Wednesday, December 31, 2003

My wars
My first war was the Falklands conflict, which as a first year lefty student I dutifully objected to. There was something dubious about the Falklands venture, namely the apparent efforts of the British government to invite the Argies in to gain the political kudos for expelling them. But looking back, what I really objected to was the stifling patriotic monoculture that attended the conflict, one which I imagine harked back to the Queen Victoria’s little wars of the 19th century. Plebs discontented in their dark satanic mills? Cheer ‘em up by slapping a few foreigners around.

One of the more interesting political phenomena of the past twenty years is the fact that this reflex shows continuing signs of failing to work. Gulf War One was popular, but I didn’t detect anywhere near the same level of emotional involvement. Likewise with intervention in the Bosnia crisis. By the time Kosovo rolled around, distinct misgivings were beginning to show themselves, especially with the creepy messianism with which Blair conducted his end of the business. Afghanistan was accepted with a kind of glum inevitability. And after all, any successor regime could only be better than the Taliban. Which it is, partly.

Of course, Iraq split the country down the middle, more or less. But the interesting thing was that by far the greatest number of people who really cared about the issue seemed to be on the anti side. The government’s claims that Iraq presented a concrete threat were greeted with open contempt and the mood music of liberation, played at greater or lesser volume according to convenience, never twanged the heartstrings in the way it was intended to.

I’m not quite sure why this should be so. The antiwar left, so called, are simply horrified that so many people refused to act like sheep in the name of the freedom of others. I would have thought that the failure of the usually potent mix of war and state propaganda to work its old, time dishonoured magic would have been welcomed on the left and anywhere else where public skepticism about the motives of the overclass is considered a good thing.

Anyway, to all who greeted the combination of panic mongering and emotional blackmail that was used to sell the war with a robust, English cry of "bollocks" a happy and productive new year. Our skepticism helps keep the world sane.