Sunday, July 8, 2007

The War Apologists' Myth

Slowly but surely, I'm reading everything Matt Taibbi has ever written. Most of it will probably end up posted here. In this column he preemptively debunks what will most likely be the apologists' excuse for why this brilliantly conceived war didn't work out. Of course, "It was a good idea, but..." Yeah, okay, the catastrophe was compounded by incompetent execution. But it's time we admit that it was a bad idea, period.

What's amazing to me is that conservatives have been pushing this line of reasoning for five, six years now, and some people are apparently still buying it. Okay, yes, I jammed my own head up my ass -- but I didn't really, because look at how despicable the terrorists are! Why, they blew up a children's hospital! How could my own head be up my ass if terrorists can blow up a children's hospital? And the headless body points, gesticulates, etc.

What we have to remember about America's half-baked propaganda machine is that, dumb as it is, it always keeps its eye on the ball. The war in Iraq is lost, everyone knows that, but there are future wars to think about. When a war goes wrong, the reason can never that the invasion was simply a bad, immoral decision, a hopelessly fucked-up idea that even a child could have seen through. No, we always have to make sure that the excuse for the next war is woven into the autopsy of the current military failure. That's why to this day we're still hearing about how Vietnam was lost because a) the media abandoned the war effort b) the peace movement undermined the national will and c) the public, and the Pentagon, misread the results of the Tet offensive, seeing defeat where there actually was a victory.

After a few decades of that, we were ready to go to war again -- all we had to do, we figured, was keep the cameras away from the bloody bits, ignore the peace movement, and blow off any and all bad news from the battlefield. And we did all of these things for quite a long time in Iraq, but, maddeningly, Iraq still turned out to be a failure.

That left the war apologists in a bind. If after fixing all of the long-held Vietnam excuses Iraq could still blow up in our faces, that must mean that we not only misjudged Iraq, but we were wrong about why Vietnam failed, too. Now, if we're ever going to pull one of these stunts again, we're going to need to come up with a grander, even more outlandish excuse for why both wars were horrible, bloody failures. Who could come up with such an excuse? Well, a man who counts on three hands sure can. Here's Friedman quoting author Robert Hormats:
'In every major war that we have fought, with the exception of Vietnam, there was an effort prior to the war or just after the inception to re-evaluate tax and spending policies and to shift resources from less vital national pursuits to the strategic objective of fighting and winning the war,' said Mr. Hormats, a vice chairman of Goldman Sachs (International). He quotes Roosevelt's 1942 State of the Union address, when F.D.R. looked Americans in the eye and said: 'War costs money...That means taxes and bonds and bonds and taxes. It means cutting luxuries and other nonessentials. In a word, it means an 'all-out' war by individual effort and family effort in a united country.'(snip)
The notion that our problem in Iraq is a resource deficit is pure, unadulterated madness. Our enemies don't have airplanes or armor. They are fighting us with garage-door openers and fifty year-old artillery shells, sneaking around barefoot in the middle of the night around to plant roadside bombs. Anytime anyone dares oppose us in the daylight, we vaporize them practically from space using weapons that cost more than the annual budgets of most Arab countries to design. We outnumber the active combatants on the other side by at least five to one. This year, we will spend more on the military than the rest of the world combined -- more than six hundred billion dollars. And yet Tom Friedman thinks the problem in Iraq is that we ordinary Americans didn't tighten our belts enough to support the war effort.

If the next president is John McCain, or even if it isn't, you can be damn sure that we're going to hear a lot about how we blew Iraq because there weren't enough troops or resources shifted into Iraq. You're going to hear that we didn't have money to pay for body armor, when the reality is that the reason troops didn't have body armor in recent years is that congressmen robbed the operations and maintenance accounts of the defense budget to pay for earmarks/pork projects (they took $9 billion in pork and earmarks out of the O&M allotment in 2005, for instance). They robbed the part of the budget that paid for ordinary soldiers' gear so they wouldn't have to touch the F-22 Raptor, the CVN(X) aircraft carrier, or any of the other mega-expensive and mostly useless weapons programs. I mean, think about it -- how else can you spend $600 billion dollars on the military every year and not have body armor for the soldiers deployed at war? Somewhere, someone who doesn't need it has to be sucking up that money.

But trust me, the myth is going to be that you didn't cough up enough for the war.

Incidentally, this piece seems to be almost a direct response to an idiot I recently stumbled upon, who thinks that people questioning the war is what's causing it to fail.