The debate is worth having, but honestly

Here’s an amusing opinion piece in today’s Opinion Journal by Victor Davis Hanson decrying that we’re winning in Iraq, but Americans won’t or can’t recognize that. Somehow, misperception settled in on America, so we’re undermining the war effort. It all sounds very sinister and unpatriotic. However, there are a few interesting points in Mr. Hanson’s editorial:

Then the great civil war sort of fizzled out; our own frenzy subsided; and now exhausted we await next week’s new prescription of doom–apparently the hyped-up story of Arabs at our ports. That the Iraqi security forces are becoming bigger and better, that we have witnessed three successful elections, and that hundreds of brave American soldiers have died to get us to the brink of seeing an Iraqi government emerge was forgotten in a 24-hour news cycle.

Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say “thousands” of soldiers have died than to say “hundreds”? Both are accurate in the purely mathematical sense, but the former seems like an representation, while the latter reeks of trying to overstate our success by making our losses seem smaller. We have to win in Iraq now that we’re there. Acknowledging the price we’ve paid, and continue to pay, in honest terms is reasonable. That’s my interpretation; challenge me if you think saying “hundreds” is just as appropriate.

When Mr. Hanson turns his attention to the pessimistic response at home, he presents this argument:

The second-guessing of 2003 still daily obsesses us: We should have had better intelligence; we could have kept the Iraqi military intact; we would have been better off deploying more troops. Had our forefathers embraced such a suicidal and reactionary wartime mentality, Americans would have still torn each other apart over Valley Forge years later on the eve of Yorktown–or refought Pearl Harbor even as they steamed out to Okinawa.

I disagree, because I think comparing the American Revolution with the war in Iraq is absurd. But, if Mr. Hanson wanted to make his overall point instead of trying to score easy “support the war or you hate George Washington” points with his alleged parallel, he should’ve stated that we would’ve never made it to Yorktown because of the persistent bickering about Valley Forge. But, again, the comparison is ludicrous.


There is a more disturbing element to these self-serving, always evolving pronouncements of the “my perfect war, but your disastrous peace” syndrome. Conservatives who insisted that we needed more initial troops are often the same ones who now decry that too much money has been spent in Iraq.

I interpret the complaint from those conservatives as implying that we would spend fewer dollars in the end if we’d put enough troops on the ground in the beginning. Instead, we’re fighting what feels like a never-ending battle which is consuming a continuing stream of dollars. More importantly, there is no credible indication from the Bush Administration that our soldiers are leaving Iraq in any significant numbers in the near future, thus reducing future expenditures. Could we have left Iraq sooner with more troops in the beginning, limiting the ultimate cost of the war? I don’t know the answer, but that should’ve been Mr. Hanson’s focal point instead of making a senseless claim that vocal conservatives are now contradicting themselves when they’re doing no such thing.