Pres. Obama is giving the impression everyone shared his lack of hope on Iraq. The data doesn't support the claim.
President Obama recently repeated his campaign claim that we succeeded in Iraq "beyond all expectations", this time before a group of Marines at Camp Lejeune. According to past polls, most of those Marines were probably thinking "better than your
expectations, maybe". Many people feared that Congress would create failure through a premature pull-out, but success was likely otherwise. Pres. Obama is misinterpreting a lack of confidence in politician's resolve as a lack of confidence in the mission.
If you look at the data expectations of success were usually the majority, with a dip occurring during the worst parts of the Al-Qaeda counter-attack, before the surge had begun. Even at it's worst the hope for success couldn't be described as beyond anyone's expectations. Let's look at the data.
At the outset of the war, of course, the vast majority of the American public and their political leaders supported the war and felt it would succeed.
But even two years later, according to a Pew Research center poll
done in late 2005, a majority of the public thought efforts to establish a stable democracy would succeed. 64% of the military thought so. Only so-called 'opinion leaders' didn't think we would succeed.
Unfortunately, they did lead the opinion and a year later the majority had turned pessimistic. Al-Qaeda saw that American will was weak and fought a classic insurgency with the opposition's media as its primary target. But even then, with things at their worst, large groups of Iraqis felt the war could be won. The annual Brookings Iraq index
shows that 47%
of Iraqis thought the country was headed in the right direction in late 2006. Not a majority, but it can hardly be said that no one expected success. During this same period of minimal hope, 50%
of the military thought we would succeed, with only 41% thinking we would not. The numbers quickly went up as the surge progressed
President Obama is trying to re-write the history of his own mistake after the fact by proclaiming that everyone agreed with him. That is simply not true. He was in the majority, but never one as large as he implies and he was never in agreement with the people who knew best, the US military and the Iraqi people. Many people expected victory in Iraq, they just weren't sure if the war's American opponents would allow it to happen.
Perhaps Pres. Obama should describe the Iraq victory as succeeding "beyond all expectations of a small minority, and beyond the average hopes of the uninformed". That would be more accurate, and more audacious.
3/2/2009 12:10:00 PM
Most of the recent economic fear was designed to win an election and pass a spending bill.
Sometimes events overtake a perfectly good opinion piece and
render it moot. I had a nice, short
piece all planned out on how the economic crisis was a bunch of media ratings
headlines and nothing more. While an
unemployment rate of 7.8% was bad, it was nothing compared to past historical
recessions. We were in a normal
recession, slightly worse than the previous two but better than most recessions.
the government happened. President Obama
inspired fear and worry with repeated warning that if his spending plan weren't
passed we'd all be doomed. The stock
market plunged as his newly appointed cabinet spoke of nationalizing banks and
taxing people per mile. The 'buy
American' protectionists measures and huge new debt of the spending bill
increased concerns in financial markets both at home and abroad. Now unemployment is rising faster than before
while the government prints new money to pay for the stimulus, raising the
worry of future inflation to a near certainty.
still not in a crisis. Full employment
is defined as being a 5% unemployment rate, even a 10% rate will be less than
what many European countries have had for decades. If the government reigns in future spending,
extends the Bush tax cuts and avoids protectionist measures calm will
prevail. Now that his spending plan is
passed, Pres. Obama will hopefully use the bully pulpit to calm the markets and
avoid investment-killing new government expenses. The vast majority of the media wants Obama to
be given credit for saving the economy.
If they start reporting good economic news the public will follow, just
as their earlier reports of doom and gloom helped begin the economic recession. Unfortunately, Pres. Obama is a socialist at
heart. He may not know any course of
action other than destructive government interference. His near-term actions may well determine if a
crisis actually develops in reality, not just in news headlines.
