July 21, 2006

Calling War Lovers Anonymous

At the conclusion of an entry that I recommend you read in its entirety, Gregory Djerejian writes:
Is it possible, even with Lebanon's Cedar Revolution now lying in ruin, even with Iraq bleeding profusely, even with Afghanistan (and portions of Pakistan) increasingly seeing a reconstituted neo-Talib and al-Qaeda presence--is it really possible that Bush would listen to an unholy alliance of unrepentant, incorrigible and increasingly reckless neo-cons (Krauthammer, Kristol's Standard, most of NRO etc.), crude Jacksonians (Bolton, Steyn) and hotted up evangelical rapturists (the legions of Hewitts)? (By the way, when will another prominent neo-con--say, for example, the brightest one of them all to have served in government, in my view Paul Wolfowitz--stand up and pull a Fukuyama, by remonstrating some of his prior tutees for their too abundant enthusiasms, so as to help calm things down a tad?) Friends, these days, given the near total dearth of quality political leadership in Washington, given a media that, in the main, can only be described as severely cretinized and moronic, given a sense of pervasive paranoia and incompetence and fear gripping swaths of the country like a national mania, of sorts, well, anything is possible. But let us fight the good fight here for a sense of judiciousness and intelligence in our foreign-policy making. It is time to stop speaking messianically of root causes willy-nilly, and absolutist solutions, and eradication of this or that writ large, and rather to confront an exceedingly complex neighborhood with more deftness and realism and sobriety and, yes, humility. Hopefully someone is listening.
For reasons I've just discussed here and here (as well as in the additional essays listed at the end of that second post), I strongly fear that Djerejian's concerned plea that someone listen to this entirely reasonable, fully justified call for an end to messianic visions and catastrophic, ever-widening war as the solution to all the crises we face will go unanswered.

I've discussed The Folly of Intervention at length. The main lesson of that folly is a very simple and incontestable one: aggressive intervention always leads to numerous unforeseen consequences that are in many ways the opposite of what the interventionists themselves had intended -- and those unforeseen, usually calamitous results are then used as the justification for still further intervention. This dynamic can continue indefinitely, and it has been reverberating around the globe ever since World War I.

But there is another aspect of this syndrome that I haven't mentioned for a while: in many ways, the approach and the compulsion of the eternal interventionists are identical to those of an out-of-control addict. Just as the addict believes that this time will be different from all the previous occasions on which he gave in to his self-destructive behavior, even though he knows in some form that is a complete lie, so the apocalyptic interventionists believe that this conflict will be the one that finally resolves all the momentous problems created by the previous interventions.

And a further reason I think the drive to a wider war may now have a momentum that cannot be stopped is that this may be the last chance for this particular group of interventionists. Certain key people in the administration share this vision of world transformation through violence and death, and they have a pliable president who probably can be used for their purposes still once more. And they are quick to see the possibilities: the current crisis is being turned into the all-purpose justification for the final confrontation in the Middle East.

They may not get another opportunity like this in the time before Bush leaves office (although if they are unable to capitalize on this one for some combination of reasons, I'm certain they will try again). But they desperately want and need to place that last bet -- the one that will recoup all the earlier losses. This is the final roll of the dice, for everything. They sense this in some manner, and those of us who oppose their plans had better not forget it.

If I had my way, I would immediately order every single one of them out of government and out of public life, and into a War Lovers Anonymous recovery program. And there they can spend their remaining days, and leave the rest of us to sort out our differences and conflicts as best we can. We could not possibly do worse -- and I dare to think and hope we would do significantly better.

UPDATE: Billmon has some thoughts about "useless idiots" like Andrew Sullivan -- and Gregory Djerejian, including some details about Djerejian's earlier views with which I hadn't been familiar. Given this information about Djerejian, much of which I admit is new to me, I fully agree with Billmon's overall assessment. Still, given the gathering madness of the neocons' plans for a wider Middle East war, plans that are still very much alive, I think every voice that opposes those plans is of some value, even if that value is severely limited in a particular case by a person's own intellectual history and his still-prevailing general perspective. The times remain extremely perilous, and the more opposition, the better. But Billmon's larger argument is entirely correct.