If the title of this one surprises you, you haven’t been paying enough attention to the ways politicians speak to crowds. Even if a candidate’s own party has controlled most of the branches of government for most of the last decade, you can put money in the bank that he will blame most of the problems on “politicians.” If a political opponent does something nasty, nobody will say that she was being nasty; they’ll use the Washington word for “nasty”: politics. And Heaven forbid that anyone should accuse an elected official of “politicizing” a war; that’s a charge that nobody will accept without a fight.
What strikes me as odd is that a war, if anything, should be the most thoroughly political event that a state undertakes. After all, a war pits a state’s citizens against armed enemies, and with modern weaponry, the odds of somebody killing somebody else (or dozens of somebody elses) is pretty close to a hundred percent. Moreover, with the cost of modern weapons systems, any invasion of any country is going to cost billions if not trillions of dollars. Furthermore, the initiation and conduct of a war directly influences the reputation of all citizens, not just the “decider,” so adding the three of those elements up, I can’t think of anything else more worth careful consideration in the context of and by the people of the polis.
Of course, action-by-the-polis is not what politicians mean when they tell crowds how much they hate politics. And when one faction accuses the other of “politicizing” something, they refer not to actual politics but to the grubbing of support for the next round of large-scale elections. But like Zell Miller clinging to the label “Democrat” when he knows full well that the word means something different now (so did he in 1992, but that’s another story), I still would prefer a politician to a leader in most any elected office. At least a politician has the polis in his title if not in his heart–self-proclaimed leaders often “lead” soldiers to their deaths and economies into trillion dollar debts.