Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is The Cowboy an Outmoded Political Archetype?

The quintessential American political archetype is that of The Cowboy. Part of the magic of the Reagan crowd is that they have made Ronald Reagan-the-President virtually indistinguishable from the manufactured simulacrum of Cowboy-clearing-brush-on the-ranch. And we, as Americans, are conditioned to oblige the leathery masculinity and libertarian gumption of cattle rustlers as they marinade in the western sunshine. It was sheer evil genius to couch Reagan's muscular foreign policy -- mining Nicaraguan harbors against International Law -- under the worn saddle of the kindly cowboy of yesteryear.

But is the traditional cowboy archetype entirely outmoded? "Unforgiven," which is widely regarded as The Last Cowboy Movie, presented a new -- final? -- image of the cowboy, one every bit as ornery, but acutely aware of the importance of feminine virtues to temper that toughness. The American West of Eastwod corrected all those years of being depicted as An Hobbesian Murderworld. And if not for Eastwood's "Unforgiven," "Brokeback Mountain," years later, might not have been as great a commercial and -- most importantly -- cultural success.

We bring this up at this historical juncture because of Vice President Dick Cheney's increasingly aggressive posturing against Iran, which can only be properly construed as the smack-talkings of a cowboy-manque. We'll call him "Dusty (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment)." And the resurgence of the Neoconservatives -- they are getting their second wind, you see -- who seem to be making the blasting of Persia a priority project. Swell and lovely.

The PBS Frontline special on Tuesday, "Showdown Iran," described bittersweetly how close America was in ending U.S.-Iranian tensions immediately after September 11 (The Corsair sips a 2000 Les Pierres Fines Pouilly-Fumé). Had the United States reached out to Iran and involved them in our plans in Iraq, 1) pro-American Rafsanjani might have won the Presidency, not anti-American Ahmadinejad, 2) Iran's Revolutionary guard wouldn't be supplying EFP's to Iraqi insurgents, and 3) We might not be on the verge of a new Crusade, or as the neocons call it: "World War IV"

The parallels between the Hebollah-Israeli war and America's war in Iraq are startling. Israel, however, is far more honest and pro-active about confronting their failures in realizing their objectives. The leaders of Israel have heeded the findings of the Winograd Report. Our President, to this day, refuses to listen to the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton Commission Report, which harnessed the ferocious intellectual energies of some of the best minds in America.

As the USS Nimitz prowls the Persian Gulf we seem resigned by some rhythmic historical compulsion to Crusade against Persia. The madness of this process of War with Byzantium is as old as the Herodotean Inquiries. We cannot fail to note in passing that the hyper-masculine -- Diplomacy? What's that? -- approach to the Iraq War is best characterized by the over-reliance on air power at the outset. It was that overreliance that allowed the insurgents to engineer such deadly innovations in fighting against a Superpower. Rumsfeld's restructuring of the military, ironically, weakened the Army, the direct modern descendants of ... The Cowboy.

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