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What is really eating George W. Bush? Speculation abounds. Saddam is a credible threat, or just plain evil; it’s the oil (and the SUVs); Bush is avenging his dad; war distracts from the sagging economy; it’s really about Israel. None of these motivations fully explain why Bush seems so dead-set on war against Iraq, and not a single one warrants large-scale, on-the-ground operations. What, really, is going on inside Dubya’s head that could make risking tens of thousands of lives make sense?
I don’t profess to understand how President George W. Bush thinks. From a distance, though, he does seem irrationally hell-bent on invasion. This determination defies any goal-centered mode of thinking: there is, after all, no plan—at least no public plan—for restoring stability in Iraq after a war, nor is there an exit strategy. No one seems to know what will happen after an invasion, what Bush wants to accomplish or what each American soldier will be trying to implement. Conventional logic fails. So what sort of logic is Bush using?
Consider, then, a slightly far-fetched analogy that I think reveals a good amount about the logic—the insane logic—behind this war.
On Feb. 15, thousands of people converged on New York City’s East Side, myself included. I was, however, waylaid on Third Avenue by a series of police barricades. The police were nominally attempting to corral everyone onto the sidewalks, but not everyone fit. Not only were there people spilling into the streets, but the police, using vans and barricades, were themselves completely blocking the intersections. Between these bizarre turf battles were strips of empty asphalt, inaccessible not only to protesters but also to cars and other legitimate users. Smiling, one of my companions approached a police officer and inquired why, if the street wasn’t being used by anyone anyway, people couldn’t walk on it. “Look,” said the cop, “Yes, the street’s going to be shut down no matter what. But if you guys shut it down, Bloomberg gets mad. If we shut it down, Bloomberg doesn’t care.”
Though the barriers kept many protesters away from the rally, I believe that cop’s explanation and see the hindrance to mass protest as an effect of, rather than the reasoning behind, the police’s tactics. To the police and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, there were a whole lot of people trying to take over the streets and make a mess. And so they decided to take over the streets first, by force when necessary, even though they just made the same mess themselves.
Apply this thinking to Iraq. There is one big, evil dictator running things his way. But if we take over, the reasoning goes, we might make a big mess—we could provoke worldwide anti-American sentiment, slaughter Iraqi civilians and impose some unspecified form of American military rule on the country. But it’ll be our mess, which for us, somehow, appears safer. And, to an American troop on the ground in Iraq, once the US is in control, Bush (and the rest of us) can stop caring.
—Emma S. Mackinnon is an editorial editor.
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