Friday, October 15, 2004


Reading the many essays, posts and articles about this great war presents a plethora of studied positions on its waging, and its wages. In the hearts of many lies great fear. There is despair that our system might not withstand its own divisions; apprehension in the face of a foe that is a new meme of violence as much as it is a people consumed with darkness. There is fear that the world we have nurtured and that nurtures us is at odds with history and the future. We can see people everywhere who live out life as ordinarily as possible while they skate around the edges of a vast transfiguration.

There is, of course, common sense in the logic that in the face of deconstructionists we must retain normalcy to defeat our foe. The economy must hum along as best as possible, if for anything else than to afford the means required for the fight. And so, the President, shortly following 9/11, implored his countrymen to keep shopping, keep going to shows and living. Understandable. We are also asked to keep vigilant; to be patient when removing our shoes for inspection at the airport.

One is left with a sense that the main fight in this war is to retain a sense of normalcy, often elusive, sometimes oddly intact, coming and going like a tide. And yet, there is a question that is not often asked. It is not asked by our leaders, not by politicians, nor captains of industry, or many who are good citizens; it is a question not asked of each other, or even assumed by most people:

What are you willing to sacrifice for this great war?

The answer is not obvious---perhaps because so few suggest anything substantive. Certainly, there are those who sacrifice who are primarily in the military. They are overseas, sweating out the details on the front line. Their families are here in the United States, living without the companionship and help of their family members who work in harm's way. Can their burden be shared?

During World War II, posters concerning conservation and the collection of raw materials like tin and cooking fat along with appeals to purchase war bonds were a testament that the war required sacrifice by soldier and civilian alike. Our system has no need for tin and rubber drives now. But what are we prepared to sacrifice?

Many complain about the Saudi's Wahhabist regime, yet they pump volumes of gas into their SUVs. Is it inconsequential to give the Saudis your money? Would you be willing to pay a higher tax on gasoline if the revenue collected was put towards alternative energy research, and get off of Arab oil? Or even just to shore up our oil reserves so we can buffer ourselves from OPEC? Would you be willing to give up some of your tax cut for the same cause? How about purchasing a more fuel efficient car? Or making your home more energy efficient?

The main sacrifice Americans can make, aside from blood on the front lines, is declaring a new relationship with energy---both in where it is harvested, and how it is consumed. One of the failings of President Bush is his reluctance to ask his citizens to sacrifice. So far in this war for our survival, we are asked to do very little. There will come a point when shopping will not be enough. As the stability of energy prices decline, our sacrifices will inevitably increase. We should begin now, and pursue our sacrifice with a vigor that reflects true patriotism. We all can be heroes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Rope Bridge

Reading Andrew Sullivan's blog reveals a riptide of conflicts over the upcoming presidential election. Many have derided the largely conservative Mr. Sullivan for becoming weak before our odious adversaries at the fateful hour of the election. His public irreconcilability between two deficient candidates presents a prescient portrait of internal conflictions within many people who want to promote a progressive, tolerant world without feeding the Zarqawian head-eating monsters seeking its end. It is a tribute to Mr. Sullivan that he presents his struggle publicly, where so many satisfy themselves with assured positions. Heel-digging has its merits in the face of tyranny, but comes with the risk that the entire mountain of reason might collapse beneath you.

Today, Mr. Sullivan points out that American forces in Iraq failed to secure equipment and facilities that collectively can be used to create WMDs---Missing Iraqi Nuke Material:
Here's a report that sends chills down my spine:

Equipment and materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons are disappearing from Iraq but neither Baghdad nor Washington appears to have noticed, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency reported on Monday. Satellite imagery shows that entire buildings in Iraq have been dismantled. They once housed high-precision equipment that could help a government or terror group make nuclear bombs, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report to the U.N. Security Council. Equipment and materials helpful in making bombs also have been removed from open storage areas in Iraq and disappeared without a trace, according to the satellite pictures, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said.

