Silver Lining

I'm still in shock.

I've been under a lot of stress in general, but now the dull fear of a Bush unfettered by re-election concerns is slowly bubbling up. It reminds me of 9/11 when the emotions started deep inside and matured slowly, revealing their pain like a giant pimple that you can feel days before it appears.

Mostly I can't understand how a whole lot of blustery rhetoric won over half the nation. Kerry was watered down, no doubt about it, but the way Bush spouted slogans instead of addressing issues was astonishing.

Look, I understand voting for Bush for any of the following reasons:

  • You're rich as hell.
  • For some reason you think gay people getting married is a major threat to life as we know it.
  • You believe abortion causes much more suffering and evil in the world than all the stuff grown humans do to each other.
  • You can't sleep at night thinking about all the stem cells being used for evil life-saving research instead of being thrown away to die as usually happens when things go wrong with a pregnancy.

At least, I feel any of those reasons put you in the extreme minority that I shouldn't have to worry about. But I suspect a great many people voted for something along the lines of:

Bush has just the kind of unflinching resolve needed to use our military might to squash terrorists and spread democracy.

I'm no conspiracy theorist. I know Bush & co. have their hearts in the right place. I'm even willing to overlook rampant cronyism as merely an ugly coincidence. The real danger is the belief that terrorism can be defeated with military force. See, military force works great against a localized enemy such as a country, or perhaps a bunch of terrorists in some caves, but it doesn't work so well against a movement.

Bush sees the war in very specific terms. There are some bad people called terrorists, whom we simply have to kill. Once they're dead only good people will be left and we can get back to the business of building wealth. Of course this all goes over great with the electorate because we can mix patriotism with rioteous indignation, feed it with an awesomely powerful military machine, and serve up the resulting 'Democracy Spread' safely on television in the comfort of our own homes. There's just one small problem:

Those pesky terrorists keep mixing with the civilian population causing collateral damage. Oops! All Arabs look the same to our smart bombs. Sorry guys, you understand we're just trying to kill the bad guys, right? Cool, now go back to rebuilding your homes while we fix the oil wells. If any insurgents hurt you just round 'em up, we'll be in this walled compound over here.

Agh! Now the terrorists are telling all kinds of lies about America to boost recruitment. Have they no shame? We were only trying to help the people, everything we do is for their own good! We can't be bad because America is founded on principles of goodness. Sorry bad things happened to you before, but we had nothing to do with it, badness is un-American!

Of course the real solution to terrorism would be to remove the rampant poverty and horrible conditions that give rise to it. But if we even suggested 50 years of mismanaged Middle-East policy might have something to do with why people there hate us then we'd just be pandering to terrorists. And we can never give in, so we have to use our overwhelming military force to crush them into compliance, just like Israel did to Palestine. You remember how great that worked out.

No, Americans have neither the interest nor the attention span to hear the real solution. It's not easy either. You're dealing with corrupt governments who have no particular interest in raising the people out of poverty. They are our proxys for getting the oil. They get to blame America for the people's woes, and we get a cut of the profits without having to risk our asses over there. Honestly there is not much we can do in the short term to remedy the situation, though we could begin by not starting ill-advised wars, getting thousands of civilians killed, and fueling the terrorist propaganda machine against America. We could begin by admitting past mistakes and starting to give Arabs the respect that all human beings deserve.

So, as guilty as I feel about my tax dollars going to invading Iraq, there is a silver lining. At least Bush will be held responsible for whatever happens next. Iraq is a quagmire, mostly due to a misguided belief that democracy springs forth from the barrel of a gun (so long as it's American). Now we are facing the prospect of doing all the hard work that should have been started on day one: training Iraqi security forces. If Kerry was in office he'd face a lot of criticism if things didn't improve fast, and that would likely lead to even greater right-wing fanaticism come 2008. For now I'm content for Bush to take the heat.