Sunday, November 15, 2015

Once again: our grief is not a cry for war


As we recoil from the atrocity in Paris, the bombing of a Shi'a neighborhood in Beirut, and the downing of a Russian civilian airliner, it's worth remembering there are two groups who are delighted by these events.

Obviously the perpetrators are delighted -- presumably that means ISIS, ISIL, IS, Daesh or whatever it is called. Surfing the web, it is possible to read pundits, scholars, and general bloviators of numerous stripes and tendencies explaining how the recent string of crimes represent a strategic shift by that force. Some of these theories may be correct, but in the heat of the moment, it probably would be smart to suspend judgment, investigate, and respond with more thought than emotion. Among the pundits, I like the speculation by Gilbert Ramsay, a British international relations scholar:

If there is a reliable strategic purpose to terrorism it is simply this: to shake things up. To change things. To kick over the table and play a different game instead. The best way, always, to win that particular game is not to accept the invitation to play.

The other group that is delighted by these events are the permanent war hawks of the U.S. national security state. These "delighters" screwed up so badly after the terrorist crime of 2001 that a generation has come along who are somewhat inoculated against their hysterical fear mongering. The most diverse generation ever is not down with their elders' Islamophobia, racism, and defense of imperial domination. The right wing Slate columnist William Saletan is salivating over the disillusionment he hopes will follow the current round of atrocity.

If you’re one of the millions of young people who enjoyed this period of relative comfort, I’m sorry tell you that it’s coming to an end. If Madrid, London, or Mumbai didn’t wake you up, Paris should. ... If you grew up watching thousands of Americans die in Iraq, along with many thousands of Iraqis, it’s easy to say that the Iraq war was a mistake. ... In a world full of religious violence and terrorism, you’ll have to choose among some bad options. ... You might have to send American troops abroad. You might have to join the fight yourself.

We can expect from our domestic right-wingers a full scale assault on the "Iraq War syndrome" -- the successor to the Vietnam syndrome. We the people may be slow sometimes, but we do eventually notice when our leaders blunder into fruitless imperial wars and the experience fosters a reluctance to go abroad [seeking] monsters to destroy.

We can trust Republicans to delightedly bang the war drums. Daesh gives them the enemy they need. We can't trust the Democrats not to embrace war fever, even if somewhat reluctantly. This country still needs people of good will to rein in the follies of our rulers.

Graphic dates from Sept. 22, 2001. Still true.

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