Tuesday, October 26, 2004

"Postmodern War"

Victor Hanson Davis wrote this before the invasion of Iraq. It seems eerily prescient.

In hour one of the conflict, we are supposed to expect to see the deployment of weapons of mass destruction — which many in the world community still profess are not there. If the Iraqis use these agents of death, we are culpable for prompting such dangers; if they don't, then there was no real casus belli in the first place and the war will be deemed, post facto, as unnecessary. Americans must be swift, decisive, and victorious in their warmaking — but not to the extent that they should kill too many of the enemy. Our GPS bombs must not just be smart, but rather brilliant — and thus distinguish and target (wounding rather than killing) only 80,000 individual Baathists and Saddamites within a population of 26 million.

We should not lose American soldiers abroad; but, to be fair, we should at least suffer a few dead (preferably white, male, older, and officers) to avoid criticism about the "body bag" syndrome, in which, as in Kosovo and Afghanistan, Americans kill without being killed — and thus appear too much the overdog for the postcolonial guilt of Europeans or the tastes of the "Harper's Index." We expect that Saddam might well blow up oil wells, gas innocents, foul the seas, hit Israel, and worse; but the responsibility will be ours, not his, inasmuch as we expect mass killing from him but demand its instant prevention from us.

There is a Potemkin phoniness to this war to come. We live in a world of images broadcast immediately into our living rooms without commentary — or, indeed, any intellectual context at all. Thus, because a Tariq Aziz — a really murderous, awful man — can get on a plane to the Vatican without his holster, he looks to the ignorant as if he were a jet-setting, press-conference-convening statesman like Tony Blair. Dan Rather sits across from a mass murderer in a Western tie and suit and questions the tyrant as if he is interviewing the head of the local school board.

Text, image, and rhetoric — not the deeds themselves — become reality. Had Mr. Bush, Clinton-like, only bit his lip, apologized to various peoples, talked of "multilateralism," and spun his southern drawl to sound more like the Joads than Sam Houston, then he too might have bombed a thug (in Europe, no less) for two months without congressional, U.N., or Cameroon's approval. Even ANSWER and "Not in Our Name" would have felt his pain and thus stayed home.

No comments: