I'm so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
-Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady
Charles Krauthammer is channeling Eliza Doolittle this morning, and I can completely relate. In "The War and the Words" he says:
What is striking is how much of the debate in Washington about Iraq has to do with not the war but the words. Who owns them, who deploys them, who uses them as a bludgeon. NBC's announcement last November that it would henceforth use the term civil war -- a statement far more political than analytical, invoking the same fake authority with which the networks regally "declare'' election winners (e.g., Florida to Al Gore, Nov. 7, 2000) -- set the tone of definitional self-importance.
Words. We had weeks of debates in the Senate about Iraq. They eventually went nowhere, being shut down (temporarily) by partisan procedural disputes. But they were going nowhere anyway. The debates were not about real fighting in a real place. They were about how the various senators would position themselves in relation to that real fighting in that real place. At issue? With what tone and nuance and addenda to express disapproval of a troop surge that the president was going to order anyway.
When it came to doing something serious about the surge, the Senate ducked. It unanimously (81-0) approved sending Gen. David H. Petraeus to Baghdad to do the surge -- precisely what a majority of the senators said they did not want done.
As he notes, the words being thown back and forth--like "civil war" and "surge" and "redeployment" and "escalation" are all completely irrelevant to the reality that there are real American troops going on real missions in Iraq. Oh yes, and America has a real and significant long-term national interest in the outcome of its policies there.
By focusing on and arguing about the words, our leaders in Congress (and I use the term loosely) have managed to avoid having any substantive discussion about alternative strategies in this war; and they have managed to hedge their political bets as they straddle the divide between success and failure, waiting to see which opinion will be most advantageous for them.
The Democrats for the most part desperately want failure in Iraq so that their mortal enemies--Bush and the Republicans-- will be thoroughly discredited. On the other hand, until they are 100% convinced that failure is imminent, they don't want to put all their political eggs in one basket, because they ae fearful that the latest plan by General Petraeus might actually work. And then where would they be? Such a positive outcome would show them up to be the pathetic losers they are.
The Republicans for their part would like to see a victory; but don't want to suffer the consequences that could ensue personally and politically if Bush can't pull this one out of the fire and public opinion about the war remains negative. It might definitely impact their re-elections, don't you know? And that's what is really important and matters most to them.
A little backbone and some evidence that the long-term interests of the nation are a priority for either side would definitely be nice.
Anyone who's ever been in war will tell you that
this is no time for a chat...
Haven't your minds
Longed for resolve? Are you involved?,
Haven't your hearts
Made you aware, that you don't care?
Don't talk defeat and act so elite.
Make no political vow.... Show me now!
Don't have debates, don't say its fine--
Don't waste my time, Show me!
Don't talk of war, Don't talk of peace!
Do something constructive at least! Show me please!