Saturday, June 16, 2007

No Exit

Tigerhawk notices that Iran is in the middle of a huge internal crackdown on dissidents. Are the Ayatollahs afraid of something? Some have argued that if the US wasn't stirring up trouble for the Ayatollahs, the nascent flowers of democracy in Iran would be in full bloom by now. So is the crackdown America's fault? Tigerhawk says, "I doubt that American money has 'led to the arrest of thousands' of people. ... the mullahs will only act against dissent if they believe that repression is in their interest. That calculation is independent of the impact of American aid." In other words, the Ayatollahs would be repressive simply because they are. It's the nature of the regime.

But there is a strange tendency, especially among those who would otherwise claim that America is everywhere declining, to ascribe to it an indirect omnipotence. Everything is America's fault. Is the climate changing? Are people in Gaza starving? Is there no help for those being killed in Darfur? Are the Ayatollahs beating up on student demonstrators? Look no further for the cause. It's all America's fault. It's always America's fault.

An unbreakable chain of causality is constructed from Washington politics to the smallest butterfly fluttering in the Amazon. It is the reverse Butterfly Effect; and the logical consequence is that if America does nothing -- if preferably it stops breathing -- then all the evils of the world will return to the lockbox whence they came. John Howard, speaking in Washington, likened this attitude to that of a frightened child. "And it's a war that confronts us all. Those who imagine that somehow or other you can escape it by rolling yourself into a little ball and going over in the corner and hoping that you're not going to be noticed are doomed to be very, very uncomfortably disappointed."

Nothing follows.


Blogger betsybounds said...

Hmmm. This is a very interesting post. It's a bit similar to something I've thought for a long time about the global warming hysteria. That craziness has long seemed to me to demonstrate a kind of infantile egotism in the collective view of world-wide climate. It's well known to psychologists that children tend to see themselves as the cause of everything around them--so that, for example, children of divorce will believe themselves to have been the cause, somehow, of their parents' breaking up. In similar fashion, people are prone to seeing humanity as the cause of climate change--infantile egotism, writ large. There are other examples, such as the recent mini-hysteria over human activities like cell phone use causing bee hives to die (it turns out that bee hives have undergone these periodic collapses for a very long time--since well before the advent of cell phones--at varying intervals, and no one knows why). Have we not noticed many times that, when destructive events happen in nature, there is a default tendency to wonder first of all what humans can have done to cause it? We humans probably affect a lot less than we like to think we do. The earth is a pretty huge system, and human activity probably has a lot less power than is often ascribed to it. In like fashion, America--while indisputably powerful--is not the sole causal agent in the world, and not everything that happens, happens because of our nefarious actions. It's very egotistical, and quite infantile. I'm no psychologist (actually I'm a geologist), but it strikes me as an idea that is at least worth fair consideration.

6/16/2007 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

The best explanation I ever heard regarding the Vietnam War protests was that they were temper tantrums. Note that the worst of them followed the definite proof that the NVA were in Laos and Cambodia - which kind of blew the whole "patriots in black panjamas trying to save their country" idea to pieces. They did not want to hear that, so, "Whaaa! Whaaaa! Whaaaa! I am goinmg to hold my breath and turn blue!"

6/16/2007 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...


Good post.

Geology may be better than psychology for gaining proper perspective.

Geologists know that volcanoes are not created by human beings, earthquakes are not the result of being delinquent in sacrificing children in temples or on mountaintops, and the earth's rotation isn't dependent upon splitting open a chest and dedicating a human heart to a hummingbird deity every day. Mankind is far from the most powerful force on this planet.

Much of the global warming hysteria is warmed over Millerism airbrushed with scientific jargon. Even if projections of anthropogenic warming are correct, the apocalyptic tone of the warnings sound an awful lot like sidewalk preachers who claim the end is nigh.

6/16/2007 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

I think the "America is the root of all evil" catechism has been refined such that if only we would "reach out" and "talk to" others who feel differently than us, we could float back to the Garden of Eden that was the 1990's.

Okay, Gaza is a perfect example of their obvious, easy path to world peace. Clinton had Arafat to the White House enough to qualify him for the Frequent Flyer Platinum Club, negotiations were splendidly orchestrated. For some reason, beyond any earthly knowledge or control, the Second Intifadah occurred.

Hence, the second refinement was tried, just stop interfering in the poor Palestinians' lives. So Israel pulled out of Gaza a couple of years ago. That led to the election of Hamas and the current civil war among the Palestinians.

Isn't this a two-fer? Reaching and talking to was tried on an ob-comp scale - didn't work out. Surrender was tried in Gaza, just walk away - didn't work out.


On Vietnam and its sad history, I find my progressive friends to be coldly removed and distant from the consequences of our walking away and betraying our allies. Millions dead, a million boat people from South Vietnam, hey man, "c'est le guerre" as one Belmont poster put it. So what if the same thing's obviously going to happen again? Time to move on, that's old news....

After all, what do you think, they're going to come over here and attack us? Preposterous!

Which completes the circle - There is nothing to fear but US ourselves.

6/17/2007 09:58:00 AM  

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