Archive for April 15th, 2006

Matthew Yglesias over at the American Prospect reports on what's happened to Spain since they pulled out of Iraq. You may recall, as Matt did, that when Spain removed its troops:

Conservative pundits swung into action, wielding their usual miasma of ignorance and demagoguery. David Frum saw “swift and abject surrender to the attackers,” while David Brooks asked, wondered “what is the Spanish word for appeasement?”

So…what's happened? Did the Spanish withdrawal encourage more terrorist attacks in Spain because they're seen as weak, vacillating, as appeasers?

Nothing's happened. There's been no Islamic terror. Quiet. Fine. No problems.

Let's face it: staying in Iraq because it shows terrorists and other assorted baddies that we're determined, thus reducing the threat of terror, is less real than it is fodder for a psychoanalyst's couch. Basically that excuse is an exercise in proving our collective manliness.

Norman Mailer spotted this psychological quirk in the early days in an essay for the New York Review of Books back in July of 2003: "The White Man Unburdened." In it, Mailer claimed the war tapped the nation's desperate need for a masculine, white response to 9/11, a kind of presense that we associate with the good ol' days of Ike and Teddy and Wilson. (Kind of like hankering for your daddy the first time you get mugged living in the big city on your own.) You, like me, might have a little difficulty with Mailer's own brand of gruff masculine challenge, but he's on to something.

At this point, I think most people realize that Iraq isn't worth the trouble it would take to win it the way we set out to — it would take a full occupation with ten times the force we have now, requiring a draft, high taxes, rationing, to turn Iraq into a quaint secular Republic resembling nothing so much as a suburban neighborhood in Phoenix.

But now we're stuck with a president who can't get over himself. Who seems to believe that he's our nation's Great White Hope, despite the fact that the nation doesn't really want him around anymore. He wants to stay, he can't admit he was wrong that he f*cked Iraq up probaby beyond salvaging, he needs to prove to us that he's a True Manly Leader Man.

But let's let Mailer rip him:

What is to be said of a man who spent two years in the Air Force of the National Guard (as a way of not having to go to Vietnam) and proceeded—like many another spoiled and wealthy father's son—not to bother to show up for duty in his second year of service? Most of us have episodes in our youth that can cause us shame on reflection. It is a mark of maturation that we do not try to profit from our early lacks and vices but do our best to learn from them. Bush proceeded, however, to turn his declaration of the Iraqi campaign's end into a mighty fashion show. He chose—this overnight clone of Honest Abe—to arrive on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on an S-3B Viking jet that came in with a dramatic tail-hook landing. The carrier was easily within helicopter range of San Diego but G.W. would not have been able to show himself in flight regalia, and so would not have been able to demonstrate how well he wore the uniform he had not honored. Jack Kennedy, a war hero, was always in civvies while he was commander in chief. So was General Eisenhower. George W. Bush, who might, if he had been entirely on his own, have made a world-class male model (since he never takes an awkward photograph), proceeded to tote the flight helmet and sport the flight suit. There he was for the photo-op looking like one more great guy among the great guys. Let us hope that our democracy will survive these nonstop foulings of the nest.

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