After reading complaints from Sixties exiles Noam Chomsky and Ted Rall and the like regarding the conduct of the so-called War on Terror, I am persuaded that future historians will declare that the single most important combat commentary of the late twentieth century was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, and was delivered by Edwin Starr. I quote:

War!
Unnngh!
Good God, y'all!
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing.

Forget the fact that we were, by any definition of the word, invaded; forget the fact that the invaders were in no small part supported by a brutal military regime that no one liked and hardly anyone even officially recognized. Us, fight back? What is it good for?

As a Sixties burnout myself, I admit to having had some reservations about our Kabuled-up mission in Afghanistan; by nature, I have considerable difficulty with the concept of a Good War. But at this point, with the Taliban sent to deserved oblivion — certainly, the Afghans seem to think it's deserved — and with the distinct possibility that the remains of Osama bin Laden are a splotch on the side of a boulder somewhere, I think it's pretty clear that this little military operation falls clearly on the Good side of the spectrum.

And there are a couple of bonuses here besides. For one thing, the standard GOP argument that the military went to hell on Bill Clinton's watch is now effectively refuted; the troops did, you should pardon the expression, a bang-up job. This is not to say that the Bush administration's defense-budget increases are wholly unnecessary, but the notion that somehow we've been woefully unprepared for battle for the last eight years is simply not true. What's more, while Mr Bush went to a great deal of trouble to go through the motions of coalition-building to support the war effort, it was always clear that allies weren't going to be allowed veto power; this isn't one of those United Nations peacekeeper deals in which more effort is poured into preserving the protocols than into preserving the peace.

The left routinely grumbles about this Last Remaining Superpower stuff, and it's true that we've done some things in our capacity as a superpower that qualify as more or less heinous, but if our track record were as horrible as all that, we wouldn't still have a waiting list at the immigration office; you don't see people standing in line to get into Zimbabwe. Still, there are people in places like Berkeley and Boulder who apparently can defend the likes of Robert Mugabe out of one side of their mouths while they condemn George W. Bush with the other. As Edwin Starr said, "Good God, y'all."

The Vent

#280
9 February 2002

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