Friday, July 21, 2006

Tar Baby War

It's August... ok, so it's not August, yet. It feels like it here, and it feels like it on the world stage; August 1914, that is.

One small bit of local stupidity, and then, like watching a glacier calving, everyone's sliding into the water. Only it's hot; very, very hot water. Every act seems to be the conjoined twin of some historical action of necessity; we can't stop the mobilization scheme while the diplomats try to sort it out and restore peace, that would bollux everything up completely, and the enemy would race ahead and invade while we're still getting our switching signals figured out again.

Of course, it's better these days. The logistical planning involved is computerized, and fast.

Unfortunately, it appears that stupidity has kept up with intelligence in the psycho-emotive arms race. All those tools seem to do is allow the minuet of death to be played staccato, accelerando.

Escalation is something to be struggled against, not embraced. One wonders what Israel might have done if a dozen soldiers had been captured. For that matter, what the US would have done if there'd been a really serious terror event--the kind that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Cannot Tell A Truth gang have warned about in almost every speech they've given, you know, a nuke, a real WMD. Given that we've destablized large swaths of the Near and Middle East, killed a hundred thousand people, and opened the gates wide for terror recruiting and training, it's hard to imagine what could be worse.

Which doesn't mean that it can't get worse. It can, certainly.

In 1914, no one envisioned trench warfare. Gas. The Somme. Gallipoli. Just as when war broke out in 1939, no one imagined entire cities obliterated, whether by firebombings creating an inferno or a single atomic bomb.

Hamas has goaded Israel into reacting--in a way that strengthens Hamas. So has Hezbollah. In the same way, Osama goaded Bush into doing exactly what he wanted--an invasion of an Arab, Muslim nation. That it was as secular a state (anathema to Al Qaeda!) was gravy. That it delivered hell to a nation with a Shi'ite majority (anathema to Al Qaeda!) was dessert. Israel is smashing Lebanon, ensuring a failed state on its northern border--which is the thing it needs least.

We're watching the world act, repeatedly, in its own worst interests. No one seems to be able to stop; they've touched the Tar Baby, and they're stuck. Unable to find the calm to actually figure out how to back out of a bad situation, they're... escalating.

I'd like to think that it won't get that bad. I'd like to think that there's more sanity out there. But we have the drumbeat of the neocons, calling for a quick, fun, happy, lightning strike to take out Iran, too. Like Iraq, Iran will greet Americans with open arms (as they have since 1979) and flowers. Their evil oppressors will be driven howling by American arms (pace General Van Riper), and the real Iranians will take power. Just like in Iraq.

Somewhere, some young poet is honing skills, to write the 21st century's equivalent of Wilfred Owen's lines;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

From the cluttered desk and mind of a historian, I have just one warning. It won't work out, that shining fantasy. Bitterness and desolation will be coupled with national bankruptcy and the loss of another generation--to war, to depression, drugs, disbelief.

I'm not suggesting that just stopping will magically make it better. Just that I see nothing that anyone is doing that will, that can. Every action seems an opium dream. Hezbollah will be shattered by Israel's attack--save that the last time that Israel attacked Lebanon like this, they succeeded in creating Hebollah. So it really is an insane act. And so are the others....