“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Unrelenting Criticism and Self-Doubt

Here's a good read from the Wall Street Journal; something to think about.
Talking Ourselves Into Defeat - Profligate self-doubt can exact a price.

From Henniger, some of the reasons:

Bush schadenfreude. Partisan pleasure in George Bush's pain dates to the anguish of the contested 2000 election loss. The Democrats have run against something called "Bush" for so long that this sentiment is now bound up in any act or policy remotely attached to the president. Iraq's troubles, or Iran or North Korea, are merely an artifact of crushing this one guy.

The Iraq Study Group. The ISG report wasn't defeatist, but it enabled the vocabulary of defeat. Its warning of a "slide toward chaos" was re-defined as the current Iraqi status quo. They called their bipartisan solution "phased withdrawal," but it was a euphemism for defeat. Momentum was already building in this direction, and the ISG propelled it.

The leadership vacuum. The administration never rallied the nation behind the war in a concrete way. A young Marine officer recently returned from combat in Iraq told me this week he is taken aback at how disassociated the American people seem from Iraq, no matter how constantly it's in the news. He says it's as if the problem is not so much what is actually happening in Iraq but that the war is "annoying" to Americans, as if to say: Can't it just go away or not be on the front page all the time? Rallying a nation at war is a president's job.

The opposition vacuum. One reason the negative mood in politics is so disconcerting is that the opposition's alternative vision is nonexistent. On joining the opposition recently, GOP Sen. Norm Coleman announced, "I can't tell you what the path to success is." Joe Biden says the "primary" Iraq strategy should be to force its leaders to make the political compromises necessary to "end the violence."

Unrelenting criticism and self-doubt. It's killing us.


  1. I do not think of "self doubt" as the key to the slow failure of the Bush Policy in Iraq.

    It is the Doctrines of the Military, the lack of focus upon Victory, and the passive actions the Administration has taken in the midst of a "War".

    Catch & Release was not caused by self doubt. The empowerment of Shia reactionaries was not caused by self doubt.

    No, Hubris on the part of the President, the Decider in Chief, is the primary cause of the unrelenting criticism. IMHO.

  2. We massively need change. Right now our country is in denial, refusing to admit that we are fighting a guerrilla war for our survival and don't know how to win it.

    We have the greatest conventional military force in history, and won a great victory in the totally conventionally-fought world war II, yet from the President on down almost no one is willing to admit that not all wars are the same and some enemies might fight differently.

    In order for the world war II scenario to work, it sounds like some people are expecting this to happen tomorrow morning:

    (1) All Islamic terrorists form two countries, say SunniState and ShiaLand.
    (2) All the Islamic terrorists put on uniforms, group into batallions, then wait patiently until we bomb them to death.
    (3) Once most of their army is dead and we have bombed their capital, all the Islamic terrorists surrender and give us a gentle, peaceful occupation like we had with Japan and Germany. There is no internal conflict within those countries and everyone in SunniState and ShiaLand eagerly becomes Christian capitalists like Japan & German did. Al Qaeda and the other terrorists cooperate fully with the after war occupation, like the Japanese and Germans, and don't launch any terrorist attacks, just like the Japanese & German people didn't.

    That just won't happen. We have a long, long way to go in order to win the war on terror, with lots of things to learn.

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  4. But what, whit, has caused this self doubt, if not the inability to even define Victory in Iraq.
    We have committed hundreds of billions of USD and thousands of lives in pursuit of empowering Mr Maliki.

    The situation on the Ground, in Iraq reads, today, just like it did in January '05. Read General Casey's quote from Mar '05, quoted yesterday, praising the Iraqi and putting US at the cusp of victory due to the results of the Dec '04 Iraqi elections.

    How far we have not come, since then. That is what has caused the self doubt, the extreme lack of success. The slow failure we have experienced, with the prescription, to return to '04 troop levels.

  5. Again, wu, describe where the post modern COIN doctrine you tout has ever succeeded, anywhere, for any length of time.

    It has no history of success, that I know of.
    Other alternatives, with historical precedent could possiblly succeed, but we'd have to develop a mindset that allows US to really act like warriors, not policemen.

  6. The Democrats have run against something called "Bush" for so long...

    ..that they've gone soft shooting fish in a barrel. Here comes 2008, and with no Bush to kick around they better come up with something to stand for and get back into practice defending the indefensible.

    They called their bipartisan solution "phased withdrawal," but it was a euphemism for defeat.

    Sun Tzu said, "Even if you know the configuration of the land, if your mind is inflexible, you will not only fail to take advantage of the ground but may even be harmed by it. It is important for Generals to adapt in appropriate ways."

    Rallying a nation at war is a president's job.

    Perhaps the President and his handlers are exhausted from rallying the nation to undertake a war against principals who were not involved in an attack on America nor sitting on weapons of NBC warfare.

