Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Several bloggers are currently writing from the front lines. You probably already know about Raed, who, along with some others, is allegedly blogging from Baghdad. I've always been a little suspicious that anyone would actually blog from Baghdad - Raed doesn't make any pretense at genuflecting to Saddam, and Iraq doesn't exactly have freedom of speech - but other than the question of why they haven't been hauled away by the Muktabarrat (which can probably be explained by a lack of technical skill in the Iragi police state), it seems utterly real. There's a war correspondent blogging from Iraqi Kurdistan, and Imshin is building a security room in Israel.

From half a world away, it's a little surreal hearing from people who are about to be in the middle of a war. My country will be at war in about 30+ hours, and how is my own life affected? Pretty nearly zero. The local buses, which I often use anyway, seem more crowded lately due to runaway gas prices and my long term investments are mostly sinking at the moment. And obviously I'm affected in general by the shaky economy. I'm worried, but if I feel like it, there's nothing to stop me from forgetting about the whole thing and stepping out to enjoy a beautiful spring day. The war is happening to other people in other places.

It's always been like this for American civilians, at least since 1865. In this as in so many other ways, we are the fortunate, and sometimes spoiled, children of history. Death comes to everyone, but the other three horsemen ride largely through other, less happier lands. This is partly why 9/11, and the threat of future attacks, has been such a shock to us. Before it we had a feeling of safety in our cocoon, even if it was often imaginary. For years, whenever terrorists struck in London or Paris, the US media would always play stories in the days following about Americans who had cancelled travel plans to those cities, or others hundreds of miles away, to stay home in Chicago or New York, where they would be safe except for the 5 or 6 murders and a few hundred other violent crimes that were committed every day. Today, it's largely the opposite. Unless you live or work in a handful of major cities, your chances of being hit by a terrorist attack are fantastically remote. But people in Connecticut and Wisconsin are busy sealing off their homes with duct tape. The Greek ideal of moderation and balance is a trick we've never mastered.

I have one other advantage over most people on the verge of a war: I know we're going to win. I worry over the long term consequences, especially in the hands of the proven incompetents who will be running the war and the more challenging reconstruction. I worry for those who are about to die. But combat itself holds few terrors for the most powerful military that has ever existed, a machine that was able, a few years back, to devastate an enemy with ruinous bombing for weeks without suffering a single casualty. Such power breed hubris, a fault that will surely hurt us someday, but if it happens in Iraq, it will more likely be in the occupation than in the conquest.