Sunday, November 20, 2005

More Packer and Assassin's Gate

I finished the Assassin's Gate and definitely recommend it. If you are pressed for time, read the Memorial day chapter which details with a dead soldier's father's attempt to untangle his complex feelings about the war and his son's death. You don't get the usual right v. left blather, but a normal person's attempt to understand.

Packer nicely elucidates why so much of today's political commentary is without value. It's worth quoting

The one slender American novel the war has produced so far, Checkpoint by Nicholson Baker, a dialogue over lunch in a Washington hotel room between two old friends, one of whom is preparing to assassinate George W Bush, was a perfect emblem of a political culture in which hysteria took the place of thought. Baker's novel had nothing to do with Iraq and everything to do with the ugliness of politics in this country.... Iraq provided a blank screen on which Americans were free to project anything they wanted and because so few Americans had anything directly at stake there, many of them never saw more than the image of their own feelings.

I avoid so many books and articles on the war for this reason. Do you really think the Nation or the Weekly Standard are going to surprise you with a nuanced look at the war?

He goes on to criticize the right and left's knee jerk talking points response to each news item, which prevents any meaningful discussion of the war. Bush and the new conservatives denigration of public service comes into play as well. Because public service and public life are so poorly thought of in modern conservative thought (outside of the national greatness conservatives of course) Bush could hardly call upon the American people to do any more than shop. Judging by conversations in Washington this weekend, the lack of sacrifice by the broader public is bitter consolation for the soldiers in Iraq. The yellow ribbon sticker on the cars just doesn't cut it.

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