Tuesday, January 9, 2007
"This Time For Sure!"
“Character is fate, the Greeks believed. A hundred years of German philosophy went into the making of this decision in which the seed of self-destruction lay embedded, waiting for its hour. The voice was Schlieffen's but the hand was the hand of Fichte who saw the German people chosen by Providence to occupy the supreme place in the history of the universe, of Hegel who saw them leading the world to a glorious destiny of compulsory Kultur, of Nietzsche who told them that Supermen were above ordinary controls, of Treitschke who set the increase of power as the highest moral duty of the state, of the whole German people, who called their temporal ruler the `All-Highest.' What made the Schlieffen plan was ... the body of accumulated egoism which suckled the German people and created a nation fed on `the desperate delusion of the will that deems itself absolute.'”
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
German youths marinated in the delusional ideology described above marched giddily to war in August 1914 wearing belt buckles adorned with the slogan Gott Mit Uns (“God is with us”). The Schlieffen Plan envisioned a rapid strike by the German right wing through Belgium, with the last man on the right “brush[ing] the Channel with his sleeve.” German troops anticipated that they would be on the Boulevard in Paris in a matter of weeks.
Yes, this would be an aggressive war in violation of every civilized notion of international relations. But von Moltke had long since dispensed with such trivial concerns. “We must put aside all commonplaces as to the responsibility of the aggressor,” he stated in 1913. “Success alone justifies war.”
Besides, Kaiser Wilhelm II – hailed by the Germans as the “All-Highest,” perceived by himself to be “The Finger of God” -- had given Belgium a chance to collaborate in the unfolding of Germany's providential destiny, and their monarch had turned him down.
In 1904, Germany's “All-Highest” paid a visit to Belgium's King Leopold II, seeking to inveigle him into an alliance with promises of snatching territory from France. Leopold was hardly a model of probity, emitting what Tuchman calls an “aura of wickedness composed of mistresses, money, Congo cruelties, and other scandals.”
Although Leopold was many reprehensible things, “fool” was not found on that list. He pointed out to Wilhelm, whose foolishness was a match for his ambition, that the Belgian monarch didn't dispose of the same powers exercised by his 15th Century forebears. The King told the Kaiser that his Ministers and Parliament wouldn't approve of the alliance.
“That was the wrong thing to say,” notes Tuchman, “for the Kaiser flew into one of his rages and scolded the King for putting respect for Parliament and Ministers above respect for the Finger of God....”
“I told him I could not be played with,” the Kaiser told Chancellor von Bulow. “Whoever in the case of European war was not with me was against me.”
It's difficult to read those lines without thinking of the curdled little man-child in the White House, his own delusions of divine destiny (surely, George W. Bush could only be the “Finger of God” if The Almighty were treating humanity to an obscene gesture), his lunatic “global democratic revolution” -- and his determination to emulate the worst elements of WWI-era statecraft by reinforcing the his failure in Iraq at the cost of additional thousands of lives.
The formal announcement of the planned “surge” in Iraq will be what I call a “Bullwinkle Moment.” Many recall how the beloved dim-wit cartoon moose, consistently thwarted in his efforts to pull a rabbit out of his hat, exclaimed, “This time for sure!” -- before failing again.
“This time for sure!” pretty much encapsulates what passes for the White House strategy behind Bush's intention to dispatch tens of thousands of additional US soldiers to Iraq. The same could have been said of the demented rulers who refused to reconsider their course in World War I once the Western Front had become the scene of a pointlessly bloody stalemate: As long as they had a steady supply of young men to throw into the abattoir, the rulers would insist, “This time for sure!”
US intervention broke the stalemate, but it also led to a vindictive post-war settlement that engendered totalitarian movements in Germany, Italy, and Russia, thereby ensuring a bloody conflict less than a generation later. One enduring legacy of that war – the murder-suicide of the Christian West – is the modern Middle East, including the spurious nation called Iraq.
In defending the Bush Regime's plan to reinforce failure in Iraq, my local newspaper offered, without any ironic intention I can detect, the following assessment:
“An infusion of reinforcements will create a decent interval of stability to help kick-start economic aid projects and provide the Iraqi government with time and space to be successful.”
I doubt the author of those words caught the historic resonance, or had any inkling of the way that phrase had been used to justify several pointless years of bloodshed in our last misbegotten foreign war.
So Washington is once again the in business of requiring young soldiers and Marines – and not-so-young Reservists and Guardsmen – to kill and die on behalf of a “decent interval.”
Because our ruling class is confined in the intellectual prison called the “bi-partisan foreign policy consensus,” our soldiers will remain mired in Mesopotamia – unless George W. Bush and the adults who surround him decide to expand the war into Syria, Iran, or both. But as the Wall Street Journal (subscription req.) points out, the elements are in place for a disastrous regional war, even if the Bush Regime doesn't deliberately expand the conflict, as it clearly lusts to do.
The region is likely to erupt even if we were to remove our troops from Iraq now. This would be a catastrophe, but one we could survive.
Under the Constitution's allotment of war powers, it is possible for Congress to order the Bushling to get our troops out of Iraq immediately; doing so is a moral and patriotic necessity.
But our rulers esteem the interventionist “consensus” -- and its related doctrine of imperial presidential war powers -- more than their perjured oaths to the Constitution, and are hopeless hostages to the crusading ideology that has defined Washington's foreign policy since World War I.
Count Sergei Witte, the Russian Premier during the abortive Revolution of 1905, described the Imperial Russian government on the eve of World War I as an “insane regime ... [a] tangle of cowardice, blindness, craftiness, and stupidity.”
A better description cannot be found of the regime ruling us today, as well. And it's impossible to read Barbara Tuchman's description of Russia under Czar Nicholas II (who, it must be said, did not deserve what the Bolsheviks did to him and his family) without thinking of the petulant little figure in the Oval Office, and the incurably corrupt political system over which he presides:
“The regime was ruled from the top by a sovereign who had but one idea of government – to preserve intact the absolute monarchy bequeathed to him by his father – and who, lacking the intellect, energy, or training for his job, fell back on personal favorites, whim, simple mulishness, and other devices of the empty-headed autocrat.”
Nicholas II was widely seen as stoic and serene, when in fact his capacity to maintain his composure in the face of disaster was a reflection of “the indifference of a mind so shallow as to be all surface.”
George W. Bush's priorities and intellectual tool-kit are remarkably similar to those of the vapid Russian autocrat. And he's willing to send thousands of people to death needlessly in order to preserve his legacy against an ignominious – but imperative – withdrawal from Iraq.
Video music bonus
Thanks to Stephen Carson on Lew Rockwell's blog for pointing out this new cover of "One More Parade" by They Might Be Giants.
For those whose taste in anti-war anthems runs toward harder rock, I recommend this version of "Out In The Fields" by Gary Moore and the late Phil Lynott. Even more timely now than when it was recorded in 1985, this video is worth catching if only to see Moore -- perhaps the most elegantly visceral fretboard Jedi in the business -- tearing to shreds an Ibanez Roadstar II just like the one I had at the time.
at 7:39 PM