The Melodramatics of the Empire

Just like the debt ceiling “debate” was a melodrama worthy of a daytime Emmy, so too is the “debate” over whether or not to keep American troops in Iraq. Keen observers of both American politics and foreign policy knew the inevitable outcomes of both from the start: the debt ceiling would be raised and American troops will continue to “train and assist” in Iraq. In order to remind the American people of their dependence on government, the circus in Washington debated the debt ceiling up until the 11th hour. Deal after deal after deal ad infinitum was discussed and rejected while the Pravda pundits and arrogant academics warned of the dangers of America living within its means. Once the whole thing came to an end, America breathed a collective sigh of relief.

However, many of those who warned of the plethora of problems that would result from Congress being unable or unwilling to pass a debt ceiling resolution were left unhappy. Paul Krugman lamented the “disaster” and America’s eventual journey to “banana republic status.” Congressman Emanuel Cleaver was left with a bad taste in his mouth after eating a “Satan Sandwich” that was the debt deal. From a purely fiscal standpoint, their concerns are overblown. There are only cuts to projected spending, which means that the empire will continue to consume an even larger diet of your tax dollars, although less than previously thought. America’s ledger is uncannily similar to the American people: fat and growing fatter by the day, it will  stave off diabetes by offering diet pop and apples as a healthy alternative to freedom fries. Concerns about the Super Congress are, however, very much appropriate. The Right is worried that the Super Congress will be as ineffective as the Simpson-Bowles commission at downsizing D.C., despite the failings of their own toothless plan. The Left is worried that the Super Congress will be a fast track towards reforming entitlements.

These rehearsed theatrics are being seen in the debate over keeping troops in Iraq as well.

From the infancy of Obama’s candidacy, he vowed to end the Iraq war immediately. Time came and went, and came and went some more, but legions of soldiers remained. The antiwar left relented as soon as their Messiah was in the Oval Office effectively ending years of raucous debate over whether or not the arguably dumbest war in American history ought to continue. This gave the  show writers at the Defense and State Department plenty of time to rewrite the script for continued involvement well past  the Bush deadline.

First, America ended “combat” operations and was merely participating as “advisors” to the Iraqis. Then, some soldiers were killed despite promises otherwise. The State Department, growing increasingly iron fisted under Hillary Clinton, decided that it needed its own pack of soldiers. Then some more soldiers died. Some Iraqi officials, fearful of a renewed insurgency, wanted US troops to stay in order to keep a lid on things. Then even more soldiers died. And now we have the US actively pushing for an extension in order to counter the “Iranian threat,” which, they claim, have been responsible for an upswing in attacks against Americans. However, even this claim was contradicted less than a month later when the “Iranian threat” was said to have subsided.

The parallels with the debt ceiling melodrama are striking. Plague, locusts and thunderbolts were all waiting to strike down on America when the “other guy” was in charge. In order to not upset the party hierarchy, these Mosaic predictions were promptly halted. Democrats, all of the sudden, voted for an increase in the debt ceiling while the Republicans, also in a change of heart, voted in opposition. Iraq became a non-issue for the Democrats while Libya became the Republicans’ half-hearted, non-interventionist crusade. Furthermore, the number of withdrawal plans rivaled the number of debt deals in both number and absurdity. Also pervasive were the non-democratic tendencies of the whole debacle: the American voter, focused on the ailing economy, pays no attention to issues of foreign policy and their “representatives” represent only Raytheon, Israel, or very, very rarely America’s interests. Rather than the Simpson-Bowles gang, appointed generals and diplomats decide the fate of American troops and the Iraqi people in
the war room, far removed from the opinons of everyday Americans.

American involvement in Iraq is now guaranteed to extend well beyond 2011. The Iranians will be closely watched, Moqtada al-Sadr will debate unleashing his forces on American troops, and the American people and troops will be fleeced yet again.

Melodrama at its finest.

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