Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Shining City on the Hill is Pandemonium

I posted this at Eschaton, in response to this thread, then decided I might be on to something a bit larger than a mere comment, and decided to bring it over here.

Some of the commenters took the opportunity to be critical of Drum's point. Having read it, I think Drum's point is a sad commentary on American belligerence and militarism.

We had plenty of evidence that Bush wanted war with Iraq immediately after 9/11. The "American people" didn't know? How do you, or I, really know that? It was in Woodward's book, it was all over the news. The war was protested by one million people in the streets of America alone.

How much attention do you need before you decide "the people" don't agree with your conclusion?

Vietnam had even less justification, and nobody really cared. The Tonkin Gulf incident was as transparent as Glad Wrap, and it stuck to LBJ about as effectively (i.e., not at all). We knew before the war was over that that incident was BS. Nobody cared. What turned us against that war was the endless carnage, not the legality/illegality of it's excuse for starting (actually intervening, but anyway....)

So it isn't that people "didn't know." Frankly, they didn't care. They were all too willing to buy the line that Iraq was a threat, and behind 9/11, because it gave them something to use the military against. Armies are tools, at least in America. In Switzerland the army is a purely defensive proposition, but in America, we have to trot it out once in a while to be sure we can still scare people. Or just to throw our weight around.

It's not that people didn't "know." They didn't care. A military excursion, in the words of one Vietnam era general, presents the opportunity for a "pleasant outing for the troops." Americans like that idea.

When it turns into a bloody bog and men are dying by the hundreds, then we don't like it anymore. Twain wrote about it. The Civil War was all about that. Korea and Vietnam were more of the same. Why should the invasion of Iraq be any different?

The frightening truth is, Bush is the nation's Id. This is why the people continually respond to him, rather than get disgusted with him. But the Id can only sustain a response for so long, before the ego, and finally the superego, are disgusted and reassert control. In the Roman Empire, they called Bush's position that of "dictator." It was a special office created solely to consolidate all Roman military power under one person, who could rule without check and act for the defense of the Empire. But once the threat had receded, the dictator's office was dissolved, and power returned to the Senate. The concept is simple: when there is a serious threat, you need decisive action. Once the threat is gone, the need for action returns to more consultative hands. We may be heading in that direction again, but make no mistake: the American people will always appoint a "dictator" when they feel threatened, or just feel the need to be "dictator" to the world, themselves.

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