Wednesday, March 08, 2006
The Middle On The World
We have these different points of view, each of which has a bit of the truth, and each of which includes a fatal virus. We need the liberal's eagerness to understand, but not the impotent self-flagellation; we need the neo-con's faith in freedom, without the credulousness and naivete; we need the paleo-con's reluctance to leap into every fray, without the head-in-the-sand isolationism; and we need the realist's readiness to occasionally accept moral ambiguity, but without their eagerness to embrace moral blindness.
He also contends that the default position for most Americans is isolationism, and this is why:
The United States grew up in a gated community: safe borders with smaller, far weaker neighbors, and large oceans that seperated us from potential rivals. When we had serious international trouble we generally had to leave home to find it. Even Pearl Harbor happened far away in a territory that wasn't yet a state.
I left this comment:
In line with Michael's post and les' remarks about isolationism, Peter Beinart wrote an article in The New Republic last week about how TV cable news only reports international news in the context of telling Americans about themselves. This was my favorite paragraph:
"Fox News, for instance, constantly trumpets the 'war on terror' but conveys remarkably little actual information about events in the Islamic world. Instead, it uses 'foreign policy' to endlessly retell a story about the United States, in which Joe Six Pack faces off against the appeasing, beret-wearing, blame-America-first liberal elites who want to send Osama bin Laden to their Upper West Side shrinks. Trying to get information about Iraq, or the rest of the Middle East, by listening to Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity is like trying to get information about the Soviet Union in the 1950s by listening to Joseph McCarthy. It's a category mistake. Fox's jingoism and its isolationism are flip sides of the same coin."
When the US invaded Iraq three years ago, I started reading a lot of books about the history of the modern Middle East. And I was thinking, "Gee, it would be great to read about other countries when we're not bombing them, too."
Right now, I've begun to read George Packer's "Assassins' Gate--America in Iraq." He sets up the account well, with backstories of what was going on with key Iraqi and American players in the '70s, '80s and '90s, so that you really get the whole story in context. I've enjoyed reading his Iraq articles in The New York Times and the New Yorker magazine, and actually felt informed, whereas most of the books on current events for the past three years just seem to confirm whatever partisan feeling you already have regarding the perfidy of Chimpy or the lib-ruls. Although speaking as a moderate left-of-centrist who wants the whole story of everything in context, I suppose I'm looking for somebody to back me up, too.
More on the book when I finish.