Monday, October 15, 2007

Crazy, stupid people make the world go 'round

What's the common link between an Egyptian man pissed off about Israel and the American invasion of Iraq? via Ezra, Shadi Hamid thinks it's "dignity", which seems too dry and dignified a word for the emotions involved.
He went on to talk about the retributive impulse that had defined the post-9/11 American “psyche;” how we, too, have acted irrationally and done things that have not only failed to help us, but have so obviously hurt us. Our pride and our honor took a hit on 9/11. And what came out of it was a visceral reaction, one full of confused anger. Such impulses are necessary at first, even healthy. Anger can be a good thing, particularly when channeled constructively in support of a national cause. But we went far beyond healthy responses, and we’ve drawn out a long, six-year process of cathartic retribution, in some way aiming to erase the humiliation - the affront to our dignity – that the attacks of September 11th brought upon us. And, in doing so, we have descended into a spiral of irrationality, both self-destructive and self-defeating.
Karma: the reaction to one humiliation -- 9/11 -- will bring about a further humiliation -- the withdrawal from Iraq.

I still have not heard the answer to my longtime question, though: why wasn't Afghanistan enough? Why couldn't we have gotten our retribution out of our system by actually hurting the people who hurt us, and by helping their other victims? I suspect there is no good answer, except for the racist complex of ideas that basically say one dead Muslim is as good as any other, and so long as we're killing the Taliban in Afghanistan, we might as well go after "Saddam" too, as if he was the only one who ever lived in Iraq.

5 comments:

Chet Scoville said...

I think the reason Afghanistan wasn't enough was simply that the US government and media didn't let it be enough. They deflected attention quickly and thoroughly, and much of the American public (from what I've seen) has simply forgotten about it. If they'd kept the attention on Afghanistan, maybe that would have been enough.

Anyhow, the whole notion of going to war just for emotional or therapeutic reasons as opposed to strategic ones is pretty twisted.

Closet Liberal said...

This is the one area that angers me most. Because of the irrational assault on Iraq, the US (and the world with its latent anti-Americanism) have pissed away, or are in the process of pissing away, any potential for rebuilding Afghanistan.

If Afghanistan had been the only "front" in this "war on terror", it conceivably would be a lot better off. (Though American style intervention seems to be so bumbling no matter where they do it, that's a WAG as well)

odograph said...

Not because it's right, but because of human psychology, the answer to:

"I still have not heard the answer to my longtime question, though: why wasn't Afghanistan enough?"

is

"It was too easy."

NonyNony said...

I agree with chet here - from a rage standpoint, Afghanistan would have been "enough" if our leaders had let it be enough. Beat the crap out of Afghanistan, find OBL, rip the heart out of the al-Qaeda terrorist group, rebuild Afghanistan into a democracy, go home. From a "psychic" point of view, it would have been enough.

Instead our leaders turned the rage that people were feeling and directed it towards Iraq. They cynically used the rage, the fear, and the humiliation that a good number of people were feeling as a cover to do what they'd wanted to do since getting into office - invade Iraq, topple Saddam, and set up direct American control over a country in the center of the Middle East.

I also agree with chet that going to war for emotional reasons is twisted, but that's about the only way politicians can get a democracy to start a war. Democracies can be mobilized to fight true existential wars pretty easily, but for non-existential wars you need to get the country's rage on. That's why we didn't get into WWI until the Lusitania was sunk or into WWII until Pearl Harbor. And why the Maine became a rallying cry for the Spanish-American War. These weren't existential wars for the most part (though a strong case might be made for WWII given the Japanese attack and the power of the German war machine), but the country got behind them mostly for emotional reasons.

sparafucilli said...

By definition, when a major power has a knee-jerk reaction the brain of the body politic is out of the loop. And why wasn't Afghanistan enough? Answer: Bush, Cheney and OIL.