Category Archives: Things that are false

Culpa istorum

**Quick update below I've noticed several mea-culpae about Iraq floating around lately. We talked about one of them (Ignatieff) the other day. Being wrong about such a thing as monumental as war ought probably to carry serious consequences for the credibility of the person who was wrong. In light of that obvious but completely ignored imperative, it's entertaining to watch the ones who were wrong explain themselves:

We might test judgment by asking, on the issue of Iraq, who best anticipated how events turned out. But many of those who correctly anticipated catastrophe did so not by exercising judgment but by indulging in ideology. They opposed the invasion because they believed the president was only after the oil or because they believed America is always and in every situation wrong.

So Ignatieff was wrong, but some of those who were right were right for the wrong reasons (so he claims). We might then say that they're wrong too. Because after all it's just as bad to have a true belief which is unjustified as it is to have a unjustified false belief (like Ignatieff had). Any mature person can see that Ignatieff has picked on the college socialist again–a slogan chanting and capitalistically challenged representative of the anti war left. Everyone ought to know by this point–especially a former Harvard Professor of political science–that such a lefty exists in Rush Limbaugh's mind. Pointing out that someone might have had stupid reasons for being right doesn't have anything to do with your stupid reasons for being wrong. Now to his stupid reasons:

The people who truly showed good judgment on Iraq predicted the consequences that actually ensued but also rightly evaluated the motives that led to the action. They did not necessarily possess more knowledge than the rest of us. They labored, as everyone did, with the same faulty intelligence and lack of knowledge of Iraq's fissured sectarian history. What they didn�t do was take wishes for reality. They didn't suppose, as President Bush did, that because they believed in the integrity of their own motives everyone else in the region would believe in it, too. They didn't suppose that a free state could arise on the foundations of 35 years of police terror. They didn't suppose that America had the power to shape political outcomes in a faraway country of which most Americans knew little. They didn't believe that because America defended human rights and freedom in Bosnia and Kosovo it had to be doing so in Iraq. They avoided all these mistakes.

First off, I think a good number had some knowledge of Iraq's "fissured sectarian history." It was no secret to experts in Middle East history. But the more perplexing thing (aside from its self-serving comparisons) about this mea culpa is that it puts the entire matter in terms of gambling about an uncertain future–where no one could possibly predict the outcome. And this is just the point that Ignatieff and others fail to get. A person with even a casual knowledge of the history of the region (say the recent war between Iraq and Iran) could have predicted the outcome of this war with a good deal of precision. It's not a question, as Ignatieff frames it, of being unduly critical of the motives of the administration (which one always should be in any case), it's rather a more straightforward matter of good judgment. And so this underscores the shallowness of Ignatieff's thinking about matters of life and death (which is what it was to think about invading Iraq in case that wasn't obvious). The experts he trusts don't have any knowledge of the very public and relevant facts about the history of Iraq (and the entire region). So it's not only a case of taking wishes for reality. It's simpler than that.

**Update: Here's Crooked Timber, always a worthwhile read. I'd be interested in seeing more apologiae pro errore meo if anyone knows where to find them.

Errare

Books ought to be written about how otherwise smart looking people got Iraq wrong. But not by them. Too many people who were wrong about Iraq have only profited from it. Some of them (Bill Kristol, O’Hanlon and Pollack, the Kagans, Bush, Cheney, Rice, Republicans) continue in their error; others have had a change of heart, but have not had their credibility questioned (Friedman, Beinart, Yglesias, Josh Marshall, Ivo Daadler). Many of them were not just factually wrong, but morally wrong to have been so absolutely callous and shallow with the awful and uncontrollable violence of war.

Another person who got the war wrong (but who has since come to repent) is Michael Ignatieff (formerly of Harvard University). In a New York Times Sunday magazine article he explains why he got it wrong. One reason has to do with academia:

>The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president. But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion. Many of us believed, as an Iraqi exile friend told me the night the war started, that it was the only chance the members of his generation would have to live in freedom in their own country. How distant a dream that now seems.

