Sunday, March 30, 2008

Harvard Study Links Anti-Resolve Rhetoric to Increased Violence

I can tell from the response to this column that I really struck a nerve with liberals. Guess the truth hurts, especially when confronted with the consequences of action. Some edited and printed version varied from this one and gave the impression that I was trying to endorse squashing dissent on the war, which the column clearly does not do; I would never take such a position, I fought for freedom of speech.

I have been accused of talking over the heads of some at times and I appear to have done that here. So, I'll clarify the four main points on this column for those who had this zip over their heads:
1. Arguing that we should not have gone into Iraq is a valid argument, but it is pointless with regard to solving the current conflict. Making an argument about what we should not have done 5 years ago does not address what we should do now.
2. History and this Harvard study show that anti-resolve rhetoric encourages the enemy in the kind of fight the war on terrorism is. It's an argument I've been making for four years.
3. You are more than free to dissent and protest, but you must also be aware that there are consequences for doing so, those include increased violence.
4. The dissent encourages the enemy to keep fighting.

The criticism about the war in Iraq often crosses the line from pure debate into an unwarranted concession of will and a lack of resolve in the face of terrorists.

There are some whose positions so blatantly argue for defeat at the hands of terrorists that there is no need to even extend them the courtesy of a benefit of the doubt. They simply want us to lose this war. Their rhetoric matches that position.

A recently published study from Harvard points out the danger in such statements. This rhetoric is music to the ears of the terrorists in Iraq.

For those who deny terrorists are in Iraq, those who are still trying to argue 2003 all over again, and those who ignorantly believe it’s a myth that there could be any terrorists in Iraq, wake up to the current situation and quit trying to make the irrelevant five year old argument. If defeating Al Qaeda everywhere in the world actually matters, then it no longer matters if they were in Iraq in 2003 because they are, without doubt, there now. They, along with Iranian backed terrorists, need to be defeated in Iraq.

So why are these opposing positions and statements which demonstrate a lack of resolve music to the ears of terrorists?

Because the method by which lesser military powers (terrorists organizations included) defeat far greater powers is by employing the tactics of an insurgency, the aim of which is not to defeat the greater power militarily, but to crush the will and resolve of that nation’s people.

Statements which show a lack of resolve for our nation’s victory only serve to embolden the enemy during this kind of fight. It gives them exactly what they seek. The defeatist rhetoric from here gives the terrorists what they need because it can ultimately lead to their victory.

They are not trying to defeat our military. They are trying to defeat the will of the American people. Some people happily oblige them and capitulate, and in doing so encourage the terrorists to keep fighting.

I have had some heated exchanges on the subject with politicians, their staffs, and other anti-victory individuals. Others who understand the war against terrorists have also had those same debates.

Last week Harvard confirmed what we inherently knew from our fight against the terrorists in Iraq, the history of insurgencies, and understanding of those motivations which drive the terrorists.

As reported by the UPI, the Harvard research shows that the negative public debate about Iraq has “a measurable ‘emboldenment effect’ on insurgents there.”

The study tracked “anti-resolve” statements by politicians and reports about public opinion to test the belief that criticism of our policy in Iraq encourages the insurgents.

They found “in periods immediately after a spike in anti-resolve statements, the level of insurgent attacks increased between 7 percent and 10 percent.”

”The study also found that attacks increased more in parts of Iraq where there is greater access to international news media, which its authors say increases the credibility of their findings.”

The authors identify an “emboldenment effect by comparing whether anti-resolve statements … have differential impacts on the rate of insurgent attacks in areas with higher and lower access to information about U.S. news.”

They also believe their data tells them that “insurgents in Iraq are rational actors -- responding strategically to changing perceptions of their enemy's will to fight.”

In simple terms, the study shows that where insurgents have the capability to hear the anti-war rhetoric and anti-resolve statements from our country, they are emboldened to attack even more. They also adjust their strategy based on what they hear emanating from our country.

The study’s authors cite their concern that the data will affect the debate on the war, military strategy, and foreign policy. Rightfully so; criticism and debate should not be crushed and the military is always looking for better ways to fight.

But the study does illustrate the danger of crossing the line and demonstrating a lack of resolve, thereby giving the enemy the motivation they need to keep fighting, which is exactly what many of us have repeatedly argued the defeatist crowd is doing.

This study should also tell the defeatists that if they truly want the war in Iraq to end, instead of demanding that we surrender, they should stop emboldening the enemy to keep fighting.

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