Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Philosophy and the Iraq War: Chapter 2

(This is more like an extended comment following on the series of interesting comments by others on the prior two posts).

Mulling the last two posts with the comments has made me think: On the "awakening-council" strategy, we have two apparently bona fide (please bear with me everyone) interpretations that couldn't be more contradictory. Some, mostly Americans, say this is something that makes sense as a way of reducing violence, admittedly maybe only in the short term, with possible longer-term negative implications, but still something that "makes sense". Others, mostly Iraqis, say with Harith al-Dhari this is nothing but the latest implementation of a plan to reduce, not only the country as a whole, but also the individual social units within it, to fragments, "so that he [the occupier] will be the master." Unconscionable, in other words.

The usual way of dealing with this would be to put the forked tail and horns on one side or the other, and explain the difference that way. For the sake of argument right at the moment, let's not do that, and let's assume that each side came to its views more or less the way reasonable people do.

If we do that, then I think gradually something might dawn on us. Let's assume the difference between these two interpretations has to do with what you could call the unspoken and mostly unacknowledged background assumptions. Try looking at it this way: Suppose the Americans instead of invading Iraq had decided to build a shopping-mall in the Amazon rain-forest. After four years of being accused by the opposition of having done insufficient pre-planning, finally a strategy is developed. They are being harassed by wild animals and by aborigines. The new plan: Befriend the aborigines by giving them guns, and the aborigines will massacre the wild beasts. Two birds with one stone! Better still, the aborigines traditionally relied on the wild beasts for food and clothing, so now they are entirely dependent on the benevolence of the occupiers. Three birds with one stone! (There is also another aboriginal tribe to whom the colonizers had rashly promised management of the new mall, but they have been weakened by the newly-armed tribe so they won't be threatening any takeover the mall either). Peace! We're winning!

And it was all because someone had the "logical" and "reasonable" idea of trying to cull the wild beasts. What could be wrong with that?

But if you change the background assumptions and think of a foreign invasion of Michigan where the occupiers are harassed by the university professors and the bikers, so the invader arms the university professors to cull the bikers, then the "logic" and the "reasonableness" gets a little cloudier. And so on.

I believe thinking along those lines makes it clear where the difference between these two positions fundamentally comes from. If everyone in the world was as universally revered as the people of Michigan, then any strategy like that of arming some of them in opposition to others, would be seen as unacceptable--and as aimed at tearing the society apart--no matter what the other surrounding conditions were. (Never mind that bikers in America have always lived in a fundamentally violence-free relationship with the university professors in the context of the revered American cultural traditions). But if at the other extreme, somehow there was a story about arming people just to cull animals in the natural environment, then perhaps you could see it as a "logical" or a "reasonable" strategy even if the only aim was just to protect yourself from harm.



"Racism" isn't really an adequate term for the denigration and de-valuation of human beings that goes on behind the scenes here and props up this whole "debate".

As I tried to intimate in the earlier post called "Philosophy and the Iraq War", western corporate media have done a very good job in suggesting that there really isn't any sense of positive civic loyalties in Iraq: only religion (Sunni-Shiite) and race (Arab-Kurd-Persian) with their negative and mutually-antagonistic coloration. It is part of that background process of denigration and de-valuation that surrounds us every day, and we don't see it. Only sometimes when it kind of hits us in the face. Or am I wrong?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Short-Short Story -

All US military personnel were permanently home from the Middle East and his troubled presidency was drawing to a close.

On this evening of December 24, 2008, concluding his final televised speech to the American people, and as multi-megatons of mushroom clouds suddenly billowed over Iraq, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, a satisfied George Bush announced in those immortal words of Michael Corleone:

"Today, I settle all ‘family’ business…"

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your take is perceptive. Personally, the only operative logic I can see that makes any sense and remains in conformity to all tactical changes, contradictions, and seeming incompetence that pass as U.S. policy in Iraq are that they all necessitate, for one reason or another, that the U.S. remain engaged there, predicated to the limited resources they are willing to expend. The substantial investment in embassy and base infrastructure would tend to confirm this, in spite of it flying in the face of all rhetoric of democracy, sovereignty, and timely withdrawal. But then, thats how colonialism operates on a cost effective budget - playing one side against the other in an elaborate protection racket.

Is policy racist? Selectively. Is it misanthropic? Absolutely.

anna missed

1:52 AM  
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