May 24th, 2004

flavored with age

Speaking of ridiculous political tirades...

Victor Davis Hanson, one of the neo-conservative right's leading lights, is being widely praised for a recent article in which he says, yes, the U.S. has a lot to apologize for in Iraq -- but it's the liberals who should be apologizing, not the Bush administration. The only mistake we've made in Iraq, says Hanson, is not killing more Iraqis, and it's the left who should say they're sorry for impugning the war effort, when so much is going right. Here's a particularly curious paragraph from near the end of the article:

Still, in just a year the worst mass murderer in recent history is gone and a consensual government is scheduled to assume power in his place in just a few weeks. Postwar Iraq is not a cratered Dresden or the rubble of Stalingrad — it is seeing power, water, and fuel production at or above prewar levels. For all the recent mishaps, two truths still remain about Iraq — each time the American military forcibly takes on the insurrectionists, it wins; and each time local elections are held, moderate Iraqis, not Islamic radicals, have won.

1. This is a fairly minor point, but I think there are probably some people who would dispute the notion that Saddam Hussein is the worst mass murderer in recent history. Also, I don't think it matters much to 6,000 dead Iraqis who killed them, Saddam Hussein or American forces.

2. The people set to assume power at the end of June are not a "consensual government". They are a cabinet hand-picked by American forces. "Consensual government" usually means the consent of the governed, not the consent of the governors.

3. Is it something worth crowing about that we have not reduced Baghdad to a smoking crater?

4. The first of these two "truths" is questionable. Yes, each time our military takes on insurrectionists, it wins -- in the bluntest possible terms. That is to say, we inflict more casualties on them than they inflict on us. But Fallujah is still not under American control, and Najaf is beginning to look as if it may fall away; and, no matter how many casualties we inflict, the insurrection does not stop. Here is where a comparison to the Viet Nam War (though right-wingers like Hanson are allergic to such analogies) might be useful: we did not lose the Viet Nam War because we 'lost', because the enemy killed more of us than we did of them. We lost because they kept fighting and fighting and fighting no matter how many of them died, and we made a number of critical errors that they took advantage of, and eventually we realized that bodycounts aside, the war was not winnable and the enemy would not stop until we were gone. So we left. It is useful here to recall the words of Ho Chi Minh: "We will kill ten of your men, and you will kill a thousand of ours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it."

5. As for the statement that "each time local elections are held, moderate Iraqis, not Islamic radicals, have won" -- this may be true (though local elections have been few, far between and largely unmonitored), but who cares? What does Islamic radicalism have to do with the war in Iraq? Of all the reasons given for invading that country (defeating an evil dictator, bringing democracy to the people, stopping human rights abuses, ending a threat to world peace, seizing weapons of mass destruction, etc.), none of them were "combatting Islamic fundamentalism". And even if it were, who thought that Iraqis would, once rid of Saddam Hussein, rush to embrace Waha'abism? Iraq has been a secular nation for generations, long before Saddam Hussein came to power. It's never been a bastion of hardcore Islamism. So why is it some kind of accomplishment that its people aren't turning en masse to Islamism now? Claiming as a victory for the American occupation the fact that hard-line Islamic radicals have not won local elections is like claiming as a victory for the Spanish Inquisition the fact that Spain never became a communist country. Statement (B) may be true, but what has that got to do with condition (A)?

Victor Davis Hanson is considered by many as the leading intellectual light of the neo-conservative movement. If this is the best their top gun can do, they're a lot more bereft of ideas than I thought.
flavored with age

MONDAY SHITLIST, PIP 5: Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

It's time once again for the Monday Shitlist, the weekly feature where I ask you, the bored LJ surfer, to name the worst of all our culture has to offer. As always, feel free to answer in comments, or to yank this for your own journals.

Today we'll be looking at celebrities. Now, everyone has looked at a famous person and said "Why are they famous? They're not so great." But here, I'm asking you to name famous people who aren't even better than you at the thing they're famous for. I'll give you an example: my paragon of inexplicable fame is Pauly Shore. His wealth and renown come from being a comedian and an actor. But not only is he not funny, he's not a good actor either, and as gross as I am, he's not even better-looking than I am, which is, in its own way, a kind of a skill. You see what I'm getting at here? Celine Dion, as much as I loathe her, is at least a more technically proficient singer than I am. Rob Liefeld, despite being a horrendous writer, an incompetent businessman and a bad artist, is, by virtue of being able to draw (however badly), at least a better artist than I, who cannot draw at all. And Keanu Reeves, as deficient as he is as an actor, is not really famous for being an actor; he's famous for being good-looking, which he is able to accomplish and I am not. Pauly Shore, on the other hand, is wealthier and better-known than I am despite having no discernable talent whatsoever. It is hard to imagine him being better at anything than me. Likewise, Mary Higgins Clark is not famous for being beautiful or for having a golden voice or for being able to score 30 points a game; she is famous for being a writer, and yet I could literally write a better novel than any of hers in my sleep.

So, over to you, for this week's MONDAY SHITLIST: What celebrities do you think are the least deserving of their fame? Who has been vaulted to glory despite their apparent inability to do anything worthwhile that you couldn't do better?