The Psychologist-in Chief whips out a new inkblot on which to project our hopes for Iraq: Revolutionary War America, conflating images of Continental Army soldiers trading pitchforks for muskets to defend their homeland with National Guardsmen sent to play referee in another nation’s civil war unleashed by, well, us.
It’s not the ever-shifting series of analogues that the president applies to Iraq to which we should pay attention (despite the bizarreness of some of the comparisons); rather, it’s the subtext, the rationale behind them. So when Bush held up South Korea as a fit model for the future of American militarism in Iraq, it’s not the relatively placid scene of peacekeepers sleepily gazing across a quiet demilitarized zone that we should envision so much as the prospect of “a long-term, imperial military presence.” When Bush posited Israel as a yardstick – not free from violence, maybe, but “functioning” and “carrying out its responsibilities” – it’s hard to avoid hearing the tacit admission of drastically lowered expectations: the violence in Iraq cannot be borne away and that the Iraqis will just have to live (and die) with it.
The subtext of Bush’s American Revolution analogy is simple, obvious, breathtakingly cynical: Your fear is required in order to prosecute the war. So be afraid. It’s the patriotic thing to do.