Saturday :: Apr 17, 2004

Cogent Comments from Charles Peters


by Mary

One of the reasons I've been a long time subscriber to the Washington Monthly has been the pleasure of reading Charles Peters' Tilting at Windmills column. Peters reports on a wide variety of topics in this column and like the best of the bloggers, has a unique eye and insight which teaches while it entertains.

This month's column was no exception. Here are a few items worth sharing from this column:

Wrong targets

Buried in a recent Maureen Dowd column is a good point by former Sen. Bob Kerrey. He said that once 9/11 happened, our target should have been Osama bin Laden, not terrorism in general. "To declare war on terrorism would seem to me to have the wrong target. It would be like after the 7th of December 1941, declaring war on Japanese planes. We declared war on Japan. We didn't declare war on their tactic. Terrorism is a tactic."

And Richard Clarke said that attacking Iraq because of 9/11 would have been like invading Mexico in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Mahatma Arafat

This doesn't mean I'm a big fan of terrorism. I was happy to see a report in The New York Times by our alumnus, James Bennet, that some Palestinians are using peaceful demonstrations to protest against the wall. I've long felt that non-violent resistance would be the Palestinians' best tactic. Jewish guilt could get them more than terrorist bombs.

It's not a slam dunk, however. "In advocating civil disobedience," writes Bennet, "Gandhi and Martin Luther King had a bedrock faith in the essential humanity of their oppressors." It is, unfortunately, a faith that Arab extremists do not possess, and that Israeli right-wingers have not earned.

And I would say that believing your opponents are human beings, even if misguided, means you afford them simple respect and decency. Peters forgot to mention the example of Nelson Mandela who from all accounts believed even more in the basic underlying humanity of his opponents after being jailed for decades. His attitude and basic belief brought out the best in his jailers instead of inciting the worst. In my opinion, this is a powerful and effective message, and one that I'd like to do a better job at remembering.

Early bird

For many years, the Pentagon has published the "Early Bird," a daily compilation of news items, magazine articles, and opinion pieces about the military. Recently, the "Early Bird" staff was told that newsmagazine articles should no longer be included. Could the edict have anything to do with the fact that a few days earlier, Newsweek ran a story titled "Rummy's New Headaches," and Time had one asking, "Is Rumsfeld Losing His Mojo?"

This is a case of the: "If you don't read it, then it must not exist" school of thought.

Do read the rest as he's got some good advice and commentary on a lot more topics.

Aside: Peters founded this magazine to provide real, practical advice and insight in how to fix the government bureaucracy so it will do the job we need it to do. People often forget that government might actually be made to work for more rather than simply being used to funnel money from the rest of us to the plutocrats. Government is not the problem, it is the people and the broken systems that are the problem - and if we care, these are fixable.

Today the Washington Monthly website front page is the fine blog, Political Animal, featuring Kevin Drum.

Mary :: 1:46 PM :: Comments (0) :: Digg It!