The Long View 2005-11-30: Won Wars; Lost Films & Doctrines

Here is a prediction that did not pan out:

There is also this: Post-911 veterans are not Vietnam veterans. Their numbers are smaller, of course, but they are already an admired and self-confident minority. They will transform the military and, one suspects, domestic politics.

At this point, it seems that veterans of America's imperial wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other shitholes are mostly ignored, both by politicians and the wider public, unless some issue forces them into the public eye.

Won Wars; Lost Films & Doctrines

It was as if someone threw a switch. Two weeks ago, if you were following the media, it seemed as if the only remaining question about the Iraq War was whether the US had the lift capacity to evacuate the bleeding remnants of its army from Iraq before they were all massacred. Then (I think it was last Friday) I heard Mark Shields on the PBS New Hour remark soberly that of course there are serious people on both sides of the withdrawal question. Today, I see this from Glenn Reynolds:

Funny, but not long after Rep. Murtha's outburst on the war, we're seeing a bipartisan consensus that a cut-and-run approach would be disastrous.

Murtha's six-month withdrawal resolution jumped the shark. If the Democratic leadership used him as a stalking horse on the matter, then they did the old man a grave disservice.

From what I can tell, it really does seem to be the case that opinion on the ground in Iraq has it that the war is going well both militarily and politically. The question has become how the war will be perceived in retrospect. Security Watchtower recently quoted itself from July:

"It will be interesting to analyze the media's reaction to any U.S. troop withdrawals that might occur in Iraq over the next 12 to 18 months. With the Iraqi Constitution being finalized and another election in December, the subject of bringing American soldiers home will remain a prominent topic of conversation for some time. There is a segment of the media that will attempt to portray any troops withdrawals as a desperate, defeated and humbled superpower that blundered through one mistake after another and managed to eject when they realized the effort could not be won. Get use to seeing alot more of this 'history' over the next year or two."

There was quite a lot of this revisionism in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War. It became a matter of dogma that the Reagan Administration had either had no effect of the liquidation of the Soviet Block or had actually retarded the process. The arms-control industry continued to insist that Reagan's Star Wars proposal was a blunder, no matter how many former Soviet officials attended post-Cold War conferences in the West and said that of course Star Wars was a major factor in their decision to end the arms race.

Something similar happened after the First Gulf War, largely for the purpose of diminishing the senior George Bush's reelection campaign in 1992. That conflict really was one of the great conventional victories of modern times, but by the beginning of 1992 there was a flood of articles explaining why it wasn't.

After the Vietnam War, there turned out to be little political advantage in denigrating the military. On the other hand, some people tried to argue that the US had really won, but had been stabbed in the back: that did not fly either. After the US largely disengages from Iraq, politicians will find that attempts to disparage the outcome or the rationale for the war will be ill-received. With whatever justice, Iraq is going to get the credit for defeating the Jihad.

There is also this: Post-911 veterans are not Vietnam veterans. Their numbers are smaller, of course, but they are already an admired and self-confident minority. They will transform the military and, one suspects, domestic politics.

* * *

George Bush is not a stupid man, but there is reason to believe he may be ineducable. You would think that the rout of his Social Security proposals would teach him to forget about his libertarian schemes. But no: Look:

President Bush vowed today [Nov. 28] to step up enforcement of U.S. immigration laws on America's borders and inside the country, but he said this could not be done without also creating a new "temporary worker program" that would allow illegal immigrants to live and work in the United States for a defined period.

Sometimes commenting on the Bush Administration is like repeating the Dead Parrot Sketch. The Guest Worker Program is not pining for the fjords. It's dead. Deceased. Statements to the effect that this idea has any chance at all are inoperative.

I object to more than the waste of time. Like the Harriet Myers nomination, this proposal alienates the president's base. He needs the base in order to work with Congress. He needs to work with Congress in order to win the Terror War. That's what he was reelected to do.

* * *

My local video store recently closed, so I dropped by during the going-out-of-business sale to see if there were any DVDs I might want at a low price. And indeed I found one of the most famous obscure movies of all time: Incubus

It's a low-budget horror film, made in 1965. You can find details here, but there are three reasons it attracts attention:

(2) It is the only major film ever made in Esperanto. (The DVD has French and English subtitles.) Esperanto sounds like Italian. In this film, it sometimes sounds like Italian spoken by American tourists. Not Shatner, though: he clearly worked hard.

(3) There is a Curse of Incubus.

Most horror movies are provided with suitable "curses" by their publicity departments. Incubus's misfortune was genuine, however. All copies of the film and all materials relating to it were lost soon after the film went into release. It was only in the 1990s that a single print was discovered, in France, where a movie house showed it weekly like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The SciFi channel subsidized cleaning up the print and producing the DVD.

By the way: watching the film is like seeing a slightly extended episode of the old Outer Limits series because much the same people (Anthony Taylor, Leslie Stevens, and Conrad Hall) were involved with both the film and the series.

By another way: Esperanto is not an "artificial language." It is a "planned language."

* * *

Speaking of films, it has become headline news that C.S. Lewis did not want his Narnia stories turned into live films:

I am absolutely opposed – adamant isn’t in it! – to a TV version. Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare. At least, with photography. Cartoons (if only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius!) wld. be another matter. A human, pantomime, Aslan wld. be to me blasphemy.

I see the point, but the worry seems to have been misplaced. There is already a good BBC version.

* * *

Limbo also seems about to become inoperative:

The concept, which was devised in the 13th century and was depicted in numerous works of art during the Renaissance, such as Descent into Limbo by the painter Giotto, and in Dante's masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, is of a metaphysical space where infants are blissfully happy but are not actually in the presence of God...[A]n international commission of Catholic theologians, meeting in the Vatican this week, has been pondering the issue and is expected to advise Pope Benedict XVI to announce officially that the theological concept of limbo is incorrect.

The Catholic Church actually has little dogmatic to say about the afterlife. Limbo was the sort of speculation that occurs when people insist on asking questions on subjects about which there is little information.

Here is a point I have never seen addressed: was Limbo related to the notion of the Neutral Angels? We see them in Grail lore from roughly the same period.

Copyright © 2005 by John J. Reilly

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