At the Lewrockwell.com blog, Daniel McAdams notes some disconnects in regards to Secretary Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s recent firing:
Said Rumsfeld, “The first war of the 21st century is not well-known, it was not well-understood, it is complex for people to comprehend.”
OK, I’ll bite. One: US participation in this new kind of war has in duration nearly surpassed US participation in World War II. Is that not enough time to adequately explain to the American people the nature of this new kind of war? And if after all that time they still cannot comprehend it, one can only wonder if the flaw is in the terminally stupid student, or an incompetent teacher.
Two, and most important. If Bush and Rumsfeld were so determined to redirect our understanding of this war away from the old, WWII model and to a new kind of thinking, exactly why is it that both Bush and Rumsfeld continuously cite World War II when explaining the the war on Iraq and Afghanistan?
Let’s see what kinds of answers we can find to those questions. The “student” in this case (the electorate) isn’t necessarily terminally stupid, but definitely has no incentive at all to pay serious attention to the Iraq war. Think for a second: do you get a better Iraq war if you pay attention to it? No, you get whatever Iraq war that this government serves up. You can devote all the time and effort you care to into studying military history and tactics, Arab culture, or what have you, and at the end of the day you get the same Iraq war as everyone else.
The “teachers” in McAdams’ analogy (the various elected government officials) not only have to “teach” such students, but at the same time have to deal with the fact that their students can fire them every couple of years. Faced with an overwhelmingly uneducable “student body” that has veto power over their jobs, is it any wonder that the “teachers” devote far more time to placating the students than trying to teach them? What kind of school lets the students continue to attend if they openly refuse to learn, anyway?
It’s no wonder that Rumsfeld and Bush tried to sell the Iraq war as another World War 2: that war holds an enormous amount of emotional sway with the voters. Unlike conficts since then, in the eyes of the voters, WW2 had a Good Side and a Bad Side and the Good Side won decisively. There isn’t any of the moral ambiguity that’s present in later conflicts, and that’s what Bush & Co. are trying to harness with regards to the Iraq war.
McAdams seems content to leave this as it stands, simply pointing out the surface deceptions of the current administration. That’s fine, they’re liars and theives and as such deserve to be exposed. However, it’s well worth thinking about the root causes behind these lies: why does Bush lie so consitently and transparently? Why compare the Iraq war to WW2 when it’s clear that there is little to no substatial basis for comparison? The answer is, as usual, that that’s how the incentives are arranged. The lies that surround the Iraq war are a natural consequence of a representative democracy.