Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Does the Shoe fit?

I'm sure there are people who thought it was a mistake to fight the Civil War to its end and to insist that the emancipation of slaves would hold. I know there were people who said, 'Why don't we get out of this now, take a peace with the South, but leave the South with slaves?' Condoleezza Rice US Secretary of State

The old adage, if the shoe fits, wear it, comes to mind when contemplating recent Bush administration attempts to find the fitting historic metaphor to describe the War in Iraq and those who argue against its continuation. The opening quote from Ms. Rice which equates the War in Iraq with the US Civil War is one attempt and Secretary Rumsfeld's recent attempt to paint war critics as Neville Chamberlain-esque "appeasers" is another. Let's contemplate for a moment, if such metaphoric shoes might fit.

In one sense I agree with Ms. Rice. The War in Iraq and the US Civil War are both examples of wars where the cause célèbre wasn't really causal. Lincoln, according to this view, was far less interested in abolishing slavery (the Emancipation Proclamation was issued almost 3 years into the War) than in assuring the Northern Industrialists retained economic dominance. President Bush, as recent debates arguing in favor of another dictatorship in Iraq indicate to me, seems far less interested in leading the Iraqis to a "free democracy" than in assuring that the US retain dominance over global petroleum flows.

Mr. Rumsfeld's attempt to paint Saddam with the Hitler brush only serves to remind me of Godwin's Law: as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. Oddly enough, as I discovered reading this article from Harper's the Neo-Cons should be aware of what their intellectual godfather, Leo Strauss, called, Reductio ad Hitlerum- the absurd smearing of any opposing line of thought as Hitleresque. ....nuff said.

In my view, one of the more fitting historical metaphors describing the War on Terror is the Spanish Hapburg's War on Protestantism, which began (in one frame of mind) with the Thirty Years War, and ended with the sinking of the "Invincible Armada" in the attempt to break Elizabeth's England and the eventual bankrupting of Spain.

Spain, like the US, in my view, overestimated both the efficacy of its clearly superior war machine in changing hearts and minds- despite winning many battles Protestantism kept winning the war, and the economic advantage of monetary inflation.

Religious dogmatism, another Carlinesque word combo- religion seems to me about enlightening minds, not closing them behind repeated dogmatic mantras, fueled both leaders, Philip II and George Bush.

The economic aspect seems to me quite apt. Just as Spain found that the huge inflow of Gold from the Americas allowed them to, for a while, buy without working, so to may America find that issuing the world's reserve currency allows them to, for a while, buy without working. Ultimately, however, such actions only serve to weaken the underlying economy, in a way which is hidden from view, until it is too late.

The ideological rigidity of the Spanish Hapsburgs led them to sideline and then purge the nation of dissenting groups, like the Moors and the Jews, who just happened to be the a large portion of the entrepreneurs of the nation. I hope similar purging of dissenting groups doesn't occur here, but the signs at the moment are not promising.

Of course, one key element that distinguishes life in the present moment from history is the lack of completion. We'll have to wait and see which metaphoric shoes history deems fitting to describe the current adventures.