Michael Barone and the Default Assumption

Michael Barone writes today in Real Clear Politics about what he labels the ‘default assumption’ of The Blame-America-First Crowd. I find his assumption to be lacking in objectivity. According to Barone:

Where does this default assumption come from? And why is it so prevalent among our affluent educated class (which, after all, would seem to overlap considerably with the people being complained about?). It comes, I think, from our schools and, especially, from our colleges and universities.

I am a non-affluent (RN) educated American. As I sometimes point out, I hold two degrees in BS. I was also raised in the Unitarian-Universalist Church, where you are taught to question and think for yourself. To listen to other ideas. Which leads you to understand there are many ‘inconvenient truths’ in human history and the present. The essence of finding the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is to find the best solutions for the problems we face – many of them unintended consequences of past solutions and actions. The consequences that were ignored due to greed and power issues are a huge concern to those who function on a morality that is blind to color, creed, gender, age, sexual orientation and nation.

Barone goes on to give examples where the educated Americans automatically decide that a problem has been caused by America and why:

On campuses, students are bombarded with denunciations of dead white males…

Very many of our university graduates emerge with the default assumption thoroughly wired into their mental software. And, it seems, they carry it with them for most of their adult lives.

The default assumption predisposes them to believe that if there is slaughter in Darfur, it is our fault; if there are IEDs in Iraq, it is our fault; if peasants in Latin America are living in squalor, it is our fault; if there are climate changes that have any bad effect on anybody, it is our fault.

Let me burst this bubble of ignorant assumption. I did not stop learning when I earned my degrees. If anything, the degree in Sociology was simply to give me a better basis for understanding the world as I learned more about it and provided care to a variety of patients, including veterans. After a ten year hiatus from reading while I was a single parent of two learning diabled children, I went back to it in ’04 with the clear understanding that I was far behind. (And I still have a good 80 books on my must read list.)

First, it is statistically impossible to avoid denouncing dead white males for historical errors since the number of individuals of other gender or race who have held positions of western power are an extreme minority. Not only do Hitler, Lenin, and Mussolini qualify as dead white males, there are some dead Asian males who are denounced by both the America ‘haters’ and ‘lovers’ (Kahn, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, etc.)

Mr. Barone cites several books that supposedly show the side of reality that the unthinking blame America group has clearly not read. Here are some books, articles and ideas Mr. Barone has apparently not read, considered or understood.

Darfur. This conflict is the result of a lot of intervention by many countries, including the US, prior to 2003 when it broke out in full force. America is supposed to be an international leader in peace and the spread of democracy. In 2003, we were becoming militarily involved in Iraq, on top of the existing war in Afghanistan. Did the Bush Administration contribute diplomatic or fiscal resources to aid the UN in resolving the problem? Who said ‘All it requires for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing’?

IEDs in Iraq. Google ‘al Qaqaa’. And please remember: in the decades since WWII deaths from WMD (nuclear, biologic or chemical) are astronomically dwarfed by the deaths and injuries from conventional weapons. Claiming that because there are so many other conventional weapons and materials out there negates the looting of 380 tons from al Qaqaa,* is like saying that if terrorists got one of our nuclear weapons it wouldn’t matter because there are a lot more unaccounted in Russia (and we would still have 9999 left). *Can you say it in person to Iraq vets missing their limbs, eyes, ears, sanity or genitals?

Update: 3/23 WaPo article :“GAO Faults U.S. Military Over Munitions in Iraq”[I would emphasize this was an error of planning at the highest levels, not the troops on the ground].

Latin American poverty. Alternatives to Economic Globaliztion, Cavanagh and Mander, eds.
Overthrow, America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Kinzer
Sorrows of Empire, Johnson.

Climate change. The absolute companion to An Inconvenient Truth, is Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond. America is not directly responsible for all of it. But the ‘America is the best’ crowd focuses on how much the rest of the world wants to emulate us (or immigrate). Yet our unsustainable consumerism and energy use become an environmental implosion when expanded to the world population. Adding to the tangential deaths, injuries and ecological damage from industrial accidents like Bhopal, the Exxon Valdez, etc.

