Saturday, October 16, 2004

Political Theater

No, the title doesn't refer to the debates, but to an area where the theatrical comes to play a much more powerful and disturbing role in our politics: foreign policy.
Hearing and reading the rhetoric (and I don't use the word pejoratively, by the way) coming from the President and his supporters, I am struck by the degree to which they seem to base their foreign policy ideals on "messages" that are sent (to whom?) by policies we take and a near-mythical conception of American "credibility" (what precisely is this? is it really worth the sacrifices these people want to make for it?).
I am currently at work on what will probably turn into a few essays on the topic of Bush's foreign policy and his foreign policy rhetoric.
Sorry to be posting a merely anticipatory entry here, but, if you read this and have any ideas about potential avenues in this connection, please post them here.
As you can see from my post below on Imperial Hubris (and even moreso from a reading of the book itself), there is a sense in which Bush's foreign policy can be looked at as more the end result of ineptitude than of any particular philosophy. But I think there may be more to it than blundering and the mindless confusion of what ought to be distinct areas of policy-making.
I am not really interested in writing a polemic so much as a critical analysis of the Bush foreign policies, but I would certainly appreciate the views of other folks on this general topic.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Return to Normalcy?

"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance." --John Kerry

"Just this weekend, Senator Kerry talked of reducing terrorism to - quote - nuisance' - end quote - and compared it to prostitution and illegal gambling. See, I couldn't disagree more. Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance. Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorists, and spreading freedom and liberty around the world." -- George W. Bush

Earlier today, Vice President Dick Cheney took John Kerry to task for comments published this weekend indicating that he hoped to see a day when terrorism would again be at the level of a national "nuisance." Cheney called "naive and dangerous."

Kerry's rather careless choice of words aside, it is remarkable the extent to which Dick Cheney, in this and other published comments, talks as if America can expect to be in a constant state of emergency and a perpetual state of war for the foreseeable future.

One has to wonder sometimes if the Vice President is setting the stage for a future promotion from Dick Cheney to Dick Tator.

But the siege mentality seems to be spreading quickly among Republicans. Rudy Giuliani said that the notion of "an acceptable level of terrorism is frightening." And the President himself assured a Colorado audience that his vision of the War on terror has America "on the offensive . . . spreading liberty and freedom around the world."

This line of rhetoric would not seem to me to serve Republican interests very well, and I hope to see the Democrats take them up on it quickly. The Republican vision for the War on Terror has the sort of endless quality of a moral crusade--much like a crusade against liquor, or fornication. While we might, like Rudy Giuliani, find it hard to accept that there will be murders and drunkenness and fornication in New York City in any perspective future, not to be able to overcome that difficulty in the final event would mark us as insane.

The same goes for terrorism: there will always be people out there who hate us and who are willing to die and kill to harm us. Can we imagine a world where there is absolutely no terrorism? When can we imagine America can rest in its task of spreading Democracy and Freedom? When does being on the offensive not going to mean being up to our necks in quagmires halfway around the world?

The short answer is that the Republican have no vision for America safe and at peace. All they have is a vision of crusading America. For them, the endless crusade began on September 11th and there is no end in sight. There is no end that they can even imagine.

Mr. Kerry ought to jump straight to the hustings and proclaim loudly that he, for one, can envision a day when Al Qaeda has been vanquished, when America returns to a watchful but prosperous normalcy, and if Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush cannot envisage such a future, they ought to step aside.


My debut


The title of this, my web log, is a riff on the town I live in, Traverse City, MI.

I'm not trying to tear the place down or anything--Traverse City is a beautiful place with lots of interesting and kind people in it.

But "Adverse City" does sometimes reflect my experience of northern Michigan. The job market is tight, intellectually stimulating jobs are particularly hard to come by, it snows every day from Halloween to Easter, and the cultural atmosphere sometimes seems rather limited and retrograde when compared to New Jersey, where I used to live.

I also use "adverse" in the sense of "going in the opposite direction" in reference to myself. I tend to be a bit contrarian. I don't trust the consensus on a lot of things, and I like putting people's assumptions to the test. (Hopefully my own as well as others'.) Over time, as I fill these pages with my contrarian and sometimes cranky views and arguments, I hope this will become indeed an "Adverse City" for people who cherish unexamined assumptions about the world.

Also, I am fascinated with cities and how people, goods and information travel through and

between them. The fascination of cities is all the accidental juxtaposition they force on us as this process takes place. I'm hoping for something like that here, though on a strictly voluntary basis!