Lewis Lapham Spins More Gold

Lewis Lapham's monthly column in Harper's remains one of my favorite dead-tree reads. The July 2004 entry in this series is notable. Naturally the subject is the President and his foreign policy, particularly with respect to Iraq. Here are four of my favorite paragraphs from the article. They were not in succession in the original, but they were in the order they appear here.

...undeterred by circumstance, well pleased with his persona as the last, best hope of mankind, the President smiles his spendthrift and self-congratulating smile and bets another Marine division on the chance that it will save Mel Gibson's Jesus from a mob of bearded terrorists in Najaf. I can understand why some people might find the performance terrifying, also why some other people might see it as darkly comic, but what I don't understand is why anybody continues to think that the man knows what he is doing.
...all present in the chorus of responsible opinion (Senator John Kerry as well as President Bush) offer sentiments identical to the ones that for twelve years bankrolled the American losses in Vietnam---the United States must "stay the course,", "discharge its moral responsibility,", protect the Iraqi people from the scourge of civil war, maintain its "credibility" as the all-powerful wonder of the world. The sales pitch is as disingenuous now as it was in 1968.
To excuse the subsequent fiasco of the military occupation, the President asks the American people for the willing suspension of their disbelief.
Contrary to the expectations of the studio executives in Washington, the events of the last year have taught a different object lesson, demonstrating the limits of American power and suggesting that the Bush Administration's imperialist policy amounts to little else except another name for terrorism---precision-guided and digitally enhanced but otherwise similar in its objectives to the action-movie sequence that destroyed Manhattan's World Trade Center.
...the Americans are an authentically civilian people, devoid of an exalted theory of the state that might allow us to govern subject races with a firm hand and a quiet conscience. The imperial project serves the interest of the propertied classes, but the work must be performed by the laboring classes, and it is never easy to harness the energy of the latter to the enthusiasms of the former.

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