"I'd like to see one person – just one – who would own up to having been a coward." Edith Piaf

I?m going to own up to it. When we went to Afghanistan, I wanted it to be what it was advertised as: A search and destroy mission against Al Qaeda. When it became an attempt to build a nation in a place and with a populace which has never been a nation, I said it was time for us to come home.

But I whispered my position. I rationalized my whisper because I didn?t want to discourage the troops and their families and stand with my President. In reality I was a coward.

With Iraq, I opposed it from the beginning. If we had intel where there was WMD activities, bomb it and go back to our base (or authorize our allies like Israel to do it). But from the very beginning, President Bush and Congress (both parties were virtually indistinguishable) believed we could make Iraq a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. By rebuilding Iraq into a democracy, they believed it would spread peace and love throughout the region.

On Iraq, my whisper was turned into firm and resolute opposition to the decision but again whispered reluctant assent to the Colin Powell Doctrine (We broke it. We must fix it.) with regard to the surge. I was again a coward.

On the Afghanistan surge we are in the midst of, my voice was louder based on our ?success? at nation building in Iraq, which has a history of being ungovernable. But cowardly, I wasn?t very loud.

Now, while we are about to set ourselves on a path to do the same with Libya, I won?t be a coward.



Liberal Michael Kinsley (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/52051.html) and conservative Joe Scarborough (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/52062.html) both have interesting perspectives for all of us to consider.

Unfortunately, because we never got to have a national debate before Congress on this matter, the die may be cast. Obama has imperially committed our troops and treasure. And, as Joe points out, Obama led us off the cliff and Congress (neither party) seems to have asked the question, ?Huh, where are we going, why are we going there, and what are we going to do when we get there?? http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/51682.html

And what most frustrates me is we learned a lesson from Vietnam which stuck for 30 years. Today, we can?t even learn from Iraq and Afghanistan when they are so fresh on our minds and experience. Conservatives, it is ok to admit our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan turned out to be more than we thought. Liberals, it is ok to admit Obama isn?t perfect on every decision.

Even if you won’t admit anything, we shouldn’t be involved in Libya. In your hearts you know it. Don?t be a coward. It isn?t fun. I know.

28 Replies to “"I'd like to see one person – just one – who would own up to having been a coward." Edith Piaf”

  1. Lee Schoenbeck

    Good message Troy. In years of futility, we have now surpassed the Russians for slow learning on Afghanistan history and demographics, and I never would have thought that possible.

    Libya is going to be a bad enough quagmire, but that’s only one stop on a train that’s headed for Yemen, Syria and whole lot of other places we don’t need to be.

    1. 73*

      I really appreciate Troy’s writing. It is usually very thoughtful and well reasoned.

      It has a greater depth than the typical DWC post and I think it ads to a better site. Because we need the quick gossip and the well reasoned political thought.

      1. 73*

        And I would never say Troy was a coward. I’ve read things on here that didn’t follow the GOP party line and as we all know even questioning a party position often is followed by shunning from those in charge. People who have a different opinion often aren’t welcome and are thought of as trouble makers.

        Troy you are a good one and most of the time I agree with your thoughts.

  2. Duh

    Woudn’t it be nice if we were self-sufficient energy-wise that these conflicts wouldn’t get the attention of the front pages of newspapers but would rather be on page 6 next to the community announcements???

  3. Charlie Hoffman

    I will ask the question for all to answer on their own time, in their own minds unadulterated by outside influence of either the United States Flag or families who have lost loved ones fighting a war for anothers country. “Would Obama be President today if George Bush had not invaded Iraq?”

    This Friday Syria will begin to implode and the Middle East as we know it will no longer be recognizable. It may be time to bring our ships and planes home to protect our own borders.

    Troy I have always thought what you wrote but never put it out there publicly for all to see. You are far from a coward in my mind.

  4. Bill Fleming

    Read “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson. To the degree that’s how we were able to get out of Iraq and next Afghanistan, we should keep doing it. We should have been doing it all along.

    Talk about courage. p.s. Excellent post, Troy. Thanks for it.

    Someone once asked Gandhi whether he would have been as successful with Hitler as he was with the British. He said something to the effect that he guessed it would have taken much longer and cost a lot more lives. He also said that the time for violence is when there are absolutely no other alternatives, it is perhaps necessary, but that because he was an idealist, he could never, ever personally advocate the use of it.

  5. Bill Fleming

    By the way, Sam Harris thinks Gandhi’s is an immoral position. He tends to side more with Alan Dershowitz who says torture and violence are okay in a ticking time bomb scenario. These are all pretty heavy moral conundrums, I know. But that’s what I think we’re dealing with here.

  6. Truthinator

    Troy, that is a good post. I wish you would have talked a bit about the modern realities of geopolitics, but from an American perspective, very good. I agree completely with you. What would you have done if you were President and the pressure was on you from our allies to help out? I am really interested in your perspective here! Thanks for the good post.

  7. Name

    Oh, I get it. It was okay that you were a coward during the Bush administration (Republican) but now – because a Democrat is president – it’s okay for you to be “against” military action. I think I’ll go throw up now.

