Militarism and Anti-Democracy, Now in a Country Near You


I’ve spoken to a number of people and thought a lot about President Bush’s recent round of analogies about the Iraq War — the latest of course being to the Korean and Vietnam Wars (see video of the key passages from the president’s speech yesterday). To get a grasp on an argument, to support it or take it apart, requires that it have some grounding in reality or actual fact. But like so much else that comes out of the White House (and has in recent years) what we have here are arguments which either completely disregard most of the relevant facts or just as often build points on the basis of ridiculous strawman arguments.

Like for instance, all those war critics who think that if only US troops would leave Iraq, all the killing would stop.

Have you met these people? You can find people who think the Earth is flat. Heck, you can even find people who don’t believe in evolution. Most of them seem to be running for president as Republicans. But I don’t think I know anyone who thinks all would be swell in Iraq if only US troops would leave. Indeed, the premise of most current criticism of the war is that we’re occupying a country that is in the midst of a slow-motion civil war and that there’s nothing we can do to stop it and that we should stop trying.

All that aside though what I find most telling about the current round of arguments is the president’s increasingly explicit use of ‘stab in the back’ rhetoric as the new basis of his policy.

Our troops are seeing the progress that is being made on the ground. And as they take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question: Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they’re gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground in Iraq? Here’s my answer: We’ll support our troops, we’ll support our commanders, and we will give them everything they need to succeed.

I guess ‘pull[ing] the rug’ is a kinder, gentler Americanized version of ‘stab in the back’. But the core message is the same. There are the troops on the one hand and their domestic enemies at home. And who will win? Andrew Sullivan has a good post on this today. Also look at Jon Chait’s piece in The New Republic on Bill Kristol and The Weekly Standard.

Militarism and proto-fascist thinking isn’t just something to be studied about the 1920s and 1930s. You can see it today as a growing part of our political discourse, even as the support for it in absolute terms diminishes. It is all of a piece. You cannot separate the bogus war for democracy abroad from the war against democracy and the rule of law at home.