ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS


Matthew Yglesias has been in Finland too long by mattsteinglass
December 17, 2008, 12:19 am
Filed under: Europe, Iraq, United States

Viz.:

The Iraqi people didn’t ask to be liberarted conquered and occupied by a foreign power that destroyed their country and then immediately set about meddling in Iraqi politics and until just a month or so ago was struggling mightily for the right to permanently station military forces on Iraqi soil contrary to the will of the Iraqi public. Not only did Iraqis not ask for such services, but nobody anywhere has ever asked for them.

The harsh reality is that this was not a noble undertaking done for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it’s seen as such by virtually everyone all around the world — including but by no means limited to the Arab world. But it’s impolitic to point this out in the United States, and it’s clear that even a president-elect who had the wisdom not to be suckered in by the War Fever of 2002 has no intention of really acting to marginalize the bad actors. Which, I think, makes sense for his political objectives. But if Americans want to play a constructive role in world affairs, it’s vitally important for us to get in touch with the reality of what the past eight years of US foreign policy have been and how they’re seen and understood by people who aren’t stirred by the shibboleths of American patriotism.

He’s right — “it’s impolitic to point this out in the United States.” I’m not really sure how it works, but I think starting about late 2001 they put some kind of Jingo Wave Transponders in the metal detectors at JFK and Dulles that stir your neurotransmitters with massive American patriotism shibboleths, such that while you’re inside US customs, the things the US government does always seem to make some vague kind of sense. Then you get out to Europe or wherever and after a couple of weeks US foreign policy debates start to look like some kind of Papuan headhunter ritual where they cast bones to decide who to boil alive, in the belief that this will stop the volcano from erupting. In any case, Yglesias had better get back to the US pretty quick or he risks permanently losing the ability to sustain the consensual hallucination that is American politics.

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1 Comment so far
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Most American readers will look at this as a joke, but it’s true (except for the JWT’s, of course). It’s extraordinarily frustrating to be constrained to the Accepted Bounds of Acceptable Reality in conversations. It’s not a converse of the issue you occasionally face in the EU (a limited understanding of American motives), but rather a wholesale walling off of an entire universe of possibilities (and, in my view, probabilities).

Comment by MB




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