The Lebanese lesson is even more dire: American speech and action since Israel began retaliating for Hezbollah’s prisoner grab announces that democracy gains an Arab state exactly no leverage when Arab and Israeli interests collide.Jim also points out that "People would, literally, rather be in Syria. It’s where everyone from Lebanon that can afford to leave is trying to get." And there ain't no beaches in Syria.
Jim Henley, tellin' it.
This morning, I walk into the office and grab the paper. Teaser on A-1 takes me to a quick squib on Pennsylvania's Own Rick Santorum, a man about to suffer the truly ignominious fate of losing an election to America's lamest political dynasty, the Pennsylvania Caseys, in which we find our First-Trimester Don Quixote joining the chorus now singing the Great Mass in World War III (or, as others noted, IV, or V, or, if you count the French-Indian-7-years-what-have-you, possibly even VI!).
With William Lind already writing columns entitled "The Summer of 1914," that is poor terminology indeed.
Historical memory has never exactly been the great strength of the American mind, in part, I suspect, because exceptionalism tends to wither before the realization that while there's surely some novelty in this world, nothing is unprecedented. (Except, of course, in Washington, where "unprecedented" is the adjective du jour tous les jours.) So, for instance, World War signifies to your basic lumpen Senator or New Republic editor only World War II, and only the good parts. In this version of the struggle, 20 million Russians did not expire in the snow; Americans alone saved European Jewry; Winston Churchill patrolled the skies on a balloon with a megaphone, making extraordinary speeches at each moment of need, like a Tolkeinian King reciting bloody accentual verse to his horsemen before battle. Against the armies of the West broke Naziism like a wave; the walls held; the wave was swallowed up by the wine-dark sea. It's all very poetic. And raising the specter of such war makes victory both totally necessary and also totally inevitable, a stake-raising without actually raising the stakes. It's the eschatology of the Zoroastrian cosmos: good and evil battle titanically, but don't worry, good is a-gonna win.
Of course, this "World War" promises ambiguous results and unintended consequences, more First World War than Second, more Thirty-Years War than that. What the militarists seek through this World War rhetoric is an image of a conflict whose ultimate outcome will be unambiguous: a victory for one side (ours! we hope!), a loss for the other. But there are never just two sides, and the results are never unambiguous. Even WWII ended with ambiguity: Germany divided; the USSR victorious, and soon, nuclear; European colonial empires smashed, with more wars in their wake for the next sixty years, continuing to this day. The result of WWII was not only victory over Naziism, but also the Cold War; also Korea; also Vietnam. It was, in truth, no less ambiguous than the end of the First World War. Nor yet was the end of the other WWIII, né The Cold War, so unambiguous a victory for Freedom and Light. As it turns out, our proxy armies have largely turned back on us. Afghanistan and Iraq were both bulwarks against Communism. Now look at them. The stability bribes paid to our oil-rich autocracies meanwhile were turned back on us, radicalism focused on the decadent west to prevent domestic disturbances.
So while it may strike the War Party as wise to erect a single tent over their various conflicts and then call Victory a civilizational imperative, it is not. What warmongers never learn is that victory is not a state, but a moment. Afterward: Consequences. All of them at least in detail unforseen.