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March 08, 2006

The Folly of this War

Digby looks at willful governmental stupidity "borne of hubris, mental laziness and bad judgment", just what we have seen and continue to see in the Iraq War.  His post, from a few days ago, referred to Arthur Silber talking about Barbara Tuchman's book, "The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam".   Tuchman defined folly in this way:

To qualify as folly for this inquiry, the policy adopted must meet three criteria: it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight. This is important, because all policy is determined by the mores of its age. "Nothing is more unfair," as an English historian has well said, "than to judge men of the past by the ideas of the present. Whatever may be said of morality, political wisdom is certainly ambulatory." To avoid judging by present-day values, we must take the opinion of the time and investigate only those episodes whose injury to self-interest was recognized even by contemporaries.

Secondly a feasible alternative course of action must have been available. To remove the problem from personality, a third criterion must be that the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime.

This paragraph from Tuchman's book about the events surrounding the Vietnam War sounds pretty familiar doesn't it?

Wooden-headedness, the "Don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts" habit, is a universal folly never more conspicuous than at upper levels of Washington with respect to Vietnam. Its grossest fault was underestimation of North Vietnam's commitment to its goal. Enemy motivation was a missing element in American calculations, and Washington could therefore ignore all the evidence of nationalist fervor and of the passion for independence which as early as 1945 Hanoi had declared "no human force can any longer restrain." Washington could ignore General Leclerc's prediction that conquest would take half a million men and "Even then it could not be done." It could ignore the demonstration of elan and capacity that won victory over a French army with modern weapons at Dien Bien Phu, and all the continuing evidence thereafter.

And Digby's take on the run-up to this war is something I've been thinking about a lot lately.  But no one says it like Digby:

I think that many of us over these last few years have felt as if we were living under water. Everything has seemed vaguely distorted. Communication and movement had an odd quality of density and resistance. We spoke out. We marched. We called our representatives. But it seemed as if our words sounded garbled and muffled in some way.

And there has also been a strong sense of inevitability. Certainly, since the impeachment the country has been steamrollered into a bizarre and aberrant political reality, never more than after 9/11 when the administration began agitating for this absurd, incomprehensible war. Despite its utter madness, I think most of us knew it was unstoppable. And it wasn't just us moonbats who knew it; it was the CIA and the state department. It was all of Europe and even Saddam himself. I suspect this is yet another feature of folly --- the sense among those who know better that there is no way to change the course of the event, that you are speaking a language nobody can understand.

Then he asks the question about how we dig ourselves out of this grim chapter of our history, something I fear will be dealing with for at least a generation.

Now, after we are dug in deeply with so much blood and money wasted, salvation requires repudiation of the Iraq war, the Bush doctrine and the cruel, undemocratic policies of the "war" on terrorism. I don't know if anyone has the strength to do that. It must be said that Lyndon Johnson was correct in that he would be mercilessly attacked for being weak if he withdrew from Vietnam. That's a political fact and it is what will happen if a Democratic administration tries to draw down the GWOT. (Not that we shouldn't do it, I'm just saying that the price will be high.) It's one of the main reasons why we should never start these things unless absolutely forced to. They are very difficult to end.

What or who will successfully put a coda to this ongoing folly? I don't see it in either party, to tell you the truth. But it's what I'm going to be looking for. This is the central challenge of millenial America: how can the most powerful nation on earth survive such monumental folly?

I have been thinking we need something the equivalent of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation forums.  I just don't see that we have the capability of doing that in this nation.  So what might allow us to have this discussion in a real way so we don't do this again?  Impeachment?  Would that do the trick?  It doesn't seem like enough to me but it may be the best we can get.  And we only get that if we win Congress. 

What do you think?

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 8, 2006 at 09:26 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink

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Comments

This is hilarious --

or not

Republicans (Democrats too, perhaps - all of us) have learned that it doesn't matter if your lies are ridiculously transparent -- they get believed anyway.

All these people saying they never knew Abramaoff when there's ample documentary evidence that they did know him --- also know that when you've already killed the truth, it can squeal on you...

Posted by: Noemie Maxwell | Mar 9, 2006 9:46:05 PM

I mean..

It can't squeal on ye , cannot.

But, perhaps my slip was an appropriate one. Truth probably always does rise from the dead....

Posted by: Noemie Maxwell | Mar 9, 2006 9:47:18 PM

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