For :

Truth’s voice now strains to make its speech be heard
above the world’s din. The war-drum beats loud
and priests of many faiths pervert the word
God vouchsafed to them. A gathering crowd
protests in the streets, and cries out for calm
so loudly, thugh the press makes this voice mute.
Our leaders promise to hold back the storm
as if they were more blessed than king Canute
who knew his limits. Bankers gain by theft,
conning those who live by hard-working creeds.
Our greatness withers: not a tree is left
to thrive in once fertile ground. Instead, weeds
grow rampant in America’s garden,
and there’s axes in our Forest Arden.

I went to this talk with the appropriately-named James Blight, who argued that American foreign policy works best when it clings to two imperatives: the ‘moral’ imperative to bring its highest ideals at home to all its overseas work; and the ‘multilateral’ imperative to seek to act in concert with others.

I agree with him in principle, and history agrees with him; we do our best overseas when we try to bring genuine democracy and honest reform to the wider world, and we do that best when we have allies to keep an eye on us. When we act alone, we turn things into a screaming horror.

That said, though, I felt like he was addressing the wrong audience. We were all teachers, flush with a glass of wine or two, recently satisfied by a big dinner, and virtually incapable of affecting foreign policy in any way. It was like a professor from the Sorbonne lecturing a bunch of happy peasants in southern France in 1344, after a village feast about rat control. We can see that there’s a problem. We just can’t make the nobles listen to us.

28 comments

  1. The more I actually read news from the front lines, the posters and inhabitants out there, actually hearing what they see the situation is, the less I respect or trust the news media in this country. They’ve gone far, far beyond having a vested interest in bad news selling, they’re actively manipulating content to create a desperate air that just ain’t there.

    Is it a long hard, bloody slog? Sure it is. And there are dangerous people shooting at our countrymen. But when the conservative reports are coming in of 50:1 combat losses (their 50, our 1), you’ve just got to stop and wonder more about the political process there than the outcome of any military operation.

    That’s 50:1 with the forces on-site largely hand-tied by tough rules of engagement. If the Fallujah insurgents don’t turn over their heavy weapons soon, you’re about to see what a somewhat more unfetted group of Marines can do with MOUT.

    As far as the folks out there go, they say its looking pretty solid. I’m inclined to believe them more than, say, CNN whom I’ve tracked deliberate quote editing and clear deviousness from.

    Your milage may vary.

  2. Dum Spiro, Spero…

    Iraq, Iran, Syria — they don’t have that kind of protection.

    Exactly. And that’s why I’m continuing to hope for good outcomes. All the news has just got me depressed.

    A former student of mine is over there now.

  3. Surely you don’t think constituants not listening to the masses, at least ostensibly, is a new phenomenon, right? Whether it be the glad-hand or the form-letter, the pro forma nod is as much protective colouration as anything. If you’re a politician, and get recognized for actually listening to anyone, you’ll just have that many more clamouring to put you in their pocket.

    Bit of a lose-lose for folks in the field.

    Kind of a strange world when you can be labeled a moron for doing what you believe in and which the Good Book says is right (destroying tyrany, freeing the enslaved, protecting your people), innit? And stranger still to live in one where Syria is on the UN Council to examine human rights abuses. Strange world, indeed.

    And, just to be clear, note I don’t endorse Bush’s domestic policies regarding civil freedoms, pretty much at all. But I’ve enough faith in my fellow Americans that I’m sure the excesses there will be put aright by the System. Iraq, Iran, Syria — they don’t have that kind of protection.

  4. Not about to stop posting…

    I’m not about to stop posting, or writing letters to congressman, senators and President.

    When I get letters back though, there’s an increasing sense that nobody’s actually reading them. It’s kind of infuriating.

    A colleague asked me a little while ago how I felt on the Iraq War. I told him I no longer know what to think. I have a hard time deciding if we’re being ruled by morons, monsters or the motivated.

    If you do stop posting, I will worry, though. Worry the same for me.

  5. What you think matters in the sense that what you say and what you do ripples out a lot further from your locus than what you think. Thoughts govern actions, and actions govern perception.

    You know what they call a democracy of the silent? That’s right: oligarchy.

    I note that you seem to be free to continue posting to LJ; I’m not sure that you should be going pulling on the “unlawful” rhetoric quite so readily, or you’ll be the Boy With Wolf in His Mouth. Ashcroft is the Attorney General. His staff, technically, are part of the Criminal Justice Department.

    But that really doesn’t make good ad copy.

