Foreign Policy, Free Speech, and Unintended Consequences:
Well, reports seem to indicate that Iraq's compliance with the weapons-inspections regime has dropped off in the wake of anti-war protests, which some people believe emboldened Saddam by making war less likely. Since, of course, Bush is not likely to care what British college kids think, war is actually more
likely now. That is a sad irony indeed, even for someone like me, who supports the idea of regime change in Iraq.
But this isn't just another post on unintended consequences--it's about the challenge of conducting foreign policy in an era of free speech and global communications.
The reason the President was given most of the foreign policy power in the Consitution was simple: it is important that the nation speak with a single voice when dealing with foreign powers. It's a lot like parents and children: it is important for parents to avoid undermining each other's disciplinary authority, lest a child sucessfully set parents against one another. In like fashion, it is essential that a foreign country not be permitted to divide--and thus to weaken--our government and population.
It is of course also essential that the population be able to criticize the government, and that the various members of the government have the freedom to fulfil their duties--e.g., that senators be able to dissent from the President's Iraq policy. The problem in 2003 is that such dissent is immediatly broadcast around the globe--and can end up providing comfort and propaganda to our enemies. It may also lead our enemies, who often lack a thorough understanding of our culture and government, to disasterously miscalculate.
Saddam's apparent belief that the anti-war protests will stop war is one example of such miscalculation. There may be similar problems with North Korea as we speak. I personally regard Kim Jong Il's nuclear program as a major and frightening crisis, but the Bush administration has been very cool in public. This may be part of a deliberate strategy, akin to ignoring a child who misbehaves to get attention. Obviously no one can say that in public, so I can't be sure.
But every time I read an op-ed calling for Bush to drop Iraq and pay attention to Korea, I wonder if Kim is also reading, and is encouraged that someone is paying attention to his antics (a guy who runs an Stalinist state would be more likely to think that the NYT
is a Bush mouthpiece). I also wonder if the writer has even bothered to consider that perhaps Bush is
paying attention ot Korea--but not in public, for sound policy reasons.
I'm certainly NOT suggesting censorship, but do think that it would be well for pundits and protesters to consider carefully both why
the government does what it does, given that public pronoucements will often not reflect policy reality, and also how their words might play overseas. It seems odd to say it, but it is possible that some minor editorial writer could end up undermining the policy of the President--and, if the results of the anti-war protests are any indication, the result could be exactly the opposite of what the writer wants.
The "classic rock" station in Seattle played "Smells Like Teen Spirit" today.
I must be getting old.
Not, however, as old as the Armed Liberal
, who, by my reckoning, must be exactly twice as old as I am.
Music and Sex:
There's an interesting contrast between the music played in the auto parts store where I work and the music I pick for myself when I'm out in the truck making deliveries. In the store, it's mostly top-40, and out on the road, I mostly like oldies and classic rock. Today, I heard a hip-hop song which was quite disgustingly explicit in its description of sex acts; I found it repulsive, though not for any moral reason--there was nothing described which I wouldn't be willing to do myself. Rather, I simply didn't want to be invited to anybody else's play date.
On the other hand, I love the suggestive sound of the original "Son of a Preacher Man" (I'm fudging the title because I don't actually know it), which mixes a bass line suggestive of heart-pounding experimentation with brassy overtones evoking superficial conversation. I'm left with the impression of young lovers hiding their nervousness--and guilt--with banter.
A more explicitly raunchy-sounding (but not raunchy) song is "Little Red Riding Hood" ("you're everything a big bad wolf could want!"), which features a big bad wolf who desperately hides his true self to impress a girl. His intentions--and worldliness--are not in doubt, but his behavior is still gentlemanly.
I'm frankly not brilliant at romance; I couldn't sweep anyone off her feet with a broom. I understand the male fantasy of easy, hot sex with beautiful women. But somehow, I find the gently suggestive description of romantic seduction far more interesting, exciting, and pleasant to listen to than the hottest sex. Even if we reject moral strictures on what we say and do in public, could we perhaps accept such strictures on the basis that it makes for better music?