Thursday, April 27, 2006

Tiresome (Part II in an Extensively Ongoing Series)

In a thinly veiled paen to 'killing them all and letting god sort them out', (using the father of a Flight 93 victim as an oracle, no less) Calimachus is again rather dismissive to the less bloodthirsty among us:

An enemy who will stop at nothing to achieve world domination and force a life devoid of freedom upon all. Their methods are inhumane and their targets are the innocent and unsuspecting. We call this conflict the “War on Terror.”
. . .We all do see the enemy for who he is and we read his own words and take them at their face value. Some of us recognize this as a Long War for Civilization, and think the obvious disparity in firepower and national economies masks a vulnerability in the West. The people we are fighting say certain things very clearly: we are infidels who have offended their religion, they are at war with us, and they want us to die. They may not have an air force, but they have other weapons, more intangible, perhaps more powerful. And we have weak spots. We could be brought down hard by a combination of lack of will and a few hard, well-timed terrorist strikes with the right volume.

To some of us, on the other hand, the Islamists are simply not a long-term threat worth the name of “enemy” or worth a serious reordering of American rights and priorities. They talk nasty and hurt when they can, but they should be taken no more seriously than a 5-year-old in a temper tantrum. 9/11 was something of a one-off, a combination of a few extraordinary individuals and good luck based on our lack of vigilance. A little more vigilance on our part will be sufficient to prevent a repeat performance. To involve American resources and lives in a major Middle Eastern “war” against this, with the inevitable bungles and unforeseen consequences, is doing more harm than good.
(my emphasis)

Look, how many times does one have to say "yes this is a threat, but you are doing it all wrong" and massively so on both strategic and tactical levels before 'Some People' stop offering tripe like "To some of us [read: you rabble], on the other hand, the Islamists are simply not a long-term threat worth the name of “enemy” or worth a serious reordering of American rights and priorities" as wisdom.

Yes, strangely the other 'Some People' do think the best response to an enemy who we are told "hate[s] us for our freedoms" is not to sacrifice said freedoms forthwith (especially in the name of ensuring success in an invasion of a far off land to instill the same freedoms. Clap Louder!) They cannot take what we have already freely given! Never go in against an American when internal coherance is on the line...

And who is being unserious when this is part of the premise?
I’m leaving out the figure of Bush, on both sides, because ultimately he doesn’t matter.
(emphasis mine)

So by beating the left over the head with his very partisan War-on-Terror stick, Bush doesn't matter? Let me turn again to what I feel are the best words written on the subject:

I found the idea of “patriotism” more compelling in the months after 9/11 than at any other time of my . . . life. Same deal with the ideas of duty and sacrifice. For a brief window of time, these concepts became vital again. Before Iraq, I think liberal intellectuals were in the process of forming and believing in new, intellectually-compelling versions of patriotism – a New Patriotism, based not on mindless nationalism but a shared sense of collectiveness and interdependence inspired by an external threat. It was a remarkable time – I’m glad I got to experience it.

But now it’s gone. And I suspect it won’t come back again in my lifetime. And that’s because Bush pissed it away and exploited it to go fight his war. That was his original sin and that’s the root of why people hate him. He betrayed our unity, and exploited our national tragedy for political purposes . . .

But he could have been great. More critically, he could have attracted a lot of young liberals for whom 9/11 was a formative event. He – a Republican – had a chance to create a New American Patriotism, one that was compelling to cynical Seinfeld liberals who were in deep introspection and were willing to give earnestness a second chance in the aftermath of the tragedy. In short, he had an opportunity to free us from the Tyranny of Irony. He could have given us something to truly believe in and get behind.

But he blew it, just like he blows everything else. What he has done is reaffirmed why we must remain ironic, even though we’re exhausted by irony. Bush has used these abstract concepts to support a political agenda and a war of choice that many of us see as wrong and potentially catastrophic. In a world where abstract notions of “freedom” and “patriotism” are used to support things like the Iraq War or torture, what choice do you have but irony and detachment from the concepts that make these things possible? Rejecting these simplified abstractions is not an exercise in immorality or amorality anymore, but one of conscious rejection, and even morality. That's why you can't expect us to get behind Bush's call for patriotism and freedom - he has shown again and again that his purpose for using these concepts is to further a polarizing political agenda. You may agree with that agenda, but don't insult my intelligence by challenging my lack of enthusiasm for Bush's abstractions as being insufficiently patriotic or supportive of freedom. Consider me twice shy.

And this was a year ago, consider me 4 or five times shy. In case it's not clear enough, let me tell you why Bush matters. We go to the Clash of Civilizations with the President we have, not the President we wish we had. And I'm supposed to trust the future of this massive campaign run by a fella who was shown a talent for being well-born and winning elections and precious little else?

Forgive me for not rushing to sign on with another Crusade (let's go ahead and call a spade a spade for once) which is a mere bulwark for a domestic agenda which I feel is disastrous on nearly every front at both the policy and implementation level. Forgive me for not signing up when everything done in the name of this Great Struggle is done with at least 1.5 eyes towards domestic political gain. If Freedom Democracy and a Pony for the Iraqi people was so damn important, why half-ass it? Why not try to build consensus instead of declaring that as the Decider-in-chief it's your way or the highway? I suggest that if this issue was as serious as all that Mr. Rove would have been politely informed that building the permanent Republican majority would have to wait until the future of the free world was no longer in doubt.

And yet this mammoth symbol of incompetence, cynicism and strangely calculated unreason doesn't matter? He matters to our enemies, some of whom do want a fiery conflagration, wherein we see whose god is indeed bigger, and see Bush as the perfect foil. He matters to those who are forced to choose between Salafist tyranny and the American indifference he embodies. It matters to the Europeans who think he is slightly loony and aren't especially happy about being silent partners in a regime of torture and secret prisons. It matters to China, who we have reason to truly fear now that their President has taken the measure of ours, and I suspect found him wanting.

So, I'll ask. If it is a Long War for Civilization, against Creeping Dhimmitude and the Global Caliphate (good band name, that...) what are we holding back for? Seriously, I'm asking, because I don't think Cal likes the logical extension of where that thinking leads us, so he cunningly elides the point with euphemism and codewords. Especially when it is suggested that said Crusade will have the exact opposite effect that we wish it to. But that's just me not taking the threat seriously. I am Some People.

Am I being unfair? No more so than one who syllogisticly declares

1. If you disagree with me as to the magnitude or nature of the threat you are unserious
2. You disagree...
3. Therefore your opinion doesn't matter because you are unserious.

A neat trick. Consider me dismissed, I suppose.

Update: Okay, I'm calmer now.

1 comment:

Tom Strong said...

Well-said, Pooh.

I do think that Callimachus is generally right in the sense of Bush not being that important, long-term. He's already halfway to irrelevant, and that's just going to continue over the next two years.

But in the time's he's had, he's done a lot of damage. I'm increasingly convinced that everything we've done since 2003 has made the global situation worse and exacerbated the jihadi problem. And I'm worried that whomever follows Bush, especially if Republican, will take this Crusade to the level the hawks really want.