American Proscenium

A Surprising Unsureness of Touch

The one surprising aspect of the controversy surrounding Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” is not the failure to find them: Those in the know had known all along that they did not exist.  It is, rather, the Bush administration’s inept handling of a situation that should have been anticipated months ago, when the “bureaucratic” decision was initially made to opt for WMD’s as the casus belli.  Morality and common decency aside, the administration did not do well in following up those pre-war WMD stories with sufficiently convincing postwar justifications and rationalizations.  The haughtiness of its leading figures is irritating to America’s friends and foes alike and, thus, self-defeating even within the neocon calculus of what constitutes this country’s interest.

Goading the designated enemy into striking first or inventing justifications for preordained wars is nothing new.  It has been a time-honored tradition of democracies since the Athenian leadership of the Hellenic world turned into hegemony in the fifth century B.C.  The process calls for some creativity on the part of proactive minds.  It demands a mix of amoral cynicism and manipulative skill—the very qualities that have defined successful political operatives across the centuries.

Most of the time, it works well.  Everyone “remembered” the Maine...

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