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Cheney on Public Opinion About the War in Iraq:
Here's an interesting excerpt of an interview with Vice President Cheney about U.S. military involvement in Iraq:
MS. RADDITZ: Two-thirds of Americans say [the Iraq war is] not worth fighting.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: So?
MS. RADDITZ: So? You're not — you don't care what the American people think?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.
  I realize this exchange won't change any opinions. If you support U.S. policy, it shows how wonderfully steadfast Cheney is in doing what's right even when the American people don't appreciate it. If you oppose current U.S. policy, it shows that Cheney is arrogant and perhaps delusional. Either way, I thought it was an interesting exchange.

  For more on American public opinion about the war over the last five years, Wikipedia has this page. And thanks to Phil Carter for the link.
DPSC:
Two thirds of Americans were not against the war in 2003. In fact it was about the other way around if I recall correctly. I think there's another option here. You can think that the war was a bad idea (or a good one), but also think that once started it should be finished. I don't want it said of us: "They were careless people, [the Americans]- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness..." But that is an unfortunately accurate indictment of our pre-Gulf War II history with Iraq.
3.19.2008 3:25pm
Houston Lawyer:
Many of the attacks against civilian targets by our enemy have been staged solely for the purpose of affecting American public opinion about the war. They know that the only way that they can win is to affect our public opinion. Many Democrats, other than Lieberman, have played along with this policy, voting for the war when it was popular and denouncing it and promising to end it quickly when it was not. Love them or hate them, neither Bush nor Cheney has waivered based on polling.
3.19.2008 3:27pm
Ilya Non-Somin:
He said "fluctuations," with the apparent implication being that a major undertaking cannot be suspended during the time that the public disapproves. This of course is true until the public disapproves for a sufficiently long, continuous period of time.
3.19.2008 3:27pm
xx:
DPSC: I think that's a reasonable position to take, but if Radditz is representing that poll correctly (e.g. it asked whether the war is worth fighting, not whether we should have entered it in the first place) then there's apparently little popular support for that position.
3.19.2008 3:28pm
Mike& (mail):
The military masters over the millennium have all stated that you cannot start a war unless you know how the war should end.

Back in '01-'02 when people started talking about invading Iraq, my first question was: "How would we withdraw?" None knew the answer, and all acted as if my question was crazy.

Fools.
3.19.2008 3:35pm
Gaius Marius:
The U.S. doesn't know how to fight real wars in the Middle East anymore. If it did, then Moqtada Al-Sadr and his henchmen would have been swinging from the gallows long ago. For that matter, Ahmed Chalabi should be swinging from the gallows right next to Al-Sadr for deliberately providing the U.S. with false intelligence to further his personal ambitions.
3.19.2008 3:35pm
NatSecLawGuy:
I have always been a strong advocate that the United States must and, during the occupation at least (see Geneva Convention IV), took on a legal obligation to clean up the mess that ensued in Iraq. Whether we planned for the mess or not. However, this statement was not, "So? We strongly belief the policy we are pursuing is important for the country and is working." It was "So?" period. Like "I don't care," or "who are they to give an opinion."
I don't expect or want pandering, but a flat out rejection of the opinion of two-thirds of Americans as irrelevant from an elected representative sure shocked my conscious this morning. Of course, I have never thought of Mr. Cheney as being interested in an American agenda or a conservative agenda, rather his interest is the hubris of a "my" agenda.
3.19.2008 3:36pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
Love them or hate them, neither Bush nor Cheney has waivered based on polling.

They did, on the other hand, decide to escalate the conflict after suffering major losses in the 2006 election. Since they were adamantly opposed to admitting that their war had failed it was clear that only option that would help them in the polls was escalation, so that's exactly what they went for.
3.19.2008 3:37pm
Curious Passerby (mail):
How many years was it that our troops remained in Germany and Japan after those conflicts ended?
3.19.2008 3:43pm
John (mail):
The real question is, what is the balance we want in our political leaders between (a) doing what they think is best for the country and (b) doing what their constituents think is best for the country.

This is not an easy question. The idea of a a republican government, where the people elect others to do the work of government (in contrast, say, to New England town governance, where decisions are often made at meetings of the entire electorate), is that the representatives will be more knowledgeable about the things they have to decide than the electorate can be or might want to take the time and effort to be. Certainly the founders wanted to create a government that was somewhat distant from the people. In today's world, however, where information is everywhere, and everyone is an expert, and our leaders spend more time fund raising for their next election (or having sex!) than studying things--or some of them do, at least--maybe that should change.

Interestingly, neither Bush nor Cheney will be running again, and thus they feel freer to do what they think is best.
3.19.2008 3:43pm
EH (mail):
I don't expect or want pandering, but a flat out rejection of the opinion of two-thirds of Americans as irrelevant from an elected representative sure shocked my conscious this morning.

Cheney wasn't elected, Bush was. He's just along for the ride. Furthermore, I don't know of any management theory that asserts that never admitting a mistake is a good thing. Cheney is a caricature (or re-enactment) of those taciturn Soviet Era Politburo politicians with their white hair and loyalty.

Principles are what people die for.
3.19.2008 3:49pm
The General:
Do you prefer leadership by polls? I sure as hell don't, especially given the FACT that there has been very little good news coming out of the Iraq war from the liberal media over the past 5 years (despite there being actual good news and progress), and that barrage of negativity and the constant media/Hollywood/academic repetition of Democrat/Al Qaeda talking points (can't tell them apart most of the time) most definitely influences public opinion.

The polls reflect the information that people have been given and real leaders won't bend over just because of poll says a bunch of mostly ignorant people don't agree.
3.19.2008 3:50pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
There is a certain relief to being a lame duck.

However, the poll said two thirds think it is not worth fighting?

I'd like to see the questions. If you answer a pollster that you don't like the war, it could be because it's not being fought with sufficient thoroughness, Sadr being still alive although suffering from the GIs, and Iran not being punished for running guns to Iraq. But not many polls would ask that, nor attempt to differentiate it from the pull-out-now answer, nor fail to include general dissatisfaction and inadequate aggressiveness in the "not worth it" category.
3.19.2008 3:50pm
Bart (mail):
Orin:

You do not fight wars based on popularity polling because wars are rarely popular.

Imagine if you will what the polling would have been in 1780 during the Revolution, 1964 during the Civil War and 1944 during WWII?

Were Washington, Lincoln and FDR arrogant and perhaps delusional for ignoring the war weariness and prosecuting those wars to victory at an exponentially greater cost in blood than the Iraq War?
3.19.2008 4:03pm
Mike& (mail):
Do you prefer leadership by polls?

Dude, that's what democracy is.

Think about it.
3.19.2008 4:05pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
Regardless of whether you support Iraq policy or don't you should approve of Cheney's attitude. Not only is it acceptable and appropriate for him to ignore the wishes of the American public but it would be a betrayl of the principals and ideals of the constitution for him to do otherwise. The US constitution clearly rejects the notion that leaders merely exist to implement whatever polling data suggest. Rather, it is clear that the ideals embodied in our constitution place a responsibility on our leaders to choose what they think is the best policy regardless of what the people think.

The people's job in our system of government should be to select those leaders whose judgement they trust and who they believe will strive to achieve the same fundamental values they possess. The job of the statesman is to choose the best course forward not let himself be lead by the opinion of those with neither the time nor data to reach an informed conclusion. If the people decide that the totality of his choices call his judgement into question they can throw him out of office.

Of course when the policy choices are smaller the people's attitude towards them might be enough to change what is the better option, e.g., if the people demand a lower speed limit it might be a net benefit to appease them and spend political capital elsewhere. However, when it comes to something like Iraq it is hard to imagine that there is something more important that demands Cheney give in to public opinion on Iraq for some greater good.

Cheney's policy choice may or may not be right in this case but he shouldn't change his opinion just because of public opinion. Frankly, the only thing that is shocking here is that he didn't perform the standard genuflection in the direction of voter's opinion.
3.19.2008 4:07pm
A.S.:
I thought it was an interesting exchange

I'd be interested to know why Orin thought it was an interesting exchange.

I mean, the question isn't even about what policy the United States should take going forward - whether on not the war has been "worth it" is not directly related to whether we should continue to fight now or should pull our troops out. At least the question of what we should be doing now could be seen as informing what Bush and Cheney may want to do (and, as we know, only a small minority of the public is in favor of pulling out our troops immediately).

Philip Carter is, as usual, pretty misleading.
3.19.2008 4:08pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
It's the NY Times, so who knows how accurate the transcript of the exchange is.

