October 10, 2006
By Thomas Sowell
With a war going on in Iraq and with Iran next door moving steadily toward a nuclear bomb that could change the course of world history in the hands of international terrorists, the question for this year's elections is not whether you or your candidate is a Democrat or a Republican but whether you are serious or frivolous.
That question also needs to be asked about the media. In these grim and foreboding times, our media have this year spent incredible amounts of time on a hunting accident involving Vice President Cheney, a bogus claim that the administration revealed Valerie Plame's identity as a C.I.A. "agent" -- actually a desk job in Virginia -- and is now going ballistic over a Congressman who sent raunchy e-mails to Congressional pages.
This is the frivolous media -- and the biased media. Republican Congressman Foley was wrong and is out on his ear. But Democrats in both Congress and the White House have gone far beyond words with a page and an intern. Yet the Democrats did not resign and Bill Clinton's perjury, obstruction of justice, and suborning of perjury by others were treated as if these were irrelevant private matters.
Even when serious issues are addressed, they can be addressed either seriously or frivolously. If you are content to see life and death issues of war and peace addressed with catch phrases like "chicken hawk" or to see a coalition of nations around the world fighting terrorism referred to as "unilateral" U.S. action because France does not go along, then you are content with frivolity.
You may deserve whatever you get if you vote frivolously in this year's election. But surely the next generation, which has no vote, deserves better.
Weak-kneed members of both parties have been calling for a timetable to be announced for withdrawal from Iraq. No other war in thousands of years of history has ever had such a timetable announced to their enemies. Even if we intended to get out by a given date, there is not the slightest reason to tell the terrorists that. It is frivolous politics at its worst.
There has never been any reason to doubt that American troops will be removed from Iraq. They were removed after the first Gulf War. Before that, they were removed from Grenada and from other Western Hemisphere countries throughout the 20th century. Millions of American troops were removed from Europe after World War II.
Why should there be the slightest doubt that they will be removed from Iraq? The only question is whether you can run a war on a timetable like a railroad and whether you need to announce your plans to your enemies.
All this rhetoric about a withdrawal timetable is based on trying to make political hay out of the fact that the Iraq war is unpopular. But all wars have been unpopular with Americans, as they should be.
Even World War II, won by "the greatest generation," was never popular, though the home front was united behind the troops a lot better than today. The last shot of that war had barely been sounded before the cry arose to bring our boys back home.
The exuberant celebrations across this country when World War II ended showed that we weren't looking for more war or more conquests. We weren't even trying to hold on to all the territory we had conquered. There has probably never been a time in history when a military force in the millions was disbanded so quickly.
Even after the first Gulf War, with its quick success and low casualties, the biggest ovation that the first President Bush got when he addressed Congress afterwards was when he announced that our troops would start coming back home.
Those who discuss the current war in terms of frivolous talking points make a big deal out of the fact we have been in this war longer than in World War II. But, if we are serious, we would know that it is not the duration of a war that is crucial. It is how many lives it costs.
More than twice as many Marines were killed taking one island in the Pacific during World War II than all the Americans killed in the four years of the Iraq war. More Americans were killed in one day during the Civil War.
If we are going to discuss war, the least we can do is be serious.
Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate
Page Printed from: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/10/frivolous_politics.html at October 11, 2006 - 12:14:36 AM CDT
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Thomas Sowell on Political Realities
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Greetings, Dr. Groothuis.
There are several reasons to take issues with many of the points Mr. Sowell makes in his article.
First of all, he makes several points at the beginning of his article that are meant to set the tone for his interpretation of what is serious and what is frivolous. Like his contention that the claim that the administration revealed Valerie Plame's identity is bogus. I know that neocons make much of the fact that the reality-based community is deluded, but Scooter Libby was indeed Dick Cheney's chief of staff, before he resigned after his indictment by a Grand Jury for his role in "outing" Valerie Plame. Sowell's contention that Plame had a desk job with the CIA is also dubious.
Sowell also goes on to compare the Clinton-Lewinsky fiasco with the scandal currently involving former Rep. Foley. Last I checked, having an affair with an adult might be reprehensible but is not a crime under the law, whereas having or soliciting sex from a minor is a criminal offense. Of course, so is perjury, but like the brilliant British comedian Eddie Izzard I believe there ought to be degrees of perjury (For example, lying about life or death matters should be Perjury 1 and lying about your own private affairs should be Perjury 9.) Clinton could have better handled the situation by simply refusing to answer about something that should have been between regarded as a personal matter, one between him and his wife. Going back to Rep. Foley, his actions are particularly repugnant because he represents a party that claims superiority on moral issues. The fact that Foley and other Republicans have tried to turn this from a case of pedophilia, which it is, to a case of alcoholism, child abuse (by Foley's priest), and homosexuality shows just how enamored Republicans are with power and how low they are willing to go not to lose it. Talk about frivolity.
Interestingly, too, Sowell seems to think that a war's duration is a trivial matter, compared to the number of lives lost. Conveniently, Sowell just looks at the number of American lives lost, and so is able to minimize the seriousness of the war's opponents. He chooses not to mention, in the mold of the best spin doctors, Iraqi casualties, which an article in the British medical journal The Lancet sets at over 600,000. (Data used in the article was collected by Iraqi medical doctors and analyzed by the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. For those who are interested, the full report is available at http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/2006/images/10/11/human.cost.of.war.pdf)
All things considered, Mr. Sowell's distinction between serious and frivolous debate seems too partisan and self-serving to be taken seriously. In other words, it seems frivolous to me.
On a separate (but not entirely separate) note, I know that many conservatives hold the misguided belief that the war in Iraq is justified as part of the U.S. retaliation against the 9/11 attackers. It baffles me that Christians and other believers could defend the war in Iraq under the principles of the Just War doctrine, considering the disproportionate amount of Iraqi casualties compared to those sustained by the world in the 9/11 attacks, and particularly considering the fact that Iraqis, as even the President and Vice president have been forced to admit, had nothing to do with those attacks. I would like to hear other opinions on the matter.
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