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The Anti-Warists Talk Mean

June 27, 2007

National Review Online is waging a war on grammars with the title and subtitle combination “Winning the Iraq Wars: All of its many fronts.” in which Victor Davis Hanson reminds US why we continue to occupy Iraq.

[Emphasis added in all cases below.]

The present fighting is part of a fourth war for Iraq: Gulf War I, the twelve years of no-fly zones, the three-week war in 2003, and now the three-year-old insurrection that followed the removal of Saddam Hussein.

All this war numbering reeks of padding the stats. I remember reading that the War on Terror™— which we’ll later learn either encompasses or is interchangeable with Iraq —is actually World War 4. (We won WW3, the cold war.) At least if we lose in Iraq this time we’ll still be 3-1 in wars on Iraq.

But this last and most desperate struggle, unlike the others, is being waged on several fronts.

First, of course, is the fighting itself to preserve the elected democracy of Iraq. Twenty-five-hundred Americans have died for that idea — the chance of freedom for 26 million Iraqis, and the more long-term notion that the Arab Middle East’s first democracy will end the false dichotomy of Islamic theocracy or dictatorship. That non-choice was the embryo for the events of September 11.

After reading that last paragraph twenty five times, I think I understand what it says.

Don’t ask.

As for that embryo? We should have aborted it back in the eighties when we realized that Bin Laden was the daddy, rather then nourishing his hell spawn as it gestated in the womb of Soviet occupied Afghanistan. But then vitriolic Western Lefties like me wouldn’t have understood the moral complexities of that conflict any more than we do the current one…

Although it is not the sort of conventional war that Westerners excel at — the enemy has no uniforms, state organization, or real army — our military has performed brilliantly. Past mistakes made were largely political, such as not quickly turning over control to an interim Iraqi government in summer 2003 while allowing the Iraqis sole public exposure.

But these were tactical and procedural, not moral, errors. They have only delayed, but not aborted, the emergence of a stable democratic Iraqi government. For all the propaganda of al Jazeera, the wounded pride of the Arab Street, or the vitriol of the Western Left, years from now the truth will remain that our soldiers did not come to plunder or colonize, but were willing to die for others’ freedom when few others would. Neither Michael Moore nor Noam Chomsky can change that, because it is not opinion, but truth — something that the Greeks rightly defined as “not forgetting” or “something that cannot be forgotten” (alêtheia).

Clever. All philosophical truth statements should be phrased so that to disagree with them is to impugn the earnestness of our military servicemen and women. Of course “our soldiers did not come to plunder or colonize.” They came because they were ordered to Iraq by a civilian administration in the service of myriad institutions and interests, with myriad motives, many of which include, quite apparently, plundering.

Presented as it is, Hanson implies without saying it outright that: Our leaders didn’t develop an Iraq policy of preemptive military action and indefinite occupation because it would enable selected institutions to “plunder or colonize” Iraq; but to Protect Freedom.

I’m not sure that statements of The Other’s motives count as philosophical truth statements, (unknowable!) but to put forth the above sentiment as a true answer to the question “Why is there an Iraq War?” seems less than serious and obfuscates the real truth of the matter, whatever that may be.

It would almost seem pointless to continue with what follows from this ridiculous thesis, but…

Note also that after the hysteria over body armor and unarmored humvees, the Democratic opposition offers no real concrete alternatives to the present policy.

Why not? Because there are none.

The choices are really only two: either leave right away and quit the war on terror, or train the Iraqis and draw down carefully as planned all along. The Democrats will clamor for the former. But when put in the public spotlight, they will hold off from Vietnam-style funding cut-offs to claim credit for the success of the latter.

I don’t know, that sounds like one of them non-choice, false dichotomies that inseminate the embryos of terror. (Oh, wait it’s only “terror” when they do it.) Told you it would come back to the War on Terror™ though, didn’t I.

