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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

It's been awhile since we've posted here at the Node -- working for the man is getting us down and various life events interfere (though not badly) with our free time. Anyway, I thought I'd put down some thoughts I've had recently about the Administration and its war in Iraq. Frankly the last couple of months I've been burned out, not really feeling that posting these rather anonymous missives would make me feel better about what I see as a fundamentally wrong situation.

But then my thoughts turned to science, and I began to see an analogy. I don't know that it's really an analogy so much as a basic truth. The Bush Administration is, as we're all aware, very science-adverse. As such they tend to act like some Catholic Church leaders did during the times of Galileo -- a misunderstanding of science, combined with a feeling of being threatened by it, has led to the Administration's current pogrom against what really is "Sound Science", as opposed to what they wish would pass for "Sound Science".

Now, it's not so much that the Administration rejects all science and objective analysis. Rather, it's that the set of rules upon which its views are founded are too simplistic to actually explain and therefore deal effectively with reality. I like to think of their view of the war in Iraq, for instance, as Newtonian. Not to shame the man or his name, it's just that in modern physics Newton's laws and methods will only get you so far. Indeed, it is true that there is a rather virulent anti-American strain of Islam. It is also true, however, that there is a very anti-American strain of fundamental Christianity (i.e., the doctrines preached by the Klu Klux Klan, certain militias, tax-dodgers, and others). There are anti-American strains of practically every kind of belief, they span the political spectrum and practically all religious traditions. You can find "-fascists" everywhere you look if you look around long enough (and at small enough groups). The part of this that seems to me to be Newtonian in nature is the First Law of the Bush Administration -- for every attack against America there will be a reaction, equal in kind.

The problem lies in questions of scale. Newtonian physics really starts to predict wrong things when considered at the level of atomic and subatomic particles. For these, the theories of electromagnetism and quantum physics are necessary to correctly adduce the outcomes of experiments. In a similar manner, the Bush Administration's First Law breaks down when we examine anything smaller than a nation or state. One can see that to the Administration (and apparently, also to a large number of Americans), striking at the "geographic heart" (to use a Cheney term) of terrorism suffices as the reaction to 9/11 along with the invasion of Afghanistan. However, just as a Newtonian explanation of a nuclear reaction wouldn't suffice to explain what was going on or stop the reaction, the Bush administration's response won't end terrorism. The failure to do the necessary groundwork and really understand the dynamics of the political situation in Iraq is akin to not working out the equations necessary to predict, and therefore control, a reaction involving subatomic particles. And thus we are stuck lobbing bombs into an already explosive situation.

I'm not sure if this failure to understand the dynamics of complex situations is a sign of intellectual laziness or an ideological belief that their understand of the situation is correct. There is a third, and more likely, explanation as well. The Administration has finely tuned its war to the political rhythms of the American public, and vise-versa. In that sense, the war is a reflection of the American psyche, and I therefore don't think it's much of an accomplishment that Bush won the election. Rather, it is a political reality sewn to reap exactly that outcome. As such, and viewed in that light, the Bush Administration is cold and calculating and hardly compassionate. Some argue that Bush himself is a very intelligent man. I have a problem believing that an intelligent individual could look at the situation in Iraq and produce the policies the Bush Administration has produced. However, witnessing the cult of personality that is Bush, I know that he's an intelligent individual who's surrounded himself with political operators who know how to play the American public. Therefore, to me the war in Iraq and the Administration's running of the war are more reactions to and tools for American politics. Thus we have a group of people employing Newtonian physics because it's the thing to do to win support of the American people.

Of course, I'd prefer to support a President who was capable of a quantum physics-like view of international politics. This means to me someone who is capable of understanding what policy is appropriate for what situation, regardless of the directions of the political winds. What amazes me is Bush's ability to hoodwink people into thinking he's being true to his beliefs, that's he's got some sort of ideological core that's driving his policy making. I'm afraid that under the hood, though, lurks only politics and a desire to wield power.

Andrew 9:27 PM : |


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