2/21/2009 11:01:00 AM
Yes, Elitism IS a Bad Thing
I heard a good example of elitism's frailties on public radio recently (at time 46:10 in this broadcast). Several very well-credentialed panelists on NPR's 'Diane Rehms Show' were discussing the recent VP debate involving Gov. Sarah Palin. A listener called in to mock Mrs. Palin for saying that both Iraqi Pres Maliki and Talibani were beginning to recognize the success of the Iraq war, saying she was so dumb she didn't know that the Taliban was one of our primary enemies in the war. Of course, she was referring to Iraqi President Talibani, not the Taliban of Afghanistan. I silently mocked the listener to myself and sat by awaiting the panels members to correct him. No one did. None of these experts - and they were experts - knew this fundamental fact regarding Iraq's government. Instead they agreed with the caller and lamented Gov Palin's lack of knowledge, wondering why anyone would eschew the clear genius of Sen Biden for the back-woods confusion of Gov. Palin.
A common reply to charges of elitism is that it's actually a good thing: don't you WANT the smartest and most capable people leading you? This argument fundamentally misunderstands what people mean when they say someone is an elitist. An elitist is not someone who is simply smarter than average. Sen. Kerry was often seen as an elitist though his college grades were average, slightly below those of President Bush. Conversely, many geniuses aren't regarded as elitist because they aren't involved in social governance. Elitism only has meaning in a societal or governmental context.
An elitist is defined by two closely related characteristics: First, it is someone who thinks they are generally correct on issues because they're better educated, richer, or smarter. Second, elitist believe that because they're smarter, richer, or better educated, they can successfully govern our society, or even the world. People naturally pick up upon and feel resentment at this attitude, and it turns out they're right. The negative reaction to elitism is not just due to class-based resentment, but scientifically supported common sense.
The first defining characteristic of an elitist - smarter or better educated people are more correct on issues than others - seems to make sense but sadly doesn't account for human nature. As Michael Shermer demonstrated in his book "Why Smart People Believe Weird Things" very smart people often believe very stupid things. Ego, gullibility, tribalism (the human tendency to progressively mistrust others the more physically different and geographically separated they are from you) and self-deception are completely independent of IQ. The opposite end of this argument was demonstrated by James Surowiecki in The Wisdom of Crowds. Groups of people acting freely usually come to the right decision where individual geniuses do not. The fundamental reality is that a world of 7 billion people is simply too complex for ANY group to comprehend sufficiently to make informed decisions. There are too many unattended consequences, too many variables.
The second defining belief of an elitist - that elite groups should govern the masses - has been disproven by history. The primary lesson of the past 100 years is that a centralized decision making group - even one composed of the smartest people - does not perform nearly as well as distributed decision making. This was labeled as communism versus capitalism, but fundamentally was the ideology of socialism versus freedom. Freedom won, though that has not been recognized by much of mainstream scholarly thought, who being government supported are personally dependent upon government largess. Universities are prime examples of very smart people willing to deceive themselves and others to ensure their own welfare and social standing.
The anecdotal lesson of the NPR Panel of experts is that even very smart people don't know enough to govern others, which is why everyone should be free to make their own decisions as much as possible. You're right to be suspicious of elitists, they simply can't know as much as they think.
10/7/2008 2:26:00 PM
Buy on rumour, sell on Fact.
That's an old maxim of Wall Street. Another old maxim is that people generally make the right decision in the long run, but can be gripped by hysteria in the short term. The economic 'crisis' is real, but it's not due to any institutional or fundamental flaws in the American economy. It's due to the election and the success of the Iraq war.
When did you begin to see headlines of economic doom and gloom?
Just about the same time you stopped
seeing headlines of impending Iraq war doom and gloom
. As the surge made Iraq too much of a success to report, the media began looking for an alternative story, preferably one that would aid their political agenda.
Enter the economy. We were coming off an economic boom which was widely ignored by the media, so there were negative trend lines that could be turned into ratings-grabbing, Bush-bashing "CRISIS IN WALL STREET!" headlines. We now know that there was only one quarter of actual negative growth that was quickly turned around the following quarter (a recession is two quarters of negative growth). Unemployment inched up but was still below what was considered full employment (five percent). It might have been the mildest economic slowdown between giant growth periods. Alas for America, there was an election.
