Change for the Worse
. According to Stanley Hoffman, many things have changed in the year since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (is anyone else concerned that our conversational shorthand for those attacks, i.e., "9/11", is in grave danger 9/11/02 approaches?). Unfortunately, many of these changes are clearly for the worse, and some of them fly in the face of our stated goal of fighting terrorism around the world. But then, this is what liberals have been arguing since last September: the concept of a war on terrorism is utterly meaningless, at least in so far as it has been applied by this White House. Indeed, it remains unclear, nearly a year later, than the concept ever could have been put to any remotely meaningful use. It's empty rhetoric of the worst kind: jingoistic, blatantly political, and it seriously obfuscates our true purpose and mission (which, or should be, to isolate and eliminate al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden). From the early days of the phrases ugly existence, persceptive commentators have noted that a true war on terrorism, and by direct and explicit extention the nations which harbor them, would have to include action against Russia, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and Pakistan, to name a few. Clearly, this is seen as undesirable, which is why you haven't heard much about any of those terrorist-harboring nations (with the exception of Saudi Arabia, thanks to the radical conservatives who dominate talk radio). Instead, all we get is Iraq, which this Administration wanted to go after even before 9/11. There is word for this: rationalization. It is intellectually dishonest, not to mention lazy.
Anyway, back to Hoffman's article
, which goes into far greater depth than I will here on a topic that I've been thinking about a lot lately. The past year has been pretty much awful for this country. Our one great success, effecting regime change in a very timely and efficient manner in Afghanistan, has been entirely undermined by the violent chaos that has been allowed to fester there since the Karzai government was installed. Moreover, the Bush Administration has pulled off the almost unbelievable task of running down international goodwill toward America to a point lower than it was on 9/10. When the attacks came, this country enjoyed, and appreciated, a tremendous outpouring of support from all over the world. That support has been replaced by anger, frustration, resentment, and a shocked disbelief that a nation so great could behave so badly, so consistently, for so long.
This state of affairs is likely to continue so long as a Republican remains in the White House. But this trend is a recent one, and the damage it has done to our standing in the world is reversible as long as the trend can be reversed fairly quickly, and fairly dramatically. The first step is a Congressional Democratic victory in November, along with a significant pick up of governorships. This will be the first major battle of the presidential election, and if Democratics can win it decisively (I doubt it, but I think they can win it), it will greatly improve their chances to win back the White House in 2004, and start cleaning up this horrendous mess.