Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Cynic's Delight

Calhoun's Cannons for Sept 3, 2013

 . . . the best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.  . . .
                                        W.B. Yeats
                                        The Second Coming.

It's sure a great time to be a cynic.  Halcyon days, really.

Syria's Assad slaughters an estimated 1,400 civilians, including hundreds of children, with chemical weapons, in clear violation of international laws in place since the Great War.  President Obama goes on TV to declare that the world has "watched in horror." 

No, it didn't.  A good deal of disgust, perhaps, but not horror.  Horror requires outrage.  Horror requires action, intervention, the stopping of the horror, the holding to account the perpetrators.  But the world is having none of that, thank you.  With the collapse of the "Arab Spring," I suspect that the world has come to the conclusion that the middle east is now in the throws of a Muslim version of the Thirty Years War: a savage mixture of God-driven blood soaked religious struggle combined with hard-eyed, heavily armed state politics. In that world, brazen killers fare very well indeed.

And it's a world made for a cynic's delight.  Consider Assad.  Yes, he's a weird, sub-set sort of Muslim, but a Muslim nonetheless.  And killing innocents, especially women and children, is considered an appalling violation of one of the deepest held tenants of Islam.  Anathema.  A terrifying breach of  God's holy word.  Yet when a Christian president (Obama) called upon the civilized nations to intervene, to form a coalition of the willing to bring the world's wrath down upon Assad's murderous head, The (Muslim) Arab League suddenly discovered a forgotten urgent appointment and sidled out the door.  And the mullah's, who lost no time issuing a fatwa on an author who wrote fiction, had other things to do when it came to real murdered children. Sorry, we must away, As-salam Alaikum.

Russia, too.  Of course, they're "godless," so I'm sure religious wars are just another useful dialectic to them.  Plus they've had a long, long history of  "horror." Plenty of experience in accepting "moral obscenities." Not to mention their skill in dealing with brutal realpolitik.  Which translates into Russia never allowing mass murder to interfere with the art of the deal.. 

The U.N., too, has perfected the art of  appearing to be fully present while not actually being there.  It's the cynic's highest art form performed on the world's stage.  Viewing with alarm, pointing with dismay, hand-wringing sorrow expressed, then suddenly, the remembered appointment, the hurried rush out the door.

And for sheer pleasure, a cynic cannot ask for anything better that the rhetoric that is now flowing.  "Moral outrage" is always tricky coming from a country with a faulty memory and a sad history of using chemical warfare itself.  I mean, what is Agent Orange, if not a chemical weapon that was used by the U.S. against innocents, including women and children.  Not to mention our own veterans who, 30 years later, are now reaping the cancers and other maladies Agent Orange bequeathed to them by their own government.

Well, what can you do?  Moral outrage has to be a shared feeling if it's to have any effect.  No good leading a battle charge of one. That turns into mere hectoring.  So we now have the cynic's snarky delight of watching the president suddenly switching gears and forcing a dysfunctional Congress to step up and let the world see just what "moral outrage" is worth in today's market.  Nothing?  A few lobbed missiles?  A gridlocked non-coalition of the unwilling?  World-bestriding Pax Americana suddenly hiding next to timid, isolationist little Britain while France (France!) declares for intervention? Awwww, Gawwwwd.

Well, who can blame Congress for their annoyed fury.  Obama has now trapped himself and them all in their own glib rhetoric and too-facile political and moral posturing.  Lines in the sand and now -- Sweet Jesus! --  they'll all have to go on record and vote.  A vote that will surely show up on their record during the next election.  And no good pretending they just remembered they had to leave for their kid's soccer game before the vote can be taken. There will be no quarter given in this mess.  

So here we are, trapped in the sticky web of a part of the world that's in the throws of No Good Options, and few choices except to cynically wash one's hands and declare that Syria, indeed, the whole middle east, has now passed the tipping point and has become a place of senseless fury, a new blood-soaked Thirty Years religious war that should be left alone to play out its blood-letting destiny.  

And if that's the case, then surely we have come to the heart of darkness, a place where the only furious reaction left may be a cynical, savage Kurtzian snarl, "Exterminate all the brutes." Followed by a shrug. And a remembered appointment.  And a  quick slip out the door.

 The horror!  The horror!  



Alon Perlman said...

