Blogs > Liberty and Power > The Remains of the Day, or Upstairs, Downstairs and Back in the Closet

Jan 4, 2005 7:07 pm

The Remains of the Day, or Upstairs, Downstairs and Back in the Closet

With his typical flair and elan, James Wolcott saves me the bothersome work of once again troubling to sort through the mottled, blotchy landscape of one Andrew Sullivan's mind:

"No wonder you're all mixed up. You got a white man's first name, a Spanish man's second name, and a black man's third name."

...Mickey Rivers, one of the greatest comedians ever to roam the outfield, diagnosing the identity crisis of teammate Reginald Martinez Jackson, better known as Reggie.

A similar condition bedevils Andrew Sullivan, whose sensible name badges a multicar pileup of identity conflict. He's a gay British Catholic Tory conservative"eagle" who deplores the etiolated patriotism and willpower of the coastal elites but resides in the blue lagoons of Washington, DC and Provincetown. His sympathies keep[] tugging him in so many different directions that he intellectually resembles Steve Martin in All of Me, herkily-jerkily battling with himself as if being yanked by an invisible leash. (Read his graf today about the nomination of Albert Gonzalez for A.G. and watch him tug himself back and forth.)

I still haven't recovered from reading this Sullivan statement earlier in the day (and even though I had first seen it quite a while ago):
For all of his lofty rhetoric, which catches the tailwind of Tony Blair's, Sullivan gets a little peckish when the lower ranks forget their place and question their duties. Atrios today provides several prize examples. I will only note Sullivan's interesting choice of words in the following:

"I'm sorry but I pay for those soldiers to fight in a volunteer army. They are servants of people like me who will never fight. Yes, servants of civil masters."

Servants? Masters? Some Brits just can't let go of the remains of the day.

That statement constitutes a glimpse into what passes for Sullivan's soul that I genuinely didn't need. (It is rivaled by a statement I discuss in the second half of this essay concerning the elections in Spain last year and the reaction of certain hawks -- and about the authoritarian bloodlust occasionally revealed when the warhawks let slip their very thin veneer of civilization.)

But seeing Sullivan's remarks again just now, this thought occurs to me: Thank God that our soldiers are not servants of people like Sullivan. At least, I certainly hope they're not.

Given Sullivan's ability to deny the reality planted directly in front of him -- even when that reality is a screaming, bloody-stumped failure of a foreign policy -- if Sullivan had been giving orders, every single one of our soldiers would have been massacred by now.

Although, come to think of it, it probably is someone not unlike Sullivan in crucial respects: we seem to be doing all too well in the death department. But it's all for a"democratic Iraq," right? Please. Please. Please.

By the way, Spencer Ackerman also notes the"new optimism" that now grips our State Department:

There are some parts of the Sunni Triangle where the security right now, frankly, is not that bad. In parts of Diyala Province, some parts of Salahuddin Province, some parts of Nineveh Province, [the situation] is not all blood and fire and destruction in all places every day.
There are"some parts" where the situation"is not all blood and fire and destruction in all places every day"!

This, as I am certain you realize, is undeniably wonderful news -- and a sure sign that democracy will take hold throughout the entire Middle East by next Monday.

At the very latest. Never let it be said that the State Department surpassed me as far as optimism is concerned.

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More Comments:

Arthur Silber - 1/5/2005

Point taken, Steve, that the links weren't precisely on point -- but I meant generally what Max Swing indicates. And I also intended the general point discussed in Chris Sciabarra's entry above -- which is, in brief, that even in the extremely unlikely event that "democracy" takes hold in Iraq temporarily, it is highly unlikely that it will survive. To all of which I would add the point that it is hardly the job of our military to go around establishing "democracies." It is the military's job to protect us from serious, present threats (or almost present), which Iraq never was -- and which was entirely clear at the time of the invasion, despite all the government propaganda to the contrary.

Max Swing - 1/5/2005

I think he just refers to the point, that violence is escalading and the situatio gets worth every day. A democratic change change would also be a change to less violence and more tolerance, although I'd say that'd be more of a constitutional state (which the US claimed it is)...

Steve Burton - 1/4/2005

I read all three of your links labeled "please" questioning whether the occupation is "all for a democratic Iraq."

I don't get it.

So there are lots of minority Sunnis who are P.O.'d about the prospect of losing their recent dominance over the Shi'a majority. P.O.'d enough to go around killing people somewhat indiscriminately.

How does that call into question the democratic character of the change that we are trying to bring about there?

If thousands of white South Africans had gone around shooting and/or blowing people up after the collapse of Apartheid, would that have made the transition to black rule somehow undemocratic?