Thursday, November 27, 2003

An Army of Quiet Americans

This Matt Taibbi takedown of Joe Klein's truly bizarre take on how we need to win the war on whomever we're at war with is hilarious. The whole thing is quite frightening, of course.

This one passage of Klein’s says just about everything you need to know about why the war effort in Iraq isn’t "working." Our current pro-war crowd simply doesn’t understand the emotional imperatives required of a conquering military society. You cannot lead people into the breach for the cause of "Freedom…or whatever." Language is more important than a hat. If you want to get people to run through gunfire and sulfur smoke with knives in their teeth, you need appropriate slogans: "Destroy the Seventh Snake!" "Ya Basta!" "Victory or Death!" Klein wants to use the language of a liberal arts college brochure to build a warrior society.

Which brings us to the next problem–the kind of people Klein thinks we need fighting this war. This is his biggest mistake. The last kind of person we need in Iraq is a young, idealistic intellectual. These people make lousy conquerors, as was proven repeatedly in Vietnam. In colonial wars, what you really need to get the job done are efficient professional killers, like the French Foreign Legion or the Korean mercenaries we used in Indochina. People like this, when they go into a "problem" village, they don’t spend a lot of time with the Inspector Closeau search for the hidden insurgents among them. They just chop everyone’s heads off and move on.

Basically, this is Klein playing out a personal fantasy that if only the military had, you know, catered to people like him he would've gone off and done really brave things. When he was younger, of course. He's too old for that now. But, he wouldn't want to deprive a new generation of young, idealistic, liberal arts graduates the opportunity.

Joe Klein embodies the mass psychosis of the baby boom generation. No, not all boomers are nuts, but he just continues to play out his personal demons that certain members of his generation just can't get over.

And, everyone should read Graham Greene's book or at least see the pretty good if somewhat miscast film.