Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Why Is Thomas Ricks Pretending Iraq is World War III?

I just heard a few minutes of NPR's puff interview with Thomas Ricks on his new book "Why We Live in a Military Dictatorship." He told a slack jawed NPR interviewer, quoting Former Ambassador Ryan Crocker in 2008, that "the things for which this war will be remembered haven't yet happened," To which his apparently childlike interlocutor responded, awestruck, "oh my goodness, you mean as of 2008 the war has barely started?" No, he means that idiots like you don't grasp that disaster yet to come are unanticipated by the chattering classes and Ricks and the other historians plan to make a mint off of dragging this out.

Also, launching himself into the spotlight, Ricks quotes himself approvingly for observing that "this war is going to change Obama more than Obama is going to change this war." He followed this up by a patient explanation that, although we live in a democracy where the people might choose not to prosecute a war against a fallen, irrelevant, foe actually we are obligated to do whatever the generals want. Well, he didn't mention the word democracy. But he did instruct the interviewer on the fine points of what General Odierno "wants to see happen" and how General Odierno wants troops there "well into Obama's second term." If not for the next twenty five years. I can't tell because I turned the whole thing off at that point.
Query: I get that in a major world war, for example, with a large proportion of the country under arms and on a war footing, fighting a battle on two or three fronts against mass armies, the opinions of the generals may matter on the prosecution of the war. But that isn't this war. And event hen the decision for how long and whether to be *at war?* That has long been believed to be the purview of the people, united, in the form of their representatives of whom only one is the President, and none are the generals. It is the people who decide whether its worth it to them to foot the bill-- This has been true since democracy began. And even under Bush's unitary executive it was the executive and not the military that decides on a given course of action.

This notion that Obama has to do what the generals tell him to do in Iraq strikes me as absurd as telling me that Reagan had to keep troops in Grenada one minute past his personal deadline in that "lovely little war." Or Thatcher in the Falklands. It is anti democratic in every sense. But neither Ricks nor his interlocutor seemed to have the slightest grasp of that fact. The Bush years have pushed us farther down the sewer of militarism and authoritarianism than we have begun to grasp.