THOUGHTS ABOUT THE WAR….My comment

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE WAR….My comment below (“If World War II didn’t stop the show from going on, then neither should Gulf War II.”) was dead serious. I’m not opposed to war in general, and I’m not even opposed to the aims of this war ? I just think it was executed so clumsily that it’s going to cause us far more trouble than it should have. But there are a lot of things about this war that bother me a lot.

I haven’t posted about this because I have trouble finding the right words to describe my reaction, but here are a few of the things that disturb me:

  • Treating the war per se as more serious than it is. No, it’s not Grenada, but it’s not World War II either ? or even Korea or Vietnam. But from the breathless tone of the round-the-clock news coverage you’d barely know it, and I think that in some sense this debases both past wars and current reporting. I mean, CNN just scrolled the news that Australian forces had captured an Iraqi tugboat. Do we really need to treat this as big news?

    This implicit debasement of the past is more important than it seems. I feel like I’m going to scream the next time I hear someone claiming that what we’re facing today is more complex and dangerous than the Cold War dangers our parents faced because, after all, there was just one big enemy back then instead of lots of little ones. But this is ridiculous. Nothing we’re facing today is even remotely comparable to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and no one today is seriously afraid of a nuclear exchange that could kill half the population of the country.

    This elevated sense of drama prevents people from learning from the past and encourages them to overreact to things in the present. It’s a potentially lethal combination.

  • Treating the aftermath of war as less serious than it is. The news channels are chockablock with trivial reports about individual advances or whether killing Saddam Hussein would violate the Geneva Convention, but virtually nothing about the post-war situation. It’s just too complex, and nobody really cares. Bad TV.

    But scholars have debated for decades how the history of the United States might have been different if Abraham Lincoln had lived and the postbellum policies of the United States government had been different. In the event, though, it all went wrong, and we’ve been paying the price for over a century. The same could easily happen in Iraq if we’re not sufficiently magnanimous in victory ? in the broadest possible sense ? or if we treat this as just the opening salvo in a war against the Middle East.

  • The increasing shrillness of the pro-war folks. I know, you’d hardly think it could get worse, and since they’ve finally gotten the war they’ve been campaigning for you’d think maybe they could calm down a bit and take the few remaining anti-war protests with a shrug of the shoulders. But no. Ted Barlow does a pretty good job of summing up their real-life reaction, and Digby pointedly reminds us that, peculiarly, Republicans “become enraged when they find that winning didn’t result in unconditional surrender by the political opposition.” The war party, unfortunately, will seemingly not be satisfied until both the UN and NATO are demolished, trade with France is prohibited by law, and the entire Middle East is under U.S. occupation. Unlike the few lonely “direct action” anti-war protesters in San Francisco, these aren’t fringe views, either, they are the opinions of national columnists, congressmen, defense analysts, and other pillars of the conservative community.

    Don’t believe it? Try reading this Weekly Standard piece.

  • The Philadephia Inquirer reports that before his Wednesday speech, Bush pumped his fist and said “Feels good.” Granted, not every president can be an Abraham Lincoln, but I really can’t imagine FDR or Truman or Eisenhower or even LBJ feeling that way about war either. (Maybe Nixon did, but that’s not a very complimentary comparison.) War may be necessary sometimes, but it’s not something that a president should ever “feel good” about.

Sorry, this went on longer than I intended, and I’m really not sure it expresses my feelings well in any case. Maybe later I’ll have something a bit more coherent to say, but for now this will have to do.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation