We will do nothing, because cowardice is virtuous

Is this country at war?

If we were, I think the Iranian seizure of British Navy personnel and boats (thoroughly covered in this great link roundup) might be taken more seriously than it is.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid I agree with Daily Pundit's David Gillies who said "We will do nothing":

That is an act of war. And what will we do about it? Nothing. They could hang these men on live TV (let's hope they don't) and still we would do little except bluster ineffectually.

The Iranians are feeling their oats, and with good reason. The extent to which they are supporting the Shia terrorists in Iraq, and fomenting unrest generally, should by now have had very serious consequences for them. Our pusillanimity is astounding. We could take Iran down as a functioning country in two days. All we'd need to do is hit its domestic refinement and import capacity and its economy would collapse (Iran is a major oil producer, but a net importer of refined petroleum products).

AJ Strata sees the inability to do anything as political:
....now it is clear to everyone Iran's beligerence is dangerous and out of control. What concerns me is why do this unless you had something in your hip pocket and you were going to play some poker. Why do this kind of escalation? And what will our Democrats do - say the West cannot confront Iran? Talk about bad timing. We are heading into some seriously perilous times right now.
And Glenn Reynolds points out that while a naval blockade would be the traditional response, "I doubt we'll see that."

Whether the U.S. will do anything is closely tied to whether we can do anything. In the purely military sense, there's little question that the U.S. could blockade -- or for that matter, defeat militarily -- Iran. But with the balance of power in Congress being the way it is now, it may be politically impossible.

I think there's a larger issue involving the classical virtues -- especially the ancient philosophy of Stoicism, which involves what we often think of military or martial virtues, but which does not arise out of nowhere. To the extent that this country was once steeped in the ancient virtues, it no longer is. I think they may have fallen victim to Vietnam anti-war era thinking, combined with a post modernism process I have referred to as throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but that's a hugely complex topic. Factor in the loss or decay of classical virtues, and it would fill a book.

This loss of ancient virtues is explored in a marvelous post by James McCormick
at Chicago Boyz which Glenn Reynolds linked earlier. While the discussion takes the form of a review of a book on Stoicism, there's much food for thought which is highly relevant to America's seeming inability to wage war. The whole thing should be read in its entirety but I can't resist quoting the conclusion:

....I do not see American soldiers becoming "citizens of the world" in a world which now widely resents them for their particular brand of modernity.

All this presupposes that the nation has the appetite for both cultural security and military victory in the coming century. As history notes, the American military infrastructure is a financial hog-trough for both political parties, but remains a social experiment only for one. Once the army is again asked to win very hard, very long wars, we'll see whether such social experimentation slows or ceases. Which route the American public takes to provide its security in coming years will be a political question that intrigues us all. These questions are incredibly serious and my own amateur reflections can only fall very short of the mark when it comes to a topic that needs sustained attention from senior combat veterans.

I think resetting the balance between individual suffering and national success (certainly a matter of concern to at least some of those long-dead Stoics) will be America's challenge for the 21st century.

It is this balance between individual suffering and national success which was the real loss of the Vietnam War, because (at least in my opinion) it was during that period that angry, dishonest, self-serving and cowardly "pacifism" (virtuous in neither the Greco-Roman nor Judeo Christian sense) came to be seen as virtuous. The reasons for this are complicated, and I've written several posts on the subject, but in brief, I think that because of a political mistake aggravated by bureaucracy, the young men who in normal times could have been expected to form an officer core were, though the draft deferment system, transformed into a malignantly dishonest force which is now one of the most powerful political forces in the country. A single bureaucratic loophole (draft deferments) was, by operation of human nature (young men naturally don't like admitting they fear war) transformed into a monster, made ever worse by lifetimes of denial.

The country hasn't been the same since.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post.

Welcome all!

posted by Eric on 03.23.07 at 12:10 PM










Comments

Perhaps we should start "kidnapping" tankers sailing with Iranian oil. That might get their attention...

djvaselaar   ·  March 23, 2007 12:56 PM

There was an analysis several months ago that showed the Achilles' heel of the Iranian state is the export and refining facilities. They could be seized rapidly and held. The state would quickly collapse without oil revenue.

