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Old 01-06-2007, 03:12 PM   #71
Barry Cooper
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You know, I thought about it. I would take the law as far as I could, but I would NOT break the law, UNLESS I had support high up. The issue is, any one commander can pacify, for some period of time, some piece of land. But unless the region as a whole is also pacified, then that doesn't matter a bit. If you win your part of the war, but the war as a whole is lost, you just risked jail time, and accomplished nothing.

My strong suspicion is we have a lot of angry commanders out there.
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Old 01-06-2007, 05:08 PM   #72
Bryan Veis
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"If you could become convinced that were we to massacre an entire town in Iraq, level it, and redirect the stream that passed by it in another direction, that we could achieve victory, would you support it?"

I don't think that is a realistic hypothetical. Longterm, at least, massacring civilians isn't what wins wars. To some extent, that is analogous to Kosovo -- we were not on the side of the Serbs, as I recall, and NATO reacted pretty strongly under General Clark.

"As an ancillary question: if you were to become convinced that our withdrawal from Iraq would lead to the deaths of 100,000 civilians in short order--those foolish enough to trust us, and attempt to make this government work--and that the destruction of that village was the only alternative, would your opinion change?"

Barry, that already happened to the naive Shiites in south Iraq, in 1991 -- they don't trust us now because we abandoned them then. The answer is the Fallujah scenario described by Dale yesterday. Surround the place and allow noncombatants to leave, then if the place really has miltary value, you can flatten the place if necessary.

"The comparison with the Germans in the Balkans is inaccurate. We are trying to get out of Iraq, and are not stealing their natural resources. The Germans were doing the precise opposite. As you well know, we have supported several elections."

Interesting response -- the problem is that the perception among at least some significant number of Iraqis is that we (a) aren't trying to leave, and (b) do want their resources. Our sincerity or not is not important, it's what they believe about what we want that drives them. Four years ago, I'm sure a lot of them did think of us as liberators, but we've been their houseguests for a long time. It shouldn't be a surprise that increasing numbers want us out.

"In the real world, you dont' always get to eat your cake and keep it too. Things get messy, and laws are violated. I would hazard a guess there have been atrocities in the Phillipines, Korea (one of which I'm pretty sure IS documented, although no one was ever charged), WW2 and other conflicts, which would make Lt. Calley look like the model of moderation."

"How many people were in Lidice? 1,000? There are about 3,500 Iraqis dying a month now."

I have no doubt that there was considerable ugliness in WW II, but I have never read any accounts of American troops lining up civilians and shooting them. Mistreating, or even killing, POW's -- it happened, but not civilians. The Gun No Ri allegations in Korea appear to have substance, but I haven't heard anyone excuse it on account of necessity. Have you? Fog of war? Maybe, but necessity? I don't think so.

"I will tell you how I suspect guys like Calley were handled back when we won difficult wars. Depending on how tough things were, he was either promoted because he wasn't afraid to kill people--remember, wars are about killing people-- or he was pulled into a back office, chewed out, demoted, and tasked with digging latrines.

In the case of Vietnam, because what he did was stupid, the latter case should have applied. The same should have applied in Abu Ghraib. The pictures which got most of the Arab world mad enough to pick up guns, and rush to Iraq, were months old, and those responsible had, in my understanding, already been relieved of command, and were already being investigated. I'm sure somebody won some awards for that story, whose contribution to the war was that it made things much, much worse for our soldiers, and made our job much, much harder. But it was true at one time, even if it wasn't when the story finally came out."

So, you really do espouse impunity, no matter what actions are taken. With respect to your Abu Ghraib matter, are you complaining about the press or the military justice system? I would also remind you that while it conforms to international law, prosecutions to date have been under the UCMJ -- our own military judged it appropriate to bring charges.

"Those pictures convinced large sections of the Iraqi public that we were trying to destroy and humiliate them. Who in their right mind can argue that has not directly cause the deaths of both Iraqis and Americans?"

