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laststeamtrain Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 10:49 AM
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On Iraq: Wiping Out The Legend
On Iraq: Wiping Out The Legend

Wednesday 23 July 2008
by: Maya Schenwar, t r u t h o u t | Book Review

A silent mythos is enveloping the liberal consciousness in the waning days of the Bush presidency.

It spins like this: When it comes to Iraq, Americans' one reassurance is that this war can't possibly be repeated, not now that we've watched its consequences play out and caught a glimpse of the deception that caused it. As a result of Iraq, the logic goes, we will likely elect a new leader who railed against the war from its inception. We'll then shift toward a foreign policy that disavows offensive interventionism. We will make new friendships and repair old ones. We will live in peace.

However, in the forward to "Lessons From Iraq: Avoiding the Next War," a collection of essays from the progressive think tank Foreign Policy in Focus, editor Miriam Pemberton warns against such now-we-know-better thinking. She cautions against the oft-uttered mantra surrounding large-scale deeds of evildoing, "Never Again."

"The lessons in this book will not be a guarantee against the next war, even supposing they all took hold," Pemberton writes. "There will be a next war."

I winced as I read that line. I wanted to close the book. But because I also wanted to review it, and because the contributors to "Lessons From Iraq" are smart people, and because - despite all pacifist inclinations - I know that, throughout history, there has always, always been a next war, I kept reading.

If you too are riding the "hope" wave into 2009, holding your breath for a war vaccine, you too should keep reading, and not because your bubble needs bursting. You should keep reading because "Lessons From Iraq" delineates a realistic path along which we can direct our hope. It also teaches us to recognize those other, pernicious species of bubble, to ensure that, when they evolve again, we can burst them before they get too big.

The 16 bite-size essays that make up "Lessons From Iraq" are divided into three sections: Purposes, Ways and Means and Collateral Damage. Some of the freshest essays lie in the Purposes section. In Neta C. Crawford's "The Dangerous Leap: Preventive War," the author distinguishes between "preemptive" and "preventive" wars. A preemptive war is one that defends against an immediate, certain threat. (Picture Saddam with his finger poised over the nuclear button at the point the US stormed Baghdad.) A preventive war is initiated based on an amorphous, ambivalent, might-be threat. (Picture what really happened: an attack based on shaky intelligence and overconfident statements about a potential - not actual - risk.) An attack motivated by only the possibility of a threat turns war into a self-fulfilling prophecy, according to Crawford.

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