One of my favorite columnists, Eugene Robinson, being interviewed today by Lawrence O’Donnell, ended his remarks by saying, “It’s a bit confusing.” I think this should win an award for being one of the greatest understatements of all time. Robinson was speaking specifically about the “war” in Libya, but I think his statement surely has a broader application.
With respect to Libya you might well say all there is, is utter confusion. There is no stated goal, no known outcome, no understanding of what might eventually happen. While President Obama has said Gadaffi must go, the Pentagon says he is not a target. It is now regarded as possible that even after our intervention Gadaffi might survive. This, it seems to me, will have rendered our efforts basically meaningless. Of course our efforts are not well defined, according to Obama we entered into this for purely humanitarian grounds (to save civilian lives). Of course in the attempt to save civilian lives from Gadaffi, we will have no doubt taken some ourselves. It is not entirely clear what will happen to Libya whether Gadaffi survives or not. There doesn’t seem to be any organized opposition that could take over the running of the government. The rebels are poorly armed, poorly organized, and most probably would have no chance against Gadaffi’s well armed supporters. Somewhere I read there is someone who is believed to be the successor, picked by the U.S. I don’t know if this is true or not. If there is a “real” reason for our intervention (having perhaps to do with oil), it is not being reported. Some say Obama was talked into this adventure by Hillary Clinton and some other women. Who knows? Obama says we did not lead in this attack (a most questionable assertion), and that in a few days we will turn things over to someone else, but that someone else is not specified (the U.N.?). Obama has also vowed that no U.S. ground troops will ever be employed. At the same time it is widely acknowledged that air power alone will not be adequate to do the job. If that is so, will there ever be troops on the ground, and if so, whose? If we did not lead this attack, why would we be in a position to “turn things over?” Then there is the question of why intervene in Libya but not in Yemen or Bahrain, for example. Good question but can’t be honestly answered because of the obvious hypocrisy involved. No one really asks about why not Saudi Arabia because the answer is so painfully obvious. It seems pretty obvious that realistically we cannot afford a third “war” in the Middle East, so where is the money coming from? Some in Congress are critical because Obama has gone too far, some are critical because he has not gone far enough. Some say he had to get Congressional permission while others say he has all the authority he needs without it. So without going further, I should think it is obvious that it really is a bit confusing (if not worse).
This situation in Libya is hardly the only thing that is confusing these days. How about those Republicans who campaigned on creating jobs but have done absolutely nothing with respect to jobs, other than promote ideas that would undoubtedly result in even fewer jobs. Or how about their promises to reduce the debt when they have done nothing that would not actually create more debt? How about the “culture wars” that were supposed to not feature in the coming elections? Since the election Republicans have launched an all-out attack on abortion. They have also attempted to do away with unions and collective bargaining, something they were clearly not elected to do. Republicans really do confuse me. They don’t have the Black vote, and they certainly don’t have the Hispanic vote, and now they are attacking both women and unions? Does that make any sense for a so-called political party? Not only that, they are trying to do away with Medicare and Social Security as well. That should mean they won’t get the senior vote. Do they really think they can win an election with votes only from a few Tea Party nitwits and the Ku Klux Klan?
Finally, for the moment at least, there is Japan (remember Japan, nuclear disaster, happened just before Libya?). There are all sorts of conflicting reports about what is or might be happening as a result of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant problem. Some say it is under control, others say it is not. Some say the radiation levels are not dangerous, some say they are. It seems there is radiation now in some of the milk, spinach, and other foods, but the extent of this is not well established. The long range effects are unknown. In spite of this horrible disaster we have some who are determined to build more nuclear plants and argue they are completely safe (this is an argument that only makes sense if you realize you are dealing with absolute lunatics or corporations). You have to admit it truly is a bit confusing.
Here is a poem from the latest Saturday Review of Literature that I think is quite fine:
Except That It Robs You of Who You Are
Except that it robs you of who you are,
What can you say about speech?
Inconceivable to live without
And impossible to live with,
Speech diminishes you.
Speak with a wise man, there’ll be
Much to learn; speak with a fool,
All you get is prattle.
Strike a half-empty pot, and it’ll make
A loud sound; strike one that is full,
Says Kabir, and hear the silence.
Kabir (c. 1440-1518), translated from the Hindi
By Arvind Krishna Mehrotra