Iraq and a Hard Place

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President Bush warned in his American Legion speech of August 31 and on other occasions that withdrawing from Iraq now would hand victory to America’s worst enemies, increasing the danger from terrorism. Tragically, Bush is probably right: we have blundered into a predicament from which no plausible or safe exit seems available. But how did we make this blunder? If nothing else, we should at least salvage lessons from it.

We must carry on from where we are now. We should seek a correct diagnosis and response; we should not squander resources on ineffective protections against terrorists. But can we trust the strategy – if any – of leaders whose wishful thinking and faulty intelligence got us into this predicament and who persist in denying their errors? Can we trust the judgment of those who unrealistically prate about bringing democracy to the Middle East and who see great significance in an election or two? Can we trust a president who seeks political advantage from being the wartime “commander-in-chief”?

Rush Limbaugh and especially Sean Hannity mount a rhetorical defense of Bush and crowd, practically accusing those who disagree with them on Iraq and on antiterrorism policy of being unpatriotic, of wishing for their own country’s defeat to punish Bush. Regrettably, those accusations may indeed apply to a minority of left-wing Democrats. Other Americans wish for an honorable and victorious exit from Iraq (somehow). We do “support the troops”; we do admire their sacrifices and want them to have adequate strength and excellent equipment, as well as fair treatment regarding repeated battlefield tours and extended enlistment periods. We agree that we must “stay the course,” not “cut and run.” The quoted slogans must not be mistaken, though, for reasoning or for strategy.

As for Sean Hannity, I sometimes, while driving home, hear his call-in program on the station that my car radio is always tuned to. His poor grammar and deficient vocabulary are irritating enough, but what really bores and repels me is his interrupting callers who do not see things his way and his impugning their patriotism. How can he and similar conservatives expect to make converts with such behavior? With friends like him …

Sometimes, driving home later, I escape Hannity and instead hear Paul Feinbaum’s call-in program about sports. Mercifully, it is no mere compendium of actual and predicted scores of games: it deals mostly in assessments of and gossip about coaches, players, and other personalities. This kind of talk is much more bearable than Hannity’s smears.

Which major party do voters support to rebuke Bush and crowd without encouraging left-liberal demagogy and policy? This dilemma – this jumbling of issues – again illustrates the inaccuracy of democracy (as of alternative government decision processes).

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