Using Bees To Effect Vengeance
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Very depressing last night. Watched George W. Chimpy Chimp Chimper Chimperoo Bush give his speech -- well delivered, especially for him -- and then watched a 2 hr Frontline special on the last 25 years of Iraq and a Bill Moyers program on Iraq after that. It's a solemn day today, and it prompted a few thoughts.
I feel the weight of history bearing down from the future. Will Bush be hailed as the visionary with the guts to adjust the world security apparatus to respond to a new type of threat or the catastrophic bumbler who destabilized the whole world by overreacting to September 11? Will Chirac be viewed as the principled diplomat who tried to defend the august principles of multilateralism against the fatally wild-eyed Bush administration, or the Neville Chamberlain who almost derailed the sweepingly successful overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the subsequent democratization of the Middle East and the concomitant flowering of Arab potential? We don't know what's going to happen, but history will judge us for the stands we take today as if we did. Issues that are so messy now will be illuminated by future events -- the truths that today are hopelessly enmeshed with and obscured by misapprehensions, faulty assumptions, and transitory considerations will gleam so brightly one day that the world will wonder how we ever failed to pick them out.
World leaders will of course be remembered for how they voted in the Security Council on this issue, but it's not just the great and the good that will be remembered. It's 2003, and some of us have weblogs. My thoughts are here for the world to see -- for my grandkids to see. They could be reading this right now and marvelling at how I could have criticized the great George W. Bush, the way we might marvel at contemporary criticism of Lincoln. Or they could be reading this right now in astonishment at how evenhanded I'm being towards the most tragically wrongheaded president in history. I'm aware that they can judge me, and it freights my ever-changing moods with world-historical import. I can't help thinking that this is going to be one of those issues that seems very clear cut a couple of generations from now, and I don't want to be on the wrong side of history's judgement. How's that for neurotic?
It is rather interesting that those of us who've blogged our opinions about this matter (or any other matter, for that matter) have left an electron trail. Perhaps it will serve as a corrective to our natural impulses to rewrite The Movie Of Our Life after the fact, play up the salutary, de-emphasize the shameful, the blinkered, or the unflattering. There will be this public record of our thoughts that our parents, grandparents, and ancestors likely never had to contend with.
For what it's worth, I agree with Bill Clinton's take on how we got to this precipice. I hope hope hope that civilian casualties will be kept to a strict minimum, that the liberation of the Iraqis retroactively legitimizes the sacrifices that were made, and that Arab democracy ceases to become an oxymoron as a result.
Which is a nice segue to the other thing I wanted to talk about. This 48 hours to war/possible dissolution of post-war order/shock'n'awe malarkey has overshadowed an enormously important development that took place yesterday. I speak of the Palestinian parliamentary debate over the powers of their new Prime Minister. This debate featured lots of cigarette smoking, some threats of resignation, and much storming from the chamber. But ultimately the role of the prime minister was not eviscerated, and there were signs that the Palestinian Authority may yet transcend the Cult of Arafat. That kind of development is encouraging -- I hope it can survive Iraq War '03.
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