Look Through Your March 2003 Archives Game

Jim Henley promises to play the “Look Through Your March 2003 Archives” game over the weekend. I decided to go ahead and do it now.

OTB was in its infancy then, having started January 31st. It was then a solo-author blog, featuring yours truly at his most prolific. (It was also on BlogSpot, but the archives have all been imported. That’s why the strange double-headline look and the total lack of comments.) It’d take me hours to look at everything I wrote that month but, here are some highlights of the good, the bad, and the ugly from the last ten days or so.

The Ugly is represented, appropriately enough, by a post entitled WARS ARE UGLY from Sunday the 30th. In it, I take on a column by Jim Webb, who is now my junior Senator, in which he was pointing out the similarities between the then-new Iraq War and Vietnam. My analysis still strikes me as reasonable, with the glaring exception of the close:

In Vietnam, we were fighting to maintain an artificial border between North and South Vietnam. Here, we are fighting for regime change. That means that, unlike the queasy goals of Vietnam which were primarily about winning hearts and minds and achieving body counts, there is a simple, measurable target this time around.

While true enough at the time, it has long ceased being the case.

The Bad: A March 20 piece entitled, “WAR OF THE HAPPY IRAQIS,” challenging Howard Fineman’s assertion that President Bush is waging his presidency, the global economy and American credibilty on the assumption that Iraqis be thrilled to be liberated and thus retroactively legitimate the war effort. My take:

While, clearly, it would be a terrific public relations coup if Iraqis are dancing in the streets when this is over—and I believe they will indeed do so—that is not primarily what this war is about. Further, a quick, relatively bloodless war will bolster Bush’s domestic popularity and allow the economy to regenerate regardless of the Iraqi reaction.

While there was indeed much dancing in the streets in the early days of liberation, the rest of that couldn’t have been more wrong. Ouch.

The Good is represented by a piece entitled, “ON DISSENT” from Saturday the 30th, which closes,

I dissent, however, from the subtext of this argument: that those who oppose this war are thereby anti-American and against our troops. Clearly, some protesters are. But I suspect most of them are well-intentioned people who are either against war in general, have misguided notions of what constitutes a legitimate threat, or have an unrealistic faith in the power of toothless diplomacy. I think most of the protests—indeed, most demonstrations in general—are rather asinine. They accomplish nothing but disrupt traffic, waste police resources, and provide fodder for ridicule. For the most part, they elevate symbolism and emotionalism over rational debate, which I disdain regardless of the cause.

I still stand by that. [Update: This was a consistent position. In a 19 March post “DIXIE CHICKS ,” I wrote:

Country music fans are dissing the band after their recent anti-Bush comments. A rally in central Kentucky took a steamroller to some of their CD’s, and several radio stations are boycotting their music. Frankly, I find it all rather silly. I’ve never been a big fan of the group, which to me sounds like a slightly twangy Sheryl Crow but with a chunky lead singer. But I don’t care about their politics. Steve Earle, for example, is a complete wacko strung out on enough drugs to kill a horse, but he’s a terrific songwriter. And what steamrolling records you once liked and for which you have paid money is supposed to accomplish, I’ll never know. Most protests, even for causes I like, wind up being pretty damned silly. I suspect there were people at the rally dressed in turtle costumes with signs saying, “No justice, no peace” and “No blood for oil!”


I’m also still pleased with, “PERFIDY,” from Friday the 28th challenging William Saletin’s assertion that we didn’t screw over the Shi’a in 1991.

Clearly, in context of a war against Saddam Hussein with 600,000-odd US military personnel in the theater, it was a reasonable leap of logic to presume Bush would help back an uprising. While there is merit to the argument we should have stayed out of Baghdad given our initial promise to do so, one would think that outweighed by a second promise upon which thousands reasonably risked their lives relying upon. Perhaps that second promise should not have been made given the first. It was. Sometimes, breaking a promise is permissible when the circumstances that one based it on have changed. They had: We had encouraged an uprising against our enemy and then our enemy, predictably, acted to brutually supress those uprisings. At that point, our moral obligation to defend the weak overrode our moral obligation to mind our own business.

A March 20 piece, “THE MINDS OF OUR TROOPS,” which I won’t bother to excerpt here, was one that helped put me on the map in those early days, getting recognition by quite a few of the major bloggers of the day.

In the category of Bring Back That Old Time Blogging, I submit “MEDIA ON MEDIA,” also from Saturday the 30th. The post, in its entirety:

Washington Times reports the press corps dismisses complaints that they’re reporting the war unfairly. I guess they would know. My apologies for any unkind words I may have written about the media.

I’m also pleased with this quip from March 28th: “To say Reuters is biased is like saying that France isn’t a true friend of the United States.”

Even a cursory look at my March 2003 archives reveals that I used to write a lot more pithy posts. I need to do more of that. On the other hand, there was a lot more navel gazing about who was blogrolling the site, how much traffic it was getting, and the like. We’re not doing much of that these days, and it’s probably a good thing.

I got through roughly the last third of March in picking out those posts. There’s plenty more where that came from.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    My guess is that one of the reasons you’re less concerned about traffic these days, James, is the million hits a month you’re getting. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I started my own tiny blog in March, 2004, so, obviously, I have no 2003 archives to review. One of the reasons I did so was that I saw so much of the discourse becoming increasingly shrill and partisan. OTB continues to be one of the exceptions to that. Plenty partisan but never shrill and a (mostly) sensible commentariat.

  2. Tlaloc says:

    If I may, Mr Joyner, I would liken you to the Kevin Drum of the right. That’s a compliment. I might disagree with him from time to time but he strikes me as intelligent, and most importantly these days, intellectually honest.

    I get the same sense of you. Although I disagree with your take rather more often than drums I still get the sense that you are neither an idiot nor a partisan hack. The same thing that has driven me away from reading sites like powerline and redstate (of late) has pushed me toward your site.

    Kudos on that.

    But don’t let it swell your head, you’re still wrong on most issues ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. kenny says:

    “are well-intentioned people who are either against war in general, have misguided notions of what constitutes a legitimate threat, or have an unrealistic faith in the power of toothless diplomacy”

    Well the first group i agree about.
    The 2nd group it seems to me had a better idea of what constituted a ‘legitimate threat’ than you did.

    And are the third group any worse or better than those who have an unrealistic faith in the power of brute force?(and in this case they were right).

    “To say Reuters is biased is like saying that France isnโ€™t a true friend of the United States.”

    Where by ‘true friend’ you mean someone who’ll cheer on you on even if they think you’re heading for a disaster?