Barone almost gets it right.

What they have been denied in their higher education is an accurate view of history and America’s place in it. Many adults actively seek what they have been missing…

Except he wants to emphasize the parts of history that America and mankind got right. What he misses is that most of those successes were brought about by ‘the people’ working together, rather than governments. That although governments have done a lot of good (and we should not do away with it as much as some would like) they have done a lot of harm too. America, due to it’s wealth, power and technological innovations, started many of the unwise practices that other countries followed trying to emulate us. Rather than acknowledge that we have made mistakes, identifying them, finding solutions or not repeating them, many of the powerful want to pretend they don’t exist, never happened or aren’t really a problem. Maybe they should check out what the CIA has termed ‘blowback’.

The worst part of all this for those of us who grew up believing in the values and goodness of America before learning her darker ways, is finding out how much of those destructive actions and policies were done under cover of a ‘good’ motives. How many times the truth was withheld and misinformation or disinformation was given out to support our international behavior. The hypocrasy and the taxes we pay that support these actions are too much to let continue.

The default assumption of the Barone mindset is:

“The wrong we have done, or are doing, is insignificant compared to the good we do.”

A) Doing good does not absolve you from correcting what you do wrong.
B) ‘Insignificant’ is not supported by the statistics.
C) The people who are wronged do not find it insignificant.

What those of us who find fault with US actions are willing to ask is: What role has America played, or not played, in this problem? We believe that due to America’s strength, wealth, leadership position and avowed values, we should be willing to find and correct our mistakes. That we should not have double standards in regard to what other countries can do and what we can do. That to pretend we do nothing wrong or don’t need to correct our mistakes – or learn from them and not repeat the same folly – is juvenile irresponsiblity. We fully understand that humans are an irrational, illogical mix of good and bad, even within any one individual. What we don’t understand is not trying to improve on our behavior until it has caused a lot of damage and become a crisis. Do we make some mistakes in our thinking and conclusions? Of course. Does that mean we should stop thinking, or learn to think better?

Has America been better in many ways than many past powerful nations? Certainly. That is what we set out to do and what most of history has shown to be where progress is made. People try to improve on the past. It doesn’t mean we have been THAT much better, haven’t repeated some mistakes and created some of our own variations on how to be a bad citizen of the world – some of the time.

The We-can-do-no-wrong thinkers need to get past their idealistic, adolescent obsession with the holier-than-thou perception of America, history and the world we live in. It’s a planet we share with many other educated, intelligent and clear thinking people.

Bookmark and Share

Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Michael Barone and the Default Assumption

  1. Darrell Prows says:

    One problem that conservatives seem to have with grasping the role that our country can play in leading the human journey forward is that we have a responsibility to promote, in conjunction with each other, freedom and democracy. Unfortunately, there are relatively few situations where both can actually be promoted simultaneously, and we always fuck things up when we try to settle for only one or the other. So, whenever we try that we are always going to catch a ration of shit, no matter how good our intentions are. And deservedly so.

    One point for optimists to keep in mind (and conservatives, by definition cannot be optimists because they are more so focused on conserving than on moving forward) is that the U.S. is the only nation on the planet where, no matter which other country we might happen to engage in hostilities with, we create a situation pitting brother against brother. Legitimately, then, we are like no other place, and every other place, and this is a fact that we can always use to our advantage.

    Now all we have to do is find a leader who can articulate to the rest of mankind the advantages that flow from our uniqueness.

  2. G. Weightman says:

    Let’s assume arguendo that 380 million tons of explosives were looted due to the US military’s negligence.

    When a burglar kills someone with a gun he stole from your house, are you morally culpable? According to your logic, disabled US soldiers should blame their officers and comrades for the IEDs that later maimed them (even when that “negligence” occurs in the fog of war).

    Forget about the terrorists who intentionally planted the IEDs, just reflexively blame the US military. Thank you on Mr. Barone’s behalf for illustrating his thesis.

