Picking a side

Posted: Jan 28, 2003 12:00 AM
A simple list of Who Opposes Thus-and-So, as compared to one showing Who's For It, isn't the kind of evidence that lawyers call dispositive. Yet considering that aligned against any U.S. rough play in Iraq are the likes of: 1) the French, 2) the Germans, 3) Jesse Jackson, 4) Kofi Annan, 5) Martin Sheen and 6) the D.C. peace marchers ... And that action against Saddam Hussein seems to enjoy the backing of 1) the British, 2) Don Rumsfeld, 3) Colin Powell, 4) the commander in chief himself -- and 5) a majority (still substantial) of plain, ordinary Americans ... Considering all this, I say, the lay of the land becomes easier to discern than otherwise might have been the case. Lining up people against each other in such an arbitrary manner is outrageous -- I agree. Why should Martin Sheen's views on foreign policy matter? (Hint: They don't.) And shouldn't hawks take into account the antiwar declarations of a great Christian saint, John Paul II? Lists of this nature are trivial. For all I know, the imperial wizard of the KKK has plans to stow away on a Navy cruiser and personally ride the first cruise missile aimed at Saddam's bathroom window -- reprising Slim Pickens in "Dr. Strangelove." What would I say if that were so? I would say that the world is full of oddities. Maybe the oddest in a purportedly rational world is the discovery that great decisions are an amalgam of good and bad and ugly. Yet out of the Iraqi chitchat we have endured for months, a certain clarity emerges. Those against kicking the unholy stuffing out of Saddam Hussein tend to favor a passive, if not pacifist, role for the United States in world affairs: a role in which United Nations inspectors call the tune, and conciliation trumps unilateralism; in which "peace" -- a word seemingly requiring no explanation -- trumps other considerations; while, nearby, an acoustic guitar forlornly pings away. "When will they ever learn, when ... ?" No part of this is per se wrong. A cautionary tale for war fans can be found in any account of the last week of July 1914: uproarious and boastful crowds, skimmers waving exuberantly in the sunlight, Paris certain that Berlin would fall by Christmas, Berlin equally confident Paris would fall. Memories of the First World War -- the war that wrecked Western civilization -- are grotesque and horrible. Overruling the impulse for peace can be the hardest thing a national leader like George W. Bush ever does. Pretty plainly that is what he will do in a matter of weeks -- whether his poll ratings rise or fall on the perceived strengths or weaknesses of his State of the Union presentation. This thing -- the war -- is plainly going to happen. (The U.N. weapons inspection report Monday shows the Iraqis at their foot-draggingest: sublimely tuned-out to what is at stake.) If it happens, we're going to win. Might as well get used to it. The really big job then follows -- the reconstruction of Iraq and, if all goes well, the interment of Middle Eastern primitivism. At this point, we get on with real peace. You might suppose this prospect would offer the peace faction some consolation: more peace, actually, in Iraq and the Middle East in consequence of bombs dropping than would have been the case without them. Note here another of those oddities mentioned above -- good and bad scramble-egged together in about the fashion you'd expect. What is the difference in the end between those on the two lists -- those we might call the Jackson-Sheen and the Bush-Rumsfeld factions? On the part of the former, a certain lack of realism; a tendency to engage in wishful thinking; to put faith in words rather than actions; to hold the United States to Utopian standards while kissing up on left-wing creeps. Whose side will most of us take when the picking comes? Let me think for -- oh -- about a millisecond.