Friday, January 27, 2006

History's savage return

For people of my generation (early baby boomer) and younger — at least, those who didn't win the prize of a trip to Vietnam or Iraq, courtesy of the U.S. government — most of history's grimmer events have a slightly fictional aspect. History is gauzy, like something seen through a scrim.

When I read now about the Cold War, with its scenarios of mutually assured destruction, it triggers a chilling dart in my spine; but at the time I was too young or too ignorant to pay much mind. The Civil War? It was Gone With the Wind. The spool-up to the American Revolution had faintly comic overtones — dressing up like Indians and dumping tea into Boston harbor? I mean, come on. "We must all hang together, or we shall most assuredly hang separately"? A funny line, but really, weren't those colonials a little over-torqued? Surely the British Parliament was one of the more enlightened governments in the world at the time, even if a bit of taxation sans representation got up your nose.

Only a decade ago, the past's shrill voices and political passions, the dangers that asked people to put their lives on the line, seemed to be getting quaint and moth-eaten. Marx and Lenin had done pratfalls. Capitalism had won the Cold War and it was only a matter of time until the whole world was enjoying its benefits. Our worst nightmare was a bear market in which our portfolios would be down 20 percent for a year or two.

Lately, though, I have been able to identify much more strongly with the perils and tragedies of history. It's back, and maybe in a very literal sense, with a vengeance.

How could our colonial ancestors get so exercised about an intransigent parliament as to put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honour on the line? Today, I am afraid, many of us understand, thanks in large part to the Bush Administration.

According to a poll taken last year, 60 percent of Americans are so concerned about illegal immigration that they would favor building a security barrier along the Mexican border. For the first time in living memory, people in this country have mobilized as private citizens to challenge illegals because the government refuses to enforce the laws. Now U.S. states are beginning to target The Invasion on their own because of federal inaction.

The "will of the people" is clear — and El Presidente Jorge W. Bush-Gonzales is blind, deaf, and dumb where it's concerned. The only voices he can hear are those of big business, which wants an endless supply of cheap labor with the social costs passed on to the taxpayer, and of his pals in Mexico's ruling class. At a time when a large majority of Americans are fed up with adding to the ever-growing Third World underclass in their midst, W. is pushing Congress to enact open borders legislation, euphemistically called — nudge-nudge, wink-wink — a "guest worker" program.

Sounds kind of like taxation — no, like getting screwed over — without representation, by a president, most members of both major parties, and a federal judiciary who believe they are rulers by divine right. If I thought that sticking feathers on my head and dumping tea in the Potomac would do any good, I would.

We aren't about to have another civil war in the United States, but France, The Netherlands, Denmark, and the rest of Scandinavia may be looking at one, thanks to their willful ignorance of the sequel to large-scale Islamic immigration. They can, like Sweden and Norway, make it a crime to criticize the multi-culturalist dreamworld, but that won't change the reality that is beginning to tear their societies apart.

Wars and rumors of wars.

The world was supposed to have gotten over such follies by now. Europeans believe we have, that there is no issue that can't be settled by negotiations and compromises. It's an enticing belief, and was very comforting to Britain and France in 1938 when one A. Hitler expressed his intent to put his footprint on Czechoslovakia.

Now, once again, the death wish that lingers in the human soul despite every scheme for spreading education and progress seems to be reaching a critical mass. The news from the Middle East could hardly be more ominous.

Iran's current president has promised to wipe the world clean of Israel, even as he has greenlighted renewal of the country's nuclear program. He's a flaming crackpot, but as history (there it is again) has shown, madmen as rulers can do whatever others can't stop them doing.

As if that weren't enough, the party of outright terrorism, Hamas, has been democratically elected to rule the imaginary country of Palestine.

I feel like I am at the edge of a cliff, looking into a sickening void.

