For any movie producer or screenwriter reading this blog:
William Shatner and Adam West meet up after they are cast as the title characters in an off-off-Broadway production of Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Over the course of rehearsals they share reminiscences about their lives and career, in particular the fact that their respective successes in genre television have kept them from achieving any respect as performers. The film climaxes at a Manhattan comic book / sci-fi convention a week before the play's opening, at which point Shatner and West, surrounded by zombie-like fanboys, become convinced that they are actually trapped in some sort of Stoppard-esque netherworld between the living and the dead, forced to relive the worst parts of the late 60s for the rest of eternity.
Just give me an "Special Thanks" credit, guys.
Over the past few days I've heard the phrase "cannot win and cannot quit" - referring to the conflict in Iraq - repeated a number of times in differing contexts. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense to me, because it's essentially true. The war places us in a perfectly conceived "lady and the tiger" trap - it is literally impossible to win the conflict as it stands now, and as bad as that is leaving will only make it worse. This is a self-evident truth that should not obscure the absolute imperative of leaving Iraq. Of course, this isn't something that even the staunchest anti-war pols are likely to mention, but it's the truth. The moment we inevitably leave Iraq is when things become inestimably harder for us, as we're going to be forced to work alongside all the regional powers we've systematically sidelined, the ones who are going to be facing the full brunt of the military and humanitarian crisis caused by the collapse of the vestiges of the Iraqi state. Meaning our ticket out of Iraq is going to come at the heavy cost of subsidizing the Gulf States' containment efforts.
And of course once Iraq officially disintegrates the Kurds in the north will make their bid for an independent Kurdistan, which will bring Turkey and Iran into direct conflict with them. The trade-off for an independent Kurdish state from the international community will be Kurdish recognition of Israel. Israel will welcome a Kurdish state, and either covertly or overtly support the effort, which will probably bring Iran into overt conflict with Israel. Syria has been playing both sides against the middle in terms of allowing Iran to funnel aid to Hezbollah, but the lack of decisive victory in the recent Lebanon war probably did much to shake Damascus' faith in the wisdom of this continued policy, which explains recent overtures to the West. If Iran and Israel start slugging it out for any reason, Syria stands to lose a lot - they've profited from the state of perpetual cold war between the two regional powers for a long time, but if the cold war becomes hot they are going to be left in the cold.
Yeah, we're screwed. But at this point, I'm afraid that "cannot win and cannot quit" is not quite as fatalistic a formulation as the situation demands, and seems more along the lines of a Johnson-esque stalling for time, as in, if we keep throwing men and bombs at the Vietcong maybe the eventual defeat won't be so overwhelmingly bad. I just hope for all our sakes that we get the "good" Iraqis who've helped us these past years out of the country before we go, because the moment we leave the country every "collaborator" will be dead within forty-eight hours, maximum. As it is, even if we can magically sweep up every "collaborator" in country, the bloodshed the day after we leave is still going to be unbelievable, probably of a kind with Rwanda and Cambodia. It's an inevitability at this point. Sucks, don't it? T
The next few decades in the Middle East are going to be pretty brutal: people forget that the reason Europe is so peaceful now is that they had hundreds of years to kill each other, a process which succeeded in creating the roughly homogeneous ethnic and religious zones that define current national borders. The Middle East was protected from the worst of this kinds of spasmodic violence by the stern unifying oppression of the Ottoman Empire and, later, the colonial hierarchy. That's all gone now, and there's a lot more blood to be shed before the region can rest.