  3. To Mr. Weightman,

    If you routinely leave a car with the keys in the ignition running while parked and unattended in front of your house and the neighborhood kids joy-ride and kill somebody, you share in that negligence.

    We cannot look the other way when munitions are left unattended and then just blame the terrorists with what they did. Some of the responsibility, not all, lies at the feet of those who were sleeping at the job.


  4. Well said Ginny. And also Darrell and Robert!

  5. Ginny Cotts says:

    Mr Weightman,

    Thank you for illustrating the ignorance in which these arguments are made.

    The Bush Administration was warned BEFORE and immediately AFTER the invasion that the inspectors had been to the storage facility and documented the weapons and munitions stored there. Specifically: secure these sites that have large stores of munitions. By invading the country we destroyed the security at the sites, making them susceptible to being raided. As I pointed out, conventional weapons and munitions have caused far more damage, death and injury since WWII than all WMD.

    When we put our soldiers into a combat situation, it is a no-brainer that any risks are contained or destroyed. Talk about aiding and abetting the enemy.

    We don’t leave our munitions – not just the nuclear weapons – where anyone could get to them here. Instead we invade a country in the middle of a volatile region because the terrorists came here, and leave their munitions open for looting. The Bush Administration did see the oil fields and the Oil Ministry building in Baghdad as necessary to secure and guard.

    The millitary was not to blame. The war planners who had that warning never gave the orders for the storage facilities to be secured. The battalion that did go by them on the drive to Baghdad, found them unguarded and checked on what to do with the higher command. They were told to continue, there were not enough troops to assign any to guarding the explosives.

    Forgive me for laying blame where it seems to be merited: with the people who ‘forgot’ that terrorists intentionally plant explosives where they will kill their enemies. When we were putting plenty of enemies – our armed forces – where they were easy targets for bombs. Maybe you find it OK for stupidity like this to be glossed over and excused.

    I have vets as patients. Some things I don’t forgive.

  6. Darrell Prows says:

    By my calculation, we are the ones that qualify as the “burglars”, and it was someone elses house. I don’t follow the point, except that there are certainly some folks who can find ways to excuse anything that this administration does. Mental gymnastics of the highest order, I would say.

  7. Ginny Cotts says:


    I agree it is not an accurate analogy. War is completely different than crime. Unless we admit to using our millitary to rob Iraq of its oil for the benefit of multinational oil companies who will deliver it to us – with our navy protecting their oil tankers – at prices we are willing to pay.

    Ultimately, my problem with a lot of this is not so much Americans are to blame as the Bush administration – as well as the GOP and the media. For misuse of the American millitary by deceiving the voters and citizens as to why we invaded a soveign country that had not attacked us and was not in a position to attack us due to lack of delivery capability. To pre-emptively attack them because of the threat attacks on neighboring countries is beyond the Constitution and none of the other reasons were valid.

    I would rather we promoted freedom and justice than democracy. It creates a different conflict for countries that are primarily Muslim. However if the judicical process is more open in those countries, some of the outdated Islamic justice might actually be changed.

  8. G. Weightman says:

    It’s an observation that’s been made before, but one that bears repeating: America would have never won World War II under today’s Democratic Party. Long before the misjudgments of the Kasserine Pass, Market Garden, and Bastogne, the left wing of the party would be suing for peace. The war can’t be won, they’d say. Besides, we don’t deserve to win under a tyrannical soldier-slapper like Patton.

    That’s why I find the comments about your IED example fascinating. I don’t see any appreciation of how truly evil these Islamofascist murderers are (if indeed the commenters’ sensibilities allow them to say the word). Instead, we get superannuated vulgar Marxism with Bush and the Republicans substituted as the latest and greatest oppressors of the poor and wretched.

    Wake up. Don’t make the perfect become the enemy of the good. You’ve won history’s lottery ticket by being born in twentieth century America. No other people have had such widespread prosperity, freedom, and security. Don’t let your unresolved issues with parents or other authority figures blind you to this opportunity.

  9. Gee… Weightman

    What on earth is in your KoolAid? Why don’t you do us a favor and take your unresolved power trip some where else. Have you not ever heard that is right and just to “question authority”?

