Peggy Noonan looks at images of that bloodied, stunned five-year-old boy in Aleppo and wonders why politicians won't denounce war:
War is terrible. It abuses the innocent and takes their lives, it wastes all kinds of treasure, it kills generations and whole cultures. It strikes me as rather mad that our candidates for commander in chief of the most powerful armed forces in the world don’t ever simply think aloud about this.
About 18 months ago I asked a potential Republican presidential candidate, in conversation, if he hated war. He got the dart-eyed look politicians get when they sense a trick question. This startled me. How do you not know the answer? After a few seconds I said, “This is not a trick question.” I explained I was thinking of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said, “I hate war” ...
The potential candidate then stuttered that of course he doesn’t like war, but sometimes it’s necessary. Well, yes, sometimes it is. But why would you fear stating that war is hell, and hell ain’t where we want to be?
A noble sentiment -- but the answer is obvious.
In the last half-century, there's been a lot of skepticism about war on the left, while on the right there's mostly been bellicosity wrapped in the mantle of patriotism and triumph. Peggy Noonan is a woman of the right, and she's eagerly waved flags and rattled sabers along with her compatriots. If you don't support our wars, or at least our Republican wars, Noonan and the rest of the right will denounce you as a traitor, a wimp, and a civilization-destoying monster. A public that has internalized pro-war right-wing propaganda for decades will agree.
So on March 24, 2003, just after the Iraq War began, here was Peggy Noonan showing us how much she hates war:
So far so good. The war has begun, and the world hasn’t ended (alarmists, pessimists and prophets on left and right please note)....
We are about to startle and reorder the world. We are going to win this thing, and in the winning of it we are going to reinspire civilized people across the globe. We’re going to give the world a lift.
This is what the American victory in Iraq is going to mean:
It is going to mean, first, that something good happened. This sounds small but is huge.... The coming victory is going to be the biggest good thing that has happened in the world, the West and the United States since the twin towers fell.
Here's Noonan a few weeks later, when it became obvious that the war would not be a cakewalk:
The second Gulf War will not be quick. And one senses no one will doubt, when it was over, that every medal was earned.
But the long haul is going to mean and demonstrate more than that. A resentful world is about to see that America had to fight for it. They are about to see America could fight for it -- that we had and have the stomach for a struggle. Our implacable foes and sometimes doubting friends will see that America’s armed forces don’t just shock and awe, we stay and fight.
The world will be reminded that America still knows how to suffer. In a county as in an individual, the ability to withstand pain -- the ability to suffer -- says a great deal about character. It speaks of maturity and courage, among other things. The world knew half a century ago that America will absorb pain to reach progress. It is not all bad that they are seeing it again.
And those who didn't think that justified an invasion? Well, they were the enemy:
The biggest threat to America now, apart from Iraqi regulars and irregulars, is not a person but a phenomenon. It is the twisting or abusing of facts to underscore a point of view one wishes to see disseminated. I mean propaganda. The antiwar left did not pick up its marbles and go home when the war began. They just went home and waited for something bad to happen that they could exploit. They have it now: a war that is taking time and producing deaths on the field.
The antiwar left has shown precious little interest in or compassion for members of the U.S. armed services. And yet you can bet the farm that they are about to discover a great warm hearted concern as the bodies of American fighters come home. The left is going to use those deaths as propaganda in their attempts to stop the war.
So people suffer greatly in war, but you're a lily-livered quisling and hater of your country if you respond to that suffering with revulsion, Noonan said in 2003. Thirteen years later, she wonders why American politicians won't weep at a bloodied war casualty.
And on the subject of Peggy Noonan and war, one must always remember this chestnut, written after George W. Bush won the 2004 election as a war president:
About a year ago I was visiting West Point, and I was talking to a big officer, a general or colonel. But he had the medals and ribbons and the stature, and he asked me what I thought of President Bush. I tried to explain what most impressed me about Mr. Bush, and I kept falling back on words like “courage” and “guts.” I wasn’t capturing the special quality Mr. Bush has of making a tough decision and then staying with it if he thinks it’s right and paying the price even when the price is high and --
I stopped speaking for a moment. There was silence. And then the general said, “You mean he’s got two of ’em.” And I laughed and said yes, that’s exactly what I mean.
Does Peggy Noonan hate war? Only when it suits her.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog