August 08, 2005


I saw an AFN commercial today about Frank Capra's Why We Fight movies. Apparently Capra used clips of Hitler's speeches to explain what we were up against. I noticed the stark contrast between Why We Fight and a series of commercials that runs on AFN called Why We're Here. These commercials are all about the feel-good stuff that's going on in Iraq: school openings, meetings with Iraqi councilmen, playing with children. These commercials are interesting, but they sure have a different focus than Why We Fight.

Let's make a movie out of LGF. Someone get footage of imams around the world calling for the death of Americans. Let's add Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl, mixed with Saddam chopping off hands. How 'bout the folks who were cheering in the streets on 9/11? Or footage of those Hamas training camps? And let's show Why We Fight.

If we never demonize the enemy, we'll never truly mobilize.

Posted by: Sarah at 02:50 PM | Comments (32) | Add Comment
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1 Mobilize? But Bush said that the only thing Americans needed to do was to go to the mall. I'm all for reminding people just how much of an enemy Bin Laden is. Let's just not forget that those folks weren't in Iraq until after we invaded. Saddam was more afraid of them than of us, and he shut them down. And the next time we have a chance to do something about it, let's not forget what party's President took resources away from the hunt for this butcher of Americans to invade a country that posed no immediate threat to us at all---and wouldn't have even if they had had a WMD. What would Capra have done if FDR had responded to Hitler with a poorly planned invasion of Sweden?

Posted by: Pericles at August 08, 2005 09:51 PM (hHudX)

2 Outstanding idea. Kal

Posted by: Kalroy at August 09, 2005 12:17 AM (9RG5y)

3 You're wrong, Pericles: the invasion of Iraq was brilliantly planned and executed. Unfortunately, the post-major combat operations phase was not. When President Bush announced the end of 'major combat operations', he was in fact technically correct. The problem is that our technocratic language of warfighting was as flawed as our military's strategic approach to war and peace before Iraq. As context, our idea of peace-keeping and other 'operations other than war' could be summed up in post Gulf War I Iraq, Somalia, Rwanda, the Balkans. In other words, a rather sorry resume. (And no, I'm not blaming Clinton - note Gulf War I where Bush Sr failed to finish the job) To any informed observer, to include many of us who served in the 1990s military, it was obvious that we were as poor at OOTW as we were capable in 'major combat ops'. Our particular weaknesses were in the making DECADES before 9/11. By 9/11, we no longer owned the military, nor even the proper mentality, that built the peace in Asia and Europe in the 20th century. That's our weakness. Any half-savvy warfighter attacks weakness and circumvents his enemy's strength. We are faced against a savvy enemy who designs his strategy upon our weaknesses. The War on Terror is being fought in OOTW, not 'major combat operations'. An obvious source of our weakness is the fall-out of the Vietnam War. Another is the ascendancy of realist political philosophy. According to realists, the invasion of Iraq was fundamentally flawed in rationale, but in liberal political philosophy, the transformation of Iraq was essential to win the War on Terror. George Bush chose the liberal route. Is he wrong? Many realists say so (Pericles, you're obviously a realist). I will point out that our realist political policies contributed greatly to the rise of the 9/11 status quo in the 1st place, and Bush at least was smart enough to realize fundamental - even Roosevelt-ian - global change was needed. Remember, we weren't ready to fight WW2 either. Our failures and missteps were colossal in that war. (Which just goes to show that the principal morality in war is not how you fight or how well or how cheaply; it's whether you win and control the aftermath.) Thousands upon thousands of Americans paid the ultimate price for our nation's path-dependent weaknesses in the first years of that conflict. But we won 'by whatever means necessary', and that makes all the difference. In the War on Terror, we again are weighted down with path-dependent weaknesses, which actually don't near the weaknesses we had entering WW2. The question is whether our generation can muster the Greatest Generation's can-do mentality to win at all costs against an intolerable enemy. Whether we have the strength of will as a united people to change our nation's path, create and build the means to victory, and overcome our own weaknesses in order to achieve that victory against a determined enemy. Frank Capra and others of that generation understood the great challenge our nation faced BECAUSE of our path-dependent weaknesses. They knew we didn't enter that fight capable of winning it. They chose to help FDR (a Wilsonian liberal, whose tradition Bush is following) rally the will of the American people to endure, adapt and overcome our weaknesses as we built that capability. They - and we - succeeded, with great cost and suffering borne by the American people. Does our generation own the will to endure, adapt and overcome, despite great cost and suffering, to build the means to victory and defeat this enemy? We're finding out. If in the 21st century, our American generation's answer is 'no', we WILL lose this war.

