Patterico's Pontifications

1/24/2006

Where Joel Stein Went Wrong

Filed under: Dog Trainer,War — Patterico @ 9:28 pm

Joel Stein’s piece about not supporting the troops has certainly created quite a furor (albeit a predictable one.)

Stein’s piece was basically a column about how he doesn’t support our troops in Iraq, because he doesn’t support the war. His argument is that it is a weak-kneed position to oppose the war but “support the troops,” because opponents of the war actually don’t support what the troops are doing.

What is so infuriating about Stein is that he cheerfully admits in the column (and admitted in more detail to Hugh Hewitt today) that he knows nothing about the military — yet he presumes to know that our soldiers fighting in Iraq are morally opposed to the war:

But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they’re following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff’s pet name for the House of Representatives.

Where does Joel Stein get the idea that the Army is a body of people “ignoring their morality”? If you read Hewitt’s interview with Stein today, you know that Stein doesn’t get that idea from any knowledge of the military, because he doesn’t have any. Given his ignorance in this area, it’s pretty damn presumptuous of this guy to pretend that he knows that the members of the Army are “ignoring their morality.”

Memo to Stein: just because you think that the war in Iraq is immoral doesn’t mean that the people fighting it do. If you admittedly have absolutely no freaking clue about anything having to do with members of the military, then don’t presume to know their moral beliefs about the war in Iraq, and then to criticize them for acting inconsistently with those beliefs.

Thank you.

More details on Stein’s ignorance of the military in the extended entry:

Hugh Hewitt lit into Stein in a very interesting interview I heard today, transcribed here. Hewitt’s interview is amusing in how it reveals Stein’s utter lack of ignorance of anything having to do with the military:

HH: [W]ho is your closest family member or friend who is on active duty?

JS: That’s an excellent question. I wouldn’t say I have a very close friend. I would say only acquaintances. No family at all.

HH: Who are your acquaintances?

JS: There was a guy who works at Time, that’s where I worked last, who quit to serve in the military.

HH: What’s his name?

JS: (pause) You know, I’m blanking on his name. But your point is well taken that I don’t have many people that I even know who are in the military.

HH: Do you have any, though, other than this guy at Time whose name you can’t remember?

JS: Who are serving currently?

HH: Yeah.

JS: Or ever served?

HH: No, serving currently.

JS: Or only in Iraq?

HH: Active duty. Anywhere in the world.

JS: (pause) I’d say I’ve been pretty isolated from that. I mean, that’s a point I made in the column.

. . . .

HH: All right. Now have you read any books on the military? I mean, do you read this stuff at all, like Robert Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts?

JS: No. No, I’m not an expert at this at all. I mean, I think you certainly can tell.

HH: Not asking an expert. Neither am I. I’m just a civilian like you. But I try and read, so I get some appreciation of what they do and how they live. Have you read any books about the military recently?

JS: No, I have not.

HH: Do you know how big it is?

JS: The U.S. military?

HH: Yeah.

JS: As far the amount of troops? Or as far as…what do you mean?

HH: The amount of troops.

JS: Amount of money?

HH: No, amount of troops.

JS: Um, how many active troops there are? No, I don’t.

While this is amusing stuff, we should put it in perspective. While Hugh Hewitt has something of a point in attacking Joel Stein for writing this column while knowing nothing about the military, Hugh’s argument seems reminiscent of the chickenhawk argument. The chickenhawk argument goes like this: if you don’t serve, you have no right to an opinion about the war. Hugh’s argument seems similar: if you don’t know anyone in the military, you shouldn’t opine about the war. You could just as easily take someone to task for having an opinion while: not knowing soldiers who have died in the war; not knowing Iraqi civilians who have died in the war; not knowing Iraqis who suffered under Saddam; etc., etc., etc.

So we can all agree that Joel Stein has a right to his opinion. And he has an interesting argument that it is hypocritical to oppose the war but glibly say you “support the troops.” His point is that, if you really oppose what the troops are doing, you shouldn’t really say you support the troops, because you really oppose their actions. This is a double-edged sword, by the way. It also suggests that only those who truly support the troops’ mission can truly be said to “support the troops.” This does not seem to be an inherently ridiculous argument.

As I say above, where Stein loses me is in presuming to know how people in the military feel about the war — even as he admits he has no idea about anything having to do with the military. Based on his ignorant and presumptuous assumption, he criticizes the members of the military for not following their own personal morality. This is insulting and stupid — and it’s why I think his column today engendered so much hostility.

110 Responses to “Where Joel Stein Went Wrong”

  1. Joel Stein says he’s “… not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War…” But, before you can decipher which “they” he’s scolding, there’s a call to deny returning troops public celebration. “But, please, no parades” Stein concludes.

    Say what? No parades for returning troops and we can’t even spit on them? Well, this won’t do, after all this is America. We’ll just see about this, I’ll tell you. Why, I’m going to write a letter to the editor of the LA Times, and maybe even send a copy to John Kerry.

    Black Jack (d8da01)

  2. Apparently his editor cleared this article without comment. Perhaps the paper devised a clever way to get rid of him without having to pay any severance money.

    clarice (c49871)

  3. Dumb and Dumber

    Hugh Hewitt’s interview with Joel Stein, made available by Radio Blogger, is hilarious or sad or some kind of combination of the two.

    Mark in Mexico (59ce3a)

  4. I heard the interview on Hugh Hewitt’s show this afternoon. What was so remarkable is that Stein really came off as so intellectually shallow. I mean, I had assumed he was a fairly smart guy — he graduated from Stanford and at times turns a witty phrase in his column — but he so obviously has not really spent any time thinking through his own personal beliefs about war and the military, and he absolutely floundered under Hewitt’s questioning.

    The column is Stein’s usual glib take, as if he is just typing whatever comes into his head at the moment. He told Hewitt that he first shared the column only yesterday with his editor, Andres Martinez, so it makes me wonder if he didn’t just dash it off an hour or two before deadline.

    I blame Martinez for much of this fiasco. He should have read Stein’s draft and said, “Uh, Joel, maybe you ought to stick to writing about Britney, Paris, Brad, and Angelina, and leave the heavy thinking to someone whose intellect is slightly deeper than the average rain puddle.” It is sad to think that this tripe comes from a regular columnist for the major daily newspaper in America’s second largest city.

    JVW (54c318)

  5. How does Stein know the troops are acting in opposition to their own morality? I agree with JVW, he just made it up, liking the way it sounded – so insightful, shocking – as in the Big Lie tactic, or “nuanced” by being nearly self-contradictory. This is a classic conscious Liberal propaganda tactic also – to state a meme without any proof or argument to back it up, such as “The middle class is disappearing”, or “Iraq is Vietnam”. The parrots then repeat it as Gospel, and we are sometimes tricked into trying to disprove what they say before we have required them to first try to prove it. These people usually have no clue about what they are apparently saying. I stumped one “The middle class is disappearing” parrot by simply asking her “Where did it go?” She was dumbfounded. But you also usually don’t get many shots at the parrots, since they are pretty furtive when outside the echo chambers

    The list is endless, but that version of the chicken-hawk argument is one I really like because I envision that I could promptly tell its proponent to then “just shut up about Iraq if you [the proponent of the rule] haven’t been there/served, especially since it is your own rule, while it’s not mine. Certainly you should follow your own rule.”

    It didn’t sound to me like Hewitt was making the chicken-hawk argument, only asking Stein how he knew that the troops were acting against their own morality. Stein can say anything he wants, but how does he know? Again, he’s the one making the assertion, not Hewitt.

