Tuesday, March 19, 2013

After A Decade Of Self-Delusion, The Beat Goes On... And On

The tragedy of our time is wrapped in two (2) senseless wars: Afghanistan and Iraq. The waste of lives and treasure is incomprehensible. How could we be so stupid? Duh! Look at The Dubster, The Dickster, The Rumster, Kinda-Lies-A-Lot Rice and their minions. The real tragedy is that — after more than 10 years of delusion — the POTUS 44 is trying to arrange a dignified withdrawal from Afghanistan, let alone Iraq. After all this nonsense, Iraq is allied with Iran in a Shi'ite bloc in the days to come. In Afghanistan, the saying among the Taliban has been that the NATO forces have the watches, but the Taliban has the time. After the NATO forces have left, the Taliban will swoop in to reestablish the most brutal regime since Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge executed an estimated 1 to 3 million people (out of a Cambodian population of slightly over 8 million). If this is a (fair & balanced) tale of sound and fury, signifying nothing, so be it.

[x The AS]
The New Greatest Rationalization
By William Deresiewicz

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Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. It will be interesting to see, if we note the day at all, what kinds of justifications the war’s apologists come up with now. For a remarkable thing about this adventure is that not even its proponents have been able to agree about its purpose—not before, during, or after.

We were going in because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. We were going in because he had links to Al Qaeda. But for many in or near the Bush administration, a grander purpose was afoot: to remake the Middle East in America’s image (and make it safe for Israel). Everybody wants to go to Baghdad, the saying went; real men want to go to Damascus and Tehran.

Others suspected different motives. Maureen Dowd pushed the Oedipal line: Bush was finishing the job his father had started. Geostrategists saw the issue in terms of oil. Forget about democracy, one of them said, we’re going to end up installing another strongman, another Saddam, only this time he’ll be our Saddam. Never mind the cynicism there—Saddam was our Saddam, until he got his own ideas.

Other things were going on, as well, I think, mainly to do (“real men”) with the crisis of national masculinity. Vietnam had left us feeling weak. The antidote became a series of little wars, whenever we were getting the vapors again, against absurdly inferior opponents. Margaret Thatcher showed the way with the Falklands Campaign in 1982. Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada, the following year, two days after the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut. Bush I, who had a “wimp” image to deal with, gave us Panama in 1989 and the Gulf War in 1991. The spectacles were tailored to the new age of media saturation, though it might have given pause that each was bigger than the last. Like an addict, we kept needing to increase the dose.

In any case, even the architects of the Iraq War were unable to agree upon a motive. Once the idea was floated (literally the day after 9/11), it seems to have become a policy upon which everyone was able to project their own agenda. After it became clear that no WMDs would be found, the story changed again. We were there as liberators, come to free the Iraqi people. The world was better off without Saddam; you wouldn’t want to have him back in Baghdad, would you?

Actually, I would. More than 4,000 American service members died in Iraq. Tens of thousands were wounded. Hundreds of thousands suffered psychological damage. The war will end up costing well over $3 trillion by the time the bills are finished being paid, decades in the future. If we could undo all that, I’d throw Saddam a tickertape parade. As for the Iraqis, maybe they are better off and maybe they are not, but since when is it a goal of American policy to rescue foreign nationals from their own governments? Only when it provides an excuse for something we want to do anyway. If we’re really so concerned about other people, why don’t we invade Zimbabwe?

Now that the troops are coming home, we’re onto a new dodge. Not the one about the Arab Spring—I’m not sure even Condoleezza Rice believes that. No, something still more obscene. “The New Greatest Generation,” Time proclaimed from its cover a couple of years ago, a phrase that’s since been echoed by Obama. The original term was bad enough, as a piece of sentimentality. At least that generation really was a generation, in the sense that everybody sacrificed. Now the idea seems to be that for the lucky 1 percent who served, Iraq was actually a killer job training program. The skills! The work ethic! The leadership abilities! See, it really was all for the best. Forget about the PTSD, the substance abuse, the suicide—the broken bodies, lives, and families. The war began as a massive act of self-delusion, and it is petering out in exactly the same way. Ω

[William Deresiewicz, formerly an associate professor of English at Yale University, is a widely published literary critic. His criticism directed at a popular audience appears in The Nation, The American Scholar, the London Review of Books, and The New York Times. Controversial, more often than not, his negative reviews of Terry Eagleton, Zadie Smith, and Richard Powers drew heated reactions within the literary community. In 2008 he was nominated for a National Magazine Award for reviews and criticism. Despite the publication of Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets by Columbia University Press in 2004, Deresiewicz was denied tenure at Yale in 2008. His most recent book is A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter (2011). He received both a BA and a PhD from Columbia University. Currently, William Deresiewicz blogs in The American Scholar (All Points) about American culture with new posts each Monday.]

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Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at sapper.blogspot.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

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