Posted by: Eric Chen at August 09, 2005 12:40 AM (QJb38)

4 That would be an easy eough project to create on digital media just from what's out there on the 'net.

Posted by: Mare at August 09, 2005 01:01 AM (0CpxG)

5 Wow Chen. interesting read. Kalroy

Posted by: Kalroy at August 09, 2005 01:38 AM (9RG5y)

6 Does our generation own the will to endure, adapt and overcome, despite great cost and suffering, to build the means to victory and defeat this enemy? We're finding out. If in the 21st century, our American generation's answer is 'no', we WILL lose this war. The really disturbing thing is that among the general population, the "great cost and suffering" is basically zero. It's being borne by our volunteer military and their families. It's been suggested that part of the reason for the opposition to the war is that people are so insulated from its effects that they cannot judge it with any accuracy. We must remember that America is traditionally isolationist, largely keeping to its own affairs until someone becomes sufficiently annoying. It's not something easily changed. Also, Pericles, there's not a hell of a lot the regular army can do to find bin Laden, short of invading the whole of Central Asia (likely a bad idea). The idea that the liberation of Iraq took resources away from the hunt for bin Laden makes no sense from either an organisational or logistical viewpoint.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at August 09, 2005 03:38 AM (RbYVY)

7 "We must remember that America is traditionally isolationist, largely keeping to its own affairs until someone becomes sufficiently annoying. " I don't think that's quite the case. Or rather, I think that's the tradition we like to see ourselves as, but it hasn't been a reality for over a hundred years. I think we're smart enough to be an interventionist nation when our interests scream for it, but pretty grumpy about it. I do believe we'd prefer that the world be such a place that we never felt we had to go out there and fix something, or defend our interests; we're pretty isolationist in our desires, but not in actions. Kalroy

Posted by: Kalroy at August 09, 2005 10:00 AM (9RG5y)

8 Chen- You were more careful in your terminology than I was in distinguishing between the invasion of Iraq and the post-invasion phase. I'm happy to accept your correction, and say that the invasion was generally well-planned and that the real lapses in planning concerned the post-invasion phase. I'd add one more item to your list of failed peace-keeping ventures: Beirut. I think the collective memory of Americans is short enough that this one often gets left out of the discussion, but Bin laden hasn't forgotten it. It apparently did a great deal to convince him that Americans still didn't have the stomach to see body bags come home. In foreign policy, by the way, I think that I actually see myself as more of a liberal than a realist... but I want to be a realistic liberal. Let me start by expressing a bit of cynism about the notion of a Wilsonian Bush. Don't lose sight of the fact that one of his campaign pledges in 2000 was that we would not engage in any nation building. He expressly disavowed any "Wilsonian" ambitions. The immediate answer is sure to be that "9/11 changed everything." But what did 9/11 tell anyone that we didn't really already know? Al Queda had already attacked the WTC itself, and we barely foiled an attack on the Space Needle. We already knew that Saddam was a thug and a tyrant. If Bush is indeed a foreign policy liberal, why wasn't he campaigning on the need for military action against Iraq? The invasion might have been the same thing that a Wilsonian would have done, but to suggest that this is why Bush did it involves a bit of ex post facto rationalization. No WMDs? Oh wait, that isn't what this was about. It was all about cultural change in the ME! In any case, even if you accept the "liberal" tenet that we ought to be wlling to use our military power to spread democracy, you are still a long way from having made an adequate case for invading Iraq when we did. First, our military resources are obviously limited, and so you need to make a case for why invading Iraq was a higher priority than other tasks, like really securing Afghanistan and pursuing Bin Laden. Second, you've got to answer the question, "Why Iraq?" Even if you are convinced that our top priority in combatting Islamic fundamentalism is establishing a democratic country in the Middle East, why was Iraq the best place for that to happen? Other possibilities: Syria, another Baathist country, one with closer ties to terrorists than Iraq, and one that definitely has WMDs; Iran, a country with some level of democracy already, and again one with closer ties to terrorists than Iraq plus one with a known nuclear program; Lebanon, the only Arab country in the region with a history of stable democracy. (US and French pressure together has gotten Syria out of Lebanon, which is wonderful. Maybe that would have been enough.) Iraq is not the most promising cradle for Arab democracy, after all. You have the internal Sunni/Shiite/Kurd tensions to deal with. Also, you have the fact that an internal democratic revolution was much more feasible there (where private firearm ownership was apparently common) than in a country like North Korea. If the people there were not thirsting for democracy strongly enough to start their own revolution, then you have to wonder if they will be committed enough to sustain it. Finally, third, to make the case for invading Iraq you have to have a plausible story to tell about how we get from the invasion to cultural change in the region. So far, we only seem to get a lot of hand-waving. One step in the process seems to be "and then a miracle happens." Conservatives, and especially neo-cons, have long argued against social programs in the U.S. on the grounds that these programs always have undesirable "unintended consequences." AFDC, for example, only perpetuated black poverty. Social engineering never works the way you plan, they say. They have a point. But if we can't do it here, then how can they blithely assume that we can effect massive social change in a foreign culture that we barely understand? Especially in a region where we are so roundly hated that our association with anything will automatically count as a strike against it? We may need cultural change in the ME, I agree, but I'm inclined to think that our best hope of creating it would have involved much greater patience and subtlety. Meanwhile, our leders aren't mobilizing the citizens to do the things we can do. How much of the money we spend on oil goes right into the pockets of terrorists? And how many of our problems are caused by the fact that we have to have a major presence in the region to protect the flow of oil? We should have a major push for energy conservation right now, but instead we get told that the way to do our part is to go shopping.

