Wretchard of The Belmont Club in a brilliant post describes what he sees as a change of tone in the Blogsphere recently.

My own hunch is that in the last two or three months there’s been a change in the tone of the blogsphere. Nothing definite, simply a change in atmosphere in proportion to the degree of abstract tendencies of the blogger. Authors who trafficked in ideas and concepts have altered the most. Some have paused to take stock, pleading disgust or confusion; still others have returned to writing as seemingly different persons; others seem to be suffering a kind of nervous breakdown, obsessed with hatred for one or more public figures or inventing new words and finding conspiracies in everything they see.

Wretchard couches this perception in a model of the unconscious mind based on Jayne’s Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Whatever we call this unconscious or pre-conscious level of the human mind the key idea that emerges for me is that we can see change at the collective level more clearly and quickly because of the Internet in general and the blogsphere in particular. Because of the net we can see changes that we would otherwise be unconscious of and not pick up until much later because access to the Internet anywhere in the world gives us a window into the way we are thinking as a group. Or we might say it moves the edge of consciousness further into the realm of the unconscious so we pick up changes in trend more quickly.

To tell the truth I missed this shift in tone that Wretchard indicates. I expect that it was because that is exactly the time period when I started this blog and was too immersed to notice. But, of course, I may have just plain missed it. Wretchard goes on to describe what he thinks may be a change in the mindsets created by the events of 9/11 and the Iraq war.

My own theory is that all the old divisions so sharply erected between September 11, 2001 and April, 2003 have been slowly eroded by the uncertainties of the world. The Left and the Right have seen their champions turn out to be all too human, and are confounded. Issues which are a wedge on both sides of the spectrum — like immigration or Darfur — have scattered interest groups around like balls after a billiard break. New issues like the resurgence of a hostile Russia, the spread of Marxism in Latin America — even the malicious buffoonery of the Iranian President — are crowding at the fringes of the now comforting world of the War on Terror. The old play is ending and yet the new one has not yet begun. And this bothers abstract intellectuals far more than it does the men in the field. A soldier can write with perfect conviction that “the world was a slightly better place every time I pulled the trigger” because he lives in a world of specificity, but the agonized thinker can find no such comfort in cold abstractions; abstractions now in need of repair under the weight of experience.

I may have missed the change in tone, but I have not failed to notice that reality has been considerably more complex that either the cheerleaders of the right and left would have us believe. What I did not recognize as fully as I do after reading Wretchard’s piece is that those disturbing new elements around the edges of the debate on the War on Terror may indeed take center stage in the near future and immerse us in a whole new set of challenges.

Austin Bay, who is both a soldier (he did a tour of duty in Iraq last year) and a regular commentator on global events has this take on Wretchard’s post:

If Wretchard is right, what might those incremental events be that have led to the change in tone? Heres my first guess, one I’m fairly certain is accurate: theres a growing awareness that Al Qaeda is being defeated its not dead but its on its way to defeat. Even Al Qaedas latest rants reflect an awareness that their great gambit has failed. Violent political Islamism isn’t defeated but its Al Qaeda avatar is on the ropes. Lets hope that leads to a re-consideration of methods by other violent political Islamists (like, drop the violent?). Heres my second candidate: There is also a growing awareness that Iraqs long slog may well result in the emergence of a new, more open political system in the Muslim Middle East. Its still going to take a couple of years for this to be evident and the worst defeatists and naysayers will either go to their graves denying it but all of the indicators are there. The bombs still explode in Baghdad (that is what makes the 24/7 news), but the Iraqis are slowly taking political and economic control. In historical terms this is astonishing news, but it is slow news, where the evidence builds brick by brick. (Dont write me about Shias and Kurds shooting one another it has happened before and will happen again the big picture is the emergence of an open political system that will deal legally and politically with deadly disputes.) The Iraqis are emerging from their civil war (thats the way Ive described the insurgency, pegging the start of the civil war sometime in the summer of 2003).

Here are some otherincremental events that may be nudging the collective intuition as Wretchard sees it expressed on the Internet. Irans mullahs are demonstrating once again the limitations of UN multi-lateralism sharp minds on the left and right recognize this. A lot of people staked their hopes for peace and a better future on UN multilateralism. The Iranian situation also illustrates the limits of US unilateralism how many times can the worlds superpower go it alone? Lefty neo-interventionists are certainly seeing the limits of UN multilateralism vis a vis Darfur and a few of them understand the hypocrisy of damning intervention in Iraq while calling for intervention in Sudan/Darfur. The so-called neo-cons at least those who lack military experience have learned that war is never a cakewalk. (Folks with real mil experience and/or historical savvy tried to tell them it never is.) I think the hard slog has diminished their rhetorical ardor.

As a supporter of the war I hope Austin Bay is right, but I am aware that many are very certain that Iraq was lost by the US long ago. I think it still could be, but in any case even if the final outcome of the war on Terror is still not clear, Wretchard’s point that events are moving on is sobering. Events always do and we have to be quick on our feet to see where the next challenge is coming from. Remember when DNA on a blue dress seemed of earth shaking importance to so many? During those same gay nineties Francis Fukuyama even declared an end to history, but history just shrugged and moved on.

One Response to “The Now Comforting World of the War On Terror”  

  1. 1 John

    I notice that Wretched and his colleagu Tiger Hawk are essentially fans of the Ayn Rand and her benighted politics & “culture”. The anti-”culture” of the loveless heart which reduces everything to a cold heartless one dimensional realm of isolated ‘things’ bumping into each other which inevitably results as the war of all against all.

    With that in mind these two related references sum up the inevitable outcome of such a politics and anti-”culture”.

    1. http://www.dabase.net/coop tol.htm

    2. http://www.coteda.com/fundamentals/index.html

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