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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Poli Sci 101 Remembered ... Or Not

When I moved to L.A. in the Fall of 1964, I was more than 20 but less than 21. Draft age, but 2S, which meant safety as long as I was enrolled in school. So I enrolled fast.

At UCLA I took a Poli. Sci. class from Bill Gerberding (who later became Chancellor of U of Washington for 16 years). He was an impressive guy up there on the auditorium stage. Many of his lectures ended in shouting matches with students about Topic A.

Viet-Nam, of course.

As I remember it, Gerberding was pretty down on arguments that talked about the immorality of the war, or those about violations of international law. The question, he kept insisting was simply whether the war was in our national interest or not.

Although many protested this coldblooded approach to a war perceived as evil, I decided to take him on his own turf.

I wrote a term paper arguing that it was not in our national interest to pursue a war that was not essential to our survival, and that made us ashamed of ourselves as a nation.

I relied on Gerberding’s favorite author, George F. Kennan. The assigned reading included two of Kennan’s books: “Russia And The West Under Lenin And Stalin” and “American Diplomacy, 1900 - 1950.”

And for a change I read it all. Gerberding gave me a grudging “A.”

Ever since then, I’ve thought about Kennan, who died at the age of 101 in 2005.

When Kennan wrote about diplomacy and history, he knew what he was talking about. He had been ambassador to USSR, his ideas had helped formulate the containment policy that Truman relied on as an alternative to nuclear confrontation. He had helped develop the Marshall Plan, which was central to his thesis that the central focus of American interest lay in Europe.

Kennan argued that our entry into World War I was justified on the wrong basis. Rather than a war to save democracy from tyrants, it was a war to restore a balance of power in Europe, which was essential to our continuing development as a world power. The false premise on entry made post war disillusionment and disappointment inevitable.

Kennan, in fact, opposed our involvement in Indochina, and later supported Eugene McCarthy in 1968.

In September 2002 at the age of 98, he was interviewed by Alfred Eisele, editor of “The Hill.” The article appeared in the History News Network, 9/26/2002, “George Kennan Speaks Out About Iraq.”

A reminder: the war began in March, 2003.

In the September, 2002 article, the 98 year old Kennan was reported to have said:

1. The evidence of a Saddam Hussein link to Al Qaeda was “pathetically unsupportive and unreliable” and a second war — one against Iraq — would “bear no relation to the first war — against terrorism.”

2. Regarding Bush’s proposed doctrine of pre-emptive war: “Congress is there for the exercise of that responsibility. I think our Constitution and our tradition are quite sufficient here. [Bush] should not do what he’s planning to do without a clear congressional mandate. This is against all American tradition.”

3. The failure of Democratic congressional leaders and the party’s would-be presidential candidates to question Bush’s war plans as “a shabby and shameful reaction.”

4. There is no evidence that Iraq has succeeded in developing nuclear weaponry, and even if they had, it would be targeted on Israel and not the United States.

Prophetically, he said the following, as a lifelong diplomat and historian:

“Anyone who has ever studied the history of American diplomacy, especially military diplomacy, knows that you might start in a war with certain things on your mind as a purpose of what you are doing, but in the end, you found yourself fighting for entirely different things that you had never thought of before...

"In other words, war has a momentum of its own and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it. Today, if we went into Iraq, like the president would like us to do, you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end.”

Yes, you never know where you are going to end ... or when ... or if...

Kennan also said at the time:

“[T]here is a very, very basic consideration involved here, and that is that whenever you have a possibility of going in two ways, either for peace or for war, for peaceful methods of for military methods, in the present age there is a strong prejudice for the peaceful ones.

"War seldom ever leads to good results.”

Monday, March 05, 2007

Name Calling

Ann Coulter's "joke" at the Conservative CPAC convention, calling John Edwards a "faggot" should not have been a shock. She has shown previously that she has no sense of decorum, propriety, or an understanding of the need for civilized discourse. Besides, she's just a dumb blond bull dyke.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Generation WHY

This is a mea culpa, a confession. Don't worry, I advised myself of my rights before this admission. It is voluntary, but it does hurt a little.

There has been a lot of media blather about a study that concluded that the current generation of 20 Somethings are too narcissistic. Parents, these sociologists concluded, went overboard raising the self-esteem of their children way back.

As a result, kids today think their shit don't stink.

(That's not exactly the way the Ph.D's put it. They had a grant.)

That puts me in the embarassing position of defending another lost cause:
my parenting. The first and only witness and exhibit is my son.

He is not only smarter than I am or ever was, he is better in almost every other way. He is also healthier, wiser, has more of a grasp on how to be happy than I ever did. He has more understanding of how the world works, what's important and what is trivial.

I am the first to admit that he is not perfect. He has a lot to learn and I worry about the inevitable pain he will have to overcome in his life.

And his shit does stink.

Other than that, I think he turned out okay.

Case closed. I win.