To me at least, Melville captures the trajectory of the Bush years. It begins with a president who started out after 9/11 with immense support at home and abroad and a genuine mandate to fight terrorism. But then Mr. Bush became obsessed by his responsibility to prevent another terror attack.Now if only we can stop Ahab from destroying the ship...
This was an eminently worthy goal, but Mr. Bush abandoned traditional rules and boundaries — like bans on torture and indefinite detentions — and eventually blundered into Iraq. And in a way that Melville could have foretold, the compulsive search for security ended up creating insecurity.
Melville’s lesson is that even a heroic quest can be destructive when we abandon all sense of limits. And at a time when we hear the siren calls of moral clarity, the classics almost invariably emphasize the importance of moral nuance, an appreciation for complexity, the need for humility.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Kristof with a lesson for W on Iraq
Forget about Vietnam, Kristof says, it's Moby Dick that helps us understand what W's been doing. Iraq's the white whale: