Tuesday, March 21, 2006

There's A Hole In The Bucket, Dear Rummy

The Cunning Realist makes a compelling argument that Donald Rumsfeld's frequent use of the "all hell will break loose if we leave Iraq" scare tactics are starting to wear thin. Said Rumsfeld on Sunday:

Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis.
According to The Cunning Realist, Rumsfeld has gone to the same Nazi/Hitler "well" on far too many occasions - to hype all manner of threat from Saddam, Osama and Zarqawi, to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Go check out his wryly humorous chronicling of Rummy's go-to analogy of choice.

I have already noted in the past, more than once, how Bush administration mouthpieces (notably Cheney and Rumsfeld) have been quick to trot out the "Osama will take over Iraq if we leave" canard in order to scare the populace into remaining resolute in Iraq. Rumsfeld's Hitler/Nazi scarecrow is of a similar vein.

The problem with these scare tactics are manifold. First, they create too high a probability for backlash if and when people realize that they've been manipulated. Think of the "mushroom cloud" dire warnings in the run-up to the Iraq war, and how people are starting to view such rhetoric now. What happens when the pendulum swings back from the exaggerated threat is that people can become overly skeptical or dismissive of legitimate concerns. Such quick-fix fear-mongering is as short-sighted tactically as it is short on factual basis.

In addition, this kind of demagoguery is an all to convenient means of cutting off much needed rational debate. How could one advocate the position of the Hitler-enabler or the accomplice of Osama in the face of such discussion-ending accusations? Yet rational debate is crucial both in advance of, and during, military engagements and other foreign policy endeavors. Open discourse, and a balanced and vigorous dialectic, create a process more conducive to the formation of successful, rational, empirically sound policies than would a fear-laced groupthink enforced with the frequent reference to this bogeyman or that.

Finally, at a time when America's leaders are trying to restore their tarnished credibility at home and abroad (the "tarnish" itself the result of the rhetorical tactics described above), in order to maintain and enlist support domestically and internationally for many vital missions, such nonsense from high ranking officials is hurting the cause. Statements such as these add to the impression that the speakers in question are overall lacking in trustworthiness - so the veracity of all manner of statements "related and not" are instantly called into question. Better to stick closer to actual facts and reasonable speculation. As Greg Djerejian noted in commenting on the same TCR post:
The stakes are already high, very high, without needing to make them sound artificially apocalyptic in scope. This rhetorical overdrive by the Secretary of Defense and Vice President, among others, is not doing them any favors vis-a-vis their already deeply wounded credibility, at least in the view of this little patch of cyberspace.
Nor this patch Greg. The Cunning Realist concludes his post thusly:
During the past few years in the U.S., we've witnessed state-sanctioned torture, extralegal domestic surveillance, a preemptive war based on false pretenses, and a party-above-nation cult of personality. Those who have noted the lessons learned from 1930's Germany have been dismissed as shrill or loony. So what do Rumsfeld's frequent and increasing use of Hitler analogies betray about him---his veracity, his character, his motives?
My only question is, is there an "all of the above"? Or at least an other option: his wisdom.

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