March 7, 2003
are working. We should give them more time.
inspections are to verify Iraqi disarmament. Iraq hasn't disarmed, Iraq failed
to disclose its weapons and is in material breach of Resolution 1441 (paragraph
4), so further inspections are pointless.
both statements can't be true (both could be false). But does truth matter? It
depends on who
war is...umm...different. We can't even name the enemy. Partly that is because
of a desire to show tolerance.
The enemy claims this is a war
against Islam. The West claims it is a war against
al Qaeda terrorism. But terrorism is a tactic, and how can you have a war
against an abstraction? Doesn't the enemy have to be human?
war is really different.
Sometimes it is war between states (Iraq vs USA)...or at least geographical entities
(Afghanistan vs USA). Sometimes it is a proxy war (Palestinians vs Israel). Sometimes
it is law enforcement.
Sometimes it is for bankers
this multi-layered description fails to define the adversaries. That is because
the Muslim extremists are not alone. It would be proper to say this is a "time-war"
between the modern and medieval if the two sides were the West and reactionary
Islam...but much of the West is on the other side.
is a war within
the West too.
Western conflict is between opposed epistemologies.
continue to advance the enlightenment
program of using reason to test ideas. This approach freed our ancestors from
the authority of tradition and brought us the scientific revolution and the creation
of the modern
world. That's the problem.
modern world of individuality, freedom, self-determination, advanced technology
(medicine, communication, manufacturing) is also a world that is polluted, alienated
and frightening. The totalitarian state (whether fascist or communist) is a modern
innovation as is the liberal democratic society.
do we adapt to the shock of the modern?
refuse to accept the new world and want to retreat into the
They see their traditional life under attack being eroded by a progress
they would prefer to reject. Turning away from a disturbing reality, some seek
eternal truths in the words of ancient books. When man is unreliable and foolish,
revealed wisdom is especially valuable. Reactionary fundamentalism is a natural
response to bewildering change. Hostility to the modern can be expressed by efforts
to return the world to its pre-modern state.
see the problems inherent in modernism as obstacles...to be overcome. The loss
of traditional culture drives pragmatists to build a new culture. They retain
their commitment to the enlightenment values of science, progress and reason.
progressives see the failure of the modern program where pragmatists see problems
to solve and reactionaries see corruption to be destroyed. Where a pragmatist
sees progress and prosperity, a progressive sees materialism, waste and exploitation.
Where pragmatists see science as advancement of knowledge and material comfort,
progressives see frightening weapons, industrial pollution and class oppression.
Logic itself is sterile and dehumanizing...and like the hothouse romantics, postmodernists
prefer passion and sensibility...to reason.
fundamentalists, postmodernists retreat from the world of stubborn things into
a universe of malleable words.
Their deconstruction of a troubling reality transforms everything into
a reassuring narrative.
of these three adaptations is a choice about the nature of knowledge and truth.
Members of each group debate in very different ways.
the inspections working?
reactionary Muslim might see the inspections as a blasphemy. An inversion of the
proper authority of the Muslim over the infidel. The only "work" that
the inspections could be doing would be that they are forestalling an invasion
of Iraq. For Saddam, the inspections are a shield.
pragmatist uses inductive
reasoning to examine the facts (Saddam hasn't disarmed) and the text of Resolution
1441 (Saddam must immediately disarm or is in material breach) and concludes that
there is no compliance to verify...the inspections are pointless. They distract
people from the task of problem-solving.
postmodernist employs the narrative of power, race and victimization as a lens
through which to view the facts and the text. The text, of course, can mean anything
you say it means. The facts are a matter of opinion, merely a mental construction
to use as an instrument in a narrative. If the inspections obstruct American exercise
of power, they are working...as a shield for Saddam.
of these groups can have coherent discussion within the group. However,
discussion between members of different groups (playing by different rules) has
not been very productive. Since progressives and fundamentalists prefer
romantic narratives to messy things, they share ways of thinking and talking
about events. It is no surprise that these two groups, who seem so opposite
in their values have forged
a paradoxical alliance.