By February the media had settled on their candidate, Sen. Obama, and settled on their strategy for victory: portray the past eight years as an economic depression so that voter dissatisfaction would defeat the party in power. To this end the reports of economic disaster became self-fulfilling. The media found institutions with minor weaknesses and turned them into real ones. Banks require credit on a daily basis to operate. By relentlessly reporting impending collapse of bank after bank, starting with Bear Sterns
, they caused real collapses. Creditors heard the stories on their drive home from work, worried that they might be true while watching the same story on CNN that night, and pulled their money out of the institution the next morning, not wanting to be the CFO or retirement fund broker responsible for losing their firm's investment dollars.
The media got the boost for their candidate's polls while simultaneously hurting free-market principles, a win-win in their books.
The good news is that this is an emotionally created crisis. Real people will be hurt and that is a tragedy. But the election will pass. Individuals will continue to work in their own best interest. The market will go back up, so I will keep investing my 10% a month. As Sen. McCain said in the beginning, recently followed by Sen. Obama
, the fundamentals of our economy are strong.
9/30/2008 7:48:00 AM
There was never any question of America losing the war militarily, the real risk was whether we would lose politically.
Several pundits were quick out of the box to declare the war lost, including NPR’s senior news analyst Daniel Schorr, top Democrat Howard Dean, and NY Time’s Frank Rich. Most critically, the American media went on an all out offensive against the war by highlighting every American casualty and deliberately avoiding any positive news.
They were largely successful; most Americans still incorrectly believe the war was a mistake and that they were somehow tricked into initially supporting it. Democrats used public unhappiness with the war to regain control of Congress and demonize their Republican opponents as lying war-mongerers. Despite their short-term gains, they failed in attaining their long-term goal. America has won the Iraq war, defeated Al-Qaeda in Iraq and struck a (hopefully fatal) blow against the ideological source of the 9-11 attacks. More importantly, democracy has been planted in Arabia and America has won a war after Vietnam. What changed? Why we were able to hold back the left’s political attacks long enough to win the war? The Vietnam vets themselves played a large role, as did military realities and demographics.
Vietnam vets fired the first shot in the political war at home. Justifiably angered by their undeserved treatment at home, they resolved the same would not happen to a second generation of returning troops. When I returned from Iraq I was greeted at the airport by cheering crowds, as were scores of my fellow vets. Groups like Gathering of Eagles, composed largely of Vietnam era vets, held counter-protests and demonstrations in support of the war.
Not only did this improve soldier’s morale, as well as recruiting and retention efforts, it made it much more difficult for war protestors. They had to walk a fine line between attacking the war while appearing to support the troops, a line many of them could not maintain. The ‘Support the Troops’ effort actively hindered the war opposition, giving the soldiers on the ground more time to build democracy in Iraq.
The second key factor was the low casualty rate in the Iraq war. In part due to improved technology and easier terrain, the casualty rate in Iraq was a fraction of Vietnam. The graph below shows the comparison of the two.
Looking at this gives me additional respect for Vietnam vets, many of whom saw as many incoming mortars in one day as I saw my entire year deployed. Although war opponents publicized military deaths as much as possible, most Americans never felt that casualty rates demanded a retreat.
The final and most important reason we did not suffer a political defeat in the Iraq war was demographics. In part due to the political left’s lower birth rates, the American public has shifted to the right over the past three decades. The graph below [to be added] from a UCLA study shows political bias relative to the average current American voter, with 100 being perfectly ‘left-wing’ and 0 perfectly ‘right-wing’.
The circled area shows how the average American has shifted 5 points to the right since the end of the Vietnam war. This demographic shift, ironically largely due to higher abortion rates among progressives, was responsible for President Bush winning the 2004 election and hindering Congressional Democrat’s efforts to withdraw prematurely from Iraq. Had the balance been the same as in 1973 it is unlikely we would have been given the time required to succeed in Iraq.
