By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down
Now is the season of our antidepressants, of Prozac and Paxil and whatever it takes to get through the night. Not that the anthrax assaults should be terrifying unto themselves: They seem more the work of a Ted Kaczynski--wannabe than of the terrorist network that brought down New York‘s proud towers. But as any decent dramatist will tell you, a shocking murder in Act I can put an audience so on edge that it will jump at any stray cough in Act II. And in our current condition, who’s to say what germs those stray coughs carry?
Still, if anyone is fool enough to want my medicalgeopolitical advice, it would be to skip the Cipro -- an antibiotic that may be useful in the case of anthrax exposure -- and go straight to the Paxil, since the chief effect of both is to calm the nerves, and the antidepressants tend to do that better than the antibiotics. At times like these, we pundits are asked to weigh in on all manner of questions that demand the sheerest guesswork on our part. A few days ago, a radio interviewer asked me whether I thought Osama bin Laden was really conveying coded messages in his broadcast remarks. It is bad form to say “How the hell would I know?!” on the electronic media, so I soft-pedaled my cluelessness. For all I know, George W. Bush may be conveying coded messages in his remarks, which could explain what to the naked ear seems simple incoherence.
Yet when W‘s been on message in the past few weeks, he’s been surprisingly good -- illustrating the not-quite-maxim that a globalist is a nationalist who‘s been mugged by an international terror network. The terror attacks have forced Bush to repudiate nearly every aspect of his pre--September 11 nutzoid unilateralist foreign policy. Before the attacks, his was an administration that had no interest in brokering an Israeli-Palestinian settlement; that stood alone in its opposition to global treaties and protocols (including, let us remember, the ban on chemical and biological warfare); that viewed a missile defense in the sky as a substitute for having to cultivate decent relations with other nations. Now, Bush has begun to push for new Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and reaffirmed the support the Clinton administration gave to a Palestinian state, while reaching out to other nations and leaders whom he had hitherto airily dismissed.
The administration’s conduct of the war has similarly been shaped by the kind of complexities that the Star Wars fantasists looked forward to dispensing with altogether. The facts on the ground in Afghanistan -- the absence of the kind of infrastructure to which our air forces could lay waste -- have precluded a Curtis LeMay bomb-‘em-back-to-the-Stone-Age offensive. The need to build an anti-Taliban coalition and to keep the Middle East from a further turn toward militant Islamic fundamentalism have impelled us to target our strikes carefully, though any claims to surgical precision are ludicrous. And the need to win friends and influence people throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds has compelled the administration to assert repeatedly our commitment to tolerance and pluralism. In the opening phases of the operation, much of the administration’s response looks figuratively on target. (Whether it‘s literally on target is too early to tell.)
Far from everything about the New Bush Presidency is commendable, of course; far from everything about it is new. But liberals shouldn’t hesitate to applaud the decent aspects of the New W, not least because he lifted them from liberals. Proportionality in military action has been a liberal perspective ever since Vietnam; and it was liberals who chastised the belligerent isolationism that characterized the administration before September 11. More broadly, the warnings against discriminating against Arab-Americans and Muslims that the administration, Rudy Giuliani and the network news anchors all sounded right after the attack weren‘t largely the result of a12 calculated geo-strategy. They were a measure, rather, of how deeply the civil rights revolution has transformed American thought and action.
The administration’s transformation on matters global is far from complete. It has not sought formal support for our action from the U.N. Security Council, for instance, though the other permanent members (Britain, France, Russia and China) are supportive, and though such approval would further legitimate and somewhat de-nationalize our offensive. On the globalization front, the administration actually invokes the September 11 attacks as an argument to give the president fast-track authority in trade negotiations -- essentially, the ability to craft trade treaties without substantial labor and environmental standards. As non sequiturs go, this one is a global lulu. Whatever it is the world needs in the aftermath of the New York holocaust, more laissez-faire economics ain‘t it.
Indeed, it’s worth recalling that our largest economic interaction with a predominantly Muslim nation in recent years was with Indonesia during the East Asian financial crisis a few years back, when the International Monetary Fund, at our prompting and in the name of investor confidence, forced that country to make draconian cutbacks in spending. The result was a stunningly deep recession in the nation that‘s home to more Muslims than any other. Rather than push for a policy that only further enshrines the power of the same banking community that devastated Indonesia, the administration should be pushing for a new global financial order that allocates credit more transparently and democratically. Hell, the Democrats should be pushing for that.