Saturday, October 14, 2006

American Arrogance: Where Does It Come From?

One of the most irritating responses from the early days of the Iraq War, was to the question of victory. From pompous geeks like George Will to flawed American heroes like John McCain the answer was the same: "We will win in Iraq because we must. Losing is unacceptable." That answer encompassed the fatal arrogance of the post-Cold War. It's a product of what Gorbachev calls "victor's syndrome." We have to get at the heart of our arrogance if we're going to coexist with other countries on this planet. Here's my take on what's wrong.

I think it comes down to our mountain of nuclear bombs. When we first realized we had the power to wipe any country off the face of the earth, it changed us. When the Soviets collapsed and we were the sole remaining super-power, the phony-macho chicken hawks went crazy from the excitement. The Neo-Cons took over, and their logic was simple: If we can end all life on earth, then we get to tell everybody what to do.

It is incredible how far this has gone. Not only do we sit on a mountain of nuclear weapons, but we spend much of our time preaching at others who might want them for themselves. There's not a hint of hypocrisy. Apparently ours are good Christian nukes while North Korea's would be in the hands of a madman who could attack other countries with a preemptive strike.

This is hypocrisy on a scale never before seen on earth. It has to be fueled by a religious zeal that God wants us in charge - why else did he give us the most nukes? Warnings about pride coming before a fall are ignored. The Neo-Cons feel that our destiny is to run the world, and the world is supposed to accept this, and go along. This is the heart of the arrogance. We put our bases around the globe, barely even thinking of how irritating it would be if - say - France put a base here. How would you feel if you had to go through French checkpoints to get on the 205? How about if your neighbor was speeding home from work one night and soldiers from the French base opened fire on his car as a precaution? It would be irritating as hell, if it happened to us, but it's assumed other countries should have to take it. More than that - they should appreciate it. We talk about freedom and the human spirit, but we don't factor in how humans really are. We're ignoring the human spirit that says, "Don't come here and boss me around. I hate it."

The craziest part is that we talk about spreading freedom as if what we're doing is winning us friends. Oh look, the automatic good guys are here! Do you sense an underlying ego-trip of gigantic proportions? It's as if we feel our mere presence is so wonderful that the locals should break into dance. We can't figure out why they don't love us for occupying them.

The trouble with basing your power on nukes is that you can't really use them. At least I pray these bastards don't plan on using them. It certainly is a possibility. If you feel you can strike out preemptively at anyone you wish, then mass murder with a nuke is just another corollary in the Law of the Jungle. But let's assume that somehow we get through the Bush administration without them dropping any nuclear bombs. That relegates the weapons into the category of implied threat and suddenly we're just fighting a conventional war on the ground in Iraq.

So how's that going? James Baker is now exploring the situation and the leaked draft talks about not being able to win in Iraq. A top British military general just said we have to get out. By the way the Brits have already gotten out. I believe they're down from 40,000 to 7 or 8 thousand troops, which is almost a symbolic level. What has happened is what always happens when arrogance meets up with reality. You don't just get to declare that you will win, and have it happen. I don't care how great you think you are. Pride takes a fall. We are now in the process of accepting that we're losing in Iraq. The other day President Bush said, "Stay the course means keep doing what you're doing. My attitude is, don't do what you're doing if it's not working; change. Stay the course also means don't leave before the job is done. We're going to get the job done in Iraq. And it's important that we do get the job done in Iraq."

Sometimes you lose because you can't win. Whether or not you accept defeat doesn't really matter. It's a defeat nonetheless. For a second there, President Bush slipped into reality, before going back to the dream of getting the job done. It was a momentary lapse but when the arrogance returned it sounded more like wishful thinking.

6 Comments:

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Auggie said...

Once again, a superb post.

 
At 3:27 PM, Anonymous butch said...

Completely wrong. We will never lose in Iraq because we lack strength. We can only lose if we lack will. I was the same in Vietnam. We didn't lose in 'nam, we quit because we lacked the will to finish. How many people in America today realize the Tet Offensive was militarily a LOSS for the Viet Cong?

 
At 4:20 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Leaving Vietnam was a win for America.

 
At 5:59 PM, Blogger LaurelhurstDad said...

Time to remember George Wald's response to the question "How can we get out of Vietnam?"

His answer: "In ships."

 
At 12:07 AM, Blogger Chuck Butcher said...

As Butch rings in the old old bullshit song. Yes, absolutely, Tet was a tactical disaster for the Viet Cong, so was every pitched battle. So what? You do not win wars by killing troops, you win wars by winning the population. The Germans were ready and could accept us, the Japanese had no alternative, and the Vietnames?

Yes, the Japanese model was available to us, make them more afraid of opposing or not accepting us than the Viet Cong, or NV Regulars. Is this what Butch proposes as an acceptable fight to the finish? He's damn right we had the strength, I'd question whether it was the will or the inhumanity to wage destruction on the scale neccesary to achieve that end.

Bill, the only thing America could've won from Vietnam was a lesson, paid for with 50,000 American lives and other destruction that there are conflicts we'd best not get involved in - see Iraq for what we won.

I'm not in the least convinced that Iraq had anything to do with our nukes, I think it had everything to do with that hugely expensive well oiled machine that ripped the Iraqi military to pieces sitting around available and the presence of idjits we grace with the adjective neo-cons.

 
At 3:29 AM, Blogger Frank Dufay said...

We didn't lose in 'nam, we quit because we lacked the will to finish.

Finish what? There were already 3 million Vietnamese dead? How many more would you have liked to see dead?

Hell, we haven't finished with Korea. 38,000 troops still there...is this what you see with Iraq? Why don't we just sign our paychecks over to the Pentagon?

What's "finished?" What's the "vision thing" here?

Excellent post, Bill.

 

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