With that being said, I hope it is 100% accurate. It probably is given Cheney's attitude to the NY Times. I am glad you took that position too. Better than Barack Obama's long-winded nonsense where he says essentially nothing.
3.19.2008 4:09pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
I meant "glad he {Cheney] took that position..."
3.19.2008 4:10pm
Caspar the Friendly Guest:
Actually, I oppose U.S. policy in Iraq, but Cheney's rejection of the opinion polls is a breath of fresh air. If the executive believes that going to war is in our country's best interests, he should do it, regardless of what the polls say. Likewise, even if the vast majority of the American people were beating the drum for war with Iran, the polls should not dictate our country's military policy.

I think this is doubly true for staying in a war once we have committed troops and torn a country apart. It's no longer a matter of choice, it's a matter of staying the course to which we have committed ourselves.

Probably half to a third of that 65% who now oppose the war were initially supporters. Perhaps they will think a little more carefully before they decide to support the next potential war and will be a bit more skeptical of the government line in the future.
3.19.2008 4:14pm
Lysenko (mail):
It's worth noting that there's a difference between "Don't approve of how Iraq is going"/"Don't approve of how the Bush administration is handling our involvement in Iraq" and "Don't think that Iraq is worth fighting for/support immediate and total withdrawal of all US forces". The polls measure the former, and yet both the reporter in the interview above and several people here take them to mean the latter. There's a significant difference.
3.19.2008 4:21pm
DPSC:

xx writes:
DPSC: I think that's a reasonable position to take, but if Radditz is representing that poll correctly (e.g. it asked whether the war is worth fighting, not whether we should have entered it in the first place) then there's apparently little popular support for that position.


Sure- but that's my point. There was significant support for the war at its beginning, possibly predicated on the idea that it would be a cakewalk, as Afghanistan appeared to have been at that point. What I'm saying is that invading was a committal action. Even if it was a mistake, you can't just say "Oops, sorry guys, this isn't going to work out. We're out of here. hth, glhf, and HAND."

I was on the fence about the war back in aught-3. I felt much the same way then about the Kurds and the southern Shiites as I do now about the whole country. I don't think it is the responsibility of the US to make sure that nothing bad happens to anyone anywhere (down that road lies madness), but I did, and do think that what we let happen in the aftermath of the first Gulf War was one of the most shameful incidents in US history in my lifetime. I also believed that Saddam was dangerous, and I continue to believe that he was, and that it was in our interests to oust him, if that could be done at a reasonable cost.

On the other hand, I had a feeling that that war at that time was ill-considered, and was likely to be badly executed, and that turns out to have been the case. I think the first concrete indication of how badly the war was going to go was when we failed to secure permission from Turkey to move the 1 ID in from the north. That really set the tone for the next few years.

At any rate, I think we committed ourselves to trouble in Iraq a long time ago. I don't see how we could morally withdraw at this point. The American public supported the war when it began, if narrowly, and I think that the Bush administration is actually doing the right thing by staying, even if I think they are doing the wrong thing in most respects. I'm not really trying to defend the Bush administration. I'm not a big fan of Bush or Cheney- I don't think they are ill-intentioned, but I think they have been tremendously careless about things that are far too important to be careless about. I do think they are right to say that invading Iraq was like signing an ironclad contract. It would be morally indefensible, and I think eventually very costly, to withdraw and leave Iraq to devolve into chaos.
3.19.2008 4:26pm
Taltos:
Dude, that's what democracy is.

Think about it.


Dude, the US isn't a democracy.

Think about it.
3.19.2008 4:29pm
Anonymous Poster (mail):
"It's the NY Times, so who knows how accurate the transcript of the exchange is."

No, it was ABC News who conducted the interview. The NY Times piece even links to video of the interview:

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Vote2008/story?id=4479462&page=1

Instead of foaming at the mouth sarcasm about the New York Times' credibility, why didn't you just click through and read the linked article? Please take the partisan blinders off.
3.19.2008 4:33pm
KeithK (mail):

Do you prefer leadership by polls?

Dude, that's what democracy is.

Think about it.

We select our leaders by poll (voting). But we do not set specific policies by poll because we live in a democratic republic, not a pure democracy. I personally believe that a pure democracy would be an utter disaster and am glad when I see politician stand up for what he thinks is right, rather than caving to what is popular.

That's always been one of the advantages of a VP like Cheney. He wasn't chosen simply to balance the ticket and wasn't on the ticket simply to set up a run in 2008. So he's been more free to work for policies that he thinks are right, rather than constantly positioning himself for the next election. You may not like the positions he espouses (and some of the reason he is so demonized is that he is a lot more conservative than Bush) but that's a different issue.
3.19.2008 4:34pm
Dave N (mail):
Three quotes from Edmund Burke, perhaps contradictory, but all apt to this discussion:
When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people.
That quote compliments this one:
Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
However, Burke is also quoted as saying:
I venture to say no war can be long carried on against the will of the people.
Personally, I believe we have an obligation to finish what we started and that to leave precipitously would be a disaster. That said, I found all three quotes interesting.
3.19.2008 4:36pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

Regardless of whether you support Iraq policy or don't you should approve of Cheney's attitude. Not only is it acceptable and appropriate for him to ignore the wishes of the American public but it would be a betrayl of the principals and ideals of the constitution for him to do otherwise.

I find myself wondering what provision of the Constitution requires Cheney to utterly ignore public opinion. I believe that a public leader is entitled to weight public opinion as much as he weights any other factors in deciding what course of action to pursue.

And anyway, the issue is not whether a public leader should ignore public opinion. It's whether a leader should characterize a steadily downward trend in public opinion as a "fluctuation", so that he may breezily dismiss it. I do appreciate leaders who are stalwarts and stand up to public opinion when they think they're doing the right thing, but I'd prefer it not be because they are deluded about what the public thinks of their actions.
3.19.2008 4:45pm
BGates:
Instead of foaming at the mouth sarcasm
Maybe some wide-eyed, unhinged irony?
3.19.2008 4:46pm
The Unbeliever (mail):
Dude, the US isn't a democracy. Think about it.

QFT. I suspect this is exactly what Cheney was alluding to, but assumed too much knowledge on the part of the listener--or maybe just on the part of the reporter, which is an even worse assumption to make.

Imagine if you will what the polling would have been in 1780 during the Revolution, 1964 during the Civil War and 1944 during WWII?

The data generally bears this out--I don't have time at the moment to dig it up, but I know the polling looks rather as you suggest during the latter stages of WWII. For an excellent example of war-weariness threatening to snatch retreat from the jaws of victory, the public opinion numbers in January 1945 are of particular relevance, as it came right after the widely reported Battle of the Bulge.

(On a lighter note, not even the most hyperactive civil rights table pounders will suggest the Civil War proper lasted until 1964, but you may have just coined a useful hyperbole for Barak Obama to use on the campaign trail...)
3.19.2008 4:49pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
Love them or hate them, neither Bush nor Cheney has waivered based on polling.

They did, on the other hand, decide to escalate the conflict after suffering major losses in the 2006 election. Since they were adamantly opposed to admitting that their war had failed it was clear that only option that would help them in the polls was escalation, so that's exactly what they went for.


So they don't respond to opinion polls, but they do respond to elections?

Good for them.
3.19.2008 4:50pm
AntonK (mail):

"If you support U.S. policy, it shows how wonderfully steadfast Cheney is in doing what's right even when the American people don't appreciate it. If you oppose current U.S. policy, it shows that Cheney is arrogant and perhaps delusional."
No, it shows that the Bush administration's policies are not run by opinion poll. Anyways, do the Democracts poll the American people for their approval every time they raise taxes? I think not.
3.19.2008 4:53pm
Curious Passerby (mail):
a steadily downward trend in public opinion

I believe that support for the war has risen since the surge so it wasn't "a steadily downward trend in public opinion" but a fluctuation.
3.19.2008 4:56pm
EH (mail):
Bart:
Imagine if you will what the polling would have been in...1944 during WWII?


The only thing left to imagine is "well-informed assertions."
3.19.2008 4:57pm
OrinKerr:
A.S.,

I think it's interesting because I love America and I care about its future. The question is, why are you not interested in that?
3.19.2008 5:06pm
Aultimer:

DPSC:
Two thirds of Americans were not against the war in 2003.

Are you suggesting that we not CONSIDER changing course when key assumptions (existance of WMDs, original timelines, etc.) turn out to be incorrect?
3.19.2008 5:09pm
Steve:
I find "fluctuations" to be about as accurate a word in this context as "last throes" was.
3.19.2008 5:09pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
Expanding on my 3:50 pm.

Given how bad the pollsters have been at predicting results in recent primary elections, I think it entirely right and proper that elected officials of a democratic republic react to elections and not react to opinion polls.
3.19.2008 5:14pm
AntonK (mail):

I think it's interesting because I love America and I care about its future. The question is, why are you not interested in that?
I'm not sure what all that self-congratulatory chest-thumping is about, but I'm absolutely sure that opinion polls and Cheney's opinion of them have nothing to do whatsoever with whether one loves their country and cares about its future.
3.19.2008 5:25pm
A.S.:
I think it's interesting because I love America and I care about its future. The question is, why are you not interested in that?

