The Free State
"Man, in a word, has no nature. What he has is - history."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Because It Feels Good!

I recently had a conversation with Eliza’s dad which was a rather enlightening look into the thought of American hawks. The premise is this: there are crazy people that want to kill us. I don’t think anyone disagrees there. The issue is what to do about it. And, as these people are like commies or nazis or whatever, they can’t be negotiated with. The only solution is to kill them.

Well, that’s one way of looking at it. The question becomes how you go about it and who the hell “them” are. Assuming it’s the “terrorists” (nebulous group), one must wonder how insurgents and ordinary Iraqis or encouraging Israel to destroy Hezbollah has any effect on, say, a bunch alienated Muslims on British university campuses or some angry wealthy Jordanian/Egyptian/Saudi Osama-wanabes.

Ze Frank recently mentioned how Bush’s statement that America is safer than prior to 9/11 is based on total ignorance. It’s a fact: we don’t have any terrorist-o-meters. There is no way to know if a bombing here, policy this, or invasion there has any impact on the diverse decentralized and casual terrorist networks and cells across the world. How can be explained the support for aggressive and destructive policies when we have no way of measuring if they work or not? And this, in light of the recent terrorist attempt in London which was defeated through old-fashioned low-tech police efforts.

There’s an old quote from LBJ on his attitude towards Communists that comes to mind. “What I want is a plan where we could trap these guys and whoop the hell of ‘em. Kill some of ‘em. That’s what I wanna do.” And it explains it: it’s a totally emotional, but satisfying to some, response. After all, we are told this is WW3, this is like the Cold War, this is a Clash of Civilizations, surely that means we’re supposed to rise to the occasion when we have to kill the bastards. If you don’t, in line with ignorant WW2 analogies, you’re an appeaser. You’re letting the terrorists win. And so, we must kill the enemy, the enemy being, whoever we’re killing at the time. It doesn’t matter if we don’t know if it’s effective, it doesn’t matter if those we’re killing have any concrete relation to those trying to kill us… another quote comes to mind from the classic Apocalypse Now. Colonel Kilgore expresses his satisfaction after annihilating a stretch of jungle with napalm:

I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed for twelve hours, and when it was all over I walked up. We didn't find one of them, not one stinking dink (Vietnamese) body. The smell - you know, that gasoline smell - the whole hill - it smelled like… Victory.”

Our foreign policy is that of flailing blindly, indiscriminately, at whatever target we hit, and then praising ourselves with the cruel self-deception that that was the real enemy we were after all along. A self-deception as pathetic and dangerous and Blanche Dubois’. It was a very popular foreign policy because it was comforting. It gives the impression that we actually know what to do about the ambiguous and unpredictable threat of terrorism. Unfortunately, we don’t and those Democrats who dare voice dissent have a problem: how can they use the admission of ignorance as an argument to end violence? The partial answer has been to only be vaguely more Dovish than Republicans and not question the premise that the struggle is necessary and vital. But if it is vital, why only go half-way, why not go full-on? The Democrats view of foreign policy is unconvincing. They can publish "We're strong on defense too!!" books as much as they want but they don’t seem to really believe what they’re saying.

Hawks are ignorant and dangerous, emotionally driven to a pathological bloodlust to while pretending to relive WW2 glories. But half-doves… well, I think Tim Kreider's Democrat, the nervous smile and pandering, put it best:

So how can Doves escape the admission of ignorance and the label of “appeaser”? It won’t be easy. Republicans have worked hard to make sure that “strong on defense” and big rock-hard dicks are synonymous with themselves (John Bolton, Newt Gingrich and big Dick Cheney have been pioneers in this regard). So long as they are firm there is no need for withdrawal. How can Doves assert that blindly lashing out has no guarantee of making anyone safer? How can the costs, half a trillion so far and 10,000s of Iraqis be worth it given this uncertainty?

I am optimistic. Doves will simply have to use facts and larger penises. They will have to use champions of the military industrial complex like Congressman Jack Murtha. They will have to use anti-war Iraq Veterans, preferably with limbs missing. They will have to point out that the Bush administration has proved completely and utterly incompetent, despite Conservative control of all 3 branches of government. They will have to point out that the war is wedded to the neo-conservative movement, which is to say, a bunch of snivelling and emasculate ivory-tower theoreticians.

When that is done, the sanity of recognizing our own ignorance will reign, and the cruel lie of confidence through bloodlust will die.


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