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TSE  September 2002

TSE September 2002

Subject:

Re: Twain on War--OT or not?

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Mon, 30 Sep 2002 18:02:30 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (59 lines)

Nancy Gish wrote:
>
> I would like to take credit, but everyone calls them that.
>
> I also wish you would acknowledge my constant point about polls and who
> actually supports W.  It seems to drop down a well that Americans DO
> NOT support unilateral action.  48% is less than half as it happens.

Actually it's hard to know what Americans do and do not support -- but
Nancy's point about polls is of extreme importance.

First there are two of the traditional critiques of them:

1. They only tell you what people are thinking the exact moment the
pollster asks the question (and the present is already the past,
always).

2. More complex. Consider the difference between the following two
questions:

        a) Would you support risking large u.s. casualties and probably the
semi-permanent stationing of u.s. troops as an army of occupation in
Iraq in order to get rid of Saddam?

        b) Would you be willing to risk large u.s. casualties to prevent a
nuclear attack on the United States?

The contrast here is really not too extreme. In the ordinary course of
polling questions _always_ get loaded in that way.

[ALSO: A fairly new consideration. The proliferation of Caller ID and
Answer machines in recent years is setting the polling industry back 66
years. The Literary Digest in 1936 used telephone polling and predicted
a Landon landslide in the 1936 election. Gallop, just starting out, used
door-to-door polling. (In 1936 telephone owners, on the whole, were
rather better off financially.) But then in the last 40 years or so
telephone surveys became more dependable than door-to-door. But now
people aren't answering the phone. Disaster impends for the polling
industry.]

But regardless of passive public opinion, wars are hard to stop once
they start. Aside from being a truly great work of literature, Grant's
Memoirs also contain a wonderful comment on the Mexican War. He said
that it was the most unjust war ever fought by a large nation against a
small. He also said that once fighting started it was futile to oppose a
war.

I disagree that it is utterly futile, but it is incredibly difficult. I
(partly quite consciously, partly as an unintended consequence) more or
less threw away a career in opposing the Vietnam War. I don't regret it,
but still. . . . The turning point for me, the invasion of the Dominican
Republic, came just a few months before my 35th birthday, or as Dante
said "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita."

Carrol

P.S. Have any of you ever read what Major General Smedley Butler (the
most decorated marine in the history of the corps) had to say in his
memoirs about his military service? I'll look it up.

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