The Last Lap
At long last, the Election of 2004 has entered the final days. For good or for ill, those who choose to vote will do so, or at least attempt to do so.
There is much about this election that will keep the historians squabbling for decades. For instance, should there be many suspicious Republican victories in places where the opinion polls (suspicious in and of themselves anymore) indicated the opposite result was likely, was there vote fraud? Tampering of the voting machines? Intimidation of voters?
Certainly there has been tampering with the beliefs of the voters. Look at all the crap that has been tossed toward John F. Kerry concerning his expression of his rights as an American after his Vietnam service, then look at all of the crap that should have been tossed at George Wastrel Bu$h for his abuse of those very rights. The media has been very complicit in the support of presenting the public image of Bu$hCo instead of looking at their sorry record while in power.
Many of my Orange County (CA) co-workers had had some doubts about voting for Bu$h, but since then most have gone back to where it's 'safe' and will vote for 'security' from a man who has done nothing to enhance either safety or security. One cited Kerry's 'waffling' - defined as unable to stick to a position once it was decided - as the reason he will vote for Bu$h, even though he recognizes that Bu$h is against everything that he as a worker can benefit from.
Such cognitive dissonance resonates in my own family tree as well. My own mother just disappointed me by flopping back into blind support for the U$urper. I have a nephew currently in Iraq, and we got to talking about that situation in general terms. I raised the point that China is taking over all of our diplomatic, economic, political, and military leadership roles in the world, and she responded with "If we were a stronger people we would defend ourselves from China."
A stronger people?
She's already got one grandson at risk. Can she really not understand that to continue with Bu$h'$ programs will place all of her grandchildren at risk? Like a true believer, she immediately changed the subject to something negative about Kerry rather than answer the question.
This 'stronger people' stuff makes me uneasy. Are we to blindly confront every challenge the US faces militarily? Are we to follow the path of the Soviet Union and wreck our economy trying to keep up with the Chinese version of the General Joneses? Georges Santayana's famous dictum immediately comes to mind.
My mother lived during World War II. She used to tell us about the Blue Stars in the windows, and how every so often one would be replaced with a Gold Star. (For those of you too young to know about these stars, the blue one signified a family member actively serving in the military. The gold stars indicated that this family had lost a member to the war.) If one were paying attention to the changes, one would see a significant number of stars changing color every week. Such a sacrifice came from a strong people - one whose value systems were not merely multinational corporatist hype to cover for mis- and malfeasance. This is what we can expect from the continuance of the BFEE/PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse's Planetary Pilferage Policies. We just won't have a galaxy of blue and gold stars in the neighborhood windows to keep track of the 'progress'.
I find it interesting that Osama decided to pop up this week and put his two dinars' worth into our electoral debate. I'm sure that the 'strong people' will overlook bin Laden's claims of acting in response to abuses performed by the American-armed Israelis in Lebanon. I won't go deeply into whether I think this is a legitimate cause d'guerre [I don't], but the general topic of US interference with foreign sovereign nations is a valid topic of discussion.
A good case can be made that our efforts to maintain our extravagant and wasteful lifestyle are a large part of justifying the terrorism we now face today. For example, our 1953 toppling of the Mossadegh government of Iran led to the rise of the Ayatollah, to our arming Saddam in his war against Iran and thus making it possible for Saddam to later invade Kuwait. You know the rest from recent Republican campaign propaganda.
We are supposed to never forget the assault upon our embassy in Tehran, but they are to forgive and forget about our predations against their nation? 'Strong people' would agree. Thinking humans would not. 'Strong people' only see a challenge to our self-declared supremacy. Thinking people see that the Iranian efforts toward nuclear weapons and their quiet military and diplomatic alliance with China present a huge future problem that can be avoided with smarter and less-blustering leaders.
There have been recent reports of Europeans discussing their view of our domestic situation with Americans, and they can't see how Bu$h can have such high levels of support, especially considering his performance. They don't understand why we aren't calling for his resignation, for his impeachment, or (like some of us are already doing) calling for his replacement. I've also read reports that world leaders have made statements that indicate their preference for the avowed diplomacy strategy of John F. Kerry over the historical militant bluster of George Warmonger Bu$h. They should put de Tocqueville away and see us for what we are today. It wouldn't take thinking people very long to understand us then.
