Armies Of The Benighted

The time for talk is, as they say, over, and has been for some time.  The invasion of Iraq was first envisioned by Karl Rove in 2000, and was being actively planned before the WTC stopped smoldering.  The logistical groundwork began in December 2001 (while our "allies" the Pakistanis gave bin Laden a safe haven), and the military planners selected the dates months ago.  The U.S. has been ready to commence offensive operations since mid-January 2003 and will do so at the moment of greatest advantage to itself, regardless of whether such operations are "authorized" by anyone other than Donald Rumsfeld.  All of these facts have been known to all international players for months.  Of course, this hasn’t stopped the pols and the pundits and the proles from talking past each other for five months, dredging up one "case for war" after another and invoking cathartic moments of artificial crisis from the U.S. Congress to the State of the Union Address to the U.N. Security Council.  Deals don’t come any more done than this.

I haven’t participated in any of the anti-war protests, but it’s not the futility (or the weather) that’s kept me home but rather the company: I’m not against war per se, and I think that most of the protesters are as geopolitically ignorant as the supporters of the war are self-deluded.  The invasion of Iraq will have many tragic consequences, but not the least of which will be the missed opportunity for bold, humanitarian leadership by the U.S.  We are already bearing the costs of Empire, and we should therefore avail ourselves of the prerogatives.  Any farsighted, pragmatic, and enlightened policy for the Middle East would of course require the toppling of the Ba’athist regime in Baghdad, just as removing the Taliban in Afghanistan was a geopolitical no-brainer.

Unfortunately, this Administration’s performance in Afghanistan has been a depressing precedent for anyone who appreciates the costs of rebuilding a civil society after defeating tyranny.  After routing the Taliban (or, at least, all those warlords who couldn’t switch sides quick enough), the U.S. refused to commit to stationing peacekeepers more than 50 miles outside of Kabul.  Once bin Laden holed up with his ISI buddies in Pakistan, the U.S. became a lot less interested in capturing members of the Taliban or Al Qaeda (unless, of course, they were willing to say they had tea with Saddam).

As despicable as many opponents of the war are (opposing whatever position the French take is almost a surefire strategy), they are far outmatched by supporters of the war, whose motivations range from displaced outrage over 9/11 to (perhaps) well-intentioned delusions about the foresight and imagination of George Dubious.  Many conservative ideologues have joined the chorus supporting "the new unilateralism," but I doubt they are cheering anything beyond their own reflections.  This criminal Administration only cares about preserving and increasing its own power, and it is pursuing this war only to maintain the American public in a state of oppressive fear.

The only thing more desperately pathetic than Susan Sarandon claiming that Hans Blix can keep Saddam honest indefinitely is William Safire claiming that George W. Bush has the patience and vision to bring democracy to the remnants of the Ottoman Empire.

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