Posted by: Pericles at August 09, 2005 10:10 AM (hHudX)

9 the real problem with the iraq conflict is we're (particurly the bush admin) not consintent in what we're trying to accomplish.first it's WMD's well we didn't find any.then it's fight the terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them here.well if that's the case then we'll never leave iraq because there will ALWAYS be islamic fundementists/terrorists in that part of the world.then it's "freedom for the iraqi people" well we had an election and shiite backed cleric parties won half the vote.if any rational person thinks they will run western styled democratic government think again.they won''s not all gloom and doom though.saddam's in jail,the terrorists are total sadists that the majority of the iraqi people don't want those motherf*****rs running the simply won't be easy or realistic to expect this conflict to end for at least another 5 to 10 years.which means more casulities....which sucks!

Posted by: tommy at August 09, 2005 12:12 PM (NMK3S)

10 Pericles, that't wonderful you are reminding us that the President told us all to shop. He also said this: "I would think the American people need to be - go about their business on Monday, but with a heightened sense of awareness that a group of barbarians have declared war on the American people." Of course, that sounds like a reasonable attitude, but the "H3y gUyZ! Sh0P f0r Am3riKa!" is a much better soundbite, and it turns out to be the one oft repeated for some strange reason, perhaps related to the concept that whatever the President says must be stupid and ignorant, and if you repeat it often enough maybe it will come true. Alas, Google exists, and you can read and see the contexts of people's speech rather than relaying on random commenters with poorly edged axes to grind. As for Afghanistan, ever read a map? I mean, seriously look at a map of Afghanistan, and tell me how we can get some Bradleys and M1s there. Look at those vast coastlines we can use to land container ships! The ports of Afghanistan were never rivalled for their modernity...oh, wait, Afghanistan is a landlocked country. Gosh, that might hamper logistical efforts somewhat, ya think? Perhaps people who plan and strategize these sorts of things know more about the subject of equipping and fielding a fighting force in broken terrain know more about it than you do, but hey, I could be wrong! But if I['m not wrong, that means units not detailed to Afghanistan because of logistical concerns can be deployed to...other Iraq...and these units are those that couldn't go to Afghanistan anyway...I sense a pattern! Do you? The reasons for going into Iraq are indeed debatable, but when misdirection and ignorance are used as evidence we are doing the wrong thing, well, that's not really a debate, now is it? You can say "we didn't need to go into Iraq cos Saddam was a nice man", surely. But to say "we shouldn't have gone to Iraq because it used up forces we could have sent to Afghanistan" is different, because its wrong and ignorant. You may not know that, but perhaps this will be an enlightening experience for you, I hope. The "please shop America!" statement, as if its the only thing the President ever said, says more about you than it does Bush. And as for "Why Iraq"? Fucker needed to go, that's why.

