Genii Weblog

Regardless of how you feel about the war in Iraq...

Tue 1 May 2007, 08:28 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
On CNN tonight, it reports (with my emphasis in bold):
President Bush said Tuesday he vetoed a $124 billion war-spending bill that called for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq in 2008, arguing that it replaced "the opinion of politicians for the judgment of our military commanders."
Wait a minute, isn't that the very essence of our representative democracy?  Despite the negative connotation of the word "politicians", these are our elected representatives (as is President Bush, of course), and it is their duty and responsibility to override the judgement of our military.  It is the duty and responsibility of our military commanders to do their best to uphold the policy and directives set out by the President and by Congress, not the other way around.

Copyright 2007 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

585.1. Tim Tripcony
(05/01/2007 07:12 PM)

You've nailed it, Ben. In a democracy, when the majority of citizens support a change in direction, the representatives implement that change... even if they don't agree with the decision. Any departure from that formula is a departure from democracy.

The irony is that when Bush was re-elected in '04 by a slim majority, he said he had been given a "mandate". So wouldn't that imply that Democracts in Congress have now been given a mandate? Or has the definition of the term changed since then?

585.2. Ian Randall
(05/02/2007 01:30 AM)

Didn't you guys get the memo, the USA stopped being a democracy on January 20th, 2001.

585.3. Ben Langhinrichs
(05/02/2007 05:26 AM)

While I didn't like the outcome of the 2000 elections, I would hardly say we stopped being a democracy. We had a peaceful transfer of power, which is a good thing. I am far more worried about the gradual destruction of democracy and civil liberties in the name of September 11, 2001. I find it disturbing that the statement I quote above would not disturb more people, regardless of who is President. Civil authority is a keystone of our nation, and that authority includes both the President and Congress. Minimizing the role of either, and minimizing the balance of power, especially in deference to military authorities, reminds me way too much of the process that many South American countries have gone through, where democracy became more and more a meaningless term as military leaders took over, often with similar excuses for wars that could never be concluded, and so justified any abuse. Electing a President from a different party is not going to fix it (although it might help it along). Insisting on civilian authority and civil liberties will fix it, no matter which party is in power. The power in the U.S. is invested in the people, but only if they take it and don't let fears of terrorism or anything else make them give it away.

585.4. Stephen Jones
(05/02/2007 05:35 AM)

There is another, equally valid, way to look at it.

Yes, the politicians should be making the decisions about going into war, when , why etc.

BUT WE ARE ALREADY IN THE WAR. And thats the thing Americans refuse to kind of accept. Since they don't agree with the war, they kind of want to keep a "its not really a war" mentality.

Once the military campaign has started, the -last- thing you want is the politicians running it ! THATS how you get Vietnam.

so you guys are telling me the political clowns in Washington are going to know better how to run the war, AND exit from the war - know that better than our military ? bs. Take a minute and consider what you are saying.

585.5. Ben Langhinrichs
(05/02/2007 06:24 AM)

No, Stephen, I fully accept that it is a war. But the military's job is to run the war, not to decide when to get in or out. It is the civilian leadership's job to get us into or out of a war, with the possible exception of a direct attack on the U.S. This has always been true, in every war we have fought. I am not talking about micro-managing the war, which has caused problems in the past. I am talking about knowing when the call it quits. The military CAN'T decide that, as their job is to fight, and die if need be, until told not to. They can advise the civilian leadership, but they cannot determine when to exit. Exiting without permission would be desertion, and the civilian leadership, particularly the President, are in charge of those decision. Under the balance of powers though, the Congress provides oversight over the President's decision, particularly in the area of funding, so it is absolutely within their rights and within their duties to act as they have.

Mind you, it is also within the President's rights and duties to decide when to veto a funding measure and when to push the Congress towards a view more acceptable to him or her. My objection is not to the course things have taken, but rather to the language, which implies frequently that the Congress is somehow foolish or even disloyal to exercise its duties. That is unacceptable to me.

By the way, calling them "political clowns" not only puts them down but puts down the entire electorate. Certainly, politicians sometimes do stupid and idiotic things, as they are human, but our system of government depends on our faith in them. If you have more faith in our military, ask yourself what that says about our way of government?

585.6. jonvon
(05/02/2007 06:59 AM)

amen brother ben.

585.7. Carl
(05/02/2007 09:06 AM)

My fave line was this from President Bush:

"All the terrorists would have to do is mark their calendars and gather their strength and begin plotting how to overthrow the government and take control of the country of Iraq."

So they will achieve something he has failed to, control of Iraq.