    Verbosity alert: I heard this “we support the troops but are against the war” meme back in the Vietnam era. I opposed that war and still hold to my reasons, but I was incensed that someone on my side would claim that we supported the troops there, because this seemed overtly false – a lie, certainly if I were to say it. I also first heard the “we are there for the oil” meme once or twice back then [!] which sounded like the work of someone merely crazy, not actively lieing.

    J. Peden (425abd)

  6. Yet another reason why the L.A. Times cirulation is down. down, down.

    Do you think that anyone will have a parade when the Times finally closes its doors?

    trentk269 (7f3bb7)

  7. I didn’t have the same reaction to the column that so many others had. I don’t find anything in it that’s particularly shocking.

    He is a lefty that is ignorant about the military. He thinks the US is imperialist. He doesn’t “support the troops”. Generously, he doesn’t think they should be spat on (I suspect he is departing from rigid honesty here and that he’d be just fine with said spittle being sprayed). He was raised in priveledge, has never served in any way, and doesn’t respect or have any gratitude towards those that do or have. He assumes everyone shares his ideas about the morality of what the country is doing.

    Stop the presses.

    I mean, his thinking simply reflects what we already know about the left. That nobody talks about it is a measure of what little remaining decorum there is in our polity.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  8. I was happy to see Mr Stein’s article, and referred to him as An Honest Liberal on my site.

    To support the troops means concomitantly supporting their mission; you can’t oppose their mission while still supporting the troops, because opposing their mission is hoping that more of them will be killed as their mission fails.

    Yeah, there are some opposed to the war because they believe we cannot win, of whom it could reasonably be said that they’d still like to see us win. But there are others who believe we should not win, because the whole mission is wrong or evil or whatever; they are in the position of advocating the failure of the mission, and that has to mean advocating further deaths among the troops.

    Mr Stein sort of steered around the harshest way of putting it, but he has done us a service: his article helps to crystalize the debate, by shining the light of truth upon it. We’ll soon see if those who genuinely oppose the mission can stand that light, or whether they scurry away like roaches in the light.

    Dana (3e4784)

  9. Check out the picture on my site to see what some protesters think about Stein. LOL. Maybe I could work for the “fake-photo” section at the AP/NYT…

    SpecterVision

    Specter (466680)

  10. I’m sure he got a thank-you note from Karl Rove.

    It’s rare to see such a sublime blend of moral and intellectual idiocy.

    Geek, Esq. (5dd2be)

  11. […] Update: Mr. Stein was interviewed by Hugh Hewitt, and didn’t necessarily come out of it looking good. Patterico addresses a point that I did not consider, namely that Mr. Stein assumed that his moral views controlled the moral views of the soldiers. A good discussion follows Patterico’s article. […]

    Common Sense Political Thought » Blog Archive » An honest liberal (819604)

  12. Patterico;

    I’m surprised at you! Hewitt wasn’t objecting to Stein having AN opinion. He was making the point that Stein had NO BASIS to form the opinion he had reached.

    Stein could have said that he opposed the war AND opposed those who disagreed with the war yet went there to fight. At least that sounds like a principled stance.

    Frank Laughter (fec178)

  13. As I say above, where Stein loses me is in presuming to know how people in the military feel about the war — even as he admits he has no idea about anything having to do with the military. Based on his ignorant and presumptuous assumption, he criticizes the members of the military for not following their own personal morality. This is insulting and stupid — and it’s why I think his column today engendered so much hostility.

    I think this was the purpose of HH’s line of questioning; everyone has a right to an opinion but it should be supported by some kind of research (i.e. read a book if nothing else) – and as Hugh admitted he’s just a civilian himself but he tries his best to stay informed. This really has no relation to the chickenhawk debate-killer tactic you cited that I can see.

    Scott (57c0cc)

  14. What gets me about Stein’s philosophy, if you look at all the angles of it, is that of 4 kinds of people (support the war and serve, support the war and don’t serve, don’t support the war but serve, and don’t support the war and don’t serve), the ONLY ones with a “good morality” in his eyes are those like him who don’t support the war and don’t serve. Not only is he attributing immorality to all the troops, but he is claiming the only moral position is the one he takes.

    Unbelievable. Where would this or any country be with people only like him?

    Peg C. (bf276f)

  15. I agree with Dana. Stein and the LATimes did us all a service by saying out loud what the true believers on the left really think but are afraid to say. From another angle, the NYTimes has given space (and bandwidth) to yet another pair of clueless idiots (Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon) who think we need to cut and run from Iraq in order to show that we really are a benign superpower and thereby win the “hearts and minds” of Osama’s followers. Where do they get these morons?

    In contrast, as it is ever more frequently doing, the Washington Post’s editorial page (link below) gets it right, calling for more of the type of attacks in Pakistan that recently killed several AQ members, regardless of whether Pakistan gives the OK.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  16. “Where would this or any country be with people only like him?”

    Hummm, speaking German and Japanese?

    Black Jack (d8da01)

  17. I absolutely deny any allegations that I’ve had Stein or the two idiots who wrote the NYTimes column chipped so that I can control them remotely and have them write columns that . . . . bwahahahah . . . will help bring things along exactly . . . bwahahahaha . . . as I have planned.

    Karl Rove (6128b4)

  18. So, I am going to chime in here as the only vet so far (21 year, Army, National Guard, Reserve, and Active, deployed twice, retired last July). Stein is all too typical of the disconnect between society and the military these days. This is the unfortunate side effect of a smaller, cheaper, downsized military that came about with the end of the draft. Charles Moskos has written at length about the connections between society and the military, and how they have decreased dramatically since the end of the draft. I always had good quality lower and middle class kids joining the units I was in, but it was rare to see some child of privilege deciding to saddle up and be a soldier. That being said, I am not in favor of bringing back the draft. I cannot imagine the dicipline problems that the average NCO would have to deal with by getting these snotty playstation princes into their units.

    So, Stein does not surprise me as a smart mouthed brat, who has never had to face anything to challenge his pretty little “ethics”. Instead, as I have considered this more, I think he does represent a part of society that is unconcerned with the price that comes with their freedoms. I suspect that they think their freedom is derived from the ACLU.

    Bottom line: Screw him. I will use him as an example for how I don’t want my kids to turn out.

    Greg (e5d4c1)

  19. J Peden – I hear your objection to “we support the troops but are against the war”, but in some cases that’s the only accurate thing to say. I think our troops are basically good guys doing an outstanding job under difficult circumstances; I think they aren’t payed enough and aren’t given the resources they need to do an even better job. And I think the policy which sent them there was wrong.

    How can I phrase that without offending your sensibiilities?

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  20. Dana, while it does to a certain extent follow that to support their troops you must want their mission to succeed, it does not follow that to support the troops you must have supported [x] becoming their mission. It’s an important distinction, and its one that is often lost on both sides of the war debate: but their must be space for honorable men to say “I thought this was the wrong choice, but now that it has been made, I want us to succeed”.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  21. In a way it is refreshing that Joel Stein would write something so stupid, exposing the pathetic view held by many. For years the catch phrases “Support the Troops” and “Troop Morale” have been tossed around to show concern for people serving now, acknowledging the bad treatment of those returning from Vietnam in the 70s. The concept of telling Marines they are doing a great job, you support them, and you don’t want them to feel like shit, at the same time barking about how their mission is stupid – that Iraq is another Vietnam – has never made a bit of sense to me.

    Many people with exactly the same view of troops and Iraq as Joel Stein say they do support the troops. It’s just dumb word games.

    Wesson (c20d28)

  22. Hey Aphreal, where were you when your guy sent my happy little ass to Bosnia? Where were you when he was bombing Serbia to help the Albanians that had moved in to Kosovo semi-legally?

