I was just reading the first chapter of Albert Hirschman’s Shifting Involvements, which I picked up this morning, when I heard President Bush’s short announcement. As it happens, Hirschman has this to say about war:
Modern wars are such overpowering events that they make greater attention to public affairs virtually compulsory, but their outbreak is usually explained by reference to diplomatic rivalry, economic competition, or ideological conflict, rather than to any desire on the part of citizens to be more involved in public affairs. Yet the latter explanation is not as farfetched as it sounds at first. The long period of peace and increasing prosperity which Europe experienced before the First World War produced, in important sectors the middle and upper classes, a feeling of revulsion against bourgeois order, security, acquisitiveness, and pettiness. For these groups, the war came as a release from boredom and emptiness, as a promise of the longed-for community that would transcend social class, and as an overdue return to heroic action and sacrifice.
Anyway, early commentary sounds confused: it’s not clear why there’s no large-scale assault as yet. There’s a possibility that there are some very smart strikes underway; alternatively it’s just a stopgap to let the Iraqis know the deadline has passed and the war is indeed underway. I’ll leave it to the likes of Steven DenBeste to spin out the innumerable possibilities at inordinate length. Time to wait and see what happens. Hopefully it will be over quickly, cleanly and with as few casualties as possible.