Sunday, November 30, 2008

Curious questions

Oh, good heavens, some people are on the BBC just now trying to employ the evolutionary model to ideas. "The good ideas survive, and the bad ones do not," the speaker says, only to be interrupted by a literary critic who says that the "good book" is not the one that sells and that culture doesn't work this way, and then another speaker wants to apply infant analogies. Whee!

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is most adaptable to change." - Charles Darwin

So, "survival of the fittest" <--> "fitness is health" <--> "health is strength" <--> "fitness is the strength" :: "Survival of the strongest is evolution." Thus does "evolution" mean the opposite of what Darwin said it meant, mean more what Hitler said it meant.

What a bunch of galloops. The book or idea that flourishes is the one that most nearly satisfies its cultural moment. On this, the Darwinian and Marxist and Hegelian analysts would agree. Thus, the idea that flourishes is the one that responds most nearly to what the cultural vaccuum is.

I didn't want to write about that, though. No. I have a dearth of e-mail and friends right now, in my time of need, and so I convulsed about what I heard on the radio instead of any matter of genuine concern.

My last got no readers at all, so my blog is definitely heading in the right direction. If the trend continues, this will actually get some unreaders, and that's what I want to ask about.

I grew up in the Watergate generation. This is an important thing. While, since then, there have been other opportunities (the Iran-Contra generation, for example, or the Alberto Gonzales generation), the Watergate generation is that time when aware and yet gullible young people, say ten to fifteen years of age, could watch television all together and see the President lying, stealing, and pilfering for the slightest political advantage. It was a moment that marked all of the intelligent and aware of my generation with either superior cynicism or furious faith.

I was, therefore, one of millions who learned early on the philosophy of realpolitik. Knowing that states act always on matters of gain and interest, rather than belief and philosophy, has served me very, very well. It helped me realize, for example, that Edward Teller's funding pipedream of the x-ray laser (aka the Strategic Defense Initiative, aka "Star Wars") upset the Soviets because the thing absolutely sucked as a missile defense but was an absolute beauty when it came to vaporizing people from outerspace. It helped me see that Iran-Contra was itself a burp, where philosophy dominated interests and thereby screwed up both the philosophy and the interests. It helped me realize how the invasion of Panama might well be more in line with The Panama Deception than the saving of a Navy captain's wife from harassment.

It has failed me, though. My cynicism and my analysis have failed me entirely, however, with the invasion of Iraq.

What I want from the Obama administration is an explanation of why we did it. I'm serious. I have been waiting for six years for an explanation that could survive a third grader's analysis.

What has infuriated me is how outrageously flimsy the explanations have been. It's not that they're lies: we expect lies when it comes to a causus belli, but it's that they're so obviously lies that they beg us to supply our own reasons, and no one has been able to supply one. Panama deception? No. Misdirection? No. Oil? No. To sneak up on Russia or Iran? No.

What is infuriating about the invasion of Iraq to me is not that it was foolish, disgraceful, immoral, and disasterous, but that the proferred reasons don't make sense, and even the most cynical and sinister conspiracy theories don't make sense, either. In fact, what I want to know is why we invaded, because there actually is no reason at all for it. Tell me that we wanted an outpost for Aramco, and I'll feel better. Tell me that it was to enrich Dick Cheney, and I'll feel better. Tell me even that it was a plot to kill poor people the world over, and I'll feel better.

Please, President Obama, don't leave it as it is, where there is no reason at all for this sacrifice, this disaster, this atrocity, this corrosion of all that we hold dear about ourselves and all we want to protect in our collective soul. Even a paranoid reason would be better than lies and nonsense.


stats said...

Great blog Geogre.
I've been just as perplexed. Possibilities I've considered range from:-
1. American desire to disengage from Saudi but retain a presence in the Middle East - really dumb way to go about that.
2. Powerful pro-Israeli lobbying in US - (might explain 1)
3. Bush's vanity wanting to finish his father's work.
4. The "Power of nightmares" scenario where US national unity is regained through a common threat in the absence of communism.
5. More power to influence the price of oil - doesn't seem to have worked.
6. Justifying the military's existence and funding in the post cold war era. - seems odd as they were already in Afghanistan.

None of which are convincing.....I'm even more perplexed by the 'coalition of the willing' who have even less to gain from it. But then, the US have recently started launching missiles in Pakistan, with the inevitable 'collateral damage' - ie. Pakistani relations - so perhaps those in charge are simply running amok.

The Geogre said...

I've got to say, it's something that just has me flummoxed. I know that occasionally that family will substitute personal demons for collective gain (Iran-Contra), but #3 and #4 would have to hinge on such a thing. Given that Saddam was more than happy to be friends with the House of Bush, it's strange.

#1, I think, is a grave mistake. I do not think that the US government yet wishes to disengage from the house of Saud. I think that administration at that time even less wanted to do so, as, arguably, the first Gulf War was fought to put Saudi Arabia in a position of owning OPEC and keeping oil prices up, but not too far up, and therefore #5 is odd, because the US already had a realpolitik control over the price of oil -- one that even a strengthened Iran could not affect.

The "coalition of the willing" make sense to me. All of them have been able to extort prices for that good will, but, even before that, they had two vastly important calculations to make. One is the benefit of not being noticed by the US, and the other is the benefit in getting domestic cart blanche. There is a single player in this coalition that cannot be justifiably explained: the UK.

The Disorganization said...

I don't think you're going to find the answer, because I don't think it will be investigated. And I don't think it will be investigated because radio bloviators and the rest would whine about how "partisan", "divisive", etc an investigation would be (remember, McCain/Palin got a majority of the "anglo" male and female votes); and because of the dread influence of pop psychology and its emphasis on "moving on", etc etc. (Personally I'd like to see the tellers of the "greatest story ever sold" (Frank Rich) hauled up in an international criminal court.)

The UK, well, some of the Brits like to delude themselves that their nation has a "special relationship" with the US. David Gentleman skewered that notion decades ago, but it lives on: Americans repeat it to the Brits to keep the latter happy, while knowing that the US has but one special relationship, and that this is with Israel. Blair was dazzled by the proximity to actual power.

Anonymous said...

Cool blog, as they say.

Billy (Fil)

The Geogre said...

Billy? OMG OMG (hyperventilating), I've been hoping for you to come by. I'm rarely political these days, but, given the response this time, I may give that more of a shot. Instead, I tend toward the litgeeky. I throw not such interesting poetry out at the world as you, however -- although I keep thinking that I'm going to put a Berryman in soon (Dreamsong, of course).

About that "other" project, I have decided that it may hang on its own, that it needs not me. It has become a valuable property, and that means that there is an added spur to those who want to make themselves into persons there.

Oh, and my next will likely, if I can stop with the noon time demons, invoke Sterne. I wish to write a blog about buttons. (Yeah, a Tristram Shandy joke.)

Anonymous said...

I'm here because of my anger at FAR in another place. I posted my first edit there for a long time on the Augustan Lit review telling them what I thought of them, and then today decided to look at your user page to see your reaction. Bish (hi Bish!) had linked to this from there, so here I am.


billymills said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
billymills said...

In case anyone is wondering about the deleted post, it was a test.

I wonder if the reason Bush invaded Iraq is not the same reason that so many idiots give for climbing some unfeasibly large mountain or another, just because it's theres?