Where has the stuff gone? Why was it left unguarded? Another money quote:

The United States also has not publicly commented on earlier U.N. inspectors' reports disclosing the dismantling of a range of key weapons-making sites, raising the question of whether it was unable to monitor the sites. In the absence of any U.S. or Iraqi accounting, council diplomats said the satellite images could mean the gear had been moved to new sites inside Iraq or stolen. If stolen, it could end up in the hands of a government or terrorist group seeking nuclear weapons.

"We simply don't know, although we are trying to get the information," said one council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. U.S. officials had no immediate comment on the report.

It's about time they did, don't you think?
Portions of the article not quoted by Mr. Sullivan also say:
A new CIA report last week by chief U.S. weapons investigator Charles Duelfer made clear, however, that Saddam had all but given up on his nuclear program after the first Gulf War in 1991.

ElBaradei, whose agency dismantled Iraq's nuclear arms program over a decade ago, drew similar conclusions to the Duelfer report well before the March 2003 invasion.
The article seems slanted towards the opinion that inspections alone will ensure that the bad stuff stays secure and watched. It underscores how the invasion was unnecessary, and undermined the job of the IAEA to safeguard the WMD materials in question. Meanwhile, next door in Iran, and further away in North Korea, the work of the IAEA has delivered poor results with each nation on the verge of being nuclear powers. Inspections without the threat of force did little to contain the production of WMDs. It is also interesting to note that the anti-war position stipulating that the invasion was unnecessary due to lack of WMDs is refuted in the article, since now related materiel is going missing, according to the IAEA themselves. So there were WMD programs in Iraq after all?

The attributed Duelfer report mentioned in the article provides much egg for all faces in the debate. It underscores how the French were supplying Saddam's forces right up to the invasion; surely, some Americans died from French hardware in the bargain. No, France was never going to be for invasion, nor the UN who was raking in Oil For Food petrodollars. Nor the EU, under the spell of France. Cooperation and goodwill from erstwhile allies might have secured WMD sites in Iraq---there's plenty of blame to go around for Western intransigence.

So, like Mr. Sullivan, this blogger finds himself on a flimsy rope bridge swaying in the winds of a chasm created by two flawed popular positions for defending the Western world. It may be that our system really has met its match this time, because the enemy is not a system at all. It's empowered anarchy, welling up from within and without. It challenges who we are, fundamentally.

This blogger has stated that he's voting for Bush but rooting for Kerry. That's a vote cast from the rope bridge, the logic of which could be inverted. As the chasm widens, this little bridge seems more fragile every day. How many people actually occupy this space? How many feel like the choices presented just don't fill the bill? There's emotional solid ground on each side of this bridge. It would be quite tidy to simply take one or the other position and receive pats on the back from either Democrats or Republicans. In this position, if either of the two cliffs representing the West gives way, so does this little bridge. The world will not be saved by either conservatives or liberals. It will be saved by a strong sense of common ground and new thinking from both sides. It will be saved by reducing the gap that this little bridge must span. Is this remotely possible?

If there's solace to be taken from a Kerry victory, it will be the possibility that liberalism will be truly taken to task by historical forces, like conservativism has been. This time around, a liberal president will not have the political advantages afforded by the vacuum from the end of the Cold War, concurrent with a miracle tech economy that kept eyes planted on the NASDAQ and not the Cole during the Clinton era. This time, a liberal president has the unenviable job of showing that the French can be reformed, that the UN is not utterly dysfunctional and that Caterism has workable limits. Let the sobering begin.

President Bush, who ran on a near-isolationist platform in 2000, redefined conservatism in 2001 because the world changed. That's why he's got my vote. Mr. Kerry, so far, seems reluctant to redefine liberalism in the context of the modern world. His heels are firmly planted on a mountain floating on magma. As president, liberalism, as we know it, will either be redefined or it will perish. Four more years of Bush will only prolong liberalism's promenade with fantasy; four years of Kerry will either return a functional balance within our system or consummate its disequilibrium, at the risk of chaos. It is a vote of fate.