Saturday, November 19, 2005

Racing Days

There's a festival atmosphere in the air and I half expect to see ladies walking down the street in finery and fancy hats, sipping mint juleps. Everybody, it seems, has got a horse to bet on.

Sure, the Kentucky Derby's long gone and the stakes in this race are somewhat higher. I'm talking about everybody's favorite spectator sport of late: the Iraq war. I turn on the TV or open a newspaper and I'm so depressed at what passes for informed debate in this country.

On the one hand, we have a group of people (and quite a large one at that) who say we should pull out now. We were lied to and deliberately misled into a war that we had no business fighting in the first place. Cut and run. It's not our problem. Unfortunately, to adapt a phrase from the other side, you face the present with the past you've had, not with the past you'd like to have had. Even if Bush and Co. really did deliberately mislead the American people, that doesn't change the fact that we did invade Iraq and we have massively destabilized that country. Even if we came in under false pretenses, to leave now may actually be worse than to never have come in the first place. If, as this side would have it, we are guilty of a moral failing, then certainly we can't correct it with yet another moral error.

I should say that I fully support the investigation into the pre-war intelligence fiasco, and if any of this was deliberate subterfuge as opposed to massive incompetence, heads need to roll. The timeline for the Iraq war, however, can't be based on that. (It is worth mentioning that almost everyone, including President Clinton and most foreign intelligence organizations, believed that Saddam had WMDs.) That said, some sort of timeline might be nice...

On the other hand we have a callous group of people who are so supportive of the Bush administration that they accuse anyone who criticizes the government of treasonably undermining the troops and the war effort in general. They do not ask the president for a coherent plan because that is, or has become, a partisan request. They're so concerned with winning a political argument that they now openly advocate torture and the contravention of the very Geneva conventions that we were instrumental in creating in the first place.

Orthodoxy is the flavor of the moment. The problem with orthodoxy is that it leaves precious little room for actual thought. People in this country—on the left and the right—are so busy pulling for their horses that they forget to pay attention to the jockeys. Politics is just another brand choice and citizens are increasingly relegated to cheerleading duties.

This war is a complicated issue that desperately requires thinking, yet it seems to be provoking less and less of it with each passing day. Even worse, anyone who does attempt to look at the situation as it is rather than as they want it to be gets shouted down by the braying masses. It's as if people have forgotten that the horses are supposed to be the ones with the blinders.
Listed on BlogShares