According to well documented accounts, what Michael Gerson, prose warrior, says in today’s Post op-ed is flatly wrong. Later in the day the blogosphere will be alive with links to documents which will establish that is the case (start here for factual rebuttal). If I find time today I’ll post an update. I was more intrigued by the following claim:
>Four months ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could confidently declare: “This war is lost.” Now that is an open question. A recent Zogby poll found that a majority of Americans do not believe the war is lost. And this makes Democratic policies based on the assumption of hopelessness — rigid timetables and funding cuts — strategically irresponsible and politically risky. If defeat is inevitable, it makes sense to cut our losses. If defeat is only possible, preemptively ensuring it would confirm a long-standing Democratic image of weakness.
I’m going to break that down.
>1. Harry Reid said the “war is lost.”
>2. But a Zogby poll found that Americans–a majority of them–disagree.
>3. Therefore, “funding cuts and timetables” are (a) strategically irresponsible and (b) politically risky.
Out of curiosity, both victory and defeat ought to issue in “funding cuts and timetables.” If we win, we leave; if we lose we leave. But it’s odd that 3b finds its way into Gerson’s argument. As far as I know, Americans don’t have a vote in day to day military affairs. Even if true, in other words, whether Americans think the war is lost is irrelevant.
Naturally it’s not irrelevant politically. Democrats can appear weak, but that discussion should be meaningless to anyone but political hacks. Having been right about the prospects for success in military conflict has nothing to do with actual strength and weakness.
Finally, there’s a wide gulf between the inevitable defeat and the possible victory. In addition to the confused notions of victory and defeat for whatever is going on in Iraq (what’s defeated? Us? A strategy? A goal–what was the goal, and so on and so on), some on the right (SOR) hold fast to the “one-percent doctrine.” This involves treating as inevitable that which is merely barely possible. The whole thing, of course, is a raging sophistry (if sophistries can “rage”). “Victory” may still be possible in Iraq, but that depends on the meaning of possible. The irrelevant meaning is whether victory is possible all things considered.
The relevant question is given what whether victory is likely (if so, how likely), given what we are willing to commit to attaining it.