Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Dick Lugar boldly redefines “success,” “satisfy,” “American people”

Posted in Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Democrats, Republicans, war, War on Terror, world by allisonkilkenny on June 20, 2010

Now matter how fast he ran, the dictionary kept making swift gains

Here’s a strange one. Today, Candy Crowly interviewed Senators Lieberman, Murkowski, Feinstein, and Lugar, and somehow managed to survive to tell the tale of it. Feinstein and Lugar specifically talked about Afghanistan, and Candy pointed out how the whole thing has turned into a bottomless quagmire of despair and suffering.

My words, not hers. Feinstein thinks people like me are Negative Nellies. I guess she was included in this conversation as the “liberal” answer to the Republicans’ crazies, but honestly, she sounded like a chickenhawk most of the time. The Taliban is bad. Really, Diane? I had no idea. I thought all that acid they threw in the faces of schoolgirls was part of an exfoliation regimen.

But the gold medal for “What’d He Say?” in punditry excellence goes to Dick Lugar for this exchange. My comments [in brackets]:

CROWLEY: Senator Lugar, she paints a pretty grim picture about a war that’s been going on for nine-plus years. [Again, I thought Feinstein was pretty conservative in her language, but then again, I’m a shrill, hysterical, irrational leftist agent]. If had you to say, on this day I will know that the U.S. has succeed and we can begin bringing troops home, what would that day look like?

LUGAR: Well, your question implies that we’ve defined success, and we’ve never got to that point. That’s a part of our problem, that we’re going to have, as a government, whether it be the president or the Congress, to define success in a way in which the American people find this to be satisfying. Otherwise we’ll continue to argue about the date of withdrawal or how fast, or how — whether we surge more or less, without ever having defined exactly what it is hope from Afghanistan. [What’d he say?]

Wait, what? The only barometer we have for “success,” which, btw, we haven’t even defined, is the satisfaction of the American people? So basically, whatever the American people desire shall by default become the parameters of “success.”

That’s a weird philosophy considering most Americans are not military or foreign policy experts. In fact, they elect leaders supposedly because The Smarts People are The Best Leaders. But as it turns out, Dicky Lugar says whatever the American people dream of whilst curled up in their fluffy beds is now the definition of “victory” in the Middle East.

Okay, so what do the people want? Well, they seem to hate the war, but they’re conflicted about if the US should leave or not. Nothing seems to be getting done, but they’re not entirely sure the US shouldn’t be involved in the region (perhaps because so many lives and so much money have been lost, they don’t wish to concede total defeat). Check it:


“All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, or not?”

Not worth
% % %
6/3-6/10 44 53 3
4/22-25/10 45 52 3


“Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?”

Favor Oppose Unsure
% % %
5/21-23/10 42 56 2
3/19-21/10 48 49 3


“Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the situation in Afghanistan?”
Approve Disapprove Unsure
% % %
4/14-19/10 49 39 12
3/22-23/10 52 36 12
“Do you think the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting the war in Afghanistan now, or should the U.S. not be involved in Afghanistan now?”
Doing the
right thing
Should not
be involved
% % %
4/14-19/10 56 36 8
3/22-23/10 55 37 8
“Do you think eliminating the threat from terrorists operating from Afghanistan is a worthwhile goal for American troops to fight and possibly die for or not?”
Is not
% % %
4/14-19/10 61 31 8
12/1-6/09 64 30 6

A lot of these polls are pretty misleading because the companies that do the polling rarely ask point black if people approve of the idea of the war. They usually ask “Do you approve of Obama’s handling of the war?” This doesn’t give us a good idea if people actually like the war. We just learn if they approve or disapprove of Obama’s handling of it, which could mean lots of things. Maybe they’re anti-war, or maybe they’re pro-war, but just think Obama’s being a pussy leader. Or maybe they’re pro-war, and think Obama is doing a bang-up job.

The question is presented with the undercurrent that war itself is an inevitable, permanent state. Posing the question: “Should we be at war?” is the pondering of silly, radical leftists. The war is going to continue. We just need to know if you think Guy A or Guy B would do a better job deploying the troops.

But the shard of insight we do get into the American psyche reveals a confused, angry populace. Eliminating the threat from terrorists operating from Afghanistan is a worthwhile goal for American troops, says the people. Except, that doesn’t appear to be the goal of the mission any longer – at least according to Lugar.

“Success” has never been defined, and Obama almost immediately backed away from the existential “War on Terror” to rebrand the Forever Wars as the “Overseas Contingency Operation,” a classic Obama move to repaint a Bush era policy in a thoroughly vanilla title that made 90 percent of the press corps black out whilst reading.

And if the American people think the goal of the war is to “eliminate the threat of terrorists,” by bombing civilians and devastating communities, thereby making it easier for terrorists to recruit, they are engaging in the worst, most destructive kind of circular reasoning. If only there were smart, super educated, skilled people to point out this fallacy to them- Oh! Nevermind. Those people have no idea what they’re doing, either.

So here we have the American people making the incredible gesture of good faith by offering their sons, daughters, and tax dollars to a “mission,” which usually possesses the implicit characterization of having “goals,” that the people have elected their leaders to define. Their leaders, specifically Dick Lugar, stare blankly back at them, and say they never bothered to define success. Not only that, but it’s sorta up to the common folk to write up their wish list that will “satisfy them,” and that shall become “success in Afghanistan.”

Holy shit. The bus is on fire and no one is at the wheel.

3 Responses

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  1. Ignatius Crumwald said, on June 20, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Don’t be so shrill, Allison.
    He just assumes the American people want what he wants: A platter of tater-tots, a cereal bowl filled to the brim with ketchup, and puffy stickers as far as the eye can see… You know, the American dream.

  2. Trefor said, on June 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    I love this poll line and how it is totally begging the question:

    “Do you think eliminating the threat from terrorists operating from Afghanistan is a worthwhile goal for American troops to fight and possibly die for or not?”

    The implicit assumption of course being that our actions in Afghanistan actually does eliminate this terrorist threat instead of galvanizing anti american sentiment and possibly increasing the threat of terrorism on the united states not just in afghanistan but throughout the middle east and central asia.

    As for the topic, it is probably a truism that the vaguer and more poorly defined the objectives of a war are the less legitimate it is from any sort of moral standpoint and as the military power in the world has become increasingly unipolar the justifications for war have become increasingly loosely defined and even abstract. The belligerents are no longer concrete things like say japanese or german imperialism in ww2 or even somewhat kinda sort maybe defined things like “communism” but total abstractions like “War on Terror”, “War on Drugs” and “Humanitarian War”. We fight for loose concepts now, not for reasons.

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