James Lileks has one of his typical "this is war, dammit!" screeds today (scroll to the bottom). In it, he writes:
Okay. A simple quiz.
1. We should promote the rebuilding of the international community through the UN to stop tyrannical regimes through forceful nonviolent intervention.
2 "You?re either with us, or with the terrorists."
Imagine a bomb just went off in your local mall. Choose one.
This illustrates the fundamental error Lileks makes, and tries to persuade his readers into making. And I think it stinks.
A bomb did not just go off in my local mall. A horrible attack took place two and a half years ago. The government supporting it has been crushed.
Now, we have a lot of simmering people out there who might like to blow up the local mall, but have been stopped by vigilance and increased security. Or are thisclose to doing so, and some other action could put them over the edge. And these folks are spead out all over the world.
That being the case, yes, it might make more sense to cooperate with the UN, play their game, and let them help us squash them. And it might make sense not to go out of our way to piss more people off.
If the threats are coming from a specific place, then "taking the fight to them" makes sense. But if they're coming from all over the world, it might not be such a hot idea.
I guess what bugs me about entraties like Lileks's is that they're an invitation for us to turn off our brains and rely on our animal instincts. There's a gun to your head --- what do you do? Well, whatever gets that gun pointed away from my head.
But just because that's a good way to make decisions in that situation doesn't make it a good general model. But that's what Lileks wants us to do to reach his same conclusions. He wants to take us back to the days after 9/11 when we were all scared to death and clutching our loved ones, nervously turning on the news each morning, and wondering what came next. That should be the place from which we decide what actions to take.
Sorry, I don't buy it. Maybe this makes me a starry-eyed optimist who didn't comprehend the horror of 9/11, but I'm glad I don't live like that anymore. It's not a state than can be sustained for extended periods of time, nor should it be.
I'm glad the Taliban was dealt with. I'm glad al Qaida cells are being broken up. I'm glad that Saddam Hussein is out of power, although I'm not thrilled with the loss of credibility that came with it.
And that's my point. Even Lileks would have to agree that there were mistakes made in making the case to take out Saddam. That's what happens when you act as if you have a gun to your head. You make mistakes. You miss some details. You see threats where there might not be threats.
That's not the way I want to live, but it's the life James Lileks is inviting me too, though he would probably tell me it's not him, but the terrorists. I disagree.
If that's the life George W. Bush invites me to in November, I may need to decline.