Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pundits join Putin in 19th century thinking

An awful lot of pundits these days seem just as stuck in the 19th century as Vladimir Putin. For example, check out this jaw-dropping commentary on the Israel/Palestinian situation from Cokie Roberts on ABC's This Week:
It's a real absence of the American leadership in the region...We haven't made a strong enough presence in that region to have people be afraid of this country. So I think there's a sense that they can get away with anything they want to get away with. So much criticism of President Obama for not going in, conducting the air strikes against Syria.
Its almost hard to know where to begin. In the end, her point seems to be that if President Obama had bombed Syria he could have prevented the current escalation of the situation in Israel/Gaza. And that's - of course - because there aren't enough people in the Middle East who are afraid of us. So lets go bomb some more brown people over there because they're sure not going to get mad about that and fight back. What they'll do instead is be afraid and quit all that shooting/bombing each other.

You have to wonder if folks like Roberts actually think about stuff like this before they say it. But the patriarchal myth of dominance runs deep in folks like her. They seem quite capable of ignoring all of post-WWII history. After all, its not like military dominance was actually effective in Iran, or Korea, or Vietnam, or Chile, or Iraq. No matter how hard we've tried, it seems that we can't get the rest of the world to cower if fear and do what we want them to. They just keep fighting back. Imagine that.

If Ms. Roberts were to actually have studied recent history, she might have seen that our military adventurism in Iraq demonstrated the folly of her 19th century assumptions. Speaking of "the experiment in American unilateralism that has failed with the collapse of the adventurist campaign in Iraq," Michael Weinstein rather presciently wrote the following back in 2004:
Whoever occupies the Oval Office after the November 2004 election will have to try to recoup the power that the United States lost during its rendezvous with neo-conservative fantasy. That can only be done - if at all - through an attempt to reconstitute a multilateral consensus on globalization in which the United States is primus inter pares*, guaranteeing the security of world capitalism militarily, but not using its military power to impose its policies on its allies and independent limited collaborators without genuine negotiation and compromise...The Iraq adventure has demonstrated that unilateralism alienates allies and collaborators, resulting in the loss of American credibility and clout. Multilateralism [ie, partnership] remains the path that leads to the maximization of American power in the world.
* First among equals

Unfortunately it took us until 2008 to find a president who understands this. As he said in 2009:
For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes -- and, yes, religions -- subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared.
President Obama isn't interested in making the people of the Middle East fear us. Nor does he assume they need to do what we tell them to do. What he is interested in is protecting our own national security interests and holding other governments accountable to global norms/agreements/ideals. Beyond that, "our problems must be death with through partnership."

If Ms. Roberts is interested in seeing what real American leadership looks like, I suggest she read this story about how one phone call from President Obama followed up by staff on the ground calmed a potential civil war in Afghanistan last week. While she wants to rely on fear, the President promoted patience and calm. The result?
After weeks of intense bad feelings between their camps, Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani embraced in the living room after striking the deal. They would do the same thing a short while later, at the end of news conference to announce their agreement to the Afghan people.
The presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah, right, and Ashraf Ghani, after a pact was announced, as John Kerry looked on.

More of this, please.


  1. 'Afternoon, Nancy
    See? And, Ms. Robert's age plays into this, VERY privileged though she was, she wasn't allowed into "the game". So, at least to me and it isn't surprising, she's making "noises" (Hilary does this, too. think they're peers) like one of "the fellas". And, those "fellas" don't, as we continue to see, think things through any better now than they did then. Damn John Wayne b.s. And, old Johnnie, when push came to shove, only pretended to fight, too (he NEVER served. just acted like he did on the silver screen).

    Ahhhh, "real men".

    1. Cokie strikes me as someone who has let herself be completely absorbed by the DC bubble mentality. Perhaps you're right and that's because she was never really allowed in "the game" (a Clarence Thomas to the feminists). I'll never forget when she talked about the Obama's vacationing in "exotic" Hawaii. Fed right into the "he's not a real American" crap.

    2. Cokie Roberts is a creature of the Beltway, all her life; she has never not been absorbed by the DC bubble. Her lack of perception of anything beyond the end of her nose is quite distressing, and even more so is that NPR treats her as if she were a real reporter and lets her get away with it all.

  2. Yes, yes. Remember that one well. Another way that the Obamas vacationing in "exotic" Hawai'i (and any number of other things they do) is heard: "who do those Negroes think they are vacationing in Hawai'i?" I recall his first trip to France and Normandy and he was asked, in his absence, did he have a message for The House and The Senate. PBO said: "Yes. Get to work". Sen. Charles Grassley in response said: "He's got a nerve".

    These old ways die hard. But, they ARE dying. And, kind ma'am, you continue to do your part in helping these ways become "most sinCEREly dead".

  3. Hi SP
    My heart has been so heavy today listening to the babble on cable. I turned it off and listened to my New Age music. I do revel in the success of SOS Kerry, PBO and Eric Holder. They give competence, expertise, calm a new name. You always broaden our insight into what is REALLY going on.


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