March 21, 2008

One More Time: It's Your Goddamned Mess. You Be "Constructive."

With full justification multiplied one thousand times, Glenn Greenwald very harshly criticizes Anne-Marie Slaughter for her fundamentally dishonest contention that we should all be "nice" and stop attempting to determine "who was right and who was wrong on the initial invasion [of Iraq]..." In the manner of the repellently prissy and stern religious moralist who thunders at us that we all must cease sinning and turn to the One, True Path -- and who herself commits all manner of heinous immorality, on the assumption that none of that is relevant since she is the one doing it -- Slaughter dares to lecture us that, "everyone who cares about what happens both to our troops and to the Iraqi people should force themselves to face up to the hard issues on the ground rather than indulging in the easy game of gotcha." That was yesterday. Now we must be constructive.

Greenwald writes:
This plea that we all just forget about the unpleasant past -- stop trying to figure out who was responsible for the Iraq War -- has become the principal self-defense weapon of the pro-war political establishment. That's their only hope for evading responsibility for what they've done. It's also the central hope on which the entire McCain campaign rests -- that we should just all forget about the painfully wrong and misleading things John McCain said and did in making himself into the prime cheerleader for the most disastrous and unpopular war in American history, and focus instead on how he (somehow) has the experience and judgment to lead us to glorious Victory.

But why would we, and why should we, just ignore the question of who spawned this disaster? In trying to determine what to do now, isn't it rather important to know whose judgment and knowledge can be trusted and whose should be considered worthless? From the perspective of their own-self interest, the demand by war advocates like Slaughter and McCain that everyone forget about what they said and did in the past is understandable -- it's natural to hope that one's own wretched and destructive conduct would be forgotten -- but for the country, doing that would be completely irrational.
I can only repeat what I have said before -- and please note that I said this in October 2003. That's right: almost four and a half years ago. The essay is republished as the second half of this entry (republication being necessary after the archives were corrupted and the blog was moved), and it is titled: "It's Your Goddamned Mess. You Be 'Constructive.'"

You may want to read it in its entirety. This is the most critically relevant part:
But there is one tactic the hawks ought to give up at this point. They should stop saying, as one of the commenters to my earlier post did, that none of those who opposed the war with Iraq are offering "constructive" proposals at this point. This is remarkably offensive for several reasons. First, it wasn't the opponents' policies that created this horrible dilemma. It was the hawks' policies. They are responsible for this nightmare, and no one else. They shouldn't expect -- and often demand -- others to offer solutions to the daunting problems their policies have created. Where is the justice in that? Or even the common sense? They got us all here; they ought to show some intellectual responsibility and creativity of their own, and get us out.

Moreover, I have been consistent in my advocacy of a foreign policy which is directed solely at protecting the United States from demonstrable, serious threats to our security -- not to the neofascist mirage of taking over huge areas of the world, in the delusion that we can impose our form of government, and our entire intellectual tradition, on peoples and countries who don't share our tradition or our history, and who may not even want what we have in the first place. To assume that everyone wants what we do demonstrates a rather astonishing ignorance of history, of culture, and of events from even the recent past. It was precisely such assumptions (and other factors) that led to the debacle in Vietnam, as Barbara Tuchman has shown in great detail.

In fact, I think my proposals -- which are shared by any number of other people -- are remarkably "constructive." They would have avoided this entire nightmarish dilemma, by focusing our foreign policy on our own defense -- and they would abandon our goals of "nation building" and reconstructing the world in our own image. Such Utopian delusions have always failed -- and, as Hayek has shown, they have led to nothing but destruction and bloodshed. If people learned nothing else from the twentieth century, surely they ought to have learned that.

But in this context, the hawks' demand that all the rest of us be "constructive" means only that they demand we adopt their terms of debate, and their premises: that we sign on to an agenda of "saving" the rest of the world, of draining our own resources, of killing our own people, of killing those we say we want to save -- and all for a scheme which is doomed from the start, barring an unprecedented stream of miracles.

I, and others like me, have been constructive. I, and others like me, have offered alternatives. The hawks, and those who fashion and implement our foreign policy, rejected them. The problems we now face are their doing, the result of their actions, and their responsibility.

No one else's. It's their mess. There is no good way out. And we probably have given the terrorists' recruiting efforts the biggest boost that can be imagined. Well done.

But there is one thing the hawks should not expect or be allowed to get away with: avoiding responsibility for the tragedy that is now unfolding. They brought it about. Now they should have the decency to deal with it.

But it is certainly all of us who will pay the price, probably for decades to come. And for that, I would suggest that the hawks should stop expecting our gratitude.
No, there is no "good" way out, and there never could have been from the first moment the first American bomb fell on that helpless country. Our continued military presence guarantees only that the death, bloodshed, destruction and chaos will continue without end. Therefore:

Get Out Now: Just Do It (June 21, 2006)

No Way Out -- But Out (November 13, 2006)