Monday, July 14, 2008


When Harold Ross started the NewYorker magazine (in the 1920’s, I think) he announced, “this is not going to be a magazine for the little old lady in Dubuque.” The magazine has been faithful to that credo ever since. Now, however, it is causing them some controversy. It is difficult to say whether this is good or bad for the magazine. On the one hard it is getting them lots of publicity which I suppose is good. On the other hand they are getting a lot of flack from different sources. The problem, of course, has to do with their recent cover. The cover drawing features Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim, with Michelle dressed as a weapon-carrying, combat-boot-wearing, 60’s type revolutionary. They are doing a “fist bump.”In the fireplace an American flag is burning, and on the wall is a picture of Osama bin Laden. Many feel this is offensive and tasteless, which it is. But what is worse, at least from my perspective, is that it is soooo stupid. The editor of the New Yorker defends it as being satirical, supposedly pointing out the stupidity of the various rumors circulating about the Obamas: he is a Muslim, she is an angry black woman, he took the vow on the Koran, and so forth. Some people are outraged, others defend it as satire benefitting from our emphasis on free speech, etc. The problem with this is that the editor sees it only from his perspective at the New Yorker. Yes, it is probably true that the sophisticated readership of the New Yorker will perceive the cover as a satire, but unfortunately the little old ladies in Dubuque will not. They will see it as verifying what they already believe about the Obamas (he is a Muslim, she is angry, etc.). I guess this can be described as editorcentrism. The editor believes it will sell magazines (which it no doubt will). He also believes that people will see the cover and want to read the article within (which I very much doubt, as the very people who will interpret it as confirming what they already believe, most probably don’t read). In the case of the New Yorker I suspect that even many of its subscribers rarely do anything but look at the cartoons, which tend strongly to the satirical themselves. Anyway, the problem here is the same problem with all egocentric positions, believing that everyone either will or should see the world as they do. I think the New Yorker made a mistake and I will be surprised if they don’t eventually apologize to the Obamas (it is, after all, a more or less liberal magazine whose readership probably tends to support Obama). There is, of course, the possibility that they did it deliberately to belittle and smear Obama, a possibility that should not be overlooked.

As usual I am confused. Now I am confused over the “central front on the war on terror.” Bush and McCain insist that Iraq is the central front, whereas Obama claims the central front on terror is Afghanistan. If terrorism is simply a tactic, and if it is carried out on a world-wide stage, how can there be a central front on terror? Furthermore, as the terrorists that blew up the trade centers were from Saudi Arabia, as was Osama bin Laden, why are they not included in the war on terror? There were no terrorists in Iraq until after our unnecessary and criminal attack on that country, and the Bush administration claims that al Quaida has been pretty much eliminated there, why should it still be considered the major front? I suppose Afghanistan might be so considered because al Quaida is reportedly getting a safe haven there with protection from the Taliban. But it should be obvious by now that they can never be defeated or destroyed in that country, short of a massive invasion by hundreds of thousands of American and/or UN troops. No such “war” can ever be won as long as the guerrillas are fighting on their own turf and have the support of their own citizenry. Osama bin Laden is reportedly holed up in Northwest Pakistan where the Pakistanis have now said they do not want any foreign troops to go. It looks like we may be shifting the central front to Pakistan soon. Ironically, as far as I know, Osama bin Laden may even be dead by now. He may even be living in luxury in Paris or Rome or Istanbul, who knows? It should be equally obvious by now that the chances of successfully building a pipeline across Afghanistan to tap resources from Central Asia and by-pass Russia are nothing but fantasies, apparently believed in only by Dick the Slimy and a few others. Thus, I do not understand why Obama wants to send more troops to Afghanistan. It doesn’t matter if its two brigades or three or four, nothing is going to change in that wild and rugged land. It is not worth it to go around the world to count the cats in Zanzibar. Someone today asked the question: what is McCain’s strategy in Afghanistan? There was no coherent answer. They also asked: what is Bush’s strategy in Afghanistan. Again, there was no coherent answer. Obama claims to have a strategy for the Middle East in general. Does he have a strategy for Afghanistan? That is, other than just sending more troops? Personally, I do not believe we have any business being in Afghanistan. What, if anything, do we hope to accomplish there? If anyone knows I would appreciate it if you would explain it to me. Why are we killing Afghani civilians to get a Saudi terrorist who is reportedly living in Pakistan, if, indeed, he is living at all? Perhaps I am just easily confused.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
H. L. Mencken

1 comment:

John Maszka said...

Taking the war to Pakistan is perhaps the most foolish thing America can do. Obama is not the first to suggest it, and we already have sufficient evidence of the potentially negative repercussions of such an action. On January 13, 2006, the United States launched a missile strike on the village of Damadola, Pakistan. Rather than kill the targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, the strike instead slaughtered 17 locals. This only served to further weaken the Musharraf government and further destabilize the entire area. In a nuclear state like Pakistan, this was not only unfortunate, it was outright stupid. Pakistan has 160 million Arabs (better than half of the population of the entire Arab world). Pakistan also has the support of China and a nuclear arsenal.

I predict that America’s military action in the Middle East will enter the canons of history alongside Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Holocaust, in kind if not in degree. The Bush administration’s war on terror marks the age in which America has again crossed a line that many argue should never be crossed. Call it preemption, preventive war, the war on terror, or whatever you like; there is a sense that we have again unleashed a force that, like a boom-a-rang, at some point has to come back to us. The Bush administration argues that American military intervention in the Middle East is purely in self-defense. Others argue that it is pure aggression. The consensus is equally as torn over its impact on international terrorism. Is America truly deterring future terrorists with its actions? Or is it, in fact, aiding the recruitment of more terrorists?

The last thing the United States should do at this point and time is to violate yet another state’s sovereignty. Beyond being wrong, it just isn't very smart. We all agree that slavery in this country was wrong; as was the decimation of the Native American populations. We all agree that the Holocaust and several other acts of genocide in the twentieth century were wrong. So when will we finally admit that American military intervention in the Middle East is wrong as well?