    More specifically, where were you when your guy was bombing the crap out of Iraq during the 1990’s? Honestly, if you supported President Clinton’s Iraq policy in the 90’s, you are hypocrite if you don’t support the Iraq policy now. It is for all intents and purposes the logical conclusion of the aggressive containment that he pursued.

    Greg (e5d4c1)

  23. Greg – i’m sorry; it does not follow that the only reason why one might have supported Clinton’s Iraq policy in the 1990s and not support Bush’s Iraq policy today is hypocrisy. As an example: it would not be hypocritical to say that we should continue the policy unchanged. It might be wrong, but I don’t see how hypocrisy enters into it.

    For what it’s worth, I thought that sending troops to help maintain the peace in Bosnia was the right choice; I also thought that bombing Serbia in 1999 was the wrong choice.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  24. Joel Stein is getting exactly what he wants and craves…notoriety and to make his name better known. Just like the little kid who acts up to get attention.
    Enough. We must not enable him.

    Li (530b31)

  25. I heard the interview. I think the point that Stein is making is that EVERY democrat really believes like he does, they just don’t have the (testosterone) to say it. At least he changed the word to “wussy” rather than the word for a woman’s anatomy. (curious that no one considers that offensive…)

    I think that it is impossible to conceive how far to the left the democrat party has moved. I am embarrassed to say I used to be registered as one.

    I read his column to my high school classes and I was proud of the indignant response of the students. I think that our young people are going to make our country better. I teach in an inner-city school. I explained to my students the dynamic of rich, snot-nosed kids and their contempt for the people who actually do the work in this country. I used other illustrations, like the Kennedy family, Hillary, John Kerry (Heinz)…

    They really were shocked how much he gets paid to write one offensive column per week. Gives new meaning to the word “liberal.”

    I cannot thank him enough for proving that what I have been saying is True.

    JoeS (fbbfa0)

  26. Aphreal points out:

    Dana, while it does to a certain extent follow that to support their troops you must want their mission to succeed, it does not follow that to support the troops you must have supported [x] becoming their mission. It’s an important distinction, and its one that is often lost on both sides of the war debate: but their must be space for honorable men to say “I thought this was the wrong choice, but now that it has been made, I want us to succeed”.

    That’s a valid point; wish that I saw more of that type of logic from those who opposed the war.

    But, in a way, it’s a position that gets swallowed up by the others. Those who saw the war as a bad idea going in but who support the mission now, given that the not-going-in-in-the-first-place option has been foreclosed, have been unfortunately silent. We are seeing much more of the I-voted-for-the-war-before-I-voted-against-it thinking these days, usually “justified” by the “Bush lied” argument.

    What I’d like to see is just plain honesty in people in explaining theior position.

    Dana (3e4784)

  27. CNN is reporting that Joel Stein printed out a copy of his resume today, put it to his lips, and
    kissed his career goodbye.

    Justice Frankfurter (2dcd84)

  28. I really think Stein is on to something here. Granted, it’s not the most popular thing to say and his glib tone only further enrages his detractors.

    But come on, there is something inherently odd about not supporting the military action in Iraq yet fully backing the troops. The whole “but I support the troops” catch phrase is a wishy-washy politican shell game of sorts, designed to appeal to as many constituancies at one time. I, personally, have had enough.

    What’s more, I don’t quite understand the righteous indignation coming from the Solid Right (which I am undoutedly a member of.) Stein didn’t suggest we spit on the troops when they return (actually he rejected that notion.)

    Stein is a humorist, plain and simple. Hewitt’s pop-quiz of military factoids (not to mention his chickenhawk argument) is unfair. Stein’s attempt at humor was lost when he offended the (often misguided yet well intentioned) patriotic emotions of the conservative blogosphere.

    Chase (5c5e60)

  29. Ha ha ha.

    He got you all REAL good. And you’ve all fallen for it. In fact, you’re still doing it. And he’ll continue pulling your leg as long as you’re falling.

    What Stein did, and will continue to do, is mirror the behaviour of many ‘Red State’ Americans who aren’t even able to point out Iraq on a map.

    What he did is mirror the people on the other end of the political spectrum who have NO CLUE WHATSOEVER about “the size of the US Army”, who have NEVER been to a war, etc., and who probably can’t even remember why our troops are in that country next to Sweden anyway.

    In an almost fantastic Orwellian ploy, he has mimicked the people who immediately and unquestioningly follow a ‘leader’ who says, “we must go to war with those people!”, and all because that ‘leader’ has a badge saying “Pwesident” (pun intended) on his jacket.

    The fact that y’all don’t see that – and Michelle Malkin, PUHLEEEEZ…! – says more about you than him, or anyone else.

    Kaj Leers (5267be)

  30. @’Justice Frankfurter':

    This is the land of the free. Or rather, it is supposed to be.

    If a columnist, a writer, an actor, an economist, a justice, a street bum or a terminally ill beetle voices his or her opinion, whether that be in favour or against ‘popular’ opinion (what’s that anyway?), and then gets FIRED for voicing that opinion, or won’t get another job anywhere, then we might as well scrap that ‘the land of the free / and the home of the brave’-line from the national anthem.

    Kaj Leers (5267be)

  31. “I am embarrassed to say I used to be registered as one.”

    Don’t fret, Joe. Once so was I, but that was long ago and far behind me now. Sorry, I’d like to say what I really think of Dems, but I can’t. My sister married one.

    Black Jack (71415b)

  32. @’Peg C.':
    “Not only is he attributing immorality to all the troops, but he is claiming the only moral position is the one he takes.”

    On the last part of that sentence…

    Scroll back to the top, and re-read the entire page. And you’ll see that, just like Stein, EVERYBODY here is taking / has taken a moral position which they deem to be the correct one.

    That’s called freedom. In the USA, Stein is allowed to do that. Michelle Malkin is allowed to do that. You are allowed to do that, and me too.

    But again, so is Stein.

    If you can’t live with that, go live somewhere else, because you’re being un-American.

    Kaj Leers (5267be)

  33. Kaj Leers,

    So anytime we disagree with anyone about the war, we’re falling for mind tricks? Is that the shtick now? Whatever you Dems want us to believe I guess.

    Tad (c2b844)

  34. I’m not a Dem. What is that? Someone raises an issue , you folks don’t like the issue, and like Pavlov’s dog y’all immediately start calling names.

    Without thinking.

    Lemme ask you: are you proud of that?

    Kaj Leers (5267be)

  35. Stein expressed his opinion–as is his right in the land of the free–but that opinion turned out to be a stupid one. So his employers, the Tribune Corporation, may express their view–as is their right in the land of the free–that it’s best to dump Stein before he does more damage to the LA Times’ circulation. In Business Schools across America, it’s called the “Robert Scheer Principle.”

    Justice Frankfurter (2dcd84)

  36. Bill Clinton once wrote that he despised the military. Polls regularly show that about 20% of Americans see the US as a negative, malevolent force in the world (that would make them about half of the Democratic party).
    Clinton appointed a woman to a high Defense Dept post who wanted to make the Army “less aggressive”. Hillary got an unrepetant terrorist appointed to a White House commission on children and the family.

    Stein should be applauded for voicing the real feelings of half the Democrats (and a majority of their activists).http://twominuteoffense.blogspot.com/

    stan (e93435)

  37. I wonder if Joel Stein was trying to “one-up” his fallen LAT comrade, Robt. Sheer in stupidity and irresponsibility.
    It may too early to declare a winner, however, Mr. Stein may well have signed his own “pink slip”
    Would that not make it a tie?
    As a WW II veteran, I have an old fashion view of what constitutes loyalty and patriotism.
    Joel Stein is clueless.

