vast majority of Americans wanted the war in Iraq.
They wanted it for the usual reasons: (1) it's
always fun to prove that you're the toughest guy
on the block by beating up weak people; (2) it's
easy to make weak people look strong briefly,
for public relations purposes; (3) wogs, having
no trees, are a suitable substitute for gooks,
who can inflict damage on us (e.g. North Korea)
and have in the past (North Vietnam); (4) Americans
were lied to by the President - a fact common
to every war this country has entered ever since
1812; (5) this nation is an empire, and has been
ever since 1803. (If you doubt this, compare Jefferson's
First Inaugural Address - pre-Louisiana Purchase
- with his Second Inaugural Address.)
strange irony is this: in their private affairs,
Americans have two over-riding slogans, both of
which are anti-war and anti-empire. Eight words
summarize the American philosophy of life.
and let live. Let's make a deal.
is why Americans are the world's greatest entrepreneurs.
Deal-searching is legitimate here - a way of life.
as soon as Americans think of themselves as members
of a nation in a world of nations, they experience
a Jekyll-Hyde transformation. They adopt rival
slogans. Eight words summarize American foreign
better than you. Do it our way.
war fever, Americans enthusiastically embrace
the second pair of slogans. But, within months
of the victory - or, in the case of Vietnam, the
defeat - Americans revert back to the former pair
of slogans. They think, "Well, that's over. Now
let's get back to normal."
Hyde-Jekyll transformation produces a reaction
against the Presidential Administration that fanned
the flames of war. Woodrow Wilson was abandoned
by the public in 1919. His party was abandoned
by voters in 1920. In 1946, the Republicans ran
the post-war, off-year election with the slogan,
"Had Enough?" and won back Congress. Nixon won
in 1968 because Johnson had surrendered the Presidency
the previous March, having been hammered by the
February Tet offensive. Ford was tossed out in
large part because he was on duty in 1975, when
the last helicopter left Saigon. Bush Sr. lost
the Presidency in 1992, having won a splendid
little war in Iraq.
the war begins, Americans sing "Over There." When
the war ends, they sing "She Got the Goldmine;
I Got the Shaft." And why not? They are told by
the Administration that they must pick up the
bills, not just for America's expenditures, but
for the losers' expenditures. This is Marshall
Plan Syndrome, and every President contracts it
immediately after the losers surrender. Peter
Sellers' movie, The Mouse That Roared, is the
model. (Vietnam was the exception: we lost.)
is time to make a brief assessment of the war
in Iraq. I call this list George W. Bush's no-no's.
weapons of mass destruction
No Osama bin Laden-Saddam Hussein connection
No Saddam Hussein
No Osama bin Laden
No oil revenues to pay us back
No welcoming committees with open arms
No end to the daily death toll
No troops home by Christmas - any Christmas
No end in sight to the rebuilding expenses
No payback to France and Germany
No victory parades
No winning general
this list add this:
let-up in Bush's victory speeches
keeps going on television to assure us that the
terrorists are upset with our success in Iraq.
But we aren't leaving, he assures us. So did Paul
Wolfowitz, immediately after the bombing of the
hotel where he was staying.
aren't leaving," says the Lone Ranger. "What you
mean 'we,' white man?" replies Tonto.
left, a broken man. Johnson left, a broken man.
Ford left. Bush Sr. left. All the rhetoric of
"we aren't leaving" fails on the day "we" have
an opportunity to get out by removing the rhetorical
hard-liners who refuse to get us out.
Hyde-Jekyll transformation is now in progress.
How the Democrats will be able to distance themselves
from the Jekyll-Hyde phase is a matter for the
poll-takers, focus group specialists, and spin-doctors
to sort out. The problem with playing, "we, too"
when war fever is running high is that, when the
fever has waned, card-carrying members of the
"we, too" brigade find it difficult to gain support
from the voters. That's why political outsiders,
who were not visible in the "we, too" phase, have
an advantage: Harding, a tenth-ballot dark horse,
in 1920 (he had not been a visible "player" during
World War I, and had opposed the League of Nations),
Nixon in 1968 (defeated by Pat Brown in 1962)
, Carter in 1976 (Georgia), and Clinton in 1992
(Arkansas). This is why Dean and Clark are the
has bet his political future on the war on terrorism.
There has not been a President in my lifetime
who is more obviously a one-trick pony, a Johnny
One-note. Bush briefly had the war on terrorism
going for him politically, but he has not won
it. At best, he has temporarily contained it geographically.
