Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Delusions and War

Armed Liberal at Winds of Change links to a recent post by Greg Djerejian of Djerejian Belgravia Dispatch. AL laments Djerejian’s disappointing evolution from reluctant Iraqi War supporter to harsh critic, as do I. AL follows his critique of Djerejian’s latest comments with a reflection on timetables and the messiness of history.

AL echoes my sentiments. Whenever I (only occasionally) stray back to Belgravia Dispatch, if only  to see if Greg Djerejian has regained any optimism. I am always, of late, disappointed. That as reasoned an intellect as his has turned against our purpose causes me no small discomfort; not that I waver in the rightness of our effort, but that the support of rational, middle grounders is essential for us to maintain national resolve, and national commitment.

The politicians who led us into Iraq may not hold the reins of power for long, let alone for the duration of this multi-generational struggle. We shall need friends in the middle, and even in the opposition, for that is where we may be, before long.

I’d like to think that Djerejian reflects an honest disagreement, a considered opposition to the war, at least in how the war has been executed. But Djerejian appears to want to make that impossible for those of us in strong support of our effort.

In the piece that AL links to, Djerejian  refers to conservative, pro-war bloggers (including almost all of us over at Milblogs, by the way) as “kiddies in the sandbox,” “abject cretins,” “fools,” and “imbeciles.”

Don’t even bother to suggest Djerejian doesn’t mean us. He means precisely us. Bloggers “in the sandbox” or recently returned, who argue that the Insurgency is fundamentally finished.” Or who believe that (most) of the mainstream media reporting from Iraq parrot Al Qaeda press releases, and consider embedding or any form of cooperation with US military as violating their sacred duty to be objective.

Djerejian uses the occasion of Memorial Day to note (but not link) the excellent piece by Owen West, but only as a means of expressing faint praise for “the sacrifice of our troops over the decades.” (As if his insults weren’t enough.)

But, if you are like me, and you believe Baghdad is the strategic epicenter of Iraq, and that a Baghdad descending into Beirut like civil war means that the country will likely mostly disintegrate, then I'm afraid I am less optimistic than West. And so, again, on this Memorial Day, when we thank and remember the sacrifice of our troops over the decades, we must also ask, painful as it is, what precisely they are accomplishing at the present hour in Iraq? Yes, here and there they are making progress. Yes, they are staving off total anarchy. But, if you fear it's a slow grind that we are losing, rather than winning, particularly given the continued lack of credible leadership at the Pentagon, the continued incorrectly placed concerns on 'dependency' theory, the continued dearth of troops, you must, at least to some extent if you are honest with yourself ponder, would it be worth my life (or the life of my son or daughter)? And the answer, it seems to me, is a very, very, very close call indeed.

But that's not a fair answer, is it? Because it's not really an answer at all. Finally, all I can say is that I am deeply torn. If we withdraw hastily we will leave behind a dismembered, increasingly anarchic Iraq, leaving Iraqis to a tremendously bleak future, and likely providing significant safe havens to international terror groups. But if we stay, under the current leadership and force presence/posture, the same result might ultimately come about, with more costs in blood and treasure, only more slowly.

It’s too bad Djerejian can’t see the forest for the trees on this one. He clearly hates Rumsfeld. I’m no great fan, not from pre-war days, but I don’t think our military strategy in light of limited Intelligence pre-war was all that “flawed.” Compared to the idiocy and rampant hypocrisy emanating from the Opposition and their supporters in the media, I’d say the US Military and their civilian and military leaders did pretty darned well.

Djerejian exhibits precisely the “crisis of expectations” that West in his Times Op Ed warned against.

By his calculus, any armed rebel group or insurrection wins by default merely by continuing acts of violence to no effect. Unless one imposes an autocracy or police state, it is hard for me to imagine how it could ever be possible for anyone to ever win as long as fanatics with bombs remain wiling to blow themselves and a few others up.

But let me bring AL’s commentary back into focus. He notes that Djerejian excerpts from Roger Cohen from Times Select:

The image of the United States is in something close to a free fall.

There are lots of reasons, beginning with the fact that any elephant this big bestriding the world's stage is going to irk people, especially when George W. Bush is riding it. But I suspect a basic cause is that in the 65-year period of 1941-2006, the United States has been at war in some form or another for all but 14 years.

There was World War II and then, after a two-year break, the Cold War, which ran until 1989, and then, after an interlude of a dozen years, the war on terror. These were different sorts of wars, of course, and among them were Korea and Vietnam. But somewhere along the way, most acutely in the past few years, people got tired.

They got tired of America's insatiable need for an enemy; suspicious of the talk of freedom and democracy and morality in which every struggle was cast; forgetful of the liberty preserved by such might; alarmed at the American fear that appeared to fire American aggression; and disdainful of the distance between declarations and deeds.

In short they stopped buying the American narrative.

I for one know what the American narrative is, and Cohen’s missed the mark. (The number of myths, inaccuracies, DNC and anti-war talking points and prejudices embedded in Cohen’s description are boggling.)

But I’ll let AL retort, as he does so well:

What's missing from this, of course, is any sense of context at all for that narrative, any sense that - for example - there was an expansionist and brutal Soviet Union who would have gladly conquered all of Europe - and kept it conquered had we not opposed them. Or that there was a brutal China led my the mad, bad, and dangerous Mao Tse Tung who would have gladly enslaved all of Asia had we not opposed them. I'm more than a little puzzled by Greg's failure to point out that gaping hole in Cohen's logic.

So in that view, why is there war? Because America fights, of course.

Damn their willingness to stand up to oppression, indeed. He didn’t even mention Hitler, Nazism, or attempts at Hegemony in Europe or Asia. Our enemies have wagered dear that the West would not fight. We confound that hope, and threaten that wager.

The truly American narrative is a reflection of our ideals, the principles of liberty and freedom, that under-gird every demonstration of national resolve. We restrain ourselves greatly, we rise above both our enemies and the amorality of our times. We strive to leave the world a better place, in spite of and not because of the hollow accusations of our critics.

We are not yet at the brink of the life or death struggle for civilization that our enemies so fervently wish upon the West. Our enemies and our own internal Opposition share the view, that the terrorism and barbarism that initiated our military responses since 9/11, are themselves directly prompted as a first effect from our Omnipotent transgressions (whatever they were or are is immaterial to their arguments.) We are indeed the elephant “bestriding the world's stage,” in Cohen’s words. LA associates this to a “delusion of invulnerability,” that both supporters and adversaries of US Foreign Policy seem to maintain:

And I do think it's the strongest influence on our behavior and attitude toward this war. And, I believe that once it is gone - once the delusion of invulnerability slips away - we will be more brutal and bestial than the worst opponents of the wars today imagine us to be in their fevered dreams.

I often remark that the World will shudder to see America’s retaliation for nuclear terrorism on our soil. I believe it is a question of when, not if. And when it does, any natural reluctance and restraint exhibited by the vast majority of Americans, will end in a moment. In a series of mushroom clouds, widely applauded.

As always at Winds of Change, as remarkable the commentary in posts, the contributions of WoC readers in comments greatly enhance the resulting dialog.

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