Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Barbarity of the West

It has been a while since my last post. I’m busy with a project I’m working on. For more, check out this.

But I’ve been getting back into my news-reading habits recently. And I’ve come across a few nuggets. In an otherwise typical conservative screed against Iran, Victor Davis Hansen makes a case for Western irrationality and barbarism. He explains the probable negative consequences of military action against Iran: “further Shiite madness in Iraq, an Iranian land invasion into Basra, dirty bombs going off in the U.S., smoking tankers in the Straits of Hormuz, Hezbollah on the move in Lebanon.”

But his column still tries to make the case that invading Iran would be both rational (a possible scenario he imagines is that Iran would b humiliated and therefore shunned) and irrational (arising out of a kind of pique). His article seems to be addressed to Ahmandinejad, as he suggests that Bush might invade despite all rational and political hurdles. “Mr. Bush is capable of anger and impatience as well,” Hansen explains. Of course, any president who might decide to go to war out of anger and impatience does not deserve the office, but that is an objection for a different time. Hansen is trying to make a point. He then goes on to take a position that seems to me at the heart of contemporary conservatism intellectualism: an embrace of the most primitive stereotypically male instincts coupled with a sense of the superiority of reason and Western civilization:

It is time for the Iranian leaders to snap out of their pseudo-trances and hocus-pocus, and accept that some Western countries are not merely far more powerful than Iran, but in certain situations and under particular circumstances, can be just as driven by memory, history, and, yes, a certain craziness as well.

Ever since September 11, the subtext of this war could be summed up as something like, “Suburban Jason, with his iPod, godlessness, and earring, loves to live too much to die, while Ali, raised as the 11th son of an impoverished but devout street-sweeper in Damascus, loves death too much to live.” The Iranians, like bin Laden, promulgate this mythical antithesis, which, like all caricatures, has elements of truth in it. But what the Iranians, like the al Qaedists, do not fully fathom, is that Jason, upon concluding that he would lose not only his iPod and earring, but his entire family and suburb as well, is capable of conjuring up things far more frightening than anything in the 8th-century brain of Mr. Ahmadinejad. Unfortunately, the barbarity of the nightmares at Antietam, Verdun, Dresden, and Hiroshima prove that well enough.
So far the Iranian president has posed as someone 90-percent crazy and 10-percent sane, hoping we would fear his overt madness and delicately appeal to his small reservoirs of reason. But he should understand that if his Western enemies appear 90-percent children of the Enlightenment, they are still effused with vestigial traces of the emotional and unpredictable. And military history shows that the irrational 10 percent of the Western mind is a lot scarier than anything Islamic fanaticism has to offer.

So, please, Mr. Ahmadinejad, cool the rhetoric fast — before you needlessly push once reasonable people against the wall, and thus talk your way into a sky full of very angry and righteous jets.


This is certainly the most powerful expression of this particular conservative ideal I have seen—and it is so because it manages to be both moving and true.
Hansen manages to convey the hidden power and barbarity that lies beneath every ipod wearing denizen of this overflowing land. He uses the mythology of “the Good War” with its citizen soldiers called from their jobs as farmers, accountants, teachers, and mill workers to defend freedom, and transports this sense to today’s youth—complete with ipods and earrings. (I generally use mythology in the positive sense that does not relate to a story’s truth value.) He sees these youths are as capable of barbarism, violence, and awfulness as their predecessors, capable of waging war with a ferocity, totality, and ingenuity that is uncommon. (Shouldn’t we call this by its right name, evil? Arguably necessary evil, but evil nonetheless.) It seems to me that conservatives need a far more complex scale to judge morality with—beyond good versus evil.

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