Right after the fall of Baghdad, I adopted a new slogan for Abu Aardvark: "The battle's done, and we kind of won, so we sound our victory cheer: where do we go from here?"
Taken from the epic Buffy musical, no single quote better captured the ambiguous nature of the American victory or the murkiness of the future.
If anyone wondered whether Joss Whedon might disapprove of my use of a classic Buffy line as the tagline for this blog, wonder no more.
Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, has endorsed Kerry-Edwards.
Shaun Narine, a fellow political scientist, wrote a classic essay "Power and Legitimacy in Buffy", which helps explain why. Here's my take on the same terrain:
In Season 7, Buffy tries to seize leadership and 'build an army' to face off against the First Evil - whose combination of psychological warfare and Caleb's assassinations and bombing campaigns clearly evoke a terrorist threat. Buffy tries her best, initially rallying the troops through bold resolve (killing the first ubervamp in the Thunderdome), but then losing her way by adopting a moralizing, didactic, inflexible leadership style based on showing strength and resolve. She refuses to consult with her powerful allies or to acknowledge their legitimate concerns and fears, and ultimately loses their confidence. And her policies lead to disaster: rushing in to the old vineyard with faulty intelligence and an unrealistic conception of the balance of power, she watches several potentials be killed and Xander lose an eye.
In the aftermath, she loses her position of leadership as her friends, who love her but no longer trust her judgement, withdraw their consent - not so much because of the disastrous decision she made to rush headlong into an obvious trap out of over-confidence in her own powers and a headstrong urgency to take the offensive, but because she took that decision without consulting with others and without bothering to patiently build consensus behind her plan.
When Buffy returns to the gang, it is with a plan based explicitly on sharing power and decentralizing authority, and a repudiation of being a 'chosen one'. Crucially, this did not mean giving up the fight against evil - it meant waging that battle more intelligently, more cooperatively, and ultimately more successfully. Arrogant unilateralism failed; patient multilateralism worked.
In other words, Season 7 of Buffy always struck me as a fairly explicit critique of Bush's foreign policy (even if dullards on the right missed it), and a foreshadowing of a superior Kerryist alternative. Even Willow's tentative embrace of her own power and overcoming of her own fears about how she might use her power for evil echoes the European (and especially German) struggle with the past; as in Season Four (Adam) and Season Five (Glory), Buffy can only defeat evil when working closely with a self-confident and allied Willow.
This theme runs consistently through the Buffy series: strength comes from teamwork, not from one's own power. Defeating evil always requires that the good learn to trust each other and act collectively. But at the same time, power implies great responsibility and sometimes the powerful will have to do things which others will resent. But if the powerful stop believing in the rules, in their allies, in a collective decision making process, they lose their way.
Maybe now the Weekly Standard will stop their ridiculous campaign to claim Buffy for the Dark Side.