I am interested in the future of the country.

As I pointed out in my post, the cited poll question is not concerned with our future, as your reply to me implies. Rather, the poll question is concerned with whether the war was worth it, which is a backwards-looking review. I would think it perfectly appropriate (although not required) for Cheney to consider in formulating policy (to the extent that the VP formulates policy) the results of a poll question about what we should do in the future with respect to our troops in Iraq. But that's not the cited question (and, as I pointed out, most poll questions do not support an immediate withdrawal of troops anyway); the difference is important given Phil Carter's and your commentary.

I don't know, BTW, what poll the ABC correspondent was referring to. I would think she was referring to this ABC/WaPo poll (see question 2).
3.19.2008 5:29pm
OrinKerr:
AntonJK,

Your reasoning is nonsensical. A.S.'s question was why I found Cheney's views interesting, not why I love my country. Please read more carefully next time.
3.19.2008 5:31pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

If it did, then Moqtada Al-Sadr and his henchmen would have been swinging from the gallows long ago.


Jackpot.

I recommended just shooting him.
3.19.2008 5:32pm
Perseus (mail):
It is an interesting exchange only to the extent that it demonstrates how public opinion polls are now regarded (especially by superficial reporters) as the virtual equivalent of elections (thus undermining the whole purpose of giving officials extended terms of office).


I find myself wondering what provision of the Constitution requires Cheney to utterly ignore public opinion.

The VP was simply echoing Federalist 71: "Instances might be cited in which a conduct of this kind...has procured lasting monuments of their gratitude to the men who had courage and magnanimity enough to serve them [the people] at the peril of their displeasure. ...it is certainly desirable that the executive should be in a situation to dare to act his own opinion with vigor and decision."
3.19.2008 5:36pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"The military masters over the millennium have all stated that you cannot start a war unless you know how the war should end."

What masters? What war? What predicted end?
3.19.2008 5:37pm
Mike& (mail):
Dude, the US isn't a democracy.

Think about it.


Let me guess: You just took Poli Sci 101 and learned that the US is "representative democracy," and at parties, you impress everyone with this knowledge.

In order to get elected (i.e., the representative part), you have to get elected. In order to get elected, you have to appease the public. Thus, an elected or wannabe-elected official looks to public opinion polls.

That's so banal, I can't believe I typed it! Then again, I am always willing to do my part to educate college freshmen.
3.19.2008 5:50pm
M. Gross (mail):
Are you suggesting that we not CONSIDER changing course when key assumptions (existance of WMDs, original timelines, etc.) turn out to be incorrect?

Wouldn't Iraq have already been overthrown at this point?
3.19.2008 5:50pm
Hoosier:
Perseus--There does seem to be some confusion in some quarters about what "republicanism" means. As I remember, it has something to do with electing representatives for legally-fixed terms, and having them use their judgment in making decisions on issues that affect the public. Then we get to vote on whether they should keep making those decisions for us.

But, hell, who needs a republic when you have polls?

Having said all that, I suspect that Cheney could do more to publicly indicate that he holds "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind."
3.19.2008 5:51pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Either way, the obvious answer to this is, if you don't like what Cheney says, don't vote for him next time.
3.19.2008 5:52pm
AF:
Cheney's right. The Iraq war wasn't a mistake because the majority of Americans think so. Rather, the majority of Americans think it was a mistake because it was.
3.19.2008 6:13pm
Gaius Marius:
I would give Cheney credit if the Bush administration was competently managing the War in Iraq. However, the fact of the matter is that President Bush has proven to be the most incompetent Commander in Chief since President Madison during the War of 1812 when the British burned DC. There is absolutely no excuse for not capturing Bin Laden by now. Both Hitler and Tojo were killed within a shorter time period and they had much larger armies to protect them.
3.19.2008 6:14pm
tvk:
Is it clear from the tone what the "No" means here? From the transcript it is incredibly ambiguous. He could either be saying "No, I don't care what the American people think" or "No, I do care what the American people think, I just don't think fluctuating opinion polls are a good measure of that."
3.19.2008 6:16pm
Gaius Marius:
Moreover, anyone who is even remotely familiar with the history of warfare in the Middle East knows that you never, ever, under any circumstance keep your army planted in one particular place for very long. Instead, an invading army in the Middle East must remain in offense at all times. This is why Alexander the Great with only 50,000 Greeks/Macedonians remained on offense for 12 years starting in present day Turkey until he reached India.
3.19.2008 6:20pm
DPSC:

Aultimer writes:
Are you suggesting that we not CONSIDER changing course when key assumptions (existance of WMDs, original timelines, etc.) turn out to be incorrect?


If I'm reading you right I'm not sure your question is all that meaningful. I'm not addressing what we should consider or not consider. I'm addressing what we should decide to do given the situation we are in. I don't think that withdrawing would be morally defensible, or even good policy if we considered only our self-interest as Americans. If you disagree you can say why, but airy questions about what we should consider come across as pure rhetoric.

The question of WMDs might have been very relevant to the decision to invade in the first place. I don't see that it is directly relevant to choices about what we should do, having invaded. Our situation would be largely the same either way.

I do happen to think that we should have been constantly re-evaluating our actions in the aftermath of the invasion. I'm not happy with the way that this war has been handled, and I think the main problem is that those in charge of the grand strategy have been far too slow to react to the facts on the ground, and adjust strategy accordingly. I hear a lot of people say that the war failed because it was badly planned- I think they are wrong. You can't plan for something like this, you can only devote your full attention to it and constantly adjust your strategy and tactics. This administration has signally failed to do that well.

So I am not against reconsidering things. But I am also not able to undo the past- we _did_ invade Iraq, we _did_ hang Saddam, and that is the case whether or not you think we ought to have done those things. Given those facts, I think we should exert ourselves to the utmost to make the best of the current situation, and I think withdrawing from Iraq would be a grave mistake at this point.
3.19.2008 6:24pm
kelvin mccabe:
"If it did, then Moqtada Al-Sadr and his henchmen would have been swinging from the gallows long ago.

Jackpot.

I recommended just shooting him."

It was Moqtada Al-Sadr's ceasefire (in combination with paying off sunni tribes to "fight" their Sunni brethren in Al-Quaida) that caused the lull in violence that some in the administration euphamistically refer to as the "success" of the surge. There are signs now that he has called off the cease-fire. Recently, there are more explosions, etc...and things may be heating up again. Not just between Al-Sadr against Americans, but Al-Sadr against Sunni factions. In other words, almost like a factional war or if you will - a low intensity civil war. We have successfully armed both sides by now I believe.

We aint going nowhere for at least 5 years. Unless the plan was to arm both sides, leave, and then let them kill each other for awhile and THEN steal sign contracts for the Oil fields.
3.19.2008 6:25pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
I suspect that Cheney could do more to publicly indicate that he holds "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind."

Only if you think journalists are the representatives of mankind and pollsters of their opinions.
3.19.2008 6:25pm
Gaius Marius:
Of course, President Bush could have better used his time when he was in the National Guard reading up on military history and tactics instead of going AWOL stateside while on active duty.
3.19.2008 6:25pm
hattio1:
Perseus says;

The VP was simply echoing Federalist 71: "Instances might be cited in which a conduct of this kind...has procured lasting monuments of their gratitude to the men who had courage and magnanimity enough to serve them [the people] at the peril of their displeasure. ...it is certainly desirable that the executive should be in a situation to dare to act his own opinion with vigor and decision."


That's a lot of echoing to do with one two-letter answer (so). Isn't it just as likely that he truly doesn't give a damn? Not that he's required to give a damn, and not that there's much more support for that interpretation than there is for yours. My point is that you can't assume the facts are as you want them to be.
3.19.2008 6:26pm
Gaius Marius:
I say we just bug out and nuke the whole damn country for orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
3.19.2008 6:26pm
Gaius Marius:
...from orbit...
3.19.2008 6:27pm
gab:
Kudos to DPSC for the Fitzgerald quote.
3.19.2008 6:34pm
Anderson (mail):
Same old Cheney. Too bad he's not running again, eh?

Fortunately, Americans have a chance to vote for a candidate with the same attitude towards public opinion and our occupation of Iraq: John McCain.
3.19.2008 6:35pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
If only McCain shared Cheney's contempt for the press I'd have amuch easier time supporting him.
3.19.2008 6:49pm
Waldensian (mail):

I say we just bug out and nuke the whole damn country for orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Seems like a lot of trouble to go to for some chewing gum.
3.19.2008 6:55pm
Perseus (mail):
That's a lot of echoing to do with one two-letter answer (so).

