Costs of COIN

Here's the crucial part of Armed Liberal's dismissal of folks upset about the fact that teevee networks were putting "military analysts" up on screen purporting to be neutral observers when they were, in fact, acting as administration spokespeople:

I don’t think it’s wrong to be concerned about the government shaping the news. I think it’s necessary to shape perception as a part of any successful counterinsurgency.

Unfortunately, I think there's a lot of truth to this. If you think, as John McCain and George Bush and about 30 percent of Americans do, that an indefinite American military operation in Iraq is a good idea then you need to engage in a lot of propaganda operations. After all, realistically we are much more likely to leave Iraq because politicians representing the views of the 70 percent of the public who doesn't think that an indefinite American military operation in Iraq is a good idea than we are to be literally driven out by Iraqis who oppose the U.S. presence.

This is just one of the ways in which a protracted Iraq-style engagement tends to undermine the small-d and small-r democratic and republican values on which the country was founded. You see this in the way that David Petraeus has become a key official administration spokesman and you see it in the Times story about semi-covert operations happening on our cable networks. During Vietnam, of course, we had the government's security apparatus spending time working against anti-war groups, and for all we know this sort of thing is why the Bush administration is so eager to wiretap people without warrants.

This is the kind of thing that happens when an ongoing war becomes a key subject of political controversy, but at least the Civil War and World War I were conflicts that ended. The hawks' vision of a "Long War" means that we can expect them to continue these kind of emergency measures and abuses forever and ever.