Who is more to blame? Those that abused the prisoners, those who turned the abusers in, those who made the decision to prosecute them, or those that released the pictures? We are involved in a public relations war -- we went in and said, "We're the Americans, and we're here to help." Then a group of idiots went and shot us in our collective foot for their own amusement and took pictures to boot. Lawyers always tell their clients that if they don't want the public to know something, they just shouldn't write it down. The same goes for photographs -- that information was inevitably going to be public because that's the way it is in the real world. Those morons did more damage to the US in one night of "horseplay" than most of us could ever dream of. Cleaning latrines? They should have simply dumped them in the latrines and bulldozed them over.

"You keep avoiding my direct questions with the sorts of casuistry that tend to generate lawyer jokes. I understand that you are attempting to be precise, but the net effect, from my perspective, is moral vacuity hiding within the cloak of law. I hope that is a superficial and inaccurate impression on my part."

You seem to be looking for someoverarching principle that allows you to do whatever you want to with no consequences at any time, simply because you deem it necessary for success. Neither law nor morality is quite that simple.

"Let me ask you some more questions:

how far are you willing to go to achieve global victory in the ongoing war on terror? would you be willing to countenance ANY breaking of laws anywhere?"

That question is meaningless. There are so many ambiguities and catch-phrases, that there is nowhere to start answering. What is "global victory"? Unfortunately, "the war on terror" has morphed from a metaphor to a catch-all for doing away with whatever the speaker does not like or is afraid of. In any event, the connection between Iraaq and the "war on terror" was marginal until we made the place a magnet for fanatics (and I suspect created a few, too.) It is a commonplace that one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. Once you place them all in one basket, things get really hard to sort out.

"Would you support unilateral actions in Iran and Syria, contrary to international law? How about Pakistan?"

What unilateral actions do you propose? Assassination? Nuking them? No one could answer that question in a vacuum.

"I will be honest. I understand the need for laws, and for consequences if the laws are broken. All the same, if I were a commander on the field, I would do absolutely everything in my power to torture the law into supporting what I wanted to do, and flat out ignore it if I had to, with the understanding that people not out fighting, who don't seem to feel the same sense of urgency with respect to winning I do, might throw me in jail, despite everything."

And that's where you would probably have ended up.

"I really do think military life has long been like 24, at least in the field, beyond direct scrutiny. Sherman was an SOB that many thought was mentally ill. But you know what country Georgia is in, regardless of what they think of Sherman? The United States."

I have deliberately avoided asking about your military experience to this point, Barry, but I have to now. Unless the military has changed remarkably since I left, quite some time ago, it is not anything like "24." I have to ask now: Do you have any military experience? What is your basis for this opinion? Dale is on active duty now, so if he has met any Jack Bauers recently, I'd appreciate his chiming in.

"I don't know what the situation on the ground is, but given that we are losing on at least one front of the war, excessive concern about legalities--which I have no doubt is hardly localized to you--amounts in my view to passive aggressive resistance to the war as a whole."

The temptation for snarky comments is hard to resist, but I will, I hope. Does it strike you as in the least problematic that we have put our military in that country to promote democracy and the rule of law, but you are arguing against applying the rule of law to ourselves? Even if it is expedient on a tactical level, wouldn't that be somewhat problematic on an exemplary level? I have tried not to discuss the pros and cons of the war itself here, if you want to, we can start a whole new thread, as you seem to have strong views.

"Do you want us to win in Iraq? I assume the unambiguous answer is yes, or else it would obviously be provocative asking it, but I would just like to double check."

I always like to win, and I like us to win, but I'd really love to find out what it means in the case of Iraq today. We already did win once; we beat the snot out of the Iraqi military and deposed their president. And then, . . . well, you tell me in that other thread.

If on the other hand, you question is a variation on the question "Why do you hate America?", which seems to pop up on certain internet forums every time someone questions current policy in any form, then it is not worthy of an answer. (Your remark concerning passive-aggressive behavior makes me think you are tending in that direction.) Indeed, that question is fast becoming a corollary to Godwin's law, so maybe this discussion has now reached its end.
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Old 01-07-2007, 04:47 AM   #73
Aushion Chatman
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This may be ticky tacky...but we keep mentioning the Fallujah engagement.