Posted by: Jason at August 09, 2005 05:22 PM (565iX)

11 Jason- Thanks for your replies. A couple of quick thoughts in haste. 1. I never suggested that all Bush said to Americans was that we should go shopping. But my point was that he has never asked us to make any sacrifices at all, except of our civil liberties, even though there are sacrifices we could be making that would be a contribution to the eoffrt. So if the question is "why aren't we mobilizing?," maybe the answer is even more obvious than "We haven't demonized the enemy enough." Maybe it is as simple as "No one asked us to." 2. About the resource issue re Iraq/Afghanistan. I can dig up documentation later, and you're entitled not to believe me until I do, but it simply is false to suggest that the Iraqi war hasn't meant fewer resources for Afghanistan. Maybe armor isn't the primary need there, although by now we would have had plenty of time to get it there by land even if they are landlocked. Think about other assets though. Think about Predators and Global Hawks, for example, along with other intel assets. Just what you would need in looking for Bin Laden, it seems. Did we not use any of these in Iraq that could have been in Afghanistan instead? What about light infantry? I'm on the 10th Mountain Division homepage now, reading about their service in Iraq. Other people here know much more about the Army than I do, so I fully admit that I may be wrong about this. My impression, though, is that troops like those in the 10th MD would be perfectly well suited for Afghanistan, and indeed they were there before they went to Iraq. What about special forces units? Etc. I don't claim this is the best source, but because it is what I can find quickly and doesn't come from anyone with a big ax to grind, check out this USA Today article:

Posted by: Pericles at August 09, 2005 06:02 PM (AndZ3)

12 I recall several times President Bush asking the American people to support our Troops and their families in a number of ways. Just because you choose to ignore his requests and ignore the need to support our Troops (in a tangible way) is your problem. Nobody told me to write or send packages to soldiers or support organizations that help injured soldiers, I did it on my own. Maybe that's because I'm an adult whose very grateful to those who volunteer to serve our country.

Posted by: toni at August 09, 2005 08:41 PM (RMq7w)

13 Invading Iraq? That would be almost as dumb as concentrating on defeating Germany even though it was the Japanese who attacked us.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis at August 10, 2005 03:59 PM (K6i9N)

14 Walter, Please recall that a formal alliance existed between the Axis Powers of the second World War. No such alliance existed between Iraq and Islamic terrorism. The difference is crucial. Your analogy is false.

Posted by: Dave at August 10, 2005 05:04 PM (1idyk)

15 Dave, Please tell me which country does have a formal alliance between Islamic terrorism and said country. ..(crickets chirping)... Do you see the point I'm making?

Posted by: gibby at August 11, 2005 02:52 AM (OCIqu)

16 Gibby, I guess the point you'er making is that we ought to be pretty careful about who we attack. In any case Afghanistan perfectly fit the bill as an ally and protector of bin Laden. It made no sense at all to attack one of the few secular regimes in the region. Attack the people who attack you and those who support them. The reasoning is not that complicated.

Posted by: Dave at August 11, 2005 08:44 AM (ke6dw)

17 Dave is right. After we closed the terrorist camps in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda would never never have gone to iraq. And Saddam would never welcome terrorists inside his own country, even if they shared the same hated enemy as he did. After all Hitler never really liked the Russians either.

Posted by: annika at August 11, 2005 11:05 AM (a2Zmp)

18 Well no Dave - that wasn't the point I was making. I was trying to make the point that there is no country that has a FORMAL alliance with Islamic terrorists. Not even Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. So by your reasoning, what would we have done after 9/11? My point therefore is that by your reasoning, since there was no FORMAL alliance between Taliban run Afghanistan and Islamic terrorists...we should not have attacked them. Which is, of course, absurd. We know how closely allied the Taliban was with Al-Qaeda...but it was not a formal alliance. Ditto for Iran. And, Annika - we did not invade Iraq to hunt terrorists initially. We invaded because of WMD...which had been there - but somehow disappeared. However, once there, we could not just pick up and leave.

Posted by: gibby at August 11, 2005 06:33 PM (OCIqu)

19 "We invaded because of WMD...which had been there-but somehow disappeared." Just keep telling yourself that. I saw an elephant disappear once in Las Vegas and it was very entertaining-somehow.

Posted by: Dave at August 11, 2005 07:00 PM (FP5pf)

20 Gibby, Sorry to be so glib. I agree that we have an obligation to finish the job in Iraq, but what is the job? When our president says (and I'm not kidding),"The better things get in Iraq the worse they're gonna be",what exactly do we make of that? Does anyone in the White House know what success in Iraq would even look like? If so why don't they say so in a no bull shit sort of way that everyone can understand?

