Monday, November 28, 2005

Am I surprised at the results of the poll that was reported in The Washington Post over the weekend? Not really:

Democrats fumed last week at Vice President Cheney's suggestion that criticism of the administration's war policies was itself becoming a hindrance to the war effort. But a new poll indicates most Americans are sympathetic to Cheney's point.

Seventy percent of people surveyed said that criticism of the war by Democratic senators hurts troop morale -- with 44 percent saying morale is hurt "a lot," according to a poll taken by RT Strategies. Even self-identified Democrats agree: 55 percent believe criticism hurts morale, while 21 percent say it helps morale....

I felt dread during the buildup to the war not just because I knew the war was going to happen; I also felt it because I knew the war was going to be embraced. I knew those of us who opposed the war weren't just going to lose -- we were going to be seen as the enemies of all that is good and decent and brave and noble and American.

If you manage to persuade the American people that an enemy is out there who can only be dealt with by means of war, the vast majority of them will see fighting that war as ennobling; they'll see it as a means to walk in the footsteps of those who fought at Valley Forge and Antietam and Normandy -- and nothing will ever really dissipate that belief, not casualties, not revelations about the duplicitousness or stupidity of the leaders who brought the war on. Fatigue might set in, polls might show public dissatisfaction with the way the war is going, but Americans will always focus on the fact that those are our boys (and girls) fighting over there, that's our honor (and manhood) at stake -- and they'll never really see the war any other way. (Clinton's wars were an exception because he never told us we were fighting evil bastards who threatened our way of life.) Even in a quagmire, the majority of Americans will never truly believe that the war was an exercise in futility, a waste of their time; they'll never say, "We were led astray by our leaders, and so we fought and bled for nothing, and it's their fault, the bastards." Not even after Vietnam did most Americans think that. Ronald Reagan called Vietnam "a noble cause" in an election year and then won in a landslide. He understood Americans.

What this means is that the time to stop the war was in the earliest possible stages of the buildup; when opponents failed to do that in the case of Iraq, when the opposition party failed to oppose, it was too late -- the die was cast, and as a nation we would never truly reject the war, because rejecting it would mean rejecting our own manhood and our own sons. We'll leave Iraq having accomplished little of what we said we'd do there, but jingoist leaders of the future will call Iraq "a noble cause," and the response will be a swell of pride, because we Americans, who claim to hate politicians, can't bring ourselves to hate the politicians who identify a Satan and send us to die smiting that Satan, even when the battle plan is rotten and the rhetoric is nothing but lies.

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