Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Very Loyal Dissent

Derbyshire, a fellow curmudgeon, takes on the Ollie Optimist (enthusiast) Club.

Every age has its characteristic follies, and those follies have their correctives. The folly of the present age in America is a facile, infantile optimism, that recognizes no limits to human abilities or the wonders that can be wrought by politicians, bureaucrats, and generals. The corrective is a firm, measured pessimism.

The natural home of that fool's optimism in this age is the political Left, so the corrective must come from the Right.

...We must revive the fine tradition of conservative pessimism. In this age, optimism is for children and fools. And liberals.

Some children will be left behind. You cannot "remake the Middle East" or "defeat evil." The poor will always be with us. Black and white will never mingle together in unselfconscious harmony. Corporations will not research and explore without hope of profit. Russia will not become Sweden. Forty million immigrants speaking a single language will not assimilate.

Conservatives used to know all this.

Some — the infallibly sapient Roger Kimball, for example — still do

Others--some who call themselves "conservative"--betray their liberalism, or more accurately, they simply deny Original Sin.

HT: Vox


Other Side said...

I don't know, daddio. It's hard to feel good about anything these days because of what conservatives have wrought.

A little childish optimism would be a pleasant change from the joyless eight years we've suffered through.

Still, we'll welcome your loyal dissent.

Grim said...

As Chesterton put it so well, there are problems with both optimism and pessimism as methodology. 'The problem with the pessimist is that he holds something back -- he says 'I am sorry to say we are ruined' when he is not sorry at all.''

Derbyshire -- whom I admire greatly -- doesn't want us to be deeply involved in the Middle East, and so his "pessimism" is really an advocation of what he wants anyway. 'I am sorry to say we cannot remake the Middle East' is not quite right; he is not sorry.

It is important to calculate a middle-course between the two options of optimism and pessimism. We can't remake the Middle East -- the Israel/Palestine issue is not solvable in any way that will be acceptable to us. But that is not to say that we can't remake part of the Middle East: my experience in Iraq convinces me firmly that we are creating something far better than they have ever known before, and something that will be very powerful in the long term.

Can we do it again? Probably not. Do we need to, or will it have an effect on the Middle East like Hong Kong has had on China -- something they strain to contain, but cannot quite?

That's not optimism; it's not pessimism. We did something, though, that many thought could not be done -- I heard many say it could never be done, and others say the mission had failed. Yet it did not fail, and it was possible.

Someday, not only the Iraqis but our own children will honor what we did there.

Dad29 said...

With great appreciation for your service in the sandbox (and for that of a number of family friends in the same place...) it is yet to be determined what will stand there, and what will fall.

Certainly, taking out SH was a good thing, as was taking out the Al-Q and the conversion of the Sunnis.

Leaving a nascent infrastructure of civil government is a great thing.

But we're a few years from "closing the book."

We ALL hope that the legacy will persevere!

Other Side said...

Do we need to, or will it have an effect on the Middle East like Hong Kong has had on China -- something they strain to contain, but cannot quite?

That's a stretch to think Iraq may play the Hong Kong effect in the Middle East. That's not optimism (nor pessimism) -- it's arrogance. I'm sure the Russkies think their presence in Georgia is benevolent, too.

Dad29 said...

Umnnnhhhh...OS, first off, the US presence IS benevolent. To argue otherwise is to argue that the US entered Iraq to do evil.

Next: it's not arrogant, if it works.

Grim said...

I agree that the book isn't closed, and bad decisions could still cost Iraq the future I envision it enjoying. (My respects, also, to your friends and family.) Nevertheless, I have some faith that we'll get there.

The COIN strategy we're using is based on investment in good governance. I was talking to BG Buchanan, who is the DCG(O) for 10th MTN DIV. They now control MND-C, where I was a civilian advisor to 3ID last year and the early part of this year (as you recall, I imagine).

A year ago, we were hoping that we'd be able to transition to 51/49 capacity-building/kinetic operations in our AO by January 2008. We barely made it, but we made it.

There were still some heavy kinetics in the early part of this year, though. But about March, we ran our first operation where the Iraqi forces were in the lead. They'd already been providing the majority of troops on the ground, but now they were taking control of the operations, with us there to help and provide fire support.

Now, according to BG Buchanan, MND-C is fully in "by, through and with" mode -- which means the Iraqis are doing everything, and we're working on developing their professionalism as a force. COL James, who runs one of MND-C's brigade combat teams (4/3) says they haven't had an attack since I left at the end of March (good timing! But that was the last hurrah of the Sadrist breakaway fighters).

As long as we don't rush out the door, but have the patience to finish, I think it will work. And Iraq will become a rich nation: not just because of the oil, but also because of the agriculture. The Mesopotamia area have immense potential, and thanks to the agriculture coops we founded, the factories we refurbished, the tractors being built in those factories, and so forth, for the first time they'll be able to have capitalized agriculture.

Iraq also has a tremendous cultural influence, by the way, on Iran: the Shiite holy cities are chiefly Najaf and Karbala. So, no, I don't think Hong Kong is too strong a metaphor. If it works, it will be extremely important to the region. I have every reason to believe it will work.