LEARNING FROM HISTORY
I found it odd this week to hear President Bush comparing the Iraq War to the fiasco in
To an ol’ peace marcher like me,
For me and my fellow doves,
Talk all you want about the 60,000 or so American soldiers who died in that war, but that number pales in comparison to those who were killed when we “abandoned” our mission. Hawks will point out that
Americans who disagree with President Bush typically focus on one basic fact: our own sons and daughters are dying every month we remain in
It’s a powerful argument, acknowledge the war hawks. But is it a moral one? Is it worthy of our status as a superpower? Let’s not forget, they point out, that we thoroughly destabilized a nation, toppled its head of state, and promised (as we did in
And yet … I’m proud to be part of their ranks.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about why I have been such a vehement opponent of this war from the moment we killed our first Iraqi. It’s not because I performed some sort of pre-war calculus about the consequences of the invasion. And it’s not because I’ve more recently analyzed the consequences of pulling out, as opposed to “staying the course.” Oh sure, I’ve thought about consequences, we all have. But I keep coming back to the same conclusion: there’ll be hell no matter what we do. As for which circle of hell is going to be worse for the world, the one following a U.S. pull-out or the one resulting from a permanent occupation, I remain somewhat agnostic.
Maybe I am being shallow, but neo-cons aren’t the only ones with principles. Some of us “bleeding hearts” have principles of our own. And here’s one of mine: superpowers who invade countries based on justifications that have been discredited have no right to continue to occupy them. In fact, not only do we have no right to remain as a military occupier, but we have an absolute duty to get out of Dodge! Maybe we can remain during some sort of transitional phase, but only with one proviso – that we admit our mistake to the world and request that the world community step up to the plate and help us fix what we have broken.
In this case, the fault of the invasion doesn’t lie solely with the
Politicians and journalists don’t generally make arguments like the above that focus exclusively on rights, principles and duties. In the public marketplace of ideas, people are much more comfortable making arguments based squarely on utility. Whatever your position, you can always trot out a few “experts” who will predict the future and explain that your position is likely to produce the happiest consequences – or the least horrible ones. No, they don’t have a crystal ball, but they don’t need one. They just need a suit and tie, and they can get on TV or take to the newspaper, and speculate about why one scenario is wise (from a utility standpoint) and another is foolish.
Surely, I can speculate too. I can explain why ending our participation in this God-forsaken war is the best way to further our national “interests.” The truth is, though, that I’m mostly interested in two national interests. First, we have an interest, whenever we make a horrible mistake, in owning up to our folly, and in inviting the world to help us all move on. And more importantly, we have an interest in making sure that whenever we make the same horrible mistake twice, we never EVER consider making it a third time.