Across the Bay

Monday, May 17, 2004

That's Not the Kind of Fatalistic Nihilist I Am!

To continue on this theme of "emasculation," I draw your attention to this post by Juan Cole the other day.

Cole remarked:

"We Americans either stand for something or we don't. What I always assumed we stood for was the US Constitution. Our State Department annually rates other countries by how well their record stacks up against the US Bill of Rights. That custom seems an implicit admission that we hold these rights and values to be universal, not limited to US soil or only a privilege of citizens. And here is what the founding generation of Americans thought about Abu Ghuraib and torture:

Article 10:
"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual
punishments inflicted."
"

This is all true. However, Cole is opposed to the Iraq war, so his position has to be qualified. Allow me to articulate:

"We don't stand for torture, when it's perpetrated by US. However, we will stand aside when tyrants are torturing their subjects. We will not go to war to prevent that and give people a chance at a decent life, for we are not occupiers, nor are we imperialists, nor are we Orientalist neo-colonialists. We don't go to war because that will kill people. So we stay home and watch their own leaders do that ten-fold. Then we will impose sanctions where corrupt UN members will trade with Saddam, pouring money into his coffers, and starving his people, and allowing him to continue to brutalize them. Or we can be against those sanctions, because we don't want to be responsible in any way for the deaths of Iraqis. So we will lift all sanctions and allow their brutalizer to rule with no constraints whatsoever. That's the kind of country we are.

Then we'll get hit by Arab terrorists, who are the fruits of that culture we want nothing to do with. But then we don't go to war, because that would mean us bullying people and emasculating the Arabs in typical Orientalist fashion. So we blame ourselves, and ask for forgiveness for our terrible policies, for we understand the grievances of those Islamists. Then we hold symposia on how terrible we really are, and how right those murderers are. Afterall, if we don't do that and we dare to go to war, that might open the door to perdition, as Cole said, " That way lies a descent into barbarity before which September 11 would pale." Indeed. Whatever we do before or after 9/11, pales before the terrorist act perpetrated on that day. But then I have no problem supporting Colin Powell and featuring commentaries by former CIA station chiefs. Those guys understand what I'm talking about! Powell, as the gossip columnist Maureen Dowd said this Sunday, is "a snubbed Cassandra and a sulking Achilles."

We don't go to war, we leave everyone be in their malignancies no matter what that means for us, even when we get hit (we probably deserve it anyway), and we make sure that we don't get ruled by someone like Bush, because that so reflects badly on us, and the Europeans wouldn't respect us. What kind of country after all elects a hick like Bush? Oh no, that's not the kind of fatalistic nihilist, moral relativist, isolationist I am. Not in my name!"

On the other hand, I read another op-ed today in The New York Sun by Mark Steyn (Riding the Strong Horse). The piece wasn't great, but it made a couple of good points (even when some of it was a recycling of Ajami's piece on the "Curse of Pan-Arabism"):

"If America retreats into its own fatalistic apathy, there will be many more Nicholas Bergs in the years ahead."

But that would be our fault of course... What were thinking attempting to venture into "Orientalism"!?

The entire attitude is best summarized in this story by Toby Harnden:

"In an opinion piece for the Spectator magazine of Britain, Harnden said at poolside he "was accosted by an American magazine journalist of serious accomplishment and impeccable liberal credentials."

The American journalist told Harnden she had been disturbed by his argument that Iraqis were better off now than under Saddam Hussein.

Harnden said he heard from her the usual "script" from antiwar activists, "no WMD, no 'imminent threat' (though the point was to deal with Saddam before such a threat could emerge), a diversion from the hunt for bin Laden, enraging the Arab world, etc."

But the American then came to her point, Hernden said.

"Not only had she 'known' the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the 'evil' George W. Bush would no longer be running her country.

"Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. 'Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.'"

"Startled by her candor," said Herndon, "I asked whether thousands more dead Iraqis would be a good thing."

The British journalist said, "She nodded and mumbled something about Bush needing to go."

He then suggest to her that by this logic another Sept. 11 attack, on about Sept. 11, would be perfect for pushing up John Kerry's poll numbers.

"Well, that's different — that would be Americans," she said, haltingly, according to Harnden. "I guess I'm a bit of an isolationist."

In his column, Harnden then commented on the "moral degeneracy of these sentiments," concluding with:

"Whatever we thought about the war before it was launched, it is imperative that the forces of Arab nationalism and Islamism that now threaten to destroy Iraq are defeated. If America fails in Iraq it will be all of us in the West, not just Bush, who will suffer. But those who would be most in peril, of course, would be the Iraqis, who deserve better than to have their country treated as an electoral playground by the American Left or Right. To wish otherwise is as sick as the grins on the faces of the Abu Ghraib torturers."
"

Now that's pro-Arab.