    Mac (192607)

  38. “If a columnist, a writer, an actor, an economist, a justice, a street bum or a terminally ill beetle voices his or her opinion, whether that be in favour or against ‘popular’ opinion (what’s that anyway?), and then gets FIRED for voicing that opinion, or won’t get another job anywhere, then we might as well scrap that ‘the land of the free / and the home of the brave’-line from the national anthem.”

    Gee, I had no idea that the soul of our nation depended on a person being guaranteed perpetual employment no matter how unwelcome his opinions and/or their effects might be to his employer. Thanks for straightening this out, Kaj.

    babu bhat (51058c)

  39. Ari Tai,

    Thanks much for the link. It is as crystal clear as it is both forthright and compelling. I’m reminded of Kipling’s, Tommy:

    Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
    Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;…

    Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
    But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,

    Black Jack (71415b)

  40. Concerning supporting the troops. When my family prays each night we pray for “our service- men and women AND THE CAUSE THAT THEY FIGHT FOR”, we give thanks for their sacrifice, and then ask G-d to “defend them Oh Lord as they defend us” – It’s time to publicly say that we support the cause because it is a noble cause. It doesn’t take knowing someone in the Military or having suffered a loss or having been in the Military to be able to understand the sacrifice service men and women make and to honor it. And it wouldn’t take much effort on the part of Joel Stein to do a minimum of research on the topic b4 publishing an opinion piece. Instead of just going with the first thing that comes into his head and assuming he’s so brilliant that he doesn’t need to do even a minimum amount of research – like maybe calling an Armed Forces recruiter even and just asking some questions? It’s one thing to have an opinion, but an opinion unsupported by anything more than self-righteous belief in one’s own correctness is drained of all meaning. It’s not mean to persuade it’s meant to confirm an already held belief. Why do research if it might contradict your own “brilliant insights”. Oliver Cromwell (someone I rarely quote) reported said “Consider, in the bowels of Christ, that you might be mistaken.” I think that is good advice for all of us. Joel Stein included.

    Mark (e8cc0d)

  41. You gotta admire Stein’s ability to get paid for writing such sophomoric tripe. Honestly…your average JuCo student knows more about national security issues than him.

    The real mystery here is why the LA Times pays him.

    Jal (71415b)

  42. Having served for 13 years in the military I always get squimish when someone uses the “you didn’t serve” argument. People in the military, in general, don’t subscribe to that kind of argument. The country needs people to serve in a lot of different ways. All they way from D.C. to your local city or town. They are all important. Veterans serve for a lot of reasons:
    1. money for education
    2. adventure
    3. serve our country
    4. family tradition
    I remember in basic training that the instructor asked everyone to name their primary reason for enlisting. I heard many different reasons and only 3 people stated to “serve my country” as their prmiary reason. I was one of the three. It surprised me, but I did not think for one minute that my main reason for enlisting was better than theirs. They were all very determined to proudly serve their country whether it was their number one reason for joining or not.
    What makes me sad is that most liberals believe that the reason most join the military is they have no other options. They came from poverty or they weren’t smart enough to go to college. I came from a firmly middle class family and had every opportunity to go to college. I just wanted to take a different path. What I have come to believe is that most liberals have no sense of country or sacrifice. When they come across people that do they either don’t understand them or they feel guilty. This is why they parade former military liberals around with a “look, here’s a former military person that is anti-war”.
    The bottom line is Joel Stein fits into the category of someone that can’t understand. He can’t understand why someone would put their life at risk for something they so strongly believe in. He cannot understand why someone would dedicate themselves to something and seek no real monetary gain. He doesn’t understand how someone can so dearly love their country and their fellow citizens that they will stand up and say “I will go, I will serve”. I feel sorry for him, because I have had the honor to meet and work with some of these incredible individuals that serve and protect our country. I am a better person for meeting them. I also am a better person for having met all of the people that did not serve in the military, but supported us. Working for the USO, walking up to me in airports and saying thanks, buying me a beer in a bar, and putting stickers on their cars. (Some people think that stuff is silly, but it means so much to those in uniform.) I would serve again tommorow to protect Joel Stein’s right to publish that article. Once again, something he probably wouldn’t understand.

    Bill (2f946a)

  43. You know, everyone (mostly on the Right) is piling on this Stein guy for saying, in effect, that its hypocritical to say “I’m against the war in Iraq but I support the troops”, when the Right has been saying basically the same thing for a long time.

    I’m not surprised at Stein, but I am a bit surprised by the indignation of the Right.

    For years the Left has been saying “I support the troops but not the war”. This has always sounded lame to me and to others on the Right.

    When you claim that faulty logic is being used by your opponents, and then suddenly one of your opponents agrees with you, it seems kind of strange to berate him.

    Stein’s ignorance and convoluted thinking is, in my opinion, reprehensible. But at least he realizes and is willing to say what many on the Left won’t realize or say – If you don’t support the war in Iraq, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense to support the troops who’s mission it is to win that war.

    People who say “I don’t support the war” and “I support the troops” are, depending upon the interpretation of those phrases, trying to have it both ways.

    When will the rest of the Left wake up and realize that Stein makes more sense than they do?

    KSM (74bf48)

  44. No, conservatives aren’t pointing out that Stein is hypocritical. (Besides, accusing people of hypocrisy is one of the silly liberal pastimes.) Instead, conservatives are singling out a liberal who finally admitted the smelly truth–that liberal Democrats who claim they support the troops are lying.

    For this admission, Stein deserves no credit because the truth is worse than the lie.

    Justice Frankfurter (2dcd84)

  45. The left’s sin has been to lie about supporting the troops. Our sin has been to not question their patriotism. Isn’t patriotism “love of country”? What more do they have to do to demonstrate their hatred for America?
    Vietnam , Class of ’68

    Possum (9f37aa)

  46. If Joel Stein knew his history, he would see a parallel for himself. Karl Marx knew nothing about the workingman. He neither befriended nor socialized with regular workingmen in Britain while writing his manefesto. As we know today the ‘worker’s paradise’ in reality became gulags of slave labor.

    Should Joel Stein ever associate with enlisted men, he could feel their energy and sense their devotion, he would see a different America. One that not only puts up with his Copperhead fantasies, but defends with their lives his right to have them.

    Tom Waldron (bddba7)

  47. I think you are off the mark with the “Chickenhawk” comparison. Hugh was not saying that Stein had “no right to his opinion or commentary”, he was ascertaining what knowledge Stein had from which he formed his opinion. In other words pointing out that Stein is completely ignorant of that which he wrote.

    I could be called a “chickenhawk” for never having served but supporting the way, but if anyone tried to say that my opinions were formed out of ignorance or in ignorance they would be wrong and I could point to where I gained my knowledge. Stein cannot.

    senorlechero (a8b391)

  48. Forty-seven responses and NOBODY got what the poor columnist said. He wrote:

    “The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they’re following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff’s pet name for the House of Representatives.”

    He is NOT presuming “to know that our soldiers fighting in Iraq are morally opposed to the war.” That is not what the words mean. He is saying that each person had a choice of whether to enlist, and each person has a choice of whether to keep obeying orders, and, therefore, each person bears a moral responsibility for what he does as a soldier.

    If you’re going to condemn him, condemn him for what he SAYS, not for what some hothead IMAGINES he said.

    –Bruce Ramsey, Seattle

    Bruce Ramsey (bdbe7c)

  49. This guy should stick to making unfunny comments about the 80s on VH1. That is he isn’t it among the C-list personalities?

