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Hubris Revisited:

I was off by a couple of years. After the Supreme Court anointed GWB in 2000 and after GWB found his raison d’etre – 9/11 – the arrogance, self-righteousness and egomaniacal self-assurance began to manifest itself loud and clear. It was obvious to any rational person that Iraq posed no threat to America, but that didn’t stop the Bushies from rushing off to a disastrous war.

Surely, I thought, their hubris will bring them down. If history has any lessons at all, one lesson seems clear: overweening pride precedes the fall. But then, in spite of the record of a disastrous war, destructive environmental programs, massive favoritism to the rich, a failing educational policy, a growing gap between the poor and the rich, nevertheless, the man gets reelected in 2004 and this time, he seems to have actually won the popular vote.

After the election I began to wonder: has this administration defied gravity? Does pride sometimes escape the rule of history? Can ignorant, mean-spirited people blithely defy reason, logic and evidence and do whatever they want and get away with it? For me, the election of 2004 raised such questions and I began sinking into genuine political despair. I love my country and yet I see it becoming more and more an object of scorn and hatred around the world. Nevertheless, the current administration persists in its policies of environmental deregulation, opposition to nuclear disarmament and defense of the right of America to impose its will upon other countries. I began to wonder if hubris is an outdated concept.

Perhaps not. Michael Kush of Newsweek recently wrote: “How did we arrive at this day, with anti-American Islamist governments rising in the Mideast, Bin Laden sneering at us, Al Qaida lieutenants escaping from prison, Iran brazenly enriching uranium and America so hated and mistrusted as it has ever been? The answer, in a word, is incompetence.” I agree with Kush, but I think the answer is deeper than just incompetence. It is hubris. I was off by a couple of years, but I believe that the current administration is not escaping its sentences and in the end cannot escape the inevitable consequences of arrogance, unreasoning, overweening self-righteous pride.

The war in Iraq was doomed from the beginning, yet the hubris of the Cheney-Wolfowitz, et al., gang prevented them from seeing their folly. The Vietnam analogy completely escaped them. You don’t win the hearts and minds of foreign peoples by bombing their capital city and invading their country. Yet as Proverbs proclaims, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Those who claim to derive their inspiration and guidance from the Bible apparently overlooked this passage.

It is rather clear to most Americans now that what we have accomplished in Iraq is to bring the country to the brink of civil war, to have created the conditions where perhaps 100,000 Iraqis have died and where no good solution is apparent. Of course, if you regard establishing four American military bases in Iraq – which will, no doubt, be permanent – as a success, then it has been worth it. But this was not the rationale with which we went to war.

And now, in the face of the daily chaotic and tragic carnage, do we find our administration reacting? Well, how do prideful folk usually react when confronted by their own calamitous mistakes? Denial. Denial is the usual modus operandi. Simply keep repeating, “We are succeeding.” In spite of all evidence to the contrary, keep repeating, “We are succeeding.”

Fortunately, the American public is buying this pablum less and less. All that remains – in a mere three years – is to elect a consortium with a more rational and humble agenda. An agenda, say, of peace, disarmament, conservation, human and civil rights, poverty eradication – more than enough to unite and inspire a nation. If only a leader less addicted to hubris and more enlightened would appear. If only…

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