Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Justification of War Evaporates

29 August 2007
A commentary by Ian Stewart

The ideology of neo-conservatism, which has been frequently expressed on this opinion page, is approaching a point of crisis. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 lent some credibility to the ideas of neo-conservative think-tanks, but as the subsequent years of catastrophic war have worn on, their credibility has mostly evaporated. The last of their moralizing justifications to stay in Iraq has evaporated, too. By visiting Iran and Syria, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has rejected the role of U.S. puppet. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since al-Maliki’s exile during Saddam Hussein’s regime was spent in those same countries.

But the fact that a friend of the Iranians holds the nominal leadership of Iraq means that, in neo-conservative eyes, the Iraqi democracy is broken, and the Iraqis must be pressured to elect a new leader who is more amenable to U.S. interests. In real terms, this means that democracy is no longer a priority in Iraq. The facade quickly put in place after the failure to turn up weapons of mass destruction has fallen away, finally revealing the bald-faced imperialism behind it.

This contradicts American principles to such a degree that it’s necessary to ask the age-old question, who benefits? Contractors like Blackwater and Halliburton certainly benefit, to the tune of billions of dollars, and oil companies tangentially benefit from the possibility of revenues from Iraqi oil if the situation ever stabilizes. But even in today’s America, these economic interests are not enough to sustain such a disastrous policy. There’s a deeper question, namely, why does imperialism have a political constituency?

The answer does not lie in the realm of rationality. Even the most cursory reading of history reveals what happens to republics that choose the path of empire: over-extension, fiscal crisis and collapse. The American military is over-extended, and the nation is entering a fiscal crisis. In our modern era, the cycles of history have tightened so that what once unfolded over centuries might take decades, or even less time than that. The mighty Soviet Union only lasted 79 years, after all.

Those who advocate continued foreign military adventures do so against the currents of history. And despite what they claim, they do not do so for America’s security. More than anything, they do it for their emotional well-being. Nationalism, after all, is a powerful narcotic. It enables the rationalization of all sorts of actions.

Just this week, a Tracy man (Al Galaviz) advocated mass murder via nuclear weapons in these very pages. Men like him hold the state and its glory as part of their very identity. They will be the first on their feet to salute the flag, but they have no comprehension of the principles it represents.

This is why President Bush’s latest justification for the continuation of the Iraq debacle relies so heavily on Vietnam revisionism. He is no longer speaking to the rational American, he is speaking solely to his hyper-nationalist base. He is offering them redemption for the failure in Vietnam, which has long been a black mark in neo-conservative interpretations of history. Withdrawing from Iraq would be an admission that it is another such black mark in our history, and this would be a mortal blow to the egos of nationalists everywhere. So, these men will sacrifice any amount of other people’s lives and other people’s money to keep their idolatrous myths of America the Invincible alive.

This is the essence of neo-conservatism. Ask yourself, does it still deserve a fair hearing? If you truly believe in the long-standing principles that America was founded on, the only logical answer is no.

Longtime Tracy-area resident Ian Stewart is a frequent contributor to the Tracy Press Voice pages.

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