A mystery

LI has often been puzzled by a double thread that seems to run through pro-war discourse. I wish someone would explain it to us.

If a man came up to you and said: “you are a pig and a jackass. I hate your religion. I hate the way you spend your money. I am afraid of you, because you are psychopathic. I don’t think anybody would blame me if I killed you.” And then the man said: “I am only here to help you. I definitely think you ought to let me take care of your security. Furthermore, I insist that you follow all my advice about what you should do with your money. And I also think my friends should live in your house for a while.” Surely the sensible response would be: “go away, or I’m going to call the police.”

However, this seems to be the inevitable message of the pro-war commenters, bloggers and pundits I see around the Net. The denunciation of Islam, Arabs, and anything that smacks of Arabic culture is standard. More than that, there is a rivalry as to how extreme the language of denunciation and threat will go. On the other hand, these are the same people who assure us that the U.S. is in Iraq for the good of the Iraqis. This makes no sense. If the argument was, we are in Iraq because we hate Arabs, we want to root out Arabic culture, and we want to give as much pain as we can to every Moslem in Iraq, that would seem to be the logical consequence of the anti-Arab hatred. Or, going from the second argument, if the pro-war group was competing in praises for Islamic culture, Middle Eastern history, and the beauty and glory of Arabs, and in particular Iraqis, that would be consistent. But to maintain these two threads strikes me as simply schizophrenic. More evidence, actually, that channel changing is the form and essence of the right’s discourse – you press a button and you go to channel one, Kill Arabs hour, and you press a button and you go to channel two, Help Iraqis hour.

I am curious how these two viewpoints are synthesized by the pro-war side. They make no sense to me.


Scruggs said…
It makes a great deal of sense to me. Look to domestic abuse and the way johns treat the prostitutes who disappoint them for the answer. Look at the wild eyed screeds on wussification too. The expectations of the pro-war romantics have been bitterly dashed. It's only natural to beat the perpetrator/victims for that, which needs demonization first, after which the paternalist, sadistic/hopeful love play starts the game again.

The worst of the lot are the cruise missile liberals, who try to add an element of real benevolence to the game. They're the ones who get into overkill when the benevolence is pat on.
Scruggs said…
That's "spat on".
roger said…
Mr. Scruggs, the psychology of that sounds right to me - it is symmetrical, too, with the Iraqi attitude of it being alright to attack the Americans and being ambivalent about the Americans leaving. If the person you are with is beating you up, but he's taken you to a neighborhood where people want to eat you, you have some bad fucking choices there.

Yet there is still a mystery here. Why is this accepted as natural? Why isn't it an issue? I will often go to Iraqi bloggers who are blogging in English, and read the comments. Invariably a majority or a good portion will be from Americans who support the war. And in the course of the average thread , they will intersperse comments about the good the U.S. is doing with casual insults about Islam, jokes about dropping bombs to glassify Iraq, etc., etc. And I never see anybody say, what are you talking about? The disconnect, here, is normalized. Just as the disconnect between those who say they support the war and at the same time support and lend cover to anything the Bush administration does - when you would think those who support the war would be livid with anger at the mishandling, would be the big critics, would have been mad since the looting in May 2003. I think partly it is because - Iraq is just a fantasy to all of us. It isn't real. It isn't real to either the pro or anti-war forces. Reality puts some restraint on what one says.
roger said…
To give you an example of that reality gap. A couple days ago, when the Sarafiya bridge was blown up on the same day they had the explosion in the green zone, antiwar people said, surge is not working, prowar people said, the terrorists must not win, and there was some curiosity about the green zone explosion. But if you read any Iraqi bloggers - they are in a state of shock, like we would be if the Brooklyn bridge was blown. I had no idea. Nor is the reality divide ever filled in by the media, here. If we don't know what symbols are important, we don't even know how to read the news.

I'm continually shocked by that. When you read the coverage of Vietnam - I recently read the Library of America volumes of reporting - you see how urgent it was for the media to give us the whole National Geographic picture, and how reporters did try to report what the news was about in Vietnam, not just what happened with the American troops. This is pathetically absent in the reporting from Iraq for the most part. Thank god for a few middle eastern experts like Cole and for Iraqi bloggers to give some semblance of Iraqi reality - otherwise, it would simply be a duck shoot crossed with Deliverance. And I think that is what it is for most Americans.
Scruggs said…
For the anti-"this war now" people -- mostly Democrats -- it's a proxy conflict against their rivals. Same for the pro-war people, who are tilting away at their left wing chimera. I agree that the Iraqis aren't real to them. Either group. Nor is the war real to them in any conventional sense. It never was about Iraq for either group of partisans. It's only point scoring for the home team.
Scruggs said…
My implicit point is there's no reason for any of them to iron out contradictions or even gloss them.

The most vocal are infantile males accustomed to the security of corporate discipline, academia, journalistic sinecures, etc. . . They fight each other by hurling talking points back and forth. The cleverer ones do it in terms of Theory or geopolitical strategy posturing. The integrity of an argument is irrelevant. As long as the fans cheer and the attacks discomfort their rivals, they win. The default attack is to waste people's time with mendacity and sophistry.

For George Packer and the other cruise missile liberals, the point was a victory for their brand of liberalism, to be displayed here at home, with the killing safely relocated to Iraq. The wingnut jingos and the neocon intellectuals are combining a little epater les bourgeois with the romance of playing with an entire state, that can be made into a model of what they'd like to do here. The anti-"this war now" people simply don't like Republican-led wars. They'd support a Democratic war. It's little more than brand loyalty.

Reason and arguments are measure by their utility in the fatuous consumer competition. If they work, fine. If they don't, it doesn't matter as long as something else does.
roger said…
Mister Scruggs, while I don't disagree about the rivalry displays, the reality point is I think broader. I think, for instance, it points at me. Though I have tried hard to find out what is happening in Iraq, to follow it critically, to beg in as many venues as possible for peace, still: I was inclined to read the stories about the bombing in the cafeteria and the bridge as just more gist for the mill. More reasons that the surge is not working. The grief of the Iraqis I read startled me because it reminded me how unreal my reaction was.
Scruggs said…
As far as you, personally, Roger nerve endings and sensitivies grow callouses over time. Empathazing with people distant enough to exist as abstracts grows harder. You'd go mad if this weren't the case. The process of presenting arguments with integrity is in some ways an ameliorative one, and perhaps hopeful too. In presenting such an argument, you'd be disregarded by the war babies if you mentioned that the suffering of Iraqis mattered to the Iraqis.
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