>Having left an academic post at Harvard in 2005 and returned home to Canada to enter political life, I keep revisiting the Iraq debacle, trying to understand exactly how the judgments I now have to make in the political arena need to improve on the ones I used to offer from the sidelines. I’ve learned that acquiring good judgment in politics starts with knowing when to admit your mistakes.

>The philosopher Isaiah Berlin once said that the trouble with academics and commentators is that they care more about whether ideas are interesting than whether they are true. Politicians live by ideas just as much as professional thinkers do, but they can’t afford the luxury of entertaining ideas that are merely interesting. They have to work with the small number of ideas that happen to be true and the even smaller number that happen to be applicable to real life. In academic life, false ideas are merely false and useless ones can be fun to play with. In political life, false ideas can ruin the lives of millions and useless ones can waste precious resources. An intellectual’s responsibility for his ideas is to follow their consequences wherever they may lead. A politician’s responsibility is to master those consequences and prevent them from doing harm.

Funny thing about that “condemnation”: it hasn’t convinced Ignatieff or any of the commentators who got it wrong to exclude themselves from continuing to comment. Ignatieff doesn’t even think it excludes him from running for office (in Canada). It’s a big deal to get something like that wrong (I think at least). For many (even or especially on the left), getting it wrong has been a kind ticket for pundit advancement.

That’s probably because of what Berlin said. But Berlin would probably be better understood to be talking about the endless yapfest of American punditry. For apparently it doesn’t matter whether what anyone says is true. So long as its interesting.

Count them in

This would be true, perhaps, if you, as so many do, leave Iraqis out of your calculation:

>More young men are killed each day on the streets of America than on the worst days of carnage and loss in Iraq. There is a war at home raging every day, filling our trauma centers with so many wounded children that it sometimes makes Baghdad seem like a quiet city in Iowa.

Remember, the Iraqis are people too.

Update**

Every day in Philadelphia:

>BAGHDAD, Aug 5 (Reuters) – Iraqi police said on Sunday they had found 60 decomposed bodies dumped in thick grass in Baquba, north of Baghdad.

>There was no indication of how the 60 people had been killed, police said. Baquba is the capital of volatile Diyala province, where thousands of extra U.S. and Iraqi soldiers have been sent to stem growing violence.

Skepticism

**Revised 10:03 AM

People often confuse a kind of knee-jerk skepticism for “critical thinking.” But it’s one thing to be cautious about facts incongruent with other well known facts, it’s another just to disbelieve all facts of a certain type (those that come out of the mouths, of, I don’t know, the liberal media). It’s yet another thing to reject those “questionable” facts a priori–that is, on purely logical grounds.

So when the New Republic ran a series of blog posts by a certain “Scott Thomas” from Iraq, many–mostly right wing bloggers and such–disbelieved them, a priori. These blog posts told of American soldiers defacing corpses, killing animals, (and treating Iraqis in a generally shameful manner). Scott Thomas (whose real name is, get this, Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp), writes (courtesy of Hullabaloo):

>I saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq. She wore an unrecognizable tan uniform, so I couldn’t really tell whether she was a soldier or a civilian contractor. The thing that stood out about her, though, wasn’t her strange uniform but the fact that nearly half her face was severely scarred. Or, rather, it had more or less melted, along with all the hair on that side of her head. She was always alone, and I never saw her talk to anyone. Members of my platoon had seen her before but had never really acknowledged her. Then, on one especially crowded day in the chow hall, she sat down next to us.

>We were already halfway through our meals when she arrived. After a minute or two of eating in silence, one of my friends stabbed his spoon violently into his pile of mashed potatoes and left it there.
“Man, I can’t eat like this,” he said.
“Like what?” I said. “Chow hall food getting to you?”
“No–with that fucking freak behind us!” he exclaimed, loud enough for not only her to hear us, but everyone at the surrounding tables. I looked over at the woman, and she was intently staring into each forkful of food before it entered her half-melted mouth.
“Are you kidding? I think she’s fucking hot!” I blurted out.
“What?” said my friend, half-smiling.
“Yeah man,” I continued. “I love chicks that have been intimate–with IEDs. It really turns me on–melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses … .”
“You’re crazy, man!” my friend said, doubling over with laughter. I took it as my cue to continue.
“In fact, I was thinking of getting some girls together and doing a photo shoot. Maybe for a calendar? IED Babes.’ We could have them pose in thongs and bikinis on top of the hoods of their blown-up vehicles.”
My friend was practically falling out of his chair laughing. The disfigured woman slammed her cup down and ran out of the chow hall, her half-finished tray of food nearly falling to the ground.

