Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On Blowback and the Judgement of History.

Blowback: The unintended consequences of intervention in the affairs of others.

This is blowback. Given this modern era, it comes faster and harder than at any previous time.

I'm not saying I agree or disagree with the statements made in the above video. That's not the point I'm trying to make. The point is that these tensions exist and are inevitably created when you send young men and women to war. Those who come back are affected and changed.This will change your culture and indeed, the world as a whole these days - in ways that are unpredictable, but directly related to the material and obvious justice of the cause.

So here is the question - for those of you who are deeply and passionately in favour of the various wars out there - do you think the risk to your way of life is worth it? Because he's certainly going to be spending the rest of his days very eloquent and persuasively undermining everything you will surely tell me these wars were meant to protect.

Of course, one might reasonably more concerned about the risk of vets returning with the ability and inclination to do violence. Most often that is the worry expressed - but that won't actually affect change in anything close to the way this young man will change things.

The thing about warfare is that win, lose or draw, nobody involved is ever the same. Those who survive are transformed, usually not for the best, and certainly not toward the path they would have taken. And it is rare and remarkable when this turn is actually better for thee or me in the long run. That is, of course, what makes their story remarkable, and why they are touted as the hero of the age.

But for every one like that, there are a hundred who will spend the rest of their shortened lives unable to sleep through the night, who turn to drugs, who endure homelessness, who leave society behind them and take to the rails and roads in search of meaning or in rejection of what they once thought to have been meaningful.

And they too will tell their stories, not on stages or in press conferences, but to fellow bikers and hobos, on the loading docks and the factories, for decades. It will become part of the common wisdom, the experience of the world. But here's the kicker. They might be poor, they might be homeless, they might be utterly off their nut. But unlike any other time in history - any one of them can make it on to YouTube, and speak to millions about what happened.

So there will be no need for a Bonus Army, and you won't be able to direct Pershing to clear them away. Oh, and they took their phones and their video cameras to war and they brought the footage home. Whether to brag of their exploits or to document the horrors, or just to record the daily grind - it will come out; not via approved channels and not in the fullness of historical time, but in ways that will affect the fates of those who made the judgements.

George Bush famously suggested that only history could judge him. Indeed, this is true. But Bush failed to realize that there is more history happening faster than at any time in history. He made the choice to set a great deal of history in motion. But for George and those who thought it a good idea at the time - they may not be able to outrun the delay between the occasion and the judgement.

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