The last time I blogged about Dolchstosslegende--the "stab-in-the-back myth" by which conservatives convince themselves, and anyone who'll believe them, that America's military and foreign policy reversals (think: the post-War rise of Stalin's Soviet Union, the "fall" of China, on through Vietnam) could not possibly be the result of military failure, but only of betrayal from within--there was only the beginning of an indication that it was going to be expanded to "explain" the failure of Bush's war on terror and his war in Iraq.
(I say "expanded," rather than "invented" or "revived," since it was only a week after the September 11th attacks that Andrew Sullivan wrote:
The middle part of the country -- the great red zone that voted for Bush -- is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead -- and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column. But by striking at the heart of New York City, the terrorists ensured that at least one deep segment of the country ill-disposed toward a new president is now the most passionate in his defense.
Since then, of course, in large part because he discovered that it was his own ox that was being gored, Sullivan has joined the majority of Americans, moving to opposition to the Iraq war and criticism of the Bush administration more generally. But he hasn't retracted the "fifth column" smear.)
But two years ago, the time of the last post on the topic, a lot of things hadn't hit the fan yet: Bush's popularity hadn't tanked and the Republicans hadn't lost control of Congress, making it somewhat more difficult (but obviously not impossible, unfortunately) for Bush to get his way on matters Iraq; Bush hadn't petulantly launched his "surge," the results of which appear more doubtful every day; allies hadn't begun disappearing, through troop withdrawals or defeat at the election box. And--here's the kicker--Americans had only begun to register their dissatisfaction with Bush's failed policies.
Military theorists from Sun Tsu to Carl von Clausewitz have pointed out that a nation's ability to wage war successfully depends upon government policy, military strategy, and popular support. But conservatives refuse to question their man's policies; nor will they consider the possibility that the military leadership deserves anything remotely resembling blame for the five-year mess in Iraq.
Guess who that leaves? Consider yourself warned.
From TomDisptach.com, Lt. Col. William J. Astore (Ret.) updates the "stab-in-the-back myth," measuring its increased popularity in the last two years:
Is an American version of this myth really emerging then? Let's listen in on a recent Jim Lehrer interview with Senator John McCain, who, while officially convinced that the President's surge plan in Iraq was working, couldn't seem to help talking about how we might yet lose. His remarks quickly took a disturbing turn as he pointed out that our Achilles' heel in Iraq is… well, we the people of the United States and our growing impatience with the war. And the historical analogy he employed was Vietnam, the catalyst for the deployment of the previous American Dolchstoßlegende.
Bush's war can't succeed without support, or at least tolerance, from the American people. But they--we--have made our rejection of the war clear for over a year now. And how is that fact shaping American politics today? Here's part of the answer:
Fear of being labeled "the enemy within" is already silently reshaping our politics as even decorated combat veterans like Congressman (and retired Marine Corps colonel) John Murtha are not immune from being smeared for criticizing the President's war. Politicians recognize that, in a campaign, it is well-nigh impossible to overcome charges of weakness and pusillanimity. Senator Hillary Clinton senses that she may be unelectable unless she argues for us to continue to fight the good fight in Iraq, albeit more intelligently. In fact, if you're looking for significant changes in troop levels or strategy there, better hunker in for Inauguration Day 2009 -- and then prepare to wait some more.
[C]onsider yourself warned. If we lose Iraq, you're to blame.
And even though the Iraq debacle will magically become your fault, don't expect Bush to give you a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Not after you betrayed your country.