The echoing, of course, was from the VP's answer to Ms. Radditz's follow-up question.

My point is that you can't assume the facts are as you want them to be.

I can indeed assume the facts because I'm part of the neoconservative conspiracy (with a secret decoder ring) that's pulling the strings of our puppet in the Administration.
3.19.2008 7:06pm
Anderson (mail):
Good heavens, something sensible, not from a blogger or journalist, but from a Presidential candidate:

The central front in the war against terror is not Iraq, and it never was. What more could America's enemies ask for than an endless war where they recruit new followers and try out new tactics on a battlefield so far from their base of operations? That is why my presidency will shift our focus. Rather than fight a war that does not need to be fought, we need to start fighting the battles that need to be won on the central front of the war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
3.19.2008 7:09pm
Randy R. (mail):
Houston Lawyer "Many of the attacks against civilian targets by our enemy have been staged solely for the purpose of affecting American public opinion about the war. "

Got any evidence to support this, or it is just Fox News propaganda? Unless you have an enemy combantant admiting this, I really don't see how you can surmise it.

Curious Passerby: "How many years was it that our troops remained in Germany and Japan after those conflicts ended?"

Don't know. But those conflicts ended at some point -- we haven't even gotten to that point yet in Iraq.

Bart: "Were Washington, Lincoln and FDR arrogant and perhaps delusional for ignoring the war weariness and prosecuting those wars to victory at an exponentially greater cost in blood than the Iraq War?"

Please tell us what victory in Iraq would look like, and then we can tell you anyone is delusional.

What is rather funny is that Cheney and his supporters are always trumpeting all the succes we are having in Iraq. Yet, Cheney had to do there under a surprise visit, and only briefly left the heavily guarded safe zone. Meanwhile, at least one bomb went off killing lots of people.

where are those people that were supposed to be lining up with flowers at the sight of Cheney?
3.19.2008 7:17pm
Justin (mail):
"I realize this exchange won't change any opinions. If you support U.S. policy, it shows how wonderfully steadfast Cheney is in doing what's right even when the American people don't appreciate it. If you oppose current U.S. policy, it shows that Cheney is arrogant and perhaps delusional."

I disagree - I think this shows the unresponsiveness to public opinion that is both, in my view critical to a functioning democracy in general (under public choice theory), but more to the point, a necessary assumption of any defense of the unitary executive theory of law.
3.19.2008 7:25pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Casper: "Probably half to a third of that 65% who now oppose the war were initially supporters. Perhaps they will think a little more carefully before they decide to support the next potential war and will be a bit more skeptical of the government line in the future."

Don't count on it. Similar sentiments were aired after Vietnam. The fact is that government officials lie. They lie brazenly. They lie repeatedly. They lie successfully. As a result, they can always cause sufficient fear among the American populace to garner support for a war. Once in a war of course, as so many posters here note, it would be just wrong to leave without "finishing". Gulf of Tonkin. WMDs.

This is WHY the Founders argued for not intervening in the foreign affairs of other countries. It wasn't a preference. It was a principle. Conservatives who believe they can have "small government" with "low taxes" while housing troops and fighting wars all over the globe delude themselves more than liberals who believe government social programs actually help those in poverty rather than those who run and are employed by such programs.
3.19.2008 7:49pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
I loved the simple "So?" and how flustered the reporter got.
3.19.2008 7:55pm
DPSC:

Randy R writes:
Houston Lawyer "Many of the attacks against civilian targets by our enemy have been staged solely for the purpose of affecting American public opinion about the war. "

Got any evidence to support this, or it is just Fox News propaganda? Unless you have an enemy combantant admiting this, I really don't see how you can surmise it.


Given your strictures I don't see how it would be possible, in most cases, to know much about the aims of our enemies. After all, a canny enemy is unlikely to admit his aims. In this case the enemy is not so canny. He has said, forthrightly, and repeatedly, that his aim is to win by making us unwilling to fight. If you've missed this, you haven't been listening.

"We are going to win, because they love life and we love death." -- Hassan Nasrallah

"When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse." -- good old Osama

"The speeches [by speeches he means the 9/11 atttacks] are understood by both Arabs and non-Arabs-even by Chinese. It is above all the media said. Some of them said that in Holland, at one of the centers, the number of people who accepted Islam during the days that followed the operations were more than the people who accepted Islam in the last eleven years." -- once again, Osama

And of course we have a lot of evidence from people who have beaten us at this game and spoken about it later:

"What we still don't understand is why you Americans stopped the bombing of Hanoi. You had us on the ropes. If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender! It was the same at the battles of TET. You defeated us! We knew it, and we thought you knew it.

But we were elated to notice your media was definitely helping us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefields. We were ready to surrender. You had won!" -- General Vo Nguyen Giap

If you want more quotes in this vein I suggest looking at what Osama had to say about our Somalian adventure.

There is no rational strategy available to those fighting us in Iraq other than Giap's. We have enough money and muscle that the only way they can win is to convince us to go home. And there is no rational reason for many of the mass casualty attacks that we have seen in Iraq other than getting them reported in world media to turn public opinion against the war- ironically, it seems that this tactic has damaged the insurgency by turning Iraqis against them.

So, we can assume one of two things- our first choice is that the insurgency is in fact fighting a media war. The second is that they are completely irrational. I suspect that the truth lies somewhere in the middle- these guys are no Giaps.

But I think your question is rather odd- should we make no assumptions about the enemy's motivations if it cannot be sourced to a reputable journal? I wonder how your oen views of the war would fare if you subjected each of your assumptions to that standard.
3.19.2008 8:00pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Cheney's right. The Iraq war wasn't a mistake because the majority of Americans think so. Rather, the majority of Americans think it was a mistake because it was."

If the majority supported it would the war be a mistake? If so, by what standards do we make the judgement? Polls aparently would hve no place, nor would the opinion of the VP. So, how does one know a war is a mistake?
3.19.2008 8:14pm
Bandon:
I'll pick Orin's second option: Cheney is "delusional" about Iraq.

It is difficult to understand how Cheney could serve as one of the architects of the first Gulf War, which had a logical purpose and a clear exit strategy executed with skill and precision, and then turn around to make one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in American history. The VP's cerebral arteries must be hardening extremely rapidly.

Anyone who could ignore the effect of removing Iraq as a buffer against Iran while arguing that the Iraqis would welcome an American occupation and use their oil to finance the U.S. costs of the war, must be delusional. Unfortunately, nothing Cheney has said or done since the invasion of Iraq has made him look any less delusional.

Sticking to unpopular convictions that benefit America is laudable, but sticking to irrational convictions that hurt America is simply stubborn and stupid!
3.19.2008 8:18pm
MarkField (mail):
70 posts in and nobody has made the distinction between public opinion in the short run and public opinion in the long run. I agree that short run fluctuations in polls shouldn't guide policy. Long run, consistent public opinion, though, is the essence of republican government. We can debate how long is long, but Cheney's answer reads like an expression of contempt for the American people and doesn't speak well of him.
3.19.2008 8:19pm
Elliot123 (mail):
MarkField,

We will handle the long run opinion in November. That poll matters.

We should also note the full response from Cheney:

Raddatz: Two-third of Americans say it's not worth fighting.
Cheney: So?
Raddatz: So? You don't care what the American people think?
Cheney: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls. There has, in fact, been fundamental change and transformation and improvement for the better. That's a huge accomplishment.
3.19.2008 8:28pm
alias:
Cheney on Iraq (1994).
3.19.2008 8:37pm
Toby:
MarkField (et al)

Its amazing what a Rorsach Blot the word SO is.
3.19.2008 8:38pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I would suggest anyone interested in this read the full interview. The short exchange posted by Prof Kerr does not convey the full exchange, the longer series of questions on the subject, and explanations given by Cheney.
3.19.2008 8:41pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Re leaving troops in countries we had beaten and pacified after WWII. Both my father and father-in-law were part of the occupying forces in Japan after Japan surrendered. Any comparison of that situation and Iraq now is complete BS.
3.19.2008 8:42pm
Shertaugh:
How 'bout this. Why don't we don't we send our troops to Vietnam again to finish what we started there. How spineless we were to have abandoned our allies in So. Vietnam. And by returning to So. Vietnam, we can stop the spread of communism through Southeast Asia.

Oh, you say communism didn't spread like falling dominoes throughout SE Asia after we left? Hmmm. Okay. Scratch the mission to So. Vietnam.
3.19.2008 8:46pm
Shertaugh:
Should have read:

How 'bout this. Why don't we don't we send our troops to Vietnam again to finish what we started there. How spineless we were to have abandoned our allies in So. Vietnam. And by returning to So. Vietnam, we can stop the spread of communism through Southeast Asia.

