These are the times that try one’s sense of “then”.
Yes, folks (he said, cartoonishly) then. As in if-then. And you do this and then this happens.
Thenism is an unfashionable ideology to intrude into the Establishment narrative of virtue at home and humanitarianism abroad. In foreign policy in particular, doing something now is a very sweet proposition, especially when it involves dropping a bomb, while the “then” part of the equation doesn’t get any looksee whatsoever. I used to attribute this to the American male's preference for wallowing in the action movie narrative. Don’t even try to give your American male a halfway complicated novel to follow. Middlemarch? Who needs your stinkin' Middlemarch! No, much better to watch cops and super cops and even more super cops catch and kill bad guys, and in the process spindle, mangle and mutilate the poor “then.” In action movies, when a bomb is about to go off in one minute, we know that we will have five minutes of exciting action while the hero goes through all types of obstacles to reach the bomb and defuse it.
The disjunction between the one minute and the five minute perfectly defines political ideology in America. Thus, the favorite campfire tale for your American suburbanite is that we need to shrink guvamint. We need that small guvamint. And why do we need it small? So we can have our wonderful private enterprise system work the magic of the marketplace. And why is the marketplace magic? Because every person works as hard as he can to produce his own advantage. And how then, are we gonna get that small government? Why, by electing people who completely forsake their own advantage as peeps in government to get the government off our backs. Of course! It is like we need to elect selfless self-interest saints. A perfect “then” moment.
The comedian on the Democratic side, right now, proclaiming how right we are to bomb Syria, is Anne-Marie Slaughter – which sorta messes up my idea that the loss of the “then” structure was a wholly testosterone poisoning event. Slaughter, in a tweet the encapsulates the entire sick mentality of the foreign policy establishment, the one that pretends it is out there leading the 700 billion dollar a year military to ever finer moral points, wrote:
“I believe that the US, UK, & France did the right thing by striking Syria over chemical weapons. It will not stop the war nor save the Syrian people from many other horrors. It is illegal under international law. But it at least draws a line somewhere & says enough.”
Enough to violating international law! We are going to violate international law just to show you how much we respect it!
It is an interesting thing that using chemical weapons on children is considered a crime, but the U.S. bombing a country with which it is not at war – which we started doing under Slaughter’s boss, Obama – is considered a great thing, a mark of toughness. No pictures of the resulting carnage will be shown on the front pages of the newspapers of the US, UK and France. Nor will there be any discussion of the fact that according to Syria’s Observatory for Human Rights – an anti-Assad group – these airstrikes have so far killed 11,000 people.
But those people did not die in vain. They were sacrificed to the cause of saying enough with killing Syrian people!
The Syrian war rhetoric shows, perpetually, that we are in the Bush era. We have learned nothing about “then” from the whole bloody story of Iraq. That story is about the triumph of the “then” over the action movie idealism of D.C. think tankers. That the invasion being sold in 2003 was obviously fucked, that the versions of how it was going to be paid for, how long the occupation was going to take, and what the point of it was were all in a narrative muddle unquestioned by the (at that time) Democrat dominated Senate, or the journalistic slant of the media, are the symptoms of the serious decay of narrative intelligence in America. Then in Iraq meant, if you were going to invade, you’d have to have some kind of draft, you’d have to bear casualties in the Vietnam war range, and you’d have to put the country on a real war footing – or, you could go in half assed, accrue tens of thousands of wounded and dead soldiers, leave behind around a million victims and two million refugees, and go out again as more Middle East wars raged.
Well, we chose what we chose. We never discredited the stupid people who put us into Iraq. We never even discussed – say, in France – a very obvious thing about Syria: Syria under Assad, during the Iraq war, prevented Islamicist fighters from going to Europe. This isn’t some huge deduction on my part, it was said by Chirac’s own defense minister. When the neo-cons triumphed under Hollande’s Fabius, guess what? Assad was not there to capture those islamicists. If you take down Assad in favor of a patchwork of islamcist groups, you will get blowback. But Hollande’s foreign policy people just looked away from the consequences of what they were doing, and were ultra surprised that France got attacked.
Then-ism. The “then” is in our throats, and we are going to choke on it.