    It might just be you raised some salient points his screeners thought worth dealing with. Or it might just be a pro-forma form letter. Either way, I don’t think I’d quite flatter myself they’ll be pulling an Elian on your dormroom quite yet. Besides, in a real sense, they’d be more likely to come for me than you.

    If I stop posting, then worry.

  6. So — what you’re saying is that we should have taken out Saddam in the pursuit of democracy and stability, and replaced him with … an Islamofascist theocracy like their lovely, peaceful neighbors, Iran, right?

    No. Blight was arguing that case scenario — the need to promote democracy and stability. Me, I’ve decided officially that I no longer know what to think, and that what I think doesn’t seem to matter.

    A few weeks ago I wrote a letter to John Ashcroft about the drapes over the statue of Justice in the maid auditorium. I got a letter back finally. It said, “The AG has forwarded your letter to us for review.” The letterhead was the criminal justice division. WTF? It’s now apparently unlawful for me to consult with my government about even their symbolic choices.

  7. So — what you’re saying is that we should have taken out Saddam in the pursuit of democracy and stability, and replaced him with … an Islamofascist theocracy like their lovely, peaceful neighbors, Iran, right?

    You’ll forgive me if I turn a jaundiced eye on that plan. Purely out of concern for your sanity, you understand.

    I’d be hard-pressed to refer to the current governing council of Iraq as “thugs,” though I’m not sure if that insults thugs or the council, on alternate days. They’re a bunch of men trying to muddle through in a very alien mindset over people who are about as seperated from the idea of democratic self-rule (save the Kurds, who’ve been doing a kick-ass job of it for over a decade) as anyone else who once had it, as well as a secular state, before 25+ years of brutal dictatorship …

    Did you ever read up on how MacArthur rebuilt Japan’s culture from the ground up? To a certain measure, to destroy certain pernicious memes, you have to be thuggish. You have to use an iron fist, sans the velvet glove, or you get strangled in the night by those who will.

  8. By that measure, every “police action” of the past several decades has been a US-war. You might have noticed that every other nation on the planet mocks us for actually funding military forces by not funding theirs.

    For Hades’ sake, Canada has its military forces stretched near to breaking by their current deployments, such that the Princess Patricia’s is looking at several years’ downtime to be returned to proper order.

    Now, if you ask me if that’s right or just or good, I’ll tell you flat out its not, that we should have pulled every single soldier out of Western Europe years ago and moved them East, where they could actually make a difference rather than just enriching our “allies” in the West, but you didn’t ask that.

    But since you imply that it doesn’t matter if another country has the bulk of their forces engaged, even if orders of magnitude smaller than ours — I’m curious if there exists anyone but China and Russia who could be a coalition with the only other hyperpower on Earth? No other country save Russia (who’s been receiving oil kickbacks from Saddam just as much as the French and Germans), and China (who won’t get involved for their own reasons) even has comperable amounts of force projection to even near 100k boots on the ground in Iraq.

    But its good to know exactly how much you value the UK, Italy, and Poland, not to mention the others providing support. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled.

  9. Don’t get ME wrong…

    I think that the point that Blight tried to make last night was that our foreign policy tends to work better when we work to promote democracy and peace, in the ways that the country we’re helping wants it, as opposed to finding a bunch of thugs to run their country the way we want it run. It doesn’t have to be an American way, Blight was arguing, just a non-thuggish way.

  10. Further, I have to ask, are you suggesting we don’t have allies involved in the current operations? Are you really?

    ~ 150,000 USA
    ~ 10,000 UK
    ~ 3,000 Italy
    ~ 1,300 Spain
    ~……

    And all the others are even less than 1,000, each country just a couple hundreds. To call it a coalition is simply ridiculous. It’s a US-war.

  11. The Cynic would suggest that if teachers, the Voices of Logos Made Flesh to millions of youth, cannot affect foreign policy, then no one can. The Cynic would also like to suggest that current foreign policy is forged from those who were made and shaped by teachers over the last few decades, and if the current ones dislike the form the world takes, they have naught but themselves and their kin to blame.

    Further, I have to ask, are you suggesting we don’t have allies involved in the current operations? Are you really? Because I’m sure the leaders of Poland, Australia, half the countries in Eastern Europe, and the other countries with boots on the ground in Iraq would like to know how you get counted as “ally” by the likes of you and your kin. Or is it just countries who are against acting in the best interests of the Iraqis who are “allies?” In short, are the only ones worthy of the name the ones who agree with you?

    I’ll put it to you just as I do the others who are verbal in their decrying acting in Iraq: What part of mass graves full of women, children, old men, and young men, all rotting in the egalitarian embrace of miserable death are you in support of?