Gerard Baker, a correspondent for The Times of London, which is hardly a neocon media outlet, writes that we must prepare ourselves for the "unthinkable," because "war against Iran may be a necessity":
If Iran gets safely and unmolested to nuclear status, it will be a threshold moment in the history of the world, up there with the Bolshevik Revolution and the coming of Hitler. What the country itself may do with those weapons, given its pledges, its recent history and its strategic objectives with regard to the US, Israel and their allies, is well known. We can reasonably assume that the refusal of the current Iranian leadership to accept the Holocaust as historical fact is simply a recognition of their own plans to redefine the notion as soon as they get a chance (“Now this is what we call a holocaust”).
Joe Katzman, in the excellent group blog Winds of Change, thinks we have nothing left but "faith without hope."
I personally believe that we're very likely to see at least 10 million dead in the Middle East within the next two decades, with an upper limit near 100 million. I do not believe pre-emptive action will be taken against Iran. I do, however, believe the extremist mullahs in Iran mean exactly what they say. They are steeped in an ideology that believes suicide/murder to be the holiest and most moral act possible. They have been diligent in laying strategic plans for an offensive Islamic War against Israel, America and the West. Plans backed by 25 years of action, and stated no less clearly than Mein Kampf.
How did we get to this awful position? Not through wickedness but through irresponsibility, very literally: we did not want to assume the responsibility for taking a firm line against one outbreak after another of Muslim fanaticism. We could have drawn a line and dared any wacko to cross it, at a lethal cost. We didn't, and now it's too late. "Dr. Bob," a philosphical physician, says in his blog The Doctor Is In:
Historians may well reflect on these times — if there are historians to record them — and wonder how it might have been different. They will look to November '79, and recognize the lost opportunity to crush the nascent Iranian Islamic revolution in its earliest days. They will ponder how a series of American leaders — from Carter in '79, to Reagan in Beirut, to Bush in Gulf War I, to Clinton in Somalia — squandered the opportunity to establish by strength a bulwark against the rising self-delusional tide of Islamic fundamentalist zealotry. They will marvel at the senescence of Europe — once colonical conquerors whose might and resilience survived two global wars, now weakened and whimpering, their grand cathedrals as empty as their souls, their rotting culture paying feckless fealty to impotent diplomacy.
Latest, but not least, George W. Bush and his neocon circus. They were right to drive from power one of the worst regimes in the world, a throwback to medieval tyranny which we had good reason to believe was bulking up with WMDs. Had we left it at that, we would have come out ahead, no matter if Iraq had devolved into the sectarian wars that still threaten to erupt as soon as we let go such control as we have. But finding themselves with no WMDs to hold up to the world and with egg on their faces, Bush and his crew moved from a forgivable error into a demented campaign to bring "democracy" to the badlands.

How ignorant of history and political philosophy do you have to be to understand that democracy isn't primarily a matter of forms like elections? That it requires minds that are at least mostly free, not sunk in generations of tribal enmity, and acceptance of concepts such as loyal opposition and compromise and weighing competing arguments? Well, the Palestinian authority is a "democracy," and it has just elected the straight Gangster ticket.

So the result of three years of armed missionary work in Iraq is that it's dubious whether we're ready for the next, and possibly even greater, test of removing a psychopathic nuclear power. Our military is stretched thin; our country, individually and collectively, has been living for years on credit cards (a $69 billion trade deficit, a national debt of $8,192,461,263,082.21 as of this writing); and a nation so divided that direct action to remove the Iranian threat would send a third or more of its citizens, not to mention a lot of the world, into hysterics.

There don't seem to be any good choices. Perhaps this is what some people felt like in 1938. Then again, it's still conceivable that sanity will win in a squeaker, or that we will somehow luck out. If we do, we must not go back to pushing our luck: we've got to be smarter and stronger and braver from now on.

Only one thing am I sure of. History — as savage, possibly, as often before — has returned. It's waiting for us, just out of sight.

1 comment:

Casey Parks said...

Came across your post on, and just wanted to be sure you knew that your comment on, was not filtered. I'm looking at it right now.

-Casey Parks