Saturday, October 06, 2007

Consequences of ideas

As I said before, I supported the invasion of Iraq. I believed the slogans about peace and democracy in the Middle East, and I feared the weapons of mass destruction. So did Christopher Hitchens, who had written passionately about the rightness and good purpose of the invasion. Hitchens is a literate and persuasive man, and his words moved a young UCLA college student to join the Army and serve his country. That man, Lt. Mark Daily, was then killed in Iraq.

A friend sent Hitchens an article in the Los Angeles Times about Lt. Daily after noticing that Daily had been inspired by the writings of Hitchens to take the course that ultimately led to his death. Hitchens, who has since become deeply disturbed and disillusioned about the Iraq war, describes the moment he discovered he had influenced young Daily in his decision to enlist:
I don't exaggerate by much when I say that I froze. I certainly felt a very deep pang of cold dismay. I had just returned from a visit to Iraq with my own son (who is 23, as was young Mr. Daily) and had found myself in a deeply pessimistic frame of mind about the war. Was it possible that I had helped persuade someone I had never met to place himself in the path of an I.E.D.?... I feverishly clicked on all the links from the article and found myself on Lieutenant Daily's MySpace site, where his statement "Why I Joined" was posted. The site also immediately kicked into a skirling noise of Irish revolutionary pugnacity: a song from the Dropkick Murphys album Warrior's Code. And there, at the top of the page, was a link to a passage from one of my articles, in which I poured scorn on those who were neutral about the battle for Iraq … I don't remember ever feeling, in every allowable sense of the word, quite so hollow.
Driven by remorse, Hitchens finds his way to speak and visit with Mark Daily's family. What follows is well worth reading, so I'll leave it at that.

The price that we are paying as a country for this war is a profound one. I won't bother to estimate the grief of those who have lost loved ones to the war. But I can't shake the feeling that aside from the obvious costs in dollars and strained military readiness, that we are not far from a public awakening to how deeply we were led astray and by the catastrophic failure of character that the Bush administration has demonstrated in its conduct of this war. And perhaps like Christopher Hitchens confronted with how his ideas had consequences he can never take back, that we may realize that the ideas and leadership that we consented to in the months after 9/11 have led to a nation that is not as good, not as strong, and not as right as the one we possessed in the days and weeks following that devastating day.


At 10:41 AM, Blogger RF2R2 said...

Disappointment about how things turned out and thinking you've made a mistake are two different things. I don't think the war was uneccessary or a mistake but I definately feel let down by my government and military commanders who have not managed and executed the campaign very successfully.

I can understand why Hitchens would feel personally responsible somehow for that soldier's death, but I doubt his remorse makes any of his arguments for the war less compelling or unreasonable. I mean, don't you think Paul saw the persecution of the churches he helped plant and regreted the cost, even though he knew it would come/was possible? Would it have made the gospel any less noble if he had expressed despair at having seen the actual cost of his ideas? I'm not equating the rightness or importance of the Iraq War and the gospel at all, but I am trying to demonstrate how regret about consequences does not neccessarily have anything to do with what is/was right.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

I think the very source of Hitchen's regret is that he wished he had not supported the war. We went to war with the leadership we had--such as it was--and it was the wrong choice.

At 6:13 AM, Blogger Nathaniel said...

I think this man places too much unhealthy blame upon his actions. The soldier that died made his choices, as did Hitchens. Hitchens cannot beat himself over the head for causing the soldier to go to war and unfortunately die. As Hitchens did not cause it.

At 5:16 PM, Blogger tkn said...

At 10:21 PM, Blogger ChemE said...

I think we ought to take this as a lesson in what it takes to win a war. While it's a lesson we should of learned from Vietnam, some appearently think we can win a war without totally devastating the entire enemy's country. When a war is not worth fighting to win, it is not worth fighting.

More specific to Iraq, it seems that if Iraq was the place we wanted to start dismatling terrorism we shouldn't be fighting and rebuilding at the same time. Given hindsight, it seems Iraq was a very poor place to start; however, I tend to agree with those who point out that if we didn't start somewhere, the terrorists would likely bring the fight to our shores (again). I pray that our leaders can work us out of this mess with the fewest possible major complications. Unfortunately, it seems it is likely to get worse before it gets better.

At 9:01 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

Chem, the strategy you describe--destroying the country that where the terrorists are operating from--only breeds more terrorists. We are not talking about destroying an industrial infrastructure so that the enemy can no longer build and fuel sophisticated war machines. We are engaged in highly asymmetrical warfare in which the other side requires little infrastructure or sophistication. What he relies on more are a steady stream of highly committed footsoldiers willing to risk their lives to inflict a series of bleeding wounds on us.

You're still fighting WWII in your head, Chem. This is a wholly different kind of war. The Soviets tried your kind of war in Afghanistan and it got them nowhere.

Talk about ideas having consequences... the consequences of your ideas would be inflicting devastation upon the Iraqi people far beyond what they've already experienced in order to defeat an enemy--Al Qaeda--that wasn't even in their country when the war started.


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