Thursday, August 23, 2007

"Don't ever take sides with anyone....

.....against the Family again. Ever."

So saith Michael Corleone to his hapless brother Fredo.

Within the American body politic, there's been a lot of bitterness spilled over the Iraq war, and in particular two sorts of arguments are the most incendiary. The anti-war Left accuses the pro-war Right of being "chickenhawks", and feels aggrieved when their adversaries "question their patriotism."

Both arguments have an air of cheapshots about them. But as I've thought about it a bit, I've decided that both arguments are in principle legit and to some extent inevitable even. But arguments change meaning a lilttle bit depending on how they are handled, and these two have to be handled very carefully.

It is legitimate to say that supporters of the war are making positive declarations about things they have little or no experience to substantiate. But it is contrary to our culture and our form of government to say that those who haven't served in the military cannot be heard on foreign policy issues. Besides which, it's a self-defeating argument in any case, as many others have pointed out. If the franchise were restricted either to veterans or active duty servicemen, the war would have a great deal better political standing than it does now.

On the flip side, it is also an injustice to suggest that those who do not support the decision to go to war were disloyal. Even if they were, the American people are more forgiving about that sort of thing than Michael Corleone anyway. But many of those who oppose the war attempt to speak in America's name (while at the same time not very much concerned about America's interests). Unfortunately for them, we have a lower-case-r republican nation in the United States, and ultimately the American people are sovereign over it. And even if they are more forgiving than Michael Corleone (to the dismay of some on the Right), there are limits.

We all know the war in Iraq has had, and no matter what the outcome, will continue to have substantial partisan political consequences for a good while. Nonetheless, in conjuction with the patriotism thing it is very important to emphasize success or failure in the Iraq war is a matter of success or failure for the United States as a whole, not just the Republican party or George W. Bush.

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