Oh, you say communism didn't spread like falling dominoes throughout SE Asia after we left? Hmmm. Okay. Scratch the mission to So. Vietnam.
3.19.2008 8:47pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
Yeah, well, it wasn't public opinion that caused us to be blown off course.
3.19.2008 9:05pm
Dave N (mail):
Shertaugh,

I am sure both the Lao and the Cambodians remember their countries falling contemporaneously with the fall of South Vietnam. You know, the killing fields and all that?
3.19.2008 9:12pm
DPSC:

Bandon writes:
It is difficult to understand how Cheney could serve as one of the architects of the first Gulf War, which had a logical purpose and a clear exit strategy executed with skill and precision, and then turn around to make one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in American history. The VP's cerebral arteries must be hardening extremely rapidly.


The first Gulf War was clearly a stunning military victory. That shouldn't be surprising- Iraq was simply not equipped to fight an armor battle with us, and the smoke from the wells they set on fire wound up screwing them really badly. We could see through it, and they couldn't. Also, we could target them at ranges 1000' greater than the ranges they could target us at, even without the smoke. When you add in our overwhelming air superiority it was basically a turkey-shoot.

It was a remarkably bloody turkey-shoot- I have a few friends who served as the tip of the spear in Gulf War I and all of them came back with their eyes opened about the nature of war. We buried tens of thousands of Iraqi conscripts alive in that war, and then rolled our armor over them to add insult to (fatal) injury.

After the war we made some noises that suggested that we might support an insurrection in Iraq. We meant the generals, but the people misunderstood and started an insurrection that we were not willing to support. We allowed them to be killed in great numbers by aircraft within flight zones we controlled. In his one great moment, Wolfowitz managed to get us to put a stop to that, after a few days of mass murder.

Anyway, the first Gulf War war achieved very little at a tremendous cost. Since that cost was paid in Iraqi blood over the course of a few weeks it was hailed as a victory. It also led, inevitably, to the current war. "We figured it out on the train, man. It's all the same [war]. Tomorrow never comes."


Bandon writes:
Anyone who could ignore the effect of removing Iraq as a buffer against Iran...


Well, that buffer came at an enormous cost, though it seems that you are not interested in recognizing the cost to Iraqis if it does not support your position. Anyway, if you're worried about Iran it seems to me that you _must_ support a continued US presence in Iraq. If we leave now Iran will probably assimilate Iraq.
3.19.2008 9:14pm
Perseus (mail):
Having read the interview, I see that Ms. Raddatz has a pattern of bowing at the altar of public opinion polls (e.g., "I think there was a poll that showed 76 percent of Americans believed there's a recession").

Here's the full quote from the VP:

RADDATZ: So -- you don't care what the American people think?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls. Think about what would have happened if Abraham Lincoln had paid attention to polls, if they had had polls during the Civil War. He never would have succeeded if he hadn't had a clear objective, a vision for where he wanted to go, and he was willing to withstand the slings and arrows of the political wars in order to get there. And this President has been very courageous, very consistent, very determined to continue down the course we were on and to achieve our objective. And that's victory in Iraq, that's the establishment of a democracy where there's never been a democracy, it's the establishment of a regime that respects the rights and liberties of their people, as an ally for the United States in the war against terror, and as a positive force for change in the Middle East. That's a huge accomplishment.
3.19.2008 9:16pm
Smokey:
Gaius Marius:
There is absolutely no excuse for not capturing Bin Laden by now.
bin Laden's dead. Being a military historian and all, you didn't get the memo?

And thanks, Anderson, for putting that spotlight on Obama's naivete.

See, it's A-OK when a liberal candidate advocates war -- not only in Afghanistan, but a new war against Pakistan, too! Barry O now says he intends to widen our circle of enemies by another 165 million folks who didn't attack us.
3.19.2008 9:30pm
DPSC:

Shertaug writes:

How 'bout this. Why don't we don't we send our troops to Vietnam again to finish what we started there. How spineless we were to have abandoned our allies in So. Vietnam. And by returning to So. Vietnam, we can stop the spread of communism through Southeast Asia.

Oh, you say communism didn't spread like falling dominoes throughout SE Asia after we left? Hmmm. Okay. Scratch the mission to So. Vietnam.


I hate to be rude, but your post is profoundly stupid. It wouldn't be sensible to initiate a war with Vietnam now. That does not mean that it made sense to withdraw at the time, and it does not mean that it was sensible to withdraw support from the S Vietnamese government. It might or might not have made sense to do so, but how sensible it would be to invade Vietnam in 2008 is not relevant to that question.

Beyond that, violent forms of Marxism and Maoism are very popular with the armed gangs that have made many nations in southeast Asia hellholes since Vietnam. The death toll that can be laid at the feet of these movements is comparable to the death toll of the Holocaust (in fact it is probably much higher). You seem to have declared yourself a supporter of these movements.

It might have been stupid for us to have had a military presence in Vietnam in the first place (this is my position- we should have let the French sink or swim over there) but our withdrawal from Vietnam was a crime. I tend to think of it as a good metric- no true liberal could possibly have supported it.
3.19.2008 9:49pm
Bart (mail):
Mike&(mail):

Do you prefer leadership by polls?

Dude, that's what democracy is. Think about it.


We do not have a democracy. We have a representative republic where we elect representatives to use their best judgment to run the country. Pure democracy would be chaos.
3.19.2008 10:03pm
Bart (mail):
Randy R. (mail):

Bart: "Were Washington, Lincoln and FDR arrogant and perhaps delusional for ignoring the war weariness and prosecuting those wars to victory at an exponentially greater cost in blood than the Iraq War?"

Please tell us what victory in Iraq would look like, and then we can tell you anyone is delusional.


It looks very much as it does now.

The Sunni insurgency has surrendered and switched to our side.

The surviving enemy al Qaeda has been decimated and is largely ineffective. al Qaeda has less support from Iraqis than George Bush does from the Dems.

The Iraqis and the Coalition control nearly all of the country and the economy is booming.

The Iraqi government is pro American and making more political progress and has a far greater approval rate among its voters than does our current Congress.

What is rather funny is that Cheney and his supporters are always trumpeting all the succes we are having in Iraq. Yet, Cheney had to do there under a surprise visit, and only briefly left the heavily guarded safe zone. Meanwhile, at least one bomb went off killing lots of people.

Our leaders are terrorist targets so you take precautions. In contrast, Petreus walks around Baghdad in his fatigues and a soft cap these days.
3.19.2008 10:09pm
JB:
Of course it will be bad for us if we leave.

The question is one of costs and benefits. Are the negative consequences of getting out worse than the trillions we'll have to spend to stay there?

It's the pro-war people's inability to come to grips with the costs part of the policies they advocate that makes them seem so irrational.
3.19.2008 10:11pm
Bart (mail):
Anderson (mail):

Good heavens, something sensible, not from a blogger or journalist, but from a Presidential candidate:

Obama: The central front in the war against terror is not Iraq, and it never was. What more could America's enemies ask for than an endless war where they recruit new followers and try out new tactics on a battlefield so far from their base of operations? That is why my presidency will shift our focus. Rather than fight a war that does not need to be fought, we need to start fighting the battles that need to be won on the central front of the war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Either this man is staggeringly ignorant or he is lying to you.

This is the man who first told the press that, after he cut and run from Iraq, he reserved the right to re-enter Iraq to fight al Qaeda if they established a base there after we left. Mr. McCain had to remind Mr. Obama that al Qaeda has been in Iraq for years and is the enemy we have been fighting during the Surge.

Here is what al Qaeda says about Iraq:

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Recovered during military operations in Iraq
July 9, 2005

The Jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals: The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or emirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate -- over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq....The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq. The fourth stage...the clash with Israel...The mujahedeen must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal.

Osama bin Laden
To the Muslims in Iraq in Particular and the [Islamic] Nation in General
Audio Message Posted on Jihadist Web Sites
Dec. 28, 2004

I now address my speech to the whole of the Islamic nation: Listen and understand. The issue is big and the misfortune is momentous. The most important and serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War, which the Crusader-Zionist coalition began against the Islamic nation. It is raging in the land of the two rivers [Iraq]. The world's millstone and pillar is in Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate…

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Interview with Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri
Video released by as-Sahab Media
May 5, 2007

The critical importance of the Jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan becomes clear, because the defeat of the Crusaders there -- soon, Allah permitting -- will lead to the setting up of two mujahid emirates which will be launch pads for the liberation of the Islamic lands and the establishment of the Caliphate.

Yusuf al-Ayyeri, deceased al-Qaeda leader in Saudi Arabia
The Future of Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula after the fall of Baghdad.
Excerpts extracted from Amir Taheri, Al-Qaeda's Agenda in Iraq, New York Post, Sept. 4, 2003

It is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy… The end of Ba'ath rule in Iraq is good for Islam and Muslims. Where the banner of Ba'ath has fallen, shall rise the banner of Islam… secularist democracy [is] far more dangerous to Islam… If democracy comes to Iraq, the next target [for democratization] would be the whole of the Muslim world.

