Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Fuck Morale

The news that a new poll suggests most Americans agree with Bush and Cheney that criticizing the war and its prosecution damages troop morale got a lot of play, much of it along the lines found in this Washington Post writeup. Unfortunately, most of the coverage I saw misses, as the poll itself seems to have, the bigger point. (At this writing, the poll had not been posted online yet).

According to the coverage, 70% of Americans believe that criticism of the war by Democratic senators hurts troop morale. Why the pollsters chose to ask anyone other than the owners of said morale, I'm not quite sure. Nevertheless, let's assess what lies behind the poll: Namely, the implication that if something hurts troop morale, good Americans ought not do it.

Let's even stipulate the truth of what the poll found most Americans believe: That war criticism hurts troop morale. Our next question ought to be: So the fuck what?

I don't mean that as synonymous with, "Who gives a shit?" I mean, seriously, what are we supposed to do with the stipulated reality that dissent hurts morale? Let's break it down. There are two possibilities about the dissent:

It's accurate.
It's not accurate.

In other words, the complaining about the war is either merited or not merited. If it's merited, we shouldn't waste time worrying about whether VALID complaints about the war are hurting morale. It's like worrying that an accurate cancer diagnosis may lead to depression. Kinda misses the big picture.

So that leaves us with the scenario of inaccurate (or, at least, not wholly accurate) war criticism. Dissenters are either disingenuous, in which case I think we can agree they're not defensible, or they're sincere in their criticism. The reason -- well, one reason -- it's still not just appropriate, but imperative, for war critics to speak out, even at the risk of hurting morale, is that dissent is not merely about present conflicts, it's also about future conflicts.

Dissent is something war planners should know to anticipate. They should know that it can hurt morale. Both of these facts are supposed to compel responsible political, civilian leaders not to stifle dissent, but to render it moot by obtaining civic consensus before going to war.

The problem is not that dissent causes low morale. The problem is that poor leadership and/or planning causes dissent AND low morale. If the dissenters are, in effect, saying, "fuck morale," then so are the leaders who engendered the dissent. If the fact that dissent can have negative consequences causes us to stifle dissent, then we've removed a crucial motive future political leaders have to ensure that they only go to war with broad-based civilian support. President Bush failed to win broad-based support; much of the support he did get came through defrauding the populace. That's why dissent is so important now -- not so much to bring about change in this obstinate, unresponsive administration, but to serve as a warning to future politicians that they damn well better win Americans' WITTING support before they wage war in our name again. If we fail to voice our dissent now, we're writing a blank check for tomorrow's politicians to wage war without fear of reprisal, let alone criticism. And that will really hurt troop morale.


Anonymous said...

I think we should support our troops. They are putting their lives on the line for YOU. So you need to support them!

Anonymous said...

<< to render it moot by obtaining civic consensus before going to war...we've removed a crucial motive future political leaders have to ensure that they only go to war with broad-based civilian support >>

Damn, you're an idiot. What ON EARTH makes you think the average Joe-Bag-Of-Donuts on his couch in Ohio has the first fucking clue about whether or not we should go to war? Are you serious? Do you really think that today's average American citizens are smart enough or informed enough to know whether or not a war is a good or bad idea? You can't be this stupid. Have you ever watched Leno walk around asking average people questions? Most can't name their own state senators. Most can't point to Iraq on a fucking map. I happen to live in San Diego and recently I watched my state vote down ballot initiatives, a couple of which were no-brainers that would have helped EVERYONE..and both liberal and conservative leaders agreed that they were voted down mostly because the initiatives were "too complex" for the average voter to begin to comprehend.

And you sit there typing on your pretentious little blog that you feel America should only go to war if its "supported by a civic consensus?" Okay. Tell you what: Tomorrow, call up your nearest deli and order lunch. I bet you $100 they fuck up your lunch order in one way or another. Why? Because the vast majority of people in this country (world) are fucking stupid, lazy, and don't care. And you think the clown who can't get your corned beef sandwich right is smart enough and responsible enough to research the complex issues of international conflicts, weigh them, and make intelligent assessments about whether a WAR is justified???

Christ. You're dumber than the guy at the deli.

Anonymous said...

while i agree in principle with what the last poster said about how fucking stupid, lazy and careless people are i can't agree that most issues are too complex. not even war.

i follow the lines of money and power on this earth assiduously as best i can and maybe i'm fucking stupid too, but it really seems that politicians intentionally muddle issues to make them more complex than they have to be in order to keep "the governed" from "getting in the way." let's take war for example.

as i understand it, the actual act of war has a very simple purpose: to kill people and destroy stuff.

in my worldview, taking a human life is one of the most serious, sobering things you can do. that is why the american legal system says that the ONLY justification for taking a human life is self-defense.

i believe this also gives us our only justification for war: to defend ourselves against an 'enemy' who is engaged in attacking and destroying us.

with this reasoning, we can easily see how simple it is to identify the enemy we should have gone after and distinguish him from an enemy who was no threat and did not attack.

so, it's not so much that the issues are complex, but rather, that politicians are feverishly working to make them look complex (whether through outright lies and treachery, or just highly refined language) so that people won't get in the way of the multitude of ulterior motives.

once you feel a general sense of hopelessness and even despair about your government/country well, that makes for the perfect excuse to be fucking stupid, lazy and careless.

note: i did not say it was a 'valid' excuse....just a perfect one.

Ludwig said...

Let's clear up a couple of points raised by the anonymous fucktards before proceeding.

Anonymous #1: Did you even read his post? Hint: It's not about supporting or not supporting our troops. Really, read it again and try to understand it.

Anonymous #2: Your local community college almost certainly offers introductory courses in logic. Do yourself a favor and take one before you open your mouth again.

Most people make mistakes on a daily basis. I would venture that, on average, every day, fifty million Americans make serious mistakes. And five million manage to do something colossally stupid. That's just human nature. What sets the vast majority of Americans apart from the Bush administration, however, are two things:
1. Most of us do almost everything correctly—or correctly enough not to harm other people.
2. When we do make mistakes—even if we don't admit them—we try to correct them.

The phrase "supported by civic consensus" implies a couple of things: "not against the law," and "not based on false premises." While a certain amount of public support for a war can be a good thing, at the end of the day, national interests should—and do—prevail over popular opinion. That's why declaration of war is a congressional act and not the result of a national ballot.

Let's get back to the point of the post: It doesn't make one damned bit of difference what anyone believes affects troop morale; what matters is actual troop morale.

As a veteran myself (though, unlike my counterparts in the right-wing blogosphere, I am able to correctly spell my own name), my recollection of morale during my time in the service was based on more concrete things than public perception. Far more important than the mood of the American people were simple things such as: Do I have adequate food, water, and shelter? Do I understand my mission? Do I have the resources to perform my mission?

Support from the majority of Americans is nice, but support from the chain of command is essential and has a vastly greater impact on troop morale.

Anonymous said...

ludwig, you're gay

Ludwig said...

I'll bet you say that about everyone who's smarter than you.

Anonymous said...
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