Pessimism over Iraq
Rod Dreher, whose Crunchy Con blog I enjoy a lot. I’m not quite the pessimist Rod is, perhaps because I treat intellectual abstractions (“the culture”) with instinctual disdain. They’re useful enough for talking, rumination and personal action, but not for forming prescriptions for others. After all, no one ever really sees the culture. Everyone sees the media they do, but not the media they don’t – hence no clear picture can be formed. It’s an art, not a science. More importantly, the media is a fantasy land, a battleground, and a fun house. It never encompasses the world and I’m post modern enough to think that it never really claims to. The whole shebang is more like pro wrestling than anyone cares to admit.
Rod’s happy in the real world and that is telling. That is where we ought to give the preponderance of our consideration when we stop to reflect on the world.
In a meandering post, Dreher writes:
And then there was the [Iraq] war, which I supported completely, for reasons that now appear absurd. Our country has been humiliated by this adventure, by our hand devils have been unleashed in the desert, and God knows what’s coming next. My generation — I am almost 40 — is now having to deal with something that we, formed by the triumphalist confidence of the Reagan era, never have done: the limits of American power, and in turn the falsity of a vision of the world that assumed that hyperpower America could pretty much do what it wanted.
I think I’ve come to regard with deep suspicion, and probably even contempt, the blithe optimism that seems to be our American way. To borrow a phrase from Turner, I believe it’s liberalism’s most attractive quality and greatest weakness to be constantly focused on the future, and to turn the expectation that things will keep getting better and better into a conviction. There is something sterile in a repining conservatism, true, but there is something unreal in the kind of liberalism that characterizes the American spirit (and even the spirit of many Americans who claim the label “conservative”). It is more fecund that repining conservatism, true, but so many of its projects are stillborn disasters. In this light, better the repining trumpeter than the pied piper.
Iraq has been a disappointment, undoubtedly. I also supported the war, and in many ways I still do. I would like to see a free Iraq; I had hoped it might resemble more moderate Arab countries like Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon. None of those is Amsterdam, but neither are they killing grounds. It hasn’t happened yet and it may not be in the cards at all.
I’m not pleased with America’s being so wrong about the state of Baath free Iraq. The sectarian conflict ought to have been foreseen and either taken into account as a reason for forgoing the attack, or it needed to be planned for and contained. It seems that there was a large failure on one or both counts. Foreign intelligence is not an exact science, I know. That is why the failure to find weapons of mass destruction didn’t bother me. It was embarassing, sure, but it seemed to fall in the ‘margin or error’ or the ‘fog of war’. The extent of the sectarian violence, on the other hand, ought to have been more obvious.
Failing to plan for the war’s aftermath will likely mean planning to lose, and that’ s a tragedy. Such a failure can’t be blamed on philosophical conservatism, which ought to be pessimistic enough to ask better questions before hand. Conservative parties don’t always act conservatively (or liberal parties liberally). That too ought to be obvious but political partisans and media pundits (often the same people) make a living out of obfuscation, so the point needs to be drawn again and again.