Thursday, December 07, 2006

War and War

[posted by Callimachus]

Perhaps it's reading too much history that prevented me from turning against the entire American Iraq experiment. There must be some explanation, because so many folks online who seemed to think like I did at the start of the thing have loudly, painfully, and repeatedly repudiated their earlier positions.

Not that history gives hope for a good outcome. Rather, history informs the initial decision to support the war; it stands like the angel with the flaming sword to warn you what you're doing.

When you support a decision to make war, you agree to let your country drop down a rabbit hole with no idea where you'll come out, except the certainty it won't be anywhere anyone anticipates at the start.

You accept that innocent civilians will be killed in batches, perhaps more of them than enemy combatants. That brave young soldiers will be maimed and crippled while cowardly old men will reap fortunes in armaments. Men will go mad in trenches and some of your own darling boys will wind up no better than monsters and murderers.

You accept that at home suspicions will be kindled, rights roughed up, institutions corrupted. That the people in despair are likely to turn to demagogues.

You accept that you'll acquire allies who are in some ways worse than your enemies. That your government will waste billions in that most wasteful of human activities, war. That it will acquire the incurable habits of a spendthrift.

You accept that reasons for being at war will shift over time once it begins (the only real reason for being at war once one starts being "not to lose it"), as will yardsticks for victory and strategies for reaching them.

That's just history talking at you. You don't wish this to be true. You fervently desire that, this time, it will be different. If you're a believer, you pray that it will be different.

But you accept that it might not be, and deep down, though you must not dwell on it, you know it likely will be as bad as all that. You just hope the country is strong enough to take it and set itself almost right again in the end.

I factored all that into my original, painful decision to support this war of choice by an administration I had little faith in. And though I share my former allies' horror at the way it has been progressing, I don't retract my initial support for the decision. You can't just send the war back because it's not the one you ordered.

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