Friday, December 30, 2005

A few musings on "The Plague of Success"

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:28 AM |  

David Strom of the Taxpayer’s League sends along an essay from the National Review Online (subscription link) entitled “The Plague of Success.” Its thesis paragraph --
Apparently due to the success of George Bush at keeping the United States secure, he, not Osama bin Laden, can now more often be the target of a relieved Left — deserving of assassination in an Alfred Knopf novel, an overseer of Nazi policies according to a U.S. senator, a buffoon, and rogue in the award-winning film of Michael Moore. Yes, because we did so well against the real enemies, we soon had the leisure to invent new imaginary ones in Bush/Cheney, Halliburton, the Patriot Act, John Ashcroft, and Scooter Libby.
The author, Victor Davis Hanson adds --
The same paradox of success is true of Iraq. Before we went in, analysts and opponents forecasted burning oil wells, millions of refugees streaming into Jordan and the Gulf kingdoms, with thousands of Americans killed just taking Baghdad alone. Middle Eastern potentates warned us of chemical rockets that would shower our troops in Kuwait. On the eve of the war, had anyone predicted that Saddam would be toppled in three weeks, and two-and-a-half-years later, 11 million Iraqis would turn out to vote in their third election — at a cost of some 2100 war dead — he would have been dismissed as unhinged.
“What explains this paradox,” he asks, “of public disappointment when things turn out better than anticipated?” He cites three.

First, is the demise of history. The past is either not taught enough, or presented wrongly as a therapeutic exercise to excise our purported sins.
We of the present think that we have reinvented the rules of war and peace anew. After Grenada, Panama, Gulf War I, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and the three-week war to remove Saddam, we decreed from on high that there simply were to be no fatalities in the American way of war. If there were, someone was to be blamed, censured, or impeached — right now!
Second is a sort of arrogant smugness that has taken hold in the West at large.
Read the papers about an average day in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Detroit, or even in smaller places like Fresno. The headlines are mostly the story of mayhem — murder, rape, arson, and theft. Yet, we think Afghanistan is failing or Iraq hopeless when we watch similar violence on television, as if they do such things and we surely do not.
Third, our affluent society is at a complete disconnect with hard physical work and appreciation of how tenuous life was for 2,500 years of civilization.
Those in our media circus who deliver our truth can't weld, fix a car, shoot a gun, or do much of anything other than run around looking for scoops about how incompetent things are done daily in Iraq under the most trying of circumstances. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that our technologies and wealth give us a pass on the old obstacles of time and space — as if Iraq 7,000 miles away is no more distant than Washington is from New York. Perhaps soldiers on patrol who go for 20 hours without sleep with 70 pounds on their back are merely like journalists pulling an all-nighter to file a story. Perhaps the next scandal will be the absence of high-definition television in Iraq — and who plotted to keep flat screens out of Baghdad.
Hanson concludes --
Precisely because we are winning this war and have changed the contour of the Middle East, we expect even more — and ever more quickly, without cost in lives or treasure. So rather than stopping to praise and commemorate those who gave us our success, we can only rush ahead to destroy those who do not give us even more.
Although arguable in details, the fundamental premise of his arguments are valid. If there were a clever liberal writer out there, he or she might take Hansen’s themes and highlight conservative failings on social issues, but I suspect the thrust of those comments will be to find details to nit-pick, which brings me to my point.

Hanson notes in the beginning of his piece --
After September 11 national-security-minded Democratic politicians fell over each other, voting for all sorts of tough measures. They passed the Patriot Act, approved the war in Afghanistan, voted to authorize the removal of Saddam Hussein, and nodded when they were briefed about Guantanamo or wiretap intercepts of suspect phone calls to and from the Middle East.

After the anthrax scare, the arrests of dozens of terrorist cells, and a flurry of al Qaeda fatwas, most Americans thought another attack was imminent — and wanted their politicians to think the same. Today's sourpuss, Senator Harry Reid, once was smiling at a photo-op at the signing of the Patriot Act to record to his constituents that he was darn serious about terrorism.
That’s all one really needs to read to understand the failure of Democrat politics. Whenever Democrats have the opportunity to seize the moral high ground, they retreat in favor of the politically popular. When the politically popular succeeds, they have to find ways to discredit it without casting blame on their own initial support. Thus, we get “Bush Lied. People Died.”

The sad fact is, that Bush’s veracity is not the moral standard for the invasion of Iraq. The real question was (and should be going forward) whether or not regime change is a justifiable reason for the United States to instigate a war. That is the high ground the Democrats should have seized, accepting the associated risk that we might be attacked again because of our principled stand. That they were unwilling to risk. Passing on the moral high ground, they compounded their lack of values by then refusing to support the action they authorized. They got it ass-backwards.

Regime change is not a valid reason for going to war. “Violence,” wrote Isaac Asimov, “is the last resort of the incompetent.” I think that’s true. The United Nations inspection wasn’t working in Iraq, but by using that as an excuse for invasion, the United States, my opinion, was simply admitting its incompetence at finding a peaceful solution. Not just Bush Administration incompetence, but the incompetence of the opposition to offer any alternative but continuing a policy that clearly was not working. Incompetence may result in war, but it is hardly a justification for war.

That said, once the decision is made to go to war, the moral citizen must decide are we the good guys or the bad guys? There can be no question that toppling Saddam Hussein makes us a good guy. Arguing the details of could we have done it better and faster or whatever is just so much noise. Supporting the troops means once the decision is made to go to war, once one has decided that we are the good guys, then support becomes unconditional. Criticism is justified, but only that which is premised on how can we accomplish the goal better, not questioning the goal.

Thus Democrats failed the ethical test on two levels. In the face of popular electoral sentiment, they retreated from the moral position that regime change is not a valid reason to go to war. In the face of success of Bush actions, Democrats have resorted to criticism of the objective they supported.

Hanson’s essay is excellent. Unfortunately, conservatives are likely to ignore application of his principles to social issues, which might prove enlightening to them. Democrats will attack it rather than reflect on how glaringly it points out their lack of ethical values. (If you doubt that, simply look at the electoral pressure opposing gay marriage and at how fast Democrats running for election are running from what they tout as one of their diversified constituencies.) But that’s what make political debate so much fun, isn’t it? It’s a lot less difficult than say, learning to weld.

Category: National Politics Iraq