The Democratic Party is the greatest obstacle to the formation of a genuine antiwar movement. A sizeable majority of its officials are unreconstructed imperialists, and its supporters are fools.
We gave our word when we invaded Afghanistan that the Taliban would be routed and that the repressive regime would be lifted so that young girls in the country would have a life outside layers and layers of forced cloth, so that they could have the hope of an education and some semblence of a potential future that allowed for them to make some choices about its course. We gave our word.That's a very nice recollection of what our less sophisticated but more honest predecessors used to call a civilizing mission, but it suffers from the disadvantage of being mostly false. There was certainly some gauzy talk of stripping away the Burkha and bringing the gospel of The Womyn to the little girls of Kabul as the American bombers scrambled for the foothills of the Hindu Kush. But mostly and most significantly from all quarters were martial assurances that the perpetrators of the attacks of 9/11 would be brought to some kind of posthumous justice through the destruction of their training camps and base of operations in Afghanistan. Mostly there was a party line that said the Taliban coddled and supported al-Qaeda and our Hitler-of-the-Month, Osama bin Laden. The plight of Afghani women, such as it was and is, was appended to our vengeance as a convenient and heartwarming "and also!" We did not invade Afghanistan to free women. We invaded to kill our designated enemies, but, to be perfectly plain and patently sexist about it, we told the women and tenderhearted back home that we were doing it to protect America and also so that little girls could learn to read. When in doubt, think of the children . . .
The Afghanistan that could have been, with its possibilities of hope and justice, is slipping away from us, and like sand grains scouring across the surface of a mirror, it leaves a reflection of our nation's soul--our lack of commitment, the breaking of our word . . . again . . . to these people who have lived under constant seige for decades with the promise that America would stand up for them--that has deeply marred flaws.
Democrats believe fervently in something they call humanitarian intervention, and from the disastrous antidrug policies of the United States in South America to our disastrous antiterrorism policies everywhere else, it's the Democrats' naive, culturally arrogant humanitarianism that provides the moral patina and the domestic bromides to justify a policy of militarism. Here is Hardin Smith doing the old Democratic lament for war "on the cheap":
We cannot continue to have a foreign policy that is so haphazard, so piecemeal . . . so lazy and personally driven. We cannot wage war on the cheap, and we cannot continue this ignorant failure to reach out to experts in the State Department and elsewhere in the government for help on rebuilding and nation-sustaining actions because the civilians running the Pentagon desire their own personal feifdom.Expertism. Credentialism. There must be an easy neologism for the Democrats' persistent belief in good wars. Is it an "ignorant failure to reach out to experts . . . for help on rebuilding and nation-sustaining?" Or is it ignorant failure to believe that the essential problem in our Wilsonian missonarism is a lack of expertise? When Democrats ostentatiously regret the lack of Arabic or Pashtun translators, or when they lament the firing of gay linguists from the Army as a direct detriment to "our" efforts in the Middle East, do they really believe that greater cultural and linguistic fluency would seriously mitigate the fact that the United States is a hostile occupying power in a foreign country attempting to impose and construct representative governments and universal freedoms that we are quite clearly ambivalent about ourselves?
Talk of "keeping our word" is cultural paternalism of the worst order. We make ourselves into a parent who promised some expensive Christmas present but reneged because of the cost, or because of forgetfulness, or because Mom's really a bitch, or because Dad's too busy chasing the secretary. Civilization does not belong to America to be promised, given, or withheld. The web of local customs and history is too delicate and too complex to be simply swept aside. The Burkha was not invented by the Taliban. The Taliban did not arise out of a vacuum. Afghanistan is full of people whose cultures were ancient when Columbus was begging the Spanish for little boats . . . ancient when the Vikings landed in Newfoundland. Millennia of local, tribal, and ethnic cultures; centuries of Islam; these aren't mere details to be overcome by good planning, skillful appropriations, and consulting "the experts in the State Department."
What will Christy Hardin Smith and the rank-and-file Democrats say with a new man in the Pentagon, Condi Rice running state, and a poltiical establishment that will explain of the next war: This time, we're gonna get it right?