Thursday, April 05, 2007

Writing Around

[posted by Callimachus]

For the second time today I'm going to try to write around something instead of going through it. Bear with me.

I hesitate to even write the names of certain Iraqi bloggers and "CIA" in the same sentence. Lest I add one more to the 314,000 Google hits (as of tonight) that come up when you type in those two terms. Not all of them are anti-Iraqi sites; quite a few are refutations of the unproven charge.

But gods forbid something should happen to those brave brothers. If it should, I would churn over whether my words had the least thing to do with it. It would haunt me. This is a trivial site, but trivia has killed people before.

[No doubt, should my nightmare come to pass, the same people who started the whole "Iraqi bloggers = CIA operatives" rumor would shed cold tears and piously intone about "more victims of Chimpy's unjust and illegal war for oil and hegemony."

Which, by the way, is one reason I refuse to call these people "liberals." Real liberals, in my experience, are guilt-ridden to the point of narcissism. They constantly question their own actions and decisions in the light of what impact they will have on the world, the future, the overall map of justice. It's easy to parody that, and it can drop you into hand-wringing moral paralysis, especially if you go ahead and do whatever you want to do anyhow. But I would far rather live with and among people who approach life that way than people who don't. And it's one of the qualities Americans need to balance our fondness for competitiveness and winning.]

The more so because the charge that certain pro-American Iraqi bloggers are tool of, or are subsidized by, the CIA is parroted on the left without a scintilla of evidence to support it.

Except the fact that said bloggers are an inconvenience to the authoritarian narrative that says the occupation is a failure because all Iraqis reject it -- except those in the pay of the CIA.

Now, here's where it gets complicated. There are at least two main versions of this meme on the anti-war left.

The one is the version so often parodied on the anti-left. It holds that there is no such thing as a non-Western person who ascribes to American ideals of freedom, liberty, secular liberal democracy, or open economies, even in the face of difficult, compromised realities. Any who does so is obviously inauthentic.

It also holds that the entire world is divided into one hegemonistic or imperialistic force (and its lackeys) on the one hand, and indigenous, legitimate liberation movements on the other. This is how Chomsky and his ilk managed to convince themselves that the petty imperialisms of Asia, or the vast imperialism of the old Soviet Union, simply did not exist.

But there is a more nuanced form of this, which holds that America cannot aid any anti-anti-American person in the world without delegitimatizing that voice. This is so perplexing that to many on the right it seems a deliberate attempt to tilt the field against us and our friends so badly we can never hope to win in the marketplace of ideas.

All the more perplexing because the people who demand this high level of purity from the United States also often are the people who blindly recite every charge of wickedness and venality against it, supported by fact or not. It goes hand-in-glove with believing American government is 1. secretly and super-efficiently responsible for everything bad; 2. incapable of doing anything right.

[Me, I fall into the category of "we are a well-meaning but clumsy people, with a selfish and powerful but clumsy government. We have the right ideals, but the realities are messy."]

I've treated these two versions of the left critique as separate, but in an argument the same person typically will dance back and forth between them as it suits him to retreat into one or the other.

The second one, however, is not without merit and is worth addressing.

I do not know if the CIA or something like it is quietly, through second and third parties, subsidizing some of the pro-American Iraqis.

I hope it is. Tasks like that are one of the few genuinely useful functions I can imagine for such an agency in a free society. As I've written before, this was part of the CIA's original mission: Countering the efforts of Stalin's USSR to subvert and bully the rest of the world into the Iron Curtain camp.

The CIA subsidized friendly European labor leaders and writers and thus help firm up a Western European voice to answer the subsidized shouts of the Stalinists. It quietly sponsored seminars and colloquia that exposed global intellectuals and journalists to ideas and facts that Moscow never was going to show them. It underwrote tours of Western Europe by U.S. symphony orchestras to prove to our allies that we weren't the nation of deculturated yahoos they assumed we were.

I hope it is doing the same in the Middle East today -- quietly, and at a safe distance. But I don't want to know about it. I really don't. Because if I know about it, or you know about it, that means we failed -- again.

Just so, and as I've said here before, if Iraq goes down the toilet completely, as it certainly will if the "withdraw now" voices prevail here, I want my government to save from the ensuing chaos all those Iraqi people who believed in our dream, and who worked for it. And their families. As we didn't do in Vietnam, and in too many other places, going back to our first foray into the Dar al-Islam.

Tax me to pay for the airlifts. Let them live in my town, in my house if there is no other room for them.

If you have already made your commitment to your country's future, and that vision of its future happens to coincide with what the Americans say they want for it -- as against those who behead their infidel enemies while shouting praises to their god -- you are a patriot and a brave soul. You deserve to be treated well by America and Americans who do not live with your risks.

The mere fact of being supported, quietly but essentially, by Americans does not disqualify you any more than the Dutch money and French troops delegitimatized the American Revolution.

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