politics

War As Ridicule — The Futility of Military Means

War was always ridiculous. And naturally ridicule has always been a part of war. To ridicule is to make fun of, to taunt or deride — to make look foolish.

Ultimately one could argue that at least some wars are won or lost according to the relative ridiculousness of the opponents.

For example, the Romans are said to have made quick work of the Druids in the dawn of the present era. The Romans were somewhat less ridiculous than their enemy. The Druids had a penchant for human sacrifice and some even say cannibalism.

Hitler was inherently ridiculous as Walt Disney, among others, understood.

I suppose our own Revolution was close to even. It may not be possible to conduct a civil war with ridicule alone.

But there is a reasonable argument today that the war on terror — so called — is better be conducted by ridicule than by throwing young men and women into harms way.

In the war on terror, the very worst features of religion, tribalism and ethnic prejudice are at work. There is no compunction about killing someone merely because he or she may be Jewish. On the streets of New York I defy anyone to pick a Jew out of a crowd. Save for those in orthodox garb, there is no way of knowing.

But say someone is a Jew and terror will have no conscience at all about killing that someone as a heretic and an infidel, regardless whether that person is a dove or a hawk, a humanitarian or a disciple of Ayn Rand. Substitute Arab for Jew and the same logic holds.

In a situation where the very basis of war is a hatred of infidels and and heretics, the most salient weapon is ridicule.

At bottom one needs to say that the system of values that sees the world in terms of true believers and infidels is flat out ridiculous. Unworthy or respect. Laughable. Idiotic. Diss-able.

I believe the war on teror is unwinnable by military means. There is too much baggage around assault and presence and occupation, not to mention the logic of infidel-skewering, to make a military presence palatable to a local population. Every military “success” is a slap in the face. Every failure a disaster for someone. Military efforts to defeat terrorism are ultimately counter-productive.

Better President Obama lecture the world — as he has done — on the ridiculousness of the hate that gives rise to suicide bombing, roadside bombing, ambushing and all other appurtenances of terrorist effort.

We have the capacity to respond to the physical reality of a terror attack. Bush could have done so after 9/11 by simply blanketing the area that held Al Qaeda with tear gas and waiting at the mouths of the caves. Instead the scion of a wealthy Saudi family was left to thumb his nose year after year. It cannot be said that Osama does not know the virtues of ridicule. He has used it to win the sympathies of millions.

We are entering a very tough situation now because all of the wingnut enemies of Obama will seize on difficult economic news to hurt his domestic agenda and encourage his misguided military ventures abroad. At some time, the bank may break for real and all those who have been aching for a showdown will force the nation to act in ways that will not be pretty.

The choice for the President lies in gently folding up our military tent and seeing that Fortress America does not mean isolationism, but cogent engagement with the world as it is.

Our enemies are the proponents of a ridiculous idea which needs to be demolished to the point that it becomes difficult for any child to sit in a fundamentalist school imbibing the logic of terror. Whether across the world or right here in the good old US of A.

We need to get out own house in order. We have ridiculous ideas all around us. Many of them are based on superstition, hatred, rumor and innuendo.

I see the President as a stalwart defender of law and reason and enlightened religion, if it is possible to speak of any religion as enlightened. I see him using his bully pulpit to talk us down from a war we do not want (and he does not need) and talk us up to an effort to put silly ideas to bed with the simple and devastating weapon of ridicule.

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