April 17, 2003

THE PHONY PEACE: Michael Kelly's last column is now online. Excerpt:

I spent the last days of the first Gulf War's phony peace in Baghdad, and I am spending the last days of this one's in Kuwait, soon to take part in the experiment of "embedding," as the jargon has it, some 500 journalists with the U.S. military for the duration of what is generally expected to be a short, exceedingly one-sided conflict. On the whole, I'd say, the phoniness quotient is down this time. We are spared, at least, much of the death-and-destruction-and-quagmire talk that preceded the last conflict here. The lessons of the campaign in Afghanistan, adding to the lessons of the campaigns in Kosovo and Bosnia, have sunk in. The U.S. armed forces enjoy a technological superiority like nothing the world has seen before; they are, in a real sense, not even fighting the same war as their opponents—or in the same century. No one argues much now about whether these forces are capable of crushing even very serious opposition, and almost no one argues that Iraq offers serious opposition. Rather, the argument concerns whether the employment of this almost unfathomable power will be largely for good, leading to the liberation of a tyrannized people and the spread of freedom, or largely for bad, leading to imperialism and colonialism, with a consequent corruption of America's own values and freedoms. This question is real enough and more: probably the next hundred years hinges on the answer.

Yeah. That's why I can't bring myself to go on a blog vacation, or to quit writing about the war the way James Lileks is doing, just now. I'd like to, in a way, because all of this is, well, tiring. But I think, as Kelly did, that a lot hinges on what's happening now.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus puts it better than I did:

You're completely sick of the war -- sick of watching cable, sick of reading the paper. The military campaign's basically been won. The adrenalin is leaving your body. The overwhelming urge is to breathe a sigh of relief and get back to normal life, only more so: normal life minus current events. Yet this is just the moment when it's probably most important to pay attention to what is going on in the Middle East, because these are the weeks when we will or won't make the mistakes that will cost us the benefit of all the sacrifice of life and treasure.

Yeah, what he said.