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Thoughts of the Future

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The tragic sacking of Iraqi national treasures (by its own people) notwithstanding, our military has proved itself once again to be almost unbelievably robust, efficient AND ethical in its handling of the three week war in Iraq. The question now is no longer can our military live up to our expectations, but rather, can we live up to their excellence?

Victor Davis Hanson, in a very thoughtful mood, has similar thoughts:

    Such unprecedented military power brings with it enormous moral responsibility as the world – its utopians especially – in the decades ahead will vie for a hand in the decisions on how to use it and for what purposes. There quite literally has never been a single nation that has exercised such colossal military force to change almost instantly the status quo, and used it under the auspices of a consensual government to free – Grenada, Panama, Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq – rather than to enslave peoples. How long it will last, we do not know, but we should at least realize that we are living in one of the most anomalous periods in recorded history.

    Sophocles would warn us that hubris – not enemies in the here and now – is the only real danger to us on the horizon. But so far we have avoided the gods’ nemeses precisely because our soldiers have put their power in the service of good by toppling odious despots – Noriega, Milosevic, Mullah Omar, Saddam Hussein – and leaving the seeds of freedom in their wake. We of an often cynical and ironic society at the least owe them a commensurate idealism. [National Review]

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.sanfordmay.com san

    Wait a minute, before Hanson gets away with rewriting history:

    Grenada: Marxist, pro-Castro
    Panama: Canal
    Serbia: UN-sanctioned peacekeeping operation
    Afghanistan: Al Qaeda, 9/11
    Iraq: WMD(?), 9/11(?), plotted the assassination of the President’s father, plus eight or ten more, changing on an almost daily basis; take your pick.

    I don’t know: Can we live up to our military’s ability to take out welterweight — and strawweight — forces to serve our foreign policy goals while calling these operations liberation?

    “We of an often cynical and ironic [read: insightful and hard to fool] society at the least owe them a commensurate idealism [read: will swallow any excuse the administration pulls out of their hats].”

    I recently watched a Marine in the face of a crowd of Iraqis demonstrating against our presence in their country. He was pushing against the crowd, yelling in an odd sort of flat tone, “We’re here for your fucking freedom.” Obviously, he was about as convinced as I am.

  • mike

    Hey, Eric the Liberator (did ‘ya miss me?), this article about Thomas Friedman sounds like a good description of you:

    http://www.observer.com/pages/frontpage6.asp

    By the way, the looting of the cultural museum looks more like the planned work of professionals than the spontaneous outbursts of mobs. See http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=398250

    So congratulations on your great victory. Operation Not Quite A Cakewalk But Pretty Close was certainly a great success for Israel-oh, excuse me, the U.S. There’s nothing like a turkey shoot to invigorate the American spirit. I get a hard-on just thinking about it.

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Hanson seems to be, in a sideways fashion, urging the abandonment of introspection and skepticism. If we’re going to look back through the 1980s and 90s, though, we might as well look back with a clear-eyed view. It won’t do us any good to put blinders on and focus only on those operations where we can plausibly say we did good.

    Hanson’s unstated but implicit thesis–because we have recently used our military strictly for good, we are good–doesn’t wash.

    In the name of fighting communism the U.S. did some horrible shit. In the name of fighting Iran the U.S.–meaning Donald Rumsfeld– knowingly participated in Saddam’s chemical gassing of his enemies, by passing on intelligence about troop locations (not to mention approving U.S. shipments of precursor chemicals to create those weapons).

    The list of atrocities and assistance of atrocities and turning a blind eye to atrocities goes on and on, and it’s not all in the distant past by any means–a lot of it is well within the careers of the very people who are in the Bush Administration right now.

    In every case, we have an excuse of sorts–fighting communism, fighting Iran, whatever.

    What may be different now is that we don’t have an excuse. But, of course, we do: The war on terrorism.

    Two facts:

    1. The war on terrorism is the best excuse we’ve ever had to do really heinous shit.

    2. In the past, we have done some really heinous shit.

    We don’t need to be less vigilant in our skepticism and criticism of the U.S. government’s motives and actions–rather, it has never been more important to watch the government. If every person in the U.S. takes on Hanson’s (and apparently Eric’s) belief in the essential goodness of U.S. foreign policy–well, God help us, and God help the rest of the world.

    Hanson may believe there has never been a country in this position before, but…well, come on. There are many examples in history that come close enough. Hanson clearly is searching for an excuse not to look at these examples. A cynical person might look at that tendency and suspect that Hanson doesn’t wish to look at history because he favors a course that may repeat it. Pay no attention to the empire behind the curtain.

    I plan to retain my “cynical and ironic” perspective. The U.S. has never posed a greater potential danger to the rest of the world than it does right now. We’re a country that recently confirmed we are the most powerful military force the world has ever known, we believe we are inherently good and therefore always “right,” and we’re EXTREMELY easy to manipulate.

    Thinking for ourselves simply isn’t our strong suit, as much as we claim to prize individualism. Over half of all Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11. Over half of all Americans believe that “some” or “all” of the 9-11 hijackers were Iraqi (none were). No wonder we are so self-righteous about the Iraq invasion–it’s direct revenge for an attack on our soil! Oh–except that it’s not. Pay no attention to the truth behind the curtain.

    We’re a populace that can be hoodwinked very easily, and we have a mass media that is happy to assist the Administration in the deception, and an Administration that is eager to design the deceptions. Americans will not lack for any fuel for their patriotism and self-righteousness in the future, any more than they do now.

    Power, self-righteousness, fervor, gullibility. This is not a healthy combination of characteristics. The U.S. is dangerous, and it is up to U.S. citizens to fix this problem–or the rest of the world is going to do it for us, and it’s not going to feel good.