ON DISSENT

Norman Mitchell (via RCP) argues that anti-war protesters are helping Saddam:

When you protest now, you encourage Saddam Hussein, giving him the impression he enjoys more support here than he actually does. You are simply prolonging the war, not shortening it.

Our troops do hear about protesters. As a veteran, I can say that it does zero for their morale. You might say you are supporting our troops and want to bring them home today. But if we hadn’t brought our troops home early 12 years ago, we would not be in our present situation.

For those of who say you are antiwar without being pro-Saddam, well, you can’t have it both ways. Without the war, Saddam lives to fight another day, and with bigger weapons.

This argument, of which Mitchell’s is a fairly banal archetype, troubles me somewhat because it intermingles truth with an implied lie. Yes, demonstrating against the war helps boost the credibility of the enemy. Yes, if the protests are sufficiently large, they could have a minor impact on the morale of the troops, although not as much as they might have in the days of the draft. And I certainly agree that being anti-Saddam but being unwilling to do anything to stop him is rather like being anti-abortion but “pro choice.”

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.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War,
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.