Impending war makes mundane things cast a shadow. September 11th changed the way we in NYC look at foreign conflicts. There is an immediacy to far off events, the possibility that they aren’t as remote as we thought. A vague uneasiness discolors regular events. Not many people on the street this morning. Is it odd? Is something going on? Nothing. A service change in the subway. Why? What happened? Is it really a signal failure downtown? Of course. Sirens. Anything happening? None of this would rate a second thought but now it seems awfully important.
It hardly matters that it’s not technically war- that requires an act of Congress- but the commitment of troops. Splitting semantic hairs. And no matter that it is without the formality of international sanction. The U.N. wasn’t forthcoming. Or that it is outside an existing treaty. Turkey wouldn’t play along. Or that we supported the Iraqi regime change and encouraged it during our opposition to the Iranian theocracy. Crying over spilt milk. This is, we’re told, the rooting out after twelve years of armed impatience a threat to the stability of the Mid-East. And I’m sure it is.
Less surely, I have to wonder if what is playing out is a distraction from an incoherent domestic policy. Not the first time, and surely not the last. Or it may be a ham-fisted attempt to bump-start a floundering economy. War, historically, has been good for some businesses even if it hasn’t been good for individuals. It could be crassly putting a more friendly hand on the spigot of oil production. It does not take a policy think tank to surmise that installing a new regime and divvying up the rights to a denationalized Iraqi oil industry to the multinational petroleum companies would incline both to the benefactor U.S. Or it might simply be sending a stiff warning in the direction of other destabilizing influences. Our "friends", Saudi Arabia and Pakistan leap to mind, have their own regimes or engaged in murky business.
The most worrisome thing is the uncritical acceptance of the administration’s statements by otherwise thoughtful people. It doesn’t follow along the usual suspects: generational, educational and socio-economic lines. It isn’t exactly flag-wrapped patriotism either. It’s full-throated and unquestioning and as lacking in subtlety as our Administration’s public persona and that makes me apprehensive, too.