And so on. It gets far worse. Kathleen Parker, conservative pundit, thinks these stories are dubious:

>The conservative Weekly Standard began questioning the reports last week. Bloggers have joined in challenging the anecdotes, as have military personnel who have served in Iraq and, in some cases, have eaten in the same chow hall mentioned.

>Thomas’ version of events in Iraq is looking less and less credible and smacks of the “occult hand.” The occult hand was an inside joke several years ago among a group of journalists who conspired to see how often they could slip the phrase — “It was as if an occult hand had …” — into their copy. This went on for years to the great merriment of a few in the know.

>Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how a phrase as purple as an occult hand could have enjoyed such long play within the tribe of professional skeptics known as journalists. Similarly, one wonders how Thomas’ reports have appeared in the magazine without his editors saying, “Hey, wait just a minute.”

>The New Republic editors say they’re investigating the reports, but refuse to reveal the author’s identity. There’s always a chance, of course, that these stories have some truth to them.

There’s a chance they’re completely true, she ought to say. Parker’s skepticism is based on the authority of conservative bloggers and the Weekly Standard–two sources about which one would have justifiable skepticism. The more basic problem regards the nature of Scott Thomas’s claims.

They are pretty straightforward factual claims. That is to say, they are claims that events x took place at time y. They’re true if they happened, false if they didn’t. So questions regarding their veracity ought to regard whether the author is (a) a real person; (b) really in Iraq in the Army; and (c) really witnessed those events. The New Republic can vouch for all three. And it did. Why not take their word for it–they supported the invasion of Iraq.

Wondering about the types of claims being made, in isolation from the basic conditions of their truth (without waiting for confirmation from the New Republic), is a pretty silly kind of skepticism. It’s silly not only because it turned out to be wrong, but because it was wrong for the most obvious of reasons–the stories turned out to be true. Of course even Parker ought to know this. She continues:

>Stranger, and far worse, things have happened in war. But people who have served in Iraq have raised enough questions about these particular anecdotes that one is justified in questioning whether they are true.

>As just one example, it is unlikely that a Bradley would be driven through concrete barriers just for fun, according an e-mail from a member of the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, made up of officers who are lawyers providing legal services to soldiers. He explained that people aren’t alone out there. Other vehicles, non-commissioned officers and officers would be around and Iraqis would have made a claim for repairs, resulting in an investigation.

>In other words, either plenty of people would know about it — or it didn’t happen.

Again, Parker’s skepticism is of the very general variety–she considers emails from people who weren’t there as sufficient countervailing evidence. Effective general skepticism might include such claims as the Bradley vehicle cannot do the actions described or there were no soldiers at the place described. In the absence of such evidence (and in light of the fact that soldiers–US soldiers even–have been known to do some pretty awful things in war (and get away with it), there is every reason to suspect that such tales could be true (unless they’re impossible). Remember Abu Ghraib anyone? This doesn’t mean one shouldn’t be skeptical. One should. But one ought to be skeptical regarding pseudonymous claims because they’re pseudonymous, not because they don’t “seem plausible” (even though, of course, they are).

The context of all of this, of course, is Parker’s insistence that people who believe things other than she does are insufficiently skeptical:

>It may be that The New Republic editors and others who believed Thomas’ journal entries without skepticism are infected with “Nifong Syndrome” — the mind virus that causes otherwise intelligent people to embrace likely falsehoods because they validate a preconceived belief.

>Mike Nifong, the North Carolina prosecutor in the alleged Duke University lacrosse team rape case, was able to convince a credulous community of residents, academics and especially journalists that the three falsely accused white men had raped a black stripper despite compelling evidence to the contrary.