    Joe Biden says the "primary" Iraq strategy should be to force its leaders to make the political compromises necessary to "end the violence.

    This has long been the formula to "end the violence" in Palestine too. In practice, Israel compromises and the other side answers back with rockets and kidnappings. The other side sees the willingness to negotiate as weakness and escalates the violence. And the compromisers (who continue to be elected in Israel and America) reply to the constant bloodshed by offering ever more concessions. Eventually the enemy must resort to an act of super-terrorism to move Israel or the US to over-react so they can gain victimhood status in the European or American Lame Stream Media.

  7. I would reccomend reading:
    Counterinsurgency and US War Strategy
    By Colonel Thomas Snodgrass

    especially you, wu.

    It is available right here

    The Colonel describes the tactics that provided victory in an Insurgency against US interests, in the Phillipines. The fifth of the steps taken:
    "... Fifth, the U.S. effectively used rewards (political, commercial, schools, hospitals, and other public works) and punishments (aggressive interrogation, population relocation to isolate the insurgents, and execution in extreme cases) to gain intelligence on the insurgents. ..."

    Snctuaries and resupply. The real keys to COIN Ops

  8. Bill Roggio reports that
    "... The Iranians may be responsible the conducting the attack that resulted in the murder of five American soldiers in Karbala ...

    Makes a pretty good case.

  9. Unrelenting criticism...maybe that's why Reagan pulled the Marines out of Beirut in 1983, and why Clinton pulled out of Mogadishu in 1993 when confronted by the Islamic street. GWB seems to have deemed the Iraq adventure more critical to the future of the West than his predecessors.

    Speaking of Beirut, I expect victory to look like something akin to the way Beirut has been for the past 25 years. Whether that is good or bad is up for debate.

  10. It is remarkable that we continue to talk about the war in Iraq while the enemy refers to dar al-islam and dar al-harb. Iraq, Iran et al are only western constructs.

    Our enemy sees this struggle as a global war yet we focus on the battle in Iraq.

    Perhaps we can't know what victory will look like. But we can know what defeat will look like.

    War is a battle of will. How would you rate our will as we bicker here at home?

  11. lugh,
    We are not at War with the Religion of Peace, well the USA is not.

    The USA is not at War with Iran, either, nor Syria, nor Pakistan.
    Hell, we at not at War with Iraq, for that matter.

    Until that mindset changes, at the White House, we will not, as a Nation, have the Will required to eeven fight the War, let alone win it.

    The President and the Congress have set the parameters, the "War" is in Iraq.
    That's the Law. Such as it is.

  12. lugh lampfhota,

    You have got it! As I used to say at the BC,
    One god
    One prophet
    One world

  13. Rat,

    The religion of peace has been at war with "the other" since it's founding, more or less.

    The lawyers that we elected are playing their legal games with an enemy that utterly refuses to play their game.

    We get the leaders we deserve, so this crap about poor leadership is, well, just crap. The will of the electorate is what matters. Our leaders manifest our will. If our will is weak, then we get leadership vacillation. Just like we see today.

    The question is simple. Do the American people have the will to win the war against global Islamic fascism or nay? We had better answer that question quickly or we will succumb to history.

    This internal blaming and bickering is only aid and comfort to a relentless enemy. Aye...vile treason.

  14. The American public, like that of most of the world, hasn't a clue as to reality. The power of the press is the power to form and muster public support.

  15. Yup, I agree with Lugh and allen. Elected governments are simply a reflection of their people.

    Example: Venzuela-A greedy, insane government rose to power. When their country collapses(and it will within ten years), whose fault is that? Nope, not the people. They are NEVER wrong.

    If we wish to change that, we have to ask ourselves: why is it that the US electorate changed so much after WW2? Is it a consequence of the creature comforts and luxuries available, the sheer mind-numbness of MTV and cable? Or was it due to the revolution of the 60s, the counterculture that did away with the draft and hence the obligation of adult americans to serve their country? Or was it the Gramscian infiltration of the institutions? Or all of the above?

    I wish you luck in stopping the tide. Sometimes, I'm almost tempted to gloat about China's rising power and its coming role in crushing the RoP... until I remember it's just as likely to degenerate into another civil war or worse once something bad(Taiwan, Norks, economic crisis, population bomb, energy shortage) happens.


  16. lugh lampfhota,

    I just had a look at the BC. Whatever would C4 do with that drop of Jooooish blood?

  17. > Again, wu, describe where the post modern COIN doctrine you tout has ever succeeded, anywhere, for any length of time.

    There is no such thing as "post modern COIN doctrine". The Army's plan is nothing new, it is the same counterinsurgency strategy that has always worked. The real Army manual tells the countries it worked in.

    But the "post modern COIN doctrine" is a strawman, an imaginary way of fighting that no one ever proposed.

  18. A little cut and pasre, wu.
    List those countries.
    To much for ya' aye?