It was only for the duration of one sentence, though. In reference to Michael Steele’s claim that Afghanistan is “a war of Obama’s choosing,” Coulter has declared that “Michael Steele was absolutely right.” She does not mean, of course, that Steele suggested that Obama invaded Afghanistan. That would be absurd. She means that “Afghanistan is Obama’s war and, judging by other recent Democratic ventures in military affairs, isn’t likely to turn out well.”
Let’s ignore the second clause in that sentence, just for a second, in the interest of not shooting a rage beam out of our eyes and burning a hole in our computer screen. We will come back to you, second clause in that sentence. In the meantime, I’d like to consider Coulter’s apparent thesis, which she maintains for all of 1.5 paragraphs: that the President and his administration have chosen to focus on the war in Afghanistan rather than the war in Iraq.
That also seems to have been the intended premise of Steele’s remarks, with the implicit conclusion that Afghanistan is a bad idea. Here we agree: Afghanistan is totally a bad idea. Where Steele runs afoul of sense—and where Coulter calls sense, says she wants to hang out, suggests a romantic dinner, texts sense to say that she’s going to be an hour or so late, then sends a picture message of herself banging sense’s roommate—is in suggesting that the intractable quagmire that is our adventure in that country is somehow Obama’s fault. And I quote:
Yes, Bush invaded Afghanistan soon after 9/11. Within the first few months we had toppled the Taliban, killed or captured hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters and arranged for democratic elections, resulting in an American-friendly government. Then Bush declared success and turned his attention to Iraq, leaving minimal troops behind in Afghanistan to prevent Osama bin Laden from regrouping, swat down al-Qaeda fighters and gather intelligence.
If I had never heard of the American war in Afghanistan, I would consider that a resounding success. My enthusiasm would become only slightly confused when I learned that, after pretty much polishing the whole thing off in the first few months, Bush opted to remain in the country for another seven years. That was probably just to gather intelligence, though—presumably items like “Hamid Karzai is corrupt and hates us” and “warlords still control half the country.” Coulter commends the Bush administration* for recognizing that Afghanistan was not a good candidate for nation-building, unlike Iraq. Straw man, deploy!
By contrast, Iraq had a young, educated, pro-Western populace that was ideal for regime change… Iraq also was a state sponsor of terrorism; was attempting to build nuclear weapons (according to endless bipartisan investigations in this country and in Britain—thanks, liberals!)…[snip]
And the rage beam comes into focus once more. Coulter’s argument that Iraq was ideal for regime change seems somewhat tenuous, given that nation-building in that country has not proven significantly easier than it was in Afghanistan. Technically we’ve been in the second country longer, but so far that’s only because we got there first.
The real eye-gouger in the passage above, of course, is the implication that liberals were somehow responsible for the incorrect belief that Iraq was making nuclear weapons. Coulter manages to simultaneously A) criticize them for advancing that falsehood and B) present it as one of her own arguments. It may have been technically true that Saddam Hussein wanted to build a nuclear weapons, but only in the sense that a raccoon wants to cook a turkey.
The rest of Coulter’s column is devoted to presenting Iraq as the good war, which she identifies with Bush and conservatives, and Afghanistan as the touchy-feely exercise in liberal nation-building, which she identifies with Obama. She also lays into Bill Kristol. My eyes kept unfocusing while I was reading it, and except insofar as I enjoy feeling angry, it is of little value.
It does, however, demonstrate the degree to which the conservative commentary has become a form of entertainment rather than discourse. Crazy though she may be, Coulter is a lawyer, and she must understand that her arguments maintain almost no logical coherence. Like Steele, she is interested in fitting the facts to the theme rather than thinking of ways we might actually have a better country. That’s the difference between argument and entertainment. It’s also the difference between an Ann Coulter or a Rush Limbaugh and someone like Kristol, who—as consistently as I disagree with him—is trying to relate his positions to actual things that happen. If this country is going to have an actual discourse rather than just competing shows, we should probably stop talking all insane.