Back to Normal
This article in the Weekly Standard (hat tip DD) describing the rehabilitation for former insurgents and how they are being redeployed as relatively functional persons is one more suggestion that politics is moving into the "post Iraq war" era. I use the phrase advisedly because combat in that country is likely to continue for some time. But as the diplomatic crisis between Iraq and Turkey over the Kurdish secessionists emphasizes, it is starting to become just another normal messed up Middle Eastern country with this crucial difference: it has gone through occupation, an abortive civil war and an ideological revolution all in about four years time.
The process of moving from the height of crisis into relative normalcy is an interesting one. Roger Simon predicts "the US will win the War in Iraq, and Hillary Clinton will be elected our next President" which in some way reflects the expectation of a kind of American "normalization" too. It would be ironic but not entirely surprising if Hillary Clinton's victory was facilitated by voters feeling they could live with her now that there was nothing left for her to mess up any more. That might not be true yet people might think that.
George H. Bush lost to Bill Clinton after winning Desert Storm and Winston Churchill to Clement Atlee two months after the surrender of Nazi Germany. Sometimes people react to the end of a crisis with a nostalgic yearning for their old messed-up lives. The crisis of course, never truly passes. It just changes form. Who could have guessed that Desert Storm itself would provide a pretext for Osama Bin Laden to launch his Jihad upon America. Britain in 1945 threw itself into itself into the "postwar consensus" which established the welfare state and liquidated the Empire. They were going to build a "land fit for heroes" only to become the economic basket case of Europe. But that was tomorrow's trouble then and no one wanted -- no one could have -- imagined a James Callaghan or his cure: Margaret Thatcher.
If history holds any lesson it is that it never truly stops. But people want it to seem so, at least for a while. Classical Values thinks the public is suffering from information fatigue. It's the weariness of sustained effort. That leaves an opening which a canny politician can exploit. And while it's probably impossible to build a political platform entirely on the prospect of mellowing out maybe part of the public may secretly be waiting for a politician who will offer to lead them to fun times. Waiting for a What the Heck platform. Rick Moran asked whether America had become a pathologically gloomy country with one party focused on apocalyptic threat to America and the other to endlessly decrying "malaise". But being constantly gloomy is tiring work and counterproductive in the end. One of the secrets to Ronald Reagan's leadership was making okay again to be hopeful and have a good time. Reagan made it licit to both fight the Evil Empire while simultaneously affirming the sanctity of going bowling on a Saturday night. He showed us a City on the Hill not as a palace of cold marble, but as a place where you could laugh within its lighted halls and occasionally drink a six pack of beer on its ocean-beaten margins. Even if you had to go to work the next day.
The world crisis is far from over. It will never be over and that's the point: death and sorrow will always be the companions of our journey; so we might as well lighten up. We live in a period of unparalleled opportunity. This century we leave Earth and take our first tentive steps into outer space -- if we can get the environmentalist's permission to do so. This century we end our dependency on oil, get viable robotic servants, self-driving cars, extended lifespans, pervasive connectivity and with any luck, cheaper dentistry. This and nuclear carbombs, maybe. And if the future is dark it is also incomparably bright.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way."
Wasn't it that way always?