Friday, August 31, 2007


Nothing More Than Feelings

Senator Harry Reid, doubtlessly frustrated in his desire to concede to somebody on Iraq, decided to surrender to Republicans. (Remark courtesy of commenter Dave M at Strata-sphere.)

But here’s what struck me in the WaPo piece, the tale of how pro-war Reid became Johnny-come-lately, Johnny-give-up-your-guns:

Few Democrats have come as full circle on the war as Reid himself. On Oct. 10, 2002, as Senate minority whip, Reid became the most senior Democrat to endorse the war resolution. "They gave us the information, and I accepted what they told us," he explains.

It took a while to let go. "I did not wake up some morning and say, 'I oppose the war.' It built very slowly," Reid said.

One glimmer came when Frederick E. Pokorney Jr., a 31-year-old Marine from Tonopah, died on March 23, 2003; he was the first Nevada resident to be killed in Iraq. Reid called Wade Lieseke, the man Pokorney considered his father, to offer condolences. When Lieseke told him, "This war is worthless," he was taken aback. "I'm not sure that's right," he thought to himself. But with every new call, Reid later said, "I reflected back on that."

Reid also recalled his first visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "I say to this young man -- he's missing part of one leg and the other one's up in a sling, and I try to be nice -- 'I know we need to go get you more armor.' " The young man responded: "We don't need more armor. We need to get out of there." That comment lingered, too.

This March, the senator returned to Walter Reed, where he met a young Ohio man recovering from a bomb attack that had "vaporized" his friend. A 22-year Army veteran told Reid she had lost her memory because she'd been knocked unconscious so many times. Reid left the hospital and headed to the Senate floor, where he delivered a passionate speech in favor of Webb's bid for troop-deployment limits.

"That did it for me," Reid said of the Walter Reed visit. "I never looked back. I'm not really proud of the fact that it's taken me so long to realize how bad it's been, but I'm there."

One can imagine that Senator Reid has come into contact or received messages from many, many war veterans. My guess is, he’s gotten pro and anti-war feedback in proportions roughly equivalent to the attitudes prevalent in the military (overwhelmingly pro-mission and pro-victory).

Yet, all it takes is the first Nevada casualty to make Sen. Reid begin to second guess his decision. A couple more tragic outcomes or despair from individual soldiers, to turn against our efforts completely. The war surely “is lost” with leaders like Reid.

This is the fatal flaw in anti-war “feelings” in Congress and the American people. Feelings are a terrible basis for decision-making. You shouldn’t base foreign policy or war decision-making on feelings, any more than you should make other judgments of ethics or morality on emotions. Emotions can inform as to costs and impacts in human terms, but they fail miserably in matters of right and wrong.

Leaders, in Congress and elsewhere, need to be thinking and reasoning, not responding on the basis of pure emotion.

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