Blogs are like Reader’s Digest, only more so. RD trims long articles into short ones; we hack them down to a paragraph or two. With most stories from the mass media, a couple paragraphs are enough to capture the essence.
However, some articles — some ideas — cannot fairly be presented in a paragraph or two. They should be read in full, particularly if they deal with serious and complex issues. A blog-length excerpt doesn’t do them, or you, justice.
Here are outlines three such articles, three such ideas. I urge you to follow the link and read the entire original.
Redefining the war on terror
Andrew Bacevich is Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University. In a recent article in the Boston Globe, he wrote that Obama must “go beyond merely pointing out the folly of the Iraq war; he must demonstrate that Iraq represents the truest manifestation of an approach to national security that is fundamentally flawed.”
While that article is worth reading for itself, I’ll point you to a follow-up article, an interview with Bacevich at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he was asked what was wrong with the Global War on Terror.
To me, one of the problems of the paradigm of global war is that it has not signified war in the metaphorical sense, like war on AIDS, war on drugs, and war on poverty. It has signified war in a literal sense that the employment of military power, on a large scale, in pursuit of very large ambitions—like the liberation or dominance or transformation of Iraq—ought to really be the principle instrument in order to achieve our purposes. I think that takes us down the wrong road. I think, and others have argued, that a new version of containment actually provides the basis to begin thinking about how to prevent another 9/11. Not a new war, not a global war, not a protracted war. The answer to the problem is not to invade and occupy countries, which we did in Iraq and Afghanistan, but relying on other instruments of power to try to prevent Islamic radicalism from increasing its reach and its influence in the world.
That New Yorker cover
I found the Obama fist-bump illustration offensive; even more offensive has been the smug “But it’s satire, you unsophisticated clod,” response from the magazine’s editors and from a horde of other liberal open-minded big-city isolates. So when my last copy of the magazine arrived, and I saw that, again, most of the cartoons were either lame or incomprehensible, I did not regret having scribbled “CANCEL” on the renewal notice.
Mahzarin R. Banaji, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, went even further. He published a careful — and utterly damning — study of the illustration in the Review Section of The Chronicle of Higher Education.
…. we must, of course, defend the right of The New Yorker to print the image it did.
What we need not defend is the absurd naïveté about the basic facts of information transmission that accompanied the reasoning behind the drawing.
… artists and their managers, by remaining in the isolated world of art or publishing, cut off from the basic facts of human nature and experience, of conscious and unconscious social perception, learning and memory, have no choice but to be startled by the mismatch between their lofty intentions to do the public some good through satire and the results of their clumsy actions.
“And it’s one, two, three, What are we fightin’ for?”
Jane Mayer, writing in The New York Review of Books, says, “it is clear that what began on September 11, 2001, as a battle for America’s security became, and continues to be, a battle for the country’s soul.”
Cheney and Bush were warned about the likely consequences of their their effort to turn the nation’s sorrow and anger into an excuse for global adventuring. People here and abroad, inside government and out, Democrat and Republican, “threw themselves into trying to head off what they saw as a terrible departure from America’s ideals, often at an enormous price to their own careers.” But, Mayer argues, nothing has done more harm to our standing in the world, and our hopes for peace, than our abuse of detainees.
Eric Haseltine, the former top adviser on science and technology to the Director of National Intelligence, worries that prisoner abuse has profoundly hurt what he defines as the most important battle in the war on terror— the struggle to win the support of the next generation of Arab youth. “I came away from my many visits to the Middle East convinced there is a widespread belief that if America abuses prisoners then there can be no true freedom for anyone,” he said. “It seemed to me that our greatest sin in the eyes of Muslims was not invading the Middle East, or even our support of Israel: our greatest sin was robbing Muslims of hope.”