October 22, 2006

The Oedipus Complex

Rupert Cornwell, writing in the UK Independent, believes one of the reasons we find ourselves in Iraq is because of the dysfunctional relationship between '41' and '43'.

My point, however, is that without the complex feelings of Bush junior towards Bush senior, the mess might not have happened at all. Normally I am not one to seek an explanation of contemporary political riddles in the teachings of Sigmund Freud. But the Bush case is an exception.

First, the hermetic secrecy of this administration makes normal fact-gathering especially difficult. What clues to the father/son relationship that have emerged have done so as passing references in books, either by licensed court historians such as Bob Woodward, or in the memoirs of disgruntled former officials. Second, there seems no other answer to the question that baffles me even now: why precisely was Bush junior bent on war with Iraq, almost from his first day in office?

One reason, recounted in the just-published Hubris by reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn, is the son's desire to avenge the assassination attempt by Saddam's intelligence services on his father during the latter's visit to Kuwait in 1993: "He tried to kill my dad," the President used to fume to visitors. But there is far more to it than that.

In 1991, having driven Saddam from Kuwait, Bush senior could have conquered Baghdad in days. But he didn't, as he wrote in A World Transformed, co-authored by his former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, because he knew invasion could lead to chaos and sectarian violence, leaving Americans as the unpopular occupiers of an Arab country, with no available exit strategy: "Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land." Junior either didn't read those words (published in 1998, five years before his war of choice), or he wilfully ignored them.

We have seen over and over again how Shrub has gone out of his way to outdo his father. However, according to Freud, the Oedipus complex begins as a rivalry with a goal for winning the exclusive love of the mother.

Freud believed that the Oedipus complex is a normal part of human psychological growth. The Oedipal phase of development is commonly considered to last from the age of 21/2 to 6. During this period, children experience intense feelings--love and hate, yearning and jealousy, fear and anger--that produce emotional conflicts. Most people outgrow the Oedipal phase, but some mentally ill individuals have a strong Oedipus complex as adults. According to Freud, the principal reason for the weakening of the complex in boys is the fear of punishment from the father.

But what role has the unloving, cold and belittling relationship Barbara Bush had with her son in creating his emotional immaturity and inability to empathize with others? It seems that one reason Jr. continues to have an enduring fixation on outdoing his dad has a lot to do with the pathological relationship Shrub had with Babs. And the ultimate tragedy is that the world pays for the ongoing psychodrama that plays out in the Bush family.

Posted by Mary at October 22, 2006 04:25 PM | Philosophy | Technorati links |

Having raised two sons what I see in Dubya is an adolescent male - 14 to 16 years old. One of the things that can result in this emotional development freeze is heavy drinking/druging during adolescence. Just a thought!

Posted by: Ron Beasley at October 22, 2006 07:59 PM

hi Mary,
If you want classical dramaturgical tropes, there's also the bitter irony that for years it was the commonly observed by lots of people that "we should've gotten rid of Saddam when we had the chance", and now, in his attempts to outdo his father, Junior has in fact demonstrated the wisdom of Bush sr's 1991 decision.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at October 23, 2006 08:18 PM

Jonathan, that is true -- if he'd made that decision in 1990, we would be experiencing some of this trouble a lot earlier. Nevertheless, papa continues to show what a self-serving creep he is and what a poor job he did as a father. Why did he hate America so much to help put his screwed up son in the White House?

Posted by: Mary at October 24, 2006 12:15 AM