This individual's conflict of belief versus reality seems typical of the US public as a whole:
"When we invaded... I thought the U.S. presence was preventing a full-scale meltdown," Rossmiller writes. "I knew our presence had created many of the problems that existed, but I thought coalition troops were the dam preventing a flood of sectarian violence and terrorist encampment. [My experiences] furthered my realization that the U.S. occupation was, long-term, actually making the country less stable. We were arming multiple sides of an incipient civil war, playing whack-a-mole with insurgents, and destroying our moral standing and strategic interests in a vital region. The idea that the most politically and militarily powerful nation in the world could be doing more harm than good was difficult to swallow, but it was something I had to consider."Of course, it all started with the "faith-based Presidency" of George W. Bush:
''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''That's from the 2004 NYT article by Ron Suskind which included this now-infamous neocon quote:
Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.
Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''
The room went silent, until someone changed the subject
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''There's an important part of that quote which is always overlooked. Consider this bit in isolation:
"And while you're studying that reality... we'll act again..."To my mind, this has been the secret of Bush's success. And I think it was a deliberate part of the plan all along.
The pace of action has been relentless, as five long years of anti-Bush blogging right here will attest. Every time the public becomes outraged by one example of corruption, authoritarianism, cronyism, or whatever, it is quickly eclipsed by another example, and then another, and another... So we never get any resolution or accountability on any of them.
Has anyone else noticed this?
Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are very aggressive bastards, and they firmly believe that the best form of defence is attack. You have to say, it has worked well for them (especially with a compliant Congress to cover their backs). A less aggressive administration would have had to deal with a smaller number of longer-running scandals, with potentially more serious consequences (e.g. Watergate or Monica Lewinsky).
Back to that Suskind article:
Bush, clearly, is one of history's great confidence men. That is not meant in the huckster's sense, though many critics claim that on the war in Iraq, the economy and a few other matters he has engaged in some manner of bait-and-switch. No, I mean it in the sense that he's a believer in the power of confidence. At a time when constituents are uneasy and enemies are probing for weaknesses, he clearly feels that unflinching confidence has an almost mystical power. It can all but create reality.Or, if you are really stupid, or overly proud, it can just blind you to reality, until reality comes crashing down on your head.
For a man like Bush, born into wealth and privilege, such overweening confidence comes naturally. As many observers have noted, Dubya has never been held accountable for any of his many mistakes in life. Bush now seems determined to go to his grave without ever admitting his failures: "History will be my judge," he says.
But it's not just Bush who is guilty of such willful, over-confident ignorance. The citizens of the USA, arguably the wealthiest and most privileged people on the planet, have likewise preferred to trust emotion over logic, and faith over intelligence.
And that, it seems to me, has been Bush's journey - and the USA's journey - over these past eight years. The slow and painful dawning of the realisation that reality actually does matter. Because in the long run, that's why we are here.