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Why must we have a bogeyman to rally against? Why must we define ourselves by what we are not, rather than by what we are? Why did we have to 'drift' after seeing that our bloated fears of the Soviet Union were overblown and the U.S.S.R's demise deflated our resolve?
We no longer have a state to rail against, we have an amorphous blob called terror. It will be an eternal war because it has metastasized into the very structure of our civilization. There will never be a victory, there will only be a pause while we wait for the next generation to come of age.
Alliances will be the only thing that will keep us from turning into the very thing we are fighting. Being forced to work in concert with other nations will demand that we think of people's needs other than our own, otherwise we will grow more arrogant and indifferent to humanity. The neocons have brought us to the very edge of this precipice; Abu Ghraib shows us what we could become.

The emphasis on alliances is a start, but it is a very good start.


"Given the world-historical fiasco in Iraq and elsewhere, I'm sure it's tempting for Democrats to coast forward on the discontent the attentive public is voicing about the Bush Administration's foreign policy." Beautiful!! Haven't seen such overblown Hegelian rhetoric since I stopped reading East German propaganda for fun in the 60's.

On a more serioius note, you are right about needing a plan. There are two good reasons:

1. with no plan, the Kerry campaign is "I'm NOT GWB". This is pretty much how Carter won - he was not Ford. And he had no constituency once elected and got savaged by both parties.

2. the old maxim "A bad plan is better than no plan." (something Bush clearly gets, althoug I wish he recalled that a good plan is also better than no plan.)

On the issue of alliances, I agree that we need more than we have, but I think we also need to look in new places. The UN is a disaster, and probably unfixable, and Europe is circling the drain right now, although there is still hope for them down the road. I would like to see us trying to get together more with two countries we tend to ignore: India and Indonesia. We have more interests in common with both than the chattering classes realise. Also put Brazil on that list, and you have a nice challenging, but doable start.


Heh. I meant "world-historical" in the sense of, "unbelievably large, to be cited for generations to come." Not the Hegelian or Marxist sense of the term (re-defining the historical epoch). Geez, I hope that's not the case.

I agree with what you say, Oscar, about the need to find allies in new places. It'd be bizarre if a world-historical transformation did take place, like the end of the Cold War, and alliances didn't shift. India is definitely a good place to look, though I'm a bit worried that Indonesian and US interests don't quite connect in enough points yet. Plus, I have a bit of concern about trying to do too much business with Prime Minister Sukarnoputri, who aside from not having the most stable political base, doesn't seem like the ablest of leaders.

I've had a change of heart over the years about the UN. Specifically, I think there's a need for an international "shock absorber," a nominally neutral organization whose provides important political cover for US actions. I wouldn't bet the farm on the UN replacing the State Department for day-to-day US diplomacy, but there are days when you really need a UN intermediary to handle, officially or unofficially, something you can't do as an American diplomat. Invoking the UN's principles--respect for sovereignty, human rights, etc.--has occasionally surprising resonance, if you think that the international system is just a brutish, Hobbesian war of all against all.

Yeah, the UN is a mess. But it has its uses.

Ellroon, I think the amorphousness of "terror" may work against it in the long term as a unifying fear. We had something similar during the Cold War called "communism," which was portrayed as simplistically and monolithically as "terror" and "terrorism" are now. Over time, skepticism about this demonology overtook the anxiety, particularly with the Sino-Soviet rift, the death of Stalin, detente, and other developments. At times, the backlash went too far, overlooking or excusing real dangers.

I hope our progress towards understanding the threat in more sober terms goes faster and more successfully than it did during the Cold War. We recently rented The Atomic Cafe from Netflix. I had forgotten how dark a movie it was--the daffier, funnier elements of this documentary stuck in my brain more than the scenes of animal and human experimentation with radiation did. However, it was worth watching again, if for no other reason than the glimmer of hope you could take away from it: we got through that bad time, and we'll get through this one, too.


Good point about the uses for the UN: if I read you right, you are referring to the sort of work that some neutral counties used to do: their ambassador would act as surrogate for an "enemy" ambassador, etc.

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