Wednesday, March 01, 2006

At War with Ourselves

Victor Davis Hanson is perplexed that we seem to be at war with ourselves. I think his commentary today at is worth reading. I'll point to a couple of his paragraphs.
"The second-guessing of 2003 still daily obsesses us: We should have had better intelligence; we could have kept the Iraqi military intact; we would have been better off deploying more troops. Had our forefathers embraced such a suicidal and reactionary wartime mentality, Americans would have still torn each other apart over Valley Forge years later on the eve of Yorktown--or refought Pearl Harbor even as they steamed out to Okinawa."
I often find myself wanting to be a Monday morning quarterback. Even when considering the Broncos on Monday mornings, I hope to keep in mind that I wasn't responsible for the play calling, and while I have years of experience as a fan, I've never once been responsible for devising a game plan to defeat an opposing NFL team. I have far less real experience than the players and the coaches, and I have far less information about the opponent and about what is really happening during the game. When it comes to war, I hope to keep in mind not only these same observations, but also that the limited information I find presented by the news and the media is filtered through the eyes of others, is subject to political bias, and is never developed by another person with a complete view of the reality. Further, war must be an inherently complex dynamic process that is inherently unpredictable. So to must be the process of seeing a good system of political economy emerge out of years and years of brutal oppression. Perhaps the Monday morning war quarterbacks could choose to adopt critical perspectives with more humility? Or, perhaps perspectives less politically partisan?

"There is a more disturbing element to these self-serving, always evolving pronouncements of the 'my perfect war, but your disastrous peace' syndrome. Conservatives who insisted that we needed more initial troops are often the same ones who now decry that too much money has been spent in Iraq. Liberals who chant 'no blood for oil' lament that we unnecessarily ratcheted up the global price of petroleum. Progressives who charge that we are imperialists also indict us for being naively idealistic in thinking democracy could take root in post-Baathist Iraq and providing aid of a magnitude not seen since the Marshall Plan. For many, Iraq is no longer a war whose prognosis is to be judged empirically. It has instead transmogrified into a powerful symbol that apparently must serve deeply held, but preconceived, beliefs--the deceptions of Mr. Bush, the folly of a neoconservative cabal, the necessary comeuppance of the American imperium, or the greed of an oil-hungry U.S."

The inconsistencies are striking, and VDH presents the inconsistencies well. Is our thought and analysis really so inconsistent? Or do the inconsistencies reveal the shameless politics of so many of our elected leaders? It is difficult for me to reach a different conclusion. It is also difficult to avoid the conclusion that a large part of the press and media in our country are less professional and more biased in the work they offer up for our review every day. Or, perhaps there is an alternative conclusion? Which is that many in the press and the media are not competent to recognize the inconsistencies. Or, perhaps, I'm missing something?

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