Nel's New Day

April 28, 2012

Manly War for Conservatives

The Republican candidates are rattling their sabers. Despite the tremendous debt that W. Bush’s wars rolled up for future generations, hawks Romney and Rubio (on the short list for vice-president) don’t believe in diplomacy regarding Iran and Pakistan. They believe in war. The question is “why.”

Corey Robin’s book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin has some theories about the need for force and violence.  First, there is a need for the “manliness” of confronting disasters, a feeling of romance related to war. Avoiding war, to many of these people, is weak and soft, the wrongful subordination of passion to rational belief. “War is inescapable,” Yitzhak Shamir declared, not because it ensures security but “because without this, the life of the individual has no purpose.” Mussolini agreed with his claim that war is the sole source of human advance. “War is to men,” he said, “as maternity is to women.”

This philosophy was obvious a decade ago in the search of imaginary weapons of mass destruction and the demand to use torture. Donald Rumsfeld ridiculed analysts’ desire to have “all the dots connected for us with a ribbon wrapped around it.” His staffers derided the military quest for “actionable intelligence,” for information solid enough to warrant assassinations and other preemptive acts of violence. In the pundit world, David Brooks blasted the CIA’s “bloodless compilations of data by anonymous technicians” and praised those analysts who make “novelistic judgments” informed by “history, literature, philosophy and theology.”

The opposition to rule-bound culture and risk aversion of the military shows a deep antipathy to law and order. Rumsfeld’s secret directive that terrorists should be captured or killed included orders to his generals that the goal was “not simply to arrest them in a law-enforcement exercise.” To avoid any reasonable action by the military leaders, Rumsfeld supported lightning strikes by U.S. Special Forces without the generals’ approval. Geoffrey Miller replaced a general at Guantanamo for being too “soft—too worried about the prisoners’ well-being.”

Instead of democratizing the Middle East, the W. Bush camp invaded Iraq because of their grand idea, seeing themselves as a brave army that would prove themselves as heroes. The soldier mentality was accompanied by the “scholarly” justification of torture. The argument to torture anyone at any time, despite the Geneva Convention, puts forth the scenario of a bomb placed in the midst of a populated area. Is it ethical, ask the scholars, to torture the person who can protect all those people from the bomb?

The ticking-bomb argument, however, avoids the facts that none of the tortured people by the United States during the past decade, was questioned about any bomb, that between 60 and 90 percent of suspected prisoners were taken by mistake or with no basis of threat, and that many U.S. intelligence officials were convinced that torture did not result in accurate information. Yet the dialog about whether to torture and what constitutes torture continued under the romantic view of war held by the nation’s leaders for almost a decade. And once again, conservative Congressional members are also readying for war by introducing a bill to put aside money for the military in the Middle East.

Ironically, the word “theater” is used for both stagecraft and war, giving the feeling that national security is a “house of illusions.” Actors in both theaters behave like divas, waiting for people to admire their crafts. As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage,/And all the men and women merely players.”

One of the recent players to appear is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) giving what has been called his first major speech on foreign policy, perhaps to boost the feeling of Mitt Romney’s ignorance in this area. Rubio invoked Saint Ronald Reagan and criticized President Obama for not taking decisive and unilateral action, currently in Syria and earlier in Libya.

Although receiving much praise from the conservative press, Rubio may not yet be ready for prime time: he lost the last page of this speech. “Does anyone have my last page?” Rubio said on national television before Sen. Joe Lieberman, who introduced Rubio, passed it to him across the stage. He also lost quite a few points because of voting against the Violence against Women Act (VAWA). The second place guy Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) was one of ten Republican men to vote yes for VAWA. [Portman was W. Bush’s budget director during Bush’s second term—and we know how well that went!)

At The Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan wrote, “If Romney is elected, and if no deal with Iran is accomplished before then, we will go to war in a third Muslim country, and possibly escalate again in Afghanistan. The rebooting of the global religious war would be instant. The US will almost certainly become the guarantor of all of Greater Israel, rendering us cut off from the entire Arab and Muslim world, as well as increasingly isolated from Europe. Russia, Romney tells us, is the number one “threat”. Torture could well return.” It’s the manly thing.


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