Friday, May 07, 2004

I'm Sorry, What Story Is This? 

Victor Davis Hanson has a great piece on what we need to know, and to do, to win in Iraq. It's given me some needed optimism in this conflict.

He's absolutely right that the main problem here is that our enemies have mastered the art of asymmetrical warfare. They know us better than we know ourselves. So while they are utterly incapable of facing us on the battlefield, they can exploit our moral uncertainty, our short attention spans, our distaste for unpleasantness- in short, all the side effects of our wealth and power. The weaknesses that our enemies exploit are luxuries that only the very wealthy and powerful can afford. They are also the byproducts of the national character that made us great in the first place. America is great because America is good, but that creates weaknesses that our enemies use against us.

It's a paradox- if we were barbarians like them, they'd all be dead dead dead. If we were as warmongering and as power-hungry as they claim, then shortly after 9/11 we would have opened up the silos and nuked every Muslim country that didn't have oil, and unleashed the bombers and then the marines on every country that did have oil or anything else we needed. The Middle East would be an oil-pumping station for cheap gas for American SUV's, with any surviving locals being allowed to live only for cheap labor for us. But the paradox part of it is that if we were barbarians like them, we wouldn't be as insanely rich and powerful as we are. Perhaps it's just God's way of checking the power of nations. Only nations that have some understanding of order and decency ever get really powerful in the first place. And as they get powerful, they get soft and decadent, and lose their power as a result.

What does that mean in the future? That America's on the way down, the victim of its own success? Or that this vacillating, ADD-afllicted, 24-hour-news cycle addicted public, and hypocritical attacks on our treatment of prisoners and civilians from ARABS of all people, who celebrated on 9/11 and stab their own daughters to death for the crime of being raped, is just part of the price we have to pay for being who we are?

It's really hard sometimes to see which part of the historical play we're in right now. Gulliver, being stabbed at by Lilliputians? Or King Lear, the tragic character, destroyed by the vanity and blindness that was the result of his own success?

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