Alice in Wonderland is apparently an example of literary nonsense, which is a genre of literature “that plays with conventions of language and logic through a careful balance of sense and non-sense elements. Its strict adherence to structure is balanced by semantic chaos and play with logic. Usually formal diction and tone are balanced with an inherent topsy-turvyness and absurdity. The effect of nonsense is often caused by an excess of meaning, rather than a lack of it.”
That seems to apply to much of what the U.S. has been doing in Iraq, like dealing with the threat of Shiite radicalism and Iran by deposing a secular Arab-Sunni and helping to bring to power a bunch of Shiites with ties to Iran. Or we could use it when discussing the way the Bush Administration has helped advance peace in the Holy Land by forcing an election in Palestine that helped bring the radical and anti-peace Hamas to power. Yep. A strict adherence to structure (going to war and election) is balanced by semantic chaos and play with logic (a war and an election that are self-defeating). A few more self-goals, and Alice is winning the game!
And now as American and Iraqi officials “negotiate” an “agreement” that would “authorize” the U.S. military’s role in Iraq, there is an opportunity to discover a lot of nonsense that is caused by an excess of meaning, rather than a lack of it.
Here are a few examples:
* In Iraq we have “an increasingly acrimonious public debate” involving members of parliament and the media. In Washington “the White House hastily organized a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday after Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.), the chairman and ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee, respectively, demanded Monday that the administration ‘be more transparent with Congress, with greater consultation, about the progress and content of these deliberations.’” The nerve these Senators have! So what if Americans will have to pay billions of dollars, not to mention the lives of their soldiers, to “defend” the Iraqis. Who really needs a public and open debate in this country about this huge American military commitment?
*”The Americans are making demands that would lead to the colonization of Iraq,” said Sami al-Askari, a senior Shiite politician on parliament’s foreign relations committee who is close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “If we can’t reach a fair agreement, many people think we should say, ‘Goodbye, U.S. troops. We don’t need you here anymore.’ ” Mliliki? Maliki? Isn’t that our “ally” in Baghdad? They don’t like us. They really don’t like us.
* But then this: “U.S. negotiators also said the agreements would not obligate the American military to protect Iraq from foreign aggression, Iraqi officials said, a promise they believe was a fundamental part of a declaration of principles signed by Bush and Maliki last winter. ‘The prime minister is not happy about this,’ said Askari, who helped negotiate the declaration of principles, which outlined the strategic framework. ‘This is not what we agreed on.’” Or as one Iraqi lawmaker put it: “Maybe the Iraqi government will say: ‘Hey, the security situation is better. We don’t need any more troops in Iraq,’ ” he said. “Or we could have a pledge of honor where the American troops leave but come back and protect Iraq if there is any aggression.” You see, the Iraqis don’t want Americans there. They should leave. But they should come back when the Iraqis? the Americans? decide that there is an “aggression.”
And we could go on and on here about an agreement pressed on by the Bush Administration to help defend Iraq gainst a non-aggression that could turn into an aggresion — despite the fact that the Iraqi parliament and public and the American Congress and public — and the next U.S. President (fifty percent chance for that) — are opposed to it.
At a time when public officials and pundits have been using the literary term narrative during their discussion of foreign policy issues, it was only a question of time before literary experts will start replacing political analysts as a source of wisdom on our approach to the Middle East.
And indeed, perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd, two New York Times columnists who specialize in cultural issues have done a better job in analyzing the American adventure in Mesopotamia than that newspaper’s world renowned foreign affairs expert, you know who.