How Yon’s “hopeful” message on Iraq wins us with honest trifles, to betray us in deepest consequence

Michael Yon, author of Moment of Truth in Iraq, is, I’m sure, an honest, patriotic, and courageous fellow. He is, nevertheless, to the neocons what a shot of pure heroin is to an addict. Everything about the Iraq war over the last five years that has charged them up and given them the crazed, blissful assurance that this is the greatest thing America has ever done and therefore we must continue doing it at all costs—that’s what Michael Yon feeds them, and through them, the rest of us. I haven’t read his book, but I just read a long interview he gave to Kathryn Jean Lopez at NRO. What he talks about is the greatness of our soldiers and Marines, their preternatural skill at killing terrorists, their love of killing terrorists, their kindness and protectiveness to Iraqi civilians, their love for children and dogs, their skill at building schools, their devotion to building and training an Iraqi military, the wonderful things they’re doing in Iraq, winning the confidence and trust of the locals …

Wait. Haven’t we heard this all before? Yep. We’ve been hearing it from the start. What then is different now? What is different is the surge and the Sunni switch away from al Qaeda. Yon admits the U.S. made terrible mistakes in 2004 and 2005. But now under Gen. Petraeus everything is going swimmingly. So what Yon is doing is bringing back the familiar, delusional, patriotic song of the U.S. in Iraq—“Our guys are doing such a great job there, the media never reports on all they’re achieving,” which is true, but is also meaningless so long as we don’t have a strategy to win in Iraq. Yon is bringing back that song—plus the surge. And the surge, as I’ve shown over and over, is not leading to victory, it is staving off defeat, it is stabilizing a terrible situation that will remain stable only so long as we remain in Iraq. So, once more with feeling: “Our soldiers are the greatest, the left never gives them credit, we’re winning, the left wants to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.” Conservatism redefined as perpetual cheerleading.

Hence the long subtitle of Yon’s book: How a New ‘Greatest Generation’ of American Soldiers is Turning Defeat and Disaster into Victory and Hope. Victory and Hope? But isn’t the opposite pair of “defeat and disaster” “victory and success,” not “victory and hope”? Yon seems to be saying that first we achieve victory, and that results in hope. Meaning that the ultimate end of our endeavors in Iraq is not success, but hope.

If the maintenance of “hope” is the end of our policy, the policy can never be proved a failure, can it? At least not so long as its promoters keep hope alive. That’s the horse they’ve been mainlining for the last five years. And that’s why Michael Yon’s message, no matter how sincerely it is intended, feeds everything that is most delusional and destructive in them.

It has to be “hope,” not “success,” because, as I’ve pointed out so many times, there is no success aimed at under the Bush and now the McCain policy. Consider what Yon tells Lopez:

But most of all I began to see the fruits. I saw it working, the Iraqi people beginning to align with us and for themselves. I saw it in big “kinetic” battles where we took a fraction of the casualties we expected because the citizens told us where almost every terrorist ambush and booby trap was hidden. And I saw it in neighborhoods in which the American military had become the most respected institution in Iraq, and it was our soldiers whom the people turned to for protection but also for justice….

… Our guys are the best warriors and so they have the most respect. That’s huge in Iraq and it means everyone wants to be us, especially the guys in Iraqi security forces.

So, the U.S. military is now the most respected institution in Iraq. It is, Yon crows, our soldiers whom the people turned to for protection but also for justice. What does this mean? It means that Iraq depends on our forces. It means that our forces are the guarantor of their security and justice. It means that our forces are their real government. So the “success” we’ve achieved is our “success” in making ourselves indispensable to the non-functioning Iraqis. Our great accomplishment, about which we keep singing that song, consists in creating a situation in which we can never leave.

Every time a Bush supporter says we have to stay in Iraq in order to “win,” he is either lying or delusional. The Bush McCain policy means staying in Iraq forever, or at least until that day when the Iraqis overcome their mutual divisions and sign on to the same universal democratic principles and so become capable of living in peace under a single state. Which means that we will be there—forever.

In the same way, we must keep letting Muslim immigrants into America and keep trying to “assimilate” them, or rather we must keep talking about assimilating them—forever, even as they keep spreading sharia among us.

These “forevers” are the product of our liberal, neoconservative creed, which gives us two absolute commands: that we can and we must make other people become like us: and that we must never, ever look at the reality that certain other people are irreduceably different from us.