    Sean Smith (15b895)

  50. Hey Bruce, I got exactly what he said. I do condemn him for what he expresses. Individual responsibility in the military is a tricky subject. You do learn to do things just because you are told to do so. As a former leader in the Army, there were few things more annoying than some kid asking you to explain why he was suppose to do something, such as polish his boots, show up on time in the morning, etc. I lost my patience fairly quickly on those sorts of events. Similarly, there were times I disagreed with the leaders above me. If my soldiers started questioning why General Schmuckitelli had ordered painting all of the rocks at the range red, I would tell them to quit trying to figure it out, and just do it.

    So, that being said, there is room for legitimate dissent over illegal, immoral orders. Fighting when you are told to is not considered illegal.

    The ultimate in soldier morality is doing the job, whatever it is, effectively. It is not to debate policy, argue with the commander & chief’s decisions, or refuse to ship. You let down your buddies and subordinates, and ultimately, the American people that pay your salary. Stein does not understand that. He believes that you can pick and chose what orders, and ultimately, what President, you want to follow. He is as wrong as a football bat.

    Greg (c88219)

  51. My point exactly Greg. Stein cannot fathom a person dedicating themselves to a cause larger than themselves. I don’t know that much about him to speak authoritatively, but Stein appears to me to be a silver spoon weasel. He thinks making a sacrifice is not drinking the last of the milk.
    The left wonders why the military votes Republican? Maybe veterans should start telling Democrats that we support them , just not the Democratic party (haha).

    Bill (2f946a)

  52. Bruce, I recommend you re-read your own citation.

    An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying.

    This means what? This has something to do with enlisting? Nonsense. The present tense is used to indicate that these moral choices are being made now and that these people are “ignoring their morality” now, in their execution of their combat duties.

    The point is clear as clear can be. Stein clearly asserts that these soldiers are commiting immoral acts en masse by not following their moral compass. Furthermore, the context clearly implies that he would prefer anarchy in the military with everyone just going off in their own direction over following orders.

    Nonsense. It’s obvious that Mr Stein should stick to pontificating about things other than the military. He clearly has no concept of how military men and women think and how they operate on a daily basis. If the military were to operate in the way Mr Stein advocates, we might as well not even have a military. Perhaps that is his larger point; I don’t know.

    I can see it now. “OK men, follow me, take that hill!” “No, I’m morally questionable on that hill.” “Let’s take a vote and see whether there’s a majority in favor of taking hills today.” Pure horse hockey.

    I will give him credit, as I did in another thread, for his honesty, rare among his peers. I’ve long been of the opinion that the people who support the troops but not their mission want to have it both ways. “Yes men and women, we do support you, but not the illegal, immoral, despicable activities in which you’re engaged. Poppycock!

    Once the nation sends young men and women off to put their lives on the line, we must support them and their mission fully. To omit support of the mission is to omit support of the troops entirely, as far as this 25 year active duty veteran is concerned.

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)

  53. aphrael, good question about what it would take to not offend my sensibilities. But first to digress, let me admit and emphasize that I actually wanted us to lose the Vietnam War – under the logic that, otherwise, we would be fighting China and possibly WWIII, since to even possibly “win” the Vietnam War we would have had to invade North Vietnam, imo, thus certainly bringing in China, then possibly the U.S.S.R., etc.. [That is, imo, exactly why we did not invade North Vietnam!]

    So, I thought we should preferably lose the Vietnam War, if that was the only way out of WWIII. In turn, losing the Vietnam War meant necessarily not supporting the [unfortuneate] troops there according to my logic, which I am open for you to question – and I do too.

    Therefore, I wanted us to lose the Vietnam War even if it meant not supporting the troops.

    But Iraq is not Vietnam. Imo, if we pull out of Iraq prior to controlling the situation, we will surely precipitate, or not prevent, a WWIII of greater extent than it already is, in contrast to the Vietnam situation where a pull-out was not going to cause WWIII. The Islamofascists will instead still want to kill us all, and will be further empowered to do it and more of them will be “created”.

    So if you support the troops because you think the policy of going into Iraq was wrong, and that they should not be sacrificed for this goal, then you have to answer the question of what the policy should be in the alternative, since if we merely pull out/surrender prior to control, we will surely induce more troop and civilian death as a result of the pull-out – at a later time, as promised by the Islamofascists, who have declared war on all Infidels and don’t simply want to have a Country, as did the Vietnamese, whose cause was only nationalistic.

    Again, imo, if you support the troops and disagree with the policy in Iraq, you have to state a policy which will also stop the Islamofascists. Losing/surrendering/pulling out of Iraq in order to “support the troops” will therefore not keep from offending my sensibilities. If you do not have a real alternative for fighting Islamofascists, you can only support the troops by supporting their current mission.

    J. Peden (b55c59)

  54. I’d like to make the point that although losing the Vietnam war avoided a WWIII – it also brought about a huge humanitarian disaster of millions of refugees, starvation and death camps, boat people etc – the real cause of the loss of Vietnam was the failure of the US Senate to uphold it’s obligations to S. Vietnam when they were in need of military supplies – let us remember something – US troops left in 1973 – Saigon fell in May of 1975. S.Vietnamese Army did fight successfully for almost 2 years. The failure of the US Congress to honor our treaty obligations was tge immediate cause of the loss of Vietnam. The humanitarian disaster that would result of pulling out of ME would be far greater – let alone the geo-political consequences. Therefore – we only can support the troops by supporting the cause they fight for – if we don’t G-d help us all.

    Mark (e8cc0d)

  55. What Stein is really saying is he’s OK with the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (he doesn’t support that either) getting killed and maimed. He’s on the OTHER SIDE. Because the people the troops are “pulling the trigger on” are AL QAEDA.

    Joel Stein does not want US troops killing AL QAEDA.

    This is the true belief of Democrats, as Stein makes pretty clear. This is what they say in private. Stein doesn’t really support the military anyway, as he makes clear in the Hewitt interview. The Military is not there to be a relief agency, or build clinics, though they can do it if pressed. They are there to destroy the enemy. I doubt seriously if Stein or any Democrat if it came down to it would want the Military to exist, much less defend this nation. They don’t believe in this country, and lack all patriotism.

    What else can you expect from a privileged Stanford grad.

    Jim Rockford (e09923)

  56. I have utterly no wish to defend Joel Stein, who struck me (while listening to Hugh Hewitt’s interview with him) as callow and naive. (Also not a very good writer.) Your conclusion about him does not follow, however. “Stein loses me,” you write, “in presuming to know how people in the military feel about the war.” But the tyro says nothing whatever about feelings. Stein writes (in a passage quoted by you): “An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying.” This sentence is incoherent. If people should “mak[e] individual moral choices”–that is, if morality is relative–then there is no such animal as “their [collective] morality.” For those of us who are not relativists, though, the second part of the sentence is apt. Indeed, Stein thought it so apt that he refashioned it into a clumsy quip about Jack Abramoff and Congress. Still, an “army of people” can “ignor[e] their morality” if and only if that morality has an objective quality entirely separate from their feelings. Thus it is at least theoretically possible for U.S. soldiers to feel good about their mission while pursuing an immoral goal.

    Luckily, that is not what U.S. forces in Iraq are doing. The mission there is objectively moral. And that’s the main reason Joel Stein is an idiot.

    D. G. Myers (fa82a5)

  57. Greg-

    Its “Schmuckertully”, not “Schmuckitelli”. 8^)

    Listening to Hewitt’s interview with this guy it seemed as if his emphassis was that people shouldn’t have “We Support the Troops” stickers on their cars when they don’t support the war.

