War

WAR….Ross Douthat, after quoting Evelyn Waugh about the all-too-human hunger for war, says wonderingly, “But you would think, wouldn’t you, after three years knee-deep in Iraq, after all the best-laid-plans and good intentions have gone so far awry, that the romance of warmaking would have faded somewhat.” In an update, he adds this:

I do think that the remarkable popularity among my fellow conservatives of [Michael] Ledeen’s utterly-untethered-from-reality “faster, please” theory of Middle East affairs ? even after the various debacles associated with our Iraq policy ? does reflect the persistent appeal of a vision of foreign policy in which supporting war, war, and more war provides an appealing clarity, and a sense of moral superiority, amid the otherwise-difficult problems of modern political life, and the perplexing complexities of the global stage. At home and abroad, it allows you to cast everyone who disagrees with you as either an appeaser or an apologist for tyrants.

This reminded me of Etgar Keret’s short essay in the New York Times about how he and his countrymen feel about the current war in Lebanon:

It?s not that we Israelis long for war or death or grief, but we do long for those ?old days? the taxi driver talked about. We long for a real war to take the place of all those exhausting years of intifada when there was no black or white, only gray….

Suddenly, the first salvo of missiles returned us to that familiar feeling of a war fought against a ruthless enemy who attacks our borders, a truly vicious enemy, not one fighting for its freedom and self-determination, not the kind that makes us stammer and throws us into confusion. Once again we?re confident about the rightness of our cause and we return with lightning speed to the bosom of the patriotism we had almost abandoned. Once again, we?re a small country surrounded by enemies, fighting for our lives, not a strong, occupying country forced to fight daily against a civilian population.

It is, often, not so much war itself that people long for, but the moral certainty that comes with it; thus the venom directed even toward those who are skeptical of war, let alone those who are resolutely opposed to it. It’s not that the skeptics prevent the hawks from getting the war they want ? they usually don’t ? but that they deny them the moral certainty they so desperately yearn for. And that cannot be tolerated.