7/7/2008 11:25:00 AM
The job before us is to build on that victory. I realize the media man begs to differ, I'll back it up with FOUR iron-clad reasons:
1) The defined state of victory, by left and right alike, is that we have a stable, democratic government in Iraq. Democratic? Check, elected in January, 2006. Stable? Check, though only recently. PM Al-Maliki's recent and on-going beat-down of Sadr and his militia is removing the final serious threat that could have overthrown the government. We knew Sadr was militarily defeated when he declared victory and vacated the battlefield, the predominant sign of a loser in the Arab world. After you win you don't leave, you stay and take advantage of that victory. Instead Sadr is hiding in Iran, pretending to study to be an Ayatollah, a process that would take him at least 8 more years. What he is not doing is suffering casualties while clearing the Iraqi government out of their capitol. Instead, Americans and Iraqis are currently suffering casualties while clearing fighters out of Sadr city. This is removing the most serious threat to stability and was spear-headed by the Iraqis, not America.
2) Al-Qaeda has been driven from power in Iraq, and they can't return. After September 11th, Al-Qaeda was on the hunt for a new target. Instead of civilians in Los Angeles, they faced American troops in Iraq. Al-Qaeda responded, causing much more death and destruction - particularly their bombing of the Askariya Golden Dome in Samarra that seriously threatened defeat and civil war - than we in the military planned. But we recovered as President Bush, Sen. John McCain and others came up with a new strategy to defeat Al-Qaeda's attack and now Al-Qaeda is hated by almost every Iraqi. An Arab country is the worst enemy Al-Qaeda has today. That is a military victory turned into a victory of ideas.
3) Iraqi's overwhelmingly view the US as a liberator and an honest broker of remaining tensions. This one, I give to the troops. Not just "The Troops", but to those junior enlisted, officers and NCO's who overcame the Abu Ghraib media hype and cultural tensions and proved to the Iraqis, in person, day by painful, bloody day, that they were there not as occupiers but as allies. Men and women who cared about the Iraqis, wanted them to succeed and treated them with respect and dignity.
4.) The American media has admitted we've won. Ok, I made that one up. That will NEVER happen. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, lying on his deathbed 45 years from now as Iraq is celebrating its fifth decade of freedom, will insist the war is lost, Iraq is a quagmire and the only solution is to close down the "Ramadi US Air Force Base And Golf Course Fun Zone" and come home in honorable defeat. This is something we must all realize: the media would sooner shift their Democratic party contributions to the Dick Cheney Hunting Club than admit they were wrong on Iraq. This is because they never believed what they were saying was true, they were hoping that by saying it they could make it happen. They saw Iraq as a means to repeat their great Vietnam victory, where they turned victory on the battlefield into defeat at home.
I'll follow up with reasons why we won the war, but here's a hint. Our task now is to understand that we've won, to not be afraid of declaring victory in the face of ongoing media declarations of defeat and to make something of our victory. We cannot rest on our laurels, defeat in Vietnam was snatched from the jaws of victory almost two years after the military departed. We have to turn our battlefield victories into political ones. We owe it to those soldiers who paid for that victory with their lives.
5/1/2008 9:31:00 AM
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4/26/2008 3:11:00 PM
The truth behind the hype.
A recent survey for the Department of Veterans Affairs found that 18 percent of vets recently back from tours of duty are out of work -- and a quarter of those with jobs earn less than $21,840 per year. In the first two years after leaving military service, the official unemployment rate for veterans was 9.5 percent -- more than double the 4.3 percent rate for a group of demographically similar nonvets.
Wow, that sounds really bad. Combat vets are unemployed at rates twice as high as civilians. That could only mean that vets are victims of this terrible Bush/Cheney misguided war, right? Or could there be another reason?
Anyone out there heard of military leave? Most troops coming home from overseas have at least a month or more of paid vacation.
