Christopher Hitchens has an article in Salon about Iraq and our attitudes toward it. He opens:
Another request in my in-box, asking if I’ll be interviewed about Iraq for a piece “dealing with how writers and intellectuals are dealing with the state of the war, whether it’s causing depression of any sort, if people are rethinking their positions or if they simply aren’t talking about it.” I suppose that I’ll keep on being asked this until I give the right answer, which I suspect is “Uncle.”
As we approach a domestic election cycle, war fatigue becomes more and more of an issue.Chris Bertram replies to Hitchens:
Needless to say there isn’t a mention of the fact that they wouldn’t be under assault from “the vilest movement on the face of the planet”, nor would that movement be as strong as it presently is, but for the policy that Hitchens and his co-thinkers promoted in the first place. Oh, sorry, I didn’t notice at first, but Hitchens doesn’t believe that since he claims:
Bad as Iraq may look now, it is nothing to what it would have become without the steadying influence of coalition forces. None of the many blunders in postwar planning make any essential difference to that conclusion. Indeed, by drawing attention to the ruined condition of the Iraqi society and its infrastructure, they serve to reinforce the point.
The “steadying influence of coalition forces” …..
Well, I guess Chris is kind of right; oppressive tyrannies are more stable. For a while. If you don’t mind the human cost. Until they need to attack their neighbors to try and maintain their power. Or until they feed human and financial (and possibly technical) capital into a worldwide conspiracy dedicated to destabilizing the world order so a new, purer one can triumph.
The sense of fatigue in the chattering classes is palpable. They’re tired of the war, resentful that it’s not going better, despairing of the sacrifices involved. I’d been meaning to blog about the similar effects in World War II (Churchill lost the election, and when Morgenthau visited England after D-Day, Churchill wasn’t willing to walk him around London for fear that Londoners would jeer him.) and the Korean War (Truman’s approval ratings were in the 30’s toward the end of that war) and how democracies don’t do well in long wars.
I was looking for an explanation of how much stronger that fatigue is today when I finally read the back of this month’s Atlantic, and read Cathy Seipp’s friend Sandra Tsing Loh’s review of a book on a modern marriage, Unraveled by Maria Housden. Sandra writes:
Finally, an American mother who stopped her yammering and found a stunningly simple solution to the work-life balance problem: she left her family—her husband and three small children!
The author goes on to forge a new life for herself, living her bliss with a hunky New-Age kind of husband in the redwoods of Northern California. She sees her children on alternating weekends and summers.
Loh’s response to this flight from duty into bliss is right on:
Still puzzling over what, exactly, Mark Matousek was thinking when he mentioned The Road Less Traveled [in lauding Unraveled – ed.], I flopped open our old water-spotted 1978 copy and read,
Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.* …
Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. They voice their belief, noisily or subtly, that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be and that has somehow been especially visited upon them, or else upon their families, their tribe, their class, their nation, their race or even their species, and not upon others.
*The first of the “Four Noble Truths” which Buddha taught was “Life is suffering.”
Stuff is hard.
War is probably the hardest stuff of all, and sadly, there is no hunky new-age husband and no redwood-shaded architecturally-crafted cabin where we can hide from it.
Charitably, I’ll assume that people arguing “Out Now!” believe that we can somehow decompose the war in Iraq from the overall war between Al-Quieda and the West. I obviously don’t believe so.
It appears that they don’t either.