  12. The Cynic would suggest that if teachers, the Voices of Logos Made Flesh to millions of youth, cannot affect foreign policy, then no one can. The Cynic would also like to suggest that current foreign policy is forged from those who were made and shaped by teachers over the last few decades, and if the current ones dislike the form the world takes, they have naught but themselves and their kin to blame.

    Further, I have to ask, are you suggesting we don’t have allies involved in the current operations? Are you really? Because I’m sure the leaders of Poland, Australia, half the countries in Eastern Europe, and the other countries with boots on the ground in Iraq would like to know how you get counted as “ally” by the likes of you and your kin. Or is it just countries who are against acting in the best interests of the Iraqis who are “allies?” In short, are the only ones worthy of the name the ones who agree with you?

    I’ll put it to you just as I do the others who are verbal in their decrying acting in Iraq: What part of mass graves full of women, children, old men, and young men, all rotting in the egalitarian embrace of miserable death are you in support of?

    • Further, I have to ask, are you suggesting we don’t have allies involved in the current operations? Are you really?

      ~ 150,000 USA
      ~ 10,000 UK
      ~ 3,000 Italy
      ~ 1,300 Spain
      ~……

      And all the others are even less than 1,000, each country just a couple hundreds. To call it a coalition is simply ridiculous. It’s a US-war.

      • By that measure, every “police action” of the past several decades has been a US-war. You might have noticed that every other nation on the planet mocks us for actually funding military forces by not funding theirs.

        For Hades’ sake, Canada has its military forces stretched near to breaking by their current deployments, such that the Princess Patricia’s is looking at several years’ downtime to be returned to proper order.

        Now, if you ask me if that’s right or just or good, I’ll tell you flat out its not, that we should have pulled every single soldier out of Western Europe years ago and moved them East, where they could actually make a difference rather than just enriching our “allies” in the West, but you didn’t ask that.

        But since you imply that it doesn’t matter if another country has the bulk of their forces engaged, even if orders of magnitude smaller than ours — I’m curious if there exists anyone but China and Russia who could be a coalition with the only other hyperpower on Earth? No other country save Russia (who’s been receiving oil kickbacks from Saddam just as much as the French and Germans), and China (who won’t get involved for their own reasons) even has comperable amounts of force projection to even near 100k boots on the ground in Iraq.

        But its good to know exactly how much you value the UK, Italy, and Poland, not to mention the others providing support. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled.

        • >>>By that measure, every “police action” of the past several decades has been a US-war. You might have noticed that every other nation on the planet mocks us for actually funding military forces by not funding theirs.<<<

          Given that this is a war, and the point was if we really had allies, I would suggest this means no, we don’t have meaningful allies. Their support doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t translate into dollars or battalions.

  13. > virtually incapable of affecting foreign policy in any way.

    True. Ain’t we all like that (apart from a bunch of senators and politicians in DC?). But it is fun sometimes to discuss world affairs.

    > the ‘moral’ imperative to bring its highest ideals at home to all its overseas work;

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-american, in fact I am probably on of the most pro-American people in Belarusan Livejournal, but I always find it a bit scary in the U.S. that no matter which politician I am talking with (whether totally left, right, Democrat or Republican), no matter how different their positions on some issues, 99.99% of them are sure that “American way” is the best way for everyone and that it should be established everywhere else on this planet.

  14. > virtually incapable of affecting foreign policy in any way.

    True. Ain’t we all like that (apart from a bunch of senators and politicians in DC?). But it is fun sometimes to discuss world affairs.

    > the ‘moral’ imperative to bring its highest ideals at home to all its overseas work;

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-american, in fact I am probably on of the most pro-American people in Belarusan Livejournal, but I always find it a bit scary in the U.S. that no matter which politician I am talking with (whether totally left, right, Democrat or Republican), no matter how different their positions on some issues, 99.99% of them are sure that “American way” is the best way for everyone and that it should be established everywhere else on this planet.

    • Don’t get ME wrong…

      I think that the point that Blight tried to make last night was that our foreign policy tends to work better when we work to promote democracy and peace, in the ways that the country we’re helping wants it, as opposed to finding a bunch of thugs to run their country the way we want it run. It doesn’t have to be an American way, Blight was arguing, just a non-thuggish way.

      • So — what you’re saying is that we should have taken out Saddam in the pursuit of democracy and stability, and replaced him with … an Islamofascist theocracy like their lovely, peaceful neighbors, Iran, right?

        You’ll forgive me if I turn a jaundiced eye on that plan. Purely out of concern for your sanity, you understand.

