Friday, September 1, 2006

Just One Truth Among Many

Karen Armstrong of the Guardian writes a column in which she makes a plea for better understanding of the different religious worldviews that are floating about in the global marketplace of ideas. After subjecting us to a dose of postmodern hocus-pocus which she employs, as best as I can tell, to make the point that truth is often a complicated thing, she closes with this:

We must, therefore, make a concerted attempt to listen critically to all the stories out there in order to gain a more panoptic vision. This includes our own cultural narrative. Our modernity has liberated many of us, but it has disenfranchised others. Counter-narratives that question the myth of western freedom must also be heard, because they represent a crucial element in the conflicted, tragic whole.

I have a couple of questions: Why is it that we're always the ones who have to try to understand other people's "stories"? Shouldn't Ms Armstrong's plea for understanding be directed at the Islamists who are undertaking to purge the globe of Western civilization? Shouldn't they be expected to show greater appreciation for our "myth"?

Second, when the "other" starts flying hijacked airplanes into our skyscrapers isn't the time for acquiring "a more panoptic vision" and appreciating their "context" pretty much at an end? Or are we supposed to keep "affirming" their "narrative" right up to the moment when they've sliced our head from our shoulders?

Living in a Fantasy World

Take any critic of the administration's Middle East policy, and, after he has gone through the entire list of what the Bushies have done wrong over the past five years, ask them, well, what should the president have done before, and what should he do now? Invariably, the answer will be that he should rely more upon diplomacy and negotiations. The administration should have sat down and talked to Saddam, to Ahmedinejad, to Hezbollah, to the Palestinians, to the North Koreans. They should sit down now and talk with the Europeans and get them to put more economic pressure on the bad guys in the Middle East. The Bush administration, we will be told, is absolutely inept when it comes to the art of diplomacy. And how does the critic know this? Because our diplomatic efforts have obviously not worked.

When talks fail to bring about the desired result, as they inevitably will when dealing with Islamo-fascists, the critics' assumption is that it's our fault. It's also our fault that the French and Germans didn't go along with the invasion of Iraq because we couldn't persuade them that that would be better than raking in billions in oil for food money. It's also our fault if Ahmadinejad, convinced that he's riding the crest of history's wave, insists on provoking Armageddon. It must be our fault because all these people are reasonable and want peace. Only Bush wants war.

If the matter weren't so serious the response would be amusing. It assumes that the administration hasn't been talking, and it assumes that the other side is comprised of reasonable people who are willing to accept compromise. It assumes that the other side will make concessions, even if there's no threat of force hovering over their heads, if only we can convince them that we mean well. That none of this has come to pass can only mean, in their minds, that we've failed to persuade them of our good intentions and that our team must be negligent or incompetent negotiators.

Should we ask the critic what we should do if, for whatever reason, talks fail to convince the peace-loving Iranians and North Koreans to abandon their nuclear programs, or fail to persuade Hezbollah and Hamas to live in peace with Israel, the response will be more irrelevant, rambling, recapituations of Bush's failings as a negotiator. In other words, the critic really has no answer to this question.

Some of them might hint that what Bush needs to do, in Iraq at least, is send in more troops, but although this might indeed be an appropriate measure, few critics, especially on the left, really want him to follow through with it. They'll use inadequate troop strength as a club with which to beat him up politically until he decides to follow their advice, and then they'll accuse him of pouring more resources into a failed cause, or of diverting attention from the real war on terror, and why haven't we caught Osama yet, etc.

The conversation follows this or a similar path because critics know they can't say what they're really thinking which is that they actually want the president to do nothing at all. They want the United States to give up its power, both military and economic, and become Sweden or Switzerland. They know that saying this would be political suicide for their party, and so they stick to their criticisms and mumble through their vague and unhelpful recommendations if they must.

This is why the left cannot be entrusted with the reins of power. They have no solutions to the most pressing issue of the day and don't really want to have to wrestle with it. The seeming indefiniteness of the war on terror is a great tool to use to diminish Republicans in the eyes of the voters, but the critics on the left have no idea what they would do differently, aside from surrender, appeasement, and trying to convince the Osama bin Ladens of the world that we really mean them no harm, that we want to give peace a chance, and why can't we just all get along.

Chris Muir, in his Day by Day political cartoon strip, illustrates the point:

Like many Europeans in 1938, not a few of the president's most vocal critics are living in a fantasy world, a world as they'd like it to be, but, unfortunately, not the world as it is.

Bummed Out Bushaphobes

I haven't written much on the Valerie Plame business because I thought it was very much ado about nothing much at all. The Bushaphobes have been frothing at the mouth for three years now hoping and praying (well...maybe not praying) that somebody, preferably the detestable Karl Rove, would take a hard fall for what always seemed to me to be a very trivial peccadillo.

Now, after a fortune in tax dollars has been squandered on a feckless investigation into a non-crime, it's all over and the Bush-despisers are crestfallen and stultified yet again. The major malefactor appears to be Ms Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, who seems to be an almost pathological prevaricator, and the source of the infamous leak about her identity is a State Department official, Richard Armitage, who vigorously opposed the Iraq war and is thus one of the left's angels of light.

Since no administrative heads will be rolling - except the relatively minor noggin of Scooter Libby, who I predict President Bush will now pardon - and since the villains are all Bushaphobes in good standing, the breathless media hyperventilations have suddenly flatlined, and the story is sinking as quietly as a stone in the ocean.

The Washington Post offers perhaps the best eulogy:

[I]t now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.

Indeed. Well, now MSNBC's Keith Olberman can go back to bashing Bill O'Reilly, and meanwhile we'll await Hardball's Chris Matthews' apology to Karl Rove for having so gleefully anticipated his indictment.