A gangly Illinois politician whom "the base" would today label a RINO once pointed out that you can fool some of the people all of the time. We now know how many "some" is: twenty-seven per cent. That's the proportion of Americans who, according to CNN, cling to the belief that George W. Bush has done a good job.
What role the Bush Administration's downgrading of terrorism as a foreign-policy priority played in the success of the 9/11 attacks cannot be known, but there is no doubting its responsibility for the launching and mismanagement of the unprovoked war in Iraq, with all its attendant suffering; for allowing the justified war in Afghanistan to slide to the edge of defeat; and for the vertiginous worldwide decline of America's influence, prestige, power, and moral standing.
There can be no debate that a sizable proportion of the commentariat, and apparently of the public at large, cling to the belief that the Afghan campaign, writ large, is both strategically wise and satisfyingly winnable.
This provokes certain thoughts, and questions. First, the questions:
What drives this rage for complacency, this desperate contentment?
Are some people lying, or are they simply afraid to be honest?
Both mouse and cat survived, and the incident is recorded here as a reminder that things seem to be changing.
From March 2004:
At one level this election was about nothing. None of the real problems facing the nation were really discussed. But at another level, without warning, it actually became about everything.
The Democrats are going to be out for a long time if they can't be honest with themselves.
From November 2004:
Of course we had war plans.
From October 2008:
The solution for people who have spent a long time in Afghanistan was ... to work with the Taliban and somehow to uncouple the Afghan fighters from al-Qaeda. Seven years of killing later, it feels a bit too late to try that now. So, western policy seems glued to fighting a war that many people in the know are now saying the west is never going to win.
From October 2008:
"You Westerners have your watches," the leader observed. "But we Taliban have time."
From January 2009:
We will not be able to eliminate the Taliban from the rural areas of Afghanistan’s south, so we will have to work with Afghans to contain the insurgency instead. All this is unpleasant for Western politicians who dream of solving the fundamental problems and getting out. They will soon be tempted to give up.
How long will we cling to this belief? How soon will we give in to the temptation to be honest with ourselves?
Finally, two from Freeman Dyson:
You must have principles that you're willing to die for.
The moral imperative at the end of every war is reconciliation. In order to make a lasting peace, we must learn to live with our enemies.