In search of monsters to destroy

Pankaj Mishra in The Guardian:

Mishra We are winning in Iraq, John McCain declared in the presidential debate last week, “and we will come home with victory and with honour.” This may sound like some perfunctory keep-the-pecker-up stuff from a former military man. But the Republican candidate, who believes that the “surge” has succeeded in Iraq, also possesses the fanatical conviction that heavier bombing and more ground troops could have saved the United States from disgrace in Vietnam. On the same occasion, Barack Obama, who seems more aware of the costs of American honour to the American economy, claimed he would divert troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and, if necessary, order them to assault “safe havens” for terrorists in Pakistan’s wild west. Both candidates sought the imprimatur of Henry Kissinger, the co-alchemist, with Richard Nixon, of the “peace with honour” formula in Vietnam, which turned out to include the destruction of neighbouring Cambodia.

An ominously similar escalation of the “war on terror” has ensured that the next American president will receive a septic chalice from George Bush in January 2009. In July, Bush sanctioned raids into Pakistan, pre-empting Obama’s tough-sounding strategy of widening the war in Afghanistan, where resurgent Taliban this year account for Nato’s highest death toll since 2001. Pakistan’s army chief vowed to defend his country “at all costs”, and his soldiers now clash with US troops almost daily. Obscured by the American economy’s slow-motion train wreck, the war on terror has already stumbled into its most treacherous phase with the invasion of fiercely nationalistic and nuclear-armed Pakistan.

More here.