Monday, July 18, 2005

Mission Accomplished

10603fOne of the great things about my current research project — an ever-lengthening essay about neoconservative foreign policy discourse and cold war historical memory — is that I get to read virtually everything that Richard Perle has ever written for public ingestion. Beginning with An End To Evil, the book he co-authored with the ex-Canadian David Frum, we can twirl a dead cat through the entire corpus of Perle's work without striking more than a handful of credible predictions about the future; even more striking, however, is Perle's consistent inability to judge the consequences of events that have just transpired. Certainly, one could make the same argument about any number of wartime observers, especially those who aim to reach a popular audience (as is the case with Perle, whose well documented enthusiasms for the finer things in life requires him to seek the coin of the realm as vigorously as possible). With Perle, however, we have a case in which the punditry and the policy were institutionally linked, a fact that only partially explains why the rhetorical preferences of the Bush administration are usually indistinguishable from the latest editorial in The Weekly Standard.

Today's sample of ungrounded dullardry comes from the May 2, 2003 issue of USA Today, in which Perle bears witness to the 15-second span of time in which the Iraq war could be described in the past tense:

From start to finish, President Bush has led the United States and its coalition partners to the most important military victory since World War II. And like the allied victory over the axis powers, the liberation of Iraq is more than the end of a brutal dictatorship: It is the foundation for a decent, humane government that will represent all the people of Iraq.

This was a war worth fighting. It ended quickly with few civilian casualties and with little damage to Iraq's cities, towns or infrastructure. It ended without the Arab world rising up against us, as the war's critics feared, without the wuagmire they predicted, and without the heavy losses in house-to-house fighting they warned us to expect. It was conducted with immense skill and selfless courage by men and women who will remain until Iraqis are safe, and who will return home as heroes. . . .

Iraqis are freer today and we are safer. Relax and enjoy it.

One cannot and should not try to refute any of this on its own merits, as the eventual consequence will be the refutation of language itself.