    What struck me was that he seemed to assume they everyone was against the war, and therefore every time he saw such a sticker he was looking at a hypocrit.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  58. aphrael, good question about what it would take to not offend my sensibilities. But first to digress, let me admit and emphasize that I actually wanted us to lose the Vietnam War – under the logic that, otherwise, we would be fighting China and possibly WWIII, since to even possibly “win” the Vietnam War we would have had to invade North Vietnam, imo, thus certainly bringing in China, then possibly the U.S.S.R., etc.. [That is, imo, exactly why we did not invade North Vietnam!]

    I imagine it would have gone more like Korea did; i.e. we push up to China, China pushes us back, we hold somewhere around the middle and sue for truce.

    Scott (57c0cc)

  59. Stein and Letterman…
    How do they think they can convince anyone that they are right with their, “I can’t debate you point for point but I can be funny” kind of response? In a way, this just shows how easy it was for the Times to think an unexploded shell was part of a Hellfire missle in that photograph. The liberals are entering this arguement with empty of information but full of “passion”.

    tyree (f37aa4)

  60. […] I’m not advocating that we spit on Joel Stein. All I’m asking is that we read Jim Treacher’s satire of him. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Treacher on Wusses (421107)

  61. Joel Stein Might Have Gotten Enough But Now It’s My Turn

    As I’m sure most people who follow the news are aware of by now an LA Times writer, Joel Stein, wrote a controversial piece insulting my career titled, Warriors and wusses. Mr. Stein is entitled to his opinion and he’s…

    Conservative Thinking (966bc3)

  62. Mark wrote:

    I’d like to make the point that although losing the Vietnam war avoided a WWIII . . .

    Uhhh, it did? And you know this how?

    Dana (3e4784)

  63. I don’t support the troops for one simple reason. Most of them voted for Bush and kept us in hell for another four years. To hell with the troops. They deserve Bush.

    Barbara (a98f91)

  64. Barbara, you’re comments and similar comments from other liberals are the reason that Republicans are in power. Keep up the good work. Don’t let your disagreement with someone on issues lead you to hate. I suggest you visit some other countries around the world and then take another look at your comments. Take a deep breath and say three times “We lost power in the House, Senate, and White House”. This may not make you feel better. As a Republican I just like hearing it from a liberal.

    Bill (2f946a)

  65. “Most of them voted for Bush…”

    Don’t worry Barbara, although lots of troops may have voted for GWB, AlGore and his pals on the legal team were able to invalidate a great many of those presumably GOP votes.

    Employing tactics best described as by “any means necessary” it was possible to minimize the distortions voters in the military, especially those serving overseas, may have inflicted on the election. It was a tough job, but there was an important principle to uphold, and America’s soldiers, sailors, and airmen simply shouldn’t be allowed to participate in matters which are beyond their abilities to comprehend. Besides who ever said it was any of their business anyway?

    Perhaps, in future elections the entire active duty military could be excluded from participation, like you say, “To hell with the Troops.” Would that satisfy your peculiar sense of appropriate and proper participation in representative government?

    And, don’t forget, if the voters in Tennessee, AlGore’s home state, had voted for him instead of GWB, it wouldn’t have mattered one little bit who all those troops actually wanted to be their Commander-in-Chief.

    Black Jack (9f37aa)

  66. J. Polen: I think it is axiomatic that to support the troops you want them to succeed at their mission with the minimum possible loss of life and limb. So I suppose the question is, is it possible for someone who opposed the policy decision to create that mission to nevertheless want the mission to succeed?

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  67. KSM – i’ll ask you the same question I asked J Polen: how can someone who thinks the decision to go to war was the wrong one be supportive of the troops without seeming lame to you?

    Or do you believe that it is *only* possible to be supportive of the troops and to wish them success in their endeavors if you believed that the decision to assign them those tasks was the right one?

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  68. Black Jack – as an interesting historical note, as late as the civil war, it was not uncommon for states to prohibit soldiers from voting altogether, on the grounds that there was no way to guarantee that their votes would not be influenced or controlled by their officers. There’s an article in the winter 2006 edition of “Pennsylvanie Heritage” on this subject.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  69. Justice Frankfurter: as a liberal Democrat who supports the troops, I consider your accusation that”liberal Democrats who claim they support the troops are lying” to be offensive, and I request that you qualify it in some fashion or provide evidence that I have lied.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  70. Beautiful Barbara wrote:

    I don’t support the troops for one simple reason. Most of them voted for Bush and kept us in hell for another four years. To hell with the troops. They deserve Bush.

    Thank you, Barbara, for being honest in expressing your opinion. It is an opinion that I find completely repugnant, but it is always refreshing to hear someone tell us what he thinks, honestly, without the usual bovine feces “But I support the troops” attempts to cover their butts.

    But, I have to wonder: if the leftists actually did tell the truth about what they believe, would the Democratic Party ever win another election?

    Dana (3e4784)

  71. Aphreal asks:

    KSM – i’ll ask you the same question I asked J Polen: how can someone who thinks the decision to go to war was the wrong one be supportive of the troops without seeming lame to you?

    Or do you believe that it is *only* possible to be supportive of the troops and to wish them success in their endeavors if you believed that the decision to assign them those tasks was the right one?

    Well, I’m not KSM, but I can construct such a scenario: if the hypothetical person in question opposed the war because he believed it couldn’t be won (as opposed to being opposed to the goals of the war), he could legitimately support the goals and doing everything possible to win once the point of actually going to war had passed.

    Dana (3e4784)

  72. aphrael,

    Unlike a lot of people here, I see some merit to your argument that someone who opposed the policy decision to go to war can nevertheless currently desire to see us stay there and succeed. In other words: “I wouldn’t have chosen this course, but now that we have, I want us to fight and win, rather than to withdraw before the mission has succeeded.” It seems to me that you are right when you say that there has to be room for someone to come to such a conclusion.

    However, if that is someone’s position, I think they should say so forthrightly rather than phrasing it in a weak and unclear way like “I support the troops.” What they should say is this: “I support not just the troops, but the war effort itself. But my support comes with this qualification/explanation: I wouldn’t have gone to war to begin with, and if I could turn back the hands of time, I would reverse that decision. But now that it has been made, I support following through with it. And that is what I mean when I say I support the war.”

    I think someone can honorably say that.

    But I don’t think that’s what Stein is talking about. He is saying that it is hypocritical to *currently* oppose the war — in other words, to believe that we should withdraw now — yet to say: “But I support the troops.” As I say in the post, I think that argument is not nonsensical. I’m not sure whether I agree with it or not, because I think it is to some degree a matter of semantics: you can oppose the troops’ mission and still respect them as people and believe that they are honorable men serving their country. But when you say you “support” them, there is, arguably, a bit of hypocrisy inherent in your statement.

    I think you should confront what Stein is saying rather than the alternate argument you have proposed, which is really a bit of a strawman: that people are entitled to change their minds based on circumstances.

    Patterico (08c813)

  73. I’ll remind people here of my general position on the war, for the benefit of those who are not long-time readers: I support the war, but my support has always been very reluctant, as I am, at heart, something of a pacifist (albeit a realistic one). I simply think that, in the context of a post-9/11 world, that this country could not tolerate Saddam continuing to thumb his nose at us regarding WMD, based on the facts available to us at the time — facts that indicated to Clinton and virtually everyone else in the world that Saddam had indeed possessed WMD and had failed to account for their whereabouts or to document their destruction.

    Patterico (08c813)

  74. People who are against the war in Iraq but claim they support the troops there are as disingenuous as people who say they are against abortion but still support all Supreme Court decisions that permit abortion on demand.

    Justice Frankfurter (2dcd84)

  75. Forget all this silly back and forth about supporting troops, or missions, or whatever. It’s all irrelevant nonsense because it doesn’t matter.

    The simple truth is that within the ranks of Dems, Liberals, Progressives, and Moonbats there’s a constituency chompping at the bit to oppose anything advanced by GWB. The medium is the message.

