Can we look beyond the fall elections a moment…..
One of the interesting feelings is to look at something that happened in history, and think to yourself. “How could they be so stupid?” You look at things like Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia, or the Japanese decision to bomb Pearl Harbor, or the madness to led to World War I, and you wonder “what amount of self-destructive idiocy led people to do what they did?”
I think that someday historians will be asking the same thing about the US decision to invade Iraq. At this point, victory in the sense of creating a democracy revolution throughout Middle East is impossible. The choice at this point is between a bad outcome and a catastrophic one. The decision to invade Iraq violated three tried and true historical rules:
- people who start a war, almost always regret it
- wars always take longer and are more costly than people originally expect
and most importantly
- never think that you are immune from the lessons of history
So at this point, things need to be done to avoid a catastrophe. It is plainly obvious to anyone that sees the situation that insuring an outcome that is “merely bad” is going to require a continued US troop presence for five to ten years at considerable cost in lives and money. The dilemma is this, for this to happen, you need popular support for a continued US presence in Iraq, but to get that support, the political leadership needs to be honest with the US public about what the costs are. The trouble is that people are deathly afraid that this sort of straight-talk is going to cost them the next election, and they are right, but some things are more important than winning the next election, and in a very large sense, it really doesn’t matter who wins the next election since the issues are going to be the same.
I think that when people try to understand how the United States in the early 21st century undertook such destructive policies, part of the blame will be placed on the triumph of image over reality. The reality is that there are limits to the costs that the US public are willing to bear and the inability to discuss these costs and limits rationally has led to some irrational decisions.
In all of this, I have to reaffirm my faith in American democracy and the common sense of the common man. Part of what I see to be frustrating is that the common man is nowhere as stupid as the political ads make him out to be, and the only thing that is going to save us is if we put aside tabloid television, gotcha ads, and all of the nonsense that has infected political discourse and try to discuss the situation calmly, civilly, and rationally. Forget about trying to sell an idea or policy. The situation is such a mess that no one knows what the right idea or policy should be.