Postmodern classic?

Friday, November 03, 2006

More pre-election hysteria

Donald Sensing and some of the other military bloggers are making a lot out of Ralph Peters recent 'transformation' into defeatism. Mr. Peters is a highly regarded former Army Intelligence Officer whose work as a pundit and writer has been quite prominent for nearly the past decade. I reviewed his book not quite a year ago, which I thought was well done. Evidently, in the weeks prior to the election, he's having a change of heart. It's not a novel thing, either. Another guy I like, New Sisyphus- a former Foreign Service Officer, has written about other people 'discovering the obvious failure of our war policy in Iraq'. He also mentions some other conservative notables with similar disillusionments.

WTF is going on here? I should note before I start, another friend of mine who got back from Iraq warned me I should seriously take a year before I say anything about the war and be able to relate it to people back here. But what I see is the 'popular' perception of Iraq as this distorted picture pushed about how horrible and dangerous it is... taken totally out of context. This Moqtada al Sadr thing- can no one else see how he's making his own coffin? Yeah, more people might die- but his organization is falling apart! Why did we have cordons around Sadr city? To protect the Sunni's, more or less. Now, who's against the Sunni's, or more importantly, who's there to protect them? Umm, the US?

I don't like the cynical 'conspiracy theory' aspect of some that you can't trust anything in the media. In some cases it is- but I also look at how an organization like Fox News can level the playing field by addressing an unmet need (the other half of the country!) and how those 'most partisan' sources like the NYT are having major circulation problems, while those that try to moderate (I think the Washington Post fits this best) seem to hold their ground- last week there was a good article on this based on recently released circulation figures but I can't be bothered to produce. So, IMHO, the market corrects itself- not saying that it eliminates partisanship but the competition minimizes it. But in between there can be 'irregularities' that are reflected in portrayal of the issues of the day.

But to finish my thought on Iraq- yes, if I believed that the media portrayal of our situation in the Middle East was accurate, I would be worried much more than I am. There's plenty to criticize, just keep a good hold on to your head and ego before you do.

But where do I and the rest of America, looking to the future, go from there, when contemplating the possibility that these elections which are highlighting this and other potential shifts of policy? You can't say 'Trust in Me and the Bush administration'. No, but this buildup to the election next Tuesday is causing many to rethink things, even if they won't change too much following it. Hysterical nonsense. If we could just bring the hysteric pitch down a little (just a little!), have some patience, things might just happen. Because it seems to me that manageable foreign affairs and good policy don't work too well on a short term attention span.

I am reminded of a quote I found in the third book (halfway down the page) of Thucydides, chronicler of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Cleon, son of Cleaenetus, a popular, if violent, Athenian demagogue, in a discussion over punishing a recent rebellion of their subjects the Mytilenians, remarks that 'Democracy is incapable of Empire' due to their dramatic shifts in opinion and resulting contradictory policies. Because creative Athens, though bold and resilient, ultimately lost to the steadiness of Spartan resolve. History doesn't repeat itself, but we are wise to see how the Ancients stumbled and fell in an attempt to avoid our own calamities and minimize our own shortfalls. Draw your own conclusions.


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