexis search of the last five years revealed just one reference to Murtha on NBC Nightly News before November 17.

That was on June 28, when Tim Russert found Murtha worried that ?the administration is laying the groundwork to cut and run in 2006, and he fears the entire area will be taken over by Iran.? The CBS Evening News and ABC?s World News Tonight never quoted Murtha in the five years before November 17.


On November 22, the Washington Times ran a lengthy op-ed from an anonymous Marine in Iraq: ?Morale among our guys is very high. They not only believe they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they almost universally view as against them....They are inflicting casualties at a rate of 20-1 and then see s*** like ?Are we losing in Iraq?? on television.?

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that top journalists are far more pessimistic than the U.S. public (which itself has faced month after month of bad news on Iraq). Plainly, many journalists are approaching the Iraq story from the premise that the U.S. mission has been a big mistake.

Will their negative drumbeat make that belief a self-fulfilling prophecy? ? Rich Noyes


Here's a sampling of a really good article you should read bradley. Seriously, the entire article is very good.


[i][b]Our Real Dilemma.[/b] We do have a grave problem in this country, but it is not the plan for Iraq, the neoconservatives, or targeting Saddam. Face it: This present generation of leaders at home would never have made it to Normandy Beach.

They would instead have called off the advance to hold hearings on Pearl Harbor, cast around blame for the Japanese internment, sued over the light armor and guns of Sherman tanks, apologized for bombing German civilians, and recalled General Eisenhower to Washington to explain the rough treatment of Axis prisoners.

We are becoming a crazed culture of cheap criticism and pious moralizing, and in our self-absorption may well lose what we inherited from a better generation. Our groaning and hissing elite indulges itself, while better but forgotten folks risk their lives on our behalf in pretty horrible places.[/i]



Your tinfoil hat is looking a little sad. I'm sure JTF could hook you up with a much better one.


I would see it as a true indicator of "victory" for democracy over terrorism and insurrection in Iraq (or Afghanistan for that matter), if state visits from the US or UK wouldn't have to be by surprise anymore.

Dr Rice




As long as these guys seem to be too concerned to come announced (they must be reading the biased MSM as well), I retain the right to be sceptical.

Just musing,



I rue the day when war turns into a football game and we are all cheering on the sidelines having a great time.

War is not supposed to be a positive thing.

It is a deadly event. Innocent people, ours and theirs, are dying. It is costing many billions of dollars. It may or may not end with a nation in turmoil afterwards.

I hardly think this is cause for unified celebration.

Sure, there are good things being done, or at least attempted. There is a fair chance that the unrest will be quelled and that the move towards democracy can continue.

Everything so far has just been the beginning. The real determinant of whether the war was a success or not will be determined over the next five or ten years.

Again, war is hell, and the public needs to know that. Also, the outcome of a liberation can be dicey, and the public needs to know that too.





You said rue the day :wink:

I agree. Made me remember a quote I had heard before.

Don't cheer, boys! Those poor devils are dying!
-JW Philips captian of the USS Texas after hearing his men cheer as the Spanish warship Vizcaya burst into flames

Great accomplishments sometimes involve great risk don't you agree?
Life provides us a gaurantee to nothing.

I'm not trying to ruffle your feathers vroom, but the above statement comes off as an example of pessimism IMHO. We need to recognize setbacks, failures, and weak points while being extremely optimistic about what's working and going right.

Optimism in ALL of life's endeavors will go a long way indeed. Imagine attempting a PR deadlift while surrounded by people who consistantly and loudly comment on why you can't make the pull. The chances of making that pull in such a pessimistic environment are not very good.

The same, I believe applies to the U.S. situation in Iraq. The information I posted is a good example I think of the aura of pessimism this war is surounded by. We can recognize what needs to be improved while being overtly optomistic about the success coming out of Iraq. Success will not come easy for the U.S. in this environment of pessimism.

I agree w/r/t this just being the beginning and that real success will be measured some time from now. I just think that more optimism is needed in the media and in the U.S. political landscape right now, not pessimism.

This is a war we need to win. I think we can all agree on that.


I certainly never said anything to imply otherwise. However, historically, the actions taken in Iraq, attempting to create a new political landscape, have been fraught with problems.

When one takes risks they should get an accurate assessment of the risk so they can make a good decision. I've maintained all along, I am not against war, per se, but it should be entered with appropriate knowledge and consideration.

I think saying there is a fair chance of success is an optimistic statement. Perhaps you don't. If I wasn't being optimistic I would have said that was not much chance of success. I feel that you are not asking for optimism but instead turning a blind eye towards realities and risks.

No feathers ruffled here, hopefully none in return.

I don't agree with respect to the role of optimism here. This isn't something we can do on our own, such as a deadlift PR, it is something that has to be done in concert with the Iraqi's. It is THEIR optimism and desire for what we are giving them that you really need to worry about.

Finally, nobody has entered a war that they needed to lose. I think you over estimate the role of propaganda on the US populace with respect to the outcome of this war.