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The International Writers Magazine

Why Are We in Iraq?
Dean Borok

Forty years ago Norman Mailer wrote “Why Are We In Vietnam?”, a book in which he seemed to imply that we had engaged in that war out of a neurotic, predatory god complex. Given the nature of the times and the prevalent quality of leadership (Johnson, Nixon, Hoover, etc.), that analysis had the ring of reality to it.
The collective self-analysis generated by that war might go down in history as one of our nation’s finest moments, wherein we actually tried to analyze our actions and correct them. Books, plays, movies and debate led to protest, political action, and impeachment and criminal trials.

No kind of soul searching seems to be accompanying our latest current adventure in Iraq. Certainly, the nature of an empire leads it to believe that it is always under threat at its periphery. That is the motivation that drove the British Empire to battle the Russian Empire for control of Afghanistan in the nineteenth century and that motivated the Romans to build Hadrian’s Wall so far from Rome.

No matter how rich you are it’s never enough, and the more you have the harder it is to keep it. Like a shark you have to keep moving forward to survive, and sharks are not known for their reflective nature.

Empires always function best when their brightest minds keep focused on the acquisition of wealth, and excessive philosophical meditation has led to the derailment of many great powers like Britain and France, who arguably began to stumble when their educated classes forsake the ledger books for literary fiction and criticism.

Too much thinking is definitely bad for business. So maybe it’s a positive thing for America that the biggest controversy in the public forum is whether Dan Rather was being sexist when he criticized Katie Couric’s vapid presentation of The CBS Evening News, and that the runaway literary hit of the best seller list is Tina Brown’s latest reheat of Princess Diana, who was stale copy even before she passed on to that great runway show in the sky.

I’m not knocking it. Intellectual life can be pedantic and stultifying, and I am just as happy with a joint and a bottle of tequila, dreaming away my life while grooving to Chicago blues. Thinking isn’t everything.

As the Mayan priests were fond of pointing put when they weren’t ripping some poor guy’s still-beating heart out of his chest, time is not linear - it’s cyclical. Life is repetitive. This is old news to anybody who grew up reading science fiction epics like “Foundation,” which dramatizes the rise and fall of galactic empires, but it puts the lie to Churchill’s axiom that “those who do not learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.” According to the Mayan syllabus, even if you learn the lessons, you’re still doomed to repeat them. The Mayan texts are lost, burned by the Spanish, but it’s a sure bet that in the 7,000 years they inhabited the lowlands and highlands of Central America they witnessed the rise and fall of empires, the ethnic cleansing of whole races, charismatic leaders, the clash and crash of civilizations. Do we need to relearn those lessons?

What’s the point? So it ever was, and so it is and so it will ever be. Maybe Ronald Reagan had a point with his “Morning in America.” Forget all that past history and go forward. The wheel of history is going to turn whether you’re aware of it or not. In the meantime, let’s make hay while the sun shines.

This sunny American exclusivity can’t be exclusive to America: there’s nothing new under the sun. The fact that it seems original probably illustrates its hopeless futility as an approach to social organization. It’s likely that past societies that ever took our la-di-da attitude were either exterminated as a result, or eventually survived by transforming themselves into realistic cultures of fatalism, given the realities of human nature and the dynamics of the physical world.
Reaganism is doubly insidious as a doctrine of social organization since it virtually precludes any intellectual activity as superfluous and subversive. This begs the question of the sharp American decline relative to the rest of the world since the end of World War II, at which time we controlled 50% of global wealth and manufacturing capacity. Since that time our standing has declined by half and predictions are that our share will continue to decline, though at a slower rate.
How much of this decline is due to the normal advance of the rest of the world and how much to structural deficiencies inherent in our own system are proportional calculations open to debate. Less open to debate are miscalculations and false assumptions arrived at as a result of this sunny “Morning in America” philosophy, which disdains planning and calculated marshalling of resources to achieve rational goals. It’s as if nobody is flying the plane and everybody is depending on automatic pilot to achieve a soft landing.

If the hieroglyphics engraved into the Mayan ruins could talk to us, how many stories would they tell of states destroyed by the unwise or illogical decisions of corrupted or conceited rulers, of tragic military expeditions based upon false assumptions, or squandered or lost resources resulting in misery, discontent and the revolt of subjugated populations? Just as wise and preservative rule can preserve and enhance nations states, so can unwise leadership accelerate their decline.

That is what seems to happening here. Harmful decisions concerning vast amounts of invaluable resources are being taken in an almost defiant manner, as if to coarsely reinforce in the most reckless mode who is charge. Alliances of state are shoved aside insouciantly and friendships abrogated for unclear reasons. It’s as though the players are caught up in a diabolical cycle of plagues and disasters and manipulated against their conscious will like stringed marionettes by infernal demons from hell. The Mayan texts on astrology were explicit on the effects of the stars on human behavior. Could our descent into chaos and madness, hurricanes and mass destruction, war and insane rule have been foreordained and predicted in ancient times?

© Dean Borok June 18th 2007

Latin America Report
Dean Borok

Nobody ever said that transforming this former fiefdom of Standard Oil into a freestanding socialist model economy was going to be easy...

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