Skip to comments.In Iraq, America's Shakeout Moment
Posted on 05/18/2004 7:48:04 PM PDT by neverdem
There's something about our venture into Iraq that is inspiringly, painfully, embarrassingly and quintessentially American.
No other nation would have been hopeful enough to try to evangelize for democracy across the Middle East. No other nation would have been naïve enough to do it this badly. No other nation would be adaptable enough to recover from its own innocence and muddle its way to success, as I suspect we are about to do.
American history sometimes seems to be the same story repeated over and over again. Some group of big-dreaming but foolhardy adventurers head out to eradicate some evil and to realize some golden future. They get halfway along their journey and find they are unprepared for the harsh reality they suddenly face. It's too late to turn back, so they reinvent their mission. They toss out illusions and adopt an almost desperate pragmatism. They never do realize the utopia they initially dreamed about, but they do build something better than what came before.
This basic pattern has marked our national style from the moment British colonists landed on North American shores. Overly optimistic about the conditions they would find, the colonists were woefully undercapitalized, underequipped and underskilled. At Jamestown, there were three gentlemen and gentlemen's servants for every skilled laborer. They didn't bother to plant enough grain to see them through the winter.
But they learned and adapted. Settlement companies were compelled to send more workers, along with axes, chisels, scythes, millstones and seeds. Eventually the colonies thrived.
Centuries later, it was much the same. The guides who aided and fleeced the pioneers who moved West were struck by how clueless many of them were about the wilderness they were entering. Their diaries show that many thought they could establish genteel New England-style villages in short order. They leapt before they looked, faced the shock of reality, adapted and cobbled together something unexpected.
And it is that way today. We are tricked by hope into starting companies, beginning books, immigrating to this country and investing in telecom networks. The challenges turn out to be tougher than we imagined. Our excessive optimism is exposed. New skills are demanded. But nothing important was ever begun in a prudential frame of mind.
Hope begets disappointment, and we are now in a moment of disappointment when it comes to Iraq. During these shakeout moments, the naysayers get to gloat while the rest of us despair, lacerate ourselves, second-guess those in charge and look at things anew. But this very process of self-criticism is the precondition for the second wind, the grubbier, less illusioned effort that often enough leads to some acceptable outcome.
Today in Iraq local commanders seem to be allowed to try anything. We are allowing former Baathists to man a Falluja Brigade to police their own city. We are pounding Moktada al-Sadr while negotiating with him. There is talk of moving up elections so when an Iraqi official is assassinated, he is not seen as a person working with the U.S., but as a duly elected representative of the Iraqi people.
Some of these policies seem incoherent, but they may work. And back home a new mood has taken over part of the political class. The emerging responsible faction has no time now for the witless applause lines the jeering jackdaws on left and right repeat to themselves to their own perpetual self-admiration and delight. Even in a political year, most politicians do not want this country to fail.
There are, for example, members of Congress from both parties who feel estranged from this administration. They feel it does not listen to their ideas. But in this troubled hour, they are desperate to help. If but a call were made, they would burst forth with intelligent suggestions: about Iraq, about political tactics, about getting additional appropriations.
Remember, the most untrue truism in human history is that there are no second acts in American life. In reality, there is nothing but second acts. There are shakeout moments and, redundantly, new beginnings. The weeks until June 30 are bound to be awful, but we may be at the start of a new beginning now.
Are these the same fellows that sat idly by in 1996 when Usama bin Laden declared war on America?
And could they be the same fellows who sat idly by in 1998 when he once again declared war on America?
Would this be the same Congress that witnessed our soldiers be attacked aat Khobar Towers and did not declare war?
The same fine fellows full of good ideas and a willingness to do the tough work that was demanded when our sailors were killed on the USS Cole?
No thanks Mr Brooks, they had their chance. I'm sticking with Bush, Cheney and Rummy.
Who is David Brooks?
What was it that Clint Eastwood said in that movie where he played a Recon sgt?
PBS's token conservative
A good description of most liberal programs.
"Who is David Brooks?"
He's joins Bill Safire as the now two resident Times conservative OpEd columnists. They each get 2 columns a week. His last employer was The Weekly Standard. Every Friday night he argues against Mark Shields from "The Capitol Gang" on PBS' "The News Hour".
Congress ia almost uniformly made up of 'get along to go alongers'.
The movie was about the invasion of Grenada, but I can't remember the title of the movie, let alone the line from Clint.
something like 'learn, adapt, overcome' ... but that doesn't sound right....
Was the title "Heartbreak Ridge"?
yep, that was the movie... now what was the line?
The thought underlying this paragraph quintessentially embodies the negativism that pervades the media. We don't want any bumps in the road; we don't want to have to persevere or sacrifice. It's the American 30 minute sitcom mentality. Let's get everything wrapped up nice and neat and get on to the next show.
Heaven help the world if these people had been around during World War II. Can you imagine the carping after Bataan and Corregidor, after the fall of Wake Island, after losing the Lexington in the Coral Sea, after the heavy losses in Ironbottom Sound, after the sinking of the destroyer that claimed the lives of the 5 Sullivan brothers. The character of this country has unquestionably changed for the worse. I seriously question whether the United States has the fortitude to persevere with the difficult tasks that lie ahead. We are about to find out in this election if the core of this country has gone so soft, has become so thoroughly rotted that we are unwilling to fight the battle against terrorism to the end. God help us.
Got it! Did a google search on heartbreak ridge and adapt. "Improvise, Adapt, Overcome" -Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway.
Breakheart Ridge. Whatever, can you help gilliam with Clint's line.?
Sure looks like Ted Rall's characterization of Brooks turning against the war was untrue. Good to learn. Another big demerit for Rall.
How did google find a line of dialogue? What was your search strategy?
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