Bush, Cheney, and the Imperialistic Worldview
I just finished reading Andrew Sullivan's incisive analysis of Cheney's performance on Limbaugh's show (read it here) and I am struck by how much two people can agree while coming to opposite conclusions.
Everything Sullivan says about Cheney is absolutely true, and points to a much deeper problem than Cheney. Some examples:
Even if we were to "win," as in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Cheney sees that as a reason to stay. If there is any chance of "losing," we also have to stay.
Exactly, and for reasons which are probably already clear to those of you who have been reading the Mull. Cheney, along with the whole Bush administration, operates out of the authoritarian, or kingship model.
The man with power—the king, or in this case, the President of the United States—is automatically good and legitimate. Everyone else is either subject to his power, or the enemy. Neither group can be trusted, since the king's authority is based in power.
The only solution is to maintain power over both groups. If we leave Iraq, the president loses his ability to exert force there, and thus his authority there, and there's no telling what they might get up to.
Even a democratic Iraq could not be trusted to consistently vote the way the king thinks they should.
And, of course, as these occupations create more terrorists, Cheney uses that as more reason to keep fighting.
That's what happens with force-based authority. It creates resistance, because it is obviously illegitimate, and untrustworthy, and the resistance creates the excuse for more force. (This, by the way, is part of the reason I disagree with Sullivan's final conclusion. But more about that, later.)
The result is a descending spiral of more force which leads to greater resistance which leads to greater force, etc.
[Cheney] sees the presidency as ... able to arrest citizens at will without charging them, legally empowered to torture them if necessary, wiretap phones without warrant, and eager to treat all opposition as a form of treason against the troops.
The authoritarian approach at work again. They keep coming back to treason against the troops, not only as an attempt to transfer our sympathy for the troops to their cause, but also because they really see the troops as an extension of the president. The troops are simply the arm of the king, and, in a force-based model, they are also the source of the king's authority.
As for the ability to arrest citizens at will, commit torture, wiretap, etc., these are also direct results of an authoritarian model of morality. The king is the country. The citizens are there to serve him, and should be grateful for his protection, no matter how he violates their rights. The only guarantee of order, in a model based on force, is force, administered by the king, whose decisions are correct by definition.
This is why the Bush administration will never admit it was wrong. It can't be. The possibility isn't in their worldview.
Sullivan goes on to say that the Democrats should give the administration everything it wants—in effect, giving it enough rope to hang itself, and I appreciate the sentiment. But I do think there are reasons why that would be a bad idea:
There are people dying, on both sides, every day. This is not just a political question. Lives are at stake, as is the ongoing erosion of rights on the home front.
Part of the dynamic the authoritarian model sets up is the downward spiral I spoke of above. We didn't say "no" to the original invasion, and now the dangers of terrorism are far greater than they were. The longer the Cheney administration is allowed to follow its current policies, the worse mess we will be left with in the aftermath.
As a part of that downward spiral, the rhetorical case for more of the same grows, even if it's irrational . With every increase in our illegitimate use of force, we see increase in the dangers of terrorism. With every increase in the dangers of terrorism, there's additional excuse for this administration or the one that follows to use force, diminish rights, torture, etc.
I am with Sullivan's sentiments. I would very much like to see the Democrats just sit back and let Bush and Cheney do themselves in. But I fear that the cost would be far too great.