Kottke represents what I see as a growing complacency about the war.
He is not happy about it, but sees the hawks and doves only in their most caricatured forms. A discussion on my class blog quickly dissolved into “blood for oil” versus “saving the terrorized Iraqi people,” with a very quiet center. I think most thinking people recognize that these are each straw men: albeit straw men that are perpetuated by either side. Few are willing to consider the ugly facts. It’s a devil’s choice, one that insists that we stand by, relatively impotent, as more people are killed and tortured in Iraq.
David Silver recently asked why an academic listserve was so silent about the war. I think we are fatigued and depressed. I think we feel ineffectual and unrepresented. I think we are dumbfounded by the lack of understanding of our fellow Americans. I think we are war-weary before the first bomb has dropped. I think we see the protests of the last weeks as heartening but ultimately ineffectual. If protests have not stopped us from starting a war, why should we believe they can stop one?
I support(ed) the military build-up around Iraq. I probably even would have supported military action of some sort and at some stage. I recognize that the current regime has used chemical weapons and has regularly tortured its people. I know it is a strategic point of control for the region, and that its stability is vital.
None of these things justifies an invasion. Leaving aside the human costs, as these costs are so often left aside, the risks involved in invasion and occupation are just too high for a seemingly non-existent potential benefit.
Since a short-term war seems inevitable at this point, I have asked where my efforts are best put. The leverage I have to exert is in the classroom. Most Americans still cannot locate Iraq (or Afghanistan or Panama or Granada) on a map. By giving students the tools to question, to debate, to reason, and to challenge, I hope that the next time we are in a similar situation, it will no longer be a minority who wants to stop the war. I hope that I will have had enough of an impact on at least some of the thousands of undergrads I teach, and that rather than seeing Gulf War 2 as another reality TV show, they question the motives, seek out information, and make their own, informed, decisions.