Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
I am a very flawed human being. I find myself lazy and cowardly. Sometimes from fear, sometimes from sloth I don’t do the things I really need to do.
I find myself moved to anger when I shouldn’t be and insufficiently ingenious when I should be.
But the very hardest thing for me is hope. I can muster a little faith and a little caring but hope is extremely hard for me to dredge up. It appears I’m not alone.
In a recent post over at Dean’s World Ali Eteraz proclaims that there is no hope of salvaging anything good or worthwhile from the debacle in Iraq:
When — it is only a matter of time — we withdraw from Iraq, the Sunnis of the world are going to say “the mujahideen defeated the world’s greatest superpower.” The Shi’a will say that they drove out the Americans, but only the Shi’a will hear that.
My point: in the Sunni world, it will be Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda who will get the credit for our withdrawal.
That is not good.
This empowerement of OBL and Al-Qaeda is this administration’s greatest — and any American leader ever’s most horrifying — failure. Shame on Bush, Cheney, Rummy. They got tricked by a scheming liar like Chalabi who told them about the street festivals and confetti in their honor. They got lied to by AEI, which only means they lied to themselves. NYTimes helped by talking about “defectors” (who all lied as well). Unlike 1991, there wasn’t an alternative government ready for us to prop. There was no democratic discourse. Clinton’s sanctions of Iraq, along with Saddam’s sons, which killed between 100,000 and 500,000 made sure there was nothing but silent people when we arrived. Bad planning. Lying. No strategy. Nothing.
What now? Inevitable is on its way. If not in October, we pull out in 2008. Do you know why? Because a majority of Americans have accepted that we have lost. Dean’s World can be the last bastion of hopefull idealists. Hope without work, though, is fruitless.
I deeply respect and admire Dean’s tenacious hopefulness; I wish I shared it. But I never have and I can honestly say that I don’t have a Wilsonian bone in my body. I am not a neo-con.
I don’t know why liberal democracy hasn’t blossomed in the Middle East as it has in many other parts of the world. I don’t know whether that’s due to poverty or social institutions or custom or stubbornness or just plain bad fortune or something else.
I do know that we cannot teach the people of Iraq to long for the endless immensity of the sea, to abandon sectarian and parochial interests in favor of liberal democracy and without that none of the individual tasks of shipbuilding or, in this case, building the ship of state, are worth a damn. I think the Iraqis, like the Americans, are lacking in hope and they’re grasping to anyone that they believe can bring a little security.
Ali holds out hope:
Someone needs to get to work diplomatically and convincing the Syrian PEOPLE, the Iranian PEOPLE, the Turkish PEOPLE, the Kuwaiti PEOPLE, the Saudi PEOPLE, that a partial Al-Qaeda state in Iraq, which can boast “defeating the greatest superpower” is the most horrifying thing in the world. Talking to the leaders of these nations doesn’t do jack. Why? Because the PEOPLE always do the opposite of what a tyrant wants. I’ve lived under two dictatorships and my father six.
We have to get to the PEOPLE and make them hate al-Qaeda.
I believe that’s a forlorn hope.
We simply have no way of making our message known either in words or actions. The powers-that-be in all of these countries control the media and any thing we say or do will be twisted to suit the needs of those powers-that-be.
The United States is a great place for Muslim people to live and prosper. They have greater freedom and opportunity here than they do in any country with a Muslim majority bar none.
In recent years the United States has sprung to the succor and defense of Muslim people all over the world on many occasions: in Kuwait, in Kosovo, in Bosnia. After the tsunami the United States Navy was among the very first on the scene providing fresh water and relief to the people struck by the great wave. Many, many were Muslims. Following the earthquake in Pakistan the United States military was the primary healthcare provider for an enormous proportion of the population for nearly a year.
For all his manifest failings President Bush has, I think admirably, been steadfast in maintaining that the United States is not at war with Islam nor with Muslims, generally.
So, why do so many Muslims believe that the United States is at war with them and with Islam?
I believe that there are a variety of reasons for this. We have lots of troops in Muslims countries. We are imperfect. So long as we don’t withdraw from the world stage altogether we will continue to have troops stationed in Muslim countries and meddle in Muslim affairs. We can’t escape it. And, so long as we give those who hate us the slightest stick, they will use it to beat us over the head. They control the agenda and the message in these countries, we don’t.
So I don’t believe that communicating with the common people in Syria, Iran, Turkey, Kuwait, or the KSA is any hope at all. So, is the situation completely hopeless? I don’t think so.
I think that we should stick to what we’re good at. I think we should push for economic liberalization and foster economic growth in these countries. If poverty and ignorance are ameliorated, it can only redound to our benefit.
We should also attempt to reduce our dependence on oil, the control of the commerce in which maintains the power of elites in these countries.
Beyond that we should trust God and keep our powder dry.
Before I bring this post to a close I would like to draw your attention to a post by Grim at Blackfive which I think is simply one of the most brilliant things I’ve read in years on fighting the Long War we have ahead of us regardless of the outcome in Iraq and fighting it smartly and effectively.
Now I’ll close with a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr:
Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime,
Therefore, we are saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;
Therefore, we are saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone.
Therefore, we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own;
Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.