Creating people's geographies
I salute you RJ … Highly recommended article
Every antiwar movement of the last forty years has heard the same thing: “You people are too idealistic. Peace and diplomacy are nice ideas, but the world doesn’t work the way you wish it did.” Guess what? The last few years have proven that, yes, in fact it does work the way we wish it did.
The war advocates have turned out to be the dreamers, and it’s time to wake them up.
Progressives have thrown a lot of epithets at the ultraviolent hawks of the Republican Right since Bush took office, but here’s one that’s been overlooked: naïve. They’re displaying that naïvete again with their unrealistic ideas about creating “a new Middle East” through bloodshed. It’s simplistic, if horrific, thinking.
And if people (especially pundits) don’t make the association between advocating war and simplistic thinking, thank Henry Kissinger. Kissinger and his boss Richard Nixon came to power as the American people’s yearnings for peace were at an all-time high, elected on the lie that they had a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam war.
Kissinger worked the press more effectively than any US leader since John F. Kennedy. He promoted the concept of realpolitik, which argued that effective foreign policy needed to be “practical.” Policies should be based on “the world as it is,” not as “idealists” wished it were.
Kissinger was a brilliant communicator, and the idea of realpolitik made intuitive sense. In practice, however, the term was most often used to overcome moral or practical objections to violent deeds. It worked well. The Vietnam war was prolonged for four costly and bloody years, only to have South Vietnam collapse after the US’s ignominious withdrawal. Those four years gave us nothing but more names on a black wall.
Intervention against the leadership of Chile strengthened anti-Americanism and undercut our influence throughout Latin America. Policies toward Pakistan helped fuel the 1971 bloodbath in Bangladesh, and unqualified support for Indonesia’s Suharto helped lead to another bloodbath in East Timor.
Kissinger could be a master of diplomacy, whenever he chose to be a little less “real” and more “politik.” But the legacy of his rhetoric was to reinforce the commonly held belief that people who oppose war, or want to use military force only as a last resort, are more naïve than those who are “tough” and “realistic” enough to “shoot first and ask questions later.”
Now look at the events of the last five years. The advocates for war – virtually all of them neocons – have been proven to be profoundly, disturbingly clueless about “the world as it is.” They’re so uninformed as to seem almost innocent, until you consider the profound evil they’re created.
Take Dick Cheney. People assume that anybody that nasty has to be realistic, hardnosed, and unsentimental. Yet no public figure in recent history has been so spectacularly naïve. His childlike statement that “we will be welcomed with flowers” in Iraq should be enshrined among the great moments in simpleminded idealism – somewhere between ” “the flying saucers will save us” and “maybe we’re all tiny particles in a gigantic universe just like ours.”
The notion that Iraq could be turned into a liberal democracy at gunpoint was cooked up in a thousand think tank bull sessions. At what point in these neocon deliberations, maybe after a few beers, did somebody say: “If we give everybody a chance I bet they’ll just love each other“?
And what were these people doing at their PNAC meetings – playing “Imagine” backwards?
A few minutes listening to Donald Rumsfeld will convince you that he doesn’t drink beer, but instead keeps breaking into Richard Perle’s private stash. Check out his latest rant. Like a late night dorm room declamation, it’s a glassy-eyed, rambling riff on “what is a civil war, anyway … really …”
This comes on the heel of dozens of surrealist, cut-and-paste “democracy is messy” diatribes from our supposedly hard-nosed Secretary of Defense. What’s next – “… does anybody really know what time it is …?”
Incoherence aside, this supposedly “hard headed” group was wrong in every way about how the war in Iraq would turn out. That’s why I have a lot less patience than so many others do for the flood of “conversion narratives” we’ve heard in the past year from people who initially supported this war. I don’t want to hear from them anymore. I want to hear from the people who were right. They had common sense all along.
Now, even some of the people who admit they were wrong about Iraq are advocating similar action against Iran. They, and those who still support the occupation of Iraq, are the same crowd that’s egging on Israel in its attack on Lebanon. That war’s another example of naivete in violent action. This invasion won’t make Israel any safer than the last one did. (Remember 1982? That’s when Israel attacked Lebanon last time, leading to Hezbollah’s creation. After this is over, Nasrallah and company will dominate the region.)
These naïve war hawks: They only see the world as they wish it were. Yet, they keep on making pronouncements as if they had an ounce of credibility. Their heads are in the (mushroom) clouds. It’s like getting foreign policy guidance from Tiny Tim.
Idealism is practical. Cynicism is not. If the neocons have taught us nothing else, they’ve taught us that.
Things are tough out there. “Creative play period” has ended, and it’s time for the realists to take over. They’re the ones who know that we need some diplomacy, and some hard-headed peace planning, in order to fix the mess that’s been created by these violent, empty-headed dreamers.