2003 March 08 Saturday
Victor Davis Hanson at the Post War Iraq Press Conference

Victor Davis Hanson has written a fictional news conference for Donald Rumsfeld in Baghdad after the coming Iraq War. The "damned if you do, damned of you don't" nature of America's position in the world today is explored at length.

Al-Jazeera: Mr. Secretary: Can we expect Americans to follow up on their promises to the Iraqi people to stay and to guarantee a democratic society?

And you owe me a follow-up, please: How long will Americans interfere in Arab politics and insist on foreign solutions to domestic problems?

Al-Hayat: Secretary Rumsfeld, sir: Doesn't the fact that oil prices have nose-dived in the months after the invasion prove that the United States sought to undermine OPEC and use the invasion to obtain cheap oil?

I wish to follow-up as well: With 100 burning oil fields, isn't it true the United States bears some responsibility for the uncertainty about future petroleum prices?

The United States is portrayed by a large number of critics as omnipotent. Anything about an outcome that they do not like has to have been the fault of the US. The US is the only moral agent. Its actions and, equally, its inactions, are the cause of whatever is wrong with the world. No one else is considered to be morally responsible for their actions. People in the rest of the world are treated as if they have no free will of their own and as if they just react in automated ways to stimuli provided by the all powerful America. Any consequence of any action that the US takes in response to what others do must, in their view, be the moral responsibility of the United States alone.

Americans need to learn to grow thick skins and to sort thru the flood of criticism to look for those rare critics whose comments are constructive and helpful.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 March 08 12:10 PM 

Bob said at March 8, 2003 10:04 PM:

While I recognize the necessity for war, I don't think Bush has done a good job of presenting the facts about war.

The outcome of war is never certain. War, the demon Apollo to the Greeks or Mars to the Romans, is a terrible fiend to unleash upon the world. And yet, America must, at times, unleash this hellish beast to savage America's own children. The President of the United States has carefully, dutifully and deliberately placed a quarter million of America's children on the altar in front of this hungry demon alongside the entire populations of Iraq and of several neighboring countries, and the President is about to open the gate to hell. A Lincoln or a Jefferson (or even a Churchill, though never a President) would frankly acknowledge and explain without apology the dire risks and the necessity for war. History tells us that God answered their calls as blunt and as unapologetic as those calls were.

When the President opens the gate to hell, he will jump on the back of whatever issues forth and will strive with all the might of the United States to force the beast to do his will. He must know, though, that he's in for a shared ride: Others will join him on the back of the beast and will try to force the beast to their will instead. Some joining him will be evil and some cynical and some dutifully fulfilling their offices to the best of their ability.

When the President opens the gate, he will have no way of knowing who or how many the beast will gore nor who or how many will fall under its hooves. He will try to direct the beast away from the innocent and toward evil, but he can control neither the beast's appetite nor the other hands pulling the reins.

Some of America's children will die--as will some of Iraq's children. Sacrifice, the word for this is sacrifice. In fact, it is the ultimate sacrifice that any freedom loving country makes to protect freedom. It is a sacrifice undertaken only with the greatest reluctance and regret. Democracy, American values and the American system of governance are such rare, precious and beautiful gifts to humanity that the people of the United States demand a President who is willing to "preserve, protect and defend" and who is willing (however reluctantly) to command such sacrifice when necessary.

I said above that the President has placed America's children and many others on an altar in front of a damnable beast, but it is not an altar to that damnable beast. It is an altar to all that is good in this world: Humanity, Justice, Freedom, Equality, Life and the ever venerable Pursuit of Happiness. It is an altar to the People of the United States of America (Past, Present and most importantly Future) and to All the People of the World who share and cherish the core values and ideas which form the foundation of the Great Nation of the United States of America.

We all know the man who currently Serves in the Office of President of the United States is a religious man. Surely, Bush knows that opening the gate to hell and riding the beast of war will forever stain him. Long after the gate is closed and the beast secured again, Bush will have personal demons to fight. Only a false god would allow a man to make such solemn and portentous decisions with an easy mind or with a callous attitude, and I hope and pray Bush has the wisdom, the strength of character and the courage to ignore false gods and to do what is necessary in spite of the moral burden. Such is the personal sacrifice the People of the United States demand of any man who would Serve in the Office of the President, who would wield such terrible power and who would command the sacrifice of their own children.

