President Barack Obama at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo.  (Harrywad / Wikimedia Commons)

President Barack Obama at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. (Harrywad / Wikimedia Commons)

The senator who opposed the Iraq War is now—as President—engaging in an Iraq War. The Nobel Peace Prize recipient is authorizing air strikes in the Middle East. The candidate who lost a presidential race because he opposed, as a young veteran, the Vietnam War is now—as Secretary of State—organizing allies for a war campaign in Syria. The senator who opposed George Bush’s policy of torturing enemy combatants, and who made a mark in his presidential race by singing bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran, is gleeful at last that his advice has been heeded, and that we are bombing someone.

For once again, another barbarous Devil has appeared in the Middle East; yet again, another heinous adversary threatens “American Interests” (read “American Money”) and “National Security” (read “American Power”). The land is plagued by a Hydra Monster; no sooner does the U.S. cut off one head, another one grows in its place.

Engraving of the second labor of Hercules: slay the Lernaean Hydra. (Gilles Rousselet)

Engraving of the second labor of Hercules: slay the Lernaean Hydra. (Gilles Rousselet)

Assuming a more contemporary metaphor, a New York corporate lawyer of my acquaintance concluded: “It’s like a Whack-a-Mole over there.” He was referring to the arcade game that consists of whacking a mole’s head with a club. No sooner do you whack a mole, another one pops out of its cave, and you must whack the new one on the head again. The moles never cease from popping out of their holes. The object of the game is to bash as many mole heads as you can in your allotted time.

In one conversation, my friend Bob Ivie once remarked: “In my lifetime, we have never NOT been at war.” In my own lifetime, covertly or overtly, we have also always been at war. As if we had absorbed Orwell’s lesson of “perpetual war” to maintain our hegemony in the world. We have become Oceania. Only recently—during the Cold War—we were at war with Eurasia; and now—seemingly overnight—for reasons that are mysterious to the majority of us, we find ourselves fighting another harrowing conflict in Eurafrica.

In George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar berates Cleopatra for ordering the assassination of an Egyptian statesman whom he had pardoned. An angry mob gathers outside the palace in Alexandria clamoring for revenge:

Do you hear? These knockers at your gate are also believers in vengeance and in stabbing. You have slain their leader; it is right that they shall slay you….. And then in the name of that right shall I not slay them for murdering their Queen, and be slain in my turn by their countrymen as the invader of their fatherland? Can Rome do less than slay these slayers too, to shew the world how Rome avenges her sons and her honor? And so, to the end of history, murder shall breed murder, always in the name of right and honor and peace, until the gods are tired of blood and create a race that can understand.

For the only way to beat the Whack-a-Mole is to walk away from it.



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