Printer friendly version

April 15, 2004

When Rhetoric Exceeds Information

One point that the President addressed in his press conference spoke directly to something that's been bothering me of late:

Well, I -- first of all, that's up to General Abizaid, and he's clearly indicating that he may want more troops. It's coming up through the chain of command. If that's what he wants, that's what he gets. Generally, we've had about 115,000 troops in Iraq. There's 135,000 now, as a result of the changeover from one division to the next. If he wants to keep troops there to help, I'm more than willing to say, "Yes, General Abizaid."

Very few commenters, whether pundits or bloggers, have a basis to make declarations about force size. And even those with some expertise should still heavily qualify their analysis with contingencies and avoid heavy rhetoric. Unless a situation arises in which somebody important and involved in the effort — Gen. Abizaid, for example — is publicly turned down for a request, it seems a bit presumptuous to spew talking points. There are simply too many considerations involved, to most of which the public isn't privy.

Our duty, as citizens, is to be vigilant for problems, but it is far too easy to forget that part of the reason ours isn't a purely direct democracy — and that such responsibilities as war waging fall to the most singular branch of government — is the requirement of decisive action based on subtle information that is best kept out of public view.

Posted by Justin Katz at April 15, 2004 7:20 AM

"[...] such responsibilities as war waging fall to the most singular branch of government"

Unfortunately, the branch of government responsible for declaring war ceded its constitutional authority to the executive by providing him with a blank check.

Regardless of the Executive branch's responsibility to wage war, the legislative branch has a duty of oversight. And the American people have a right (I should say duty) to constantly question both. Every and any action of the federal government in a democracy such as ours is open to debate and criticism.

It's unfortunate that you seem to be saying, 'just shut up and let the experts handle it".

Posted by: Steve at April 15, 2004 8:08 AM


I wasn't talking about declaring war, nor about the bigger-picture strategies such as which nations to include among the enemy. I'm mainly referring to tendencies to rant about how many troops are where and with what, and I'm particularly reacting to such rants put forward as if a pundit with a distant view — even with information directly from individual military personnel in the theater — has the basis to declare as absolute error decisions by people with high-level access to intelligence and strategy guidelines.

There's overlap, of course, such as with the balance between air power and ground troops, but those will often grind down to differences of objective, which are fair game.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 15, 2004 11:25 AM