    This is America isn’t it. Where we are allowed dissent. Maybe you might choose to be a sheeple among the Bush apologists but folks around here don’t buy into that B.S.

    We’re thinking people who don’t drink the Bush KoolAid.

  10. G. Weightman Says:
    March 20th, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    OMG!!! I cannot wait for the punchline!

  11. G. Weightman says:

    “This is America isn’t it. Where we are allowed dissent.”

    That’s what I’m doing, dissenting from the common wisdom on this site. Is that verboten?

  12. Ginny Cotts says:

    Mr Weightman,

    I don’t see why the current Democrats would be any less likely to win WWII than FDR and Truman. I know the GOP loves to make this claim but the Dems have done much better in war than the GOP.

    I find your comments to be lacking in anything but wild claims and assumptions about me that you have no basis for. I actually was very aware growing up (born in 52) of the great fortune of having been born in this country to the wonderful parents I had. Strong GOP supporters of Ike, Nixon and Goldwater.

    But my father is a scientist and mom is a very good thinker. Both of them taught me to think using facts, logic and compassion. No one in my family has stayed with the GOP.

    If you think America is ‘perfect’ you are really ignorant of much of our history. We are an improvement, yes. Have we lived up to the goals and values we started with and many of us thought we were maintaining, NO.

    I have no problem with understanding that these fanatics are murderers – that’s why the munitions should have been secured immediately. They have murdered far more Iraqis than Americans. I care about them too.

    Why have these people become murderers, Why do they hate us? It has nothing to do with our freedom, wealth or lifestyle. They totally disrespect most of that and hate us for interfering in their countries and other Islamic areas – especially Saudi Arabia where two of their holiest sites are- in ways that are forbidden by their religion.

    How they are fascist escapes me. That would mean they are in power with the governments and business in those countries. They have some tolerance and support from individuals in the regions governments. Most of it comes from the other people who are angry with us.

    The CIA calls it ‘blowback’. Why shouldn’t they fear a country that says one thing and does something else? We have around 750 overseas millitary bases. Far more millitary presence in 153 countries than diplomatic. It sends a stronger message than what the country does – except Bush has been very willing to send the bully message as well.

    You really need to look into some of the well researched and documented books on what we have really done under cover of being a good country. That does not mean we are all bad. We just aren’t as good as we could and want to be – and nowhere near perfect.

  13. Darrell Prows says:

    With great blessings comes great responsibility. One of my biggest bitches against conservatives is that they all always love everything we have, but never want to have to help pay for it (“lower my taxes, lower my taxes, wah wah, lower my taxes”). (Also, the fact that we held at Bastogne was the key to prevailing in the Battle of the Bulge.)

    Now, unless I’m mistaken, there has never been any dissent with respect to our involvement in Afhganistan. That would seem to prove that the power of differentiation is still alive and well.

    And here’s the logical conundrum for all of the “World War III” fanatics.If one were to concede that Al Qaida and friends are purely soulless and bloodthirsty (a point, incidentally, which I happen to subscribe to) that strengthens the argument that attacking Iraq was an unmitigated disaster, it doesn’t weaken it. People like these do not pull any punches, meaning they are already doing as much damage to us on our own soil as they are capable of. The fact that none of us are dieing here does not mean that none will, certainly, but it does mean that the ability of Al Qaida to strike in the U.S. obviously has severe limitations.

    Where they are causing us great damage, though, is in Iraq, and at least as much of that comes from the casualities we inflict, as from those they inflict on us. These schmucks that shove a stick of dynamite up their ass and then light it off in the company of a few GIs would love to be able to do the same thing here. They just don’t know where the U.S. is, and couldn’t figure out how to get here if they could find it. The whole muslim world, on the other hand, is supposed to travel to Saudi Arabia at least once in their lives, so they obviously have those travel routes nailed down. Think how overjoyed the whackos are to know how easy it is to get from Mecca to paradise, and to be able to invite a few Americans to take the trip with them. Anyone who thinks that these guys don’t appreciate everything that GWB does for them is just delusional.

