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Posted: 1/28/2002 4:48:39 AM EDT
[size=4]Roots of American Self-Doubt[/size=4] [b]Why can no American say “Who cares?”[/b] By Victor Davis Hanson Newsweek not long ago ran a story "Why do they hate us?" Recently on ABC's Nightline Mr. Koppel interviewed various Middle Eastern talk-show hosts and correspondents and asked earnestly why "America is not liked." CNN interviewed various Palestinian officials who warned that Americans were not popular on the West Bank. Professors and former "experts" from the State Department write nuanced articles in Foreign Affairs and The New York Review of Books warning Americans that we must not be too smug in our success — or, God forbid, perhaps embrace "triumphalism." Europeans publish op-eds of equivocation in what students of classical Greek prose style might call the "men/de" antithetical mode: "while on the one hand it may appear so far that America had been successful …., yet on the other hand it still must not …." [b]Rarely do our scholars, pundits, and social commentators apologize for completely getting it wrong about their earlier admonitions during the last four months — misjudging the Arab street, the Afghan winter, the Northern Alliance, fighting during Ramadan, U.S. air power, etc. Instead, it is almost as if critics have been emboldened by, rather than ashamed of, their prior misdiagnoses and so have gone on to conjure up an entirely new array of neuroses.[/b] In the midst of one of the most stunning military campaigns in the last half-century, characterized by both the daring and competence of our military, Americans are still advised to be full of doubt concerning the war ahead. We are told that we must supply legal proof that Saddam Hussein was involved in September 11 (= a decade-long violation of armistice agreements is still not grounds for belatedly precipitating hostilities). There is continual griping over the temporary escape of Mullah Omar and bin Laden (= prior warnings about the quagmire of employing US infantry are now replaced by blame for not using enough troops on the ground). We read stories about the pernicious warlords in Afghanistan (= as if they appeared post October 7 and were not there 2,300 years ago when Alexander the Great arrived). Some admonish America about triggering the India-Pakistan "war" (= somehow we "destabilized" the region and so sparked hostilities that have a nasty habit of breaking out about every decade or so) and deplore the rubble of Kabul (= as if the city were Paris before the American bombers hit Taliban lines). - continued -
Link Posted: 1/28/2002 4:49:27 AM EDT
In September, we were bombarded with scare stories of "seven million starving Afghanis" — followed in October by splashy warnings of "thousands killed in collateral damage". November gave us hysteria that Mr. Ashcroft had usurped the Constitution as "thousands" of Middle Eastern innocents were to be hounded and sent to camps. December ushered in all sorts of shrill complaints that military tribunals had now overturned our hallowed Constitution; warlords were back on the prowl and apparently given life by the "chaos" of our bombing. January is hardly over, and we are to fret about the hoods and Valium given the al Qaeda killers in custody, more so than contemplating all the poor women and children whose brains these killers blew out in Afghanistan or the Marines who now sleep in dirty and cold foxholes outside Kandahar. The hard work that we probably cannot do — bringing all the murderers to justice in Afghanistan — we conveniently ignore, so that we can concentrate on the easy, cheap — and meaningless — things that we can accomplish to make us feel good — like ensuring that trained murderers are not too stressed by sleeping outdoors for a few days amid the tropical breezes of Cuba. It all reminds me of the local EPA monitors, who have visited our farm on burn days to inspect whether our pruning piles have an occasional "inorganic" wooden 2 x 4 in them — while under their noses hundreds drive from town to dump illegally and with impunity their TVs, household chemicals, diapers, and used furniture in our vineyards. Lecturing and fining law-abiding farmers about silly statues is easy and ultimately worthless; arresting furtive dumpers of toxic materials is dirty, difficult, and sometimes dangerous — and therefore to be avoided. Those in the media especially seem worried that we are losing "the public-relations war" — although the Muslim world is more cut off from the world community than at any time in the last millennium. Another common theme is the supposed "unilateralism" of the United States and our increasing "isolation" from the global community. Yet both allies and enemies seem to be tilting toward what they see as a very much more stronger United States, more afraid they will be left out than counted in. - continued -
Link Posted: 1/28/2002 4:50:14 AM EDT
Of course, constant national self-reflection and occasional uncertainty is a tradition. Western strength, and Americans in general have benefited from their trademark moderation and introspection. But what lies behind this vast chasm of reality and perception — the distance between from what most Americans know to be true and the glumness that they hear hourly from their elites? Why are we in such doubt, worried more about what the Muslim world thinks of us rather than we of them? Why have we not seen one American offer back a "Who Cares?" or "Too bad." Is it the burden of our Puritan past, the old New England idea of continual struggle to perfection, so that with proper education and training we could master ourselves and then show (or force) others how to be as moral as ourselves? In that view, we can never be too pure or zealous enough in correcting even the trivial wrongs of