The only way we can break the “forever” spell is by rejecting these false liberal beliefs, and the people who have imposed them on our whole society. Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

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Mark Jaws writes:

As a retired intelligence officer who currently works on a counterterrorist research and development project, I have frequent contact with military personnel who have served in Iraq. In fact, about one quarter of my division’s work force has been “deployed to the sandbox.” To a man and to a woman, they stand behind the mission there, whatever that is. My new colleague, for example, a former airborne engineer officer, came back from Iraq two years ago with a portion of his spine gone as a result of an IED. He is 36 years old, a newly-wed, yet keeps a picture on his desk not of his wife, but of the Iraqi interpreter with whom he worked for over eight months, and who ultimately paid for his life for having collaborated with the Americans.

One of my acquaintances at church just came back from Iraq three months ago with three Purple Hearts. It was his second tour there, and this time he served as an Army infantry battalion commander in one of the most dangerous areas of Iraq (I think it was Karbala province, although I am not sure). His battalion suffered relatively heavy casualties, and yet, he, like my work colleague, would be willing to go back again—and he has six kids!

I happen to agree with just about everything you say about Iraq and the dead end task of attempting to democratize Moslems and to integrate them wholesale into Western societies. But one aspect of this occupation of Iraq which you are not considering is that our soldiers are forming deep and personal bonds with the Iraqi civilians whom they see—and with whom they interact—every day. Americans are good natured, big hearted suckers for the underdog and I have heard nothing but an endless cacophony of one sob story after another from our soldiers who are willing to risk their lives (in vain, I believe) so that “the people of Iraq can live in freedom.” The right-liberal brainwashing—even of our officer corps—is worse than you could possibly imagine.

Another reason to look at the silver lining an Obama presidency would bring. At least, to the extent possible, he will extract us from this no-win situation.

LA replies:

I agree absolutely with what Mr. Jaws. just said about the personal bonds Americans form with Iraqis, and how this becomes a major factor in our continued ruinous involvement there.

I’m reminded of the famous closing lines of Robinson Jeffers’s poem, “Shine, Perishing Republic,” which we read in high school:

But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the
thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster’s feet there
are left the mountains.

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant,
insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught—they say—
God, when he walked on earth.

From those last lines, we can assume Jeffers was not a Christian. But his message is something Christians can understand: that Christian—or liberal—compassion can easily be misdirected and go where it should not go. Compassion, like any other passion, must not be our master. It was Jesus after all who told his disciples not just to be gentle as a dove, but to be wise as a serpent. And the Gospel of John says:

But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. (John 2:24-25.)

And in our more limited sphere, we know enough about Muslims to know what is in them, that they are commanded by their god never to be friendly with us. It is therefore utmost folly for us to give our hearts to them and to commit ourselves to them.

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J. writes:

The primary, but unspoken, purpose of the “war” and occupation of Iraq is to keep permanent bases and strong military forces in the Persian Gulf to protect oil supplies and shipments. The impossible and endless goal of a peaceful stable Iraq will continue to justify and maintain a long term US military presence

LA replies:

If there had been no 9/11 attack, there would have been no radical re-thinking by the U.S. government of its previous “no nation building” strategy in order to figure out what to do about the terrorist threat, and there would not have been the primary justification for the invasion of Iraq, which was to prevent WMDs from being transferred to non-state terrorist groups. Even with that justification, it took a whole year of bitter debate and fantastically complicated and damaging international politics to launch the war. Without that justification, it’s simply inconceivable that we would have invaded Iraq. Therefore, without the 9/11 attack, the planting of U.S. forces in Iraq, which you say was for the primary purpose of protecting oil supplies and shipments, would not have happened. If the planting of U.S. forces in Iraq for the purpose of protecting oil was a primary motive independent of other concerns, it would have been done somehow. It would not have been dependent on the chance event of the 9/11 attack. Therefore the reason for the invasion of Iraq was as the adminsitraton said all along: to destroy WMDs, and to use Iraq as a model for democracy that would “drain the swamps” of Mideast terrorism.

