No soapbox for me today...
I will spare you the burden of wading through endless paragraphs of my tired prose today, and instead direct you to the greener analytic pastures of Michael Gove at The Times:
Scientists have a phrase for the point at which the known universe ends, and a black hole begins. They call it the event horizon. In recent months it has become clear that a similar phenomenon is at work in media coverage of foreign affairs.
There is a particular point at which knowledge appears to end and a huge black hole begins. It seems to occur somewhere in the 1960s. The specific event beyond which most commentators now find it difficult to see is the Vietnam War.
The article is worth reading in its entirety. Period. Full stop.
But this would hardly be blogging worthy of the name if I didn't have at least one nit to pick and one leap of imagination to make:
- According to the author, the Americans failed to put enough troops on the ground in the initial stages of the occupation because of Arab sensitivities. Why is it only those opposed to the war in the first place seem able to admit the U.S. made a mistake in this aspect of the operation all by their lonesome? If I'm driving a car, and the guy in the passenger seat tells me to gun it through a red light, I'm still the driver and I still have the final decision. If I think my passenger's advice is bad, I should disregard it. If I don't, and it turns out to be bad, I have to take responsibility for my decision to heed that advice. Is the concept of responsibility that difficult to grasp?
- The author states: "From the time of Nasser the Arab peoples have been sold a succession of strongmen as the answer to their plight. And they have seen their region suffer as a result." The same can be said of Latin America - see Castro, Pinochet, Norriega, et al ad nauseum, culminating in the popular but misguided support for Chavez in Venezuala right now. Spanish-speaking peoples around the world are beginning to turn the corner towards liberal democracy, but there seems to remain a wistful longing for the strong and inspiring dictator. I wonder what lessons Latin Americans might take from a cross-cultural rejection of the strongman legacy and the genesis of a liberal democracy in Iraq? Yes, yes, assuming we get a liberal democracy in Iraq - I remain an optimist on this issue.
That's all I've got today. As a much better writer than me has said: "I am resigned to the fact that I will disappoint everyone, eventually."