De-legitimizing the Troops

The claim of the anti-war left that they "support the troops" is getting threadbare. The next phase of anti-war playbook: De-legitimize the soldiers.

It is no coincidence that NBC reporter Richard Engle, who has long offered slanted reporting from Iraq to portray American actions in the worst possible way, and Bill Arkin of NBC and the Washington Post have made recent ‘gaffs' in their reporting. It should have been expected as part of the anti-war coalition information offensive. It is easy to recognize this progression when put into context.

Whereas Colin Powell gave us the doctrine for winning wars, the left has created and enacted a doctrine for losing wars. I think that since it was instantiated during the Vietnam War by John Kerry during his congressional testimony and was more recently revitalized for a new generation during his presidential candidacy, it is more than fair to call this policy, the Kerry Doctrine.

Let's take a look at what it takes to loose a war. The best way to examine the Kerry Doctrine is to compare it to its inverse, the Powell Doctrine:

First General Powell asked ‘is vital national security interest threatened'? The weakness of the Powell Doctrine is that it is posed in the context of an innocuous political scheme. The answer to the national security question is ultimately subjective to political posturing. Or as Carl von Clausewitz put it "for the political view is the object, war is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception."

So the first item of the Kerry Doctrine can be stated as ‘can it [the conflict] be made to appear non-vital to national security'? When you have Democratic leadership reading their own reports which are misquoted in the Washington Post as coming from independent government findings, then the answer is obviously, yes it can. When the Senate Intelligence Committee finds none of the voluminous documents that show Saddam supporting Islamic terrorists within-the-scope for its reports, yes it can. When the same media outlets and pundits that alerted the US to Saddam-al Qaeda cooperation even before 9/11 write articles that complain about how the public was mislead on the issue by the Bush Administration, yes you can certainly take the national security interest out of the equation, satisfying criteria one of the Kerry Doctrine. It was a crucial first step for the anti-war movement.

General Powell then asked "do we have a clear attainable objective?" Of course, we have all heard for years how the left has complained that there is no ‘exit strategy' from Iraq. President Bush has only "stayed-the-course" according to the Democrats. We were told that this excursion would last weeks, not years according to the liberal media myth purveyors. The truth is that the Bush Administration first informally defined its policy publicly via Colin Powell. Back in 2002 this policy invaded the popular lexicon as the "Pottery Barn Rule" or "you break it you fix it".  With that we were told from the beginning by President Bush that this nation would commit to and see through to the end the creation and stabilization of a democratic government in Iraq. While the effort is still underway and woefully over-schedule, over-budget, and over-bloody it is disingenuous to suggest we didn't know the objectives from the beginning. It is reasonable to argue the level of success, but not to say no plan has been in place since the early days of the war. But how else can the anti-war left implement criteria number two of the Kerry doctrine to ‘show there is no clear attainable objective'?

And in kind, the remaining criterion of the Kerry Doctrine have been addressed:
  • Powell Doctrine: Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed? (Kerry Doctrine: can we make the public believe that any unexpected risk or cost is an indicator of defeat?)
  • Powell Doctrine: Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted? (Kerry Doctrine: can we make the public believe the US acted unilaterally and without 12 years of diplomatic efforts thus waging an illegal war?)
  • Powell Doctrine: Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement? (Kerry Doctrine: can we make the public believe there is no way to win or we have already lost by making them believe Iraq is just like Vietnam?)
  • Powell Doctrine: Have the consequences of our action been fully considered? (Kerry Doctrine: can we demonize the decision makers by finding liberal bureaucrats to complain that their dissenting work was ignored?)
  • Powell Doctrine: Do we have genuine broad international support? (Kerry Doctrine: Can we keep the public from learning that the same countries that opposed the US at the UN were being paid to do so by Saddam?)
General Powell defined probably the most famous of these tenets as "is the action supported by the American people?" It is here that the Kerry Doctrine has stalled. While the public has lost enthusiasm for the war due to the Democratic leadership implementation of the Kerry Doctrine (and due to valid concerns such as the commitment by the Bush Administration to do what it takes to win the war) there is one segment of the population that has not: the implementers, our servicemen and servicewomen. They have kept their resolve.

Most of us have the respect enough for our troops to realize that if they - who are dying, suffering, departing, losing their limbs - believe in this mission, they must be on to something. While most of the American public is willing to give up a little more of our time we would rather spend watching American Idol to the mental perturbations of being in a war, the well is not inexhaustible. We can only take the concern for so long.

This is where Arkin and Engle, et al. enter the story. Since Americans are willing to ‘take the soldiers word' for it, the troops must be discredited to advance the Kerry doctrine. This is not my cynicism. It is born out by observation. Just as Arkin has called our soldiers "mercenaries" and Engle claims every soldier he talks to has decided we have lost in Iraq, there other indications of the Kerry Doctrine in the writings and sayings of Democratic leadership and their liberal media accomplices.

During this phase (which has gone on in a low-level fashion for some time in the extreme leftist media but is now becoming main stream liberal media fodder) we will see (and are seeing) these basic stories:

  • Efforts to discredit the soldiers' public opinions:
    • The soldiers don't understand why they are there. (ala Kerry's trapped in Iraq remark)
    • The soldiers have lost hope.
    • The soldiers can't speak out because of military protocol.
    • The soldiers in Iraq are confused, misguided, misled, bamboozled, uneducated, and the victims of societies failings. Their lives are wasted.
  • Efforts to misrepresent the soldiers' opinions:
    • One or two guys who express a desire to go home in a moment of weakness (which is really just about every soldier that ever served) will be portrayed as "losing hope" or "realizing we just can't win".
    • If a soldier admits he does not have a complete grasp of every conceivable factoid about the war then it will be reported as "he/she doesn't even know why he/she is here in Iraq".
  • And the most insidious effort - as Arkin has so graciously volunteered to bear the brunt of as the first purveyor for the mainstream liberal media - is the direct degradation of the soldiers in order to discredit and silence them.
    • Those soldiers that deny they fall into any of the above categories have ulterior motives for being there such as money, excessive amenities, and to persecute their own religious war (I haven't seen this one yet, but just wait; some enterprising liberal writer will turn this into the personal crusade of Christian soldiers.)
    • The soldiers are ungrateful that we took time away from our busy lives to give them as much support as we already have.
Of course, this is not a complete list, but it is about all I can take without getting physically ill. The thing to take away is that this recent spate of media coverage that has misstated and misrepresented the view of the vast majority of our troops is no accident. It is merely the next page of a dog eared policy document. And there is a reason why it is happening now; to give the Democrat leadership political coverage for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Make no mistake: these things are not gaffes, misstatements or editing errors. The specific design is to desensitize the half-awake portion of the American public to the sound of criticism of the troops just as they did during Vietnam. The Kerry Doctrine has moved beyond attacking the Bush Administration and Republicans. It has now set its sites on American patriotism and nationalism, the bastion of the American military. Sorry to tell you, but you soldiers are now in a two front war with Islamic extremism and Liberal extremism. But you are not alone. Some of us understand what is happening and will at least promote your voices, no matter what your message, in order to make sure the media doesn't speak for you.

Ray Robison is proprietor of the blog Ray Robison: Pointing out the Obvious to the Oblivious.
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