Posted by: Dave at August 11, 2005 07:14 PM (FP5pf)

21 Dave - it's OK. This war is stressing me out. We all know that there were WMD in Iraq. That's a fact and nobody disputes it. It's the timeline that's in dispute. I don't know how or when they disappeared...but clearly the intelligence or lack thereof going both ways helped the WMD get hidden/moved while at the same time our piss-poor intelligence gave Bush bad info. Once there though, we had to soldier on. Our troops are awesome, but I am starting to get concerned about Bush and the pencil-pushers. They need to get it together. It is true that Bush keeps coming up with new reasons, after the fact, for being in Iraq. I have no problem though with us having gone in there based on bad info...and admitting it, but realizing once there we have to finish it. But please, let's finish it right. Actually, I think success in Iraq is happening. The ISF, IP, ING are all being trained, the constitution is being drafted (fingers crossed), elections are a few months away. Here is where I get worried and Bush starts to piss me off. Iran and Syria. Come on. They are funneling bombers and explosives into Iraq. Now *that* is what Bush better start to deal with. ASAP.

Posted by: gibby at August 11, 2005 09:37 PM (OCIqu)

22 P.S. Annika was being sarcastic.

Posted by: Sarah at August 12, 2005 02:14 AM (w1HmX)

23 ooops - my bad! Sorry Annika! I swear, once upon a time I wouldn't have made that mistake...but these days it's become commonplace to hear the most outrageous statements...and people mean them! Here's a quiz...can you name the person who said them? ;-) 1)"Hitler had a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of the Third Reich. Color does not necessarily denote quality, content or value," 2)We’re not freer here, thanks to your PATRIOT Act. Iraq is not free. You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you’ll stop the terrorism,” she exclaimed. 3) In reference to Islamic terrorists - "All great changes have come from people or events that were initially misunderstood, and seemed frightening, like madmen. Einstein, Nikola Tesla, Gates...." 4) "This started out as a wish to terrorize the world with American power, or as Sharon would say: "Terrrrrrorize" the world with American power."

Posted by: gibby at August 12, 2005 12:02 PM (OCIqu)

24 well bush& co better get their message out clearly that this going take a very,very,very long time.keep talking about how the terrorists are on their last legs is going to get you more cathy sheehans in the u.s.a.

Posted by: tommy at August 12, 2005 12:43 PM (NMK3S)

25 Could not have said it better myself Tommy.

Posted by: gibby at August 12, 2005 04:42 PM (OCIqu)

26 Great piece and we need to show the truth right next to the "feel good" fluff. I still have the Bridge pictures on file!! AND - I say we've been behind for some time now - this should have started when Somalia happened! Tired of bending to the anti-war people who will loose our freedom for us!

Posted by: chrys at August 14, 2005 12:31 AM (EeT7G)

27 Isn't it amazing the lenghts the left will go to try and convince you about how wrong you are with your opinion. I get nailed on my site for not having 'references' to make my point. Morons. You fight the good fight with a great blog. Semper!

Posted by: patd95 at August 17, 2005 05:24 PM (ogWpI)

28 "Isn't it amazing the lenghts the left will go to try and convince you about how wrong you are with your opinion." Yes, sometimes we even stoop to facts and evidence, LOL.

Posted by: Pericles at August 18, 2005 01:41 PM (hHudX)

29 Pericles..."What would Capra have done if FDR had responded to Hitler with a poorly planned invasion of Sweden?" Actually, FDR *did* respond to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor by adapting a "Germany First" strategy...much to the dismay of those who didn't think we needed to focus on Germany because it was, after all, Japan that had attacked us. And there were plenty of poorly-planned operations during WWII.

Posted by: David Foster at August 19, 2005 05:56 PM (7TmYw)

30 Meant to include this link on the "Japan Firsters"

Posted by: David Foster at August 19, 2005 06:00 PM (7TmYw)

31 David- Thanks for your comment. What you say is true enough, I suppose, although the cases really aren't that similar. Remember that Germany declared war on us right after Pearl Harbor and that Germany and Japan were allies---not, as in the case of Iraq and Al Queda, enemies themselves. Remember also that Germany was not contained, prevented from flying aircraft even over its own territory, etc. Instead it was raging across Western Europe, taking out our Allies. So there are reasons that "Germany First" might have made good sense to FDR that don't apply to Iraq.

Posted by: Pericles at August 19, 2005 11:38 PM (hHudX)

32 Isn't saying that Iraq and Al Qaeda were "enemies" a bit of a stretch?

Posted by: Sarah at August 20, 2005 01:59 AM (BtseE)

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