TallDave   ·  March 23, 2007 1:28 PM

That’s an interesting perspective on the corruption of the 60s generation (last paragraph and links.)

I’ve described the problem as one of extending GI benefits, of paid college, to those that never served. In a complete reversal, by the end of the 60s, grants and loans helped many avoid service instead of rewarding people for service. In just 20 years the whole dynamic was reversed. By the early 70s ROTC programs and recruiting on campus were under attack. All of this was paid for by the government as most students depended on government programs to help finance their college education. Eventually, these leftists stayed and became the faculty.

It would be politically difficult but highly desirable that no grants or loan guarantees be extended to those who haven’t served. First you pay your dues, then you country helps you in return. I’m still opposed to the draft but encouragement and reward conditional on service makes good moral sense. And anything that reduces the corrupting influence of today’s universities is also worthy of consideration.

Perhaps small steps in this direction could be politically feasible. How about ending aid to colleges that refuse to have ROTC programs?


Jason Pappas   ·  March 23, 2007 1:29 PM

C.S. Lewis said something to the effect that Courage was the first virtue, and the only one that Satan hadn't managed to corrupt because such corruption brought destruction to the culture that embraced it. Thus wiping out the corruption.

We're in the process of seeing if we can disprove Lewis, and survive such immorality. Heaven please have mercy on us because our enemies certainly won't.

Eric R. Ashley   ·  March 23, 2007 4:43 PM

If I believed we were fighting terrorists in Iraq. I'd say continue the fight. However what are we doing in Iraq at present? Are we on the offense? Are we fighting terrorists that would be a threat to the USA or do we now have our troopsi n the middle of a sectarian war?

We have been in Iraq for longer than we were in WWII/ We've removed Saddam. We found no WMD. The administration used that threat to sell the war. Pure and Simple it was the conscious and use of selective intelligence to sell the need for a military invasion into Iraq.

There is NO guarantee at all that we are doing anything to lessen the threats of an attack on US soil by havingout troops die in Iraq.

If the people if Iraq want democracy and freedom Let them fight the war for themselves. No one fought our war in America for us against the British.

I also am very suspect to the unaccounted for spending in the military. SOmeone or many someones are getting very very very rich in this war. The troops are not getting the money and support they need.

Terrorism didn't start on 9/11 and its threats are never going to be gone completely. During the Clinton administration the right wing wanted to get Clinton for any reason and for any charge they could trump up. Its interesting how all during the 1990s and Clintons term the so called conservative right wing sect was not all all focused on the threats of terrorism. It was more important to them to get CLinton than to really focus on the security of our country.

Now we are told by the right wing that we must trust the Bush admin and if we question the need to stay in Iraq we are somehow unpatriotic.

SInce when is it UNamerican and Unpatriotic to question those in Government. I think its only UnAmerican to question a Republican administration to the right wing.

I consider myself a conservative and I am a Republican.

I know there are more threats besides terrorism that are at our heels in America. One is the wild uncontrollled spending that the so called COnservatives have approved.

I wants what is best for our country and what will make us strongerm economically and as a military power.

I don't agree 100% with the REp admin and I dom't understand the short sighed bone headed thinkin of some who call themselves conservatives.

Paul Revere   ·  March 23, 2007 5:49 PM

If I believed we were fighting terrorists in Iraq. I'd say continue the fight. However what are we doing in Iraq at present? Are we on the offense? Are we fighting terrorists that would be a threat to the USA or do we now have our troopsi n the middle of a sectarian war?

We have been in Iraq for longer than we were in WWII/ We've removed Saddam. We found no WMD. The administration used that threat to sell the war. Pure and Simple it was the conscious and use of selective intelligence to sell the need for a military invasion into Iraq.

There is NO guarantee at all that we are doing anything to lessen the threats of an attack on US soil by havingout troops die in Iraq.

If the people if Iraq want democracy and freedom Let them fight the war for themselves. No one fought our war in America for us against the British.

