I have been reading Plato's Gorgias lately, wondering why I didn't assign this to my argumentation class (well, ok, they had enough to do already). But in honor of the "end" of the Second Iraq War, I think the following passage is worth thinking about:
Socrates. Come, then, and let us see what we really mean about rhetoric; for I do not know what my own meaning is as yet. When the assembly meets to elect a physician or a shipwright or any other craftsman, will the rhetorician be taken into counsel? Surely not. For at every election he ought to be chosen who is most skilled; and, again, when walls have to be built or harbours or docks to be constructed, not the rhetorician but the master workman will advise; or when generals have to be chosen and an order of battle arranged, or a proposition taken, then the military will advise and not the rhetoricians: what do you say, Gorgias? Since you profess to be a rhetorician and a maker of rhetoricians, I cannot do better than learn the nature of your art from you. And here let me assure you that I have your interest in view as well as my own. For likely enough some one or other of the young men present might desire to become your pupil, and in fact I see some, and a good many too, who have this wish, but they would be too modest to question you. And therefore when you are interrogated by me, I would have you imagine that you are interrogated by them. "What is the use of coming to you, Gorgias? they will say about what will you teach us to advise the state?-about the just and unjust only, or about those other things also which Socrates has just mentioned? How will you answer them?
It's early in the discussion, but let us never forget the rhetoricians who arranged battle for us. The archives here are full of them. Here for your horror, is one:
I think it [the invasion of Iraq] was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie.
We needed to go over there, basically, um, and um, uh, take out a very big stick right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble, and there was only one way to do it.
What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?"
You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna let it grow?
Well Suck. On. This.
That Charlie was what this war was about. We could've hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. We coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That's the real truth.
And so example #15675432 why rhetoricians shouldn't advise.