    There has never been a single thing for us to “win” since the first minute in Iraq. There has only been ways to limit our loses, and this administration has mostly steered away from them like the plague.

  14. G. Weightman says:

    First, let me commend the commenters on this site for the civil — if not cordial — tone of their responses. It’s a pleasant change from the deranged profanity I’ve encountered on other sites. I was also heartened to see an appreciation of the evil of Islamic terrorism (call it what you will). If the recent use of children as expendable decoys hasn’t convinced people of that fact, nothing will.

    Still, you seem to believe that America is responsible for fomenting these monsters. If you read Bernard Lewis, you’ll see that the roots of Islamic fundamentalism preceded America’s role as the pre-eminent world power. In The Crisis of Islam, he lays out the cause of Islamic aggression: the disparity in the twentieth century between Muslim political impotence and their belief that political sovereignty demonstrates the truth of Islam. America just happens to be the current strong horse in the House of War. It’s our unbelief, not our actions, that condemn us.

    Consider if you will (a la Rod Serling) a world in which America’s 300 million citizens suddenly disappear. Would these terrorists disband, or would they be emboldened to establish and spread the Caliphate? I think you know the answer. It’s America’s presence in the Middle East that’s keeping them from returning to our shores.

    Imagine, also, which countries would be left to protect the ideals you hold so dear. A world without America would more closely resemble Africa than it would Europe. As Robert Bolt wrote, “do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”

  15. Ginny Cotts says:

    Mr Weightman,

    We do try to find a way to better understand people we disagree with and that means showing respect with as much reasonable discourse as possible.

    If anything, the history – both distant and recent – of the Islamic fanatics especially, was a huge reason not to give more moderate Muslims reason to hate us. Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists get their funding the same way the IRA did. Small donations from people in other countries who think they should fight us. Our unbelief certainly is an issue for the followers of Bin Laden and similar fundamentalist Islamic radicals who are planning the caliphate no matter how long it takes (centuries if needed) regardless of our presence there.

    But for what we have done. The millitary bases in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War and until this war, when the bases there were scaled down, and others in the ‘Anystans’ were built and used to deploy, were an insult to many Muslims. The 1953 CIA covert action to bring down Iran’s first democratically elected leader and allow the Shah to return has been a problem for us since Khomeni took control. This is what the CIA calls ‘Blowback’. The long term consequences of that kind of action when the citizens finally get out from under our puppet leaders – who invariably seem to be or become tyrants and despots.

    The information on that elected leader of Iran being socialist or communist was Cold War hype. He had an excellent education – in Britain I think – and was very democratic. He also could not get what is now BP to show him the books on their oil production and profits to know whether they were in fact meeting the contracted percent Iran was owed for the oil they were drilling and exporting. The reality of their sales and supplies to the world indicated they were getting far more than they were paying Iran (I think it was 9 %) and the new pres finally decided he was going to nationalize the oil fields. America jumped in to help out our friends, since WWI and II clearly established that the side with the most fuel wins.We’ve added a lot of technology since but the fuel is still critical – both on the fronts and in the US.

    So the better description of our perspective is: we knew the monsters existed and that the various factions had been warring for centuries. (Just as the European Christians). What we did was give them the focus for their anger. Instead of working diplomatically with the region as a whole to help the countries become more independent and economically stable, we continue to use our millitary to maintain access to the oil in the region. Those countries and terrorists may not have the capacity to come to America as much as they want, to blow up whatever. But without our navy, the oil tankers would be easy targets.

    The Crisis of Islam is important for us to understand. I personally saw this (eventual) war as the deciding era for mankind when I was in high school. My Dad predicted it would be between the haves and have nots. We were both half right. It turns out to be the fundamentalist Christian haves, versus the fundamentalist Islamic have nots. But through out the Muslim countries, the same kind of moderation to the early theolgy that has happened in Judaism and Christianity is growing. Iraq was a very good example. The Internet has added a lot to this.

