Sunday, February 04, 2007

Impressionist Terror

Propaganda.  It’s all the conservatives think about, and how they think the world works.  It’s not about doing things.  It’s about giving the impression of doing things.  It’s not about being tough.  It’s about looking tough.  It’s not about reality.  It’s about what people think of reality.  And that’s just bull dooky.

I was reminded of this while reading this from Bill Kristol:
Look, if I were a Sunni extremist and was worried, which I would be, about a doubling of U.S. forces in Baghdad, what would I do? I would try to convey an impression of chaos. I would get the biggest truck bomb possible and drive it into a market in a Shiite area. If that’s going to drive us out of Iraq, that’s just ridiculous.

That’s right.  They’re going to kill lots of innocent people, just to convey an impression.  He goes on to suggest that we shouldn’t leave Iraq because it would “send a message” to ruthless terrorists worldwide that we’ll run away if attacked.  Because that’s what it’s all about.  It’s not about human lives being lost.  It’s not about grand strategy.  It’s about impressions and messages.  And nothing is more impressive than standing your ground when you’re in a bad situation that keeps getting worse.

But if there’s a message coming from the Iraqi terrorists, it’s not that they’re desperate.  It’s that they can blow-up anything they want and we can’t stop them.  That’s the message being sent.  And that’s not one of desperation but of strength.  That’s what terrorism is all about.  It’s not about killing people.  It’s about scaring people with a reminder of strength.  To remind their enemies that the terrorists have the ability to hurt them whenever they want.  And the purpose is to force a stronger enemy to negotiate or compromise with the weaker enemy.

And in reality, they’re not trying to send a message at all.  As Juan Cole suggests, they’re just trying to make the Shiites furious and create more chaos in Iraq.  As things stand, the Sunnis obviously lose on a level playing field (though it didn’t have to be that way); and so the Sunnis want to make things unlevel.  But that’s not an impression they’re giving for our sake.  It’s to make their plans into reality.

And I’m sure Kristol knows all this, as he can’t be nearly as dumb as the people he’s trying to fool.  And if we take his idea of impressions and messages seriously, then we’d automatically know that Kristol has to say these things because he doesn’t want to give the wrong impression.  He knows reality isn’t working so well for him, and so he’s just trying to send a message that he’s not scared and won’t back down.  But he’s already told us how important it is to deny reality, so there’s no reason we should take him seriously.  And so his real message can be taken that he’s scared and full of shit.  And that’s the exact message that we’re receiving.  

And that brings me to one of the few things I don’t understand: If someone continues to insist that propaganda is more important than reality, why does anyone listen to them?  They’re already admitting that they’re liars, and that it would be unpatriotic and stupid to say the truth.  What else needs to be said?

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