the fundamentalist, the postmodern nihilist argues deductively...beginning
with a narrative and assembling facts to support it. When facts are just pliable
interpretations, almost any facts can be shaped to support the narrative. And
when reason itself is viewed as oppressive and limiting, the narrator has incredible
freedom to claim almost any logical relationship between facts and the narrative
that he chooses...who's to say it's wrong? The postmodernist is at liberty to
select which facts are to be considered and which can be
with a narrative that views power as unjust domination and oppression, the fantasist
assigns appropriate roles to the parties to the conflict. The powerful state is
America (or Israel in that conflict) and America's opponent is cast in the role
of victim (Iraq, the Muslim world, €urope...whoever is resisting American
are constructed to reinforce the narrative. The most useful arguments are the
most subjective so, typically, these arguments are about invisible motivations..."It's
all about oil" or "Bush wants revenge". Since these arguments are
invented projections, they are irrefutable. How can one prove a negative about
the content of another person's mind? If one argues that it would be easier and
cheaper to get Iraqi oil by lifting the sanctions, the nihilist (like conspiracy
theorists) can easily dismiss the claim with "that's just your opinion...it
proves nothing". Even if one demolishes the "all about oil" argument
it makes absolutely no difference because the narrative isn't derived from the
claim...so it isn't weakened. The nihilist just moves on to a new argument to
support the narrative. "Why don't we attack North Korea?"...as if the
fact that North Korea is different from Iraq proves an American double-standard
sinister hidden motivation).
like this are a merry-go-round where riders go up and down and around and around...but
never get anywhere. They are not supposed to get anywhere. A point of view that
phallocentric logic and treats facts as utterly subjective cannot
be effected by either logic or evidence.
that is the point.
invulnerable stability of this viewpoint provides ample protection against the
troubling uncertainty of modernism.
pragmatic modernist works in the opposite direction, beginning with observations
of events and attempting to draw logical inferences. This difference in direction
leads to very different conclusions:
September 11 attacks were beyond most people's expectations...yet they happened.
This demonstrated that our ideas about the world were inadequate. Pragmatists
needed to reassess (previously misunderstood) statements and actions by terrorists.
This review forced people to recognize that by ignoring hostile actions, America
had encouraged escalating assaults on our civilization. September 11 demonstrated
that Islamist hostility to the West represented a real threat to our survival.
US government formulated a response to this threat that is called (for lack of
a better term) the War on Terror.
anti-American demonstrators contradict this analysis with arguments about unjust
motives."America's reckless bloodlust" or "SUV driven greed for
oil" are accusations that address neither the facts or reasoning behind this
war...so they are utterly ineffective. With claims that this war is a result of
American support for Israel, nihilists attempt to forge a link between events
that is irrelevant to the question of national defense. Since the pragmatist views
the war as a defense of civilization, dubious arguments about root causes and
moral judgments fail to question the underlying conditions or logic justifying
these groups use language and argument in completely different ways the debate
has been fruitless. Postmodernists perceive pragmatist positions as immoral support
for a regime of global oppression while pragmatists view nihilistic rejection
of basic facts as either feckless sophistry...or more likely willful blindness
the simplest of terms, this stalemate shows that you can't play a game together
if you don't agree about the rules. And you can't have a meaningful discussion
until you agree about the meaning of words.
the inspections working?
says that the words of Resolution 1441 have a plain meaning and Iraq is in material
says that whatever the words say, the job of the UNSC is to prevent an
American military solution to a problem that UN diplomats have nurtured for 12
is why President Bush said,
the fundamental question facing the Security Council is, will its words mean anything?
When the Security Council speaks, will the words have merit and weight?"
will depend on whether the Security Council speaks in a reactionary, modern or
postmodern voice. If the modernist UN rejects
reason modernism, it will
destroy itself in in futile self-contradiction.