I have been thinking about the comment Craig left a few days ago. There was certain lucidity in those simple expressions of his sophisticated thinking. And he has helped me better grasp what the problem for me has been all along with this Mesopotamian expedition. Let's see if I can articulate it—however tentatively.
From the very beginning, the pitch has been: there is no room in this war for oscillations. No room for nuances. Things are black and white. You are either with us or against us. They in 'them' pose such serious existential threat that the we in "us" have got to fight a very dirty, bloody slug match to the finish.
No doubts, no questions, no hesitations, no pauses allowed.
So in order to channel the primitive impulse that has kicked in, you've got to have a sense for who they are that propose to lead this dirty fighting and what they aim to accomplish. Especially since you find the other side rather creepy and have had your own mini bouts— ineffective mostly, yes, but it has now simply become a question of joining forces.
Hence the question of trust!
What is the vision of those who propose to lead you and promise to support you?
What is their real beef? What is this fight all about to them? What might they mean by victory? Could I trust them to watch my back when things get real gory?
But here is where things start to get messy.
So it has been the claim of some of their more outspoken ideologues that "we" are hated for who we are and not what we do. But when you reflect a bit more carefully, it turns out after all that this war has come about not because of who "we" are actually, but because of what we've failed to do.
That is, a failure to project invincibility by having unleashed Fury at the very first signs of trouble is what has led to this mess. They can still hate us as intensely as they have always, and yet, we'll be safe and get to drive our gas guzzler, and continue with our shopping sprees and lead our merry lives for as long as we have those terribly fiery iron fists.
We don't have to alter anything. We'll just send our boys and girls to flatten them. End of problems. And just to be on the safe side, no pictures of those who've paid dearly for our calculations.
Herein we have the first doubts about trust.
It appears to me that the "enemy" however ill defined, has always been thought of really not quite as formidable as they've made it sound. Or they couldn't have thought them so easily controllable. That's why they can counsel us to forget the "Arab streets." Those streets are filled with" impotent" men, as far as they are concerned, and stink of hot air which can ultimately be quite easily managed.
After all, they have lost every major war they fought in and have been brow beat to submission by some very low octane rulers. How bad can they be?
That's why we've been getting those constant comparisons. "This hasn't been all that bad now really, has it?" That is the constant chime. It's a war but not really a war. Just look at those casualties in percentiles. Negligible for what we've been doing. Or at least that's how I've understood those claims.
As an afterthought, we have had one incidental feature tagged on to the invincibility thesis—the Democracy creation project even when it means (or perhaps because it actually means, who knows?) wars or bombing entire countries into smithereens. In part since as the argument goes, expansionism and ferocity has always been in our nature. We have a mission. We are idealists and we fight for the underdog.
A classic case of an ill defined project, if I ever saw one. They want to be the scariest chelovak in town while also pretending to look out for the weak. Here is where things become even more confused and confusing.
It isn't as if these good folk who propose these policies have been out of power for any considerable length of time all these years. When you look, some of the meanest, most ferocious thugs and petty tyrants in the region have either been their best friends, their paid agents or still to this day their closest chums.
You don't have to agree with any of their arguments to see what conundrum they're faced with. If you try to be everything to everyone you actually end up being nothing to no one.
Again, at issue is that quaint matter of trust.
If your aim is to be the biggest, meanest thug in town, then the type of folk who would naturally be attracted to those qualities are going to have second thoughts about working with/for you having seen you in action.
Look where some of their old buddies have ended up: dead, hiding or in prison. One of the most prominent best friends of recent past who maimed, raped, butchered and gassed is sitting in a cell waiting to die. Their other buddies too must be feeling pretty insecure by now.
But that's the nature of politics for you and the inevitable future of all thugs no matter how big.
Alliances of convenience come and go. And I am not going to feel too terribly sorry for them, especially since none of them were ever my buddies.
But they are not content simply annoying the other thugs.
Some of these very same people who have had awfully close encounters with the ruffians we talked about (with pictures to show for it) get terribly nasty and start impugning your motives by charging anti Americanism or treason after your slightest reference to their history.
But you can't make the memory of those encounters disappear. You can't wish history away, even if you wanted to. Every time I see a close relative, I am reminded again of who has helped poison (gas) him. Tens of thousands more just like him still suffer. And it's basically the same story practically all over. Even assuming that history started in 1979, Mr. Boot and Co. should re-do their math before sounding too self-righteous or indignant.
They always lecture everyone, and yet refuse to own up their deeds. They have never been wrong. Never done wrong. Doesn't help their credibility in the slightest when they refuse to level. From here on, it gets even messier!
