Friday, October 26, 2007

Will the world survive the Bush administration?

George W. Bush has always sounded to me like a redneck picking a bar fight. Where Bill Clinton (love him or loathe him) had that soft, Elvis-style southern accent that made you want to forgive him for sleeping with your girlfriend, Bush has always spoken with the harsh edge of a poorly educated, irritable man. I'm always waiting for a string of profanity.

I hadn't been up two minutes this morning, with barely a couple of sips of coffee in me, when there on the television was Condoleezza Rice "in a Today Show exclusive," pumping up the rationale for invading Iran.

In the present crisis brewing over Iran, I can't trust anything coming out of the White House urging a hard line with Tehran, because we saw with Iraq that they would say anything to start the war they want. Ordinary citizens have no credible source of information. Believe what you like about the Internet. Believe what you like from it. In truth, you only believe it because you choose to believe it.

A lack of solid information leaves us to fall back on personal philosophies and powers of reasoning.

Looking at the long, lurching stumble of history one sees a slow trend toward greater human understanding, all too gradually replacing the paranoia that has marred every contact between differing cultures since the beginning of culture. That paranoia reached its technological and cultural zenith in the Cold War. The Cold War grew from the Second World War. "The Second World War's connected to the First World War. The First World War's connected to the Franco-Prussian War. Now hear the word of the Lord..."

It stinks when the leaders of other countries make more sense than your own. This isn't treason, this is reason. No, you can't trust a politician, not even a foreign one who momentarily seems to have found the right spin. But consider the general concept that saber rattling is not the appropriate response to absolutely every diplomatic challenge.

Bluffing is a time-honored tradition, particularly among weaklings. Threatening to beat people up is a time-honored tradition among bullies. Neither one is a particularly tenable stance for a nation supposedly devoted to the spread of peace, understanding and a big box retail store in every town in the world.

World War I started as a series of unfortunate threats collided with an equally unfortunate series of promises. Don't think the same mistake couldn't be made again with far worse consequences. Our tools for mayhem and destruction have evolved much faster than our ability to conceive that a more grown-up approach is possible.

The correct response to a bully trying to start a fight is "grow up."

The Bully in Chief has more than a year left to try to get us into more complex brawls before he retires safely to the ranch, having personally dodged yet another armed conflict the nation would have been advised to avoid in the first place. Will we make it?

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