I also am very suspect to the unaccounted for spending in the military. SOmeone or many someones are getting very very very rich in this war. The troops are not getting the money and support they need.

Terrorism didn't start on 9/11 and its threats are never going to be gone completely. During the Clinton administration the right wing wanted to get Clinton for any reason and for any charge they could trump up. Its interesting how all during the 1990s and Clintons term the so called conservative right wing sect was not all all focused on the threats of terrorism. It was more important to them to get CLinton than to really focus on the security of our country.

Now we are told by the right wing that we must trust the Bush admin and if we question the need to stay in Iraq we are somehow unpatriotic.

SInce when is it UNamerican and Unpatriotic to question those in Government. I think its only UnAmerican to question a Republican administration to the right wing.

I consider myself a conservative and I am a Republican.

I know there are more threats besides terrorism that are at our heels in America. One is the wild uncontrollled spending that the so called COnservatives have approved.

I wants what is best for our country and what will make us strongerm economically and as a military power.

I don't agree 100% with the REp admin and I dom't understand the short sighed bone headed thinkin of some who call themselves conservatives.

Paul Revere   ·  March 23, 2007 5:50 PM

If I believed we were fighting terrorists in Iraq. I'd say continue the fight. However what are we doing in Iraq at present? Are we on the offense? Are we fighting terrorists that would be a threat to the USA or do we now have our troopsi n the middle of a sectarian war?

We have been in Iraq for longer than we were in WWII/ We've removed Saddam. We found no WMD. The administration used that threat to sell the war. Pure and Simple it was the conscious and use of selective intelligence to sell the need for a military invasion into Iraq.

There is NO guarantee at all that we are doing anything to lessen the threats of an attack on US soil by havingout troops die in Iraq.

If the people if Iraq want democracy and freedom Let them fight the war for themselves. No one fought our war in America for us against the British.

I also am very suspect to the unaccounted for spending in the military. SOmeone or many someones are getting very very very rich in this war. The troops are not getting the money and support they need.

Terrorism didn't start on 9/11 and its threats are never going to be gone completely. During the Clinton administration the right wing wanted to get Clinton for any reason and for any charge they could trump up. Its interesting how all during the 1990s and Clintons term the so called conservative right wing sect was not all all focused on the threats of terrorism. It was more important to them to get CLinton than to really focus on the security of our country.

Now we are told by the right wing that we must trust the Bush admin and if we question the need to stay in Iraq we are somehow unpatriotic.

SInce when is it UNamerican and Unpatriotic to question those in Government. I think its only UnAmerican to question a Republican administration to the right wing.

I consider myself a conservative and I am a Republican.

I know there are more threats besides terrorism that are at our heels in America. One is the wild uncontrollled spending that the so called COnservatives have approved.

I wants what is best for our country and what will make us strongerm economically and as a military power.

I don't agree 100% with the REp admin and I dom't understand the short sighed bone headed thinkin of some who call themselves conservatives.

Anonymous   ·  March 23, 2007 5:51 PM

"[Iran] would quickly collapse without oil revenue."

Iran didn't collapse all that quickly in the face of Iraqi invasion 25 years ago, which drastically cut oil revenue. Iran as a functioning government and armed force could not be destroyed so trivially (or cleanly). Regardless, it may need to be.

DWPittelli   ·  March 23, 2007 8:33 PM

Mullah Cimoc say ameriki so fast be the stupid nation,

usa media so control make ameriki think all good but in real so dirty and filthy and ameriki woman the prostitute.

Mullah Cimoc   ·  March 23, 2007 9:51 PM

Does anyone dare ask the question as to why we didn't choose Iran as the center of evil in the first place?
Why did Reagan choose to support Osama in Afganistan against the Russians?
Did religion have anything to do with it?
What side are we increasingly backing in Iraq now? The fundamentalists aligned with Iran, or the more secular Sunni Muslims?
What is GW's gut position?
I think we all know exactly what this is all about, and why Iran is safe as long as a Christianist is president of this country.

There was a cry for justice paid for by Leonard Piekoff in the NY Times just after 9/11. He laid it all out. And it didn't include sanctuary for Iranian kidnappers and terrorists.

