Monday, October 12, 2009

Majority's Rules

Dennis Prager on the Nobel Peace Prize:

The Oslo committee's view is, tragically, true. Thanks to Barack Obama, America is for the first time is aligning its values with those of "the majority of the world's population." If you think the world's population has had better values than America, that it has made societies that are more open, free, and tolerant than American society, and that it has fought for others' liberty more than America has, you should be delighted.


MK said...

I would appear to be part of the target audience for Dennis Prager’s piece, knowing personally as I do some people who were stuck behind the Iron Curtain for decades. Yet I came away shrugging my shoulders. I don’t know who he is as I don’t regularly read the site to which you linked. But I did identify something in his essay which unpersuasive pieces (by my criteria) share, whether they are written by writers on the right or on the left (as at Daily Kos). He didn’t leave an inch of daylight or acknowledge the presence of checks and balances in our form of government. Instead, he threw a wet blanket over every single phrase in the announcement of the Nobel Prize. I’m afraid my reaction to that frantic seeming “I must come up with a putdown of every phrase” approach tends to be, “meh, why don’t you have more confidence in your view of things?”

Perhaps Prager would have opposed RN's opening to China in 1972 and the concept of detente. I don’t know. I do know that I often find myself perplexed by what seems like a blanket dismissal of dialogue and consideration of cultural differences by the right. (Fear of the sort of thing which when applied to personal relationships sometimes is referred to as Emotional Intelligence – awareness of how one fits in among and comes across to friends, colleagues, associates, opponents.) Remember how some bloggers claimed in 2004 that John Kerry would pass each of his executive decisions through the U.N., asking “permission”? I mean, c’mon. Outright dismissal of engagement mystifies me both in the content of blog essays and in the conduct of writers. (These days, except for David Emig, the writers at The New Nixon only post replies in response to those who praise their essays, unfortunately.)

You can tell the difference between armchair analysts and those who have worked in government. In 2007, Robert Gates looked at the Cold War, asymmetrical warfare, and the need to use hard and soft power. He noted, “However uncomfortable it may be to raise Vietnam all these years later, the history of that conflict is instructive. After first pursuing a strategy based on conventional military firepower, the United States shifted course and began a comprehensive, integrated program of pacification, civic action, and economic development. The CORDS program, as it was known, involved more than a thousand civilian employees from USAID and other organizations, and brought the multiple agencies into a joint effort. It had the effect of, in the words of General Creighton Abrams, putting ‘all of us on one side and the enemy on the other.’ By the time U.S. troops were pulled out, the CORDS program had helped pacify most of the hamlets in South Vietnam.”

Gates noted in 2007, “public relations was invented in the United States, yet we are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals. It is just plain embarrassing that al-Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the internet than America. As one foreign diplomat asked a couple of years ago, “How has one man in a cave managed to out-communicate the world’s greatest communication society?” Speed, agility, and cultural relevance are not terms that come readily to mind when discussing U.S. strategic communications.”

The SecDef concluded, "What is clear to me is that there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security – diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development. Secretary Rice addressed this need in a speech at Georgetown University nearly two years ago. We must focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military, beyond just our brave soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. We must also focus our energies on the other elements of national power that will be so crucial in the coming years.”

Fr. John said...

Thanks, MK. Dennis Prager has a syndicated radio program and has visited the Nixon Library from time to time. He definitely paints in broad strokes!

I posted the paragraph from his column because of the counterproductive fascination some elites seem to have about what foreign leaders think of the U.S. Prager essentially argues that the Nobel folks are seeking to encourage the U.S. in its newfound humility. Prager may well overstate his case, but I think he's onto something. The world needs the U.S. to practice more careful discernment, but I don't think we do the world or ourselves any good by being sheepish.

Interesting you mention EI. As a 2 on the Enneamgram scale, I'm conscious of my need to be affirmed by others. Under President Obama, the U.S. seems to to be going through a 2 phase of its own!