Your theory depends on the assumption that the Bush administration from January 2001 had as its top priority planting U.S. troops in the Mideast to protect oil, but had no way of doing so, and then, ka-boom, the 9/11 attack occurred, giving them the pretext to do exactly what they had really wanted to do all along. They then proceeded to spend the next year and a half constructing and incessantly presenting what they knew were false arguments. The endless debates and speeches, the National Security Statement of September 2002 which made pre-emptive war for the purposes of protecting us from terrorism, the new policy of spreading democracy by “drainng the swamps,” the endless debates on the WMDs, the Herculian efforts to get the UN on board through one last effort at inspections, plus all the efforts and speeches in the five years since then of encouraging democracy, not only in Iraq but in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, plus Bush’s arrogant, Napoleonic commitment to the democracy idea: all of this was a fantastically complicated and conscious fraud mounted by the adminstration to protect oil shipments, which, by the way, the U.S. had been doing BEFORE IT INVADED IRAQ.

Not only that, but to believe what you’re saying, you also have to believe that the many thousands of U.S. servicemen who have served in Iraq and are totally committed to the mission there which they think is to help the Iraqis acquire freedom and self-government, who are so committed to it that many sign up for repeat tours of duty, have all been fooled by Bush into believing a total lie.

That is what we have to believe, in order to believe your theory. Why not just cut to the quick and say that Bush is an alien dropped on earth from a flying saucer? It would be equally believable.

What is it with people today, that when a political leader grabs them by the lapel, lectures them in the face about his pet vision and won’t let go, and keeps sermonizing in their face year after year, they believe that this leader is expending all this energy on something that he is only pretending to believe? What prevents people from realizing the simple fact that when someone obsesses incessantly on a given topic, and refuses to consider the flaws in his own theory, and arrogantly dismisses all doubters, that is a pretty good sign that he’s a true believer? What makes people make up fantastic, impossible conspiracy theories to explain that person’s behavior, instead of reaching the simple, obvious conclusion that the person probably believes what he’s saying and is speaking from conviction?

J. replies:

Do you really believe Bush and his team really believed their own phony trumped up excuses for the war?. For some reason other than WMDs and terrorism, his desire, obsession, and plans to invade Iraq were there from the beginning before claims of WMDs and before 9/11, not as a result of it. Easy to dismiss as “conspiracy theory” but there are many indications, or at the very least, a possibility they knew about 9/11 and intentionally failed prevent it to justify the war. Certainly there was clear motive and certainly Bush’s career benefited the most from 9/11. After the Saudis shut our bases,there was need for new permanent bases in the region and that was or has become the primary reason to prolong this failed and hopeless occupation indefinitely.

LA replies:

Your e-mail is prime evidence of why there was no real debate about the invasion and occupation of Iraq, either before the invasion, or in the five years since. If the anti-war left (and anti-war right) had offered rational arguments against the war, that would have forced the adminstration and its supporters to reply to those rational arguments and there would have been a real national debate, and the flaws in the policy would have come more into focus. Instead the war opponents charged that the whole thing was a lie and a conspiracy, which forced the administration and its supporters to respond to the charges that the whole thing was a lie and a conspiracy. The debate thus circled around whether the whole thing was a lie and a conspiracy, rather than around the pros and cons of this invasion. In the absence of rational opposition, there was nothing to stop the fatally flawed policy from moving forward. In my view, the war opponents, who through their incessant attacks on the president’s motives killed rational debate on the war, are as responsible for the Iraq disaster as the president himself.

Mark J. writes:

Mark Jaws wrote: “Another reason to look at the silver lining an Obama presidency would bring. At least, to the extent possible, he will extract us from this no-win situation.”

I wonder, would Obama actually extract us from Iraq? Or, once he was in power and able to run things as a left-liberal thinks they should be run, would he simply reframe the mission in Iraq in some sort of left-liberal terms? Obviously, if he actually withdraws the troops from Iraq it will descend into some degree of violence between the different factions and Obama would get blamed for it since he initiated the withdrawal. Since the Iraq enterprise has devolved into a nation-building exercise from its original mission of proactively wiping out Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction capability, and since nation-building is pretty much a liberal concept, I can envision Obama decreasing the troop levels by some amount at first to save face, and then recasting the whole enterprise in left-liberal terms. He might massively increase the immigration of Iraqis to the U.S., saying we owed that to them, and I can imagine him making a speech where he says something like “Bush wasn’t able to succeed because he wasn’t open enough to listening to, and understanding, the points of view of our adversaries. I will talk to them, I will sit down with Sadr, I will sit down with Ahmahdinejad, I will massively increase our humanitarian aid, I will not insist on imposing our Western notions on them,” and continuing to maintain a presence there.

So I’m not sure that we should count on Obama actually getting us out of there.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 23, 2008 12:36 PM | Send

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