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Lady Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.


Saturday, December 18, 2004

Psychological Warfare
posted by Bathus

There now exists a considerable faction of conservative critics of the war effort, of which a cadre of apparently disaffected retired military officers forms a large and increasingly irrational part. While some of these conservative critics are political opportunists or self-absorbed attention-seekers, I believe most of them do have their hearts in the right place. Yet too many of even those whose hearts are in the right place have nonetheless become so obsessed with attacking Rumsfeld and the "neocons" that they have lost the capacity to discern how their agitations affect the higher and more pressing concern of sustaining the public will to pursue the war.

Allied with them is an online conservative friend of mine who misses no opportunity to disseminate as widely as possible every criticism of the war effort in general and Donald Rumsfeld in particular, no matter from what quarter that criticism arises. My friend's latest find requests our attention to a recent column by liberal pundit Mark Shields, who waxes indignant that:
Because of the incompetence or indifference of this nation's civilian leadership of the war, Americans in Iraq are living with an increased risk of death.

All the official transcripts of White House signing ceremonies for every defense spending bill, all the presidential proclamations for Veterans Day and every prepared statement by the secretary of defense before a congressional committee include the same stock phrase. U.S. troops are invariably referred to as "the best trained, best equipped" ever. Best equipped? To call today's American troops in Iraq the "best equipped" is more than an exaggeration; it is bilge, baloney and cruel.

An America coming out of the Great Depression somehow found the leadership and the will to build and deploy around the globe 2.5 million trucks in the same period of time that the incumbent U.S. government has failed to get 30,000 fully armored vehicles to Iraq.

The Bush administration has appropriated $34.3 billion on a theoretical missile defense system -- which proved again this week to be an expensive dud in its first test in two years, when the "kill vehicle" never got off the ground to intercept the target missile carrying a mock warhead -- but has been able up to now, according to congressional budget authorities, to spend just $2 billion to armor the vehicles of Americans under fire.
How surprising it is that Mark Shields has become a proponent of increased military preparedness!

Well, it would be surprising . . . if one believed Shields cared more about the troops than he does about using their travails to advance his left-wing agenda.

But as with many of those on the left who have lately discovered within themselves an intense interest in armor plating, Shields' fascination with metal arises not from its capacity to protect our troops against IEDs and RPGs, but rather from its utility as a novel camouflage for his leftist goals, of which the intermediate ones include ending the Bush tax cuts and canceling development of a national missile defense. Shields' more immediate motive--which he shares with my online friend--is to unseat Donald Rumsfeld. He pursues that subsidiary strategy of discrediting Rumsfeld in furtherance of a longer-term goal--which my good-hearted online friend does not share, but nonetheless advances--to undermine the public will and confidence to pursue the war.

In that effort to break the nation's will to win, Shields carefully nurtures the unwitting assistance of those like my online conservative friend, who, to borrow a phrase from Milan Kundera, have become "the brilliant allies of their own gravediggers."

Shields' trendy indignation about armor plating is of the same variety as the solicitous concern Ted Koppel pandered for three consecutive evenings this past week on "Nightline," which featured the exploitation of the emotional sufferings of troops returning from Iraq. A blurb now on ABC's website promotes the series thusly:
Wednesday, Dec. 15 through Friday, Dec. 17: "Nightline" investigates the psychological toll of war in a three-part series: "Coming Home: The Invisible Casualties of War."
In case you didn't catch the allusion, recall that "Coming Home" also happens to be the title of a 1979 post-Vietnam anti-war movie about a paraplegic veteran just returned from battle and a nurse who falls in love with him. The film stars none other than Jane Fonda who won an Academy Award for the performance.

Can anyone be so gullible not to see what Koppel and Shields are all about?

The "psychological toll" they most worry about is the one they wish to inflict upon the American will to win. As important as is the matter of our troops' armor, much more so is the matter of our nation's will to win. Beyond all else, the durability of the latter shall decide the outcome of the present war and whether the sacrifices of the warriors, about whom Koppel pretends to care so much, shall have been in vain.

posted by Bathus | 12/18/2004 02:56:00 PM
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