Saturday, December 02, 2006

Peg Noonan Gets Off GWB's Bus

Aside from being a very gifted writer, Peggy Noonan also happens to be a thinker--along the lines of CSLewis, or Chesterton. "Big Picture," not inanity. That's why the last line of the speech she wrote for Ron Reagan (on the Challenger) was haunting....

"and touched the face of God."

Three feet, perfect rallentando. And of course, Ron could speak the line, well.

Noonan is still thinking big.

We were all concussed by 9/11 — we reeled — and came down where we came down. For the administration, extreme events prompted radical thinking. American exceptionalism was yesterday. They would be universalists, their operating style at once dreamy and aggressive: All men want the same thing, and we’re giving it to them whether they want it or not. Now the dreamers hope to be saved by men — James Baker, Vernon Jordan — they once dismissed as cynics. And the two truest statements on Iraq are, still, Colin Powell’s “You break it, you own it” and Pat Buchanan’s “A constitution doesn’t make a country, a country makes a constitution.” Iraq has a constitution but not a country. [Emphasis in the original.]

GetReligion blog makes a connection which has eluded the "stay there and fight until it's all better" crowd (which has yet, by the way, to define "better.")

This from Noonan's comments on GWB's second inaugural speech:

The president’s speech seemed rather heavenish. It was a God-drenched speech. This president, who has been accused of giving too much attention to religious imagery and religious thought, has not let the criticism enter him. God was invoked relentlessly. “The Author of Liberty.” “God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind . . . the longing of the soul.”

. . . Ending tyranny in the world? Well that’s an ambition, and if you’re going to have an ambition it might as well be a big one. But this declaration, which is not wrong by any means, seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing. Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn’t expect we’re going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it’s earth.

Then GetReligion makes the point:

Noonan wants to know if this born-again president takes the Fall seriously enough. Is his faith more along the lines of an old liberalism that assumed the world was getting better and better and better, as opposed to a rock-ribbed conservatism that has a dark view of sin and man?

Some might even say that GWB has The Wilsonian Disease.


Grim said...

Well, I thought "better" was defined as follows:

1) The Kurdish regions are secured from external (Iran & Turkey) threats, which requires an Iraqi Army capable of defending its borders from predation.

2) The Shi'ite split is resolved in favor of the ones more allied with us, rather than the ones tight in with Iran (Sadr and others).

3) The Sunni situation is resolved, by creating an Iraqi army capable of dealing with them. Then, they will either find a way to join the government and stop blowing things up, or... they won't, and can tell it to the IA. Either way, the problem will be resolved at that point.

You get there, you get a stable state that's more-or-less aligned with us (though it will have to consider neighbors' opinions, if we aren't to maintain a long-term presence).

Good enough? It is for me. The liberty-spreading project has always seemed to me like generational work, as in the post-Reconstruction American South. The important thing is to tie Iraq into the wider world of free states, so that the virus of economic and political liberty can spread slowly.

It took the South, my South, a hundred years, and may take that long in Iraq. But by 1878 the killing was largely over. That's thirteen years after the end of 'major combat operations,' and we're only three years on. Yet it could well be worth it, just as none of us would say today that Reconstruction was a mistake.

Anonymous said...

grim, hopefully our policy leaders have a better grasp of the situation than you, no offense.

1) Turkey is threatened by the Kurds, not vice versa. In the great Kurdistan vision, a small piece of Turkey is lost. This was the reason why the three country break up was not considered, Turkey would have been openly hostile to it.
b) The Shites do not need defense from Iran, they would gladly invite Iran to manage affairs.
2) You do realize you are speaking in a euphemism. Resolving the 'split' means taking sides in the present civil war. Provisional alliances are just that, provisional.
3) An Iraqi army is not extrinsic to the population from whence it comes. Besides, the Iraqi army is quite capable. That army just isn't the one we've uniformed. It is the one conducting the civil war.

BTW, this stable state that is more-or-less aligned with us, would you mind informing us where this alignment lies? IOW, what does a stable, free, yadda, yadda Iraq have to offer us and more importantly what do we have to offer a ... Iraq? Iraq can sell oil to whoever they want. Sure, we can offer them aid and what not, but we could do that under Saddam. I'm just curious where you see this massive alignment of interests.

And your example of the South is very telling. There, both the South and the North had a mutual interest in reconciliation due to economic interests alone.

Dad29 said...

It's not likely that Kurdistan will ever sit down and shut up, any more than Muslims in Croatia. From time to time, maybe...a period of re-arming...

If you want a Shi'ite-dominated gummint, you will get Iraninan influence, if not control. There's no reason to believe that those of the"some Shi'a's who like us" is a majority, or even a sizeable minority.

The North and the South had a small difference from the Iraq situation: the South was virtually supine from lack of manpower, money, and willpower. Overseas allies of the South were no longer willing to defy/cross the North.

I don't think ANY of that applies to the Iraq situation.

David said...

I still do not understand why anyone gives Peggy credit for the "surly bond/ face of God" lines. They are from a WWII poem by a British pilot.

High Flight
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Gillespie Magee

Dad29 said...

Thanks! Good stuff!

I don't think Peggy wants credit for what's obviously someone else's work--and most likely would make it clear that she used the line (albeit in slightly different form) as a mnemonic of the original poem.

That's what good speechwriters do (inter alia)--snatch good lines which remind us of others that are also pertinent.

One supposes that if it'd been a nuke sub that went down, there'd be a "wine-dark sea" reference in there.

Grim said...

No offense taken. I wouldn't mind to hear I was ignorant, if someone had information to offer that I hadn't heard. That wouldn't be the case here, of course.

1) Kurdistan certainly is threatened by Turkey, precisely because Turkey is threatened by the Kurds. If you don't get that, you've not met many Turks. In your (b) here, you fail to note that I was talking about the Kurds, not the Shi'ites, in this point. The Kurds have reasons not to wish Iran to meddle in their affairs, to whit, they wish -- and deserve -- independence.

2) Of course I realize I am speaking of taking sides in what you choose to call a civil war. I'd say it was supporting the elected government against terrorists, but you can have you euphamism if you want it.

3) "Not extrinsic," you say. Fancy words, son. What you mean is that the IA is drawn from the people of Iraq, and so it is. Mostly, though, from Kurds and Shi'ites, who have no reason to love the Ba'athist-supporting Sunnis.

What I'm really saying here is that there is going to be at least ethnic cleansing, and perhaps genocide, in Iraq. The IA is going to lead it, and we've given them both the tools and the training.

What a stable Iraq has to offer us is the perception of victory. That's worth something -- quite a bit, given then encouragement al Qaeda drew from the perception of defeat in Somalia. What we have to offer its government is survival, in a very personal way.

If it proves we can't have that, of course, there are other options. We have less to lose from pure, true chaos in Iraq than either Iran or Syria. And we are in a good position to further chaos, should it come to that.