There's another aspect of this 'strong people' meme that disturbs me. Every time a nation follows that path, many of its citizens pay with their lives in a losing cause of attempted dominance. They all want to be Imperial Rome, when the conditions that made Rome possible are long gone. Julius Caesar had no nukes, no air power, no firearms or explosives, no mechanized armor, and certainly no telecommunications, and neither did his enemies. What he had was a strictly disciplined army which fought as a unit and not as a rabble of individuals, which was often the main reason he and his successor generals won their battles. As each of these 'advances' in military power came about, the possibility of creating such an empire - which stood for 'only' 500 years or so - became much less likely. Hitler's Thousand Year Reich lasted 12 years, yet he had weapons and technology that Caesar would never have understood.
The difference? All of Hitler's opponents had studied Caesar also, and they had equal access to technology, and thus were far better prepared to face the onslaughts arrayed against them than were the barbarian hordes against which Rome marched. But even barbarian hordes can learn to win, as the history of Rome will attest though their ultimate triumph over the Caesars. It thus works also for Napoleon, for Mussolini, for Stalin, for most of the 'strong people' leaders of history.
As one power grows to threaten the rest of the world, the rest of the world bands together in mutual protection, generally around a major military power. China is now that power the world is edging up to as opposed to the United States. Australia has recently conducted joint naval manouvers with the Chinese Navy. This week, the EU constitution was signed, which will enhance efforts already underway to create a joint European military command intended to replace NATO and end US participation in the defense of Europe. Many of these European nations are following Australia's example, and are in discussions with the Chinese to establish areas of cooperation on many levels.
It is the same in South and Central Asia, and in Africa. Everywhere the United States has had almost unchallenged hegemony, China is now appearing to woo those nations to enter its sphere of influence, and they are usually successful.
This is where 'strong people' should become smart people. Allowing for variances, the US population is about 290 million people in a world population of well over 6 billion. Rounding off to simple numbers, that makes us about 5% of the world's total population. Where do 'strong people' think our ability to dominate the 95% of the rest of the world is going to come from?
And let's take another view - arming our military. Much of our defense manufacturing capability has been outsourced and offshored. We can't come close to defending these sources of armaments, especially if we don't have enough bullets for our own guns! As many of these manufacturers are in foreign lands, are we going to nuke any facilities over which we can't maintain control? What does that then make us?
History is replete with examples of 'inferior' people defeating what should have been a better-armed assailant. Vietnam is one of the most recent, but one of the best is the assault of the British against the Zulu nation in 1879. Just like in Iraq today, the high command discounted reports that the Zulu warriors had much military ability, and it was believed that any opposition would melt in the face of 'obvious' British superiority. Check out the Battle of Isandhlawana and see what happened with that belief! In the end, the British Army had to alter their tactics and strategies to accommodate their new-found understanding that the Zulu were a formidable enemy in order to achieve victory.
From the same territory, the South African (Boer) War is another good example of the belief that 'a few Boer rabble' would never stand against the might of the British Army. It took three years, and the illegal and inhumane treatment of non-combatants, to bring that war to an end.
The point I raise with these examples is that both the Boer and the Zulu were 'strong people' and had a certain tradition of militarism. But they were out numbered and out-technologied, leading them to fight desperately if only to delay the inevitable. They mostly had only the primitive resources immediately available to them for weapons (though the Boers had a small amount of assistance from Kaiser Wilhelm), and at times fought using sticks and stones.
So it would be with the United States if the blind policies of George 'Win-it-alone' Bu$h are confirmed on Tuesday. Without a secure and defendable military-industrial complex, no army can long fight. Without a stable and reliable source of replacements, no army can long fight. Any doubters should check out the history of the Army of Northern Virginia in our own Civil War.
The only alternative is to pick one's battles wisely, and this will mean changing one's position from time to time. There will have to be an element of expediency in our diplomacy, for to frivolously squander unwisely our relatively meager military resources (as we are currently doing in Iraq) means that we will have nothing to fight with should something really important comes along.
The Bu$h (mis)Administration displays this expediency, not that anyone is noticing. Secretary of State Colin Powell just made the statement that the US doesn't hold to the Taiwanese belief that they are a sovereign nation, but that instead they are a province of the Democratic Republic of China, and the US will support any peaceful efforts by the DRC to reestablish sovereignty over the island. Anyone who remembers the spyplane incident prior to 9/11 knows how seriously China expects us to oppose any non-peaceful efforts. They know we won't. We can't!
Besides being outnumbered militarily and diplomatically, we're out on a long limb financially. Japan and China combined hold enough of George Wastrel Bu$h'$ 'tax relief' notes to bring us down tomorrow. But, the 'strong people' don't need to worry about that, now do they? We'll just take what we want any time we want - right?
There are many analogies I could make to illustrate this electoral picture, but it isn't too much of a stretch to state that the choice is between Rationality and Reason (Kerry) and Manipulated Emotionalism (Bu$h). I only wish we could make this clear to those who still refuse to face the facts.