Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Snowballs in Hell
The Nation is out with a forum in which various authors, thinkers, historians, and academics (several of whom were in Madison last weekend for a celebration honoring the 95th birthday of The Progressive magazine) weigh in with advice on just how the United States can extract itself from Iraq. I wouldn't presume to distill it here--you're gonna have to read it, and get a cup of coffee because it's lengthy. One interesting point that keeps recurring is criticism of the idea that utter chaos would ensue if the United States pulled its troops out in favor of a multinational force. Historian Howard Zinn puts it this way:

In Vietnam, they promised a bloodbath if we left. That did not happen. It was said that if we did not drop the bomb on Hiroshima, we would have to invade Japan and huge casualties would follow. We know now and knew then that this was not true. The truth is, no one knows what will happen if the United States withdraws. We face a choice between the certainty of mayhem if we stay, and the uncertainty of what will follow if we leave.

John Brady Kiesling, a career foreign service officer who resigned in protest just before the Iraq war began, writes:

We were defeated once, in Vietnam, and the dominoes did not fall. We remained the leader of the free world, sadder but wiser. The ignorance and megalomania that brought us into Iraq are far more dangerous to US security and prosperity than would be the symbolic military defeat that gets us out.

While I don't agree with every author's every idea (Noam Chomsky, for example, needs to stay on his medication), what comes through in the forum is the profound need for our leaders to give up the fantasies that have driven the Iraq project so far and make hard, statesmanlike choices, the sort of thing upon which history smiles.

But screw history; Bush has got an election to win and there's no time for statesmanship.

Recommended reading: Also from The Nation, former TV Guide and People TV critic Jeff Jarvis, a writer whose work I've always liked, analyzes the FCC's most recent moves to regulate broadcast indecency. He highlights the important point that at the behest of the administration's Religious Right allies, the government is going far beyond any previous attempts to regulate the content of programming. Some in Congress are even threatening to start regulating cable and satellite channels, which have been exempt from scrutiny up til now because they are not broadcast over what are ostensibly public airwaves.

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