The linchpin of a republic under civilian rule — as well as faith in the armed services by a cross-section of Americans — is an apolitical military.

So declares self-styled constitutional scholar Glenn Greenwald.
Greenwald has an earlier post here in which he makes the same argument.
In the traditional, World War II sense, “apolitical” meant staying out of ordinary domestic partisan politics. Military leaders tend to shy away from making political endorsements, and thus Eisenhower would have been unlikely to tell the troops which party to vote for, notwithstanding his personal beliefs.
However, because it is the job of the military to fight and win wars, matters that go to the heart of the war — such as wartime propaganda — are not ordinary partisan politics. For example, in World War II, the United States had to contend with enemy propaganda, and enemy propagandists. Tokyo Rose and Lord Haw-Haw are two examples. It is always the job of the military to oppose and counter enemy propaganda by any means possible. This is all the more true in a propaganda war, which the current war is.
Factor in the maxim that war is the continuation of politics by other means, and Greenwald’s sanctimonious moral posture becomes questionable, if not disingenuous.
What bothers me the most about Greenwald’s argument is that he goes out of his way to take the side of an accused enemy propagandist, Bilal Hussein, who has been detained in Iraq for being a suspected terrorist agent.

After right-wing blogs loudly complained for months about the supposedly Terrorist-sympathizing journalism of Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein in Iraq, the U.S. military in Iraq detained him with no charges (and, just by the way, continues to detain him for a year-and-a-half now with no charges). While the military refused to talk to A.P. or any other press outlets about its photojournalist, they leaked the story of his detention to Michelle Malkin — one of the principal agitators who had spent months calling Hussein a Terrorist-lover and calling for his arrest — and then, with her military-delivered scoop, she excitedly announced his detention.

The idea that “right wing blogs” give the military their marching orders and tell them who to arrest is so absurd on its face that I don’t think it requires extended comment. Except Greenwald is making it, and presumably there are people who agree with him.
I guess that means I should at least disabuse readers of the idea that Hussein was arrested pursuant to some order issued by General Malkin. According to the Wiki entry, Michele Malkin was not even present at the scene of his capture, but only blogged about it later (presumably from the United States). Moreover, the military claims to have found Hussein with an al-Qaida leader:

The military said that Hussein was found with two insurgents, including Hamid Hamad Motib, an alleged leader of al-Qaida forces in Iraq.[1] According to a May 7, 2006 e-mail from U.S. Army Major General Jack Gardner, “He has close relationships with persons known to be responsible for kidnappings, smuggling, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and other attacks on coalition forces.”[1] Gardner continued, “The information available establishes that he has relationships with insurgents and is afforded access to insurgent activities outside the normal scope afforded to journalists conducting legitimate activities.”[1]

Now, I don’t know what access Greenwald has to classified material. I have none, and not only do I lack a security clearance, I’m not what anyone would call a “war blogger,” although I am a war supporter. I have to assume that Greenwald is in no more position to know the facts of the Hussein capture than any other blogger, because he doesn’t cite any special evidence for his position that the military detention of Bilal Hussein is wrong other than the recital that there are “no charges.” I don’t know whether that’s true, but I would note that prisoners of war are also typically held with “no charges.” Other than that, he asserts a connection between the following:

  • “right wing bloggers” complained; and
  • the military detained this guy.
  • To Greenwald, this is evidence that the military has been “politicized.”
    OK, let’s look at the “sides” in this political partisanship equation. On one “side” are the supporters of Bilal Hussein, and on the other are those who think that he should be released because the military has no right to hold him.
    Sorry, but I don’t think these two “sides” constitute political partisanship — certainly not in the traditional context. Let’s compare Bilal Hussein to Tokyo Rose. While she was arrested — and “detained for a year by the U.S. military” — this was after World War II had ended. But let’s suppose that she’d been grabbed earlier, and detained. Without charges. Suppose some anti-war group had formed a “Tokyo Rose Freedom Committee.” While that could have been considered “politics,” I submit that to call it the sort of politics implicated in the “apolitical” tradition Greenwald invokes is to torture the primary role of the military in war, which is to win.
    I realize that the debate over the war is inherently political, but I don’t think the debate over how the military fights war propaganda (or propaganda which helps the enemy) is quite the same thing. Yet Greenwald claims that support for an enemy propagandist constitutes “politics,” and that by taking action against a suspected enemy propagandist (and by refusing to cooperate with his sympathizers), the military is being partisan.
    Would it have been “partisan politics” for the military to refuse to cooperate with, say, reporters for the German American Bund during World War II, or Communist reporters (say, the People’s Daily) during the Korean or Vietnam wars? I don’t see how.
    An additional problem is the reduction of this issue to “right wing” and “left wing.”
    How, pray tell, is Greenwald defining right wing blogs? Pro-military blogs that wants the United States to succeed in the war? Greenwald gives a clear hint that he defines right wing as pro-war when he complains that “the military had even been providing conference calls and other briefing sessions seemingly reserved exclusively for right-wing, pro-war bloggers.”
    Does this mean that if the military does not want to deal with anti-military, anti-war blogs that wants the United States to fail in the war, that they are behaving in a political manner?
    I have a question about right wing versus left wing.
    How is support for this war any more “right wing” than support for the war against Nazi Germany or imperial Japan?
    Are Democrats who support this war to be considered right wing also? This is no exercise in sophistry or rhetorical hair-splitting, and not only because there are still a number of pro-war Democrats.
    Yesterday, I wrote a post about the right wing anti-war movement, which is growing. There are the Buchananites, the MSU-YAF people, the Ron Paul people, the libertarian people, and there are a number of right wing 9/11 Truther types. All of these groups (and I’m sure there are more) are right wing, and anti-war.
    On top of that, look at the inherent nature of the enemy. People who want to impose a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship which oppresses women, executes gays, forbids theater, film, and music and all sorts of personal freedom can be called a lot of things. I call them “Islamofascists,” and while I realize not everyone uses that word, they are certainly far right in the conventional sense of the word, and I see no way that any reasonable person could consider them left wing. Thus, it is fully legitimate to say that the U.S. military is to the left of the enemy it is fighting.
    For all these reasons, I think the claim that “pro-war” is synonymous with “right wing” is bogus and misleading.
    However, if the goal is to accuse the military of being politicized, then by all means it is necessary to insinuate right versus left into these things.
    Considering the totality of the circumstances, is it entirely fair to consider Glenn Greenwald a left wing shill?
    Seriously, can’t he also be seen as a right wing shill?
    I really think he can. (Although it’s getting tougher and tougher to know the difference between reality and sarcasm.)
    On the other hand, I hate to further politicize what Greenwald is already doing his best to politicize.
    But then, I’m not the one who declared that supporting the war is “right wing.”
    UPDATE: Anyone who thinks being pro-war or anti-war comes down to a neat little question of Republican versus Democrat should read this:

    White was one of about 300 people who attended the anti-war rally in downtown Orlando. Many at the rally said Democrats need to do more to bring the troops home.
    “I’m at a loss,” said Nancy O’Byrne, a Democrat from St. Augustine who attended the United for Peace and Justice rally. “Democrats aren’t any better on the war issue than the Republicans. Very few would get our troops out and home and not leave any behind. A lot of candidates are backpedaling on their stance on the war and I’m not sure why. Seventy percent of Americans want this war to end.”

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.) I’m sure most Republicans want it to end.
    The question is under what circumstances. Most Democrats supported this war when it started…..
    UPDATE: Thanks to Lance at A Second Hand Conjecture for the link!