Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stabbed in the Back!

The most powerful country with the most powerful army must have some powerful foes. These foes are so strong that their words or even their thoughts can endanger the war effort. This is the heart of the stabbed-in-the-back myth:
Advocate some momentarily popular but reckless policy. Deny culpability when that policy is exposed as disastrous. Blame the disaster on internal enemies who hate America. Repeat, always making sure to increase the number of internal enemies.
Yes, the enemies must be internal. This persecution-propaganda started in Germany after World War I, but soon became a tool of Republicans in the USA. The perfect example is the Vietnam War:

Vietnam was the sort of war Republicans had been clamoring to fight for two decades. A liberal administration had started it, with misplaced bravado, but it had been egged on—even dared—to take the plunge into full-scale war by prevailing right-wing dogma. When the war soured, Republicans first tried to blame not the failed premise of the domino theory or the flawed diplomacy of the Kennedy Administration or the near-universal American failure to recognize Vietnam's boundless desire for self-determination—no, it was the old fallbacks of appeasement, defeatism, and treachery in high places.

Once again, we were told that American troops were not being “allowed” to win, if they could not mine Haiphong harbor, or flatten Hanoi, or reduce all of North Vietnam to a parking lot. Yet Vietnam was a war with no real defeats on the ground. U.S. troops won every battle of any significance and inflicted exponentially greater casualties on the enemy than they suffered themselves. Even the great debacle of the war, the 1968 Tet offensive, ended with an overwhelming American military victory and the Viet Cong permanently expunged as an effective fighting force. It is difficult to claim betrayal when you do not lose a battle.

Despite successful battles, 21000 Americans were killed in Vietnam during Nixon's administration, and there were no Democrats to blame it on. Instead, blame was laid on bums, perverts, and spitting protesters.

To my readers, I'm not sure I even need to draw the parallels between The Vietnam War and The Iraq War -- The Harper's article linked above does it so well.

What I do find interesting, though, is how the stabbed-in-the-back myth relates to the recent New York Times article Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand. The article exposes how the Bush administration relied on military analysts, who often had investments in military contractors, to shape terrorism coverage from inside the mainstream media. Jon Stewart explains it with humor:

I realize that "managing the message" during wartime is not a new concept. However, this administration was in near hysterical frenzy at their approach to a "mindwar" -- using network TV and radio to “strengthen our national will to victory.” It was a psychological war against the American people. The analysts were looking back at Vietnam, blaming the failure on being "out Psyoped," and strategizing how to sell the war rather than how to win it.

Never blame foreign policy, bad intelligence, or lack of planning when you can blame the American people or at least a portion of them.

And now public discontent over the war in Iraq has reached a new peak. Why? Could it be that nobody is really paying attention to the "message-force multipliers"? Or maybe it's because many of the analysts eventually revolted. Maybe those geezers in the White House don't quite understand this whole blogging thing. The stabbed-in-the-back philosophy is as ingrained in the right-wing psyche as ever... but this stratagem is failing.

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