the world. Or, in contrast, perhaps Vietnam shattered our self-confidence — despite three subsequent decades of relative prosperity and military successes? Or is the problem confined to our elite pundits, mostly in their late 40s to 60s, who reflect the ascension of the '60s generation — so confident in their own moral compasses, so eager to attribute the world's unhappiness to the root causes of American racism, sexism, or imperialism? Exalted income, status, and the coasts seem to be breeding-grounds for hyper-criticism and self-doubt. Those who hammer nails — unlike lawyers in New England or Los Angeles — have more worries each hour than the brand of mosquito repellant issued to al Qaeda terrorists in Cuba. Few from the interior of the country — working class, rural, or even those still caught in the whirlwind of middle-class suburban life — doubt American resolve and power. The latter have seen our ability first-hand and are confident in what they can do themselves — whether that entails building a house in a few weeks, bringing a cotton crop in, or serving 15 tables in a 30-minute rush hour. Most of these Americans are distant from Europe and so indifferent to public opinion from the continent. Rather than making them obtuse, this isolation ensures that those in the heartland are in a sense less neurotic than those in the media, entertainment, and politics on the two coasts — hardly worried at all what a French journalist or some crazy British socialist writes about Guantanamo Bay. People in El Paso or Des Moines don't care much whether carping Europeans visit American universities, review books, or talk glibly on international television, and instead have an instinctual confidence that the humane and competent war we have waged in Afghanistan could not be replicated by any European power. - continued -
Link Posted: 1/28/2002 4:50:52 AM EDT
Our most visible doubters also reveal a peculiar lack of knowledge about history — and in particular political, diplomatic, and military history. Does their trepidation about this war perhaps reflect the reading and educational tastes of the last two decades, when history itself was deemed a construct, a mere reflection of the power machinations of a grasping few? In this present conflict, perusal of Tacitus, Ammianus Marcellinus, Bede, Machiavelli, Gibbon, Momsen, Oman, or Prescott — or any other classic narratives of political and military history — would offer far more prescience than would anthropologists, sociologists, gender-studies gurus, or even historians who "do" social history, such as analyses of women's underwear or the story of sitcoms. A half-century of anthropology, after all, would suggest to us that burqas and clitoridectomies are just "different" or perhaps comparable (or even superior to) Western fashion and custom. Traditional history, on the other hand, argues that women across time and space, like men, struggle to be free, not mutilated, and treated as equals. But many prominent Americans and Europeans also display an even more disturbing cynical attitude to what we are doing — which perhaps can be summed up as the arrogance of the Enlightenment. This is the idea that all man's sins, all nature's problems, and all the complexities of the cosmos can be alleviated by the god Reason that they have almost alone embraced. They assume that if Americans were just properly educated and trained, then we could insist on 100% excellence in this war — as if all wars are between absolute good and absolute evil, rather than a perennial struggle between the far better against the far worse in which brutality like Dresden, Hiroshima, or Tet is to be avoided but nevertheless is not uncommon. There are plenty of dangers in this constant expression of self-doubt, along with our national obsession about the inconsequential coupled with unconcern for what is critical. We are engaged in multifaceted and completely unpredictable war. Ours is now a high-stakes contest that will change the make-up of the current world; it not only requires all our full attention to what is important, but also a degree of self-confidence in our ability and right to conduct the struggle itself. Our allies are looking to us to assure them we have a vision for the Middle East that is better — not perfect, but better — than the conditions there now that led to 3,000 dead in America. Our enemies wax when we hesitate, wane as we show confidence, power, and justice in our cause. And neutrals simply watch us, gauging the right moment either to join in or bail out, damn or praise us, and release or roundup terrorists. So let us have some perspective, admit we are human, not divine, and show self-confidence in what we know from the past rather than foreboding about what is unknown in the future. [b]Should there be a thousand traitorous Johnny Walkers in detention, the minutiae of their cases should not warrant more concern than would the life of a single Marine; and if there should be 10,000 terrorists detained in Cuba, I would not care as much about all their beards being shaved off as the safety of a single American pilot[/b]. [url]http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson012502.shtml[/url] Eric The(IToldYouItWouldBeTheBest)Hun[>]:)]
Link Posted: 1/28/2002 4:56:41 AM EDT
It's going to be hard to beat that one.
Link Posted: 1/28/2002 1:47:01 PM EDT
Just to 'kick it up a notch'! Emeril The(That'sCajunFor'Eric')Hun[>]:)]
Link Posted: 1/28/2002 2:32:09 PM EDT
Good stuff. Also reminds me why I have been mostly ignoring the mass media for so long. Looks like I'm not missing much.
Link Posted: 1/28/2002 2:46:31 PM EDT
Thanks for the post. It's nice to read the truth from time to time. [:)]
Link Posted: 1/28/2002 4:02:49 PM EDT
That brings back memories of Ronny.
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