To recap: we have Iraq War 4 inside World War 4 (War on Terror™.) BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

There is a second war, one being waged over public opinion. It is critical, considering that we are in a non-conventional struggle of attrition that requires the American people to support a far-away war where movement and front lines are irrelevant. And it is sadly being lost — at least if polls are correct that only around 40 percent of the citizenry still supports the idea of finishing the war in Iraq.

Regrettably, there has not been successful and constant explication of why we are in Iraq. Yet, because George Bush is in his second term, and is not Clintonian in obsession with polls and being liked, he can still guarantee the military two more years to stabilize the country. Then the hope is that the Iraqis will be able to secure their democracy in the future with a small number of American advisors and civilian aides, which might allow Iraq an opportunity something akin to that offered to the postwar Balkans.

I vomit a little everytime I read that the only reason that we can be sure not to abandon our noble goals in Iraq in the short term, at least, is that George Bush is nobody’s bitch. Incidentally, this is also likely the reason “there has not been successful and constant [or honest] explication of why we are in Iraq,” wise guy. But it’s not just because George Bush is nobody’s bitch that we will stay in Iraq, it’s that the Dems in congress will not do anything about it. “They will hold off from Vietnam-style funding cut-offs to claim credit for the success of [the president’s brilliant and thus far wildly successful war plan,]” right? Who will be the bitch then?

There is a third war: that for the larger future of the Middle East. Pessimists point to the Gulf, Egyptian, and North African autocracies. And they see there only failure in the American efforts at democratization.

But the point is not to see Rotary Clubs and school boards sprouting up in the failed states of the Middle East. Instead, we can be happy enough with the beginning of the end of the old “stability” that nurtured terrorism. The public is nursed on news of car bombs, and the tired canard that supporting democracy always ensures perpetual Islamism. But if we remain calm and rational, then we can already see signs of real change in the unease and agitation of the Middle East, from Libya to Lebanon. All this was unleashed by the removal of Saddam Hussein and the American effort to stay on to foster something different despite base slurs, escalating oil prices, and the politicization of the war in a soon to be third wartime national election.

We are bringing Universal Freedom to the Iraqi people! But we can be “happy enough” with destabilizing the region just enough that it doesn’t nurture terrorism anymore. Aside from the increase in world terrorist attacks since the war started, we’re well on the way to reaching this objective. Sort of. Well, the destabilizing part anyway.

“Libya to Lebanon”? I’ll give him Lebanon, but is Libya even in the Middle East?

Libya to Lebanon

“Base slurs” is another phrase I had to read several times to register. I kept reading it as an odd way to phrase “denigration of the US establishment of large military bases in Iraq for the purpose of long term occupation,” but I think it just means “vituperative foul-mouthed insults from The Left/the Arab Street/the Terrorists,” or some shit.

Nascent democracy is the reason that Afghans and Iraqis, alone in the Middle East, get up each morning and risk their lives to hunt down Islamic terrorists. For all the mess on the West Bank, it was only the free elections that brought in Hamas which offered the Palestinians the opportunity of self-expression. And now they alone suffer the responsibility to live with the economic and military consequences of their disastrous decision. Perhaps they may wish to reconsider next election.

Arafat’s pernicious façade of a “legitimate” government that “sincerely” tried to rein in “rogue” elements is now shattered in both Europe and America. After the Palestinians willingly voted a terrorist government into power, the Hamas politicians are simply fulfilling campaign pledges and doing what terrorists always do: rocketing civilians, murdering, and kidnapping. And now, since there is no more shady, so-called “Hamas,” but only the Hamas-led legitimate government of Palestine, there may be soon a conventional struggle at last, between two sovereign and legitimate states. Such are the wages of moral clarity that accrue from democracy.

Another embryo that should have been aborted long ago, but was ripe for a late-termer back during the first 8 months of 2001 when the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the most visible and one of the most urgent problems the world faced, but which a new US president deciderated to utterly ignore. (Or was it look the other way while our friend Israel did some stuff?)

