Friday, July 8, 2011

Stranger than Fiction

Here is a thought I had recently. It is based on an exchange between Jon Stewart and Bill Kristol on Stewart's TV show recently. Stewart began the interview by asking Kristol whether he was willing to admit that he, Kristol, had been wrong to recommend and support wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kristol said no. "Of course," I thought and shut off the TV.

Now, here is my thought. First, Kristol was telling truth and, second, when we see this, we can also see that, at least from his perspective, Kristol was correct: He was not wrong.

Why was Kristol telling the truth? Because he, Kristol, did not recommend and support wars in Iraq and Afghanistan based on a calculation that we would prevail or win and do so without too much loss, both of Americans and Iraqis and Afghanis. No, Kristol recommended and supported wars in those places because he, Kristol, thinks that waging war, in and of itself, is worthwhile. Of course, he wanted the US to achieve its "objectives" provided one keeps in mind that one of those objectives was, put simply, "to wage war." Because by waging war, we can show, we can demonstrate our greatness as a nation. And when one sees this, one can also see that even in "losing" those wars, we still can demonstrate our greatness. So, in fact, in a weird but logical way, the outcome of these wars doesn't not matter to Kristol or, if the outcome does matter, it is not of decisive importance. For Kristol and others who embrace a politics of greatness, success lies in demonstrating that greatness - and this means, very often, waging war, perhaps even in a "losing" cause. The Athenians went to Syracuse and the Americans went to Vietnam, not despite but rather because of the "long odds."

Stewart's shortcoming here is that he does not understand this about Kristol and others like him. These types actually like war and they like waging war because it demonstrates the greatness of this nation - and, of course, of those who are manly enough to recommend and support war [even while not fighting in them]. In order to take Kristol on successfully or persuasively, one has to challenge his understanding of politics and political activity as serving the cause of greatness. That is, you would have to challenge Kristol's embrace of a politics of greatness. Unless this is done, it will prove impossible to shake Kristol's "confidence" or his argument. Any facts that Stewart could muster would fall on deaf ears because of one fact: Waging war is a way of demonstrating a nation's greatness and this is what Kristol and many others are all about. [As a brief aside: Hence, the tendency of those like Kristol to call those who disagree with him/them "wimps."]

Now this little bit of light makes this a good day for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment