Well, this is certainly outside the right’s favorite narrative for Iraq. Seven American soldiers, all coming off a 15 month deployment with the 82nd Airborne, writing in the NYT, and all criticizing the mainstream media for being too optimistic about the surge:
Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. [My bold.]
Obviously these six soldiers — NCOs and infantrymen — are America-hating defeatists who give aid and comfort to our enemies. That is the storyline, right? Anyone who questions our strategy in Iraq is basically an Al Qaeda public relations man? Did I get that right? And the mainstream media is nothing but a machine that spews defeatist lies? I got all that right, didn’t I?
The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the â€œbattle spaceâ€ remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayersâ€™ expense.
Now, despite the fact that these soldiers are putting forward an assessment that essentially agrees with my own, I do not assume that soldiers are the best judges of strategy — unlike the mawkish, weepy, super-patriots of the right with their ‘love-em-to-death’ embrace of all things military. I actually believe that even guys in uniform are capable of error, of making unsound judgments, of being, in a word, human.
But then my politics does not rely on turning living, breathing men and women, into cardboard cut-outs in order to serve my agenda. Soldiers don’t all speak with one voice. They aren’t robots. They aren’t machines. It’s their humanity that makes what they do so brave and so admirable.
I try to pay attention to generals and to privates when they write about the war. I also listen to
politicians and pundits and experts, and even regular people, because as shocking as it may seem, sometimes regular people aren’t complete fools. Pick a war, any war, and you can go back through the record and find examples of generals who were idiots, and politicians who were prophets, grunts who were dead wrong, and regular joes from Cowtown who had it pegged from the start. And all possible permutations of the preceding. You cannot simply assume that this category of folks must be right, and that category of folks must be wrong. (In fact, you might want to avoid thinking that you know for sure what the categories are.)
But that is not the right’s narrative. The right’s storyline is that the man in uniform must support the mission, and always, and in every case, be right. While the critic, the skeptic, the doubter, must always, and in every case, be aiding and abetting the enemy.
So. ‘Splain this to me, my right-wing friends. We have seven soldiers. From the 82nd Airborne, no less. One of whom, unfortunately, was just shot in the face. (Expected to survive, thankfully.) And these guys are sounding an awful lot like Joe Biden. Or Hillary. Or me. How can that possibly be?