Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Iraq as tragi-comedy

The situation in Iraq seems dramatic, verging on tragedy. Maybe. Yet, it is not clear that the
events of the last few days are so dramatic that they in any way foretell the heart of darkness that may come. Nothing is very clear and, let’s face it, it never has been, and probably will not be too much clearer six months from now. The easiest mode to slip into is to say that the battles of the last few days are proof that we will fail to bring to that unfortunate place something of the Americans’ more hopeful, and more comic, view of life. It is not shocking that the news reporters lean in the direction of tragedy. These are folks much prejudiced; their eyes are habituated to see what is not possible, the critical and sceptical view seems so smart and sophisticated. Statesmen act in the world, and the sceptic says, "You just watch, you will be beaten down, and your actions will go awry, and the consequences will be awful." The sceptic sees tragedy. The American statesman looks at chaos and sees that something may be done that may--given this and given that--bring some good. The greater the good at stake, the more interested he is in the act and the more reason he has to hope that much good will follow. When clear-eyed, this view is not strangely idealistic or utopian, it is essentially practical, but driven by an overwhelming sense of the possible of what human beings--yes, even Iraqis--may yet become. This American view is fundamentally comic. It is this view, in the end, that makes us go into the heart of darkness so that we may change it. It is this American disposition, this tendency toward sacrifice (and most certainly not empire, as the thoughtless Left understands it) in favor of the human condition as comic, as something with a happy and hopeful ending that Americans are willing to fight and die for. Things would be easy if they just fought for their own interest, for their own land, or for their own tribe.
Base and vicious war was made upon us, and we fight back so that it doesn’t happen again. But that’s not enough for these new men of the new world, they take the given horror, go to the cause of the anger and try to make the place that can affect its source into something approaching the comic, into something approaching the hopeful and the happy. I know that in the meantime much fighting, much diplomacy, and much shifting interests will take place and some of it, alas, will not be able to be controlled by even the wisest actors. It is possible that this fellow Sistani--a religious leader who is religiously followed by millions--may make the wrong decision and let slip the dogs of war and then tragedy will have arrived. But maybe not. Maybe, just maybe, he understands something of the politics of freedom, of duty, of hope. Just maybe he understands that life, even in Iraq, may yet be a comedy. Thus far, he has not called blood for blood; thus far, he has sat and thought and called for calm. It is possible that his sensibilities are fully human, and he may help write the future as comedy. It is easy for the reporters of human scepticism to remind those of us watching that politics is always tragic. That seems so true, and so simple. Yet, it is not always tragic. Not always.

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Wise and comic words from plump Jack, turning statesmanship into the happy art of the implausible.

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