Friday, March 17, 2006

No Apparent Way Out

I have considered commending Dave for his continued good humour under fire but The Great War of Words makes me wonder.
Ever since the Allies attacked Iraq exactly three years ago, the experts have continued to blaze away with salvoes of analysis.

Is DA disassociating himself from the "experts" here? Dave goes on to lament that there have been many analyses of the war published.
Everything, in fact, except a proper history.

I can think of two explanations: 1) the war is too close, and the relevant files on both sides have yet to be examined; 2) it exists and it's by right-wing historian and war-supporter John Keegan. I own this, I haven't started it yet.
The nearest to that, and probably the most valuable book about the lead-up to the war, and the period before the Iraqi election of January 2005, is The Assassins’ Gate, written by George Packer, of The New Yorker magazine. And Packer, who spent a lot of time before the invasion talking to policymakers, and much time afterwards dangerously unembedded inside Iraq, begins by asking himself the question, why did the war happen, and answering the question with a laconic: “It still isn’t possible to be sure.” His ambivalence is like clear, cold water in a landscape parched by certainty -- too many books concerning Iraq are either essentially justificatory, or else a bizarre psychological attempt to undo the decision to go to war, to turn the world backwards -- as Superman does -- so that time is reversed, and the war (and, by implication, everything leading up to it) somehow doesn’t happen.

As so often with Dave, there's quite a bit here. Yes, ambivalence and doubt are good qualities. I suffer from the memory of a tutorial where another student started with something like "[Set topic] is difficult and there's more than one point of view ..." and was horrified to be met with "Of course there's more than one view and the topic is difficult; you're at university, these are givens!" and quite a few insults I won't repeat. Ambivalence may be honest, but it's also a hand-wringing get-out. "Well, some people say Santa Claus exists, and others don't, and me, I haven't decided yet." I had a short and bitter email exchange with Oliver Kamm, in which I remember quoting Hollywood maxim "Show, don't tell" [William Goldman] at him. The Aaronovitch dichotomy is false: there's more than a choice between justifying the war, and wanting to turn the world back.

The issue I am hung up on is the "case [for regime change] that the United States and the President’s own father had not prosecuted at the end of the Gulf War in 1991." At the time, as a Gulf War I supporter, this seemed its natural climax. I don't want to seem like one of David's imaginary supermen and putting a girdle round the world, but WTF?

DA simplifies the case for regime change in Iraq. I'm a "Stopper" (©H'sP) but I've thought Saddam was a bastard for years. I think that Fred Barras was a burglar and a wrong 'un if you must. I think that he should be in prison or borstal. I don't think that he should have been shot by a vigilante. (That's a criticism both of Tony Martin and the police, BTW.) Saddam wasn't a nice guy, but I'm a fan of the Apprentice, and a huge fan of Sir Alan Sugar, and he's "the most belligerent man you'll ever meet". What of the 54 above him on the rich list? Shorter Macchiavelli: you don't get nowhere by being nice, kid. Read some of Shakespeare. If you want to get anywhere in this life, be a total cunt. Suck up until you get noticed, and then stab your boss in the back, and repeat until there's no one left. Everyone in power is a bastard. Most just ain't been found out. That's a criticism of the press.


Anonymous Bob said...

Um, yeah, interesting.

Doing a 'watch' site must be a bummer. Must write something - anything! - everytime they do something.

3/18/2006 06:22:00 AM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Mad Melanie Phillips gets madder:

So now anything goes – and our society is steadily going, as a result. Polyandry, polyamory, polygamy, polymorphism – can paedophilia, necrophilia and bestiality be far behind?

Truly beyond satire.

3/18/2006 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assassin's Gate is a great book, and actually makes a case - from someone who was sympathetic to the "war of liberation argument", that the whole war was a terrible error or wilful wrong. It effectively makes the case that those who argued strongest for this being a "war of liberation" were actually responsible for the worst effects of the war, I think. There is agreat vignette of the author of "terror & Liberalism" fantasising that postwar iraq is like Poland after the fall of the dicatatorship- completely divorced from the grim reality

3/18/2006 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger Sonic said...

"why did the war happen, and answering the question with a laconic: “It still isn’t possible to be sure"

I wonder of having a bunch of prominent jounalists ex-leftys pimping for it had any impact?

3/19/2006 09:03:00 PM  

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