05 December 2006

Iraq: my two cents

The consequences of political "no-brainers"

To say a lot has been written about the Iraq war is a bit like saying the universe is quite big. I tend to avoid the obvious political topics on this blog, on the basis that there's already plenty of commentary and analysis out there, from a variety of standpoints. In this case, however, I'd like to contribute my own humble theoretical perspective, because it follows on from yesterday's post about the dubious phrase "no-brainer".

It's not that I don't see the point of this phrase at all, or that I've never used it. (Although, come to think of it, I haven't.) But its recent popularity probably arises because it fits in with a whole raft of things that characterise mediocracy: phoney anti-elitism, phoney proletarianisation, "cant be bovvered" syndrome, phoney rights. (By 'phoney' I mean a thing isn't really what it seems to be about. E.g. mediocratic anti-elitism isn't anti-elitist, it's anti some elites in favour of other elites.)

It strikes me that the "no-brainer" style has been what has defined the Bush administration. It's Jackass meets Dirty Harry meets Eisenhower. It's Conservatism taking on board cultural dumbing down, and by doing so, losing its virtues. (Cameroons, please note. No more campaigns about tossers", please.)

The Dubya phenomenon can of course be seen as a product of the "liberal" (i.e. illiberal) bias of the Western cultural elite. Conservatives no longer feel they can argue for the virtues of their approach on traditional bases. The ground has been taken from under them by the "deconstructionist" approach of the leftist intelligentsia. (Which peddles itself as analysis, when it's really little more than sneering, applied in a highly selective way. You never see deconstruction of things like "equality" or "welfare", only of bourgeois notions such as "objectivity" or "tradition".)

The illiberal elite creates monsters in reaction to itself. The opposition feel they can only fight back against phoney egalitarianism by using the weapons of populism. This may account for phenomena such as Ann Coulter.

I believe we're in the mess we're in over Iraq largely because of the no-brainer style of Republicans like Bush and Cheney. I'm not suggesting they should have listened more to expert opinion. I'm saying they, and their advisers, should have thought it through, and not dismissed thinking as for wussies. Then they might have skated less lightly over such possible reservations as:

  • a war against Iraq might not be ethically legitimate, given the impetus for it came from us not them;
  • a war regarded as illegitimate would create a backlash against the West, and against capitalism and conservatism, making events such as 9/11 more not less likely;
  • a regime change might be more likely to destabilise the Middle East than to make it safer;
  • aggression against an Islamic country might heighten Islamic fanaticism rather than defuse it.
Unfortunately, it appears the "American people" (like the British people) no longer want a cultured reflective intellectual type for President (e.g. Bush senior), they want someone they can imagine appearing on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and who says "yo Blair". In other words, they want a no-brainer.