honorary Hose Monster:
I find myself ruminating on Iraq and what the hell we're currently doing with regard to the volatile politics growing from that situation. The whole thing seems so nebulous and amorphous sometimes that I really don't know where to plant my feet as far as writing something coherent that actually switches from topic to topic without feeling saturated with unclarity. I could go on and on about how I find myself simultaneously loathing and praising George W. Bush, how the political response to proposed military action has really pissed me off, how I have some serious misgivings about storming into Babylon with Patriot missiles and gas masks, and I could sit here and belittle myself for my inability to figure out where I stand on what we should do.
So I will just start somewhere, and we'll see where I finally end up. What a plan...
The people who have formed an outspoken opposition to the war have succeeded in really pissing me off. I don't know if I agree with them or not, and I don't find my anger formenting because of their opinion on the matter, but rather because of their persistence in assuming that they are, without question, correct on the matter.
We have an email mailing list at school, which I assumed originally started as a way of disseminating information to our entire Cornfield College of Law community with speed and ease. The mailing list has however become a platform for everyone to send out Internet links to liberal media stories overtly showing politcal displeasure to the war. People then feel the need to weigh in on the matter, expressing their reasons why they are for or against the proposed military action in Iraq. Aside from the fact that I really couldn't care any less about what these people think and get really annoyed that my inbox fills up with crap every day, I grow angry with the way people go about the email debate. Messages flat out insult people for holding the opinions they do; debators call other students "ignorant" and say things like "you clearly must know what it feels like..." or some other yarn that makes no effort at even basic decorum. These are mature people, law students, sending these emails -- people who, I should like to hope, would never talk to someone face to face in such an insulting manner as the way they do in email. I flatly do not understand how these people think that it is permissible, let alone intelligent, to debate by insult, especially in an institutional setting based on adversarial but respectful disagreement. For no other reason, I am extremely tempted to unsubscribe from the mailing list, but I do like receiving the announcements for everything else going on. Goddamn people.
The email debate pisses me off so much because of the way everyone absolutely insists on responding to the situation emotionally, therefore depriving themselves of the ability to see and consider both sides of the issues, rather than just pay them lip service in an effort to sound more credible. I feel that these people need a little education in common sense. I don't know if I have any reason to think I can provide them, but because I'm ranting, I'll try anyway.
Political issues are "issues" that foster disagreement preceisely because they are situations almost entirely void of what we could legitimately call a "right" answer. We're not in a situation like December 8, 1941 or September 12, 2001, where the climate of the country has rolled in large part to a response that seems more or less "right" to a large majority of the population. Political situations like that of Iraq, or for that matter gays in the military or the legality of abortion, develop because everyone has a different moral perception of what is ultimately right and wrong, what is advisable and what is deserving of contempt, what is commendable and what is reprehensible. This proliferation of ideologies and moral stance-taking absolutely precludes any possibility of an "objectively" right answer. Everything is but opinion. I know I provide no revelation here; one look around and two moments of common-sense thinking would lead most of us to the same conclusion.
However, what many of these people, who might even accept the total absence of an objectively "right" answer, seem to neglect to understand, at least in my estimation, is that when you have no strong ground on which to hang your hat, or when you have a strong basis for opinion and when the opposition has legitimate ground for their position, that you end up looking completely foolish when you take an emotional and self-justifying course of response. When both sides have good reason to feel the way they feel, don't both sides have a responsibility to think critically about the situation, listen to other positions, and ultimately find a way to rationalize their opinion by simply understanding that they simply see one side of the situation more clearly than the other? What frustrates me to no end is that this does not happen.
I cannot say this clearly enough: On divisive situations, you are not going to convince me by screaming at me and clinging to your moral haughtiness and superiority. You're not going to convince me with your derisive rhetoric slandering those who simply see things differently than you.
You would have much more success with me if you simply conceded that you see the grounds for disagreement and simply felt the way you do because of your beliefs. Much more success.
Not that you're going to convince me anyway. One thing that has really pissed me off over the last few weeks is the insistence of a couple people I know and their insistence on sending me emails supporting their side and insulting people who hold different opinions. Honestly, read HM a little more: not to blow sunshine up my ass too much or anything, but I am an intelligent person adamant about forming my own opinions. I don't need your help most of the time, and if I do, I'll kindly ask for it. I'm not stupid enough to think I can form such opinions on my own, and yes I do need to do some investigating before I feel confident on my decision, but I also don't want your one-sided attempts to color my opinion just so you can feel happy with the fact that I agree with you. I can take care of myself, thanks very much.
Ironically, having said all that, I still don't have an opinion on Iraq as to what I personally feel is the "right" course of action in Iraq. I have valid reasons for feeling the way I do.
Saddam is a bastard and he needs to go. W seems to love asserting that a world with Saddam is a dangerous world. I have to tell you, I don't feel threatened by Saddam Hussein. I may shock a lot here as well, but I don't feel particularly threatened by Al Qaeda either, by terrorism in general, anthrax in the mail or anything else you want to throw at me. Maybe because I am relatively unafraid of my own death or because I refuse to go about my days feeling worried about something beyond my control (my life is a microcosm and I will not be distracted by the macro, even as I understand their importance and take an interest in their results). As far as I am concerned, until Saddam attacks this nation, an ally of this nation or a vital interest, I don't feel that I or anyone else is in great danger. Same goes with Osama or anyone else. On the other hand, Saddam is the worst kind of leader when it comes to his own people. He's gassed them, he's killed them, he's effectively deprived them of any chance at a remotely decent life. That weighs heavily on my mind.
And as much as others will avoid this side of the argument, I find a viable economic interest in going into Iraq for the oil. It's no change from the past seventy years of international relations. I don't have a problem saying that maybe opening new sources of inexpensive resources which we need is a decent reason. No blood for oil? Tell me if you still feel that way when it costs you over $2/gallon to fill up your SUV. Oh wait, everyone seems to be bitching about that right now. But yeah, there's no connection to oil availability and that...
On the other hand, I have serious misgivings about becoming the agressor nation. I don't for one minute buy Bush's rhetoric that we are "defending" freedom by attacking Iraq. This nation arguably never been the initial agressor, and I feel that we have a somewhat strong justification for taking such a prevalent international role. I think we've built this right upon a basis that we're not out to conquer or dominate, but to pursue or interests through legitimate means and to protect the interests of others, with force when necessary. We eschew this tradition to "defend" freedom by attacking, and I think the credibility of the United States diminishes substantially.
I could elaborate on a bunch of minor reasons why I understand why we should or should not go into Iraq flexing the might of the military, but that would contradict what I've written above. Whatever I would expound upon would be my personal opinion on a situation without a right answer, and I think I would undertake a relatively pointless exercise. Moreover, I'm not out here to convince anyone, so I think I'll just take a break. Please do me the same courtesy and refrain from emotionally trying to convince me of your opinion. If you want to talk about it and elucidate the trap doors in it, then be my guest. That's the sort of thing I always hope to find.