March 20, 2008

Iraq and the crisis of legitimacy

Over at spiked, Brendan O?Neil has an excellent retrospective on our Babylonian fiasco that better than most everything else I?ve read, discusses the interconnected failures of the antiwar and pro-war camps, as well as the Iraq war?s emergence from a crisis in domestic legitimacy. 

?oth the war?s authors and the war?s opponents have reunited around a blinkered post-Iraq thesis: that we now need to focus Western interference on other parts of the world, be it fighting the ?good fight? in Afghanistan, rescuing genocide victims in Darfur, upping the ante with the Russians, or encouraging instability in the violent, polluting beast of the East: China.

spiked has consistently argued that the real problem today is the West?s disjointed, disconnected foreign policy, which is driven by a domestic crisis of legitimacy rather than by a clear global framework or by definable foreign aims. This means foreign policy is both ravenous, as it searches out new crises in foreign fields to which it can attach itself, and deeply destabilising? spiked has explored how every crisis in Iraq has been a result, not simply of ?making mistakes? as many claim, but of the internal incoherence of the invading powers.?

Iraq is not product of some blunder in calculating the national interest but a rather an expression of the hollowness of the ruling philosophies of the current American Left and Right. Bush and McCain require the ?transcendent challenge? of the war on terror, or a new Cold War with bad old Russia and China, to gain some sort of legitimacy as they preside over a collapsing currency and no semblance of the limiting of government or enforcing of the border. The Right wants to win at all costs?that is, they?re willing to put up with Gitmo, water boarding etc.?but then victory must still be defined as a hokey utopia??we?ll be greeted as liberators? sled easily into ?a free, prosperous, pluralistic nation that will join us in fighting terror.? The Left is worse as the very concept of national interest is thrown out the window. The lessons they?ve learned from Iraq are that Rummy is mean, Bush is a dunderhead, and that we should seek to regain the world?s affection by offering them a kinder, gentler, multi-cultier face that will have much more legitimacy as we intervene everywhere at will. None of these problems will change with the upcoming election. 

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