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Realities of the Conflict Between Islam and Unbelief
Speech released by as-Sahab Media
December 2006

I repeat what I mentioned previously: the backing of the Jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq today is to back the most important battlefields in which the Crusade against Islam and Muslims is in progress. And the defeat of the Crusaders there -- soon, Allah permitting -- will have a far-reaching effect on the future of the Muslim Ummah, Allah willing.
3.19.2008 10:20pm
Professor moriarity:
Suppose the question were asked "should we have left Saddam Hussein as the dictator of Iraq?" Then we would see how much of the negativity is based on disagreement with the object, and how much on imagining that the responder could have done a better job of it.
3.19.2008 10:27pm
Gaius Marius:
Barack Hussein Obama is a Jihadist sympathizer.
3.19.2008 10:30pm
Gaius Marius:
Smokey, Bin Laden is about as dead as Jimmy Hoffa Sr. is alive.
3.19.2008 10:31pm
MarkField (mail):

We will handle the long run opinion in November. That poll matters.


That's absurd. The American people get to participate in government -- and influence it -- outside of elections. In any case, there was an intervening election in 2006.

It's kind of sad, but there was a time when elected officials actually gave effect to sovereignty of the people. That's why, for example, the 13th A passed in the same Congress which had previously rejected it. Cheney's comments (and yes, I did read the whole passage) serve only to re-emphasize his profound misunderstanding of our republican system.
3.19.2008 10:55pm
Bart (mail):
Anderson (mail):

Good heavens, something sensible, not from a blogger or journalist, but from a Presidential candidate...

Before you cast your ballot for Barrack Obama based on his stump speech that claims that: "I was opposed to the [Iraq] war from the start. I opposed this war in 2002, 2003, 4, 5 6 and 7," you might want to consider what he really said during those years.
3.19.2008 11:23pm
DPSC:
Well, before you cast your vote for Obama you might want to consider that he has advocated invading Pakistan. He's good when the teleprompter is on, but he says ridiculous things when he has to ad lib.

You might also consider this quote from Michelle Obama:

"Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed."

Well, I happen to like my comfort zone. I've spent a lifetime making it. I am cynical, I suppose. I'm not sure what it would mean if a President demanded that I stop being cynical, and backed that demand with the force of law. But I'm pretty sure that I will never vote for someone who plans to 'never allow [me] to go back to [my] li[fe] as usual, uninvolved, uninformed'. I can't say anything polite in response to that- I can only say: Go F*** yourself you stupid B***. My mind is mine, and it is not yours.
3.20.2008 12:47am
Elliot123 (mail):
"That's absurd. The American people get to participate in government -- and influence it -- outside of elections. In any case, there was an intervening election in 2006."

They are free to lobby for whatever they choose, and they can contact whomever they choose. They can write what they choose, advocate for what they choose, and oppose what they choose. However, outside of the ballot box and bringing court action, I'm not sure what real power they have between elections. What exactly did you have in mind?

I agree there were elections in 2006. My observation is that the next major election will take place in November.
3.20.2008 12:50am
Bandon:
Thanks much to Alias for the link to Cheney's comments about Iraq from 1994. They provide a perfect illustration of my earlier point concerning the change in Cheney's Iraq stance between the early 1990's and the second Gulf War.

If Cheney started experiencing memory gaps or lapses in judgment about Iraq as he entered the 21st century, he should have just replayed the video from 1994 as a reminder.

Not only is Cheney refusing to listen to the American people, but he doesn't even listen to himself.
3.20.2008 12:51am
Randy R. (mail):
"The Sunni insurgency has surrendered and switched to our side.
"The surviving enemy al Qaeda has been decimated and is largely ineffective. al Qaeda has less support from Iraqis than George Bush does from the Dems.
The Iraqis and the Coalition control nearly all of the country and the economy is booming.
The Iraqi government is pro American and making more political progress and has a far greater approval rate among its voters than does our current Congress."

Great! So we can leave soon? Oh -- now you have to tell us that we are making terrific progress, but not enough progress, right?

DSPS: "If you want more quotes in this vein I suggest looking at what Osama had to say about our Somalian adventure."

So in other words, you have absolutely no evidence that any bombings were done so with the purpose of demoralizing Americans. All you have is hypotheses. Nothing wrong with that, but you can hardly say that your opinion is evidence. Under your analysis, every single attack is primarily devised to undermine our morale and will.

I suspect that the truth is that although undermining our morale and will is one goal, they probably have a bigger goal of making life as miserable and difficult for us as possible, and thereby thwart our military plans. they have been pretty darn successful so far, since we have had to have a surge in order to make any progress at all. Remember: Time is on their side. iraqis are not going anywhere.

one more point. You should read Bart's posts. According to him, the war is going splendidly, so all this bombing meant to undermine our morale is beside the point. Victory is right around the corner.

As it has been for the last five years, of course.
3.20.2008 1:27am
Elliot Reed (mail):
Re "democracy", you people who are arguing the U.S. isn't a democracy don't seem to understand the English language. In modern English, "democracy" is given a broad meaning that includes democratic republics, not just direct democracy. Maybe "democracy" referred only to direct democracy at some point in history, but the meaning of the word has changed.
3.20.2008 1:30am
neurodoc:
Many Democrats, other than Lieberman...
He didn't get re-elected to the Senate in '06 as a Democrat, so does he count as one now?
3.20.2008 1:38am
DPSC:


Great! So we can leave soon? Oh -- now you have to tell us that we are making terrific progress, but not enough progress, right?



No, we won't be able to leave soon. Iraq is broken, and we have to fix it. It's a tremendously difficult thing to do. By the way, I am DPSC, not DSPS.

You say:


So in other words, you have absolutely no evidence that any bombings were done so with the purpose of demoralizing Americans. All you have is hypotheses. Nothing wrong with that, but you can hardly say that your opinion is evidence. Under your analysis, every single attack is primarily devised to undermine our morale and will.


In other words you are an idiot. Sorry, but please... I offered a great deal of evidence. You didn't read it I guess. That you are semi-literate is not my problem.
3.20.2008 1:47am
neurodoc:
Thoughtful: This is WHY the Founders argued for not intervening in the foreign affairs of other countries. It wasn't a preference. It was a principle.
So, would you have had us enter into WWII? The Korean War? The first Persian Gulf War in '91?

Do you think anything has changed in the world over the course of the past 200+ years that might warrant a different approach to the conduct of our foreign affairs today? Or in your view is isolationism a "principle" for all times?
3.20.2008 2:02am
DPSC:

So, would you have had us enter into WWII? The Korean War? The first Persian Gulf War in '91?



No, If it were up to me I would have advised the President to stay out of WW II. I would have allowed China to take over Asia. I am basically a neo-isolationist. We should trade with other nations, but it is insane to try to regulate their morals,
3.20.2008 2:11am
Brian K (mail):
DPSC,

After all, a canny enemy is unlikely to admit his aims. In this case the enemy is not so canny. He has said, forthrightly, and repeatedly, that his aim is to win by making us unwilling to fight. If you've missed this, you haven't been listening.

to paraphrase: "a canny enemy can't be taken at his word. however, i want to take our enemy at his word so i will just claim he is not canny." that's a nice trick you did there.
3.20.2008 2:22am
Hoosier:
>>>No, If it were up to me I would have advised the President to stay out of WW II. I would have allowed China to take over Asia. I am basically a neo-isolationist. We should trade with other nations, but it is insane to try to regulate their morals . . .

So, lemme see if I got this:

Preventing Nazi Germany from controlling the opposite coast of the North Atlantic while marshalling all the physical, economic, and human resources of Europe

=

Regulating German morals

?
3.20.2008 6:37am
SirBillsalot (mail):
This thread illustrates why I have long since given up discussing the Iraq war with war opponents. You can't have reasoned discussions with people for whom certain opinions are an article of faith.

Of course, if polls are such lodestones, and the public so overwhelmingly committed to precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, how come war supporting McCain is neck and neck with opponent Obama in those same polls? It suggests to me that there are many like me who have given up trying to debate the gale-force opinions we encounter, but have no intention of giving in.
3.20.2008 8:09am
Ralph Phelan (mail):
So, how does one know a war is a mistake?

Candidates running on an unambiguous "pull out now" platform win elections. That's how we got out of Vietnam.

I'd rather not see Gallup given an official role in the operation of our republic.
3.20.2008 8:48am
Ralph Phelan (mail):
Either this man [Obama] is staggeringly ignorant or he is lying to you.

