Monday, August 14, 2006

Bang The Drum Loudly

I've been reading Andrew Sullivan since the first week he started a blog, back in, I think, 2000. Despite his embrace of conservative conventional wisdom and his reflexive contrarianism, he's always been an interesting and occasionally novel thinker, and it's through him that I keep track of what the neo-cons are saying. He had enough integrity to admit the failure of the war and regret his support for it, or at least his support of this Administration, but his humility was short-lived. He's been attacking the "liberal blogosphere", specifically DailyKos, for not sufficiently addressing the Israeli-Lebanese war, while being just as bellicose about that current situation as he was in the Iraq run-up. He refuses to contemplate that Israel's actions, just like America's since 9/11, are both short-sided and conterproductive to their own safety. I support the right of Israel to exist in peace, but practicing retaliatory collective punishment works about as well in Lebanon as it does in Baghdad. I wrote to Andrew about how this current issue brings up for me all my doubts about American empire. He didn't respond, as he has in the past, so I'm going to go ahead and make it an open letter. Andrew likes to think of himself as a "conservative of doubt". I just think that when it comes to wars of convenience, his doubt doesn't extend nearly far enough:


I had hoped, reading your blog over the last few months, that you had learned the lesson from the Iraq debacle that we’ve all surely had to take to heart, the lesson that Thucydides wrote about in regards to the Athenians, the lesson we should have learned thirty years ago, which is that there are few greater dangers to democracy than the chest-thumping foolishness of unjust warfare.

But reading you the last few days, I really feel like its Déjà vu all over again. You accuse the liberal blogs of ignoring the war on terror (I’ll refrain for your sake from employing quotes) yet you have yet to show the desire to grapple yourself with the complexities of the nasty and short-sided little war that Israel is currently waging. Instead, you make an argument that Israel is justified in whatever they are doing because their morals are more like ours. Tell that to the hundreds of civilian dead in Lebanon. All the torture practiced under the Rumsfeld doctrine doesn’t even begin to weigh on the scales of evil with the collective punishment being dished out in that sad country. But for you, arsenal delivered on the tip of a missile is vastly morally superior then that delivered in the trunk of a Mercedes. I don’t speak for any particular group or mindset, but I do know that I just don’t buy it anymore. Asymmetrical warfare, conventional warfare, civil war, terrorism, they all seem to have the same consequences these days, where increasingly the dead are counted in noncombatants. I have a hard time grappling with what my country is doing in the Middle East because I’m overwhelmed with the shame I feel when I consider it. I had hoped that seeing the debacle in Iraq might have made you question more then just the abysmal leadership of this particular administration, but to ask a far more difficult question. How is it that we can say that we lead the world when we practice atrocity daily?

I’m not speaking for the “liberal blogosphere” or for anyone else, just for myself, so I will say this. I love my country. I never, ever want to see Americans harmed. But when George Bush says, like he did this morning, that our enemies want to attack us because we love freedom, I feel a knot in the pit of my stomach. Our enemies want to attack us, Andrew, because for years we have attacked and humiliated them. We have manipulated their affairs and supported their oppressors. We have, in the name of fighting communism, or protecting American interests, or oil, or fighting terror, or whatever excuse we found convenient, become the bully boy of the world. Yes, it is blowback, the endless circle of violence in which Israel also sadly finds itself. Maybe there are people who agree with me, and maybe there are not, but I know that primarily I’m ashamed of my government, I don’t trust my government to do the right thing, and so yes, I want us to pull out, to pull back, to retreat behind our oceans, and try and salvage what tattered remnants of our ideals are left here at home. We just can’t do what we’re doing anymore without utterly abandoning what we were supposed to be, a nation governed by an informed and democratic populace. The permanent national security state is a cancer upon us, Andrew, and I just don’t see any other way to save anything of our original principles but to shut it down, which may be the most conservative action of all. There are fights worth fighting, but for too long, we have fought fights not worth fighting. We have squandered our moral capital, and now we frequently don’t even know what we are fighting for.

Our fathers saw a nation of limited government, a nation governed differently then the petty monarchies of Europe. A nation where a man was to turn his energies towards building his own future, and the state was to serve him, not the other way around. That has been lost, and we have become the empire we were warned against. You rail against what “conservatives” have become, but the essence of what they have become is cheerleaders for empire. When I read some of your recent posts, ranting about Islamic fascists, cheaply invoking of the 9/11 dead, refusing to see the complexity in the recent Israeli war, excoriating those who refuse to puff up their chests alongside you in the endless and secretive war on a state of mind that is the GWOT, I fear that I see what I saw in the run-up to the Iraq war, just another cheerleader. I don’t want to be a part of an empire, Andrew. It’s not a righteous cause. I love my country, but I can’t support any more foreign adventures. I love my country these days like I love someone with an addiction that is eating them up. Our addiction is our sense of moral self-righteousness and our casual use of violence, and our addiction had distorted our judgment something fierce. The terrorist sees a marketplace and straps a bomb to his chest. We see the terrorist in the marketplace and drop a bomb on his head. The results are pretty much the same, either way. You consider the difference to be crucial, but every time we do this, a thousand new enemies are born out of the violence. I fear that you are grasping at distinctions that long ago ceased to exist. It’s terrifying to me, but I really believe that the only way to salvage our Republic is to turn off our war machine and hope for a bit of peace to put ourselves back together. We might not get it, but we have to try. Technology eventually destroys empires, so in the long run, only republics will have a chance. We must indeed cut and run, not from our enemies, but from our own hysterical overreactions and the temptations of easy power that we face. It’s our only real future. Otherwise, our enemies do win in the end, no matter how many bombs we drop on them. You better believe that they know that.



Anonymous Stash said...

Truer words were never spoken.

We are the modern-day Roman Empire, Nero is emperor and fiddling while Rome is burning, the masses cry for bread and circuses and the barbarians are at the gate.

3:12 PM  

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