What’s It All About, Alphie?
March 30, 2012
I have been bothered by the question: Why can’t Obama [and others] see that it is time to get out of Afghanistan? Answer: Because it isn’t about Afghanistan. Similarly, it was obvious that the Bush Administration changed its rationale for invading and occupying Iraq rather shamelessly. Why or how could it do this? Well, because that invasion and occupation was not about Iraq. And going back to an earlier time, why didn’t LBJ [and others] pull out of Vietnam when they knew “defeat” was almost guaranteed? Because it was not about Vietnam. Nor was it about “winning” in Vietnam, just as it was not about “winning” in Iraq and is not about “winning” in Afghanistan.
It is often said, and I have often said, that Bush was playing “hardball” in Iraq as he and his cohorts were trying to remake the Middle East, to create a “new order” there, one that would be “democratic” and Israel friendly. Well, now I think this is about half right. Bush was trying to create “a new order” only that “new order” was not to be located in Iraq but here in the United States. And this was and is what the “war on terror” is all about as well. It is said, often, that war cannot be waged on a “strategy” like “terrorism” and, once said, this is so obvious as to be undeniable. Why does it not deter our policy makers? Because the war on terror is not a war on terror but rather is a war directed at us. Bush and his cohorts, and even the Democrats, used the war on terror and the alleged “existential” threat of terrorism to try to remake our own political order, to impose on us policies that could never gain the acceptance of the American people except as responses to this “existential threat.” This is what our politicians do all the time: They create situations, presented to us as “crises” that have arisen over the course of time and despite efforts to deflect them, which call for certain measures which under any other circumstances would be rejected outright by the American people.
 That the Vietnam War was not about Vietnam is supported by the phrase “the Vietnam syndrome,” which President Bush I said had been dealt with by Desert Storm. Obviously, this “syndrome” did not have anything to do with Vietnam but had everything to do with the American people. Our “defeat” in Vietnam was not all that important to our politicians, Republican or Democrat. What mattered was that the American people (a) resisted the “government” and rejected its war and (b) threatened to reject the “activist, interventionist foreign policy” that underlay the power of our “power elite,” whom we the people needed to wield power to live safely in this dangerous world. People constantly say that LBJ had to let the generals fight in Vietnam in order to get his “Great Society” without realizing that (a) the generals were not all than enthused by a land war in Asia and (b) that the war was part and parcel of the “Great Society,” just as WWII was part and parcel of FDR’s New Deal.