I find it irriating that these people are referred to as terrorists, I believe Bush keeps doing this to try and maintain the belief for some people that they were somehow related to September 11. If a foreign power invaded the US, and took over the government because their country believed a dictatorship would work better for America than democracy, and the US citizens rebelled by doing everything they could to expel the new power, would those people be viewed as terrorists or insurgents? Hell if Canada started sending people secretly over the border to help the insurgency, they'd probably be viewed by heroes.

We invaded a sovereign nation, we invaded for reasons that didn't hold true, we should apolgise and get the hell out.

585.8. Stephen Jones
(05/02/2007 09:43 AM)

Well, I certainly respect everyone's opinions, people who are probably smarter than me. And some good points have been made here. its probably pretty bad manners to post opinions on someone's blog contrary to the blogger-person. But let me just make three assertions -

1. If Bush had NOT invaded Iraq, and they DID have chem/bio weapons (which was the conclusion some very smart people drew from the intelligence at the time - or perhaps they were supposed to know better ?) can you imagine how he would be viewed ? People would be saying "oh, what a complete idiot, he was the president during 9-11 even, and learned nothing. The world changed, it was obvious - and he still let this madman get us into a position where he could work us. It almost amounts to collaborating with them, to let this happen !" Its so easy AFTER we find there were no WMD's to castigate people.

2. the comment that said "we invaded for reasons that didn't hold true, we should apolgise and get the hell out." this is just simplistic, naive. World politics just doesnt work like that. Maybe people think it should , but its much more complicated than that. I am not trying to put down Carl - but man please, thats just a waste of time to say we should say "oh, we were wrong, sorry, were leaving now". Doesnt work that way.

3. Let me make a prediction. Whoever wins the next presidency will be the most reviled president ever. Why ? Remember when Clinton was the anti-christ ? And they impeached him ? And everyone was saying "oh, he's just the worst ever, doesnt even deserve to be presidnent, he's a liar " etc etc etc. And now, of course, its Bush's turn. Same thing. "He's not MY president", and all the impeach Bush stickers, and everyone calling him am idiot. I promise you , whoever the next one is - THAT one will be the new "worst president ever". Its just so easy to sit back in sheltered America and criticize and talk about how the president is "unacceptable".

these are my opions, but I am certain yours are every bit as valid and thought out

585.9. Tom
(05/02/2007 11:33 AM)

A minor quibble here with Tim's post. We are not a democracy in the sense that he referred to it. We are a republic. The founders did not put a congress into existence to implement popular opinion, but rather, to excersize good sense and overrule (protect the people from themselves) when it is necessary.

If you lose sight of that, then the way the government works will REALLY throw you.

585.10. Ben Langhinrichs
(05/02/2007 11:37 AM)

Good point, Tom.

585.11. Nathan T. Freeman
(05/02/2007 12:00 PM)

"but rather, to excersize good sense and overrule (protect the people from themselves) when it is necessary"

I'm trying to think of the last time they might have actually done that. I'm thinking MAYBE around the 1870s. Not sure, though. Certainly can't think of a time in recent memory.

585.12. Tim Tripcony
(05/02/2007 12:54 PM)

@Tom - I concur. Trouble is, they need to be honest with us and themselves about their role. Democrats prefer democracy, Republicans prefer a republic... but over the past few years, we've collectively been leaning past the point of being a republic and gradually inching toward monarchy; based on some of the historical characteristics evident in the transformation, some would even say fascism. I wouldn't go so far just yet, but I've seen others make convincing arguments in this regard.

What I almost never hear enter the debate over the war is that, during Vietnam, war supporters warned the country (and the world) that a defeat there would mean that, if Communism took root there, Iowa would be next. "We fight them there so we don't have to fight them here." Sound familiar? Vietnam was an enormous tragedy. Obviously. But few people seem to notice that it's the same argument all over again: if extremism takes root there, tomorrow it'll be here too. Might that happen? Of course it's possible. Is it inevitable? Absolutely not. The point is that fear of possible casualties is no reason to continue a course that guarantees casualties.

Which brings us back to the "terrorism" term. Merriam-Webster define it as the systematic use of terror (which they in turn define as a state of intense fear... violent or destructive acts are not even mentioned until the fourth definition of terror), especially as a means of coercion. Anyone who uses fear as a tool is a terrorist. Anyone. So, for example, a political candidate who tells voters that his opponent (or opponent's party) would be unable to protect them... is a terrorist. He is using fear to coerce people to vote for him. Either we need to come up with a new term to describe our enemy, or our own politicians need to reduce the extent to which they themselves fit the existing description.