As to George W. the weakling president, I voted for him, gave him the benefit of every doubt, but now have lost all hope.

May he, and his impotent party rot in hell.


Frank   ·  March 24, 2007 12:44 AM

What would you suggest Frank. Democrats, the Media, and a goodly portion of the country would want to set the 9/11 plotters free. Heck most of Congress would like to apologize to bin Laden and sign a peace treaty. Such a move has been suggested by the NYT.

Bush is as constrained as Lincoln is with the Copperhead Dems who want to see the US defeated. They view defeat of the US as a desirable moral good and one that is cost-free (because they discount the ability to hurt us deeply by our enemies). Heck they think there is no fundamental conflict with our enemies.

To the poster above (who seems to have lost his rational abilities) who asks why fight in Iraq? And why did we choose Iraq rather than Iran? I offer the following:

Withdrawing in defeat (which is the only way we can withdraw) will only embolden terrorism aimed at us here at home. It's the surest way to have Iran or Pakistan (Musharraf hangs by a thread against Al Qaeda) nuke several cities through Al Qaeda proxies because we reward aggression and set the bar (around 3K killed) for surrender. If we surrender in Iraq, why would anyone in Iran or Pakistan think we would not surrender more (money, wealth, power, slaves, Sharia in the US, etc) if they killed a few millions of us here at home?

Iran and Pakistan's leaders are not the leaders of China (cruel oligarchal technocrats) and certainly not the leaders of say, France or Germany. They are brutal, non-Western tribal thugs who climbed over a pile of rivals bodies to achieve power and act like a psychopathic Tony Soprano.

Withdraw from Iraq and we will get nuked by deniable proxies followed by demands of uncertain origin. It's that simple. Only by using strength to deter can we avoid that.

Caveat: we could make our intentions unmistakable if during withdrawal we summarily nuked Pakistan's nukes and Iran's suspected nuke sites, and destroyed much of their infrastructure. The UN, Chinese, and Russians would tut tut but nothing would come of it. The political will to do that however is not there. There are other dangerous enemies of the US: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, UAE, Egypt, and Oman are all developing nuclear weapons. Russians, Chinese, and North Koreans will sell them the technology (which in any case is over 62 years old) and we must prepare for a world with many hostile nations having nuclear weapons.

As to why Iraq instead of Iran? Because Iraq was seen as "easy" ... which it was to overthrow Saddam, and fixable which it wasn't as far as it's populace (which was not the middle class sort-of nation that Saddam inherited but a brutalized set of tribes/factions itching for revenge). There was plenty of political will among Dems (Hillary, Kerry, Edwards) to get rid of Saddam considered unfinished GHWB business from 1991.

Let us not forget that Osama argued successfully among his Afghan and Saudi and Iranian patrons that the US always runs away when confronted by dead US soldiers: Beirut 1983, Mogadishu 1993, Khobar Towers 1996, the Cole 2000, Tanzania and Kenya 1998. Osama has a point, we should all consider if we want to remake this point for him all over again.

Think of how Alexander Litivenko died. Think of how easy it was for some person to put rat poison in the major Dog and Cat food manufacturer. Now think an Osama or Zawahri aided by Pakistan and Iran and unconstrained by fear of consequences with a good bit of Polonium 210. Slipped into a chili canning plant, or perhaps released at the Final Four.

We do not live in the safe world of the 1990s (which wasn't that safe) nor the Cold War where the Superpowers over-awed and suppressed everyone else. The third world gets a vote, and their vote is "we want your stuff. Hand it over or die."

Jim Rockford   ·  March 24, 2007 4:13 AM

Today's fight is not a fight of Nations, but one to assert that Nation States are necessary to support humanity. Terrorists and those rogue States that support same wish to make military action something seen as equal to terrorism, and so rob Nations of the right to defend themselves. Inside our Nation we have those that wish to remove such capability to defend the Nation at the slightest quiver of those who would seek to kill us, as individuals. The US does, indeed, have mighty weapons and economy, but these foes cannot succumb to that might of the last century. These current foes live off this strange and idealistic notion that free trade brings freedom, while they see it as a ready way to arm themselves cheaply to fight freedom. These foes are many and varigated and call themselves many names, and if they had been held to the same account as Nations, then the Nation would be at war many, many fold by now.