>Why? Because the lies supported their own truths. In the case of Duke, that “truth” was that privileged white athletes are racist pigs who of course would rape a black woman given half a chance and a bottle o’ beer.

>In the case of Scott Thomas, the “truth” that American soldiers are woman-hating, dog-killing, grave-robbing monsters confirms what many among the anti-war left believe about the military, despite their protestations that they “support the troops.”

>We tend to believe what we want to believe, in other words.

I think she means “you” (she obviously doesn’t believe such pleasing tales). But then again, maybe she does.

Real customers, not actors

Sometimes it’s important to point out things that are false. Kenneth Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon portray themselves as “vocal critics” of the administration on Iraq. As a result, their credibility on Iraq increases–if the “vocal critics” say the surge is going well, then it must be. Well, Glenn Greenwald does everyone a favor and points out just how false the “vocal critic” or “critic” appellation is for O’Hanlon (in particular).

The important thing about Greenwald’s work, of course, is that it undermines the premise of Pollack and O’Hanlon’s argument. They have just returned from Iraq, stuffed with anecdotes about energized troop morale for the brilliant leadership of General Petraeus:

>Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

Having established their credible skepticism, they launch into an anecdotal and impressionistic assessment of events on the ground:

>After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Really–“the moral of our troops” is second only to the heat?

>Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

>Everywhere, Army and Marine units were focused on securing the Iraqi population, working with Iraqi security units, creating new political and economic arrangements at the local level and providing basic services — electricity, fuel, clean water and sanitation — to the people. Yet in each place, operations had been appropriately tailored to the specific needs of the community. As a result, civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began — though they remain very high, underscoring how much more still needs to be done.

>In Ramadi, for example, we talked with an outstanding Marine captain whose company was living in harmony in a complex with a (largely Sunni) Iraqi police company and a (largely Shiite) Iraqi Army unit. He and his men had built an Arab-style living room, where he met with the local Sunni sheiks — all formerly allies of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups — who were now competing to secure his friendship.

In Baghdad’s Ghazaliya neighborhood, which has seen some of the worst sectarian combat, we walked a street slowly coming back to life with stores and shoppers. The Sunni residents were unhappy with the nearby police checkpoint, where Shiite officers reportedly abused them, but they seemed genuinely happy with the American soldiers and a mostly Kurdish Iraqi Army company patrolling the street. The local Sunni militia even had agreed to confine itself to its compound once the Americans and Iraqi units arrived.

And so on. Juan Cole pointed out the hollowness of the “shopping evidence”: people shop even in wartime. But the rest of the piece continues in the same vein: anecdotal observations of an optimism reminiscent of administration press releases whose credible authority rests entirely on the deeply misleading (or just plain false) claim of skepticism at the beginning of the piece.

Let’s get cynical

V.D.Hanson sees right through your pro-immigration stance, university perseffers:

>Most cynical of all, however, are the moralistic pundits, academics and journalists who deplore the “nativism” of Americans they consider to be less-educated yokels. Yet their own jobs of writing, commenting, reporting and teaching are rarely threatened by cheaper illegal workers.

>Few of these well-paid and highly educated people live in communities altered by huge influxes of illegal aliens. In general, such elites don’t use emergency rooms in the inner cities and rural counties overcrowded by illegal aliens. They don’t drive on country roads frequented by those without licenses, registration and insurance. And their children don’t struggle with school curricula altered to the needs of students who speak only Spanish.

Teaching. Cynical.

But perhaps Hanson is on to something, not eve the jobs of the California Republican Party are safe from foreigners.

Civil war

Almost two years ago, a “guest blogger” in the Washington Post made the claim that Iraq was not in a civil war, because civil wars tend to be more bloody than what he had seen. He might as well have said that Civil Wars tend to be more old-timey, with lambchops, fiddles, and morphine. The number of people dead and the violence involved don’t make them any less of a civil war.

