A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Thursday, July 08, 2004 :::
Lots of work, sports fans, so little time for blogging.

Part of that work has been going over the war, as usual, and what simmers in the old emotions today is how very frustrating it is to talk about the war with anyone who is a true believer. This is always true--no matter what the true believer believes in--but the true believers in this war all style themselves "conservative." Yet a conservative may never, under any circumstances, assign religious value to a "contingent" fact. The "tragic sense of life" is supposed to hold in check any belief that one of life's contingencies will somehow become permanent. Principles are permanent, facts variable.

This came to mind this morning as a certain pudgy, balding English teacher is heading into the home stretch on the most learned treatment of the war he has so far seen, Dark Victory, by Dr. Jeffrey Record. Now, Dr. Record spent many years as the defense analyst for Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, and can hardly be accounted an accomodationist or appeaser. And, while there are things to quibble with, including overuse of the word "neo-conservative" and a quote from the insufferable George F. Kennan, the book is very fair,despite its polemical intent. You can find, in nice summary fashion, entire debates on strategy and tactics, with thorough footnotes.

Ah, but in keeping with a "you're either with us or against us" mindset that has plagued conservative discussion of the war, the indispensable Wall Street Journal unleashed an attack dog on the book, a military novelist named Daniel Ford. Here is Mr. Ford's summary:

In "Dark Victory," he doesn't even concede that the war was especially well fought: Shucks, he says in essence, poor old Saddam never had a chance, what with his feckless military, antiquated weapons and wreck of an economy. Anyone with a particle of sense knew that the Baathist regime was a house of straw that would blow away in the first adverse wind.

Really? I don't remember any such forecasts in March 2003, unless they came from a few of the overconfident Rumsfeld advisers whom Mr. Record holds in such contempt.

Herewith, Dr. Record:

None of this is to underplay the extraordinary determination, skll, and flexibility displayed by coalition forces in so quickly conquering so large a country with so little force on the ground relative to past blitzkriegs. Operation Iraqi Freedom was a dazzling military performance...(Dark Victory, p. 106-107)

Ahh, but the kicker comes in the next paragraph, and this is what so incenses supporters of Mr. Rumsfeld.

But military performances are conducted for political purposes. How does Operation Iraqi Freedom rate in terms of its accomplishment of its declared and undeclared war aims?

Indeed, even the most cursory glance at what war enthusiasts claimed during the debate over the war yields a depressing list of things that, long about April 15, 2003, suddenly became unimportant to those enthusiasts. Dr. Record has read the whole dismal record.

But we are now four month away from the election, and many of the most prominent conservative writers are still denying that there is any problem with all those missing WMD.

If they had--in true conservative fashion--allowed any kind of debate after the war started going screwy, we'd be in a much better position today.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 10:09 AM



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