Oh,let it be the end!

December 21, 2011

I stopped reading Thomas  Friedman several years ago, but I couldn’t resist his latest column commemorating the departure of the last U.S. soldiers from Iraq.  He called it, The End, For Now.  Oh, would that it was the end of his scribbling!!

A few morsels to choke on:

With the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Iraq, we’re finally going to get the answer to the core question about that country: Was Iraq the way Iraq was because Saddam was the way Saddam was, or was Saddam the way Saddam was because Iraq is the way Iraq is — a collection of sects and tribes unable to live together except under an iron fist.

I suppose this was the reason for the war:  just a big intellectual experiment.

Iraq was always a war of choice. As I never bought the argument that Saddam had nukes that had to be taken out, the decision to go to war stemmed, for me, from a different choice: Could we collaborate with the people of Iraq to change the political trajectory of this pivotal state in the heart of the Arab world and help tilt it and the region onto a democratizing track?

Is this the same guy who was jumping up and down shouting about WMDs in Iraq?  Perhaps he is drawing a fine distinction here:  “Oh, I said WMDs, but I never said “nukes

But was it a wise choice?  My answer is twofold: “No” and “Maybe, sort of, we’ll see.”

I say “no” because whatever happens in Iraq, even if it becomes Switzerland, we overpaid for it. And, for that, I have nothing but regrets. We overpaid in lives, in the wounded, in tarnished values, in dollars and in the lost focus on America’s development. Iraqis, of course, paid dearly as well.

Here, Tom follows the great American tradition of celebrating and mourning our losses, while those losses we caused to our ‘friends’ were so much larger:  2 million Vietnamese, half a million Iraqi civilians… of course, of course.

 So no matter the original reasons for the war, in the end, it came down to this: Were America and its Iraqi allies going to defeat Al Qaeda and its allies in the heart of the Arab world or were Al Qaeda and its allies going to defeat them?

Al Qaeda wasn’t in Iraq until we offered them an invitation there by reducing the country to primitive chaos.  With people like Friedman, no need for real enemies:  we’ll create them as we go along.

…the most important product of the Iraq war: the first ever voluntary social contract between Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites for how to share power and resources in an Arab country and to govern themselves in a democratic fashion. America helped to midwife that contract in Iraq, and now every other Arab democracy movement is trying to replicate it — without an American midwife. You see how hard it is.

So, the ‘Arab Spring’ arose in imitation of our war in Iraq?  That jerry-rigged “democracy”, which may be falling to bits as I write, is what they were striving for?  We are truly a beacon to the future!

The best-case scenario for Iraq is that it will be another Russia — an imperfect, corrupt, oil democracy that still holds together long enough so that the real agent of change — a new generation, which takes nine months and 21 years to develop — comes of age in a much more open, pluralistic society. . . I don’t know if Iraq will make it. The odds are really long, but creating this opportunity was an important endeavor, and I have nothing but respect for the Americans, Brits and Iraqis who paid the price to make it possible.

Wow!  So that’s what it all comes down to?  An “important endeavor,” a few hundred thousand dead civilians, lots of dead and maimed soldiers of our own, untold havoc to our federal budget, a gaping hole in the credibility of our government, and, oh yes, a lot of respect from Mr. Tom.  Not to mention the very real possibility that it will all unravel completely in the very near future into the fulfillment of the fiasco that began it.


Mugged by Reality – The Sleep of Reason

April 21, 2005

Elsewhere in this blogsphere, I sometimes visit a site run by a so-called neo-neocon. I like to read the posts and the comments, and sometimes contribute, because I’m interested in seeing how people think about issues and ideas, or how they refuse to think at times. My life, and two fascinating stints on jury duty, have convinced me that everyone can reason if they feel they must or that they should. That doesn’t mean they will all the time.What fascinates me about posts over there is the free-wheeling ranting and venting that purports to be thinking and analysis. A frequent critic of the denizens of neo-neocon hails from his own blog, saving aeneas, where yet another commenter, smiling neocon, asked me, isn’t a blog supposed to be just “self-absorbed ranting?” Well, I guess it’s okay if you don’t pretend it’s something else, but it leads me once again to the wonderful (apochryphal?) comment by Flaubert on the railroad –

“What does it do other than bring more people together more quickly so that they can be stupid together?”

Yes, a sourpuss, but he’s got something there. Is this the best we can hope for, wallowing in our prejudices?

Finally, the phrase “mugged by reality” – I’ve seen it around. Neo-neocon uses it as her tag line – mugged by reality on 9/11; at least one of the commenters said he was a Marxist until he was similarly mugged; I don’t think it’s original with them – it’s in the air. What interests me is the implication – purposeful, I believe – that before their shocking and violent encounter with reality, they lived in a world of fond illusions and self-deception. Remember, the phrase is theirs. Now, that doesn’t say much for the quality of their intellect, nor does it inspire confidence in anything that they have to say now. The newly converted have to be taken with a healthy pinch of salt – they tend to be “true believers.”

Yes, sometimes the scales drop from peoples’ eyes. Maybe I’ll find myself on the road to Damascus one day, but I tend to put more faith in those whose conversions are limited to more spiritual concerns. The man who wrote the song, “Amazing Grace,” was a former slaver commenting on his earlier moral and ethical depravity – I can buy that, it happens. But anyone who says that they were a liberal, or a Marxist!, until they were “mugged by reality,” and now they’re a neocon is, I think, more likely just a person who lives by latching onto a feel-good doctrine and moving with the winds. I’d have the same distrust for an evangelical who got “mugged” and proclaimed themselves a dialectical materialist.