22 July 2006

No evil shall escape my sight

Matthew Yglasias worries that war hawks have been reading too many comic books.

As you may know, the Green Lantern Corps is a sort of interstellar peacekeeping force set up by the Guardians of Oa to maintain the peace and defend justice. It recruits members from all sorts of different species and equips them with the most powerful weapon in the universe, the power ring.
Suffice it to say that I think all this makes an okay premise for a comic book. But a lot of people seem to think that American military might is like one of these power rings. They seem to think that, roughly speaking, we can accomplish absolutely anything in the world through the application of sufficient military force. The only thing limiting us is a lack of willpower.

What's more, this theory can't be empirically demonstrated to be wrong. Things that you or I might take as demonstrating the limited utility of military power to accomplish certain kinds of things are, instead, taken as evidence of lack of will. Thus we see that problems in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't reasons to avoid new military ventures, but reasons why we must embark upon them ...

Even if Osama bin Ladin is a bit like a comic book villain, that doesn't mean that the world works like a comic book. In fact, I've talked about this business of demonstrating Will and Resolve before. It's corrosive to the effectiveness of US foreign policy and the sanity of domestic political culture.

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