Mudcat Café message #1022815 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62901   Message #1022815
Posted By: The Fooles Troupe
21-Sep-03 - 10:49 PM
Thread Name: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
Subject: RE: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
U S   U N D E R   A T T A C K

       WASHINGTON OBSERVED
       Blind fury that sparks bloodlust
       Sep 14 2001
       Peter Hartcher

Nine out of 10 Americans support armed retaliation against the forces that struck New York and Washington this week, even if it means getting into a war.

And a quarter of this group endorses launching military strikes immediately - without waiting to find out who is actually responsible.

In the absence of a known enemy, whom and where would the US attack? Should it be random, with a pin on a map directing a hail of missiles? Or should it be racially based?

Surely only an infuriated minority of rednecks would propose such blind bloodlust? Not at all.

Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli has an idea for dealing with the
absence of a known perpetrator. He proposed yesterday that Congress
authorise the President to open "general hostilities" and assault 10
terrorist organisations around the world immediately.

"Given the enormity of the attack against our country, I think we're
entitled to take action against each of them," he said.

This is despite the lessons of history.

The last time the US launched massive and hasty missile strikes against a terrorist, Osama bin Laden, in 1998, "all we managed to do was bounce some rubble around in Afghanistan and raise the level of anti-Americanism", in the words of Milt Bearden, a former CIA agent who worked in Afghanistan.

The missiles apparently killed six children, but missed bin Laden, who survived to become the prime suspect in this week's atrocities.

For many in the US, the fury is so deep that it is blind and irrational.

For most Americans, it is beyond the reach of civilised restraint. The Gallup poll found that 66 per cent of the US public favours armed action "even if it means that innocent people are killed".

For the US at war, this fury is normal. "Once wars begin, a significant element of American public opinion supports waging them at the highest possible level of intensity," writes the US scholar Walter Russell Mead in the journal The National Interest.

And the key to understanding this war frenzy, he argues, is the same key to grasping other aspects of the American popular psyche, such as the national fetish for guns.

And that key is Jacksonianism - the tradition named after the sixth US president. Andrew Jackson was a Scots-Irish immigrant who was orphaned on the frontier, fought in wars against American Indians and the British, and suffered as a prisoner of war - all by the age of 15.

He was an intense hater, with crazy blue eyes, fearless in battle and "mad upon his enemy", said his biographer Robert Remini.

He was poorly educated, but a brilliant strategist. At the Battle of New Orleans he shattered an invading British army of 5,000 men, dealing them a staggering 2,000 casualties, with the loss of only a dozen or so of his own troops.

Nicknamed Old Hickory for his wiry toughness and known by the Indians as Sharp Knife for his tactics, Jackson had no control over his temper.

One of his contemporaries, Thomas Jefferson, said of him: "When I was
president of the Senate, he was Senator, and he could never speak on
account of the rashness of his feelings. I have seen him attempt it
repeatedly, and as often choke with rage... He is a dangerous man." But as the country's foremost war hero, he could not be denied the presidency.

Jacksonianism is a populist folk culture that has its roots in the sense of identity among the Scots-Irish who settled much of the American West.

It distrusts elites, favours rugged individualism, loves guns, loathes multilateralism and prizes courage.

Ronald Reagan tapped it more successfully than any modern president.

Understanding Jacksonianism is to understand the American attitude to war. According to Mead, "the first Jacksonian rule of war is that wars must be fought with all available force. The use of limited force is deeply repugnant."

This school also draws sharp distinction between honourable and
dishonourable enemies. In the case of dishonourable enemies, "all rules are off". This was the fate of the Japanese. Jacksonian America had no compunction about using the atomic bomb against civilians.

Jackson's cultural heirs believe that the chief object of warfare was
breaking an enemy's spirit. "It was not enough to defeat a tribe in battle; one had to pacify the tribe.

"For this to happen, the war had to go to the enemy's home. The villages had to be burned, food supplies destroyed, civilians had to be killed. From the tiniest child to the most revered of the elderly sages, everyone in the enemy nation had to understand that further armed resistance to the will of the American people... was simply not an option."

Mead argues that this strand of public opinion determines how America
fights and wins wars, or, if it is denied, how it makes and breaks the presidents who defy it.

Truman, Johnson and George Bush senior all defied the Jacksonian code by trying to wage limited war, and none survived the decision.

The choking rage of Jacksonianism, now fully roused by a dishonourable enemy, will demand the ferocious and unrestrained prosecution of this next American war.

And George W. Bush will defy it at his peril.

As one of Jackson's intellectual heirs, General Curtis Le May, the man who dropped the atomic bomb, once said: "I'll tell you what war is. You've got to kill people, and when you've killed enough, they stop fighting."