January 12, 2007

In Which We Endeavor to Save Your Sanity

The proprietors, writers, editors and publishers at Once Upon A Time awoke this morning keenly aware of the vast scope of our awe-inspiring collective powers. We are also seized with a compelling desire to perform charitable deeds. Above all else, we wish to spare you, our cherished readers, from unnecessary mental anguish.

We have therefore read today's three major articles at OpinionJournal.com. We will now attempt to summarize them for your edification and enlightenment. It is entirely possible you may also experience other emotions. Bafflement and extreme amusement may be among them. Indeed, spasms of uncontrollable laughter may render you incapable of other physical motion for up to an hour. This is to be expected: we frequently are reduced to helpless laughter when overwhelmed with brilliance of the kind demonstrated by writers such as those at OpinionJournal.com, capable of analysis so immense in its scope and all-encompassing knowledge. We acknowledge that, as a result of this overwhelming effort, our pain is intense -- but you will feel none at all! It is unnecessary to offer us your gratitude. On the other hand, a very large bottle of any of the major extra-strength pain relievers would be deeply appreciated. (Single malt scotch would also do the trick.)

First, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich share with us their decades of foreign policy expertise, appreciation of the intricacies of differing cultures, and intimate familiarity with sociological dynamics throughout history -- and they reach a blindingly obvious conclusion which, we ruefully admit, had escaped us until this very moment. Iraq today is exactly like New York City in the early 1990s! You doubtless feel the same embarrassment we experienced, when we lamented that this stunningly simple observation had entirely eluded us. We are also consumed with regret that we had forgotten how New York City's basic functionality was largely destroyed by a decade of punishing sanctions, and that the Big Apple had been bombed, invaded and occupied by a foreign power. To say nothing of the New York Civil War! We forget a great deal these days.

But we thank Messrs. Giuliani and Gingrich for explaining to us that the overwhelming catastrophes of Iraq and New York City are fundamentally alike. You have probably already leapt ahead to the clearly indicated solution: "many lessons from the successful welfare reforms in New York City ... can be readily applied in Iraq"! Do you feel ashamed that you didn't see this? We understand.

Messrs. Giuliani and Gingrich propose a vast Workfare program for Iraq, to be overseen by the U.S. military. You can easily see how the endless parallels play out. There is one major difference, however, and it's a peach. The Iraqis comprise one of the cheapest labor forces known in world history! Seriously:
The population of Iraq is roughly 30 million with a pre-war median annual income equivalent to $700. Subsidizing unemployed Iraqis with a meaningful wage in exchange for meaningful work rebuilding their society is well within the means of the U.S. and its allies.
We're talking cheap here, easily within our "means." And then everything else will just fall into place, lickety-split. This is the transformative power of "an honest day's work."

Aren't you ashamed you didn't see this before?

Next, Daniel Henninger explains to us why, after almost four years in Iraq, we are now at the genuinely critical moment. We will now see the "beginning of the counterinsurgency." Awesome! Our corporeal forms seek to protect themselves from the heat and light of Henninger's powerful analysis, which is filled with highly technical observations that Henninger renders magnificently in terms accessible to lay readers:
In broadest outline, the plan divides Baghdad into nine districts, essentially neighborhoods.
Neighborhoods! Such illumination is "the product of an enormous amount of self-criticism and analysis done by military and civilian analysts in and out of government."

In the event you should have any objection at all to this counterinsurgency effort, Henninger has one argument you will be utterly unable to answer:
It is not the least bit obvious that this counterinsurgency plan will fail, and only the most churlishly neurotic Bush hater would want it to.
This is compelling reasoning of the first order. We particularly admire the devilishly clever shifting of the burden of proof: you can't demonstrate that the "plan will fail"! The question of whether it can be shown the plan will work need not even be reached. Admiration floods our souls.

We also see signs of that "civility" we hear so much about from our President and his friends. If you long for the defeat of the United States (and the necessary collapse of civilization across the known universe which will inevitably follow) you are no longer a "terrorist-lover," or "on the other side." You are only a "churlishly neurotic Bush hater." We consider this an improvement. You may think we are too easily satisfied, and that we seek comfort in signs that diminish to the vanishing point. We can only respond that the quality of debate compels us to proceed in this manner.

Finally, we come to Peggy Noonan. Dear Peggy. She appears to have surrendered to despair. The Miracle of the Dolphins will not be repeated in Iraq. Too much sand.

Despite her depression, Noonan stiffens her spine to protect the status quo. She praises the Iraq Study Group for its "bipartisanship," its "moderation," and even for its "blurriness": "blurriness is not always bad in foreign affairs--confusion can buy time!" We contemplate such rarified thought, and we are reassured that the future of our country and the world rests on such perspicacity. And Noonan can still execute one neat Pundit Trick: the Invidious Parallel. If we withdraw from Iraq, the vacuum will be filled with terrorists -- and, regrettably, with Iraqis. The Iraqis don't "want to cooperate in their freedom." And after all we've done for them!

And if the Bush Administration collapses here at home, that vacuum will be filled -- with Democrats! Dear Lord, it's the same thing! And the Democrats are guilty of the worst sin of all, one that never touches Noonan or her allies: they are "absorbed by the small picture of partisan advancement." Noonan would never be so petty or small-minded. She searches for dolphins. They do not appear. She despairs.

But still she offers us undeserved wisdom:
What is paramount is a hard, cold-eyed and even brutal look at America's interests. We have them.
"We have them." Such simplicity. Such depths of meaning. Such subtlety. And we must acknowledge that Noonan is entirely correct on one further point: "the nation is in trouble." Indeed.

Our exertions have tired us. We must retire for a brief period, so that we may gather our strength once more.

We feel your appreciation for our efforts. You are entirely welcome. Yet we must admit that hurt more than we anticipated when we began. Ah, well.

[We may contain Multitudes, but We are, finally, only One. And my sole income at the moment is from donations for my writing here and at The Sacred Moment (where you will find my series, On Torture, and the many essays based on the work of Alice Miller; I will soon be moving all the essays at The Sacred Moment here, so that my writing is in one place). If you enjoyed this post and would like to support my writing, I would be enormously grateful. Donations in any amount at all are always deeply appreciated. Paypal and Amazon donation links will be found at the top right.

We remain, as ever, your Faithful and Dedicated Servants.]