Tuesday, August 8

Same Shit, Different Sunday

David Brooks, "Talking About Terror"

Maybe the Islamists have simply come up with a conceptual breakthrough that makes them difficult to defeat. They've grasped that the more the endanger their own people and get them killed, the better it is for them politically. Israel or the U.S. gets blamed. That's like a superweapon in the media war.

The word that springs immediately to mind is "Wow." The phrase that follows is "the most disingenuous thing I've ever read in my life."

In fact it's hard to decide what layer of dishonesty to peel back first: the "conceptual breakthrough" of a centuries-old concept? The reduction of Israel to Robot State, incapable of preventing itself from actions not in its own interests? How 'bout Post-Vietnam Excuse Mongering, Volume 26?

Okay, coin toss. Heads. Conceptual breakthrough.

I dunno about you, but where I was educated, in the public schools of the previous century, word managed to leak out that the stories of all those Hun atrocities which had led us into the Great War were, well, occasionally unverifiable. And further reading suggests that the technique was what you might call Old Hat by 1914.

How is it that matters of insurgency, guerilla warfare, even--dare I say it?--terrorism so fully confound folks like David Brooks, folks on the True Intellectual end of our political spectrum? This country clings to the sacred (tho' false) notion that it was created by an insurgency, that American patriots defeated the Mightiest Army of Its Day by fighting "Indian style" while the lost-in-the-17th-century Brits marched out in their bright red woolens to easy slaughter. We celebrate it in everything from the faux-Cavalier traditions of the Late Rebellion to the comforting fables of the vanquished Noble Red Man, right on through Merrill's Marauders and the partisans in France and the Philippines in WWII, to today's special forces.

But turn the tables and use those techniques on us, or on the "us" the neocons mistake Israel for, and suddenly it's barbaric, inhuman, and just plain bad manners--and wholly unforeseen for some reason. (And what is that reason? The fact that neoconiacal hubris created an insurgency in Iraq?) Our enemies aren't supposed to have "superweapons". We have the superweapons. So if we're thwarted in some way it must be unfairly.

This is the Vietnam defense as it's known today to the Burkean masterminds of Brooks' party (we lost because the media convinced us we did), but it wasn't contemporary. At the time--when the public, whatever side of the argument it lined up on, was so well aware of the string of broken promises and claims of sporatic lighting at the end of various tunnels that the idea that the Times had lost the war was simply risable--the argument was "we weren't allowed to win", apparently as a result of there being rules of engagement. But the media meme won out in the long run, because the other argument was untenable, too, and the rewriting of history took care of any factual objections. So that it is now sufficient, if you're David Brooks, merely to point in the direction of The Media to cast a special Reverse Bad News spell, though that's somewhat surprising considering how Brooks earns a living.

I lived through it in the Vietnam years, and that was enough to convince me that the conceit would never go away. There's too much invested in it for people like Brooks, the skybox-dwellin' war fans for whom any and every defeat now means the refs cheated us. Interesting how easily that bunch went from promising to restore decency to insisting we all ignore it.

5 comments:

D. Sidhe said...

I'm glad someone can be articulate about this. I didn't get much further than "Wow". Specifically, I made it as far as "He's quite the dumbass, isn't he."

Mudge said...

Brooks, like most pundits has profound "ignorance of the obverse". If your objective is to win the "media war" (whatever that is) then do not bomb civilians. The "islamists" (again, who does he mean, Hezbollah or some jeweler in Baghdad) "endanger their own people and get them killed". Get them killed because they are in the way of a righteous U.S. or Isralei bomb or missile.

On the other hand, I suppose those Israelis who have been killed by Hezbollah rockets were merely innocent civilians, not people endangered by the Israelis to get them killed and make it better for Israel politically.

Brooks' lack of intellectual depth and superficiality are something we can count on in these turbulent times.

R. Porrofatto said...

More and more, Brooks' columns sound like what Rush Limbaugh would write had he finished college, and the quote here is pure right-wing radio spew just dressed up in a different vocabulary.

The question I have for anyone who spouts the "we weren't allowed to win" lunacy about Vietnam (coming soon to Iraq and Lebanon—we now being conflated with Israel), is "what could we have done differently had we been allowed to?" If they are even slightly realistic, the answer almost always devolves to nuclear confrontation or 20 more years of war.

You're entirely right, of course. And as with Vietnam, their absolute refusal to ever admit they were wrong will haunt us for years.

Flying Rodent said...

Can't disagree with a word.

Funny how all the "liberals are wusses who want to cave in to terrorism" crowd start whimpering like dogs in a thunderstorm when a real war with an enemy that shoots back flares up in their faces.

Apt though comparisons to the American Revolution and Vietnam may be, it'd be pretty staggering if a major pundit would be ignorant of the lessons of Beirut, season of '82, 80's Afghanistan or (whisper it) dear old "in ten years time I'll take my kids there on holiday" Iraq.

I don't think this is evidence of Brooks' stupidity though. If my salary depended on my refusal to face up to reality I'd probably look starstruck and gasp "who woulda thunk it?" too.

norbizness said...

Whom is Brooks informing any more?