Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Narcissus Blooms

Shorter Richard Cohen: "Give war a chance."

Cohen's argument today really is that insipid. He takes the publication of novelist Nicholson Baker's pacifist book about WWII as yet another excuse to try to justify his cheerleading for the disastrous war in Iraq. He dispenses along the way with both the actual details of Nicholson's WWII argument and the consequences of his own Iraq war. What we get instead is a standard paean to the awful necessity of war:

What's worrisome about the Baker book is that the attention it has gotten -- much of it critical -- is not just a testament to his reputation as a writer but also to the questions he has raised about war itself. Is any war, outside of direct self-defense, worth fighting?...

One casualty of a bad war such as that in Iraq is the growing feeling that no war is worth the cost....

The most horrible weapon in any arsenal is the madness of men. We see this time and time again, and sometimes the only way to stop them is by war. "War is an ugly thing," John Stuart Mill wrote, "but not the ugliest of things." Far uglier, he wrote, is the feeling that nothing in life is worth fighting for....

But probably the ugliest thing is to write such a line, like Mill, never having gone to war. Or maybe it's, like Cohen, to consign others to death in an adventure nearly identical to the one you yourself once wrote of rejecting:
It was only later, when I myself was in the Army, that I deemed the [Vietnam] war not worth killing or dying for. By then I [...] no longer felt it was winnable, and I did not want to lose my life so that somehow defeat could be managed more elegantly.
Poor Richard Cohen. He should have quit while he was ahead.