Post-Mortem (Where the Obvious is Said – And You Expect More on the Day After?)

Well, if the Democrats screw up the economy so I can’t retire & spend all my time surfing the net and watching old television shows, probably that will not be a bad thing. But if enough of those moderate Democrats actually think we are at war, actually think there are bigger issues than politics, America will continue on, finding its way, making mistakes, but eventually working out some of the problems. And it was the conservative Democrats who did best.

So, we can hope, those who have believed we wage “Bush’s war” will have a broadened vision – power can do it, clearly Bush’s vision expanded in that first year in office. But if those elected remain fiercely myopic, fiercely partisan, we will have lost important gauges – indeed those of our Western liberal tradition – to guide us as we work our way through policies. We will lose it if we become isolationist; we will lose it if we dissolve into identity politics. We will lose it if we forget the long years that an egalitarian society, one that was highly literate and used to a large measure of self-reliance, took to move from the Revolution to the Constitution.

As usual, Iraq the Model has something to tell us that is both heartening and worrisome:

Building rule of law is much more of a difficult task than breaking the law is and the transformation from jungle law to civil law requires patience and determination. What makes me feel good about this is that we’re now moving to prosecute the criminals of the present just like we prosecuted the criminals of the past.

Gangs and militias are stronger today than they were three years ago and the same can be said about the legitimate foundations and institutions of the state, even more, the latter are growing stronger at a faster rate even though that might not be so visible.

Anyways, I think if law-enforcement apparatus, judicial and military alike, are allowed to retain the momentum, then maybe in a year we will be discussing al-Sadr and al-Dhari verdicts.

The big deal about our sins at Abu Ghraib was not that they were done – we are fallible creatures & when a system fails and someone is given too much power over another, bad things are likely to happen. Prisons and mental hospitals in America have demonstrated that great truism for centuries. The big deal was the accountability, the jail time and demotions. Omar is right – the point is not that those under Saddam are convicted (not that that isn’t important, too) but that those acts committed now, under this government, are.

But change takes time. We have troops in Germany & Japan in 2006. Jim Crow laws set in in 1877; it took the South another century to integrate. People don’t change easily nor quickly; the main stream media often seems to be born anew each day but that isn’t true of most of us. We need to learn to prize Telemachus as well as Ulysses, for, as Tennyson understood, both have their place. In the poem that ends with the great lines we heard often a few years ago:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Ulysses also acknowledges the important role his less famous, indeed, less heroic son is undertaking – a role with its own quiet heroism:

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,–
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

6 thoughts on “Post-Mortem (Where the Obvious is Said – And You Expect More on the Day After?)”

  1. What eloquence! In the Eternal Shade, Tennyson bows low before this non nomen bard who has condesended to the ChicagoBoyz!

  2. Are the newly elected moderate and conservative Democrats going to do what the far-left Democratic leadership tells them to do, or what? I am curious, though not optimistic.

    Bush himself seems already to have shifted his tone. When I heard that Rumsfeld is out my first thought was of the helicopters going over the side of our aircraft carriers in 1975. Democrats might think W has become conciliatory. Me, I was reminded of his father and thought: he is going to give away the store. I hope I’m wrong.

  3. A lot of military commentators are glad Rumsfeld is out, but I always figured that was because he was shaking up the oldest & biggest of bureaucracies. I wonder if the commission from which Gates comes was thinking in overview of how the military needs to be rebuilt for the 21st century? I share Jonathan’s hope that they weren’t just thinking of how we can get out of this – leaving those like Omar to face a fate not unlike my colleague’s in Cambodia – or worse, as was the lot of so may of her countrymen.

    In case anyone is interested, Gates’s letter to his “Aggie Family” was e-mailed today. Much of it is about the bright future he had planned for the university; the less detailed but more general parts might be of general interest:

    He begins:

    By the time you read this, the President of the United States will have announced that he will nominate me to be the next Secretary of Defense. I am deeply honored, but also deeply saddened. As most of you know, almost two years ago I declined an opportunity to become the first Director of National Intelligence. I did so principally because of my love for Texas A&M and because much of the program we had initiated to take A&M to a new level of excellence had only just started.

    He describes the programs in place, then continues:

    I apologize for surprising you with this momentous decision and announcement, and for leaving as president before fulfilling my commitment to serve Texas A&M for at least five years. I hope you will understand the circumstances that made this necessary and that this appointment comes nearly as much a surprise to me as to you.. . . >But I must tell you that while I chose Texas A&M over returning to government almost two years ago, much has happened both here and around the world since then. I love Texas A&M deeply, but I love our country more and, like the many Aggies in uniform, I am obligated to do my duty. And so I must go. I hope you have some idea of how painful that is for me and how much I will miss you and this unique American institution.

    (The letter is a good deal more substantial, but I’m not sure of the general interest of $500 million in buildings and the 447 new professors, etc. etc.)

  4. No, they hired them new. Part of the reason that A&M fell out of the top 50 was the faculty/student ratio. So, they hired a bunch. This has always seemed a bit of a shell game to me, but that’s because I’m outside it. Size of class, size of faculty, number of students, number of classes taught by that faculty – all are variable. It is a sign that Gates was pro-active. Whether that means he’ll cut down on troop size in Iraq or what, I don’t know. Someone else can read the tea leaves, I’m just pouring the water.

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