Norman Podhoretz, in his book World War IV, makes some good points about the real dangers we face from Islamofacists. Although I'm a non-interventionist, I'm not averse to a strong defense and doing what's necessary to protect our country. I had mixed feelings about going to war with Iraq -- after it was clear our country had decided to go to war, I wanted us to win it, then get out. I had no way of knowing the real threats to America, and I assumed the government had information that led them to the decision, and it was not a good time for second-guessing. Podhoretz makes a good case for the war, in spite of the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were found. I now believe we could have avoided going to Iraq, but events there will be what they are and there will be close analysis in the years to come. I think a lot of lives could have been spared, but I won't go as far to blame Bush -- the country didn't know what to do, and the people in power made a decision based on the best information they had. It's not like we mistakenly chose a country that would have actually been better off under a madman. Chances are Hussein would have led his people into far worse devastation had he remained in power. We'll never know.
Where I disagree with Podhoretz is mainly in the idea that Bush was responding to what history intended for us to bear -- in reference to George F. Keenan's "X" essay, Podhoretz writes:
In 1947 we accepted the responsibilites of moral and political leadership that history "plainly intended" us to bear, and for the next forty-two years we acted on them...Now "our entire security as a nation" -- including, to a greater extent than 1947, our physical security -- once more depends on whether we are willing to accept and ready to act upon the responsibilites of moral and political leadership that history has yet again so squarely placed upon our shoulders.
This is a dangerous way to think. The hegelian deification of history has caused enough problems, and we especially shouldn't be falling into this trap in the 21st century. Cause and effect were operational in 1947, just as they were before and after 9/11. There is also the little matter of human intervention and decision-making. By framing the events surrounding 9/11 as a call from history for us to respond, absolves us from making the wrong decisions and putting into motion a chain of events that could have been avoided -- especially if you think that the right response was made to history's challenge. How some people know history's intentions and others don't, Podhoretz doesn't make clear.
Whatever historians record, it will be the results of human intervention and decision-making, not just a thumbs up for meeting the challenge from the wise mind of history itself. Barack Obama and his liberal and progressive followers also appear to have fallen into the trap of the deification of history -- the rhetoric surrounding his campaign gave the impression we were pawns being led by the inexorable power of history and that his vision for the transformation of America is a matter already decided, and we are but fortunate witnesses. Although, he humbly worded it like this:
And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.
So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.
So it was for the greatest generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.
So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom's cause.
So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that's better, and kinder, and more just.
And so it must be for us.
America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.
The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth. This was the moment—this was the time—when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
Well, just as the Iraq war has proved to be a series of questionable, all-too-human judgements and interventions which haven't been properly analyzed, so the Obama presidency is beginning to show a fallible human being, inexperienced, incapable of shouldering the illusion of historical necessity. This is not just some post-modern deconstruction, it's reality. The quicker we all get past the grand schemes "history" has cooked up and leads us to fulfill and get to the realization of the limitations of humans to centrally plan and always make the right judgements on a grand, national or international scale, the sooner we can face the difficult necessity/choice of working together to solve our problems in the flexible realm of freedom. Magical states and magical leaders are superstitions of the past. And, there is no magical private realm, either, outside the realm of state and leaders, only millions upon millions of all-too-human decisions, both good and bad, that we hopefully learn from and grow from in real time.
The best we can do is protect our rights to make these decisions and stop the madness of following history's annointed leaders and grand schemes in some enchanted time made up in the minds of "Gods who shit".*
*I can't remember who said this.