    These knee-jerks don’t need a reason to oppose the administration, any old rationalization will do in a pinch. And, it has little to do with the actual troops, and everything to do with sour grapes, and the shame of having squandered both honor and integrity worshipping at the alter of a false god. The Left blew it, big time, on Bill Clinton, and they can’t stand GWB because he makes the comparison stand out in sharp relief.

    The American Left has met the enemy, and it is them.

    Black Jack (9f37aa)

  76. Patterico – I have not been attempting to respond to what Stein is saying; I have been attempting to respond to comments which seem to me to leave no room for the position I hold.

    I have no patience for Stein’s attitude. He is explicitly saying that subtlety in politics is a bad thing (“guy who thought 50.7% was a mandate isn’t going to pick up on the subtleties of a parade for just service in an unjust war”), he advocates failing to honor the sacrifices that men make on our behalf, and he completely fails to consider the possibility that people might operate under different moral rules than he does.

    The last one is particularly offensive to me: rather than making any attempt to understand how the soldiers actually view their role and what moral compulsions they believe to lie on their behavior, and judging them by how they live up to their own moral standards, he notes that they aren’t living up to his moral standards and, therefore, concludes that they are “ignoring their morality”. It’s an arrogant, illiberal, attitude.

    But I can’t join in the use of Stein’s rhetoric to conclude that he represents all leftists. While I certainly know people who do share his attitude, I also know many liberals who are repulsed and offended by it. I am one of them. And so, insofar as I can do so without treading unduly upon your hospitality, I feel compelled to defend myself, and my political allies, against the broad condemnations of all liberals made by some in this thread.

    I opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq; I believed that the sanctions were effective in the goal of preventing the Iraqi government from obtaining WMDs, and that – absent a direct threat to the security of the United States – the United States had no authority to intervene in Iraqi affairs beyond what it had already done. I lost that debate. And, once the debate was over, it became my responsibility as a citizen to support the decision that we had reached in the debate; and it became our responsibility as a country to ensure that our troops were given the necessary means to achieve the end we had laid before them; and, once we toppled the Iraqi government, it became our responsibility as a country to ensure that we turned over to the Iraqi people a functioning economy and a functioning polity.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  77. Are you trying to deny us our basic, fundamental Constitutional right to make broad condemnations of liberals–one of our basic rights, as specified by the First Amendment?

    Justice Frankfurter (2dcd84)

  78. Justice Frankfurter – i’m not aware that a private citizen can deny you a basic, fundamental right. However, I am saying that your broad condemnations are wrong.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  79. Dana – What are you talking about? I was responding to a point made by J Peden that losing Vietnam avoided WWIII – that was his point not mine. I don’t claim to know that that was the case at all. I was trying to point the huge humanitarian disaster the ensued and the failure of the US Congress to fulfill our treaty obligations which might have prevented that disaster from happening.

    Mark (e8cc0d)

  80. Dana I perhaps should have made it clearer that I was responded to J Peden in my post – hope that clears things up?

    Mark (e8cc0d)

  81. Yes, Mark, it does.

    Dana (9f37aa)

  82. aphrael,

    I think your comment is reasonable.

    Patterico (929da9)

  83. I don’t support the troops for one simple reason. Most of them voted for Bush and kept us in hell for another four years. To hell with the troops. They deserve Bush.

    Barbara, very mature. Fortunately, there are rough military men and women all over the world tonight, willing to stand on the wall for you. They place their lives on the line for you not as republicans or democrats but as fellow Americans. Their thought of you is only that you sleep peaceful without harm on their watch. They would appreciate only your respectful thanks. I hope you will some day find the maturity to give it.

    I lost that debate. And, once the debate was over, it became my responsibility as a citizen to support the decision that we had reached in the debate; and it became our responsibility as a country to ensure that our troops were given the necessary means to achieve the end we had laid before them; and, once we toppled the Iraqi government, it became our responsibility as a country to ensure that we turned over to the Iraqi people a functioning economy and a functioning polity.

    aphrael, thank you. As a retired soldier having spent 25 years of active duty all over the world, often away from my family, this is all I ever hoped for. I believe this is all our soldiers expect and I believe you have their mutual respect. You have connected the dots. You have validated their sacrifices.

    You should also know that soldiers, above all others, hate war.

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)

  84. aphrael, another good question: “So I suppose the question is, is it possible for someone who opposed the policy decision to create that mission to nevertheless want the mission to succeed?”

    Of course: you can simply review your original decision in light of further facts/events/understanding and change your mind. This is utterly reasonable. Going forward into the future, no one knows anything for certain about the future at the time they start going forward – or what they might think about it later. You try to know, but you also know that you really don’t know.

    Or are you asking if it’s possible to hold both positions at the same time? Again, yes: if, for example, you then choose to defer to the judgement of others, such as the President, and get behind that judgement, because you might know or suspect that you do not really know as much as the President, or might not have the same capability of judgement as those whose job it is to make these kind of judgementst, or simply that in many situations you must “folllow the leader” because s/he is the leader. The latter is often what living life [in uncertain situations, which are rife] comes down to. After all, the President was elected to be the leader.

    I’ve followed the leader many times, even in circumstances where my life was at stake, and have been the leader, too, on very many occasions where many lives [cumulatively] were at stake. Disagreement with the mission was, in effect, moot, although I’m sure it existed and anyone following was free to state it and keep believing it, while at the same time contributing fully to the mission and hoping that it would succeed anyway.

    Actually, I was more against the Iraq operation than for it, when the topic first came up. But it did comport with the Bush Doctrine, which I saw as the only really effective option to defend ourselves and defeat the terrorists. [No one has presented an alternative, even to this date!]

    Therefore, I simply deferred to the President, fully supported the mission, and so also supported the troops – right from the beginning. Imo, this decision making logic has been a great success. Even if it hadn’t been, I would not then blame the President, and probably would blame no one. Someone has to make the decisions. Having meetings with the French is not a plan, as I saw it, and which I think has been proven.

    It is possible to object to, or be against the mission, and support the mission at the same time – and specifically concerning supporting the troops.

    J. Peden (1965dc)

  85. Maybe people would understand Stein’s point if he used this analogy: Suppose you’re living in the deep South in 1864 and you’re against slavery. Would you say you support the Confederate troops even though you’re against their war to secede? I’m guessing not. Same principle here, no?

    Ulysses (266178)

  86. How about this: Suppose you’re living North of the Mason Dixon Line in 1864 and you own slaves. Would you support Lincoln’s War of Northern Aggression, even though you’re in favor of State’s Rights, and don’t object to a partition of the country? I’m guessing not.

    Black Jack (71415b)

  87. Ulysses and Black Jack, the difference is that Stein’s opposition isn’t based on principle. It’s based on his own self-absorption, which leads him to hold in contempt those whose worldview differs from his own — particularly those who recognize honor in making sacrifices or bearing risk for the sake of fellow citizens.

    Ostensibly, it’s an “anti-war” position, but his anti-war views and those of everyone else among the left are irrational views, which require one to imagine that that actual facts don’t limit one’s choices. Stein and the rest of those who continue to oppose actions taken by the US against the totalitarians who would, but for our actions, control most of the middle east and central Asia, color their arguments as moral ones only by suspending reality, so that every decision is a zero-sum decision detached even from the near-certain consequences of that decision. So, “war” is called evil, regardless of the opponent and regardless of the consequences of appeasement. The only times when the left isn’t anti-war is when they’re calling terrorists “minutemen” or otherwise defending our enemies.

    Yes, we can and should question their patriotism.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  88. Ted – everyone anohg the left?

