Saturday, June 11, 2005


Yglesias takes issue with Lindsey Graham's recent statement:

We should assume there are going to be 100,000 troops in Iraq two years from now, and continuing losses. It is time to repackage this war and let Americans know we are fighting for freedom.

He writes:

Spouting nonsense in response to what you know perfectly well to be a problem is, in my opinion, far worse than just being a dupe. It's obviously that unless we're going to implement a fairly massive increase in the level of resources dedicated to this conflict, which nobody seems to want to do, that we need to be making plans for a relatively expeditious exit from it.

I don't think this is entirely nonsense, though nor do I think it'll solve the problem. The way we were brought into this and the Bush administration's unwillingness to deviate from "happy talk" about Iraq has made our military situation much, much worse than it has to be.

This war was going to be easy, cost nothing, and require nothing from most of the public except throwing away their Dixie Chicks CDs and the pouring out of all of their French wine. Notions of shared sacrifice, of a genuine collective patriotism, and a genuine "support the troops" agenda were ignored. I can't remember a single prominent lawmaker or public figure of any sort getting up and saying "America is fighting for freedom, and those who truly love their country and who are able should make the ultimate commitment to it." No one has asserted that the patriotic thing to do would be to enlist.

And, of course they haven't. Peter Beinart looks to be in fine fighting form to me, but he's busy fighting the patriotic fight against Move On. Tex Sensenbrenner has twentysomething children, and I'm pretty sure they haven't signed up. Jenna and NotJenna haven't enlisted. The 101st Fighting Keyboarders believe they are fighting this war from their basements.

The point is that 9/11 and Iraq could've been used to create a kind of "national greatness conservatism" that the Bull Moose and McCain used to blather about, through a variety of mechanisms. Colin Powell could have been used to give teary "sacrifice for your country" speeches instead of pushing scary stories about Saddam the Destroyer. Peggy Noonan could've shifted from writing mash notes to firefighters to writing mashnotes to the troops. But, McCain lost that election and commander codpiece and his fop brigade are running things, there's no way any of them or their people are going to enlist, and all of this stuff is alien to them.

It's certainly not that I want there to be a successful campaign to get people to send their sons and daughters off to die for George Bush's war. Nor do I really want our country to be defined by a military-centered patriotism. I think that now it's probably too late to have a successful repackaging to do so. However, the prospect of a military hollow in the middle and empty at the bottom is a very real problem.

So, how about it? Private NotJenna reporting for duty?