Isn't it true that we didn't freely let non-combatants anyone WE DEEMED to be a stereotypical combatant... an "of age" "male" we made stay in the city? In other words perhaps you've protected yourself legally, but we still get down to the morality of it all...and that falls short, laws should've protected those, but didn't.

As far as Abu Ghraib, like you said we're in a public relations war, and I have to agree with you Bryan, that was a ridiculous situation, which hurt the war as Barry said. Same way the Saddam execution hurt the war. I agree with you Bryan that in the real world that information cannot be controlled, we all know there is no way to sanitize the internet and the media is it's own machine now.

But as to who "would be" to blame more? They'd all be to blame, but not for the same reasons. Of course the guys at Abu were probably disgruntled knuckle heads who were bullying the weak because of their own insecurities about being where they were. I feel we get the same "bullying" even amongst our own troops when they don't know how to deal with being deployed. BUT if someone also had the opportunity to keep those pictures out of public view, it should have been done. For the same reason guys in the locker room will jump on another player for talking trash about an upcoming opponent. It's the PR war...Are there laws for releasing details to the public during war time? I hope not.
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Old 01-07-2007, 05:30 AM   #74
Aushion Chatman
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I don't believe that we should systemize breaking the law...nor do I believe laws should be written to allow for the "reasonable man" decisions.

But I do feel people should be prosecuted within a "reasonable man" atmosphere, and I believe that this happens for the most part.

But just as we can't systemize the individual anomalies, we also can't control or stop them in my opinion. I don't mean to say stop holding division training where you go over ROE and the lethal force triangle etc...and teach the laws to our guys, but we just have to realize those laws can impede success.

How far I'd be willing to go in an interrogation room, not far...and I wouldn't ever order someone to do anything I wouldn't do.

But when you bring up the be-headings, we have to remember these are not guys who have agreed to any laws or rules with us. These are "terrorists" or "freedom fighters" depending on your perspective (good point with that btw). In either case they are acting under a whatever means necessary clause. So I think we'd all agree we're fighting a mindset vice an agressor trying to establish a foothold on land, resources, etc. As you said, us practicing those types of procedures won't accomplish much towards the end result of changing the "hearts and minds".

So, I guess unfortunately alot of the conversation here has surrounded what we're engaged in now...but what we're engaged in now is a war that more than any other we really need to be following the rules, it's not like WWII and it's not like Vietnam.

The officer who refused orders, where I can see that it is a noble the end it just really hurts, and to me, it shouldn't have been done. This hurts not because it's an officer or because I feel he should just follow orders...but it hurts morale. Getting back to Neal's original question, there are lots of troops who do hold very strong political line with this young officer. The problem is what precedent is he setting...the threat of jail time, obviously didn't dissuade him as it would others of lesser convictions. But it only takes one crack to open the flood gates...So again we have issues on two fronts...his refusal to carry out lawful orders...I don't think he can prove his personal orders were unlawful.

The second the fact we ran the story...does every kid who refuses orders now get his name in the paper...I can't wait for the book deals to start rolling through. Not concerning what it does for public resolve for or against the war...more importantly, big picture, what does this do for recruiting, who wants to "stay navy" now?

Now the 57% (or however many) citizens that agree the war is they now start heralding this guy as a champion and wondering, like Neal, where is the morality and politics of those who "blindly" follow orders?...This puts pressure on our guys who frankly don't need it...I can see plenty of my Wa state liberal buddies asking me why I haven't done the same as this guy...won't bother me much personally as we'll talk it out, may not be the case for others.

Maybe this guy will be "martyred" in a sense to some, and receive some serious punishment...I guess we'll find out. The best label to hope for though is "scape-goat", which to me means it's a no-win situation for all involved...except maybe the guy who stood for his principles.
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Old 01-07-2007, 08:29 AM   #75
Bryan Veis
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Thanks for your comments.

On the subject of Falluja: there are others with more knowledge than I of the specifics, but I can't imagine that anyone was actually turned around and told to go back. I'm sure that military-age males probably received a lot of scrutiny and that some significant number were detained, at least for a while. There is, of course, also a question about how many military-age males may have been kept in Fallujah by the insurgents as "draftees."

The answer to your question about your WA state buddies is really pretty easy: You stepped up and took the oath, then you manned up and fulfilled your commitment, end of discussion.

