Monday, March 19, 2012

Shouting "Force!!!" In A Peaceful Theater...and And Other Familar Refrains

First, read a news story from the newspaper or the Internet.  Answer the following questions regarding your news story: 1) What is the main issue, who are the main actors being discussed;  Then, choose one of the assigned articles you read for this week.  Answer the following questions regarding the assigned article: 1) What are the basics of this article (who, what, when, how, why, etc.);  2) What is the overall main point the author is trying to convince you of?  3) Do you agree with the author’s argument?  Why?  Why not?   Finally, tie together your news story with what you learned from the assigned article, textbook readings, podcasts, videos, etc. for this week.  Type your answers in the box below using your own words, no outline or bullets, complete sentences and paragraphs, single-spaced, full-page.

This week I chose the article “Romney Can’t Take A Stand…” because of the focus in the lecture video, i.e., the first step of successful international diplomacy is controlling our message while factually displaying a positive image of America. That the long-time frontrunner of the Republican Campaign for Office of President is incapable of keeping the same position regarding any maneuvers a President Romney might make in Afghanistan,  through until the end of an entire sentence, even in a discussion about how to best assign military force, even on Fox News , is in my eyes an absolute disqualification. That he manages this trick of “mind over tongue” while winding in the domestic right’s predictable, tired swipes at the “leadership” “abilities” (his quotes, not mine) of our current Commander in Chief is what makes his lack of stance laughable, and so dangerous. One cannot laugh off intentional stupidity and assume it sass or irrationality less the consequence of inaction. This isn’t just personally disqualifying because it is a less than positive image presented to the voter or the global “sphere of influence”—I’m fine with that debate being had the way we are and usually have it, as I feel like I always learn something —his non-recognition of the adage “a non-answer is still an answer” (ok, I made that up, but) exposes a hole in the soft underbelly of conservative/new libertarian thinking. I must admit it is reminiscent of the remaining candidates “death marching” [thank you, Chris Matthews] toward Tampa, this flip-flopping of Constitutional principles and calling non-persons real, but it can perhaps help us better understand the last ten years of American Diplomacy and our “fading supremacy” pre-Obama ( who won the Nobel Prize as an award to recognize the Office he was chosen to inherit, in honor of the People who choose a leader promising renewed American Diplomacy, because of the peace brought and bought by American process of Democracy, as far as I can tell).
                In the lecture video about International Diplomacy, former Bush Administration Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes outlined three objectives the nation must accomplish if we are to uphold our supremacy, or “exceptionalism.” She describes how, first at the state level, but also through various agencies and sub-state actions, America’s image abroad is shaped, or was under the previous administration (minus the zeroes in the how-we-plan-to-pay-for-it column and the Hi-How-are-you-here’s-some-democracy attitude and the missed chances to nail Bin Laden, etc.). We want to offer a hopeful, opportunistic message; we hope to isolate and marginalize hateful ideology, and we seek to unite the world with our position using what we believe to be shared (social) values and (economic) interests. These three themes seem fair, and reasonable. Of course, I like to find the problems, so…
                First problem I see is this: how can we allow our own politicians (elected and former-cum-lobbyists) and citizens travel the globe under the guise of American Diplomatic Interests but in the cause of a coalition of conspirators whose aim is indeed, the end of civil law in America? We allow this as Free Speech, and there is no regulation of the pieces moving our image on this global scale? None? Huh. Hmmm. Huh. Maybe it’s my failure, but I cannot see how this is not circular logic,  even self-defeating in action. Here’s one way to show what I mean:
Rachel Maddow last Thursday asked Oklahoma Senator ( R ) James Inhofe if he had really watched her show, the one he quoted in her book, and she was dumbfounded to hear him say he had, because the show in question was one where Maddow outlined how David Bahati, author of Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill, was connected to Doug Coe of the Family (C Street, The Family; Jeff Sharlet), and since Doug Coe and the Senator are so close---perhaps we could hear an explanation re: the Senators position on the issue? Inhofe appeared initially flustered, checking his chart of notes and talking points, but in the end chose to blow off the question with the usual spin, denying he knows a “David Bahati” and pronouncing Doug Coe all but a saint. Well, you may not know him, sir, but he is proud to know you, according to researcher Rachel Tabachnik. Again, do you believe such a law would have a place in America, or is it, “too late” to try that here? What image are you hoping such hateful legislation sends about America, a fair question given the origin of inspiration for the legislation (see: Lou Engle, The Call Uganda). I would propose some new restriction on the Speech and Debate clause, tied to use by the offending parties Party of the filibuster. Now, that’s reform.
                A second problem arises when we are willing to admit the first, but we can go over it in some little detail using three main themes: Complexity—sure, America’s own apartheid past shows we are diverse in our beliefs and feelings about how we should internalize/display nationalism; Conflict--our own civil war, and those who cannot let it go, not to mention the inequality we are willing to endure for the sake of… Continuity. We must choose to remain relevant on the world stage, holding fast to more than an ideology, but to the idea of America, the one we would want to present to the world (esp. through techniques described by Hughes of U2’s Bono)  and as the sun sets in California, there are no credible candidates for the way forward for America on the Republican ticket And again, domestic policy is driven by domestic politics, which we as students and voters have some voice (this here, hear?) to be heard in Democracy. How much hope and change can a poor man stand and live?
Finally, a closing word about Americans For Tax Reform  head Grover Norquist and his pledge here as a treacherous example of diplomacy through sub-state action: this group cheerfully is shouting “Force!” in a peaceful theater…the definition of force according to the text is “a euphemism for violence.” Norquist has repeatedly asserted the belief of those associated with him with a simple declaration: the American Government taxes by force. We are unique in our guarantee of peaceful transfer of power in our democratic republic---without revenue, or willingness to fund it, or willingness to recognize the role of revenue in our peaceful process-- how can we sell our freedom, and how dare we believe we are offering a good deal when the most powerful lobby in favor of de-centralizing American power is Congress? If Inhofe (signatory) and the coalition of Norquist succeed, will not the Family be the dominant “decider” when it comes to how to conduct American Domestic Policy/Foreign Policy/Diplomacy? Now, that’s terror.

 Lecture Video/Karen Hughes

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