Someone ought to tell Robert Kagan. He writes:

>It is what’s wrong with this story, however, that makes it so irresponsible. The fact is that, contrary to so many predictions, Iraq has not descended into civil war. Political bargaining continues. Signs of life are returning to Baghdad and elsewhere. Many Sunnis are fighting al-Qaeda terrorist groups, not their Shiite neighbors. And sectarian violence is down by about 50 percent since December.

So, evidence of a civil war includes (1) decreased violence; (2) some Sunnis fighting al-Qaeda groups; and (3) diminished sectarian violence.

Some might think a civil war has less stringent requirements:

>”Sustained military combat, primarily internal, resulting in at least 1,000 battle-deaths per year, pitting central government forces against an insurgent force capable of effective resistance, determined by the latter’s ability to inflict upon the government forces at least 5 percent of the fatalities that the insurgents sustain.” (Errol A. Henderson and J. David Singer, “Civil War in the Post-Colonial World, 1946-92,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 37, No. 3, May 2000.)

Does Iraq qualify?

>The definition focuses on three main dimensions of civil war: that it is fought within a country rather than between states; that it is fought between insurgent forces and the state; and that the insurgent forces offer effective resistance.

>The Iraqi central government is pitted against an insurgent force capable of effective resistance. Some 50 distinct cells, spanning the political spectrum from secular Arab nationalists to religious fundamentalists, direct the activities of at least 20,000 to 30,000 part-time guerrillas, and perhaps many more. They strike regularly throughout seven key center-north provinces, including Baghdad, which at 6 million persons contains a fourth of the inhabitants of Iraq. In civil wars, the violence is staccato and almost random. Journalists or bloggers who visit Iraq and find bustling bazaars and brisk traffic are often fooled by their naiveté into thinking that the violence has been exaggerated. But it should be remembered that boys went swimming and fished not far from where the battle of Gettysburg was being fought in the U.S. Civil War. Guerrilla violence does not need to be omnipresent to effectively disrupt the society.

Seems so.

Update: Reuters.

Brooks on Gore I

Al Gore says that there’s an assault on reason, David Brooks writes and a review and shows him why. The first paragraphs of Brooks’s review center on Gore’s sentence structure and word choice–not the facts, the reason, or the logic. For instance:

>As Gore writes in his best graduate school manner, “The eighteenth century witnessed more and more ordinary citizens able to use knowledge as a source of power to mediate between wealth and privilege.”

Maybe Gore doesn’t write well, maybe he does (you can’t tell by a few sentences taken at random), but at least it’s him that’s doing the writing. Worse than Brooks’s Blackwell criticism, is his failure to comprehend Gore’s point. For Brooks, Gore’s history is technological, “determined” by machines. This nicely plays into another of the many Gore tropes invented and endlessly repeated by the likes of Brooks: Gore is a “strange” person, a machine-like person, who needs someone to teach him how to act or dress.

Brooks failure to grasp Gore’s point repeats the now standard tropes of the printed pundit. The internet is bad:

> Fortunately, another technology is here to save us. “The Internet is perhaps the greatest source of hope for re-establishing an open communications environment in which the conversation of democracy can flourish,” he writes. The Internet will restore reason, logic and the pursuit of truth.

>The first response to this argument is: Has Al Gore ever actually looked at the Internet? He spends much of this book praising cold, dispassionate logic, but is that really what he finds on most political blogs or in his e-mail folder?

Golly-gee. Ever so many political blogs engage in real serious political discourse. The real surprising thing here is that Brooks wants us to think that somehow he knows what reasoned political discourse is.

Wrong

Sometimes, more often than I like actually, I’m wrong about stuff (feel free everyone to point that out–I’ll deny and defend myself, but that’s what makes me wrong, so don’t lose heart). Others are like me–they can be wrong to, even about stuff they’re supposed to be experts in. And sometimes when they’re wrong, they make a big mess that the others have to clean up.

As Glenn Greenwald has tirelessly pointed out, no one who was wrong about the Iraq war (we’d be greeted as liberators!) has ever paid a price in diminished authority. Finally, Charles Krauthammer makes the same point, though in the context of shaming George Tenet, Medal of Freedom winner and intelligence bungler, who has recently turned on Bush. Krauthammer writes:

>The decision to go to war was made by a war cabinet consisting of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld. No one in that room could even remotely be considered a neoconservative. Nor could the most important non-American supporter of the war to this day — Tony Blair, father of new Labor.

