Summary: We, Americans, delight in creative explanations blaming others for our problems. “It’s not my fault” is our mantra. Here are two examples suggesting that we can find the guilty parties can be found in the mirror. We can do better.
In these pages I’ve attempted to convey some of the astonishing aspects of 21st century America. None are more astonishing than our disinterest in learning from our experiences (both Left and Right), and the parallel behavior of Left and Right (about which they’re oblivious). I’ve written scores of posts documenting these phenomena.
The conclusion drawn about these posts by many readers: they accurately describe foolish behavior of the other side (the bad guys), but say I show bias and politicization by pointing out similar behavior by the good guys (which is so obviously different). How sad to see such willful blindness. It’s one of the reasons I wonder about our capacity for self-government. The blind need guides. Perhaps that’s how the 1% see their relationship with us.
Here is an example for each.
(1) Bush is Hitler. So is Obama
Many at the Left said that President Bush Jr was like Hitler. Zomblog and Ringo’s Pictures have collected examples. Lied us into wars, illegal government surveillance, indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay without charges or trials. The Right laughed.
Now the Left applauds Obama, with his illegal surveillance programs, most aggressive-ever use of the Espionage Act of 1917. continued use of Guantanamo Bay, expanded assassination programs (including US citizens). Most of the same things they condemned Bush Jr for doing, plus more that Bush Jr did not dare do.
And now the Right condemns Obama as — Hitler. David Neiwert at Orcinus has a few examples. Google Images points to hundreds more.
This suggests that both Left and Right love authoritarians, so long as they are on the correct side of the political aisle. Both are oblivious to the similarity of their behaviors to the behavior of those they despise. No wonder our politics have become so dysfunctional.
(2) Learning from our experience
Our wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan have long slow beginnings, then evolved in quite different ways to their eventual failures.
The Vietnam War arbitrarily began in August 1964 with the Tonkin Gulf incident. By 1977, thirteen years later the US had a sophisticate cadre of war reporters, knowledgeable enough to regard government statements with skepticism and able to independent research to find the truth. While it lasted, this skillful press did great service to America — for example, during the Watergate crisis.
Our invasion of Afghanistan began in October 2001, marking the decisive break with our indirect involvement that began in 1979 with our support of jihadists against the Afghanistan government (and its support for rights of women, civilization, etc). The US government calls it Operation Enduring Freedom, one of the many post-9/11 unselfconscious Orwellian phrases of our leaders that should set off alarms in the minds of citizens.
Now, 13 years later, we have reached the “Vietnamization” stage of the war (which began in 1969, after only 5 years), having drawn down most of the soldiers we had there at the peak (from aprox 90,000 in 2011 to 10,000 by the end of 2014). But despite the far longer experience with modern war (i.e., fourth generation war), we have learned little. The same hawks who started and managed the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still dominate the news media as “experts”. In each crisis, like the latest in the Ukraine, journalists treat the statements of government officials as gospel — and those by hawks as reliable (however predictable). Their m.o. is a rush to a foreordained conclusion, propaganda is their game.
In Vietnam we gained nothing at great cost, but at least learned some hard lessons. In our post-9/11 wars we have gained nothing at great cost in blood and money, but have learned nothing.
We can do better. There is no point looking for people to blame, except the people in the mirror.
(3) For More Information
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For good reason Internet discussions so often end with mention of NAZI’s. The Third Reich marked a decisive point in the evolution of western civilization; so much of what we are came from them and our reaction to them. For some examples see this post.