Why can't I have both?
3.20.2008 8:54am
Bart (mail):
Randy R.:

BD: "The Sunni insurgency has surrendered and switched to our side.
"The surviving enemy al Qaeda has been decimated and is largely ineffective. al Qaeda has less support from Iraqis than George Bush does from the Dems.
The Iraqis and the Coalition control nearly all of the country and the economy is booming.
The Iraqi government is pro American and making more political progress and has a far greater approval rate among its voters than does our current Congress."

Great! So we can leave soon? Oh -- now you have to tell us that we are making terrific progress, but not enough progress, right?

We have been withdrawing troops and handing over the newly pacified Sunni Triangle and large parts of the Diyala province to the Iraqis for some weeks now.

The Iraqis are taking the lead clearing al Qaeda out of the Mosul region north of Baghdad and we will have another group of troops coming home after that operation finishes, probably in 2009.

However, we are not going to have a force of perhaps 50,000 or so based in Iraq for the foreseeable future as we did when the Korean War finished up to keep the country stable and ward of external threats like Iran and al Qaeda.

About the only way we can still snatch defeat from a substantial strategic victory in Iraq is to completely cut and run in short order as Obama is arguing.
3.20.2008 10:04am
The Unbeliever (mail):
In modern English, "democracy" is given a broad meaning that includes democratic republics, not just direct democracy. Maybe "democracy" referred only to direct democracy at some point in history, but the meaning of the word has changed.

No, it doesn't. "Democracy" may be used in this manner as a shorthand notation by politicians and pundits, but when using the terms as part of a discussion of political science (as we are doing here) they have intentionally distinct meanings. There's a reason poli sci is its own discipline with its own lexicon, and you don't get to redefine terms just because you feel like it.

As pointed out above, there is a clear functional difference between a representative democracy and a democratic republic; the system in the US is the latter, though you might use the former phrase when referring to our voting framework. In case you slept through the lecture: when applying the term to a system of government, the question to be answered is who writes the laws, not who gets a vote.

No need to thank me, I am always willing to do my part to re-educate college sophmores who lost their notes from last semester.
3.20.2008 11:10am
neurodoc:
Thoughtful: This is WHY the Founders argued for not intervening in the foreign affairs of other countries. It wasn't a preference. It was a principle.
I'm not sure I understand what constitutes "intervening in the foreign affairs of other countries," but I assume you mean not interjecting ourselves in conflicts that do not directly and immediately threaten our security. In any event, if yours is an accurate or even semi-accurate statement of the consensus view at the time this country was founded, one with broad application, then read Michael Oren's last book about American involvement in the Middle East. You will see that within a very few years, during Jefferson's presidency, we had to deal with the Barbary Coast pirates, build a navy of war ships, involve ourselves in parts of the world remote from these shores, and project force there. So much for that "principle" that you would have us follow 200+ years later.
3.20.2008 12:06pm
DPSC:


So, lemme see if I got this:

Preventing Nazi Germany from controlling the opposite coast of the North Atlantic while marshalling all the physical, economic, and human resources of Europe

=

Regulating German morals

?



Perhaps I should have wrapped that post in explicit [absurdity] tags. I thought it redundant, given the blatant contrafactual that I tossed into the last sentence. I guess you can never be too careful.

Still, I do think that WWII injected a particularly American strain of schizophrenia (in the colloquial sense of the word) into our national sense of self. We have chosen to frame the war against Germany as a war to regulate morals - thus we emphasize the holocaust in our accounts of that war, despite the fact that at time we were not at all concerned about Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen. Your account is more honest, but it is not the story that we tell ourselves and our children about that war.

The problem with our narrative is that it is a bit hard to sell the idea that we are doing good by killing hundreds of thousands of people. One of the more serious problems of the Iraq war is that it was initiated on moral grounds- it is hard to overstate Paul Wolfowitz's importance as an architect of this war, and you can't understand the genesis of this war if you don't have a basic understanding of Wolfowitz's motives.

Wolfowitz is the archetypical neocon (Feith is the other side of that coin, but the less said about him, the better).
It's important to understand that Wolfowitz wanted this war because he wanted to do good. The first Gulf War was a shattering experience for him, partly because of the nattering about what a great victory it was. (say it quickly: if the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit; Gulf War I was shattering, because of the nattering. I guess Cochran had a better ear for scansion than I have.)

Wolfowitz was on the ground in Iraq in '91, and he witnessed the slaughter that we allowed to happen. He was actually the guy who who was able to get through to Bush I and get the no-fly zones enforced, and he will have a place with the angels for having done that, no matter how the rest of his resume reads at the pearly gates.

People say that neocons are liberals who have been mugged. This might be accurate, and Iraq in '91 might have been Paul Wolfowitz's first mugging. The problem is that neocons are liberals who have been mugged _once_. Thus they consider the mugging to have been an exceptional event, and turn all of their idealism toward fighting muggings. They fail to understand that as long as there are people there will be muggings. Some omelettes are worth the eggs- others are not. Idealists are people who don't count the broken eggs as a cost of the omelette.
3.20.2008 12:20pm
Randy R. (mail):
". Sorry, but please... I offered a great deal of evidence. "

No you didn't. You offered a lot of evidence regarding the Vietnam war. Interesting, but that has nothing to do with this war. You offered some quotes by Osama bin Laden, but he's not in Iraq and never has been. And no one is offering any suggestion that he is leading the insurgency in Iraq either.

Basically, you make an assumption that any strike by an enemy is calculated to destroy morale at home. That's such a broad statement that it is difficult to see where it has any meaning, and difficult to pin down to specifics, which is what you lack.

Bart: "We have been withdrawing troops and handing over the newly pacified Sunni Triangle and large parts of the Diyala province to the Iraqis for some weeks now.
The Iraqis are taking the lead clearing al Qaeda out of the Mosul region north of Baghdad and we will have another group of troops coming home after that operation finishes, probably in 2009."

Great! So we can leave soon? Right? Victory is right around the corner! Oh wait -- here comes that qualifier!

"However, we are not going to have a force of perhaps 50,000 or so based in Iraq for the foreseeable future as we did when the Korean War finished up to keep the country stable and ward of external threats like Iran and al Qaeda."

But wait -- so many people, like George Bush and McCain, and many other supporters, are saying that we will be in Iraq for a very long time, probably decades. Are you now saying that they don't know what they are talking about? Are they lying? If so, maybe we can't trust them with the truth.

If they are telling the truth, then it looks like you are wrong, and we will have a substantial presence in Iraq for another generation or so.

Please, I'm so confused! All you experts on this war contradict each other -- who's right?
3.20.2008 12:26pm
Randy R. (mail):
"One of the more serious problems of the Iraq war is that it was initiated on moral grounds"

No it was NOT. The Iraq war was initiated as a threat to the US. Condi Rice said we can't wait for the mushroom cloud. Powell said that Iraq was arming itself with nuclear weapons. Everyone said they are determined to attack the US, and that the only and best way to prevent them from doing this was to go in and eliminate their WMD.

In fact, whenever the moral issue was raised, the Bush Adminsitration had to wave it away, since they would then have to justify not invading other immoral regimes such as S. Korea or Zimbabwe, which didn't have the phatnom WMD.

The moral grounds issue didn't arise until they realized all the above was wrong.
3.20.2008 12:32pm
Randy R. (mail):
So, you should correct your statement to read: "One of the more serious problems with the Iraq War is that the major underpinnings for the invasion were all found to be false."
3.20.2008 12:35pm
MarkField (mail):

Re "democracy", you people who are arguing the U.S. isn't a democracy don't seem to understand the English language. In modern English, "democracy" is given a broad meaning that includes democratic republics, not just direct democracy. Maybe "democracy" referred only to direct democracy at some point in history, but the meaning of the word has changed.


Exactly. The meaning of the word "democracy" began to change not long after the Founding, and it's possible to see that change in speeches.


However, outside of the ballot box and bringing court action, I'm not sure what real power they have between elections. What exactly did you have in mind?


The power to influence elected officials.

Ya gotta love the posters on this site. If the judiciary -- the branch designed to be insulated from popular votes -- dares to issue a counter-majoritarian opinion, defenders of democracy spring into action here and denounce the Court. But let the President, an elected official, defy the voters and he's suddenly a Profile in Courage.

The posters here don't care about democracy at all. The only principle they recognize is this: IOKIYAR.
3.20.2008 12:39pm
DPSC:

Randy R writes:
No you didn't. You offered a lot of evidence regarding the Vietnam war. Interesting, but that has nothing to do with this war. You offered some quotes by Osama bin Laden, but he's not in Iraq and never has been. And no one is offering any suggestion that he is leading the insurgency in Iraq either.

Basically, you make an assumption that any strike by an enemy is calculated to destroy morale at home. That's such a broad statement that it is difficult to see where it has any meaning, and difficult to pin down to specifics, which is what you lack.