I hope and pray that God answers Bush's call, guides Bush's hand to bring the beast to heel and gives us a Magnanimous Victory. I wish He could grant us Peaceful Goodwill right now, but unfortunately other darker forces are afoot in the world. Regardless of specific religion or creed, if we share and cherish the core founding values and ideas of the United States of America, we are all called upon to Serve Him and to fight His battle regardless of the name we give Him. While the United States of America was founded on certain values and ideas, they are not unique to the United States of America. They were widely held values and ideas throughout Europe and the British Isles prior to the founding of the United States of America and they have spread to all corners of the globe.

Recalling the words by which Jefferson first formally expressed those founding values and ideas:

The People of Iraq are either more disposed to suffer the Absolute Despotism of Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party, or the People of Iraq lack the resources and ability to throw off such Government and to provide new Guards for their future security. Regardless, the People of Iraq have failed in their duty to themselves.

The history of the present Rulers of Iraq is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over not only the People of Iraq but the Peoples of Neighboring States as far as the influence of the present Rulers of Iraq can reach. By seeking to attain weapons of mass destruction and to attain weapon delivery systems with great range, the present Rulers of Iraq seek to extend absolute Tyranny to the entire world. By failing in their duty to themselves, the People of Iraq have failed in their duty to all the Peoples of the World.

While many of the Peoples of the World may accept patient sufferance for their own People, it is the right and the duty of all the Peoples of the World to throw off such Tyranny.

Such is now the necessity which constrains the People of the United States of America to alter the Systems of Government of Iraq for the protection and preservation of All the Peoples of the World and to establish a new System of Government deriving its just powers from the consent of the People of Iraq at such time as the People of Iraq accept their right and their duty to demand just Government or at such time as the failures of the People of Iraq to accept their right and their duty no longer pose any threat to the Peoples of the World.

The time for diplomacy by usual means is nearly at an end. The time to switch to other means is perhaps even overdue. Bush must open the gate to hell on his terms (our terms really) and must not allow Saddam to open the very same gate fully prepared for the ride.

Returning to the topic of Randall's original post, I know that many of those who fear Bush and the awful Office he holds and who criticize his every move mean well. I fear that their protestations are neither necessary nor fair. Regardless, I assume that most of them Serve God or try to just as Bush Serves or tries to, because as I said above, I do not believe that God would allow any man to make such solemn and portentous decisions with an easy mind or with a callous attitude.

Carlee said at March 9, 2003 12:47 PM:

From the Working Draft blog: on a Carnival in Limassol, Cyprus:


There is always a political element to parades here, and in this an aspect of national character emerges. Cypriots—at least here on the Greek side—are bitter. Forty percent of the island is occupied by Turkey, and Greek Cypriots blame the United States. After all, America did not stop Turkey when it invaded in 1974, and “America is the boss of the world,” as a cabdriver recently told me. Such resentment is commonplace in the world these days. The list of complaints about the United States is long. Washington, or so it goes, is arrogant: it trashed the Kyoto accords, it is ready to declare war on Iraq without the United Nations, it scorns international consensus.

THE PARADE features political satire that would leave Americans bewildered. On one float, a towering Statue of Liberty stretches out a hand as big as a king-sized bed. From her fingers dangle four martinets with papier-mâché heads: the candidates in Cyprus’ recent presidential election.

“What’s this all about?” I asked an organizer, a woman wearing a workman’s clothes and a false mustache, and carrying a giant red plastic hammer.

“You see, whatever they try to accomplish,” she explained, “they can’t do it because America is controlling them and pushing the wrong solution.”

Randall Parker said at March 9, 2003 1:04 PM:

Carlee, The Cyprus situation is a classical example of blame shifting from where it belongs to the United States as supposedly all powerful superpower. The Greek military officers brought that situation on themselves by trying to put Cyprus under total Greek control. The Turks responded. The Greeks were no match for the Turks. The Greeks were incredibly foolish to play the game the way they did.

The US made the right decision to let the Turks move in. Note that the Turks did not take the whole island. The US probably told them that would be considered a step too far. The Turks were far more important in NATO and the Greeks had brought the situation on themselves. Of course it is so easy to blame others for troubles people cause for themselves. America is a superpower so blame America.

Now a bunch of paranoics are blaming the US for micro-managing Cyprus. That paranoia credits the US with more interest in Cyprus than it has. Why not blame the EU since all the political machinations in Cyprus are about getting Cyprus admitted to the EU without guaranteeing Turkey EU membership at the same time?

Carlee said at March 9, 2003 2:13 PM:

Randall, what will be the consequences of this Anti-Americanism in the future? When today's youth are indoctrinated/perceive all the worlds problems are a direct consequence of American foreign policy while lacking an appreciation of our values, I can't envision a better world.

We must however not let this emotion deter us from fighting terrorism and rogue states with WMD's relentlessly.

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