FROM SYRACUSE TO BAGHDAD TO TEHRAN TO... I HOPE NOT OBLIVION; I LIKE IT HERE
The idea of an uneducated yahoo for a president worried me a lot more than many other American voters. Bill Clinton, who always seemed brighter than most to me, made it look so easy to be president that millions of voters thought even a dolt who had failed at everything he had ever put his hand to, could lead the nation. That nonchalance helped install George W. Bush in the White House. (Systematic voter fraud and a gaggle of partisan Republican hacks on the Supreme Court didn't exactly hurt his cause either.) And, besides, we were assured, even if he is an unprepared 'tard, he'll have wise and experienced older men around him who will run the show. Reassuring.
When they decided to launch a series of wars against cultures they were all but clueless about-- as though they were invading Iowa or, at best, Germany-- I had a sinking feeling none of them had ever read Thucydides-- except maybe Colin Powell, the military guy none of them ever listened to in the run-up to war. Why Thucydides? No reason. Steven Pressfield would have sufficed. In fact I was reading his book, Tides of War, while Team Bush was busy stealing the presidency in a bloodless electoral coup, already dreaming of the day they could march into Baghdad and on into Tehran.
"Bloodless," though, wasn't what that presaged. I prayed Thucydides' and Pressfield's accounts of the Peloponnesian War weren't about to be lived out on my TV set and in the homes of thousands of American families.
At the time when Alcibiades was the toast of the town, Athens was a major world power with a pretty extensive empire based on its unrivaled naval power. The Peloponnesian War, which lasted nearly 3 decades, was at a stalemate when Athens invaded Sicily with the idea of absorbing Syracuse (a Spartan ally). Athens was a dominant military superpower and Syracuse was a modest regional power with no ability to project any kind of military power beyond Sicily. It must have appeared like a walkover. It ended, though, in the utter and total destruction of the Athenian military expedition, something that was not only incomprehensible but also something that led to a collapse of Athenian power and the end of the Athenian Empire.
I just ordered a newer Pressfield book, The Afghan Campaign. The review in the Marine Corps Gazette caught my attention: “Pressfield has done it again. The Afghan Campaign is yet another gripping historical novel... Although set in ancient times, Pressfield’s narration of the Macedonians’ efforts reveals remarkable parallels to later efforts by the Romans, British, Soviets, and Americans... an intense, fun, and thought-provoking read." Americans? Uh oh.
Even if Bush and the wise older men around him had read Tides of War-- or even the as yet unwritten Afghan Campaign-- it's unlikely they would have walked away with the right lessons, since their collective hubris is probably the only thing more colossal than their collective ignorance. And they could just as well prepared for the invasion of Syracuse as the invasion of Iraq. This morning's Washington Post voices their complaint that "The war has indeed metastasized into something 'completely different,' a conflict in which the roadside bomb in its many variants-- including 'suicide, vehicle-borne'-- has become the signature weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan, as iconic as the machine gun in World War I or the laser-guided 'smart bomb' in the Persian Gulf War of 1991.
IEDs have caused nearly two-thirds of the 3,100 American combat deaths in Iraq, and an even higher proportion of battle wounds. This year alone, through mid-July, they have also resulted in an estimated 11,000 Iraqi civilian casualties and more than 600 deaths among Iraqi security forces. To the extent that the United States is not winning militarily in Iraq, the roadside bomb, which as of Sept. 22 had killed or wounded 21,200 Americans, is both a proximate cause and a metaphor for the miscalculation and improvisation that have characterized the war.
But hard-line maniacs inside the Bush Regime still nurture the on to Iran dream near and dear to the
NY Times columnist Tom Friedman was one of many who beat the drums the hardest and most rhythmically for the Bush-Cheney Regime in the run-up to their premeditated, but poorly planned, invasion (successful) and occupation (catastrophically disastrous) of Iraq. Today he said he "will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don’t need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate." So no Rudy, Romney, McCain, no Frederick of Hollywood. Not sure if Hillary fits in there, especially since she either appears to be a willing accomplice of the Bush Regime or has learned absolutely nothing whatsoever from her October 10, 2002 authorization votes (the ones that she excuses, lamely, with the "If I had known then what I know now..."). Friedman admits that his reaction to 9/11 made him stupid and knocked him out of balance. That's his excuse for providing the pseudo-intellectual heft for Bush' war agenda? Does that mean he's resigning in disgrace?
No; he has other crazy ideas. "You may think Guantánamo Bay is a prison camp in Cuba for Al Qaeda terrorists. A lot of the world thinks it’s a place we send visitors who don’t give the right answers at immigration. I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans. Guantánamo Bay is the anti-Statue of Liberty." And he's still talking about America helping to create a "progressive Iraq." How about a progressive Florida or Texas? Or a progressive San Bernardino County? How about we fix the problems with reactionaries here first before we start exporting our ideals to countries with very different traditions and very different perceptions than our own?
But Friedman, who has presumably read at least Thucydides, if not Pressfield, never once mentions the devastation Bush and his enablers caused in Iraq or the international destabilization or the cost to American families in blood and treasure. Instead Friedman's point seems to be that tourists don't come here anymore and American business is going to pot. He's supposed to be a smart guy who's thought about this before, no? Can't the Times find better help?