There was a quick comment in a discussion elsewhere that having concluded that there’s nothing really to discuss any more with defenders of the President’s Iraq policy, I now seem to have nothing to say about Iraq. E.g., that once I arrive at a more “militant” posture, I go silent about it.
Well, exactly. What would be the point of writing in this particular public space about an issue where I think the population at large has more or less coalesced into permanently polarized blocs and where those dwindling few left defending the war as it has been and is being fought are going to move the goalposts in any conversation in such as way as to defeat the point of conversation? There isn’t anybody left to convince, there isn’t anything deeper down to consider (which I don’t think is the case when it comes to various debates about academia).
This doesn’t mean that there is nothing at all left to say about Iraq anywhere by anybody. I leave questions of mobilization and motivation for the opposition to the war to those who are way better positioned in multiple ways than I am to focus on that.
I generally think I should leave factual or expert analysis of specific events in Iraq to those who are positioned for that. If I have an “expert” insight into the war, it comes through my knowledge of the comparative history of empires and imperialism, or the specific institutional history of “indirect rule” in the British Empire. I think I’ve played that angle a lot here, and while I’m not adverse to doing so again, it’ll take an appropriate opportunity–a news story, an event, a statement that I want to respond to.
I might occasionally have an expressable opinion about the strategies of the antiwar movement. For example, I still think it’s a mistake to place such priority on forcing a withdrawal now. I would rather that energy go into a process of investigating the planning and conduct of the war to date. That has to do with my sense of post-2008 political priorities are: I want to think about potential positive achievements that can reverse some of the misguided decisions of the last eight years. For example, I want a rollback of the claims made about executive power by the Bush Administration and a reinvestment in consultative governance both within and outside of the executive branch. I want a recommitment to transparency in governance. I want an embrace of the open society as an ideal. So I would rather focus on exposing the ways in which mistakes in those areas helped to cause both the war and the mismanagement of the war in order to set a post-2008 agenda. (And to continue to make clear where the buck stops on the war.) Since I think that whether we withdraw or not, Iraq is going to be a catastrophic problem for the very long term, I don’t see the upside to making that the center of antiwar activism, tactically or philosophically. That kind of thing is worth talking about because it’s still in motion, still in play, still worth thinking through in public.