Anyone out there ever heard of unemployment? Most returning Guard and Reserve soldiers are eligible for unemployment benefits. I'm not a fan of this, but the facts are that a soldier fresh home from Iraq can draw unemployment pay for about 3 months. And that's after their military leave is done.
Anyone out there heard of combat pay? Soldiers in a combat zone are paid extra for being in a dangerous area, and we pay no state or federal income taxes on pay earned in a combat zone. For many soldiers, that means a 20% pay raise while in country. Since there isn't much to spend your money on while in Iraq, is it hard to believe that many military folks save their money and splurge when they get home by not having to work?
And has anyone out there heard of the GI Bill? That's the VA program started in the 1940's to let combat vets go to college on the government's dime. Partly as a reward for serving the country, and partly as a means of advancing a huge group of people in their level of education. Millions of the Greatest Generation took advantage of the opportunity
Flash forward to 2008. Over a million men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly every one has now qualified for the GI Bill, and many also qualify for federal or state tuition assistance. For example, a soldier with Minnesota's Red Bulls that got home last summer qualifies for federal tuition assistance, which pays up to $250 per semester credit at almost any college. That's just tuition assistance. The GI Bill pays full time students up to $1100 per month for living expenses.
So for many returning combat vets, going to college is a money making proposition. But Ms Saunders makes no mention of this huge program. She just assumes that all combat vets, fresh home from the war, are desperate to go back to work and unable to. There's overtones of John Kerry's infamous
gaffe in here-that we are all blue collar workers and couldn't possibly be smart enough to attend college.
For the record, here's what Webster's has to say-veteran
Latin veteranus, from veteranus, adjective, old, of long experience, from veter-, vetus old
1 a: an old soldier of long service b: a former member of the armed forces 2: a person of long experience usually in some occupation or skill (as politics or the arts)victim
Latin victima; perhaps akin to Old High German wīh holy
Date: 15th century
1: a living being sacrificed to a deity or in the performance of a religious rite 2: one that is acted on and usu. adversely affected by a force or agent : as a (1): one that is injured, destroyed, or sacrificed under any of various conditions (2): one that is subjected to oppression, hardship, or mistreatment b: one that is tricked or duped
The definitions of victim strikes me as particularly relevant
. People like Ms Saunders like to crow about how bad us vets are being treated, not because they care but because they need us as a weapon to hurl at the White House. In our informal meeting with Sen Klobuchar
last week, she deflected questions of Iraq with talk of her work on helping veterans with health care and benefits. She looked at us with almost pity, a minority that needed her help to secure our benefits. Veteran's issues is the stick she wields against those that criticize
her for her stance on the war. Klobuchar
and Saunders say 'See? I support the troops by doing what I do best-treating people like victims and then funding a government program to help them."
I am used to be a pawn on the field of battle, but to be used as a pawn in the battle of politics is more than I can stomach
To Ms Saunders and Sen Klobuchar
, I say quit treating us as victims that need your protection, and start respecting us as veterans who are intelligent enough to know what we have been through.
4/25/2008 6:33:00 PM
"Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth." -G.W.
The goal of this site is to create a community of active military and vets who are a strong force for freedom in American politics.
We hope to do this by creating a place where you can easily post and discuss your views as reports (aka diaries or blogs) and post and discuss news articles you find interesting.
Building upon the success of the initial Appeal For Courage effort
, we will create a community for currently serving military & vets to become active in the political process which affects us, often in matters of life or death. The community is focused on promoting valid political participation of military members within regulations and the spirit of a civilian-led military. We welcome vets of all stripes and vets have all the same rights/privileges of currently military (after all, we’ll all be vets one day).
In addition we welcome anyone to post comments and voice their opinion, civilian and military alike.
For currently serving military your freedom of speech is probably greater than you may think, simply ensure anything you say conforms with UCMJ Article 88
. In brief, it says you shall not use "contemptuous words" against any elected official or anyone with 'secretary' in front of their name.
We will use as light a hand as possible in moderating comments.
Thank you! We look forward to discussing the day’s events with you!
4/14/2008 6:46:00 PM