But we should all agree that the battle for Iraq is now central to the ideological struggle of the 21st century. ~George W. Bush
Without missing a beat, Mr. Bush sets up the main war as the “decisive ideological struggle” of the century, and then turns around and insists that we all agree that Iraq is vital to the “ideological struggle,” a struggle that he has just outlined as being between those who support freedom and those who support tyranny, “terror” and totalitarianism. It does not take much to see that Mr. Bush has lined up critics of the war in Iraq (you remember–the ones he called “good, decent people” who are just as patriotic as anybody) as failing to support the “ideological struggle” by failing to support the war in Iraq. And you know what they do to people who are lacking in sufficient commitment to the “ideological struggle,” don’t you? If there is any doubt that he has linked the two, he makes it clear later:
And victory in Iraq would be a powerful triumph in the ideological struggle of the 21st century.
Mr. Bush has managed to become even more melodramatic in this new series of speeches than he has in the past. Before, he was just going to end tyranny on earth and set the world on fire with revolution, but now he is going to save history from itself (even though the outcome is, of course, inevitable, for the course of History is known to all good dialecticians):
We will not allow the terrorists to dictate the future of this century — so we will defeat them in Iraq.
Take note of the frequency with which he talks about “the century” and how we are doing all of this for sake of “the century.” There is actually an undue obsession with the future here, which, as Dienstag would tell us, is one of the flaws of optimistic theories, since they tend to rather overlook what things are actually like right now and tend to impose terrible costs on the present for the sake of an imaginary future. (I would make some sarcastic reference about how the you-know-who liked Futurism, but I am not going to sink into the mire of flinging those labels at my political enemies as they have done at us.) Here is Dienstag:
For all of the existential pessimists, then, optimism has functioned to displace attention from the real world of today onto an imaginary future. Not only does this future denigrate the present, it causes us to lose touch with the present. When the present, which should be the richest and most vivid thing in our minds, is flattened out in our imagination, it makes our option seems fewer than they are….
This focus on the present does not abjure all concern for the future. Unamuno’s claim that “the true future is today” indicates not that we are forbidden to think about what is come, but only that we should not make the future into an idol. If we care about the freedom of later generations, we must respect it–and we respect it best by refusing to script their lives for them.
But Mr. Bush’s Marxist language and rhetoric about saving the future are not the worst. Worse still is his conviction that history not only has a direction, but a direction that we can discern and, in this case, in some sense direct:
The path to that day will be uphill and uneven, but we can be confident of the outcome, because we know that the direction of history leads toward freedom.
If the ideological struggle is the struggle for “freedom,” then it becomes the unavoidable conclusion of the speech: victory in the ideological struggle–of which Iraq is the most vital part–is inevitable, tovarish, because history is leading on to freedom!