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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

When All Is Said and Done

I've spent most of the afternoon reading various essays on Znet, in the NYT, and around the internet. All of them seem to have something in common: when the rhetoric ends, they haven't actually said anything. Decrying the actions of the US throughout Central America and the Middle East, there are a grand total of zero solutions proposed. Zero alternatives. Fifty thousand problems with the way the US has carried out its foreign policy, without a single thing to show for it.

If the implication one is to draw from this is that we would be better served sitting back and watching as despots and local dictatorial regimes murder and enslave the people they ostensibly represent, that's one thing. But it's difficult to seize the moral high ground when the argument for letting a myriad of people die is that the alternative is a significantly smaller number reach their demise. Chomsky especially seems to paint a contradictory dichotomy of action - either we act, in which case we are neoimperialist profiteers only out for the corporate profit motive, or we fail to act, in which case we are... neoimperialist profiteers who lack the moral courage to cut into corporate profits. Act - and you're evil. Fail to act - and you're evil. We act at the beckoning of the UN in Kosovo, and are painted as murderous savages who are unwilling to let the locals solve their own dispute in a democratic manner. We fail to act in Rwanda, and are called to task for being unwilling to stop a genocide.

For all the criticism which can be mounted about the conflicts we choose, and the fights we pick, it's shooting fish in a barrell to criticize the various administrations like that. Spouting populist vitriol in the course of making a political criticism is the easiest thing in the world. Slogan chanting in a fugue state, demonstrating against the WTO and IMF, all of these things may be in the pursuit of a valid goal, but at the end of the day, undermining the discourse with which decisions ought to be made is categorically more harmful than any policy any institution on earth can pass. Informed decision making is not done with a brick flung through a window, any more than it can be made with the treads of a tank. In principle, both sides seem to be charged with rhetoric about making intelligent and humane decisions. In practice, neither side seems to want to sit down and actually make said decisions. It's easier to get a book deal attacking something than constructing. Ask Ann Coulter. Ask Noam Chomsky.

I want one of the leftists to answer a few questions. If there is a strong dictator in a region who is beginning to embark on a genocide, and the only other locus of power is an equally dictatorial, yet more stable and less genocidal individual, who do you support? Neither? And if foreign investment in a region is "exploitation", does that mean the US is exploiting Britan? That Japan is exploiting the US? Obviously just a start, but I get the feeling that it's not the sort of subject Zinn would write on. It's not monochromatic enough.

Attack journalism is profitable, but after all the articles are sold and ink dried on the publishing contracts, what have they really done to help solve the problem?


cranked out at 3:20 PM | |

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