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Partisans and Politics

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This is low hanging fruit, but it’s important nevertheless:

Bush Says Democrats Are Playing Politics on Iraq
President Bush assailed Democrats anew about Iraq today, accusing them of choosing to indulge in a political debate over troop withdrawals rather than giving the troops what they need to carry out their mission. President Bush spoke in the Rose Garden today.

“It is time to rise above partisanship, stand behind our troops in the field and give them everything they need to succeed,” Mr. Bush said in the White House Rose Garden. The president said he was conveying a message from the veterans and military support organizations he met this morning.

Right, because war isn’t political, and the conduct of war shouldn’t be the subject of political debate. That’s a farcically absurd argument, but one that seems to hold some currency in contemporary political debate. If the President had said something like “Democrats are endangering our troops for partisan gain,” I’d disagree and accuse him of the most wretched hypocrisy, but would allow at least that it was a reasonable position to put forth. This is much worse, though; it’s an effort (not just by Bush, but by a long line of others) to try to place the most consequential activity that a state can engage in beyond the realm of ordinary democratic politics. While accusations of partisanship are ordinary democratic politics, arguing that war is beyond the political is almost fascist, in addition to being downright stupid.

This is why The Utility of Force is a useful book. A student read my review of it, and responded “It was interesting, but do you really need to read anything but the introduction? The rest is just Clausewitz.” I don’t think that’s quite right, but even if it were, the problem is that not so many people read Clausewitz; there is no meaningful way in which war and politics can be separated. War is inherently political, and as such every aspect of it ought to be subject to political debate in a democracy.

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