Let me be clear, I wasn't expressing my approval or endorsement of the guy who refused orders to go to Iraq. Once you sign your name, you go where they say they need you. In my mind, the moral question doesn't come up until you are already over there and some specific situation arises requiring a moral decision. Obviously, his view differs, and his decision was different -- my point was that at least he is handling it the honorable way instead of deserting. (That approach was less common in my day, when Canada was a popular permanent vacation destination for draft-age males whether already in the service or simply trying to avoid it.) I agree, he can't prove that his orders were unlawful; the court isn't even going to allow him to present evidence on the lawfulness or unlawfulness of the war.

I'll leave to others better informed than I the question of whether his example might open the floodgates. If, however, morale is at the point where there are a lot of servicepeople behind those floodgates, then there are practical reasons to rethink what we are doing.

Go Navy!:banana:
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Old 01-07-2007, 08:40 AM   #76
Barry Cooper
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Everything you are saying is technically correct. I have not served in the military, although I am a student of military history. I do understand the value of laws, including in the particular conflicts.

I guess my bottom line is this: no law, no religion, no fixed set of values can free us from the necessity of individual responsibility. Anyone that hides behind law is evading responsibility. We appear, in this country, to have engineered a process where things happen like massed Taliban funerals, and we fail to take advantage of them. We get snipers out there pursuing bad guys, who get them in their sites repeatedly, but fail to get the go order on time. That last was posted on a Rest Day.

The overall impression I get talking to troops on the ground in various capacities is that we are currently playing not to lose in Iraq, and globally it is going to take another massive terrorist attack for us to overcome certain scuples we have currently, like accepting the fact that we are at war with Iran, and that Pakistan is at a minimum not our ally.

You are trained in casuistry. That's what you do. And the fundamental technique there is magnification of detail at the expense of the big picture. It is a persistent process of decontextualizatoin, through OVERcontextualization.

What I am struggling with, is how do we develop a set of principles which tend towards victory, and not towards institutional statis, which is where we seem to be today. Yes, it is true that by and large our troops are following rules of engagement that are in concordance with the Geneva Convention. Yes, it is true that the Abu Ghraib folks are being prosecuted by our military courts. (my point there, by the way, was that that disclosure, in most other conflicts, would have accurately been judged a de facto act of treason, given the effect it had on our war effort).

Yet, if we look at the conduct of the war as a whole, we have not caught Bin Laden. In my view, he is in Pakistan, and we need to operate there. This is against the law, in my understanding--since we have been told not to go there--so we currently have to keep taken Musharrifs (sp?) word for it that he is looking, and that the Taliban are either not a problem, or he's taking care of it.

We have a massive insurgency that is being directly fueled with people and money from Iran, and we are ignoring that fact publicly. Why? Because direct military action against Iran would be illegal. Ditto, to a lesser extent with Syria.

Due to political AND LEGAL considerations, we have placed ourselves in positions, in two regional conflicts, where we are playing not to lose. On the playing field, in football, if you lose you can console that you "did your best", and we are already starting to get that sort of patronizing chatter from certain quarters.

Yet, the way I view it, lost wars make future violence more, not less likely. We have been fortunate to this point that we have had no other attacks on American soil. But they will come, and I have been told my at least one member of our military on the front line of the GWOT that he has concluded it will take another attack to get us sufficiently serious to overcome our MBA mentality of leisure and half-measures. Hopefully that attack will not be sufficiently serious to alter ALL of our lives in major and permanent ways.

The image I have in mind is that we have a rabid dog on a leash, who scared the poop out of our would be enemies when we pulled him out of his cage. After our victories in Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria significantly reduced their hold over Lebanon, Iran shut up, Hezbollah continued their relative dormancy, and the Tabiban were shattered.

Yet, what all of those nations have come to realize, especially after Hezbollah's attack on Israel, Israel's measured response, and the resulting international fury at Israel, is that they can win the international PR campaign. Almost no European countries want us to succeed in Iraq, including the bulk of Britain, even though Blair has been a stalwart and admirable ally.

