Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Kurt Andersen's Hobbesian Choice: the whole story

New York Magazine has published a letter -- or rather, a fragment of a letter -- I wrote in response to Kurt Andersen's insipid article about how even the anti-war left must hope for Bush's "vindication" in Iraq: a "Hobbesian choice" between Bush and Zarqawi, was how he framed it. The magazine whittled the letter down to the mildest, milkiest form of dissent -- while of course including the dollop of praise I gave to Andersen's past work. Anyway, here's the full text:

To the Editor:
Kurt Andersen writes: "Each of us has a Hobbesian choice concerning Iraq; either we hope for the vindication of Bush’s risky, very possibly reckless policy, or we are in a de facto alliance with the killers of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians." This is simply not true. It is a coarse and brutal reductionism, which despite its falsity captures very well the zeitgeist of our increasingly coarsened and brutalized political discourse. (Witness, for example, how an unprovoked war of aggression based on deception is now politely tidied up as a "very possibly reckless policy.") There is in fact a broad range of possible outcomes in Iraq beyond Andersen's blinkered Bush vs. Zarqawi scenario; non-violent resistance to the occupation, to take just one example – one which would actually match the opposition to the occupation that the vast majority of Iraqis feel, according to every poll. In any case, it is certainly possible to oppose Bush's violent imposition of his political will on Iraq and the insurgents' and Islamic terrorists' mirror-image attempt to impose their own will by violence.

Mr. Andersen might not know it, but Bush's inner circle – Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, etc. – were publicly calling for the establishment of a U.S. military presence in Iraq many years ago. This was a matter of such strategic importance that it "transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein," they wrote, in September 2000. Mr. Andersen seems to think that Bush's "possibly reckless policy" is to establish a fine, fair secular democracy in Iraq. It is not, and never has been. The "vindication" of Bush's policy would be the establishment of permanent U.S military bases in Iraq and the installation of a government in Baghdad of any stripe – free, secular, authoritarian, sectarian – that will support or at least tolerate this presence. It is for this reason that Bush has launched a war that has killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis; it is for this reason that American soldiers are dying day after day. I for one can strongly oppose the "vindication" of such a murderous and criminal "policy" without any guilt, liberal or otherwise, while equally condemning the violent local resistance this policy has provoked – and the mindless foreign terrorism that it has set loose inside the conquered land.

As Bob Dylan reminds us: "Reality has always had too many heads." It's a pity that a fine writer like Mr. Andersen has narrowed his view of reality in Iraq to such a false and primitive dichotomy.

Chris Floyd