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Posts Tagged ‘world affairs’

So many things seem to be in the toilet I don’t know where to begin.  Take the economy – please, take it and fix it, something neither the President or his Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke seem to be able to do. Bush’s recently announced $145 billion tax relief package only seemed to grease the Dow’s slide. Talk about instilling confidence. The world continues to offer its share of troubled spots: Kenya and Gaza are the current headliners along with Pakistan, of course.

For rock bottom, you can’t beat the innuendos, rumors and just plain ugly comments the candidates and especially their surrogates seem unable to resist. Barak Obama and his surrogates absolutely elevated Hillary’s comments about LBJ’s putting King’s dreams into actions (ungainly but understandable on some level) practically into a race war of words. Bill Clinton’s temper is showing with his attacks on Obama, who has enough problems with  the e-mail chain letter insisting the Senator is a Muslim. He isn’t, but why he has to waste energy refuting that claim goes to a different discussion about the role religion is playing in this Presidential contest – and trust me, I have lots to say on the subject. On the Republican side, the ghost of Lee Atwater seemed to chase McCain all over South Carolina but he persevered, thanks to his Truth Squad; now he just has to deal with Huckabee celebrity supporter Chuck Norris claiming that McCain is too old.

I know conventional wisdom suggests that rumor-monging can be effective if it plants the seeds of doubt in some voters but I think it’s more likely such tactics would keep many away from the polls altogether. I sometimes wonder if those who are invested in spreading personal and political falsehoods about the candidates they are so desperate to see defeated think about such things. The cost of this race is already embarrssingly high – the GNP of many countries, no doubt. But cost also refers to other less tangible things like prestige. The whole world really is watching. True, we aren’t likely to experience riots following our elections as in Kenya or other parts of the world. On the other hand, we might want to put the bar a great deal higher than that, at least if we’re going to promote ourselves as the best entity to promote democracy.

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Benazir Bhutto‘s assassination is, as everyone has figured out, bad news. Bad for Pakistan. Bad for its enormously unpopular leader Pervez Musharaff. Bad for the population, which, having experienced everything from a devastating earthquake to a recent outbreak of bird flu, finds itself once again hopelessly trapped between a weakened dictator and the press of Al Qaeda extremists without a moderate in sight. Bad for the United States, which continues to funnel money to a shaky regime with nuclear capabilities as part of its “war on terror” strategy.

I’m watching CNN and the analysts are suggesting foreign policy will once again assert itself as a major issue in our Presidential race. Well and good. Unfortunately, this incident gives candidates an opportunity to bring up the war on terror in a way neither helpful nor substantive, only inflammatory. See Rudolph Giuliani’s statement on the Bhutto assassination, particularly his reference to the “terrorists’ war on us.” I suppose by “us” he means “democracy supporters everywhere” but I’m not sure I want to put Pakistan’s current President in that category.

Frankly, I’m sick of the concept of a “war on terror.” It’s become an easy slogan. It’s vague and meaningless. It reduces everything to “us” versus “them.” It precludes any nuanced discussion of cultural, political, economic realities. It shoves potential friends to the margins and into a vaguely defined “them” category and puts us in bed with military dictators and unpopular leaders. It conflates facts and ignores details. It’s a dangerously simplistic way of looking at the world. It can also be fatal.

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