Not unpredictably, Andrew Sullivan has gone into overdrive, bashing the media that dare question our war’s progress and insisting on the war’s “profound moral justification.”
What Sullivan, needless to say, cannot come to terms with is how he himself and his neo-con coterie set the stage for the current PR debacle. Reading Sullivan over the past few months, one would have thought it was common practice in Baghdad to toss people into huge shredding machines, to brutalize its citizens to such an extent that they would embrace the US invasion as a true liberation. They would greet us joyfully. To tell the truth, I too was won over by many of Sullivan’s arguments, which helped to crystallize my decision to support the invasion.
Now I am back in my cautious wait-and-see mode, not quite knowing what to believe. The invasion may have been the right thing to do, but we were misled as to how easy it would be. Sullivan’s fundamental argument appears flawed — we are not being embraced the way he prophesied, and many Iraqi citizens actually appear to resent our presence. It makes me think about Hitler’s invasion of Russia. There was Stalin, a veritable monster slaughtering his own citizenry with remarkable energy and instilling fear in the hearts of all. And yet, when the invaders came, were they greeted with joy? Did the brutalized Russians embrace the opportunity to be rid of Uncle Joe? Well, a few did (mainly White Russians who, of course, were promptly murdered by their liberators). But it’s funny what war does to the invadees — usually they do not appreciate it, and sometimes they even fight back. Sometimes the invaders are taken totally by surprise by the tenacity of the native folk; it was just this tenacity that turned WWII around and brought the Russians marching into Berlin in 1945.
(Obviously, I don’t think this will be the scenario in Iraq, where our victory is assured. But it does seem that we failed to recognize how tenacious the opposition might be, despite hating their oppressive dictator.)
Last comment on Sullivan (for today). He showed his very worst colors today when he wrote:
The day of reckoning is not just coming for Saddam Hussein. It’s coming for the anti-war movement.
This sort of thing is scary. It implies that he believes it’s not enough for the anti-war protestors to be proven wrong — they must also be punished. Revenge is called for. Maybe I am over-reacting, but this seems to border on thuggery; it subtly but clearly implants in the minds of the reader the idea that its okay to wreak vengeance on those who opposed the war. Sullivan, of all people, should be sensitive to the dangers of transmitting potentially destructive memes to his readers (see Orcinus’ Rush, Newspeak and Fascism series for more on meme transmission).
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.