Thursday, November 30, 2006

Poor Victor

It must be traumatic for the classical philosopher of war. Victor Davis Hanson, the central California farmer and classicist (his book on the Peloponnesian wars is actually rather good) who aspires to be the philosopher of our current wars is almost visibly distraught in a recent post on National Review Online.

Dear Victor is afraid that if we fail in Iraq "it could be worse than that the perception of impotence that galvanizes our enemies. If we lost in Iraq and fled, it would not be the perception at all, but the reality of power that would be gone, in the sense that the United States would never in our lifetime intervene successfully again on the ground abroad -- convinced that it would inevitably lose.

"I think we are also close to seeing the permanent end of any Anglo-American military collaboration. And there would be legitimate questions raised also whether the U.S. military could win any future war -- given the knowledge that, barring some instantaneous victory, the American public would not allow it the time or latitude to destroy its enemies."

Maybe a gent who imagines himself a historian might have through some of these complications before cheerleading for a war of choice -- not necessity -- in a country with artificial borders imposed by British colonialists, divided by religion and ethnicity, with all kinds of pent-up resentments and hostilities suppressed by Saddam's tyranny. I only wrote a two-parter on Iraqi history before the war based on a few weeks of research, but it appears that I knew more about Iraqi history and the baggage it would bring post-war than any of the conservative and neoconservative cheerleaders.

If I believed Hanson was right I might almost be rooting for a clearcut U.S. defeat. But the poor dear is clearly hyperventilating. We've been in Iraq now longer than the U.S. was in military action in World War II, and there's no sign that the administration has the slightest idea how to bring it to a successful conclusion. So spare us the anguish over the public demanding an "instantaneous" victory.

After Iraq, however it ends, the U.S. military will still be the most powerful on earth by orders of magntitude. I hope we'll be a little more cautious about thinking we can bring instant democracy to countries with no tradition of democracy, but I suspect such hubris will hardly disappear.

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