Holidays With the In-Laws

The holidays are upon us, and you know that means rubbing shoulders with the relatives. No matter what the result of the elections Tuesday, or what weirdness transpires in the two months between Election Day and New Year’s while the current Congress races to implement the administration’s crazy plans before any potential change of control, it’s going to be one of those seasons.

Even in families where sentiment about the Iraq war is overwhelmingly one-sided, there’s a lot of room for disagreement. And when people get cornered, it can get ugly.

Say you’ve got a group of people who agree that the Bush administration should never have invaded Iraq. The conversation expands to Afghanistan and Iran, and one of the parties mentions something about how it might have been better for the US if the Carter and Reagan administrations hadn’t supported a bunch of religious extremists in the former country, something that could reasonably be considered to have led to the ascendence of the Taliban: US supports religious mujahideen against Soviet Union, country collapses into chaos after drawn-out war and Soviet withdrawal, former mujahideen band together into Taliban and establish theocratic state.

On Iran, when Jimmy Carter is blamed for not agreeing to some purported plan by the Iranian military to seize power from the Shah (as if the Shah had any greater power other than the military), it gets pointed out that the Shah only came back to power in the 1950s because of a CIA covert operation. Never mind the fact that the revolution against the Shah had long roots; Ayatollah Khomeini had been a major figure on the political scene in Iran as far back as the early 1960s.

This, of course, is where someone might just throw in the “Blame America First” shibboleth; really just another way of calling someone un-American or unpatriotic. Which — in my experience — tends to be countered with a lot of eight-letter expletives, as well as the charge that their arguments are “stupid”, because, really, when people start whining that if you don’t like what they view as American realpolitik that’s provided our comfortable standard of living maybe you should just move to Pakistan, that’s the point to step outside, wait for your folks and your wife, and go home.

But I predict that when Iraq has gone through another decade or two of the hell we unleashed there by tipping over the Saddam statues and America gets the blow-back, that the same in-laws are going to be telling me I “Blame America First” when I bring up the invasion.