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!
3 thoughts on “The two tracks of discussion about the Iraq War, never intersecting”
Fabius, you may well enjoy the Kahl/Katulis debate at Abu Aardvark
Debate begins here
Thanks for the referral to these articles. This is exactly the kind of debate I said we needed. Expert clashing of two perspectives. Two quick thoughts on their work.
First, there are many statements of the form “If THIS then THAT will happen.” How many experts are there in the coalition nations that can reliably make such forecasts? It would take both knowledge of current conditions and deep background about Iraq. At what point does this planning on these forecasts become blind man’s bluff, a guessing game? If so, perhaps we should stick with simple and relatively low-risk plans. Iraq today might not be the place for bold moves.
Second, I do not share their faith in the efficacy of American power. Are we in the back passenger seats, with the locals squabbling up front over the controls – while we toss them arms and money?
I’ve written two articles on the fragmentation of Iraq, and its possible re-birth:
March 13: The Iraq insurgency has ended, which opens a path to peace!
September 27: Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq.
“The American ideal has always been one of open debate.”
Do you suppose that items like: Pentagon surveillances of anti-war groups or NSA Warrantless Domestic Surveillance or simply Employers Using Google Search or, No Fly List’s or FBI National Security Letter’s, etc, etc, etc, might, just might have a chilling affect on “open debate”?
“Have we become spiritually timid, afraid to debate?”
Perhaps, the time for talk is done and the time for action has come?