Ted has expanded his thoughts on his previous post about using historical examples to augment our understanding of the current situation in Iraq. I thought this was very helpful in clarifying what he was getting at, particularly his point that Rome spent a lot of time, blood and treasure holding on to its possessions.
I will only take issue with one point he makes.
Dean's proposal is not disengagement. It's redeployment. I think it's a good step. I never said cut and run, I never said throw in the towel. I'd hate to live somwhere where any divergence from the party line is immediately labelled defeatist or dangerous. That's smells like McCarthyism. That smells like intollerance. Hate driven by fear.
There are two issues here. One, is Dean's proposal being mischaracterized as disengagement. Second, is whether the furor over his comments is indicative of a general climate where dissent is squashed.
On the first issue, my opinion is that Dean, Murtha, Pelosi and Kerry are, in fact, advocating disengagement and that disengagement is dangerous at this point. Parking the troops in Kuwait is disengaging. How are you going to fight Zarqawi or ex-Baathists, who are in Baghdad and the Sunni triangle, when your troops are in Kuwait City? It's not physically possible. If we play this scenario out, the primary way that U.S. troops exert influence from Kuwait is when the situation in Iraq deteriorates to the point where we must go back in. What is the tactical or strategic point of withdrawing if we have to do that again? We also run the risk that withdrawing leaves a security gap that the "insurgents" can exploit to control large areas of the country. This would probably lead, over time, to a re-invasion by U.S. troops. I just don't see what tactical or strategic advantage there is to "re-deployment." I see only downsides. Since we are withdrawing for no advantage except to take our troops out of the combat theater before it has stabilized or victory is achieved, I view that as cutting and running. And I also believe that Zarqawi and many in the Middle East see it as further confirmation that the U.S. will never stay if you hit them with guerrilla tactics.
On the second issue, I think we need to retire the tired trope of McCarthyism. If Dean wants to say something, he has to be prepared for dissent. Having people disagree with and criticize your opinions is not McCarthyism. Having your ideas be unpopular is not McCarthyism. I don't agree with the overheated "un-patriotic" comments that many on the right make, but that's not McCarthyism either. Those people are just kooks. There are plenty on the Left who have no qualms about comparing Bush to Hitler. I don't think they are engaging in McCarthyism either.
Nobody is preventing Dean or any other Democratic leaders from expressing their opinions. Nobody is being censored. Nobody is being thrown out of jobs or blacklisted because of their anti-war comments. What Dean said is unpopular with a great many people and they are expressing their opinions.
With all due respect to Ted, I think raising the specter of McCarthyism and intolerance is kind of like throwing out the "racism" charge. It freezes discourse and makes it difficult to proceed. It's a way of saying, "I can criticize the Republicans all I want, but if they criticize me, it's censorship and witch hunting."