Tuesday, July 18, 2006

THE U.S.S. POSEIDON. Ross Douthat has up a couple of unusually contemplative posts about the unacquaintance with war of many war fans. From the latter:
Specifically, if you believe fervently in the idea that the War on Terror really is World War IV, the defining foreign-policy moment of your generation and the most important challenge facing the United States for forty years to come, and you happen to be the ideal age, marital status, and so forth to sign up to serve your country - in the military, the CIA, wherever - then you have a real obligation to strongly consider it. And I do mean strongly - not just bat it around as a possibility, as so many of us did after 9/11, knowing that we would never actually do anything about.
I should add that Douthat favors this POV over an alleged declaration that non-combatants should never authorize military force, which I have never heard anyone seriously make.

Actually Douthat takes the thing further than I would. He suggests that involvement in combat would make policymakers and pundits better qualified to decide matters of war and peace on a human level -- chickenhawkery as "less a problem that flows from cowardice, and more one that flows from ignorance."

But it should be pointed out that there are already plenty of active-duty soldiers who favor the war -- and many of them have blogs. Their writings are available to all Americans with internet access. Why then not fire the chickenhawks, or at least push them to one side, and back to the max the folks who are already living the Douthat dream?

I assume that Douthat knows about these guys, but isn't getting from them what he wants -- because no one, not even a grunt with a way with words, can give him what he really wants.

Today there is much talk among the cognoscenti about World War Whatever, but while we are often told by our leaders about threats we must defend ourselves against -- "one vial, one canister... to bring a day of horror like one we have never known" etc. -- no one has been able to tell the American people what shared cause they must fight for. War advocates frequently admit this, but suggest terms that are not very rousing -- e.g. Victor Davis Hanson:
The Bush administration should stop repeating that it is fighting the war on terror for truth, justice and the American way. Instead, the president and his staff should be blunt and explain that, since Sept. 11, it has had to choose between options that are bad or far worse.
This is a war cry as given by realists, and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" it ain't. The basis of their argument is not a shared American purpose, but a shared American fear. We are not put in the position of patriots fighting to keep aloft the flame of liberty, but of movie characters trying to get out of an upended U.S.S. Poseidon -- though the overwhelming majority of us feel not the rising waters.

I have puzzled for a long time over the ungodly fury of conservative writers at Hollywood and other outlets of popular culture for not providing war propaganda. Why don't they make their own movies, I have wondered, with the backing of one or another right-wing millionaire, of which there are plenty? I see now that they are actually pleading for help. They don't have what it takes to reach their fellow-citizens at the deepest level -- they have the reach, the money, and the power, but they don't have a song. And without a song a man ain't got a friend; without a song the road would never bend. Despite their political dominance, their ideas -- being paltry things, having to do with the right of people with money to more money, and hatred of homosexuals -- only accumulate upon the topsoil of culture, and do not penetrate to the water-table from which dreams are fed.

By throwing some of their fair-haired boys into combat, they may hope to get some war poets for themselves. That crop doesn't always come out as they might want. But if gets Jonah Goldberg into a uniform, I'm all for it.

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