Thursday, October 19, 2006

Conservative Geeks Play Fantasy Games With Real Lives

By now, you've probably heard about this bit of insanity from Rick Santorum--asserting that the US hasn't been hit with another terror attack since 9/11 because the US has been following a strategy derived from the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien:
"As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else," Santorum said, describing the tool the evil Lord Sauron used in search of the magical ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-earth.

"It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S.," Santorum continued. "You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."
I don't consider Santorum's statement insane because I disparage analogies to The Lord of the Rings. (Actually, I'm amazed and impressed whenever any American politician makes a semi-coherent reference to any book other than the Bible.) It's because the analogy exposes yet again both the fecklessness and the inhumanity of the Bush administration's so-called "flypaper strategy" in Iraq--"We're fighting the terrorists there so we don't have to fight them here."

First, the fecklessness. In LotR, while the armies led by Aragorn are assembling for a massive though doomed, even suicidal direct attack on the gates of Mordor, the hobbit Frodo and Sam are carrying the west's true hopes for survival on their backs by sneaking up Mount Doom in hopes of destroying the One Ring in its fires.

If this is Santorum's image of our strategy against Osama bin Laden, and if the attack on Mordor is the equivalent of the invasion of Iraq, my question is: What is the real-world counterpart of the mission of Frodo and Sam? Is there some kind of secret mission being undertaken by little hairy-footed CIA operatives that is going to decisively win the war on terror? If so, hasn't Santorum assisted the enemy by revealing it publicly?

And in any case, does it really make sense (in the real world, not the world of fantasy) to think that Osama would be so "distracted" by the war in Iraq that his "eye" would overlook a secret assault upon himself? Does anyone think, for example, that Osama has reduced his personal bodyguard because he is focused on the war in Iraq instead?

It's fun to imagine that the war on terror is some kind of sword-and-sorcery board game, but the analogy falls apart after about ten seconds' worth of scrutiny.

Then, the inhumanity. This has two parts. First, the inhumanity to our own troops. Santorum's analogy implies that our 130,000 soldiers in Iraq aren't serving any actual purpose. They're in the Middle East merely as a feint, to distract Osama from the real, hobbit-led assault (whatever and wherever this might be). Which means that all the talk about democracy-building, staying the course, etc. etc., is just a lot of phony propaganda. That's an interesting bit of information which the senator might want to share when he next meets with the families of servicemen and -women stationed in Iraq.

But this pales, in fact, next to the inhumanity to Iraq. Recently the blogosphere and the MSM have been debating whether the deaths due to our invasion can be pegged at 600,000 or at merely 200,000 to 300,000. But either way, what exactly gives us the right to pick a country and launch a war there--killing hundreds of thousands of civilians in the process--merely as a ploy, in order to distract an enemy from our real purposes elsewhere?

I find it deeply scary how unserious these people are--I mean the Bush administration and its supporters in Congress. You'd think that they would give a few minutes' genuine thought (not just role-playing) to decisions with life-or-death consequences for thousands of people, including not just Iraqis but their fellow Americans. So you'd think--but think again.

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