The Future Of Civilization?

Vice President Dick Cheney rallies the troops

On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney was in Minnesota and spoke to members of the National Guard there “in an event that seemed like a pep rally.� Not surprisingly, much of his speech had to do with terrorism and the war in Iraq. In the course of such, the VP offered this modest appraisal: “The war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization. It’s a battle worth fighting. And it’s a battle we are going to win.� Based on these assertions, which appear excessively grandiose and cocksure, it would seem that Mr. Cheney and, by association, Mr. Bush believe that the stakes can be no higher and the only option is unilateral triumph. Indeed, the VP went on to say the following:

“[T]he people of our country do not support a policy of passivity, resignation, or defeatism in the face of terror. The United States will never go back to the false comforts of the world before September 11th, 2001. Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness. And this nation made a decision: We will engage these enemies — facing them far from home, so we do not have to face them on the streets of our own cities. There is still difficult work ahead, because the terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in the global war on terror. They are running a war against the civilized world. We’re dealing with enemies that recognize no rule of warfare and accept no standard of morality. They have declared their intention to bring great harm to any nation that opposes their aims. Their prime target is the United States. So we have a responsibility to lead in that fight.â€? [full text of speech]

And, it would appear, that fight is not simply about Iraq. Nor is it even about the Middle East. It is about “the future of civilization.� As much as one might wish to dismiss the Vice President’s remarks as the usual hawkish bluster or mere off-the-cuff braggadocio, one truly cannot. In the past six months, on at least eight separate occasions, Mr. Cheney has nearly word for word publicly asserted that the U.S. is in “a battle for the future of civilization.� Mr. Bush has made similar comments in the past. On July 9, 2005, in a radio address to the nation, the President said, “The terrorists cannot shake our will. America and its allies will act decisively, because we know that the future of civilization is at stake in this struggle.� As a mental health clinician, I find it difficult not to view these broad assertions as either delusional or grandiose to the point of severe narcissistic personality disturbance. Regardless of the pathology which might underlie such beliefs, the potential ramifications—for our troops, our economy, the civilian population in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, etc.—are dire. While it might be impolitic to challenge the sanity of our leaders, I believe that it is paramount that we challenge their beliefs and decisions. The future of civilization may not be at stake, but the future health and well-being of a great many here and abroad certainly are.

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12 thoughts on “The Future Of Civilization?

  1. Purple prose, Mike? Are you trying to incite violets? :)

    In truth, your words do not make me see red. But Cheney’s, on the other hand…

  2. Once again, we see an example of the personal “ad hominem” attack rather than any attempt to debate substance.

    Someone needs to see if Wikipedia has a section on logic and logical fallacies. Someone might learn something about how to conduct a debate.

  3. Taking two steps back…. when you delve into the comments… who would stand to gain?

    Weren’t the early settlers trying to “civilize” the native savages? Wasn’t the rationale for exploration based on conquest of natural resources and cheap labor?

    There is a historical lesson here. Seems we’ll choose to repeat history or choose to learn from it.

  4. klaus, you got to lighten up. Despite the often serious topics, blogging is supposed to be fun.

    It’s just when I read the words “grandiose” and “braggadocio” in the same post, I have to smile. And as expected, David’s response is perfect. I’m green with envy perhaps. :)

  5. What we’re seeing here isn’t pathology; it’s old fashioned propaganda. The “future of civilization� rhetoric is intended to: 1) divert attention from the disastrous policy decisions that got us mired in Iraq in the first place, and 2) frame the issue in terms of a simple moral imperative around which they hope to rally public support, or at least the support of the military.

  6. Correct, Dante. Therefore, we need to be on the side of the U.S. military and support the mission which they are valiantly carrying out; not just give up on the mission, or on the Iraqi people. What our military is fighting for, whether or not you realize it, is our future and the future of [Western] civilization.

    If the Islamofascists win, there won’t be a future for people like you and me. We can’t pretend they aren’t there. They aren’t just going to behave if we leave now. We can’t appease them. We have to beat them. Better there, then here. Better sooner, than later. Problems don’t get better when ignored over time; they get worse.

  7. Mike, you’re right. I do need to lighten up sometimes. My apologies.

    Nth, you’re exactly right. It’s an attempt to blow this into some sort of cosmic good vs evil thing, which it’s not.

    Rep in RI: sorry, don’t buy it. The jihadists do not have the capacity to threaten our way of life unless we surrender by allowing our gov’t to take away the very liberties we’re supposedly fighting for. Are you really willing to support our troops, no matter what? Does that mean you’ll support a draft, and tax increases, and perhaps a diminished standard of living in order to “beat” them?

    Because the thing is, all this talk about “beating” them assumes that there is some sort of finite limit to their number. In WWII, the Germans had a relatively finite number of soldiers; after expending them a few million at a time, they ran out of first- and even second-line combat troops by 1944/5. If there are enough of them to threaten our way of life as you suggest, then if we kill a few hundred (let’s say) jihadis a month, it will take a long, long time to run out their supply. So are you willing to enact a draft and raise taxes to put in the few hundred thousand more troops that will be needed to pacify the entire country?

    I keep hearing that we have to do ‘whatever it takes,’ but I never hear the ‘whatever’ explained. As far as I can tell, that means a long-term commitment of a lot of soldiers to beat them into submission. Is that it?

    The problem with that approach is that, if it actually worked, the British and French would still have overseas empires. “Iraq” wouldn’t exist; instead, that part of the world would be the British province of Mesopotamia.

    So, shall we try the ‘hearts-and-minds’ approach? There was an excellent article in the New Yorker a few weeks back describing the great results obtained in western Iraq. The commander used real counter-insurgency tactics: patience, listening to the native peoples, negotiation, acting as an honest arbiter, engaging the Iraqis on a personal level. It works, but it takes time. And is this what our military is designed for? No. So are you willing to create a whole new division of the military devoted to nation-building?

    So what will it take?

  8. “we need to be on the side of the U.S. military and support the mission which they are valiantly carrying out”

    By “support the mission”, you presumably mean we should ignore the lies we were told to get us involved in Iraq in the first place, and the utter incompetence displayed ever since then by our Glorious War Leader and his neocon buddies, and keep on feeding undersupplied young men and women into the meatgrinder until . . . well, forever.

    And as klaus points out, the only way we can actually win the war with the “Islamofascists” is by drafting hundreds of thousands of college-age men and sending them in to occupy Iraq, all the while paying for the whole shebang by rolling back the Glorious War Leader’s tax breaks to his rich pals. If you’re not prepared to do this, then you’re pretty much admitting that all your talk about “the future of [Western] civilization” is nothing more than a big ol’ steaming pile of dog turds, because you don’t think beating the Islamobaddies is important enough to bother with, y’know, actual sacrifices.

    And speaking of actual sacrifices, RiRI, just how old are you? Between the ages of, say, 18 and 35? If you REALLY think [Western] civilization is at risk, then why aren’t you making a beeline for your local recruiting station instead of sitting on your butt in front of a computer, spewing GOP talking points?

  9. Maybe we should ALL go to Iraq and talk to somebody and listen to somebody. Maybe klaus could talk to those nice local boys on the school beheading team. I’m not quite sure what all they were saying in that video I saw, but I’m sure klaus will be able to work it out. Hatred of war does not create peace. Love of peace creates peace.

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