First up an op-ed from LA Times...
IMAGINE THAT on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism.
RTWT, as they say.
Second, William Pfaff, writing in the "New York Review of Books, what is more of a book than a review - in truth an op-ed.
The Bush administration defends its pursuit of this unlikely goal ... by making the claim that the United States possesses an exceptional status among nations that confers upon it special international responsibilities, and exceptional privileges in meeting those responsibilities.
This is where the problem lies. Other American leaders before George Bush have made the same claim in matters of less moment. It is something like a national heresy to suggest that the United States does not have a unique moral status and role to play in the history of nations, and therefore in the affairs of the contemporary world. In fact it does not.
Francis Fukuyama, a recovering neoconservative, acknowledges in a recent book that American economic and political policies today rest on an unearned claim to privilege, the American "belief in American exceptionalism that most non-Americans simply find not credible." Nor, he adds, is the claim tenable, since "it presupposes an extremely high level of competence" which the country does not demonstrate
He continues -
The most coherent and plausible official articulation of such reasoning was offered in the summer of 2003 by Condoleezza Rice, then President Bush's national security adviser, speaking in London at the annual meeting of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. She said that the time had come to discard the system of balance of power among sovereign states established by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The Westphalian settlement ended the wars of religion by establishing the principles of religious tolerance and absolute state sovereignty. The UN is a faulty embodiment of international authority because it is an indiscriminate assembly of all the governments of the world, and should, she argued, be replaced as the ultimate world authority by an alliance or coalition of the democracies. This is a theme frequently promoted in conservative circles in Washington.
What's this? So the little item I picked up on the COD was in fact a three year old idea?
Not having the time (at the moment) to critique all of Pfaff's article (which is a very interesting read) I suggest again that RTWT is a good idea even if it is not a very potted history of the US rewritten to fit with the general tenor of his op-ed.
History does not offer nations permanent security, and when it seems to offer hegemonic domination this usually is only to take it away again, often in unpleasant ways. The United States was fortunate to enjoy relative isolation for as long as it did. The conviction of Americans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the country was exempt from the common fate has been succeeded in the twenty-first century by an American determination to fight (to "victory," as the President insists) against the conditions of existence history now actually does offer. It sets against them the consoling illusion that power will always prevail, despite the evidence that this is not true.
If the idea of "consoling illusion" is truly the mind-set of the US then our whole western civilisation is at risk. Not, I hasten to add, directly from the threat from outside no matter how real the bogey's bump in the night might sound.
No, I turn to TFStern's "Symptoms of Decay" written 31 January. There is the true enemy - in our heads, our children's heads. Everything we do, it might seem, is based upon that illusion that "I Got The Power".
Our society has been on a constant rate of decay, sometimes taking huge leaps toward unbridled depravity under the delusion that any and all is fair game and covered under the constitutional right “freedom of expression”. We have been lowering the bar of what is acceptable in news, entertainment, representative government and social order in general. How’s that for rocking the boat in one sentence?Now before TF takes me to task for quoting him out of context, let me add...
It is not just the news, TF. It is not just the "reality" pap that we get fed as "entertainment" (and I hang my head in shame every time I write that as the original idea for all of these programmes was dreamed up by an NZer). It is not just the social problems of drugs, or pornography. It is not just our kids, how we raised them, how we taught them the "right" way... It is not just religion, or in my case lack of it...
It is all of these things. There is the true illusion. We have deluded ourselves that we can in fact "handle" freedom, that we are sufficiently mature as both individuals and a society to respect freedom and to nurture it as our greatest good, and we - society - are in the process of destroying it.
How has that happened?
Even more to the point, how can we stop it?