Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Give War a Chance?

So I haven't written about politics much lately, not because I haven't been interested, but because about 150% of my time is going into promoting our upcoming east coast tour. (Add that to the 150% being devoted to my beautiful little family, and the 100% being devoted to a full-time job, and you've got an interesting physics problem.)

Still, let me see if I can catch up. Bill Maher, whose last season of Real Time (HBO) was downright inspiring (maybe because it came on right after that other tiny morsel of relatively progressive TV programming, Bill Moyer's NOW on PBS) got off to a rather wimpy start this time around. For me, that was mostly because of Mr. M's seeming reversal on the Iraq question. You know the shtick (since he's been repeating it week after week now), but in case you don't, it goes something like this (I'm paraphrasing): "I'm willing to admit I may have been wrong about Iraq, even though I still think the administration got us in there illegally, and conducted the war ineptly. Maybe they were right about transforming that part of the world into a democracy. I mean, look at the way things are going!" The spin here is always on ack-centuating the positive--but no matter how carefully phrased, the verbiage inevitably comes off as a justification of US policy.

Now, far be it from me to say there's anything wrong with admitting when you're wrong. We should all probably do that kind of thing a lot more. But my huge caveat for Maher is this: how do we know who exactly is wrong yet? Isn't the whole point of history that you have to let it happen before you really know what it means? I for one will not be ready to give the Shrub props on this one until we've had a few decades of blissful coexistence with the Middle East. (And maybe not even then.)

I'll go even further: the burden is really on the administration to prove that the war was "successful." The critics, sadly, have historical precedent on their side. For one thing, there has never been a democracy created by the military actions of a foreign nation (much less a foreign nation with as nasty a reputation as ours). Also, as far as I can tell, it's basically impossible to "win" a war against a group of people who are committed to dying for their cause--particularly when those people have a large recruiting pool. How the hell are you going to up that ante?

Anyway. What brought me to finally make this post was this piece by Python's Terry Jones: "Let Them Eat Bombs."

6 comments:

JasonN said...
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JasonN said...
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JasonN said...

War's history of success is obvious in Japan, Germany, and much of what we consider good liberal democratic Europe. In the big, big picture, you may not be able to justify the human costs of war by showing the freedom of modern civilizations. Many Europeans got to be liberal democrats (we call this free in America) by way US military intervention.

Much revolution (which I assume is the history you cite) in the world has been born within state borders, or fallen short of success. But, the change in the middle east will be not so much a change to revolutionize a country by force, but to topple an enemy by force and brainwash the survivors much like we did in Germany and Japan. Those people aren't liberal democracies of their own free will, but through American imperial occupation.

Wouldn't you agree? Maybe that was too harsh for public consumption. The US should have been more open about our unwillingness to allow a dictator to continuously thumb his nose, and shoot his rockets at us (or vicariously through our air support of the Kurds and southern Shia - our very weak support of the Shia, btw). Saddam needed to be diposed. I can't argue we should have stuck around without suggesting that culture manipulation is the war of the modern American armies. So, I won't.

Andrew said...

Thanks for your post, Jason.

You're right that Japan and Germany provide useful examples of (at least some of) the benefits of US intervention. However, neither Germany nor Japan was fighting a war of resistance (which is what the insurgents in Iraq believe they're doing). Further: Germany was part of what we consider "the West" (meaning that it did have at least an intellectual liberal tradition already in its midst), and Japan was significantly westernized. I see these as serious qualifications of your argument (maybe I should have expounded on the word "foreign" more in my original post). I know the lessons of WWII have a lot of rhetorical power these days, but in this case, I just don't think the analogy holds.

Let me add, though, that if you're saying this war will bring democracy to the middle east, I hope you're right. Which brings me back to my original point, which is just that we need to put the brakes on our conclusions about this whole business, and see how it actually shakes out. My beef with Maher is that he's giving props before they're due. History has a way of coming back and biting you in the ass when you're not paying attention to it.

JasonN said...

I disagree and agree.... meaning, I thought the war was necessary and believedf before it began that the nuttiness of President Bush was exactly what the world needed, a good violent peacemaker. He's a true believer and could be dangerous without a congress and pragmatic electorate. I also agree that the dose of social dissonance in Iraq will test the theory of enforced socialization.

300,000 dead Shia likely agree with me that we did the right thing invading, and should have done it in 1992, regardless of what Europe thought. You're right. We'll see.

Andrew said...

Ah! A congress and a pragmatic electorate! That *would* be something.