Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Next Quagmire

Chris Hedges has a degree in Divinity from Harvard, is a Pulitzer-prize winner, was a correspondent for the NY Times and headed up the NY Times Bureau in Jerusalem.

He has written, extensively, on America's mistakes in storming around and stomping through Iraq and throwing its weight around in the Middle East.

In his latest piece, "The Next Quagmire", published on truthdig.com, Hedges writes:

"The most effective diplomats, like the most effective intelligence officers and foreign correspondents, possess empathy. They have the intellectual, cultural and linguistic literacy to get inside the heads of those they must analyze or cover. They know the vast array of historical, religious, economic and cultural antecedents that go into making up decisions and reactions. And because of this—endowed with the ability to communicate and more able to find ways of resolving conflicts through diplomacy—they are less prone to blunders.

But we live in an age where dialogue is dismissed and empathy is suspect. We prefer the illusion that we can dictate events through force. It hasn’t worked well in Iraq. It hasn’t worked well in Afghanistan. And it won’t work in Iran. But those who once tried to reach out and understand, who developed expertise to explain the world to us and ourselves to the world, no longer have a voice in the new imperial project. We are instead governed and informed by moral and intellectual trolls.

To make rational decisions in international relations we must perceive how others see us. We must grasp how they think about us and be sensitive to their fears and insecurities. But this is becoming hard to accomplish. Our embassies are packed with analysts whose main attribute is long service in the armed forces and who frequently report to intelligence agencies rather than the State Department. Our area specialists in the State Department are ignored by the ideologues driving foreign policy. Their complex view of the world is an inconvenience. And foreign correspondents are an endangered species, along with foreign coverage.

We speak to the rest of the globe in the language of violence. The proposed multibillion-dollar arms supply package for the Persian Gulf countries is the newest form of weapons-systems-as-message. U.S. Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns was rather blunt about the deal. He told the International Herald Tribune that the arms package “says to the Iranians and Syrians that the United States is the major power in the Middle East and will continue to be and is not going away.”

And:

"We have rendered the nation deaf and dumb. We no longer have the capacity for empathy. We prefer to amuse ourselves with trivia and gossip that pass for news rather than understand. We are blinded by our military prowess. We believe that huge explosions and death are an effective form of communication. And the rest of the world is learning to speak our language."

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