  8. CaveMan

    What totally scares most people is not knowing just who is pushing the revolutionary buttons in all these countries in the Middle East currently led by secular leaders. Starting with the Shah in Iran we all know how that has gone for us. Hussien fed by millions (maybe billions) of dollars of US foreign aid, Mumarak certainly fed by BILLIONS of dollars of US foreign aid, Quadafi fed by billions of dollars of US foreign aid, and now Assad having filled his piggy bank with millions or billions of dollars of US foreign aid are all up for replacement. The question of whether or not Iran is fueling these revolts certainly can be answered “YES” for any instability in countries surrounding the Land of Ayatollah and Akmadeenejaad creates a vaccum for them to move in and take control of the Islamic side of life there. Once they bury the women under cover and cloth, beat the men who don’t bend over and kneel facing Mecca five times a day you have them just where you want them; bowing on the ground before you to your religion.

    But now an even better question would be “Why did Obama bow to the Saudi’s?”

  9. PNR

    I wouldn’t call this post particularly courageous. It’s safe to say, after the fact, that I opposed this even though I didn’t say it – like Kerry saying he was against it before he was for it before he was against it, or whatever he said.

    That’s OK. Most people, even those we rightly look up to as heroes, aren’t brave all the time. Often they weren’t even thinking, just reacting, when they did what we’re honoring them for. “Just doing what had to be done,” is a common statement among those receiving such honors. Doesn’t make their actions less brave, but it does explain why they don’t often repeat it. When we have time to consider potential consequences, as Troy has here, we naturally act to minimize the negative consequences. Is this cowardice? Not sure. I tend to think of risk management as just smart.

    That said, I disagree on Afghanistan and Iraq, but not on Libya. No, it’s not because we have a Democrat president now. It’s because, as the SecDef has said, we have no vital interest at stake in Libya – or didn’t until we started dropping bombs in the hopes somebody might assassinate Qadhaffi (or however he spells it). We did, and do, in Afghanistan and Iraq (and Iran, for that matter).

  10. Les

    PNR@”That said, I disagree on Afghanistan and Iraq, but not on Libya. No, it?s not because we have a Democrat president now. It?s because, as the SecDef has said, we have no vital interest at stake in Libya ? “………It’s because what? It is because of the same strategic offense we have in all of the above, covering transport routes and/or production of oil. Ask the Chinese and Russians.

    1. PNR

      We do have a strategic interest in the free flow of oil at market prices. It is not clear to me that this was threatened by Qadaffi, though it may well be threatened by his successors if these rebels end up winning. Nor has this action significantly reduced the interruption in oil supplied to Europe from Libya, and may well have extended that interruption or made it more severe.

      Iraq 2003, which was in many ways merely the completion of operations begun in Kuwait in 1991, has affected the free flow of oil at market prices. Afghanistan is not an “oil” operation at all, but initially a punitive operation. Having obtained bases and logistical support structures in both, the reasonable grand strategic move would have been to increase pressure on Iran. But we didn’t, and the moment has passed.

      But Libya under Qadhaffi posed no serious threat to our oil supply or to the free flow of oil at market prices. Therefore we have no vital interest at stake in the conflict.

    1. PNR

      You would be correct, assuming the free flow of oil at market prices is our *only* strategic interest – but I don’t make that assumption. Our vital national interests are varied and multiple, so arguing ad hitlerium is both tedious and in this case far-fetched.

      It is, however, worth noting that we did not declare war on Germany 8 December 1941. Roosevelt asked for, and received, a declaration of war that encompassed only Imperial Japan. On 11 December, Germany and Italy honored their mutual defense treaty with Japan and declared war on us. We reciprocated the same day. It is interesting to speculate how long it would have been before we did go to war against Germany had they not honored their treaty with Japan.

      Nevertheless, we did have vital strategic interests in maintaining a balance of power in Europe and in particular supporting the efforts of Great Britain. Could we have protected those interests short of war? For at least another year or two? Not sure. German submarine warfare in the Atlantic had already sent one of our ships (USS Reuben James) to the bottom in October 1941 and it is likely that pressure would have mounted to the point where a declaration of war would pass Congress some time before the end of 1942. Speculation, but I think reasonable speculation.

        1. PNR

          I cannot, with any confidence, say what I would have been then. My political views are in large measure shaped by my history and what I have studied of it in addition to my understanding of economics, the proper role of the state, etc.

          But had I been born in 1894 instead of 1964, that history, the knowledge of economics, and resources available to study history beyond my own experience would have been very different.

          I am now of a mind that military power should be employed when necessary to protect the vital interests of the nation, with a proper and due humility concerning our ability to solve the world’s problems. We are not God. We cannot wipe away every tear, right every wrong, prevent every illness. The effort to do so can, and often does, make the problem(s) worse rather than better, and I think the situation in Libya in 5 or 6 months will demonstrate this.

  11. Bill Fleming

    Tink it’s extremely interesting that Stacey Nelson hasn’t weighed in on this. he’s usually all over the military stuff. I’d be interested in his take here.


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