Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Sunday, January 04, 2004
Help Wanted: Augean Stables Cleaner

"For the fifth labor, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to clean up King Augeas' stables." After the stables were cleaned, vile and bitter recriminations followed, the ruler of a European nation refused to fulfill his obligations, and the value of the work was disqualified for technical reasons by churlish international arbiters. Hmmm…history may not repeat itself, but it sure rhymes this time. The lesson we should learn from this legend is not that accomplishing heroic labors never gets you any slack from the Europeans, it's that letting filth pile up indefinitely requires heroic effort to fix.

There are some who still claim that the stables would have gotten clean if diplomacy had been given more time. The only discernable results in Iraq of twelve years of diplomacy were more ruthless human rights abuses and a greater degree of polish in Saddam's palaces. More time for diplomacy was never going to provide the people of Iraq the tools and opportunity they needed to become successful themselves. More time for diplomacy was not going to stop the plastic shredders getting fed people. More time for diplomacy only made the filth deeper and more pervasive.

Now Geo. Bush & Co. never promised to clean up Iraq in one day, regardless of what the current Augeas' may claim. It was always about sticking with the process until the job was done. It's been hard work and will continue to be hard work. Unlike the legend, the Coalition is not using clever tricks. The methods of cleaning up Iraq have also been a lot more environmentally friendly; at least the people downstream think so.

The phrase "cleaning the Augean Stables" is used to note a task that is incredibly difficult, tedious, thankless, and probably smelly. It should probably be noted that the original task was largely due to bad planning and intractable adherence to previous methods. Without devolving into a dissertation on the downfalls of centralized agriculture, there are some points to consider. Maintaining the persistence of failed systems is a position taken by those who either get a direct benefit from the system's failure, those whose enemies are harmed by it, or those who value form over reality. Fixing Iraq is a process that threatens a number of entrenched interests. Success in Iraq makes it more likely that other Herculean tasks will be attempted and accomplished.

Many people no longer acknowledge the possibility of heroism in their worldview. Many influential people have such a limited definition of heroism that they openly deny heroic accomplishments despite compelling evidence. For some this is a matter of maintaining priorities, for most it is a matter of ignoring the failure of their worldview. Causing a psychotic break from reality for the movers and shakers in Hollywood and the media was not Geo. Bush & Co.'s primary agenda, and it must be said that such things were pretty common well before 9/11. The extreme contortions that the anti-war mob must go through to say anything positive is solved with Gordian-knot simplicity; they rarely say anything that is not an attack. I suppose this makes them ghastly dinner companions, but once again; such things were pretty common well before Iraq was invaded.

Another key difference between Geo. Bush & Co. and Hercules is the key matter of assistance. It makes a better story if one guy does the work, but with really big tasks, quality goes way up with committed help. One reason I refer to Geo. Bush & Co. as such is because the President reminds me of a really effective businessman who has a great staff and strong relations with other firms locally and abroad. Despite the chattering class's accusations of unilateralism, the invasion of Iraq was accomplished with a lot of help. Further, it called into question the value of a cause that would be acceptable to all. Do we really want the help of genocidal fascists in overthrowing genocidal fascists? In WWII, we absolutely needed Stalin's help in defeating Hitler. But not using the demon's help means not paying the demon's price. It looks very much like Geo. Bush & Co. got all the help they could afford, and did the job without those who asked the demon's price.

There are other stables that need cleaning. Here is the situation that is going to put many a Beverly Hills psychoanalyst's kid through college; Geo. Bush & Co. does not look afraid of the shovel. Perhaps it is that the President himself takes care of his body and goes to bed at a reasonable hour. Perhaps it is because Laura Bush is more interested in the health of her husband than the holy grail of a national health care plan. Perhaps it is easier at the end of the day; to have acted with integrity is restorative, even if the job was smelly and the judges of the work were unappreciative. That Col. Moammar Gadhafi was willing to clean his own stables, rather than have somebody do it for him speaks volumes as to the effectiveness of a willing shovel. It may very well be that the task of this greatest nation in the world for the next century will be to clean up the filth that has been allowed to accumulate and prevent it from occurring. I am convinced that we are up to the task and that there's no better work worth doing.

This is just too good not to link: Solomania gets the facts, Jack!
Samuel has some nice things to say in amplification at Roger L. Simon's place.
Comments: Post a Comment


  This page is powered by Blogger, the easy way to update your web site.  

Home  |  Archives