Friday, January 11, 2008

Patience

I'm not a very patient man. The best I can do generally is to fake it with a mix of persistence and procrastination. But at least I understand the dimensions of my problem.

One of the difficulties of the democratic political process is how slowly it moves. This includes the criminal justice system, but I'm thinking here about the other parts of what we call "government." The designers of the U.S. Constitution very consciously put in a lot of time lags, plus those pesky things we call "checks and balances" in order to impede "popular enthusiasms" that they (rightly, in my opinion) feared.

One necessary exception to this was during emergencies, especially the time of war. But even then, the Constitution tries to parcel out the authority and responsibilities, again, fearing the tides that sweep nations into foolish conflicts. It's worth noting that two of our greatest Presidents who had first been Generals, warned of the pernicious effects of conflict. Washington's warning about "foreign entanglements" was directed at treaties that might embroil the U.S. in someone else's wars, and Eisenhower's criticism of the "military/industrial complex" was a warning about how those who profit from war may push a country against its own interests.

The other great President/General, Jackson, stands as something of a cautionary tale all by himself.

So now we're stuck in the middle of a post-colonial occupation, one of the most seriously wrongheaded maneuvers in the history of the Republic, and we've seen the entire set of warnings disregarded. Foreign entanglements, check. Military/Industrial Complex, check. "Popular enthusiasms," check. Oh, you want to tell me now that you were against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq from the beginning? Yeah, I believe you. Sure was lonely, wasn't it? Or are you one of the "Afghanistan was fine, but Iraq was a mistake?" Or maybe, "We're better off without Saddam, but the war was badly mismanaged." Yeah, you keep thinking that.

Many in the country are now sick of military "glory," though it's worth bearing in mind that even little minor changes in the ongoing slaughter are enough for hordes of people to begin spouting inanities like "The Surge is working!" Working at what? Have U.S. soldiers stopped dying? No, they're just dying at a somewhat slower rate than before. Iraqi citizens? Maybe the same thing, though is there anyone reading this who is naïve enough to take the U.S. military's word about that, to say nothing of the Bush Administration?

Besides, these conflicts are unwinnable. How do I know that? Because I have yet to hear someone give me a plausible theory of what winning would look like. The closest was on The Family Guy, where they had a sequence showing Iraqi women stripping off their burkas and opening a bikini car wash. It made as much sense as anything else I've heard, and at least it was concrete. Yeah, we'll have "won" when Iraq is a safe and stable democracy.

Just for the record: if you plan for "winning" depends on favorably changing the attitudes and behavior of some people who hate you, and who have hated you for decades, you're probably not going to win.

Oh yeah, and then there's that part about how Pakistan is destabilizing as we speak. Not that anyone could have predicted that a U.S. invasion the country next door, driving a pack of radicals with military training across the border could destabilize a country. I mean, after all, the corrupt military dictator said he was our friend. What could go wrong? And why would Iran want nuclear weapons just because it has a nuclear Pakistan to the east, and the U.S. military immediately to the West. I mean, really, why wouldn't they trust us? We only have their best interests at heart.

Anyway, so the American public is pretty sick of the matter, which I'm sure comes as a complete surprise to Islamic radicals in the Middle East, and we had an off-year election in 2006. Lo and behold, a lot of warmongers lost their seats in Congress and the Senate. Congress flipped, and everyone expected the whole foreign policy situation to change immediately.

Because George W. Bush had shown himself such a flexible guy up to this point. I mean, the people speak and he listens.

Besides, Congress is so very, very powerful. It's not like the President can just ignore what it says, right? And Bush never uses his veto power, well, at least he didn't up until the point when Congress stopped giving him absolutely everything he asked for.

Anyway, some people are pissed at Congress. How dare they not take the 51-49 vote mandate in the Senate and just stop the war? It's easy. Cut off the money, pass a law, impeach the bastard. Etc. Etc.

It has been my observation that it's very easy to tell other people how to do their jobs. Everybody's job looks easy from the outside. And maybe all it really would take is some "leadership," and some "courage," though I have to think that those aren't really that high up on the real talents required in Congress. And one might consider parsing that "courage" thing to remember that every member of Congress has to be thinking that their phones are tapped, that maybe their offices are bugged, and that there is a legion of political operatives ready to run with any hint of a scandal. Hell, in 2002 and 2004 we had two decorated war heroes lose elections because their patriotism was called into question. What do you think would have happened if there had been a real scandal to work with? Oh, and there's the part about how the U.S. Attorney's in Bush's Justice Department have been cooking up fake investigations of Democratic candidates just before elections.

But all it takes is a little courage—say internet bloggers and commenters who don't even use their real names online.

The Conservative Movement has been trying to take control of the country for at least the last 50 years, using the same fear-and-smear tactics all the while, but with a growing ideological base that allows them to paint a nice coat of rationalization over what is basically just Big Man Authoritarianism. September 11 gave them their chance and they glommed onto it and rode that puppy into the ground, feeding on the deaths long after the remaining bodies had been buried. The only thing that prevented the establishment of the Theocratic Plutocracy that they really, really want is that the whole enterprise is irrational and contradictory. Oh, and undemocratic.

But going off on a snit and blaming the current Congress for not cleaning up the whole thing immediately, that's also pretty undemocratic, too. We had a single election. That's not enough to usher in the Progressive Utopia. (I'm pretty much on record as not thinking Utopias are a good idea, anyway).

It has taken decades for the Conservative Movement to bring the country to its current miserable state. It will take that long (at least) to dig ourselves out of it. Those who want the overnight fix are setting themselves up for another ride on the Authoritarian roller coaster, or maybe just another big disappointment. I'm hoping for the last one, in fact. It's less of a betrayal of what I like to think my country is about.

5 comments:

black dog barking said...

It's easy. Cut off the money, pass a law, impeach the bastard. Etc. Etc.

We learned this week that the big telecom companies that knowingly broke the law to abet warrant-less wire taps also turned off some of those operations when the FBI got behind on paying the bills. Pro patria as long as accounts are paid on a timely basis.

Congressional subpoenas haven't had much effect but it looks like cutting off allowance may actually change some behavior.

James Killus said...

Unfortunately, it appears that the bill paying problem resulted from embezzlement and poor accounting, not an actual lack of funds.

Bush holds hostages. He holds a gun to peoples' heads and says, "Your money or their lives." I don't wish to play a game of chicken with a sadistic sociopath.

JP Stormcrow said...

But all it takes is a little courage—say internet bloggers and commenters who don't even use their real names online.

Yeah! Courage! What is wrong with those pissants. (That said I did contact my Rep wit a fair amount of outrage under my real name when he went with the Repubs on the FISA thing this summer.)

I really don't know what it will ever take. I think we're all just drunk on our SUVs and flat screen TVs. I do not anticipate a soft landing, and that does not bode well in a country with the nuclear arsenal that we have.

Ya' know someone should start a blog or something with that theme.

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