Lawrence Kaplan, a prominent neocon hawk, published a rather interesting op-ed recently in the Washington Post.
The central claim of the piece is Kaplan's somewhat counter-intuitive conclusion that our citizenry would gladly accept losing 30,000 American dead in Iraq if such losses were required to achieve neocon strategic objectives. Kaplan denounces those arguing otherwise in particular, American military officers as constituting the ranks of the weak-kneed.
Now this Kaplan is hardly a marginal figure, being a Senior Editor of the New Republic, former top editor at Irving Kristol's National Interest, current op-ed columnist at the Post, and most significantly co-author with William Kristol of that definitive neocon text, THE WAR OVER IRAQ. Surely, he is one of the more prominent neocon voices on the subject. We may therefore safely assume that his views are generally in line with those of his ideological confederates.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the supposedly "massive" polling data Kaplan cites to support his controversial contention actually derives from the year 1999. Thus, while I and most other naïve observers at the tail end of the 1990s foolishly believed that the American public was focused mostly on the Internet Bubble and the embarrassing residuals from the Monica Lewinsky scandal, instead, America's voters actually thirsted with the desire to send their youth off to conquer and occupy Iraq, even if up to 30,000 of said youth subsequently returned home in body-bags. Presumably, the lack of reporting on this crucial popular sentiment may best be explained by the traditional liberal bias of America's elite media.
When we consider the huge rise of American patriotism and military commitment in the aftermath of September 11th, it seems likely that this convincing data from 1999 must surely understate the current mood to an enormous extent. Thus, I have little doubt that a similar study conducted today by Kaplan and his friends would discover Americans gladly willing to accept 300,000 or even 3,000,000 flag-draped coffins in order to achieve the neocon objective of implanting a Jeffersonian Democracy in Baghdad.
On the other hand, those of us among the "weak-kneed" who stubbornly doubt the reality of Kaplan's conclusions are faced with the puzzle of explaining his argument. The notorious brilliance of neocon policy thinkers and military strategists rules out the obvious explanation, namely one of sheer stupidity.
But perhaps a useful clue to an alternate hypothesis is that the piece appeared in print just as our Iraq Adventure seemed to be turning decidedly sour. Kaplan is probably a shrewd and rather cautious individual, and might be beginning to grow somewhat nervous that he and his fellows may soon face trial and execution for their promotion of this war.
And after all, it's never too soon to begin laying the groundwork for a reasonably plausible insanity defense.
April 14, 2004