Work and Days

Wars, Books, and Democrats

Good and bad wars?

The death toll of allied and American soldiers in Afghanistan these last few months is nearing those of coalition losses in Iraq, and may well rise at a greater rate. For now, this has not affected too much the argument of the Left that Afghanistan is the “good” war, and Iraq the “bad”.

In the former we went after the base where the 9/11 attacks were planned, involved a coalition of NATO allies, and saw the emergence of some sort of consensual government follow the wreckage of the Taliban fairly quickly—and at only about 60 American combat death per year in the first three-years of postbellum occupation.

In contrast, our coalition of the willing in Iraq was supposedly a sham; the Europeans were furious as was the UN; and the country at home was torn apart as a once 70+% approval rate nose-dived, as combat fatalities now approach 2200. All that made the Democrats sort of support Afghanistan and oppose Iraq.

But if we put aside for the moment the reasons to have gone into each country, the two now look remarkably the same. Both have fragile democratic governments. Radical Islamists—using similar tactics of suicide bombing and improvised explosive devices—are pouring in from sanctuaries across the border, whether Pakistan or Syria and Iran. Bin Laden and Dr. Zawahiri themselves have boasted that Iraq, at the heart of the ancient caliphate, is now the frontline theater for the jihadists.

So far the international approval of Afghanistan and its smaller costs have ensured support from the Left. But note, as casualties begin to mount, and the nature of the counter-insurgency fighting increasingly begins to resemble Iraq—as it must in this particular front of a global war—and as the magic multilateral solution proves a mirage, the NATO coalition being no more effective than the coalition of the willing in Iraq, expect to see the Democratic leadership begin to bail on Afghanistan as well.

First, as true of Iraq, will come the recriminations how Bush ruined their perfect war with his botched peace. Then, there will be the whine that we have too few troops—always presented in hindsight as a missed opportunity, never as a call to drastically commit more resources. Then will come stories of principled European soldiers—remember the British officers of Basra who swore off Ray-Bans and Kevlar helmets to foot patrol in berets among the Mahdi army—who are aghast at our brutal tactics. So just as we went into Afghanistan about 17 months before Iraq, expect in about 17 more months, the Democrats and the media will do to that war what they have done to Iraq: ensure the violence dominates the narrative and pushes down support for continuance to below 40%.


I am currently reviews a wide variety of books on recent developments in the war by Max Boot, Fred Kagan, Robert Kagan, Michael Lind, Mark Steyn, and Thomas Ricks, and should have them wrapped up within 2 weeks. Just a passing note of general observance: why is it that those who support the current policy of democratization in Iraq seem dispassionate, and consider counter-arguments, while those who write off Iraq are furious, angry, and in near apoplexy discount any who disagree?

Why the Democratic Hysteria?

In that regard, the wild Right of the 1950s, whether characterized by Joe McCarthy, the John Birch Society, or, worse, the Ku Klux Klan, has been entirely isolated from the mainstream conservative party. But is the same true of the Democrats, when Cindy Sheehan (Bush is the “world’s greatest terrorist”), Michael Moore (the terrorists in Iraq are “Minutemen), and Al Sharpton (still no apologies for his race-baiting violence of the 1990s) are welcomed into the fold, whose spokesmen compare Abu Ghraib to Saddam’s gulag (Sen. Kennedy), Guantanamo to Hitler and Pol Pot (Sen. Durbin), and think things were better under Saddam (Sen. Rockefeller), while Sen. Kerry and former Vice President Gore have either characterized our own troops as terrorists or “indiscriminately” rounding up poor Arab Americans at home?

Why this exaggeration and shrillness? It is frustration from having lost the Congress, the Presidency, the Supreme Court and the majority of the state legislatures and governorships. Frustrations follow from learning that a cobbled together coalition of gay marriage advocates, radical feminists, abortion on demand supporters, the old race industry emblemized by Jesse Jackson, as well as the radical pacifism of the leftwing blogs—all that only garners 45% of the popular vote—unless there is a Republican scandal, a losing war, a recession, or a Democrat running for President with enough of a southern accent to fool voters that he is a true conservative.

So I think this anger arises over acceptance that the country does not wish what Democrats have to offer, and thus drives them to scream and scare the country into thinking we are in a 1930s Depression, Vietnam redux, a Watergate of illegal wiring tapping—almost anything to get back over that 50% hump—without having to reform and adopt more moderate policies—and to do to Michael Moore & Co. what the Republicans once did to the Birch die-hards and Neo-Confederates.