Homo homini rodentius est

The End of Cowboy Diplomacy?

Time End of Cowboy DiplomacyTime magazine’s cover story this week, [The End of Cowboy Diplomacy] is notable for two things: the hilariously snarky cover illustration, that suggests someone can’t fill his Texas-sized hat, and the poor quality of the analysis they provide about recent apparent shifts in US foreign policy.

The gist of the article is that Condi Rice has effected a palace coup and effectively replaced the bellicose unilateralism of the past 5 years with a more realistic and moderate diplomatic approach. They tick off the places in the world where the US is hamstrung by our inability to leverage influence because of our over-committment in Iraq and Afghanistan: North Korea, Iran, Sudan, China, Palestine, and use recent moderate utterences from the president about working with allies as proof that there has been a sea change in approach. Oh, and of course there are the unnamed “presidential advisors” who remark that even Dick Cheney has come around to the virtues of RealPolitik (invoking Kissinger!).

What they fail to report on is the status of the Cheney-Rumsfeld alliance — still firmly in place at the White House and DOD, or — most amazingly — Karl Rove and the fact that this is a mid-term election year in which Republicans are in real danger of losing their lock on Congress. Might the recent moderation in tone be directed more toward a domestic audience than the world, designed to reassure disgruntled voters about their priorities? If so, it seems to be working in the offices of Time. Maybe they should wait until after the Republicans retain control of Congress (if they do) to see if there has been a real shift in policy approach.

In an [earlier piece] on Rice’s influence, written last August, Time engages in similar wishful thinking about the moderating influence she will have on the president’s policies — but in that article were at least careful to point out the challenge she faced in the past from Cheney and the ideologues. One wonders, a year later, at the evidence of her influence on the most vexing challenge that underpins all others for US foreign policy: unilateralism in Iraq. I don’t see a diplomatically-engineered multi-national effort there, no pan-Arab alliance to rebuild Iraq and contain Iran. If it ain’t happened in an election year — it ain’t happening.

The search for a genetic grail

genetic brainEverytime you turn around, there’s a story in the news about a new study that is described as finding “biological” causes of behaviors and traits that, traditionally, were matters of individual inclination or moral suasion. Just in the past few weeks, I’ve noticed stories in [The New York Times] about genes for risk-taking, yet another “what-makes-them-gay” [article] suggesting birth order is the key — even one saying that [choice of occupation] may be at least partially determined by your genes. There seems no end to our appetite for stories that locate our essence in the laboratory. But at what risk?

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The Dark Side

Angry CheneyFrontline aired a 90 minute episode tonight entitled [The Dark Side], about Cheney’s covert internecine manipulations of intelligence to redirect war on terror efforts from fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to support for a war against Saddam Hussein. Beautiful production values, as always, but biased: no interviews with any of the principals they address including Cheney, Tenet, Wolfowitz, Powell and only about 3 seconds from John Yoo, an architect of the expansion of presidential powers — but plenty of air time for Administration critics Joe Wilson, David Kay and others. No mention — at all — of any rationale for the war that rested on larger strategic goals of reshaping the political landscape in the Middle East, rather the war in Iraq is presented as a way for Cheney and Rumsfeld to settle old scores against Saddam and the CIA. Still, over the 90 minutes, a story becomes clear enough — the intelligence about threat from Iraq was twisted beyond recognition. Tellingly, they point up that more than once, right after 9/11 and just before the Administration decided to push ahead on Iraq, President Bush didn’t defer wholly to Cheney and Rumsfeld but looked to the CIA for guidance and acted on the information provided. Perhaps, if Tenet had been a stronger man, things might have been different.

In [yesterday’s post] I bemoaned the frailty of people in the face of uncertainty, that drives them to rush to judgement before they should. It didn’t address those who don’t want to know the truth, or see it as an obstacle, and merely use information as a means to an end. As someone that figuratively and somewhat literally grew up in psych labs, the thought of conciously distorting knowledge in the effort at pursuing an end — particularly one that will require the ultimate sacrifice of others — is particularly abhorrent.

Craven politics

A reader name Andrea provides a link to [a good fisking] of the president’s speech on the marriage amendment that highlights, among other things, the threats to federalism that it represents. Yet another example of how this administration will turn its back on its own principles — whether in fiscal policy or constitutional issues — to make some political gains.

Even if Patrick Fitzgerald didn’t exist, Rove would be pulling out the last hairs he has over the lack of wiggle room they have: can’t cut spending in an election year, hence can’t respond to the main concern of their base; can’t move on Roe because, even with a stacked court, they don’t want to lose a major wedge issue. So they’re reduced to making futile gestures about gay marriage that only make them look craven.

UPDATE 2:00 pm — The marriage amendment roll call and some thoughts on how they voted, after the jump

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A cruel irony

AIDS ribbon on wedding cakeAccording to the New York Times it was 25 years ago [today] that the first official notice of what would become the AIDS epidemic that devastated the gay community in this country appeared in documents at the Centers for Disease Control. How nastily ironic that today is the day the Senate chose to begin debate on the bill to ban gay marriage. While I’m no fan of gay marriage — considering it a politically facile attempt to apply straight mores to gay identities — I respect the sincerity of those who hope that it will encourage stable healthy lifestyles for gay men. Couldn’t Congress have chosen another day to start their witchhunt?

One is tempted to see in this the cruel hand of extreme partisanship — but it most likely is just another example of tone deafness from the same Congress that thought it would be a good idea to turn Terri Schiavo’s death into a referendum on quality of life issues. A pox on both Houses, I say.

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