Monday, January 08, 2007

Escape from the Quagmire of Success

I sometimes wonder if there were people in the Roman Empire who could see the causes of its demise, who recognized and tried to cure the diseases that ended its power and beauty and legacy of knowledge. Frank Warner thinks that our reluctance to win in Iraq might lead to a modern era of darkness. He wants us to read this piece by Jules Crittenden. It seems that the phony analogy to Vietnam now has the prospect of becoming real. The failure to fund the war will turn it into a rout of one kind or another. The Fall of Saigon is not far away, and the Killing Fields of Iraq will be coming up next.

Is this alarmism? In fact, according to the talk shows this morning, a decisive majority of Republican senators is uninterested in a troop surge and wants us to pull out with all deliberate speed. Everybody is claiming, of course, that the Democratic base is all for surrender and that the "meaning" of the last election was John Murtha's precipitous dive to the bottom of the political convenience bomb shelter.

How many of these people were once saying that we really had no choice but to prevail in this war? There is too much at stake. They were certainly right. And I think that we will find that allowing a direct confrontation between Iran and the Sunni powers is not a great idea.

Bush is no Lincoln. But I'm hoping he's a lot tougher than old Gerald Ford, much celebrated for leading us through a time of national crisis. We were just lucky to recover from that leadership. This time it might not be so easy.

Just so you know, the beginning of American power, with the thirteen colonies standing together, was exactly thirteen centuries after the end of Roman power in the year 476AD. Roman culture before that, in one form or another had lasted almost as long. Will we?

1/8/2007 12:43 AM

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At Monday, January 08, 2007 10:00:00 AM, Blogger Steve said...

I agree with those at your links who see the folly of limited war. Unfortunately, I do not see us getting out of that trap, which is why I am not in favor of the apparently upcoming "surge".

Ever since Vietnam I have felt strongly that the military should not be unleashed unless the military is going to be unleashed. Every war should be total or not at all. But that's not us, so we screw around and screw around, and I don't see us changing that mode voluntarily.

It's like capital punishment. Inherent human dignity, you know. You can't do that, it only makes you more like them. Oh, the children. Oh, let's use non-lethal weapons and loud noise to subdue them rather than bombs and bullets to kill them. Oh, the children!

This talk about if we'd only taken on the Nazis in the 30's is for nothing because we didn't, and we wouldn't have, and we couldn't have for various reasons political and otherwise. It took a tipping point of aggression to cause a reaction of total war. Foresight existed but was, and remains, ineffectual. That's a consequence of our political freedoms.

Sheuer had it right about bloody mindedness, and he was right to be PISSED, but that's just life as it is.

My two cents anyway. Sorry.

At Monday, January 08, 2007 2:03:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

Yes, Steve. It does seem like our own virtues tie us down like the Lilliputians captured Gulliver.

However, you can't get around the fact that it is true that any big power in the West could have put a stop to the Nazis early on. When we design our new form of governance, we should study that option and understand why it wasn't taken and what measures we can take today to open that kind of door.

The Powell Doctrine was insufficient to protect us from half-measures even though Secretary Powell was right there. I think we need to formulate the Roosevelt doctrine as well. In any serious national project, the American people must be made to commit and sacrifice. Roosevelt had children collecting scraps of aluminum foil, and Americans had to forego butter. (An old friend told me that they pushed tons of butter off the ships in the South Pacific, just to get rid of the stuff.)

It would have been so easy for Bush to institute a temporary war tax to pay for this thing. It would have been actually useful if he had taxed oil, or even have asked people to cut back on their use of gasoline. And he should have been the one to recruit Minutemen to monitor the Mexican border. Nothing was asked of us except to keep playing, so now we can't understand why we have to continue the unbearable task of listening to bad news on the radio.

The guy is not Lincoln, not Roosevelt and not Truman. He's the Great Uncommunicator, but I hope he can find a way to surprise us here.


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