    So we went to Iraq and took over the country as easily as we expected millitarily. Then we ignored Iran’s president trying to negotiate anything and everything. Rumsfeld, Wolfiwitz, and Bremer managed to throw out centuries of diplomatic knowledge as well as a huge amount of recent experience in occupation of countries and nation building, to impose their ideas of what kind of country Iraq should be. It was soon a tragedy of errors that no one with authority would acknowledge. We stayed the course and the forecasted conflicts between many sectors of the country (not just religious), plus the terrorists who gained access in the chaos, have become a civil war that we cannot control millitarily.

    The terrorists have not returned here because they really don’t need to. We are creating many supporters in the region and their goal in building the caliphate is to start in the existing Muslim countries. Meanwhile, they have good reason to expect we will actually weaken ourselves from trying to maintain too much control, having too many fronts, spending ourselves into too large a debt, and making too many angry neighbors on the planet.

    There is a tendency to blow off the opinions of citizens from other countries by people who are convinced that we are right, the best, etc. We really do share the planet with them. They account for 94% of the total population. And they aren’t all stupid or ignorant. They are becoming more and more aware of the pattern of our interference and that it is really ONLY our own interests we are out to secure and expand.

    If there is one book I think many Americans should read, it is Collapse by Jared Diamond, that I referred to above. Diamond writes extremely well. What others would have made dry and dreary, Diamond makes fascinating and draws you along without being preachy or desparate. He looks at what happened to civilizations that failed in the past and recently. He looks at as many aspects as he can get solid scientific evidence for. Easter Island, the Anasazi, Mayans, Greenland Norse, plus Rawanda and others in the present. He also looks at civilzations that have faced similar problems and survived.

    What emerges is how fragile we all are right now. Global warming is really only the tip of the iceberg. Deforestation, soil depletion, over population, over consumption, environmental damage from mining, over fishing and diminishing fresh water resources are going to start bringing many countries to a halt within decades. The number of poor and starving will grow and grow. Countries like America could eventually be over run – even though our own standards of living will be dropping drastically and the poor here would increase and also begin to go up the foodchain to keep from starving to death.

    Diamond’s observations are basically hopeful in that much has been started already and there is time to reverse many of the problems before we are in too deep. We just need to get unified with the international community and move forward with better planning and effort.

    Wasting billions of dollars on this war leaves us much worse off in many ways. The terrorists are a threat. So is Organized crime – the international mafias that have BIG bucks and care even less than the Islamic Fundamentalists about anything but their own power and wealth. So is another pandemic, and the millions of displaced people from war and natural castatrophes.

    America has a proud heritage and a good soul even if we have had leaders that didn’t make clear enough what they were doing so we the people could decide if it was really in OUR best interests. Some of us would like to recover our heritage and do an even better job of bringing justice and peace to the world. We do NOT want to abandon this country to anyone. Aside from some fringe groups, we do not want to be a socialist country. I personally have a philosophy that the basic conflict of humanity is what Government is all about. Trying to balance the need to be a part of society, to have bonds and relationships with family, work, community, etc and have the freedom to be ourselves – to be the best we can be. (Diamond discusses the preponderance of countries where more centralized government developed when the population became too large to really know each other.) We believe that it is important that we all have a reasonable opportunity to become that best person. Those who make little of their opportunity are not entitled to an unearned standard of living. But the poor will always be with us – the developmentally delayed, psychologically and physically ill cannot be left on their own for basic human needs.

    America is not likely to disappear suddenly. What our power and wealth are likely to buy us, if we don’t use them better, is the right to be the last to starve and fade into a post modern life of drastically different standards and opportunities.

  16. G. Weightman says:

    I try to take a more nuanced view of American Exceptionalism. Whether you do or don’t hold American citizenship (or have an “R” or “D” on your voter registration) says nothing about your morals, character, or worth. There are as many wolves within the fold as sheep without. It’s the American ethos that makes it unique in history: that blend of pragmatism, inventiveness, assimilation of immigrants, equality of opportunity, and most importantly, the self-correcting nature of our politics.

