Reading the news the last couple days, three quotes struck me. They’re unrelated, but they all vividly highlight different aspects of the war. I loved the statement yesterday by the soldier quoted in the New York Times, trying to smoke a cigarette in a sandstorm. “Sometimes,” he said, “you have to embrace the suck.” It’s a military expression – and a great one. Embrace the suck. (No snickering in the back there, please.) Then there was this today in the NYT (John Burns has singlehandedly got me reading it again):
Colonel Saylor added: “They come, they keep coming. They get up and they come.” “This isn’t the varsity,” he added. “Is this going to stop us? No, not on a bad day.”
I guess these guys have nowhere else to turn. But it may also be true that some of us have again under-estimated something: the power of a totalitarian cult over its enforcers. The guys fighting us are the equivalent of the SS. We’re invading a milder version of Nazi Germany – only after eleven years of relative peace. These guys have barely been softened up at all. Why did conservative hawks like me not believe our own rhetoric about the horrors of totalitarianism? The point about such systems, as Orwell showed, is not just their brittleness and evil, but their success in indoctrinating and marshalling the shock troops. I’m chagrined at my own optimism in this regard. I should not have been surprised by the ferocity of the elite’s defense of itself. The final quote that leaped out of me was from Bush and Blair. Actaully, not a quote, a pronoun:
Both Bush and Blair addressed the lack of support among many traditional allies in war. “There are many people on our side, there are those that oppose us,” Blair acknowledged. But he also said, “I have no doubt that we are doing the right thing, I have no doubt that our cause is just.” Bush insisted, “We have plenty of Western allies. We can give you a list.”
“We have plenty of Western allies.” But isn’t Britain a Western ally? Bush’s pronoun simply bespeaks a fact: that Britain and America are being soldered together by the soldiering together. Just as in the Second World War, this bond is getting deeper the rougher the waters. Events often create a politics more than anyone’s lone decision. I think we’re seeing the beginnings of a new world alignment. The Anglosphere is getting entrenched.