Exploiting 'failed States' these groups seek refuge where they cannot be easily found, and they exploit the very communications and commerce that is asserted as bringing 'freedom', while they see it as just an easy way to plan and plot and kill. These are not 'the downtrodden of the Earth rising up' as most are well educated and come from good families in their home Nations. Some do, indeed, exploit the poor and uneducated, and outside of Universities they find just as many of those same poor and uneducated ones to help them. When a poor sap is roped into a truck and told to drive it down streets, the remote control is his destiny which was set by his trust in those most untrustworthy.

Bringing these Nations that support these barbarians to heel is necessary for victory. It is insufficient to achieve it.

We cannot put down the seeds of the modern transnationalists and expect it to grow into other than an evil plant bearing bitter fruit. That weed now infests this Nation and many others, and declares that Nations are not the way forward... and so they propose the way *back* to Elitist rule and Empire. Strange that the foes outside that fight also seek the exact same thing, save that it will be a different Empire with a different Elite. Either way the rights of man as individual are lost, as no Empire has ever secured such.

Our foes seek to go far back to before the Republic, but we need not follow them that far for the way to *fight* and *secure* the Nation lies there, at that foundation and root that declares that We the People are the ones responsible for the Nation. And we give good and fair right to our Government to tell us what is the way to join that fight, so that We may take up the weapons of war outside of Government and fight for reward in the way of our choosing.

That is the great counter in asymmetrical warfare, with which modern Nations are bereft of ways to handle: the asymmetrical counter-attack of a Free People duly meeting the Needs and Requirements to stride forth on their own against those designated as a threat to All. In that era of the young Republic we had those that were armed outside of Government yet given all due protection and recognition and go-ahead to fight as best as they were able without direction from Government on how to fight.

We are being dragged back and back in the annals of warfare, past the Mighty Nation era of the 20th century, back past the rising Empires of the 19th century and back to the early 19th century where threats were varied and dispersed and the Government could not address them all on its own. Thus were Citizens and their companies duly warranted and given Letters of Marque and Reprisal to address those foes, impede the commerce of enemies by seizing ships entire and by staging acts of retribution upon the Enemies of the Nation that the Government and its powers could not reach by standard military might or mere law.

If we hold on to the 20th century as salvation, we will find its weight dragging us down into the abyss. We see a Nation unable to even recognize that the People are responsible for all of its greatness and lacks. When government fails it is Our failure as a People, and we must shoulder such blame and then turn to right those problems. Or be unworthy of having a Nation and measure ourselves for the fetters of slavery that Empire seeks to place upon liberty and freedom.

A Mighty Nation is failing Us.

Can we be the Mighty People and redeem our failures and restore worthiness by seeking entrance to this fight in that way most Constitutional given to us by our forefathers so that we would be ever responsible... and ever free?

ajacksonian   ·  March 24, 2007 11:37 AM

I think that because of a political mistake aggravated by bureaucracy, the young men who in normal times could have been expected to form an officer core [sic] were, though the draft deferment system, transformed into a malignantly dishonest force which is now one of the most powerful political forces in the country. A single bureaucratic loophole (draft deferments) was, by operation of human nature (young men naturally don't like admitting they fear war) transformed into a monster, made ever worse by lifetimes of denial.

Indeed. In the long generation that went through college between the two World Wars, large numbers of men at the most elite colleges and universities became reserve (very inactive) officers through the ROTC - continuing the American tradition that the upper and upper-middle classes provided the bulk of our officer corps both in peace and in war.

It is ironic that the sons of those officers, and of many of the enlisted men of WWII who went to college on the GI Bill, formed the backbone of the elite college opposition to the Vietnam War.

