In the Arena

Re: These Colors Don’t Run

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Oh, Ana, I disagree–and my disagreement is about substance rather than positioning. First of all, polls about complicated, emotional issues like the war in Iraq are unreliable. Most people have confused feelings–frustration, patriotism, anger–that simply can’t be quantified. I’d hate to see the results of a poll that asked: “Should we withdraw our troops immediately and bomb those damn Arabs back to the stone age?” At their best, polling questions tell only a sliver of a story: I’d guess that Democrats now have as much credibility about national security as Republicans because Republicans have lost all credibility, given Bush’s performance these past four years. Democrats certainly haven’t done very much to earn the public trust.
Attitudes about war and patriotism are notoriously volatile. Liberals were “right” about Vietnam, but they have paid a price ever since because they were so obnoxious about their correctness. The leftier liberals proceeded to see Vietnam in every American military initiative–the placement of Pershing missiles in Europe, Star Wars, the removal of Noriega, the first Gulf War–and they suffered as a result. Just because they’re right about Iraq, and about this escalation, it doesn’t mean they won’t be blamed by the public if the result of an American withdrawal is lethal chaos in the region and $200 per barrel oil. All I’m saying is that those who oppose the war now have a responsibility to (a) oppose it judiciously, without hateful or extreme rhetoric and (b) start thinking very hard–and in a very detailed way–about how we begin to recover from this mess.–Joe Klein