Consider: "Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."
"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."
- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)
- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"
"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."
Thursday, 20 November 2003 - 20:22 PSTName: Rick Brown
I keep meaning to go back and check my memory of George Orwell's "Animal Farm," especially the part about the immutable truths written on the side of the barn that kept changing from day to day. Did those truths really change like that, or am I just remembering that whole story wrong? After all, I did read this in high school, and that was over forty years ago!
One nice thing about this Guardian article is that it reminds us that the pro-invasion arguments the Bush circle put forth at the time don't seem to be the ones they talk about today. Or am I remembering last winter wrong? After all, who can be expected to remember things someone said almost a whole year ago!
One good example is that prime legal pitch, "that the invasion was justified under the UN charter, which guarantees the right of each state to self-defense, including pre-emptive self-defense." Hindsight now seems to tell us, of course, there was no threat to defend against. What to do?
A revisit to the barn would now tell us that this wasn't the real reason we went to war at all! After all, it's now argued, what callous wimp could possibly argue that we didn't do a good thing by overthrowing this thug? Legal-schmegal, this was the right thing to do, right?
The big problem with Richard Perle's letting loose with that loose cannon he calls a brain is not necessarily that this will undermine the administration's position back home. And this is not to say there isn't more than enough discussion in this country right now about the White House screwing up the Iraq war, it's just that unless the Democrats come up with a candidate who can present a strong and resolute human face to the Bush opposition, it just may not matter all that much.
After all, "I think Perle's statement has the virtue of honesty," argues anti-war Columbia University professor Michael Dorf. "And, interestingly, I suspect a majority of the American public would have supported the invasion almost exactly to the same degree that they in fact did, had the administration said that all along."
Is this just another case of liberals swallowing themselves whole? Or is this guy just acknowledging that old immutable truth, that sometimes a collective bad memory comes in handy?
Perle's having not kept his mouth shut could have one major deleterious effect that comes to my mind, hinted at in that statement by Linda Hugl of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament: "They're just not interested in international law, are they? It's only when the law suits them that they want to use it."
She's probably right! God forbid if this administration -- or, for that matter, some future U.S. administration, no matter of what political stripe -- finds at some point that international law actually DOES "suit them," but will have lost their ability to turn to it. The world will, by then, just possibly know that these Bush people had turned the United States into the international moral equivalent of the boy who cried wolf!
(And of all things, this crowd's supporters once claimed that Bill Clinton turned this country into the laughingstock of the world!)
Along these same lines, we see the Bush White House this week straining to show the world that they indeed DO take international opinion seriously, probably spurred on by the painful knowledge that so few nations have been willing to get with the program to rebuild Iraq.
But maybe they just might find those efforts stymied by having squandered their influence in pretending they can get away with altering, at will, the writing on the wall. In the long run, they can't.