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11 2 A QUESTION OF SANITY Insanity in individuals is something rare—but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. —Friedrich Nietzsche Agreat power involved in costly military expeditions faces acute dilemmas.The tide of public opinion may turn against leaders who take the nation to war. Eventually, they may be swept out of power and replaced by a new ruling order. The price paid in human lives and economic drain imposes great demands on the population and causes citizens to introspect. There follows alienation against the rulers held responsible, and momentum for change gathers pace.TheVietnam War caused upheaval and change in the United States in the 1970s; the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s not only led to the Soviet Union’s defeat in that country but also contributed to the Soviet state’s demise.The beginning of the twenty-first century brought with it a conflict between America and an “enemy” that could include any individual, group, or nation not liked in the White House.Whether the acts committed in the name of the war on terror signify chilling rationality involving criminality or mere folly is a matter of intense argument.Voltaire’s description of history as a long succession of cruelties seems particularly fitting in this context.1 By the end of 2008 American voters had reached a point at which the mandatory departure of George W. Bush after two terms was not enough. John McCain , the maverick war hero, tried hard to dissociate himself from the outgoing Republican president.As the financial crisis worsened and the prospect of defeat loomed, McCain escalated his criticism of the handling of the economy. He accused the Bush administration of allowing a “mountain of debt to build for Imperial Designs_13448.indd 11 3/12/13 2:44 PM 12   IMPERIAL DESIGNS future generations, failing to pay for expanding Medicare and abusing executive powers.”2 McCain was particularly scathing in his remarks about America’s $500 billion debt to China and failure to “enforce and modernize the [financial ] regulatory agencies that were designed for the 1930s and certainly not the twenty-first century.” The defeat of the Republican Party, and more importantly, the neoconservative ideology that drove America to fight expensive wars, satiated America’s public opinion in part. Alienated citizens are often quick to feel satisfaction at the change of guard at the top and expect that problems accumulated over a long time will promptly be solved.A politician on his or her way to power has a vested interest in promising a “paradise tomorrow.” There exists for every power seeker a world of fantasy and a population yearning for change,anxious to move on from unpleasant reality to something agreeable. Contrary to initial expectations in theWhite House and the Pentagon under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, the war in Iraq had become nasty, brutish, and long by 2008. The number of Americans killed in Iraq was nearly four thousand and rising. And the conflict had become multidimensional—between insurgents and occupation forces, between Sunni and Shi‛a, and within sects. The 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate for Iraq admitted that the term “civil war” accurately described key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence—and population displacements.3 Earlier, in October 2006, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) had given a stark account of the expanding crisis: Increasing internal displacement is also having reverberations outside Iraq, with more Iraqi arrivals monitored in neighbouring countries and beyond. “We estimate that up to 1.6 million Iraqis are now outside their country, most of them in Jordan and Syria. Others are in Iran,” [UNHCR spokesman Ron] Redmond said. There are an estimated 500,000 Iraqis in Jordan and some 450,000 in Syria. Some have been outside Iraq for a decade or more, but many have fled since 2003 and UNHCR is noting an increasing arrival rate. Staff monitoring the Syrian border, for example, report at least 40,000 Iraqis a month arriving there. Tens of thousands more are moving on to Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, the Gulf States and Europe. Of some 40 nationalities seeking asylum in European countries in the first half of this year, Iraqis ranked first. Statistics Imperial Designs_13448.indd 12 3/12/13 2:44 PM A QUESTION OF SANITY   13 received from 36 industrialised countries for the first six months of the year showed...


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