Don't look, Dorothy! by Matt Osborne : LUSENET : Zonkers : One Thread

''Don't look, Dorothy!''

By ellowTimes.ORG

on Monday, December 17 @ 05:29:20 EST

By Matt Osborne
YellowTimes.ORG Columnist

(YellowTimes.ORG) -- Are you having trouble figuring out which is the real America?

On the one hand, we’re the most moral and kind-hearted nation on Earth. We give more to private charity than any other people anywhere. On the other hand, we’re responsible for all sorts of wickedness in all sorts of places.

Well, here’s a tip: watch The Wizard of Oz!

For all the sweetness and silliness, L. Frank Baum actually wrote the book as a satirical examination of the American character.

My favorite scene is the one where Toto rips open the curtain to reveal a funny little con-man operating the fearsome mechanical Wizard. After seeing Dorothy and her friends, he grabs the microphone and commands them to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

American political leaders are capable of producing a lot of smoke and fire and booming commands, just like the Wizard. But we Americans think of ourselves as the idealistic Dorothy, overcoming evil through naively innocent goodness.

George Bush Jr., our current Wizard, has ordered us to kill the Wicked Witch and take her broom, but the reason is unclear – something about fighting for “freedom,” and “civilization,” and “democracy.”

Other voices (which don’t appear in the movie America is living) say the Wizard’s motives are more nefarious – oil, power, hatred for Islam, and so forth.

So let me play Toto for a minute. I’m going to open the curtain for you, because neither version is true.

American foreign policy may seem schizophrenic, but the confusion arises from the tension between two very simple-to-understand strains of American politics.

The first is “Idealism,” the basis of all domestic politics everywhere.

We choose politicians (Wizards, if you will) according to “the way things should be,” i.e. “The Ideal.”

Once elected, we expect officeholders to promote the principles they pretended to have when they were running for office – even if we didn’t vote for them.

Mind you, all political parties are products of Idealism. Everyone wants to be Dorothy, overcoming evil through naive goodness. All elected leaders say their agenda is the Ideal one.

But states, or rather their ruling leaders, act differently: they are “Realists.”

Realism has no moral basis. For a Realist, there is no such thing as “good” or “evil,” there is only power; strong states are the ones unafraid to seize and wield it.

Indeed, successful states have always obeyed this maxim, while states that ignore it are doomed to disappointment – or worse.

Foreign policy wonks have deliberately made their job an arcane business; to learn about Realism you must consult thick college textbooks, or Henry Kissinger memoirs.

You won’t find an Idiot’s Guide at Books-A-Million. It shouldn’t be a surprise that few Americans understand the tension between what we expect and what our leaders do abroad.

Clinton badmouthed China in 1992, but wound up supporting Most Favored Nation status for Beijing; George Bush the Elder called Saddam Hussein all sorts of foul names in 1990, but let him go scot free in 1991. Why the reversals?

Quite simply, the “Game of States” has its own rules and “what’s right” simply isn’t a consideration.

Compare the Saudi royal family – our “friends” – with the Taliban, our “enemy.”

Both regimes follow the same Wahhabist Sunni Islam, both are tyrannies, and both are terrible to their women. Both Mullah Mohammad Omar and the Ibn Sauds have impoverished their people while living in opulent splendor.

An idealist will oppose both regimes. A Realist says, “the Saudis serve some of our interests, but the Taliban oppose them.” Thus, the Saudi Kingdom (the place where most terrorists and their operating funds come from) is part of our anti-terror coalition against the Taliban.

And since YellowTimes.ORG is packed with Dorothys – pacifists, leftists, libertarians, and other idealists – you will rarely find praises for American policy here.

Yet all state leaders – especially candidates – must seem idealistic.

Like Machiavelli’s Prince, “seeming” is more important than “being.” Whether Democrat or Republican, a president must wag his finger at Vladimir Putin’s Chechnya campaign; but while fighting a war in Russia’s backyard, that criticism disappears in favor of “coalition building.”

One thus finds the most hypocrisy in the most liberal states.

The State Department expresses “concern” for human rights while America props up repressive regimes.

Mind you, America hasn’t supported a Pol Pot, but we have turned a blind eye to Trujillos and Pinochets – “our” Nicaraguans, Cubans, South Africans, and Indonesians, rather than “theirs” – in the name of democracy, but merely to protect American power.

Bush (our Wizard) won’t explain this to Dorothy.

All Wizards deliberately maintain an air of aloof omnipotence – America is a much too idealistic society; we can’t be told: “go steal the Wicked Witch’s broom because I have to be stronger than the Witch in order to maintain your comfortable, wholesome, middle class existence.”

Instead of making Dorothy face the shame of responsibility, the wizard cloaks himself in secrecy, smoke, and confusion. Like Dorothy, we are told to get on with our lives, spend our money, and never, ever look behind the curtain.

Americans obey, living in a state of foreign affairs denial. Our media helps maintain our blissful ignorance; on September 10th, there was only one American correspondent in Afghanistan and one year after the shooting stops there might be three if we're lucky.

So there you have it, Dorothy. America is uncomfortable being the world’s superpower, and nervous about endorsing the amoral (if not always immoral) philosophy our leaders follow in order to protect our comfortable idealism.

If you feel enlightened, good. If you’re now more confused than before, then do what Americans do: flip the TV to a sitcom, crack open a beer, and say: “That don’t purfer me none, long as I get my money next Friday.”

Eat, spend, and consume yourself into numbness. And whatever you do…

Don’t look behind the curtain, Dorothy.

-- Anonymous, December 17, 2001

Moderation questions? read the FAQ