The rhetoric used to marginalize dissenting opinion and coddle the herd into
unity conformity is the same in Libya as it has been in other recent wars. I see two main tactics.
The first is the attempt to detract attention and emphasis away from any potential domestic concern about the war with nonchalant casualness. This was exemplified when Harry Ried last week said that the War Powers Resolution doesn’t apply in Libya because “We have no troops on the ground there, and this thing’s gonna be over before you know it anyways, so…” This is common: Don’t trouble yourselves with keeping your own government in check regarding war; this is no big thing and it will be over too soon to be worth any effort to stop it, so sit quiet. Not only did we hear this at the beginning of the war intervention in Libya (it will last “days, not weeks”), but we heard it in Iraq as well. Dick Cheney and other top Bush administration officials said the Iraq war would “last weeks, not months” while Don Rumsfeld said “It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” We’re now about 100 days into this conflict with no end in sight. Also under this category of enforcing conformity is the promise of no ground troops we’ve been hearing, despite some quiet admissions that we will in fact need ground troops. The goal is the same: this war is and will be small and insignificant; don’t you dare make a fuss about it.
The other tactic is to hint in some way that if you are against the war you’re supporting the enemy. Classic with-us-or-against-us Bush rhetoric as well as Hillary Clinton’s recent “Whose side are you on?” talk is the most egregious of this sort. But it has less potent forms like this recent piece in the Wall Street Journal (via):
The press corps is claiming that all this reflects “war weariness,” but the war in Libya will only drag on longer if Gadhafi and his bloody-minded sons have reason to believe that the Americans are divided. These resolutions will encourage our enemies to conclude that if they can only hold out for a few more weeks or months, the U.S. and NATO will give up and sue for peace. The House is also undermining the morale of Libya’s rebels, not to mention domestic support for the intervention.
If you are not convinced by the first tactic of enforcing conformity (that the war is no big thing, thus shut up), then you still should not express dissent because it will encourage the enemy or let them know our plans. Do not “undermine domestic support for the war” by telling the truth about it or pressuring officials to follow the law; we need that domestic support so keep the people ignorant and thus passively in support of our war dictates. This was common with Iraq too, as administration and military officials said withdrawals dates could never be discussed because that would tell the insurgents when we were leaving.
It seems clear these are just rhetorical tactics without any validity. The aim is to quell dissent and prevent those who might question war from acting in that regard. Congressional moves to end or limit the war are still ongoing, but we’ll have to see if these tactics are as successful as they have been in the past, or if the Libya adventure’s almost satire-like absurdity will continue to “undermine domestic support.”