Posted by Chris at 6/7/2007 1:50 PM ...
In recent months we've seen an upswing in the numbers of conservative politicians and members of military harping on the idea that the media or liberals are preventing the United States from winning in Iraq by sapping the public will, thus "helping the terrorists win". Some individuals even seem to think that media coverage and honest disagreement are part of some underhanded campaign.
This is nothing new, but it is a very old tactic in the hands of conservative politicians, most famously by German Conservative and National Socialists under then Wiemar Republic. In that case the German collapse at the end of World War I came so quickly that it seemed obvious to soldiers and war supporters that some hidden enemy was the cause of Germany's defeat. The scapegoats included Communists, Socialists, Liberals, and Jews. While the fate of Germany's Jews in the Holocaust is well understood, all of these groups, particularly Communists faced threats, arrest, political persecution, and murder.
In the United States, the most well-known example of the Stabbed in the Back meme is post-Vietnam claims that the United States was winning the war, but that evening news coverage of the war sapped the public will, causing our withdrawal from the conflict. This line of reasoning focuses on the idea that the 1968 Tet Offensive was a military vistory for the United States aganist both the North Vietnamese Army and The Viet Cong (which was mostly wiped out afterward), but the shock of seeing it live and in color on television tricked the American public into turning against the war. This interpretation of the outcome of the Vietnam War is so ingrained in the national consciousness that it is simply accepted as fact without any further investigation by many ordinary Americans.
This important to us now not only because it is creeping back into the mindset of soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq to the point that they discuss it in the press, and that individuals on Michelle Malkin's website openly call politicians opposed to the war traitors, but because Republican candidates for President arel aying the groundwork for accusing both the media and Democrats for losing in Iraq by continuing to claim that we must fight al-Qaeda in Iraq or do so at home.
Interestingly, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is taking the opposite tack, emphasizing to the troops that the media and politicians are not the enemy, but part of the solution to the war in Iraq. This is doubly important on the heels of Pentagon posters that group the media and al-Qaeda as "non-traditional enemies".