I ate my wafer...


Last evening, Victor Davis Hansen spoke here emphatically defending the war in Iraq, specifically on classical grounds. I had listened to Dr. Hansen's excellent CCA speech on Patton several years ago, so I was naive enough to think that he might have a useful perspective on the current problems in Iraq. For those who weren't able to here him speak, he thoughtfully recycled his speech, or about half of it from his current article at the National Review. Read it and smell the jingoism! To oversimplify, his argument works as follows:

A. We are now taking part in a vast, glorious tradition of western armies fighting eastern powers. Specifically, "the difference between western armies and eastern armies is that western armies have always values orderly fighting", which he elaborated with discussions of the Greek's proper role in the Phalanx, vs. barbarian hordes compared to current U.S. Marines fighting orderly against the skulking, nasty, eastern, Iraqi irregulars....
(Ok, so isn't there a difference between fighting back against Xerces, or Alexander the Great when they are invading Greece compared to going 7,000 miles out of our way fight? What the hell is he thinking with this emphasis on the nature of western vs. eastern warfare? Certainly western armies, for good reason, have fought as irregulars: the OSS and French Resistance, Tito and the Partisans, our special forces in Afghanistan, our founding fathers at on April 15, 1775? As an American, I'm never happy to see American soldiers die anywhere, but can we really say that the Iraqi's are playing an unfair, sneaky, Eastern war? )

B. The war is actually going pretty well, when compared to the time lines of recent American actions such as Afghanistan, and Kosovo. (I was unconvinced by his logic here, in Afghanistan we sent the Northern Alliance to doing the dying for us, and the air attacks on Serbia never had the possibility of bogging down in house to house fighting. In the sense that we will kick Iraq's butt in 100 days, Dr. Hansen is probably correct, but I doubt that it will be as cheap a victory as our other post-Vietnam conflicts.

C. The biggest problem in the Middle East is that we don't let Israel kick the crap out of the Arabs until "the loser knows that he is defeated". That is, if the Arab armies had been utterly crushed in say, 1973, there wouldn't be a terror problem. Likewise, Dr. Hansen criticizes President Bush, version 1.0, for not going after a regime change in Gulf War I....(I really don't think anyone can be sure that the average militant mullah would be pacified by exposure to the "shock and awe" of American/ Israeli firepower. Actually, the Russians continual problems with Chechnya seem to be the best contemporary model for an inability to kill enough people to prevent another generation of terrorists from rising from the ashes. )

D. American military intervention, especially in Iraq, increases the overall well being and amount freedom in the world through crushing fascism (This was Dr. Hansen's conclusion, and it is hard to tell where to start with it...I don't think its very appropriate to cast all non-communist dictators as fascists, and I'm sure that increasing Arab hostility doesn’t increase well being in the world. Certainly our track record is mixed to say the least, but I suppose that if I accepted that we should only focus on the last 5 years, like Dr. Hansen wants to, we haven't done too badly. So I suppose that one could say that I'm just too pessimistic about the odds of not screwing up like we've done over the course of the last 100 years or so.

I couldn't stay for the entire Q & A session, so it is possible that Dr. Hansen answered some of the above concerns after I left. Overall, I really wanted to avoid discussing the war after it started, and I still am simply too tired of talking about it to want to discuss it in depth now. Although I certainly opposed the war before it started, I wasn't radical enough about it to be comfortable condemning it once American soldiers were actually in action. But Dr. Hansen, as much as I used to like him, irritated me to the point where I literally had to vent. Hopefully I can now go back to ignoring the war.