>The most powerful case for the war was made at the 2004 Republican convention by John McCain in a speech that was resolutely “realist.” On the Democratic side, every presidential candidate running today who was in the Senate when the motion to authorize the use of force came up — Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd– voted yes.

>Outside of government, the case for war was made not just by the neoconservative Weekly Standard but — to select almost randomly — the traditionally conservative National Review, the liberal New Republic and the center-right Economist. Of course, most neoconservatives supported the war, the case for which was also being made by journalists and scholars from every point on the political spectrum — from the leftist Christopher Hitchens to the liberal Tom Friedman to the centrist Fareed Zakaria to the center-right Michael Kelly to the Tory Andrew Sullivan. And the most influential tome on behalf of war was written not by any conservative, let alone neoconservative, but by Kenneth Pollack, Clinton’s top Near East official on the National Security Council. The title: “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.”

>Everyone has the right to renounce past views. But not to make up that past. It is beyond brazen to think that one can get away with inventing not ancient history but what everyone saw and read with their own eyes just a few years ago. And yet sometimes brazenness works.

That’s right Charles. And you were all wrong. All of you.

Lost

A major in the Marine reserves writes a guest op-ed in today’s New York Times in favor of the surge, he argues toward the following rhyme scheme:

>The idea is that, starting this fall, the Iraqi units would bulk up so the American units could begin to break up, moving to an advisory model in which the number of American soldiers embedded with Iraqi units triples while the overall United States force declines. Today many American patrols operate independently. In a year’s time, ideally, no American patrol would leave its base without a fully integrated Iraqi presence.

Fair enough, but that seems to me like the warmed over stand up/down view. But back to how he makes the case. Two things I think are worth noting.

First, the confusion of the war in Iraq with the war some kind of war against expansionist ideologues:

>The two Congressional votes last week establishing timelines for withdrawing American troops completely undermined such assurances. The confusion stems from an inherent contradiction in our politics: Though the burden of war is shouldered by few, the majority of Americans want to vacate Iraq, and the percentages are increasing. Something has to give.

>We’re four years into a global conflict that will span generations, fighting virulent ideologues obsessed with expansion. It’s time for those who are against the war in Iraq to consider the probable military consequences of withdrawal. But it is also time for supporters of the war to step back and recognize that public opinion in great part dictates our martial options.

Others say we’re in the midst of a civil war in Iraq. And the fight against the other guys–the big trash talking guys bent on expansionism, is another fight of another type. Worse than that, they argue that our presence in Iraq, however well-intentioned, does naught but give the trash-talking expansionists reason to enlist more into their terrorist enterprise. Iraq, after all, is a mostly Shiite country, al Qaeda is a Sunni terrorist movement; the Sunnis aren’t going to take over Iraq.

Second, support the troops:

>It’s hard for a soldier like me to reconcile a political jab like Senator Harry Reid’s “this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything” when it’s made in front of a banner that reads “Support Our Troops.” But the politician’s job is different from the soldier’s. Mr. Reid’s belief — that the best way to support the troops is by acknowledging defeat and pulling them out of Iraq — is likely shared by a large slice of the population, which gives it legitimacy.

Yet another reason to dump the now ironic phrase “support our troops.” But this sets up the argument by anecdote:

>It seems oddly detached, however, from what’s happening on the battlefield. The Iraqi battalion I lived with is stationed outside of Habbaniya, a small city in violent Anbar Province. Together with a fledgling police force and a Marine battalion, these Iraqi troops made Habbaniya a relatively secure place: it has a souk where Iraqi soldiers can shop outside their armored Humvees, public generators that don’t mysteriously explode, children who walk to school on their own. The area became so stable, in fact, that it attracted the attention of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. In late February, the Sunni insurgents blew up the mosque, killing 36.

That’s only one battlefield, some would argue, in big war. The rest, as almost no one disputes, is going so well as to have only 36 people killed.