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Iraq War: Can We Actually Have a Debate?

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Peggy Noonan simultaneously offers a reasonable position on politics and the war and imagines that we have another President, one capable of admitting that he has made mistakes:

It’s been an era of soft thinking and hard words. Those who opposed the war were weak and craven; those who supported it were dupes and bullies; those who came to oppose the war were cowards bowing to polls; those who continue to support it love all war all the time. Some of this was inevitable–the stakes could barely be higher; passions flare. But it’s not getting us anywhere. And it’s limiting debate. It’s making people fearful.

It is time for a kind of verbal amnesty in which thoughts are considered before motives are judged. An admission that the White House is as responsible for this situation as everyone else would help clear the air–and just might prompt some soul-searching in members of the audience. An honest plea here could break through the cement that has hardened over the debate. Who could answer harshly when a president who loves his country admitted the problem and pleaded for change? That’s what might really hit reset.

It’s a fair point. One of the unfortunate results of a closely-divided nation at war has been an almost complete absence of actual debate about the war. Both sides, though I am not willing to admit equally, have been content to sling ad hominem attacks and sound bites rather than substantive discussion as the war drags on. There are any number of reasons–the past six years of Republican ascendancy and Democratic anger, craven opponents of the war, unwilling to stand for their principles, shameless faux patriots calling opponents traitors for holding different views, to name a few.

There’s a lot of talk on both sides of the Iraq issue about what’s best for American soldiers. Naturally, each side hopes to present itself as the advocate for the troops. I suspect, however, that our troops would rather have thoughtful discussion than cheerleading and specious claims to represent their interests. It’s time for a national dialogue, meaningful debate and discussion about the war, about the vision for our nation’s foreign policy.

Divided government may be our best, last hope for the kind of discussion that needs to take place. Let’s hope our President–and his opponents–take this opportunity to engage each other in ideas, make concessions, and devise a plan that makes more sense than its TV news sound bite impact. If they don’t, perhaps words like “coward” and “traitor” aren’t hard enough.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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