Plato’s Cave is from a story in book seven of Plato’s Republic. The postulate is, in short, that for people living in a cave all their lives, information from outside must seem like a fantasy. All they know is life in the cave, and a visitor from outside the cave trying to explain modern life to them would seem like a story teller, talking about a world that can’t really exist.
Most of us lead lives like those in the cave. We associate with people who agree with our world view, our colleagues generally agree with us, we read the newspapers which agree with us, and we are constantly reinforced by those opinions such that anyone suggesting an opposing point of view seems like an outside, spinning a fantasy. We get annoyed that someone is attempting to foist such a bizarre story on us, and look for reasons why that person would try to lie to us.
Most of us who have argued, one way or another, have positions which we have argued for years, and we are past the point where we question the assumptions upon which those arguments are based. Many of us also associate with friends and associates who agree with that position, and are thus reinforced as to the correctness of our point of view. We take comfort in the assurances we receive from our own group of people. Those who disagree with us, as in Plato’s Cave, we view as insane, deluded, or pursuing an agenda above and beyond the particular issues involved.
A thinking person is constantly checking his or her assumptions. This especially true with regards to world events; the assumptions we have made based on circumstances that existed in 2006 might not relate at all to events and circumstances that exist in 2007.
This brings us to the debate on Iraq. It seems to matter to no one that we are winning in Iraq. Everything written by people who are actually involved in our effort in Iraq supports that position. I have given evidence and signs here. There can be no doubt that the Iraq military situation, now, differs radically from the military situation that existed a year ago. There is optimism in Iraq. The American soldiers feel it, those tribes who used to support al Qaida feel it, and are now cooperating with the Iraqi government, the Iraqi people are feeling a new sense of nationhood, as evidenced by the euphoria shown by everyone in Iraq at the win of the Iraqi football team in the Asian Cup. Iraqis, for a brief instance, saw themselves as Iraqis, instead of members of one faction or another, and that is a wonderful sign. The American public sees it; new polls indicate that the American public is more optimistic about our ability to prosecute the war this month than they were three months ago, as we score victory after victory against the enemy. Indirectly, we can see the American press feeling the same optimism; one rarely sees news of Iraq in the press, an indication that there are no bombs going off, and no bad news to report.
We still see the constant drumbeat of defeat, though, from the Democratic Party, the American Left, and from the press. Slate magazine had an column by Fred Kaplan just last week describing how we couldn’t possibly win in Iraq, an article written by someone who obviously has little insight or understading of just what the current plan is all about
One can make the assumption from this that we are dealing with a group of people in a cave, here. The details of the situation in Iraq make no difference, they are content with the approval of their friends and associates, and think that anyone who has a different opinion is insane, or has an agenda. Whether or not they have spent any time examining the evidence, they know the answer, and do not feel the necessity of changing their opinion; to do so might indicate they are wrong, and that would be terrible.
This is not to suggest, of course, that supporters of the war do not live in their own caves. There are many people who support the war who work on unfounded assumptions based on a knee-jerk support of American policies. The facts, though, support the point of view of war supporters…and that makes for a big difference.
Worse is the press; they are caught up with the anti-war myth they have developed. Their credibility is not terribly good, anyway; readership in all newspapers is declining precipitously, as is advertising revenue, as people lose faith in the fairness and credibility of a medium which has been caught the internet being unfair and incredible time after time again. For the press to admit they have been wrong all the time with respect to Iraq would be an incredible blow to whatever credibility survives in the American heart for once great institutions such as the New York and Los Angeles Times, not to mention lesser publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The bottom line is that the war has changed since the appointment of General Petraeus, and the beginning of the surge, on July 1. We are, finally, taking control over Iraq, and the Iraqis are responding. Objectively, one can look at what is happening on the ground and feel much more hope than the despair that has gripped both nations for the past two years.
I challenge those who are opposed to the war to look at the information available, and make an objective decision as to the possibility of winning or losing the war. Look at Bill Roggio’s site, or Michael Yon’s site, or read the recent column by Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack, A War We Just Might Win. Tell us all why this information is wrong, why they must make the assumption, even with the information presented, that the war is lost. Give us the facts, not the unalloyed opinion, and we might listen. That cannot, of course, happen, because there are no such facts, but I would like to hear the attempt.