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Monday, September 02, 2013

Exception That Proves The Rule

Steven read my Syrian post and pointed out that I had omitted mentioning either Granada or the first Gulf War as victories the U.S. had achieved since WWII. I had deliberately overlooked the former because capturing a handful of technicians in a single assault, while well-executed, does not qualify as a war. The first Gulf War, however, I did fail to count as a victory, though our stated goals were achieved. So, he is right, in that sense it was indeed a victory. But even if considered such, American involvement was precipitated by Saddam Hussein's invasion of another country, Kuwait, so it doesn't fall into the same category of introducing US troops into a civil war. Again, we were perfectly content to let him persecute minorities within his country without our interference. Furthermore, one could legitimately argue that it was the very limited scope of our aims in that first conflict that led to our subsequent return to oust Saddam--because he was not completely defeated and removed from power in that first round, further human rights violations took place, and what turned out to be a flimsy pretext for reengagement was sought.

I dogsat this long weekend, and the couple whose canines I was tending are Washington Post subscribers. I had time to sit down with the A Section this afternoon, and found that Henry Allen had penned an editorial entitled "The Tragedy of 'Good Wars'" which reiterated many of the points that I raised in my Syria post.  One original bit, however, caught my attention as meriting rebuttal:  "And yet Americans still believe in the idea of the good and virtuous war. It scratches our Calvinist itch; it proves our election to blessedness."

I like Allen's phrasing--who could resist such a nicely-crafted line, weaving together religious fulfillment and barnyard-animal base satisfaction into one neat, simple image? But as a Calvinist I must protest his presumption that there is much intellectual drive to be right as opposed to visceral neediness to make everyone worldwide "play nice" in the American national psyche.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you realize how few people in the world at large would admit to being a Calvinist?