The way things are trending is that we will reduce ourselves to quitting, rather than taking the logical steps necessary to win these wars. Our national self-interest trumps any international court of law, and it will be noted that the Germans did not lose because of their lack of adherance to international law. They lost on the battlefield, as did the Japanese. If they had won, none of these rules would have mattered. Rules do not win wars, and the specific rules that most concern me are those that would prohibit us from entering sovereign nations in the interests of actually WINNING our wars. These options need to be on the table.

What our enemies have realized is that our dog is on a rigid leash, and that they can stand right next to it and taunt it. Ahmadinajad can proclaim the coming destruction of Israel, without the slightest fear. Syria can offer to come in to Iraq and "help", without being told to shut up. In fact, some of the dimmer bulbs in our diplomatic array have encouraged this. This is what you get when you refuse to budge on any major policy without consulting the attorneys.

Yet, in Alexander's immortal example of the Gordian knot, there is no thorny issue that is ultimately resistant to firm decisive action, in the right spot, and the right time. If you miss that time, if you can't get to the spot, then yes, firm decisive action can be counter-productive. But we seem to have ceased trying, for that decisive Clausewitzian battle.

In Pershings battle with the Muslims, that battle was the execution of the terrorists with pork covered bullets. You break one law, you get peace, compliance with law is ever after a relative non-issue.

We are making our wars much more difficult to fight with our excessive concern with what other nations think. History will be much less kind to us if we lose in Iraq than if we win with occasional use of non-legal methods. I don't have a problem so much with law, as with the legalistic mindset. We need attorneys, but we dont' need to be led by attorneys. We need to win, then sort it all out.

I will repeat: my overwhelming conviction is we have a lot piping hot mad commanders out there. If we start enshrining futility, we begin the descent of our nation into mediocrity. It has already begun.

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Old 01-07-2007, 08:58 AM   #77
David Wood
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Moderator Mode ON:

So far, this thread has been (to me) an extraordinary exchange . . . civil, and amazing.

The veiled question ("why do you hate America?") that Bryan believed he might have detected in Barry's question is one that will cause me to close it, however. When I read Barry's post, I had the same reaction that that was what was implied ("Uh oh . . .").

That question, when asked, is so nakedly assuming a particular position of the target that it's ridiculous (equivalent to "Have you stopped beating your wife?").

Up until now, we've managed to stay a hair's-breadth away from the threshold where discussion is cut off, and we probably need to be close to that edge to be useful. (And, we *may* have run our course of usefulness . . . not sure on that.)

In the hopes that we haven't yet exhausted the discussion, I'm leaving it open . . . but, please . . . think before posting. Read what you're about to say (post) out loud, and ask what hidden implications are there. And then decide if (a) you really want to say them, and (b) maybe you should take responsibility for them and they should be un-hidden (although, yes, that's what could get it closed . . . sorry).

Finally, I'm leaving it open because I want to make a minor addition to the discussion (selfish of me, I know . . .)

Moderator Mode OFF:

I think we all have to accept the idea that it is becoming increasingly difficult, almost impossible, to hide *anything* anymore. I've learned in my own business that I have to assume that anything I say, to anyone (peers, employees, my CEO) will become public knowledge eventually. It's caused me to speak less (probably a good thing) and choose my words more carefully when I do.

With that perspective, I find the idea that we're losing this war, or lost Vietnam, because "the media" revealed what was happening . . . well, that's just foolish.

If there *is* any manner in which I *am* frustrated by "America", it's our hypocrisy, our belief that we can have it both ways, our unwillingness to make personal sacrifice of any kind to achieve worthwhile goals. (Yes, I realize that not all Americans are like this . . . this board is composed of a large # of people who do sacrifice, daily, both for their own goals, and for the greater good of the country).

But too many Americans *aren't* willing to pay the price necessary for their goals . . . whether they be fitness, or financial stability, or a robust national economy, or even world peace.

Blaming "the media" for having revealed something that Americans aren't willing to do to achieve their goals . . . that's not the media's fault. Recognize that the "fault", if there is one, is in "America" itself, and in our all-too-human (and, now, too-common) unwillingness to pay the price for what we want.

