Perhaps because I have been reading too much Thomas Friedman lately, I feel compelled to mention a recent experience I had on an airplane. I promise the experience did not involve deciding based on a word written on the back of a fellow passenger’s jacket that Pakistan is either the Titanic or the iceberg.
It did involve sitting next to a former U.S. tank commander in Iraq who is now an intercontinental employee of a private security firm and had just returned from Liberia. He amused himself by poking me during moments of turbulence and announcing that security was an illusion, whether in the context of private military contracting or aircraft journeys.
According to my companion, the Iraq War was unmerited but was ultimately a “happy accident”, given that the U.S. occupation served as a magnet for regional terrorists and thus saved American purveyors of illusion the hassle of having to chase them down in disparate locations. He did not have an explanation for why Yemeni women and children failed to respond to the magnet, creating extra work for U.S. cruise missiles and cluster munitions, or for how magnets had developed the ability to generate that which they were attracting.
As for my fellow passenger’s anthropological analysis according to which inhabitants of certain parts of the world could only understand violence, it was unclear what was supposed to be understood by people he himself claimed had not merited war. One possibility, of course, is that those on the receiving end of U.S. military accidents might one day internalize the optimism of private security contractors who don’t believe in security.