It’s big news that Barack Obama has announced his troop level decision regarding Afghanistan — and that conservatives are criticizing his decision. Here is just a sample of what’s being said:
Okay, that’s all well and good. I have no problem with this criticism. But let me suggest that when pro-war supporters get ready to find targets to blame they may want to keep a mirror handy. When you fail to adequately fight (and thus you lose) the information war, why on earth would you be surprised when you lose public support?
It took a lot of time over the past decade-plus to search out and read the many arguments in favor of the U.S. intervention in both Afghanistan and Iraq starting in 2002 and 2003. If you waited for the information to find you, chances are your wait was in vain. If you had the time to go looking for it, the Web gave you want you needed.
There were many solid points made by many people I respect — so I came down in favor of both wars — though I admit it was an internal close call.
Despite his other failures, over the course of many years President George W. Bush and other Bush Administration officials gave a lot of excellent speeches first promoting, then explaining and defending their decisions.
So the policy experts dug in and made the case, as did the Bush Administration. Where was everyone else? For example, where were Republican members of congress? I’d argue they were mostly AWOL. I consider the abrogating of their responsibility to be borderline treason. If we had hundreds of elected officials aggressively making the case (and not just policy experts and Administration officials) we could’ve had a fighting chance in the war for public opinion.
By the time Obama took office the writing was on the wall. Those who had opposed the wars were now in charge and everyone knew what was to follow, right or wrong.
In the fall of 2007 I read countless articles and posted a 12-part series titled Notes on the War in Iraq. Using the very words of the experts, I answered all the usual questions and more. In late 2009 when Obama was taking forever to decide whether to do a troop surge in Afghanistan, I spent some time and wrote a five-part series titled Notes on the War in Afghanistan.
Shortly thereafter I stopped paying attention to both theaters. It was all just too frustrating to bother staying informed when I knew that much of the excellent information I was finding would never reach the public.
Men and women fought, died, and came home wounded in many ways. Yet Republicans and conservatives who supported the wars never got their act together to win the battle for the public mind. In my book, that’s the most important part of the story of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.
There are so many aspects of this that disgust me I could write a lot more — but let me close with this: did you know that the United States of America never lost a battle in Vietnam during the Vietnam War? That’s right. The only loss was here at home — in the information war — and Republicans and conservatives still haven’t learned their lesson.
For more on the real failure in the Vietnam War, read the last chapter of Victor Davis Hanson’s “Carnage and Culture” where he writes about the 1968 Tet Offensive (spoiler alert: the media sold Tet as a terrible defeat for the U.S. military; it was the exact opposite).
For a wonderful example of how your typical Republican member of Congress behaved during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, read the following excerpt from an article by Cathy Santos at Republican News Watch that posted 7 years ago this month:
“GOP Congressmen to Bush: You have no credibility” – The moment that MSNBC news alert flashed onto the television screen you just knew that one of those Congressmen would be from Illinois.
Actually, it turned out that two of those Republican Congressmen were from Illinois, and one led the charge.
A delegation of 11 Republican U.S. Congressmen, headed by Mark Kirk, went to the White House to meet with President Bush, Karl Rove, Tony Snow, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Ray LaHood was also one of the 11 Congressmen.
During the meeting, one Republican Congressman said, “The word about the war and its progress cannot come from the White House or even you, Mr. President. There is no longer any credibility.” The Congressmen who chose to publicly embarrass the President said their mission was “to convey the frustration and impatience with the war they are hearing from voters.”
The Congressmen talked about their feelings, and described the meeting as both tough and healthy. For cryin’ out loud folks, it sounds like these Congressmen needed a session with Dr. Phil, not the Commander-in-Chief.
LaHood stated several Congressmen in the delegation faced difficult re-election races last year and told Bush they worried the war could sink them in 2008. To those Congressmen – including Kirk and LaHood – we say if the Iraq war is a political problem for you, the best way to make it stop being a political problem is to win the war decisively.
We have zero tolerance for two squishy Republicans who would rather spend their time deliberating over the best shade of white flag to wave, as opposed to explaining to their constituents why President Bush’s objective of victory in Iraq deserves support.
First published in May 2014.
Image credit: Stars and Stripes /Carolyn Cole/LA Times.