    I would argue that war is always evil, but that sometimes the other alternatives are worse.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  89. Ulysses:

    Of course, most southerners did not own slaves, and the vast majority even of slave owners did not own many slaves.

    Thus, it is quite likely that quite a few southerners did not own slaves, yet supported the Southron cause.

    As important, it is eminently possible for a southerner of the period to have supported even States’ rights, yet opposed the decision to secede.

    At the same time, it was certainly possible for a Northerner to nominally support the Union, yet not only oppose Lincoln but the war, and call for a negotiated settlement.

    They were called Copperheads.

    And even they ostensibly supported the troops.

    Indeed, General McClellan, the Democratic candidate in 1864, refused to characterize the war as having been a wasted effort with the sacrifices of the soldiers having been in vain, although the Party platform appears to have been somewhat less clear on the subject.

    Lurking Observer (ea88e8)

  90. aphrael #89: all I can say is “yes” but that nothing is really “written”. It just keeps going – and we must keep deciding.

    J. Peden (7e4755)

  91. “If a columnist, a writer, an actor, an economist, a justice, a street bum or a terminally ill beetle voices his or her opinion, whether that be in favour or against ‘popular’ opinion (what’s that anyway?), and then gets FIRED for voicing that opinion, or won’t get another job anywhere, then we might as well scrap that ‘the land of the free / and the home of the brave’-line from the national anthem.”

    Kaj — The LA Times is not the state or federal government. It is free to fire whomever it pleases, as long as the firing is not based on a protected characteristic. That’s an essential part of living in the “land of the free,” you know?

    Federal Dog (43c7eb)

  92. I support the war, but my support has always been very reluctant, as I am, at heart, something of a pacifist (albeit a realistic one).

    Isn’t that like being a little pregnant? My understanding of a pacifist is one who believes war is always wrong or, to borrow Aphrael’s terminology, that it is never the lesser evil. Anything short of such absolutism is not pacifism; it’s just common sense.

    Xrlq (ffb240)

  93. aphrael, I make the distinction between “left” and “liberal.” With a few exceptions, I don’t consider the left to be liberal (liberalism isn’t a tag to be claimed by just anyone, but a description that must fit to be worn properly); indeed what the left seeks is most definitely illiberal. There are at least a few liberals who can’t seem to accept that a President who is identified as a “conservative” Republican would undertake a project as liberal as the liberation (note the common root) of millions of formerly oppressed peoples and the establishment of representative self-government where none had previously existed. This is a moment of truth for many self-described “liberals.” Are they really liberals? Or is their commitment to liberal principles so shallow as to permit their becoming reactionaries when faced with a choice between the isolationist, anti-American left and and a liberal policy favored by George W. Bush?

    So, probably almost all of the left, but certainly not almost all liberals.

    And, as for war being evil, war is a conflict by armed force. It’s not inherently evil or good. The use of armed force in opposition to those who would perpetrate genocide or deny freedom to others is good, not evil. Calling war itself “evil” demonstrates an inability or unwillingness to make important moral distinctions, which is undoubtedly one of the afflictions that caused Joel Stein to write his column.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  94. Seems like a lot of fuss over one mentally ill columnist.

    biwah (f5ca22)

  95. TNugent – not only is war conflict by armed force, but it functions largely, if not entirely, by deliberately killing human beings.

    I can accept that deliberately killing other humans is sometimes necessary to prevent a greater evil, including preventing them from killing people themselves. But, as someone who believes killing people to be immoral, I am unable to call it “good”, even when it is the least bad choice.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  96. mentally ill, biwah? What’s the basis for your diagnosis — that he holds the opinion he expressed in his column, or that he was willing to say such things publicly? I haven’t heard anyone else call Stein “mentally ill” — most people assume that he’s responsible for what he said. But maybe you’re on to something. The left has a long tradition, and perhaps a hard-wired inclination, to brand as mentally ill those who publicly express inconvenient ideas. The real surprise in hearing the “mentally ill” theory picked up by the left wouldn’t be that reaction as much as it would be the shelf life of Stein’s comment. Bet on it finding the memory hole sooner rather than later.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  97. I should state up front that unlike Bill Frist, I am not qualified to make diagnoses over the internet. But sometimes you just have to deduce an opinion:

    I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I’m tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel.

    I’m not talking about legal insanity. But the guy is not making sense. And he clearly doesn’t care.

    I know this is all easy to say for a guy who grew up with money, did well in school and hasn’t so much as served on jury duty for his country. But it’s really not that easy to say because anyone remotely affiliated with the military could easily beat me up, and I’m listed in the phone book.

    Disconnected, illogical statements, irrelevant asides, impulsiveness. The guy sounds unhinged. If a guy wearing no clothes walks down my street and wishes me a cheery good morning, and then bursts into tears, I don’t know the guy’s nuts. But I’ve got my lay opinion. That’s the feeling I got from Stein when I first read his article, and I still get it.

    That’s about it. More than anything, it’s a feeling I get.

    The left has a long tradition, and perhaps a hard-wired inclination, to brand as mentally ill those who publicly express inconvenient ideas.

    versus the right wing, which favors incarceration and firing squads?

    biwah (f5ca22)

  98. Eep! Please close those italics!

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  99. uh, …?

    biwah (f5ca22)

  100. Hmm. Apaprently it doesn’t work: I thought I could put a close-italic tag and it would turn italics off.

    Apparently you didn’t close the italics at the end of the last quote in your post, and now everything is in italics.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  101. open, now close.

    biwah (f5ca22)

  102. Funny, I haven’t heard anyone on the right (well, maybe Ann Coulter) suggest a firing squad or incarceration for Stein. But then I wasn’t careful enough in my comment. See my comment to aphrael above, regarding the distinction between “left” and “liberal.” I’ve assumed that you fall into the latter group.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  103. open. close.
    again.okay.

    It’s showing alright on preview.

    Sheesh.

    biwah (f5ca22)

  104. The left has a long tradition, and perhaps a hard-wired inclination, to brand as mentally ill those who publicly express inconvenient ideas.

    This statement seemed a little broader than just Joel Stein. You’re alleging, inexplicably, this tradition of branding inconvenient ideas as the product of mental illness. Maybe it’s my myopia, but I see, far more clearly, the right’s habit of branding inconvenient ideas as criminal. Maybe in response, us lefties have to break out the insanity defense, but that’s different, no?

    as for the firing squads, it’s just a little artistic license. sodium pentathol is so blah.

    biwah (f5ca22)

  105. Dose this finally close the danged things?

    Xrlq (ffb240)

  106. The left has a long tradition, and perhaps a hard-wired inclination, to brand as mentally ill those who publicly express inconvenient ideas.

    Moonbats, unhinged, etc… indeed.

    actus (85218a)

  107. sorry folks

    [banging head against desk]

    biwah (f5ca22)

  108. As a former Army Officer I have great affection for this line of reasoning – that it comes down to trigger pullers . . . at least, if one were to take a page from the Nurenberg Trials, that one, regardless of political or whatever kind of pressure, must take responsibility for one’s actions, it does have the ring of precedent if not truth, whatever that may be.

    I often asked men in my platoon, how they were able to cross that divide and kill their first human. The answers were as numerous as the respondents, some with no thought, others with self preservation and others with malice. Some excelled, some were lucky and others damaged despite no physical wounds.

    Like the composer, Paul Dukas and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and to quote another story, “the best laid plans of mice and men, oft go astray.”

    Denis Farley (2228e4)

  109. Joel Stein was right on with this. Supporting the war is immoral and illogical. People who fight in wars are murderers. They are brainwashed just like you people are. Murder isn’t suddenly ok because it’s in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.

    James (599fc4)


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