Skippy-san and I have had the occasion to disagree from time to time, and it looks like we will again. In a blog post over at his place, he takes me to task for – and I’m being charitable to both of us here – being mistaken in my facts on a previous post having to do with Iraq and the political demands of a certain presidential candidate. I have no intention of engaging in a point-by-point refutation of the issues he raises with my post, but will assert that it is not necessary that one must believe in an emerging Utopia-on-the-Euphrates to acknowledge that significant things have indeed been accomplished there, and that good work may yet be accomplished.
Let us be clear up front: I consider Skippy-san to be a patriot whose loyalty to his country is beyond question. I humbly beg for myself the same indulgence. We both of us want what’s in the best interest of the nation whose Constitution we swore an oath to support and defend. Where we differ then is not in ends, but in definitions and means: What is in the national interest? What is the best way to promote it?
(At this point, certain among our international readers may feel a tendency to get tight-lipped: More self-referential American navel gazing? But I make no apologies, as a serving military officer my loyalties and responsibilities are clear. I also happen to believe that, in general, what’s good for the US is also good for freedom-loving countries and peoples everywhere, although there’s certainly room for argument there. Perhaps we can have that discussion another day, but my short answer to such objections is here.)
So: We went to war in Iraq because we believed it was in our national interest to do so. Our reasons for thinking this to be true were varied and sundry, but they were all laid out in front of the responsible arms of government under the watchful eye of the American public. We had a debate as befits a great republic, and having made a decision through the prescribed process, we went to war – no trifling undertaking.
Even back in 2003, when vast majorities of both the public and Congress agreed that doing so was in the national interest there were people who disagreed. In the intervening years, the people who thought it was a bad idea from the outset have actually increased – hindsight may or may not be 20/20, but there are advantages which accrue to those who remain silent when important decisions are being discussed. But Skippy-san is not one of those. Like John Donovan and many others, he went on record at the time as saying that the idea was dangerously fraught with unforeseeable consequences.
This was a logically supportable, honorable and patriotic position to take during the national debate of 2002-2003. John – to his credit in my view – put aside his personal reservations once our forces crossed the line of departure and continues to acknowledge the need to win the fight we are engaged upon. Others have not done so, in fact for some – and I do not lump Skippy-san in this category – the most important thing seems to be an ugly emotional need to be publicly applauded for their original perspicacity, as if the most important thing was for themselves to be proven correct even if it meant that their country had to lose a major war to do so. There is an equally revolting obverse to this tendency – the need among certain of the war’s supporters to be proven right no matter how many among the flower of the nation’s youth have to die to do so. But I take it for granted that Skippy-san does not engage at this level and I have probed my own soul deeply enough to believe that I do not. As I said, I believe we earnestly seek what is in the nation’s interest.
Continue reading Where to begin?