So, if you blame "the media" for telling factual stories of horror and ugliness, and for "causing the home front to lose resolve" . . . recognize that you are really saying that Americans may no longer have the character to pursue through pain . . . that we have to be "tricked" or "marketed to" in order to do what is right (or, at least, to do what you want them to do). If you believe that, fine . . . you may well be right. But have the courage to acknowledge it, and recognize just how demeaning (to America) that is.

IMO, this is a defect in the current "American" culture, not the media that reveals it.

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Old 01-07-2007, 12:35 PM   #78
Bryan Veis
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I'm not sure that it is really worthwhile to respond, since you dismiss my points as casuistic and my general approach as overcontextualization.

Much of what you complain about is a matter of strategic blundering, not lack of individual responsibility or overly legalistic approaches.

The principle you are reaching for is "We get to do what we want, because we're stronger than everyone else, and we're the good guys."

As to your apparent view that "hiding behind the law" is somehow an "evasion of responsibility," let me offer this, from Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons (Alice is Sir Thomas More's wife; Margaret is his daughter; William Roper is her husband):

Alice: Arrest him!

More: Why, what has he done?

Margaret: He's bad!

More: There is no law against that.

Roper: There is! God's law!

More: Then God can arrest him.

Roper: Sophistication upon sophistication.

More: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal, not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal.

Roper: Then you set man's law above God's!

More: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact -- I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I'm a forrester.I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God.

Alice: While you talk, he's gone!

More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast -- man's laws, not God's -- and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

As to your statement that you view the disclosure of the Abu Ghraib incidents as "de facto treason," I can only say that this seems to me to reflect a recent strong trend toward accusations of treason for anyone who may disagree with, or even question, the current war effort in some fashion. I don't know if you intended it that way; I hope not.

You point out correctly that neither the Germans nor the Japanese lost in WW II because of their lack of adherence to international law. In fact, theirs is a perfect example of the application of the principle I suggest you are looking for. THEY believed fervently that THEY were the good guys and were stronger than their opponents and that the rules that others followed did not apply to them. Accordingly, anything they did for their own perceived self-interest was acceptable. All it took in Germany was a little propaganda to a disaffected populace and the judicious use of force on people who disagreed openly, and the entire country fell in line. Need "Lebensraum"? Invade Poland. Need someone to blame for the loss of the last war and the subsequent economic dislocation? The Jews, of course. Get rid of them! Need more "Lebensraum" and some oil? Invade Russia and race to the Caucasus. How can you do that? Well, we're the good guys and we want it!

You doubted the "slippery slope" point that I made, but in the absence of any limiting principle (like the general consensus on appropriate laws of war) there is nothing to stop you from sliding all the way to the bottom. The temptation to push the envelope just a little more in each new situation eventually breaks the envelope.

You also forget that the rougher we get in Iraq, the more we feed the enemy propaganda machine, and it is a very, very good one. (Work & family safe link to Newsweek online). Bear in mind as well, that a significant number of new recruits that the propaganda machine attracts view death as a positive outcome, so the deterrent value of dealing more death is marginal at best.

"We are making our wars much more difficult to fight with our excessive concern with what other nations think."

Barry, that statement is so out of touch with reality that I don't know where to begin. If anything, we have made it more difficult because we have no concern at all about what other nations think. The United States has alienated potential allies in every imaginable way. I suppose that we can take the view that we "don't need no stinkin' allies," but that strikes me as short-sighted. Even OUR resources are not unlimited.


I agree completely with your post, especially the latter portion. A significant part of our population does want to have its cake and eat it to. There are way too many people who look at the military and say something to the effect of, "We're very grateful that those people are willing to do what they do," but won't risk themselves or their own children, or even pay the taxes necessary to pay for what is being done.

For anyone who is interested, the Army is now taking enlistees up through age 42.

And with that, I'm done.:happy:
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Old 01-07-2007, 02:29 PM   #79
Lynne Pitts
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Well, should have closed it before your last post!

Politics, and America-bashing, is NOT the realm of this forum. There's plenty to be had on the front page. Clearly we cannot seem to keep such a discussion apolitical. It has, however, been civil, which I greatly appreciate.

Good night, Gracie.
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