Finally, we are witnessing a larger existential war, in which Iraq is the central, but not the only, theater. Put simply: will the spreading affluence and liberality of Westernization undermine the 8th-century mentality of the Islamists more quickly than their terrorists, armed with Western weapons, prey on the ennui of a postmodern Europe and America — with our large gullible populations that either don’t believe we are in a real war, or think that we should not be?

Americans know exactly the creed of the Islamists and what they have in store for us nonbelievers. Yet if we are not infidels, can we at least be fideles? That is, can we any longer articulate what we believe in, and whether it is worth defending?

Oh shit. I, like, totally agree! There is a worthy struggle at hand: modernization and liberal democracy versus the “8th-century mentality” of extremists.

My question is this: can a “postmodern Europe and America” bomb modernization and liberal democracy into a people? Or is it more likely we will bomb them back into the stone age?

The problem is not that the majority of Americans have voiced doubts about the future of Iraq — arguments over self-interest and values happen in every long war when the battlefield does not daily bring back good news.

Instead, the worry is that too many have misdirected their anger at the very culture that produced and nourished them. Sen. Kennedy could have objected to Abu Ghraib — so far the subject of nine government inquiries — without comparing the incident to the mass murdering of Saddam Hussein.

Sen. Durbin might have had doubts about Guantanamo — the constant site of Red Cross and congressional visits — but there was no need to tie it to the fiendish regimes of Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot.

Cindy Sheehan could have recanted her initial favorable remarks after meeting George Bush without later labeling him the world’s greatest terrorist.

The New York Times might have editorialized about the dangers of stealthy government security measures without publishing sensitive, leaked material in a time of war. It is precisely this escalation from criticism of the war to furor at our elected government and civilian-controlled military that is so worrisome — and so welcomed by the enemy, as we see when it cleverly regurgitates our own self criticism as its own.

Yes, the enemy here is freedom of expression.

By the way, the “culture” of which Hanson speaks here may have unjustly enriched US on the backs of our ‘enemies’ but it didn’t “produce and nourish” me. My parents did that.

The military is doing its part. It defeated Saddam Hussein, and prevented a plethora of terrorists from destroying a fragile democracy abroad and the contemporary world’s oldest here at home. Despite the caricature and venom, the original belief of the 2002 Congress that there were at least 23 reasons to topple Saddam remains valid and is reaffirmed daily, especially as we learn more of the ties between al Qaeda and Iraqi Baathist intelligence and slowly trace down the footprints of a once vast WMDs arsenal. And the effort to ensure a democratic denouement to the war, both in and beyond Iraq, is the only solution to wider Middle East pathology.

Which was it, the 23 reasons, or The Freedom? Well, the 23 reasons didn’t turn out to be the grand slam we thought they might, so let’s just go with “The Freedom.”

No, our problem lies in two more abstract but just as important struggles over Iraq. Either we did not communicate well the noble purposes of sacrifices abroad, or, after Vietnam, an influential elite has made it impossible for any president to do so.

We can correct that first lapse, but I am not so sure about the second.

Me neither. But, I am sure, for entirely different reasons.

I was right, it does seem pointless to have continued.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 27, 2007 9:02 PM

    Invoke Heidegger, will you? Referencing near-contemporary philosophy with an authoritative comment on alêtheia (ἀ–λήθεια) opens it up for me to mention (read: channel MH) that Hanson-whoever isn’t leaning on the oft-cited definition of truth in his own argument (“veritas est adaequatio intellectus ad rem,” truth is the adequation of intellect to thing) but is relying on a more curious formulation, “veritas est adaequation rei et intellectus” (truth is the correspondence of the matter to knowledge) which is a markedly theological formulation: not Kant, but more like “truth is the correspondence of the thing or event with what the Divine Mind construed as an appropriate essence for this thing or event” – correspondence with the Divine Will – which makes me suspect that Hanson’s truth is truthy only in its correspondence with already-approved or already-“commonsensical” knowledge, i.e. what Fox broadcasts.

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