    It’s interesting that you advert to American Realpolitik in the Middle East, the cynicism of which the Bush Doctrine was intended to remedy. Bush and his advisers grasped the fact that our pre-911 policies weren’t working and attempted a correction. But because the export of democracy to the Middle East hasn’t gone according to plan, the road to hell is now paved with good intentions. Suddenly, the Left has converted to hard-headed political realism — who’da thunk it.

    We’ll see about the Bush Doctrine. As Zhou Enlai responded to Henry Kissinger (when asked for an assessment of the French Revolution) “It’s too soon to tell”.

  17. G. Weightman Says:

    “Bush and his advisers grasped the fact that our pre-911 policies weren’t working and attempted a correction.”

    Oh, you mean the Project for the New American Century? Of course that wasn’t really the “Bush Doctrine” it ‘s the neo-con dream turned into America’s nightmare.

  18. Ginny Cotts says:


    I’m not sure how much our politics have really self corrected. If anything, Bush seems to have taken some aspects (the worst) of our pre 9/11 policies to a much bigger extent. And dropped any pretense of diplomacy.

    “It’s interesting that you advert to American Realpolitik in the Middle East,”

    You have totally lost me on that one. I am not sure how one “advertises to” something, or what you mean by American Realpolitik. My Google search did not bring up anything that strikes me as close to what I have discussed.

    The export of democracy to the Middle East hasn’t gone according to Bush’s plan – it certainly went according to the predictions of Middle East Scholars and others who know the region, it’s history, culture, etc.

    Much of which those of us who are not as familiar with all of that information could easily deduce without it. The problem that the Bush doctrine suffers from is delusion. According to the Buddhists, one of the three poisons that cause human conflict (and unhappiness).

    One of the absolutely greatest lines of the books I have read was in Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zoneby Rajiv Chandrasekaran.
    One of the neocons that was sent to Iraq to rebuild the University system had worked very hard (with good intentions) to implement his highly unrealistic plans – even tried to make them less unrealistic. Finally he admitted to the author:

    “I’m a neocon who’s been mugged by reality.”

    As far as what history decides about the Bush Doctrine. We would refer you to the posts on the polling of American Historians and “The worst President ever”. This whole fiasco is not going to look any better with 20/20 hindsight. If anything, as more of the specifics and statistics add up, it may serve as America’s biggest lesson in voting for president and supporting war. That would give it some redemption.

    “Suddenly, the Left has converted to hard-headed political realism.” I’m not sure how suddenly or even how much of a conversion has taken place. I have maintained that the Democratic Party is no more the party it was 3 and 4 decades ago than the GOP is. And of course, I think the Democrats have grown, while the GOP I tried to become active in for the ’88 election has gotten much worse.

  19. G. Weightman says:

    Ms. Cotts:

    Sorry about the obscurity of the phrase “advert to American Realpolitik in the Middle East.” An alternative meaning of the verb advert is “to call attention to.” You were calling attention to the naked self- interest shown by American actions in Iran back in 1953. I was attempting to point out that it doesn’t matter whether America acts pragmatically (in securing oil supplies ) or idealistically (exporting democracy). We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

    Coincidentally, we both seemed to have had a Road to Damascus epiphany about the same time — but with diametrically opposed revelations! As a Reformed Democrat (who still has a “D” on his registration card), I’ve been asked what would it take for me to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate. First, this candidate would have to understand that we’re in for a no quarter Long War with Islamic fundamentalism that will span decades and continents. Second, this candidate would acknowledge that lower, and not higher taxes, are the preferred route to general prosperity. Third, he or she would need to espouse vouchers, or some other tax-favored alternative to failing public schools.

    Anything else, I could live with. That includes Single Payer National Health Insurance, which I suspect that the American people will get (and get good and hard).

  20. Ginny Cotts says:


    I would maintain that the blowback on both those specific actions is due to them both being wrong, not to mention stupid/ignorant/delusional. (For some reason I forgot to look up advert in my “Highly Selective Dictionary for the Extraordinarily Literate”, E. Ehrlich. Thanks for the vocab. addition 😉 )

    The long war with the terrorists is a given due to their plan of building the caliphate over centuries – a la Notre Dam and the pyramids. The difference is HOW we fight them. 4GW is NOT ‘conventional’ and MUST be combined with the kind of criminal investigation and pursuit that is used for organized crime – especially at the international level.