They say, go on, my fight is now also your fight. Join it. We know you have been disenfranchised and it's time for you to step in and take charge of your lives. But their message of hate, venom and bloodlust is too loud to miss.
Their publications are filled with them. That's because, I am guessing here, it is not even clear to them anymore who they aspire to be or even who they actually are.
Some of the ideologues and their fellow travelers say loudly and repeatedly: look, we have those nukes. We have used them in the past twice. And if the need arise, we're prepared to do it again. Isn't this what they ultimately mean by Hayba?
Hence even more mistrust.
Thugs aren't likable--even the biggest ones. And one way or another, the prospect of a grotesque death has always been looming overhead—be it by hanging, stoning, hacking, gassing, swords, bullets, bombs or a terribly nasty chronic illness wreaking havoc. Now just one more thing to worry about!
But you're half hoping that you're elsewhere when the angel comes for you or at least too busy having fun with a rather brilliant old-fashioned cantankerous Spartan of a dominatrix to notice the painful end. So life goes on as it has always.
Besides, being a thug is ultimately about control, isn't it? Especially since a part of projecting this thug persona has to do with the need to protect a life style—a life styles that even some of the most outspoken promoters of sacrifice (for others) appear awfully inflexible about.
And as delicious a thought as it might be for some of the more psychopathic fellows in those think tanks, extermination is not an option-- not for as long as this is partially about oil, anyways. Perhaps, in twenty, thirty years down the road if this keeps up. But not just yet!
And remember, this is not the last century either. Any delusion of life as usual with endless shopping and traveling and meandering would come to an abrupt end after even limited nuclear strikes. A very premature end, I might add, to those aspirations of laying claim to entire millennia.
So from here, one ends up becoming not only terribly incredulous but also hypersensitive.
Who are they, really? And what do they really want? What precise set of qualities matter to them most? What are their principles? Are there any? One is now after tangible, easy to understandable signs.
Remember, we are not supposed to do nuances.
So the ideologues and their sycophants claim for instance that none of you can be trusted because your religious practices ("el-taqia" of the couple of posts down) make you pretend all is well when things are actually not, but then they turn right around and praise the British profusely for their "stiff upper lips."
They make it sound as if they are the most principled fighters of those nasty "isms"-- well, you remember anti-Semitism, racism and such, and yet some of their routine pitches and talking points reflect the crudest historical building blocks of these ancient vulgarities.
They claim they are really concerned about the suffering of the likes of Ganji and yet, they go on to give us Abu Ghuraib and those Club Gitmo shirts and other paraphernalia and want to see even more humiliation and flattened cities….One, two many Fallujahs is their war cry..
They expect you to start a civil war, and tolerate bombings and murder and mayhem in your own neighborhoods for a promise of a more decent, tolerant future and yet, the moment a grieving mother lands in their own backyard with some candles and crosses, they lose temper about having lost their peace and one ends up shooting a rifle and vandalizing setups intended to commemorate the memory of the fallen.
The likes of Horowitz yell inanities on TV. Drudge does what drudge does best and all other sort of people join in to do some nasty smears.
All the signs, even the "simpler" ones now give one a nasty feeling about all this at the gut level. How am I to trust their promise of a benign hegemony when they can't even offer succor to a grieving mother?
Remember, I am a simpleton. So no matter how you cut it, the visceral doubts continue to grow.
There is no trust.
That primitive instinct doesn't want to be channeled their way, even when you want it to. Especially since you continue to have your own mini-bouts with those creepy Islamist folk on the side and can use a bit of help and guidance.
So I keep asking myself: What are they really after? Who are they, really? What's their vision? Who do they want to be?
The biggest thug or a liberator? Partner or a boss? Savior or a cold blooded killer? Bright eyed and principled or cunning and cynical? Caring or callous? Champion of the underdog or a mean bully?
And so long as even they are not explicitly clear about who they aspire to be, most signs increasingly point to the suspicion that we are dealing here with some pretty callous, mean spirited bullies who expect steep sacrifices from everyone but want to be accountable to no one.
They go on to take credit for every good and yet are unwilling to even be reminded of the consequences of some of their calculations gone badly or those nasty policies of the past.
And self serving, obnoxious, mean-spirited bullies always go down. It is just a matter of time and a question of how many of the rest of us they manage to finally take down with them.
In the meanwhile the mini-battles, however inefficiently, will have to go on until we get more trustworthy leaders with a more clear vision. But like I said, the Islamists are terribly creepy and will have to be brought down one way or another.
Tell me--honestly--where I am wrong in this.