Those Who Root FOR The Enemy ARE the Enemy
One issue I raised (to Bill Toland of the Post-Gazette) a month or so back was my belief that there was going to be a decisive reaction by some members of the U.S. military to the political and military situation. In essence, his reaction was that I must be smoking some funny cigarettes. Bill is one of those journalists who take the middle ground, which can get you killed if you're walking down a highway but otherwise generally serves one's future interests.
Yes, people in the U.S. military -- all of them once among the clean-scrubbed cadets we see at West Point and Annapolis -- are very much committed to civilian control. They take an oath to the Constitution, and they mean it. However -- and this a major however -- they also have a responsibility to question policies that increase the number of deaths of men and women in their command.
Reading Nonie Darwish's book (Now They Call Me Infidel) reminds me that dictatorships have it much easier. Her discussion deals mainly with Nasser's control of all information in Egypt.
An evern more striking example is Hitler's Germany. True, it was a thoroughly disgusting regime one, but it had perhaps history's most powerful and unified military force. For many years, it did an effective job fighting the combined forces of the British Empire, the USSR, and the USA. On the homefront, the German people endured unimaginable horrors, including the destruction by firebombs of entire cities (see Slaughterhouse 5 and The Good German)
One way Germany could sustain morale was by not allowing political dissent. German soldiers heard no discouraging words, letter along utter them. Any war critics who emerged -- and there were very few -- ended up getting tortured and exterminated.
No, I'm not advocating that we have a system anything like the one that prevails in authoritarian governments.
The question is: What level of dissent is permissible in war-time. It went too far in the Viet Nam era, with mobs of American dissidents calling out, "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF [National Liberation Front, the Communist side] is sure to win." Ho Chi Minh was a despicable dictator, but that didn't discourage the Jane Fondas of the time.
If rooting for the enemy is permissible, then how exactly would it be possible to keep faith with the men and women we're sending overseas, sometimes to make the ultimate sacrifice? And how do we explain it to the soldiers' families?
Let me make it perfectly clear: Those who rooting publicly for the enemy -- and supporting them in such ways as trying to delay supplies -- ARE THE ENEMY. If not, what are they? Somehow, the term "loyal opposition" has a very hollow ring.
Can a nation conduct a war with intense opposition from the home front -- including elected officials trying to "defund" the effort? Obviously, it can in a sense, because we're doing so in Afghanistan and Iraq. But is it possible to wage war effectively with so many people saying that the battle isn't worth fighting?
As for Afghanistan, it's drawing criticism from MOST of the same people who are advocating a pull-out from Iraq. I doubt this fact is lost on the Taliban.
Here's the sticking point: General Abizaid said in Congressional testimony that if the U.S. withdraws quickly from Iraq, the enemy "would follow us." In other words, if we don't win this war -- in some menaningful sense of "win" -- our problems would just be beginning. The Sunni areas of Iraq could very well end up serving as the new training grounds for the Sunni-dominated Al Qaida.
From this view, a quick exit from Iraq, justified on the grounds it would save American lives, would end up costing many more American lives. It would leave behind a large area in Iraq available for training the same kinds of terrorists who carried out the attacks on American interests, including 9/11.
In an Iraq without American soldiers, the lion would not lie down with the lamb. In fact, the lion would devour the lamb -- and then presumably set its sights on the infidels, especially those of us in the West.
What's more, we could see a situation where our "friends" in the Middle East, countries like Kuwait, Qatar, and Jordan wouldn't want us around. If they did welcome in large numbers of American soldiers, they'd essentially be painting a bulls-eye on their nations, basically inviting Al Qaida violence.
These are the "inconvenient truths" you won't hear from Al Gore, or from cutters-and-runners like Pelosi and Murtha. Conceivably, the policies they advocate would not only bring "our boys and girls home" but dramatically increase their chances of terrorist attacks causing them to die at home.
As for General Abizaid and others, the situation they face is complex. How long will they willingly send Americans into battle without the strong, unified support those troops need? Presumably, not forever.
Note: As always these columsn are available for reprints by others. Just mention that you got it from Stephen R. Maloney's "Campaign2008" and e-mail me a copy.