Vae Victus

Classical Musings on a Modern World - Politics, Military Analysis, Dog Training, and More

Location: Chicago, IL

I am a consultant from chicago where I live with my wife, our dog, and two cats

Friday, August 19, 2005

Yesterday I mentioned an article by Steve Chapman in the Tribune. While it would be interesting to go through his article point by point to discuss its accuracy and debate everything in the article, I thought it would be more interesting to discuss the style of debate that he utilizes.

Once upon a time the use of logic was a key component of a debate. You put together facts in a way that created an argument and a logical conclusion. That seems to no longer be popular in today's media. Instead, I see what I call argument by "assertion". I consider this to be when someone makes a flurry of debatable statements that may or may not be accurate. Instead of creating a logical argument that can be refuted, the writer tends to put forth all of these statments at once in a way that shows them to be inviolable truths that should not be questioned - and in such number that any opponent would have to spend all of their time questioning their accuracy. Chapman's article of 8/18 takes exactly that approach. His basic premise is to question the idea that we can win the war in Iraq. Indeed, he says that the administration is waiting for a "miracle". Why they would require a miracle he doesn't really say - rather, it is assumed or "asserted" to be a fact.,1,1829186.column?coll=chi-news-col

As I look at his article, I have a hard time finding one verifiable fact in the entire mess. Let's use first two paragraphs of the article as an example,

"`I think about Iraq every day--every single day." No, those were not the
words of peace activist Cindy Sheehan, who is camped out by the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, hoping for a meeting with the president so she can ask what her soldier son died for. Those were the words of the commander in chief back in June.

It's nice to know that President Bush can make time in his schedule to notice the war on a daily basis. But maybe the time to think was before he invaded. Then the nation wouldn't find itself in the awful predicament posed by a war we can't afford to lose and can't afford to win."

Where to begin with that? He takes a simple, straightforward statement by the President and twists it to mean that the President has given little thought to the war - now or before we invaded. In the process, he manages to mention Cindy Sheehan (but conveniently doesn't mention that Bush met her last year), and defines the war as one "we can't afford to lose and can't afford to win".. Whatever the hell that means.

Shockingly, the rest of the article is even worse. He talks about the polls (with no context provided for their numbers). He tries to make statements by Rumsfeld and Bush seem to be contradictory. Then finally, he gets to the what seems to be the most important point of his article: Public Support. Is he really analyzing the public support for the war objectively? Or is he cheerleading for the opposition? I think you can guess from the way the article is written what his true purpose is...

For instance, he states the war was, "supposed to be brief and easy". He provides NO support for that statement when a simple google search would provide plenty of evidence to the contrary. Bush has pretty straightforward on this taking a lot of time - and didn't waver when they said the initial war would be a "quagmire" either.

As I dug deeper, I searched for other articles that Chapman had written about the war. Back in 2002, Chapman wrote an article about Afghanistan when we went to war with Iraq and made the claim that we were losing focus in Afghanistan. He seemed to think we were going to cut and run. Fortunately that hasn't been the case for us at all.,1,5826896.column?coll=chi-news-col

I find his closing comments for this article to be very telling, "Once we find ourselves knee deep in postwar Iraq, though, we'll feel an irresistible impulse to do as little as possible and get out as soon as we can, without much regard for the consequences. That's what we always do." His implication being that we were dumping Afghanistan after going to war with Iraq. That hasn't proven to be the case.. and I doubt that his analysis of Iraq is any more accurate.


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