    And that is actually a bigger, more important fight than the terrorists – partly because it is so under the radar only a very small percentage of this country or the world understands the danger. These people aren’t just worse than the terrorists in the violence and lack of values they practice, they simply have no allegiance to anything but their own power, wealth and survival. They have a billion times more money and power than the terrorists and they are smart enough NOT to call attention to what they are doing – because they know it will just bring the wrath of justice down on them.

    If we do not address the environmental issues that are going to continue increasing poverty, disease and starvation world wide, the third world countries that will be hit first and hardest will start competing with the terrorists and organized criminals in violent actions to save themselves. Nor will they be trying to attract attention. People sneaking illegally across borders to live and work (or rob and kill) to survive are not that easy to stop, as we well know.

    Lower taxes may be preferred but they have not proven to be effective. Our debt and financial status grow worse by the day. As a reformed Objectivist, with a capital O, I have no illusions that we are going to have to do something about the discrepancy between what we spend and what we take in. I have no problem with cutting the military budgets- especially given the trillions they can’t account for. And the loopholes and tax breaks for the big corporations, not to mention a better effort to collect the billions in unpaidm citizen taxes. I also would like to get rid of the Fed, fiat money, and return to either the gold standard or an equivalent.

    The genereal welfare referred to in paragraph one, Article I of the US Constitution depends heavily on an educated electorate. I cannot find a link right now but I know a study was released recently that showed the public schools are in fact doing a better job than private at the K-12 level. Having gone K- 12 in three different school systems in two states with two learning disabled children while being politically active, I have two observations on the problems.

    The GOP started in the 70’s to get their candidates elected to school boards and the local elected offices that are responsible for school funding. The ‘fat’ was taken out of the budgets to the point of eradicating even the essential fatty acids. Basic maintenance and upkeep went un or underfunded. PE, arts and other classes beyond ‘the three R’s’ were cut. While the public education support for developing atheletes that would eventually be able to play for the National baseball, basketball and football leagues continues at unbelievable expense today. In order to raise money for basic services and supplies (ie, books), the schools have been sending the students door to door selling coupon books, magazines, gift wrap etc. And allowing the soda manufacturers and fast food restraurants to sell unhealthy junk food to our growing children. (Factoid, the phosphorous in soda leaches calcium from the bones. There are now 3 generations that all of some of the students have lousy bone density that is going to bite us in health care costs eventually).

    The school systems are just like any human run organization. To the extent that they can grow and improve, there are some conservative restrictions on ‘allowing’ this kind of freedom. In spite of that fact and the reality that there are still some really backward curriculums and content, there are also some great improvements in both by individual teachers and progressive school districts.

    BTW, I love to cite a study of the highest scoring SATs based on the students’ church afffiliation. Of the top ten churches, there was about a 140 point spread from #1 to #10. #1 was about 70 points ahead of #2. # 2 about 60 points ahead of the remaining 8 clumped together in the last 10 points. #1 were the Unitarian-Universalists. #2 The Jewish. These are the two churches that teach questioning and critical thinking. The UUs additionally do not indoctrinate children, especially under the age of 7.

    If the American public really wants school vouchers, they can push their representatives to legislate it. So far, they have not supported it and I doubt they ever will.

    As an RN, thank you for your albeit lukewarm support for National Health Insurance. I am not in favor of socialized medicine (although our socialized VA was actually the shining star of American Health Care before W took over). I am constantly dealing with the realities of how lack of access, health insurance tied to employment, and the uninsured put a poorly developed and run system on an implosion course. You might be surprised to find out how many doctors are realizing this.

    What it takes for me to support a presidential candidate is a track record of independent, creative thinking, team playing, creative problem solving, and senses of humility and humor. I could care less about their beer drinking sociability. On the other hand, social decorum is a real asset in diplomatic situations.