The Opposite of “Support”

By Callimachus | Related entries in Media

… is no longer “oppose.”

I’m interested in the choice of words in this lede from an article in the “St. Louis Post-Dispatch”:

WASHINGTON â€â€? The administration’s talk about sharply reducing the number of American troops in Iraq starting as early as next spring gets a strong endorsement from military experts, both those who support the war and those who question it.

The newspaper’s writer chooses to see the spectrum of opinion about the Iraq War as black and white. Or rather, black and gray. On the one side, people “support” the war. The opposite of “support” typically is “oppose.” But not here. Here they merely “question” it.

Do none of these “experts” who question the war go so far as to oppose it? Do none who support it ever question it — I support it, and I constantly question that support, checking it against the shifting realities. I have met people online who began by supporting the war and who then came to oppose it by process of questioning. Andrew Sullivan does this several times in the time it takes to watch a baseball game.

I think I just spent more time thinking about this choice of words than did the writer who actually made the choice. But if I’m right, that — the reflexive nature of the writing — is why this choice of two words is an insight into newsroom mentalities.


* * *

For proof that “supporters” do, in fact, “question,” consider Michael Young reviewing “Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco” by David L. Phillips.

His conclusion: “For those who supported the war and still do â€â€? present company included â€â€? Phillips’ book makes for arduous but obligatory reading.” I’m not sure I would agree with them that dissolving the Baath Party and the armed forces were “irresponsible moves,” especially compared to not dissolving them. But, overall, Young makes his points well. It’s a sobering assessment.

For all the hopes it placed in Iraq, the Bush administration fouled up when it could have avoided doing so. Phillips’ book is a reminder that Iraq was not necessarily about neo-colonialism, oil, Israel, or racism toward Arabs. Yet those are the reasons often cited to explain American difficulties in Iraq, as if they mandated divine retribution for hubris. U.S. hubris was certainly a factor in the downward spiral in Iraq, but as Phillips makes clear, success was always achievable. He does not use principle to blame the administration; he questions its competence, while accepting that Saddam had to be overthrown. What makes Phillips’ book so damaging is that it was written by a onetime believer.

Young and Phillips, however, do not occupy the same ground as the anti-war cassandra crowd that opposed the whole enterprise before it happened. In fact, Young suggests what has gone right — such as the January 30 election and the ripples of democracy throughout the region — were exactly the outcomes the anti-war voices were most certain would not happen.

These two, and others like them, see Iraq as a grand opportunity “botched,” one that, at best, will improve the Islamic Middle East in many senses, but worsen it in some others. The failure, such as it has been, lay in the execution, not the conception.


This entry was posted on Friday, July 29th, 2005 and is filed under Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “The Opposite of “Support””

  1. Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Says:

    The “failure of execution” is actually a mislabelled demand for Unreal Perfection.
    If an Iraq Constitution is approved, and a multi-party, Free Press country of Iraq evolves with less than 2500 US soldiers killed, it is a HUGE success for Bush, Rumsfeld, and the USA (and the world, AND especially Iraq).

    Where has it been done better? What would non-failure have looked like? If these questions are not explicitly answered, the criticism of Bush is more like whining about the costs. Any policy involves costs; except Unreal Perfection.

    “Not enough troops” — for Occupation. There were plenty for Liberation; and the fault for the terrorists is on the mostly Iraqi Sunni Arabs who support the terrorists.

    I question Bush, and his execution, and try to quantify what failure would look like — “too many” soldiers being killed. So far, it looks like success. Because America can NOT win in Iraq — only Iraqis can win. America can choose to stay and help democratic Iraqis win; or leave too soon and let the death squad Iraqis win.

    Like America let death squad Vietnamese win, 30 years ago.

  2. Callimachus Says:

    Because America can NOT win in Iraq � only Iraqis can win. America can choose to stay and help democratic Iraqis win; or leave too soon and let the death squad Iraqis win.

    Exactly. That’s about the wisest, and most terse, summation I’ve read of the current situation.

  3. Joshua Says:


    WASHINGTON � The administration’s talk about sharply reducing the number of American troops in Iraq starting as early as next spring gets a strong endorsement from military experts, both those who support the war and those who question it.

    The newspaper’s writer chooses to see the spectrum of opinion about the Iraq War as black and white. Or rather, black and gray. On the one side, people “support� the war. The opposite of “support� typically is “oppose.� But not here. Here they merely “question� it.

    That’s not the only way to interpret the author’s choice of words. Maybe their talk isn’t being endorsed by those who flat-out oppose the war (who presumably would want the troops to come home now, not next spring). Or maybe no military experts known to the author have gone on record as explicitly opposing the war.

    Or, as I suspect, maybe the author is treating “question” and “oppose” as though they are synonymous, at least as far as the Iraq war is concerned. The implication of this: Those who support the war must have never seriously questioned it, and those who do seriously question the war are bound to oppose it. A false dichotomy, to be sure, but given how the news media thrives on conflict, not a surprising one.

Leave a Reply


NOTE TO COMMENTERS:


You must ALWAYS fill in the two word CAPTCHA below to submit a comment. And if this is your first time commenting on Donklephant, it will be held in a moderation queue for approval. Please don't resubmit the same comment a couple times. We'll get around to moderating it soon enough.


Also, sometimes even if you've commented before, it may still get placed in a moderation queue and/or sent to the spam folder. If it's just in moderation queue, it'll be published, but it may be deleted if it lands in the spam folder. My apologies if this happens but there are some keywords that push it into the spam folder.


One last note, we will not tolerate comments that disparage people based on age, sex, handicap, race, color, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry. We reserve the right to delete these comments and ban the people who make them from ever commenting here again.


Thanks for understanding and have a pleasurable commenting experience.


Related Posts: