Monday, September 12, 2005

The Inextinguishable Laughter of the Blessed Gods

While everyone except salaried administration personnel and pundits on Fox has denounced the conduct of the Iraqi war, criticism of the war itself remains strangely muted beyond the radical left. A great many Democrats, including self-defined liberal Democrats, favored the invasion even though most of them thought the PR preparation was inadequate. For them no less than for Rumsfeld or Bush, international laws and treaties are just scraps of paper; and the doctrine of preemption is unproblematic. But the liberal hawks have more in common with the administration than the traditional sociopathy of the international relations professional. They share the right’s belief that America can do anything it likes because of its enormous military and economic preponderance. Beneath their purported political realism lies a thick deposit of nationalist fantasy. They seem to actually believe that we can get away with almost any level of incompetence.

The theologians missed something when they didn’t include complacency among the divine attributes. A God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal is necessarily also immune to anxiety. I mildly care about such things, because I’ve always liked the first person of the Trinity. Some fictions are more lovable than others—I’ve still got the hots for Elizabeth Bennett, for example—and part of the appeal of the figure of Father to me is the attraction of somebody, someplace who has everything under control. It would be similarly gratifying to imagine that one lived in a nation so powerful as to be unmenaced even by its own errors. I’ve got a head cold just now, so I can’t say with 100% certainty that our shit doesn’t stink. Nevertheless, I believe as an article of rational faith that it does. I don’t think that any country ever has or ever could achieve so transcendent a status.

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