The core contradiction that makes the “war” a mess and the “war” supporters mad

Alex K. writes:

You write: “Bush says failure is not an option, then he clearly suggests that if the Iraqis don’t get their act together, we’ll leave. So failure is an option, isn’t it?”

This is the heart of this “war”’s problem, one that not just the administration but also much of the commentariat, and especially the pro-war right, have failed to engage, let alone solve:

On one hand, we’re supposed to maintain will and resolve to win this. To not do so is the kind of pansy liberal defeatism that loses wars. Hence, “failure is not an option.” Our exit strategy? Victory. Finish the mission. Etc. The pro-war, pro-Bush camp stuff.

On the other hand, our victory is reliant on another agent—the Iraqi people.* All that will and resolve and non-pansiness is irrelevant since we can’t win without someone else demonstrating those things, as well as demonstrating competence at self-government and other things. Bush has been forced to put some pressure on the Iraqis with this “shape up or we leave” threat but in doing so he makes clear the contradiction he and his supporters have weirdly avoided.

This is a microcosm of the mainstream right’s attitude to the overall Islam problem, which Steyn put clearly in his book. Our only option (part from the unacceptable options of killing them all or submitting to them) is to the reform Islam, yet that can only be done by them. All we can do is make favorable adjustments to the environment and then hope.


* And of course the fact that “the Iraqi people” are far from a unified, and so can’t reliably considered a unified agent, is their main problem, but that’s another issue…

LA replies:

Exactly. This has been central to the self-defeating incoherence of the Bush policy from the start.

War means that Country A fights against Country B or Non-state Entity C to defeat Country B’s or Non-state Entity C’s ability to fight against Country A. It’s very straightforward. Country A’s success depends on its own will and ability to wage war. Period.

What does Bush’s “war” consist of? Trying to get Country B to build a democracy! Or trying to get Non-state Entity C to embrace democracy. Or trying to get Religion D to embrace democracy. Therefore from the very start, our “success” is out of our hands, and depends on what our enemies are doing. But wait, according to Democratization, our enemies are NOT our enemies. They are good people like ourselves who desire and deserve democracy. Therefore we must not fight them, we must encourage and nurture them and talk them up, and if they fail to do what we want, we cannot acknowledge that honestly, because that would mean that we have failed.

Yet at the same time we’re still calling this social welfare scheme a “war“! A war that is the “great ideological struggle of the 21st century!” A war on which our freedom and survival depend! A war that we must not lose! So the war supporters keep jerking themselves into this hypomanic state over fighting a war that doesn’t even exist. This is madness.

The origin of the error is the idea, which apparently came from Natan Sharansky and was adopted by the Bush administration in 2002, that the Israel and America can “drain the terrorist swamp” and turn enemies into friends if we can get them to democratize. Our only real enemy is that tiny minority of “haters of freedom.” The rest of the Muslims are our friends. But in reality “our enemies” and “our friends” have an indissoluble solidarity with each other as Muslims. So we’re making war against them and we’re making friends with them at the same time. And we’re so distracted we dont’t even realize the contradiction. It’s a kind of madness that could only come from liberalism.

Alex replies:
Right, and I definitely remember Bush carrying Sharansky’s book at some point, in a deliberate, to-be-photographed-with kind of way. I wonder when that was…

“Take the gloves off” (and its synonymous phrases) is another one I’ve heard over the yars from the pro-war Right, stubbornly trying to frame this as a war that conservatives should man up and support, rather than a social welfare scheme that conservatives should instinctively be skeptical about. Same response: how do we take the gloves off when the thing we have been doing with the gloves on is…waiting for a separate agent to learn how to self-govern?

LA replies:

Sharansky’s book is worth taking a look at, especially the chapter where he talks about his contacts with and major influence on the Bush administration in 2002. Bush’s famous June 24, 2002 speech, where he seemed to reject the peace process and laid out a radically different approach requiring that the Palestinians change their behavior and democratize before they got U.S. help toward acquiring a state, was an adoption of the ideas that Sharansky had been pushing for a decade. Sharansky had been a lonely advocate for these ideas in Israel, and, even after Bush adopted them, both leftist and Likud Israelis thought the idea of Palestinian democracy was ridiculous. Thus Sharansky, with whom none of his fellow Israelis agreed, got the President of the United States to agree with him. And that agreement of Bush with Sharansky seems to have been the moment when the Bush Muslim democratization policy was born.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 15, 2007 12:06 PM | Send

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