A silly thread at the Small Wars Council demonstrates a larger and perhaps important dynamic of the Iraq War. As the large institutions of the mainstream media lose influence, discussion moves to insular communities of narrow-focused media (esp magazines, radio, and websites). The anti-war folks have their homes, such as The Nation, National Public Radio, Juan Cole’s Informed Comment, Antiwar.com, the Daily Kos, and Matthew Yglesias. The pro-war (these are convenient if absurd labels) have homes such as the Instapundit, Little Green Footballs, Michael Yon, National Review, and “talk radio.”
Each side has their own view of our wars in Afghanistan — and their own facts. Both tend to treat opposing views as if from the Flat Earth Society. No matter how substantial and prominent the “enemy” advocates (retired generals, former high officials of governments, eminent academics), no matter how many tens of millions of Americans share their views, the zealots dominating the debate often dismiss them with a wave of the hand. Like Merlin doing magic. Do they expect their opponents to genuflect or applaud?
Can this be a good thing, or does it represent a diminishing of our collective intelligence — what Boyd called our Observation – Orientation – Decision – Action Loop (OODA)?
The American ideal has always been one of open debate. The clashing of opposing viewpoints so that a stronger synthesis emerges, as a medieval smith hammered crude iron into a fine sword. Like the fierce arguments in President Washington’s cabinet. Or the Lincoln-Douglas debates. From these debates came a unified spirit so that America could face the most severe dangers. This did not work for slavery, and the cost of this failure was high.
Why is this? Have we become spiritually timid, afraid to debate? Or coarse intellectually, unable to respond to challenges of our basic assumptions?
Also — please tell us of any websites where these issues are debated intelligently, with mutual respect!