Better late than not at all

It probably can't be proven that Joe Klein is responding even obliquely to either Kevin Drum or Atrios with this rather pointed critique of "what it means to support the troops"...but in any event, he gets it pretty much right here. And he exposes Lieberman and McCain as a bonus. Nice.

Mission is a sacred word in the military. When you are given a mission, you are trained to complete it, to keep on trying new tactics until the objective is achieved. It is a matter of duty and honor. And so, when politicians criticize a mission, the reflexive military reaction is to assume they are acting dishonorably, putting politics above duty. This is a common attitude in the uniformed military, and it deserves a serious response.

And my response is that politicians have sacred missions too. Their duty is threefold: to be judicious about sending the troops off to war, to give the military everything it needs to complete the mission and, if it appears the mission is futile or compromised, to change it or end it. "You have to ask who is really undermining this mission?" says Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a West Point graduate. "Didn't the Bush Administration undermine it from the start by going to war without sufficient cause, without sufficient planning, without sufficient equipment for our troops? Even now, I would argue that the Bush Administration is undermining this surge by focusing merely on the military part of the mission, ignoring the need to reform the Iraqi government, to find a regional diplomatic solution and, of course, ignoring the real facts on the ground."

Oh, yeah: the bonus...

In the initial debate on Iraq war resolutions last week, Lieberman was at it again. The notably mild Warner-Levin resolution of disapproval would "discourage our troops and hearten our enemies," he said. A day later, I asked Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska about politicians--not Lieberman specifically--who made such statements. "They're despicable," he said, in a decidedly unsenatorial tone. "Those sorts of statements are the last refuge of a scoundrel. They suggest a lack of patriotism on the part of people like me and John Warner and Carl Levin. They hurt our democracy."

Lieberman's honorable, if mistaken, support for the war has curdled into demagoguery. Senator John McCain has taken a similar path, calling those who would vote for the resolution "intellectually dishonest." He suggests the "honest" path for surge opponents would be to go ahead and cut off funds for the war. But the Senators who favor Warner-Levin are pointedly opposed to immediate withdrawal from Iraq. So who's being intellectually dishonest here?

It can be argued that journalists have sacred missions too, kind of, sort of.

Klein fudges at the end of the article, leaving giving Lieberman the benefit of an unearned doubt...but as he said, it's pretty damn close. More of this - consistently - and I might be tempted to forgive him for Primary Colors.


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