No he didn't offer any stunning insight, nor is he a borderline genius just waiting to be uncovered; he represents the predominant American response towards 9-11 terrorism, fear. He kept snickering at me, "liberal". When I pushed him a little deeper, you know hot button topics of the day like Iraq, he tossed back at me that he couldn't understand why I didn't just let it go, "we're there, give it up". When you have a brother in the Marine Corp. who one day in college simultaneously became the head of a frat, avid listener to country music, and ardent republican, it's almost like having Rush Limbaugh living with you. Southerners are tacitly interested in politics, most things are gung ho attitudes left over from the last presidential election or some flare up ala Cindy Sheehan or gay marriage.
Everyone supports the troops, the world is different after 9/11 (we have to think with a different paradigm), we're in Iraq so deal with it (no one even bothers to debate the decision to go in the first place), George Bush is no-nonsense you whiny liberal.
I really had had enough. I really pushed him and he got red in the face. Ask probing questions like, "ok so we're in Iraq, what do we do now?" after a few minutes of trying to make a semblance of an answer I got something similar to, we can't pull out troops because that strengthens the terrorists. I almost thought I was watching FOX news. Push a little harder. "So you just want to sit in Iraq, you think it's ok to have a refill 30,000 troops and maintain a presence in Iraq? You think its ok for your brother to have to get his stay in Iraq extended? Make a deadline, what needs to get done, Constitution, Government, etc. then withdraw slowly, you don't need a hard timeline, what's so wrong about that?” He stared at me. I thought he was going to cry, in an argument you feel good when you win; there is nothing feel good about crushing a 16 year old. I ended with, "you keep telling me to let it go and that I am criticizing what you passionately believe in, I don't think you actually know what you believe in". I think I went too far. It's too bad I'm pretty sure I was right, I felt pretty terrible.
My point in relating this anecdote was that there are somethings that we as the American public just take for granted. We can usually tell the two sides of a coin, we know hot and cold are opposites, we have a basic sense of right and wrong, we know that our democracy is better (at least for us) an oppressive authoritarian government. So when we proclaim that we are sending our troops out the Iraq and the middle east, even as partisan as we are, as much as half the country thinks that marching into Iraq and deposing Saddam was a good idea, deep down we still kind of think that spreading democracy is a good idea.
I had an epiphany one day as I was lying in bed. Maybe invading Iraq was a good idea. I couldn't remember the exact reasoning but over the next few days I pieced together that it was similar to playing a RTS game like Civilization 4. If you want to start expanding your influence and having a section of the world become friendlier, you can carve out some land and use it as a beacon for your world view. We have a democratic haven next to Iran and Saudi Arabia by which we can effectively pursue and drive out terrorism.
I entertained that idea for about a week before reality stepped in and I realized just how similar that idea actually was to a computer game, an idealized version of reality and its mechanisms.
Liberals like myself, started off the criticism of the Iraq invasion by saying that democracy isn't good for every country, different strokes for different folks. Conservatives said we were digging our own graves that thinking like that was creating too much headway for terrorists and their harbor states.
That approach wasn't the right way to look at the situation as I've recently discovered. The real question is, is democracy a curse in disguise, and is it actually a threat to American security?
Iraq recently had its parliamentary elections; everyone in the administration patted themselves on the back. Looking at the election results we see the clear winner, religious fundamentalists: Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds. With a Shia dominated parliament, it is difficult to say that we are better off, "we" being Americans. We have not created a bastion of democracy in the Middle East; we have created an Islamic Republic.
There is nothing wrong with Islam. It's just that that neighborhood isn't full of potlucks and picnics. Iran new ruling party openly wants to blow up Israel, so two years down the road, pair up Iran that wants to blow up Israel, Sunnis who aren't exactly our best friends and have been leading Iraqi resistance, Saudis that wouldn't mind blowing up Israel, and Palestine's Hamas and you have one big mosh pit of fun. So in the name of democracy, we've allowed the people to build the foundations of an Islamic state, a concept which is still rather fundamental (Islamic democracy, that is). With only a basic premise as to how an Islamic democracy would work, the people will default to a religious Islamic state and with that comes the specter of possible continued terrorism and Middle Eastern conflict. Did we just accidentally tip the religious balance in the region? Israel, watch out.