Nice and right and accurate. Amorphous invisible dispersing poison used to panic and distract the masses. Yep. Weapons of Mass distraction. Not enough credit goes to Dubyah Bush. I think Conrad identifies a pair of bunglers that precede Kurtz on the river.
A bit to late to discover the fallacy, Kubrick's other colonel: "Inside every rag-head, is an American trying to get out." Oddly that one did come true for modern Vietnam.
But why stop at thirty, there was a hundred years war that pales in comparison with the convoluted history of internal Arab strife, pre and post Ottoman empire. Even I get it wrong sometimes (Al Kaida attacking the shiites, oh right, they are Suny) and I had a Hafez El Assad canon shell pass over my head on it's way to a lake resort. Bashar would had been about four years old.
Www Www

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

What a mess. Hard to drag an undereducated part of the world into the 21st century where our wars and war toys are so much more intelligent. To wit, warheads by the ton buried and crumbling in distant prairies. But hey, when we have allies and oil to protect....actual people, like in Rwanda and Somalia, not so much.

Anyway, my NY Times news alert said that Boehner will support Obama.

Anonymous said...

Once again, America becomes the police of the world.

I would rather we develop nonpetroleum oils and fuels for our industries, our vehicles and pharmaceuticals.

It seems those middle eastern nations are intent on continuing to slaughter each other as they have since some of them crawled out of caves. So let them continue. I do not believe that American boots won't land in the middle of that civil war. As much as chemical warfare is so abhorrent, so is every way we have devised to kill each other. Is it more or less humane to dump high explosives on a population?

Ask yourselves, have they or we declared war between Syria and the USA?

Alon Perlman said...

Actually that is the most delicious part. McCain et alia supporting the Mousliman foreign born POTUS.

You could just hear FOX news Strip a gear before popping the clutch and squealing out in the new direction, that still leads down to the same old river.

There is still hope in some quarters for a deep regime change in the messopotamia on the Potomac. Where the money is.

And as far as fighting wars for other nations, would that be the same France that gave Saddam Hussein an atomic reactor.
But in our times forgotten are the unintended but inevitable consequences of redefining terrorism in order to attack a dictatorship that had no remaining real cache of WMD's.

Waiting for Apocalypse Now Redux, director's cut, Ann.

bunchadogs said...

horror |ˈhôrər, ˈhär-|
1 an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust: children screamed in horror.
• a thing causing such a feeling: photographs showed the horror of the tragedy | the horrors of civil war.
• a literary or film genre concerned with arousing such feelings: [ as modifier ] : a horror movie.
• intense dismay: to her horror she found that a thief had stolen the machine.
• [ as exclamation ] (horrors) chiefly humorous used to express dismay: horrors, two buttons were missing!
• [ in sing. ] intense dislike: many have a horror of consulting a dictionary.
• (the horrors) an attack of extreme nervousness or anxiety: the mere thought of it gives me the horrors.

I felt an intense feeling of shock and disgust. I felt horror.

but as far as the remedies, I have a feeling we're up shit creek. we darned if we do, or if we don't.

Billy Dunne said...

Jason Linkins over at Huffpost calls it the “Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves.” That just about sums it up perfectly.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually to those who have "done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” I envision Obama’s medal tossed in the junk drawer with the stray paper clips, old coupons, broken pencils and rubber bands.

Tough time to be an ideologue. Between the NSA and now Syria, a lot of beds are being shared by a lot of odd bedmates.

Indeed Lynette. Where was the outrage-inspired action taken in Somalia and Rwanda?

Obama/Biden/McCain will ram this through Congress. Then the missiles will fall, and perhaps (or perhaps not), we will all feel good about ourselves.

bunchadogs said...

I agree with lynette, too. where were we re: rwanda and somalia and other african countries who have suffered from mass slaughter???

oops! no profit.

I still believe that this is a no win situation.

we can all criticize, but what are the suggestions for the answers.

Sandra Gore said...

I've had very mixed feelings and thoughts about Syria. The war is an extremely complex mix of interests which I have followed quite closely.
In the end, my heart can't abide the slaughter.

Churadogs said...

Buncha dogs asks ". . what are the suggestions for the answers."

I wish I knew.

and Sandra, yes, the heart is sickened, the brain sees no-win.


Jill'sjots said...

Silence from the religious, political and tribal leaders. It's easy to express outrage except when it's in your own backyard and you are fearful of a backlash. Remember the Pentagon's description of civilian casualties,"collateral damage"?

Churadogs said...

Jill, Yes, right now, the "middle east" is one big collateral damage" with everyone's ox getting gored. Awful.