Which Way From Here?
People are quitting. As the war in Iraq seems to be winding down (at least the conventional part of it anyway), witness the fragmentation and dissolusion of the anti-war movement that sprung to life in the run up to conflict. Recently there's been discussion among the more progressive technorati about the validity of protest, hope, and the destructive nature of opposing "certitudes" in politics. Here's a sample:
I also stopped supporting the peace protests when I felt they did little good. And I won't attend the ones this weekend because, to me, they lack focus and discipline. Are we protesting to support Iraq? Or against Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Ashcroft? Are we for UN? Or against the Patriot Act? And before you say the lines are clear on all these issues, they aren't. The 'peace movement' needs to make a decision about what the fight is, develop an effective voice, and then stick with it.
On the one hand I must aggree, and I've been stressing the "develop and effective voice" point for a while. On the other hand, I find the attitude taken here to be quite diseartening. What I find disheartening is that Shelly (the author) has drawn a box around the "peace movement" and then difinitively placed herself outside it, as have many self-identifying progressive people I know. The message is that maybe we'll come back out if God forbid things get really bad or better yet y'all get your act together, but until then I'm staying home. Partly this is due to the nature of the people with juice in the peace movement -- they tend toward dogma -- but mostly it's because this is the easy thing to do, to abdicate responsibility. This is the thing which requires no work, no effort, no sweat, no arguments or struggle. It is a position of material and emotional privilige, predicated on the ability to comfortably abide by the current order.
This is the consumer mindset at work in politics. "Gee whiz, I don't like any of the current flavors of Peace Movement on the market just now, so I guess I'll just wait and see if they come out with something new next quarter. Maybe I'll submit some on-line feedback to help the process along!" I'm being harsh, and I'm not exempting myself from this criticism in any way shape or form, but this wait-and-see attitude will be the utter end to us. Lambasting ANSWER for not being more on-message (as I've done in the past) really is a waste of time and energy. I mean, when was the last time you got 100,000+ people to do anything? We the throughtful, less certitude-full, less likely to ramble off into Marxist rhetoric people need to pick up the slack.
However, I don't think there's a one of us that doesn't want the best for the people of Iraq right now, regardless of the events leading to this moment. Agreeing to this one point is not selling out, or going over to the enemy, is it? And it's a start, a follow up to a belief that there's hope.
And then there's this, which is highly debatable. How much are you (or I) really willing to give up to see that the Iraqi people get "the best"? This is not a pointless question. At what point do we put our money where our mouth is on this one? It's very easy to say you want the best for someone when it's not going to cost you anything.
But then again it is costing us quite a lot. It's costing us billions of dollars and it's costing us allies and it's costing us in terms of world opinion. These costs (deficets, geopolitical factionalization, decreased global security) won't really sting for a few years, maybe even a few decades, and so they're easy to ignore in the face of cheering crowds served up for TV. It's like smoking and cancer. As the carcinogens take root, we tell ourselves we'll quit tomorrow, next month, next year. "Hey I still feel good. No reason to stop now. Come on, let's be hopeful (cough cough cough), by the time I'm 60 they'll have a cure for cancer."
No, they won't. It's time we realized this. I'm not trying to attack Shelly for what she's saying. Most of my fury comes from the fact that I've heard her words echo around in my own head time and time again. It hits close to home. But we need to start seriously working on alternatives to the current swing of the pendulum, or it may be too late to turn back the tide.
At the moment, it's not looking good. I'm incensed by the plattitude/critical thought ratio among people I would like to believe are in "my" camp, and don't even get me started on the rest of the country. I've caught myself slipping into -- or passively aggreeing with -- elitest anti-plebian commentary far too often as of late to be really comfortable believing in my countrymen. But this is too damn important to pull the "screw those Ugly Americans" card. The future forks are either turning this country around or jumping ship, and I don't believe that running off into a green corner of utopia and living out the time between now and the end of the world in relative peace is a course of action I'll ever be cool with. If it ends up going that way, I'm going to be one bitter-ass ex-patriot.
I'm not being mellodramatic. From where I'm sitting, a good chunk of my future is riding on how this all plays out, and I don't like the crowd who are setting the course at the moment. Case in point, as hospitals and museums were looted, Marines protected the Ministry of Oil. The best possible spin on this is that we didn't have enough manpower to protect everything, and the Ministry of Oil is sure to be vital to the reconstruction effort. However, that begs the question of why don't they have the additional manpower to protect hospitals, museums, neighborhoods, etc? Why didn't we execute the Powell doctrine of overwhelming force? Why didn't we plan to have 3x as many people on the ground to keep the pressure cooker from exploding when the regime crumbled?
These are legitimate questions, and the only possible answers I can see are that Team Bush is A) incompitant, or B) willing to place personal/political concerns ahead of doing the right thing. Looking at the history and the resume's in play, I lean to the latter. And while I'm all for retaining one's sanity and not getting dragged down into the rhetorical mire that this polarizing course of events has created, I don't feel that I can simply float above it all and reasonably expect a positive outcome.
We can't quit now. We can't abdicate. We can't let someone else take care of this. Have you seen the poll numbers? Who the fuck do you think is going to come to your rescue other than your self? Ain't that America.