        I’d be hard-pressed to refer to the current governing council of Iraq as “thugs,” though I’m not sure if that insults thugs or the council, on alternate days. They’re a bunch of men trying to muddle through in a very alien mindset over people who are about as seperated from the idea of democratic self-rule (save the Kurds, who’ve been doing a kick-ass job of it for over a decade) as anyone else who once had it, as well as a secular state, before 25+ years of brutal dictatorship …

        Did you ever read up on how MacArthur rebuilt Japan’s culture from the ground up? To a certain measure, to destroy certain pernicious memes, you have to be thuggish. You have to use an iron fist, sans the velvet glove, or you get strangled in the night by those who will.

        • So — what you’re saying is that we should have taken out Saddam in the pursuit of democracy and stability, and replaced him with … an Islamofascist theocracy like their lovely, peaceful neighbors, Iran, right?

          No. Blight was arguing that case scenario — the need to promote democracy and stability. Me, I’ve decided officially that I no longer know what to think, and that what I think doesn’t seem to matter.

          A few weeks ago I wrote a letter to John Ashcroft about the drapes over the statue of Justice in the maid auditorium. I got a letter back finally. It said, “The AG has forwarded your letter to us for review.” The letterhead was the criminal justice division. WTF? It’s now apparently unlawful for me to consult with my government about even their symbolic choices.

        • What you think matters in the sense that what you say and what you do ripples out a lot further from your locus than what you think. Thoughts govern actions, and actions govern perception.

          You know what they call a democracy of the silent? That’s right: oligarchy.

          I note that you seem to be free to continue posting to LJ; I’m not sure that you should be going pulling on the “unlawful” rhetoric quite so readily, or you’ll be the Boy With Wolf in His Mouth. Ashcroft is the Attorney General. His staff, technically, are part of the Criminal Justice Department.

          But that really doesn’t make good ad copy.

          It might just be you raised some salient points his screeners thought worth dealing with. Or it might just be a pro-forma form letter. Either way, I don’t think I’d quite flatter myself they’ll be pulling an Elian on your dormroom quite yet. Besides, in a real sense, they’d be more likely to come for me than you.

          If I stop posting, then worry.

        • Not about to stop posting…

          I’m not about to stop posting, or writing letters to congressman, senators and President.

          When I get letters back though, there’s an increasing sense that nobody’s actually reading them. It’s kind of infuriating.

          A colleague asked me a little while ago how I felt on the Iraq War. I told him I no longer know what to think. I have a hard time deciding if we’re being ruled by morons, monsters or the motivated.

          If you do stop posting, I will worry, though. Worry the same for me.

        • Surely you don’t think constituants not listening to the masses, at least ostensibly, is a new phenomenon, right? Whether it be the glad-hand or the form-letter, the pro forma nod is as much protective colouration as anything. If you’re a politician, and get recognized for actually listening to anyone, you’ll just have that many more clamouring to put you in their pocket.

          Bit of a lose-lose for folks in the field.

          Kind of a strange world when you can be labeled a moron for doing what you believe in and which the Good Book says is right (destroying tyrany, freeing the enslaved, protecting your people), innit? And stranger still to live in one where Syria is on the UN Council to examine human rights abuses. Strange world, indeed.

          And, just to be clear, note I don’t endorse Bush’s domestic policies regarding civil freedoms, pretty much at all. But I’ve enough faith in my fellow Americans that I’m sure the excesses there will be put aright by the System. Iraq, Iran, Syria — they don’t have that kind of protection.

        • Dum Spiro, Spero…

          Iraq, Iran, Syria — they don’t have that kind of protection.

          Exactly. And that’s why I’m continuing to hope for good outcomes. All the news has just got me depressed.

          A former student of mine is over there now.

        • The more I actually read news from the front lines, the posters and inhabitants out there, actually hearing what they see the situation is, the less I respect or trust the news media in this country. They’ve gone far, far beyond having a vested interest in bad news selling, they’re actively manipulating content to create a desperate air that just ain’t there.

          Is it a long hard, bloody slog? Sure it is. And there are dangerous people shooting at our countrymen. But when the conservative reports are coming in of 50:1 combat losses (their 50, our 1), you’ve just got to stop and wonder more about the political process there than the outcome of any military operation.

          That’s 50:1 with the forces on-site largely hand-tied by tough rules of engagement. If the Fallujah insurgents don’t turn over their heavy weapons soon, you’re about to see what a somewhat more unfetted group of Marines can do with MOUT.

          As far as the folks out there go, they say its looking pretty solid. I’m inclined to believe them more than, say, CNN whom I’ve tracked deliberate quote editing and clear deviousness from.

          Your milage may vary.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.