He verbally challenged the terrorists to kill
our troops: "Bring 'em on!" They are now bringing
it on, day after day, in Iraq.
media will not leave this alone. American blood
gets high ratings. "If it bleeds, it leads!" Night
after night, the body bag of the day will lead
the evening news. There is nothing that Bush can
do about this. Even with southern California burning
down, the lead story is still shed American blood
in Iraq. When the biggest brush fire in California's
history can't grab the lead, you know that the
media are not going to let loose of the body bags.
some point - I think we have just about reached
it - Bush's victory-is-certain speeches are going
to produce this reaction: "Why doesn't this guy
just shut up?" That reaction will be a prelude
to this one: "Why doesn't this guy just go away?"
has only one theme: his personal determination,
in our name, to stamp out terrorism, wherever
it is hiding, no matter what this costs us. He
has no other persona. Soon, it will be persona
Bush's speeches, every body bag is evidence that
America is winning the war on terrorism. But no
one is ever arrested for these attacks. No one
has been convicted in a court of law. Yet the
body bags keep getting flown home. "Taps" keeps
RETURN TO NORMALCY
G. Harding left as his legacy one word: normalcy.
The word appeared in a phrase: "a return to normalcy."
Maybe he meant "normality." Who knows? The word
"normalcy" has replaced "normality."
are content to let hundreds of men and three teenagers
rot in an American concentration camp on the island
of Cuba. These men are not in the news. They aren't
bleeding, so they aren't leading. Out of sight,
out of mind. (Or, as language translation software
would correctly translate this phrase: "blind,
crazy.") Cuba has now become a concentration camp
on both sides of the fence at Guantanamo Bay.
Iraq is something else again. It is in the news.
America's visible defeat, body bag by body bag,
is broadcast every night. Bush makes fewer and
fewer appearances on-screen. When he does, he
tells us that we are winning. When a person tells
us that he is winning when he is visibly losing,
we question his judgment. Substituting "we" for
"he" does not change our assessment.
can no longer go on TV and not sound like a man
suffering from cognitive dissonance. Hearing his
speeches is like reading a page in George Orwell's
Nineteen Eighty-Four: "Defeat is victory."
are practical people. They vote their pocketbooks.
The federal deficit is rising so fast that the
Republican Party's age-old slogan - "we must balance
the budget" - is now consigned to the dustbin
of history. I cannot imagine any Republican Presidential
candidate running on such a platform. Reagan's
huge deficits undermined this slogan. Bush's deficits
have terminated it. What will Republicans substitute
for this now-dead slogan? "The Democrats are worse"
doesn't have the same ring to it.
someone speaks in the name of the American people,
he had better avoid speaking obvious nonsense.
Non-obvious nonsense still has lots of constituencies,
but obvious nonsense is not part of the American
political tradition. Herbert Hoover could pretend
that the word "depression" was better for his
political future than "panic," but this did him
no good in 1932. The Republicans in 1930 could
proclaim that recovery was just around the corner,
but it did them no good after the 1930 Congressional
elections. When reality hits the American electorate's
pocket books, they do not tolerate nonsense. A
President's cognitive dissonance then becomes
a political liability.
want a return to normalcy. Normalcy for Americans
means this: "discount solutions to permanent problems."
Sweeping problems under the rug is normal. It
is politically acceptable. But the problems must
stay under the rug. Guantanamo is a perfectly
acceptable discount solution to 9/11 for most
Americans: no bleeding, no leading. Americans'
body bags in Iraq are not acceptable.
is unlikely that Bush can deliver normalcy. If
the Democrats can field a candidate along the
lines of Carter or Clinton - an unknown who was
out of the spotlight after 9/11 - it is unlikely
that Bush will be re-elected. Whether the Republican
majority in one or more houses of Congress will
retire along with him will be the big question
transformation from Hyde to Jekyll is now in progress.
Bush is America's Hyde persona. This fact is going
to produce cognitive dissonance. Seeing him on
TV, Americans will be reminded of their most recent
bout with the bottle: the Jekyll-Hyde bottle.
Like Rush Limbaugh, they are now in de-tox.
W. Bush's face is the face of Edward Hyde. I think
American swing voters will decide next year that
they want the kindly Dr. Jekyll back on the TV
screen, someone who will declare victory in Iraq
and then bring the troops home. No more victory-is-just-around-the-corner.
It's time for victory-is-behind-us. It won't be,
of course. There is no victory for empires. There
is only victory-is-just-around-the-corner. But
a declared victory, proved by the withdrawal of
American troops, will be acceptable nonsense,
just as Guantanamo as restitution for 9/11 is
acceptable nonsense. Any nonsense that can be
successfully swept under the rug is acceptable.
If you doubt me, think of Arnold Schwarzenegger,
holding a broom and promising to sweep away the
is truly the land of the rugs and the home of
the brooms. I think George W. Bush will learn
this lesson, just as his father learned it.
© 2003 LewRockwell.com
North is the author of Mises on Money. Visit http://www.freebooks.com.
November 2, 2003