In Latvia, the dauphin said:
Our journey from national independence to equal injustice included the enslavement of millions, and a four-year civil war.In Washington, the President's National Security Advisor gives him the shoulda-coulda-woulda routine, full of things that the Iraqi Prime Minister ought to do to please his sponsors, whom NSA Stephen Hadley imagines to be us, poor guy, when in fact Maliki's real sponsors have suspended their cooperation with the government to punish Maliki for meeting with the dauphin.
All is not well.
Over coffee this morning, I snagged a hard copy of the Times and read Tom Friedman's lament, "Ten months or ten years." From that title you may divine its entire content: either we pack up and get out, or we stick around and, as La Moustache elsewhere suggested, "reoccupy" the place, which, with the ten year timeline, sounds an awful lot like the strategy we used in The Asian Land War that Must Not Be Named.
Luckily, it ain't our fault! It's their fault. But what, precisely? Army Col. Bacevich (Ret.) offers a clue:
"It's their fault, and by implication not ours, is clearly a theme that's in the air," said retired Army Col. Andrew J. Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran and longtime skeptic of the war in Iraq. It reminds him, he said, of the sour last days of the Vietnam War, when "there was a tendency to blame everything on the 'gooks' -- meaning our South Vietnamese allies who had disappointed us."There you have it. The United States is the rich relative that gives awful Christmas gifts and gets pissy when it discovers they were returned.
Let's pause and recall an instructive bit of dialogue from an old favorite:
COLONEL: Whose side are you on, son?We slowly learned that inside every gook there is not an American trying to get out.
PRIVATE JOKER: Our side, sir.
COLONEL: Don't you love your country?
JOKER: Yes, sir.
COLONEL: Then how about getting with the program? Why don't you jump on the team and come on in for the big win?
JOKER: Yes, sir.
COLONEL: Son, all I've ever asked of my marines is that they obey my orders as they would the word of God. We are here to help the Vietnamese, because inside every gook there is an American trying to get out. It's a hardball world, son. We've gotta keep our heads until this peace craze blows over.
Return to that first quotation. Poor President Malaprop picks the right historical scenario, even if he somehow express it in the inverse, but he manages with his nigh-miraculous capacity to take the wrong lesson from everything to take the wrong lesson. The long American history from independence (and before, to be picky) through civil war and industrial revolution to present day is idiosyncratic, as are all national histories. The President may detect some longing for freedom in every heart and soul, a misbegotten Miss Cleo reading the tea leaves and entrails of the universal human esprit de la liberté, but the true, hard facts of past and present alike indicate that even if freedom and liberty exist in some Kantian realm of indivisible trueness, their life and practice on this rocky little globe of ours are highly contingent on social and economic conditions. Bush takes American history to mean we must only tough it out, mumble some pseudo-Gettysburgian oratories, await a native Martin Luther King, Jr., and in a couple hundred years The Troops™ can return to us and Sami al-Walton can start building souks out of cinderblock along every camel-path in the Middle East.
As a belief it's worrisome enough, but we should fret all the more feverishly because as far as anyone can tell, it's utterly unshakeable. There has been much talk of Bush's descent into late-Nixonian full-force denial, but the truth is that Nixon entered office with more than a few tenuous connections to reality quite intact, and managed to operate as a slimey but largely sane human being for most of his tenure. The dauphin, meanwhile, ascended his throne with a mind as untroubled and untethered as a soap bubble on a gentle spring breeze. Through the semi-permeable membrane of his awareness a variety of courtiers managed to slip a great library of insupportable convictions and counterfactual certainties, none of which can slip back out. It may be true that a great mind can hold several beliefs simultaneously, but the mind of our current king is a flea market run by crows: a jumble of junk never to be sold or unloaded, each new piece piled precariously on the rusting wreckage of the old. He is incapable of abandoning a notion, even if a dozen thoroughly contradictory fellow-notions take up residence on the same mental block.
He is the most dangerous man in the world--more so because he's also the most laughably absurd.