You're rephrasing my argument. When you do that you should be careful to retain the important characteristics of the argument. I'm afraid that you haven't- a new named fallacy could be coined just for you: "argumentum ad selectivicum". So, let's recap:

1) The US has never lost a war through military defeat (though Chosin came close to that). We probably would have lost the Revolution if Britain had been really dedicated to fighting it, but that war was an exception.

2) The US has lost wars because the public perception was that they were not worth fighting. I provided evidence that this was the case in Vietnam. I would include Somalia in this category even if it is not widely seen as a "war".

3) Our enemy in Iraq is hard to identify. Thus, we cannot quote him. I can only quote people like Giap and bin Laden. Your argument, taken to its rational extreme, would indicate that we have no enemy in Iraq. This is clearly not the case, so you are wrong- proof by contradiction.

4) There is an enemy force in Iraq, even if it is amorphous. We should assume that this force has aims. We should also assume that this force acts in ways that are meant to further its aims.

5) Most of the mass casualty attacks in Iraq have no effect on our ability to continue our military mission.

6) Given 5, we must assume one of two things. Either our enemy has aims beyond military effectiveness (i.e. manipulation of media), or they are nutters who just like to blow people up. I think that both propositions are true, actually.

Anyway, I hope that clears a few things up for you.
3.20.2008 1:56pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"The power to influence elected officials."

The elected official controls this power. If he chooses to be influenced, and chooses whose voice will be the influence, then the advocacy can be effective. But, if he doesn't, as many claim Bush and Cheney don't, then the people have no power at all. That leaves the people with one option: ballot box. That means November.

"The posters here don't care about democracy at all. The only principle they recognize is this: IOKIYAR."

So?
3.20.2008 2:05pm
Smokey:
Gaius M:
Smokey, Bin Laden is about as dead as Jimmy Hoffa Sr. is alive.
Then let's see someone produce him -- instead of producing a grainy, obviously dubbed copy.

Think of the electrifying morale boost that a bin Laden interview with MSNBC or C-BS would give to every Islamist on the planet. Who would bypass a chance like that??

Hey, maybe bin Laden isn't dead. He might only be missing because he's still be trying to dig his way out from under 30 meters of Tora Bora rock.
3.20.2008 2:13pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
But let the President, an elected official, defy the voters and he's suddenly a Profile in Courage.

Gallup and the New York Times are not the American electorate, much as they both would like to pretend otherwise.

In the early 1970s the electorate had a chance to flood Congress with people who would vote to bail out of Vietnam. They did and Congress did. In 2004 the electorate had a chance to flood Congress with people who would vote to bail out of Iraq. They didn't and Congress didn't.
3.20.2008 2:18pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
So in other words, you have absolutely no evidence that any bombings were done so with the purpose of demoralizing Americans. All you have is hypotheses. Nothing wrong with that, but you can hardly say that your opinion is evidence. Under your analysis, every single attack is primarily devised to undermine our morale and will.
Well, you say that as if it's a strange conclusion -- but given that there's no tactical reason for most or all of these attacks, it actually seems quite logical.
3.20.2008 4:33pm
Lonetown (mail):
Its hard enough to get legislators to enact voter generated propositions as in the recent Michigan case.

Yet that system seems infinitely better than having pols change policy on the whim of polls. Besides most polls are designed to alter opinion not measure it.

Polls should be completely ignored unless completely vetted and used to formulate policy.
3.20.2008 4:53pm
MarkField (mail):

The elected official controls this power. If he chooses to be influenced, and chooses whose voice will be the influence, then the advocacy can be effective.


You say this as if there's no intermediate ground. Even if you think elected officials should resolutely ignore public opinion between elections -- a dubious argument in a true republic -- that does NOT imply that they should be contemptuous of consistent public opinion on one side of an issue. Cheney's comment, expressed in his favorite idiom, amounted to "Fuck the people." Nice.
3.20.2008 5:14pm
Randy R. (mail):
"2) The US has lost wars because the public perception was that they were not worth fighting"

Not true for the War of 1812. Of course, we claim we won that war, while the Brits and the Canadians claim that they won it. Defining victory in that debacle is still difficult today. Nonetheless, it was well fought, and we achieved a great many victories, but then lost them.

David: "but given that there's no tactical reason for most or all of these attacks" and from DPSC: "5) Most of the mass casualty attacks in Iraq have no effect on our ability to continue our military mission. "

Well, then this insurgency must be the most brilliant military ever in world history. According to the both of you, most of their attacks have no tactical reason and have had no effect on our military mission. YET they have stymied us to the point that we have been there for five years, and even in the best case scenario we will have to be there for many more years.

So which is it -- they have have no effects upon our military, or they have had a great effect upon our military? Considering the fact that we have several thousand dead soldiers, many more dead contractors, I would suspect that yes indeed, their attacks have been tactical and effective.
3.20.2008 7:57pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"You say this as if there's no intermediate ground. Even if you think elected officials should resolutely ignore public opinion between elections -- a dubious argument in a true republic -- that does NOT imply that they should be contemptuous of consistent public opinion on one side of an issue. Cheney's comment, expressed in his favorite idiom, amounted to "Fuck the people." Nice."

I didn't say what anybody should or should not do. Nor do I argue what they should or should not do. I simply observe that the power of the people is exercised at the ballot box or courts.

The elected official, not the people, decides if he will follow the expressions of advocacy by the people. This places that power in the hands of the official, not the people.

I believe your analysis of Cheney's comment is congruent with my observation.
3.20.2008 7:58pm
pluribus:
If I recall correctly, we went to war against Saddam Hussein. We thought there might be weapons of mass destruction there and wanted to get rid of them. Saddam was quickly removed from power, eventually captured, and executed. And we satisfied ourselves there were no WMD's in the country. Bush appeared on the carrier Lincoln beneath a sign proclaimng "Mission accomplished."

Who are we now at war with in Iraq? Certainly not Saddam Hussein or his government. Nobody now suspects that Iraq might unleash nukes on us or its neighbors. Does the military action there even qualify to be called a war? Or have we simply taken over the job of enforcing order in a country half way round the world, at a projected cost of several thousands of American casualties and $1.7 billion in debt? We don't have the money, folks, and ever dollar we spend there will be borrowed and the debt passed on to our posterity.
3.20.2008 9:44pm
DPSC:

Randy R blathered:
Well, then this insurgency must be the most brilliant military ever in world history. According to the both of you, most of their attacks have no tactical reason and have had no effect on our military mission. YET they have stymied us to the point that we have been there for five years, and even in the best case scenario we will have to be there for many more years.


It's nothing of the sort. The insurgency in Iraq has been tremendously ineffective in military terms. That you fail to understand that is not surprising. You are not, after all, the sharpest knife in the drawer.
3.20.2008 10:51pm
Bart (mail):
Randy R:

BTW, I forgot to add this to my list of what victory in Iraq looks like:

A growing number of al Qaeda are fleeing the battle in Iraq to avoid being hunted down and killed.

But hell, Mr. Cheney must be "deluded" for hunting down and killing al Qaeda rather than listening to polls.
3.20.2008 11:42pm
Randy R. (mail):
" The insurgency in Iraq has been tremendously ineffective in military terms."

Yet you consistently fail to explain how this 'ineffective' insurgency has succeeded in pinning down the world's greatest military. I suppose one could also say that George Washington's insurgency was ineffective against the British regulars, and yet we stymied the best military in the world at that time. You have inherent problem with your arguement: If they insurgency is so ineffective, then why haven't we been able to say 'mission accomplished' without embarrasment?

"That you fail to understand that is not surprising. You are not, after all, the sharpest knife in the drawer."

Yet you believe that we went to war in Iraq for moral issues and ignore the fact that all the original underpinnings for war were wrong. I guess when you run out of arguments, it's much easier to just hurl insults.
3.21.2008 1:08am
Elliot123 (mail):
Does anyone know why we went to war in Yugoslavia? Was there an attack on the US?
3.21.2008 1:31am
Perseus (mail):
The posters here don't care about democracy at all.

Spare us the sanctimonious lecturing about our failure to believe in a "true republic." As one of my favorite Founders put it:

No exact definitions have settled what is or is not, a Republican Government... Every man who speaks or writes on the subject, has an arbitrary standard in his own mind. The mad Democrat will have nothing republican which does not accord with his own mad theory.
3.21.2008 4:44am
pluribus:
When referring to the cost of the action in Iraq (I still hesitate to call it a war), I of course should have said $1.7 trillion insead of $1.7 billion. To paraphrase old Senator Dirksen (but upping him by a factor of a thousand), a trillion dollars here and a trillion dollars there, and pretty soon we're talking real money.
3.21.2008 8:34am