The current conjuncture is a mirror image of the period 2002-3, though both would be enclosed within larger questions of the “unipolar world” or “end of history,” to use two terms more tenable 12 years ago than today, both of them expressing the status or perceived status of the USA or American “hyperpower,” and the political-economic empire or civilization concept for which it stands or stood, as undisputed victor in the final global struggle. At that earlier moment the “people not to be listened to” were the defeatists, pessimists, skeptics, anti-imperialist lost-cause-ists, New Age pacifist-fantasists, and so on, associated with a series of widely noted decisively “proven wrong” predictions, warnings, and judgments: that Reaganism would fail both politically and economically; that it or Reagan himself would precipitate a nuclear war; that the Russian Soviet empire could not be defeated and must instead be semi-permanently accommodated at minimum in Eastern Europe; that Japan was reversing the decision of the War in the Pacific by superior economic policy; that the Gulf War would produce massive U.S. casualties in part because the American military and its civilian leadership were incompetent, while all our massively expensive high-tech weapons either did not work as advertised or were utterly irrelevant to the types of warfare we would encounter; that the war even if successful would unleash cataclysmic follow-on effects politically, militarily, economically, environmentally; and that, specifically and quite critically, Saddam’s Iraq did not possess somewhat advanced WMD programs and capabilities.
These “same people” were the ones, or were put together with the ones, who had proclaimed that the U.S. had entered a late, terminal phase of inevitable decline of a Great Power. By the end of the roaring ’90s, the rest of us as well as a good number formerly in that camp had conceived a different notion regarding our and history’s potential, popularly realized in the parabolic Ponzying upwards of the Nasdaq stock exchange – the Gulf War wonder-weapons transmuted as 4-letter symbols. Cold War triumphalism and techno-utopianism were dealt a glancing blow by the 9/11 events – and a proximate correction in stock prices – but the first reflex was to re-double prior commitments on somewhat more sober terms, a normal and not obviously mistaken response: We would try to restore the prior optimism, return to the warm embrace of revealed historical destiny, only on a more realistic and consequential basis. This immediate response to 9/11 also produced a new reminder of the former confident conclusion, new incidents of “defeatists wrong again,” since “the same people” who had gotten all of those other things wrong also were found again saying “the same thing,” this time asserting the hopelessness of the American expedition to the Grave of Empires, seizing upon any sign of delay or planning error as evidence of unforgivable mass murderous folly and the onset of a new Vietnam.
Such judgments of historically right or wrong were all, in case it does not go without saying, blunt and superficial. Why should we presume, however, that our present judgments are essentially better or better-formed and -grounded – or, if they in fact are better judgments, that they are better for any other reason than they have absorbed the lesson of a failed praxis, filed under the rubric “neocon”? Operation Iraqi Freedom was not merely an intellectual exercise, but it was also one: What other than the actual invasion of Iraq under proven-false premises could actually prove those premises false – at least as we articulated them to ourselves while, we believed, safely ignoring the always-wrong and resoundingly re-defeated defeatists? Put differently, the reason we invaded Iraq was simply that we had not invaded Iraq yet. We had stopped just short, had left supplies and equipment and numerous commitments in place, while, so it seemed, the failure to follow the war logic to its obvious conclusion had resulted in a practically-politically unsustainable, military-strategically undesirable, and altogether dangerous state of affairs that among other things and morally unacceptably made us accomplices to genocide and countless lesser crimes, themselves leading predicates for a declaration of war against us by Islamist radicals. We had to go in again to get out, we thought: The latter part turned out necessarily much more difficult, and the liberation of peoples necessarily more bloodily terrible, than we allowed ourselves to contemplate then or can allow ourselves fully to recognize now.
Maybe 12 years from now, maybe tomorrow, maybe not for a very long time, maybe already, in any event sooner or later, many who are convinced, from the depths of their souls, often as a matter of political-professional identity, which may lie deeper for some, of their own indubitable rectitude will find themselves being listened to again, and will produce new hostages to fate, to be set next to the ones they are proudly displaying today.
you assume that in the future there will be an Iraq?