Unlike most boomers, I went to the Virginia Military Institute rather than a civilian college and saw their a combination of a willingness to serve and a wide spectrum of opinions about the War itself. In that environment, knowing we were likely to serve, and knowing friends who had served and some who had died, perhaps we were more honest with each other and ourselves about being afraid of war and dying -- warriors know that it's not the fear, but how you deal with it and behave that counts. Officers returning from combat didn't sugar coat it, but it was comforting in a way to be surrounded by those who'd been there, who cared, and who assured us that we, too, could face war.

It a way, I feel sorry for those men in civilian colleges who really had no support system to acclimate them to the possibility and reality of combat service. All they had were the new stories and antiwar professors, and frightened girlfriends.

When I was in civilian graduate school during the very early 1970s, at the tail end of the draft and the antiwar movement, based on the conversations with undergraduates, I often felt much of the opposition to the Vietnam war from men was about personal cowardice, and the opposition from women was primarily a fear of losing their men. In both cases, the personal feelings were most important because almost no one saw Vietnam as an existenial threat -- oh, it might have long term consequences that were bad (as it did), but for the most part, young people rightly felt that in the scope of their own lifetimes (about 10 years from the vision of a 20 year old), there was little downside in bagging Vietnam and a great personal upside.

The worst aspect of all of this was those who served lost time while those who avoided service (smugly as you note) went to law and business school or graduate school, and moved into the professions, government, finance, and academia, moving into positions of power over the past 25 years ahead of most of the veterans of like age. The service avoiders, thus, have set the tone in business and the professions.

CatoRenasci   ·  March 24, 2007 3:32 PM

“What we’re trying to do in this legislation is force the Iraqis to fight their own war,” said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.

Well that is just what you’re going to get jackass…

This war however won’t be reminiscent of the Czech Slovak Velvet Divorce it will look much more like the American Civil War, long bloody and seemingly without end. We started this war, right or wrong we’re there right now in the mess we created. You cannot enter another country kill its leader destroy its government and erode its civic ties and then just up and leave, it’s rude. Not to mention it’s provication for genocide, if you support this resolution the blood of every Iraqi that is killed will be on your hands.

This coming civil war could be the spark needed to ignite WWIII the Islamic nations are looking for a fight and we threw the first punch how can we possibly expect to talk our way out of this one. Running away accomplishes nothing but making us lose face in front of an enemy that swears his undying hatred for us daily and dreams of crushing our nation. We need to fight back, it is the only way to fix our blunder.

ransdell   ·  March 24, 2007 3:40 PM

"We will do nothing, because cowardice is virtuous"

Certainly the left doesn't think of itself as cowardly. In fact, I remember reading The Village Voice right after 9/11 happened. Sure enough, every leftist writer on the paper was cowering courageously under his or her bed, not to emerge for weeks.

Mister Snitch!   ·  March 24, 2007 11:11 PM

randsell: "...we threw the first punch how can we possibly expect to talk our way out of this one."
No, THEY threw the first punch, 9/11. What we did was invade a second rate dictatorship, unleash a sectarian bloodbath, and enmesh ourselves in a nation building mess with a bunch of tribal idiots.
Jim Rockford, I agree with almost everything you say. The problem with the Republican party and our POTUS, however, is that they don't really take seriously the things you write about.
I knew, deep down, when Bush went to ground zero, and spoke to the rescue workers right after the Trade Towers' collapse, that he was playing politics. He's such a fucking lightweight. Such a preppy. He makes me absolutely sick. Just like the firemen who applauded him then, I hoped for the best, that he and our government would rise to the occasion.
But after almost 6 years of inept leadership, (never mind the predictable back treading of the Democrats) it is now quite apparent that this team of second rate poliicos don't have a clue. You and I know to what probable lengths the Islamo thugs will go to annihilate us. Where we differ, is that you still think it's a weakend presidency and party that is the problem.
It's not.
It's a lack of competent leadership from an ideological ambiguous man and his cronies, who from the beginning thought they could waltz their way through this. It was all pretend with them. Remember Bush doning a flight suit and touching down on an aircraft carrier with "mission accomplished" bravado?
No different than another president from Texas who touted bringing back the "coon skin hat" from Vietnam.
Pathetic. But this time, our country and all of our lives are at stake.

Frank   ·  March 25, 2007 12:20 AM

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