Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Yadda Yadda Yadda

Over at the Duck of Minerva blog, Rodger is taken to task for saying "Yadda Yadda Yadda" in relation to the downfall of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi elections.

"Yes, Saddam is gone and brave Iraqis voted to select their new leaders. Yadda yadda yadda. Is the Bush administration serious about American national security -- or not?" [Iraq and 9/11]

"Why not leave the Yaddaing to the Kissinger and Scowcroft types?" [Comment by "a"]

"I was 'yaddaing' the empty repetition of the claimed successes in response now to every criticism of the obvious insecurity created by the Iraq war." [Should progressives be happy about Iraq's successes?]
Rodger and his fellow-bloggers on the Duck of Minerva talk a great deal about framing, but in this post he seems to have neglected to indicate the frame in which his words are to be taken. (Can I mention the Pope again here?)

As he now makes clear, Rodger is accusing the war supporters of empty repetition, repetition of (increasingly) empty words. In Lacanian thought [see note1 below], empty repetition is a kind of obsessive evasion, trying (often unsuccessfully) to conceal what one really thinks or desires.

Many progressives simply don't believe that the purpose of the Iraq invasion and occupation ever really had anything to do with bringing democracy to the Iraqi people. And it is sometimes hard to explain the strategy of the occupying forces in terms of this purpose. Therefore it is tempting to regard this purpose as an imaginary one [see note2 below].

What I think Rodger is saying, therefore, is that the frequent invocation of Iraqi democracy and freedom is not an authentic expression of a deep commitment for the human rights and natural dignity of the Iraqi people.

He may be right, but I am not sure that's the most important thing. The words may be insincere or cynical, but they have a profound effect on the devastated country nonetheless. People are dying every day for this "yadda yadda", so it had better be worth dying for. I'm not optimistic, I don't see a good outcome here, but I really hope I'm wrong.

[Note 1] Lacan's distinction between full speech and empty speech is derived from Heidegger's distinction between Rede (discourse) and Gerede (chatter). "The subject seems to be talking in vain about someone who . . . can never become one with the assumption of his desire." [Source: NoSubject wiki: Speech]

[Note 2] For Lacan, "the imaginary is far from inconsequential; it has powerful effects in the real". [Source: NoSubject wiki: Imaginary]

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