Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Surge Without Content or Context

Listening to the House of Representatives debate the non-binding resolution of no confidence in the President's "surge" strategy gave proof to Jonathan Chait's analysis in Sunday's LA Times. Chait surveyed the arguments in support of the President's plan, and found none that had any specific content or context. They are all generic, abstract arguments that could apply to any war, making no reference to this specific situation. As Chait sums it up:
So, there you have it, the case for supporting Bush: Trust the commander in chief, don't undermine the troops, withdrawal equals defeat. These aren't arguments to support Bush's strategy, they're generic pro-war arguments. Change a few details and these lines could support Napoleon's invasion of Russia or the Crusader occupation of Jerusalem or almost any war. Generic pro-war arguments may be trite, but that's what you turn to when you've given up on reality.
If you doubt this, just listen to the arguments of the President's supporters on the House floor and ask yourself this key question: what change in the facts on the ground would take the wind out of their argument? If your argument is merely the abstract "withdrawal equals defeat", the facts of the situation in Iraq don't even really enter into it. One might infer (as Chait does) that the pro-surge crowd are making vacuous arguments since they haven't any specific fact-based arguments to make. Though having also read Nicholas Goldberg's "Confessions of an ex-pollster" in the same pages, a more cynical person might wonder whether the pro-surge supporters do have fact-based arguments to make, but just don't think they would poll as well as the generic slogans. But I'm ultimately more impressed with arguments against the surge, grounded in specific context, such as that put forward by Zbigniew Brzezinski. A withdrawal is not a great option, but at this point, it's looking better than the alternatives.

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