P. 1
The Plague of Misjudgment

The Plague of Misjudgment

|Views: 7|Likes:
Published by zelienople
11/03/07 editorial for the Norman Transcript by Lloyd P. Williams, Professor Emeritus, University of Oklahoma
11/03/07 editorial for the Norman Transcript by Lloyd P. Williams, Professor Emeritus, University of Oklahoma

More info:

Published by: zelienople on Oct 30, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





The plague of misjudgment

The Norman Transcript November 03, 2007 01:23 am — For The Transcript Making choices is an obligation imposed by life. These may bring burdens, responsibilities or pleasure but in any case we largely determine our characters by the sum of our choices. These help form the inner spirit of individuals just as they shape the distinctive qualities of institutions and even nations. Our choices and those of leaders also have a ricochet effect often with incalculable consequences. This makes careful, cautious judgment critical, especially in international and interpersonal affairs. Misjudgment here is a major explanation of why the human race staggers from crises to crimes to tragedies. We all make mistakes and imprudent choices. Those made by our political leaders and the Congress -blunders, ill-informed decisions, misconceptions, compulsions and just plain dumb choices -- are sometimes prodigious. Political party identification does not show a particularly high correlation with prudence, for both major parties have an unenviable record of stumbling around. Listing our mistakes is subjective, but look at a few that have shaped world affairs: America's rejection of the League of National, our fluctuating and fearridden China policy, Caribbean imperialism -- Cuba, Panama, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Haiti, our pitiful assault on Grenada -- Vietnam and now Iraq. Choosing friends can be decisive. At the international level this rapidly becomes entwined with national policy, misunderstood problems, emotional needs, fear, religion and weighty economic implications. At this phase of history there are five great centers of power -- the U.S., China, India, Russia and "United Europe." In a theoretical sense Africa could join these power groups, but some 300 different languages, diverse cultures, economic incongruities and religious antagonisms render unity possible only in the distant future if at all. Still before writing Africa off we should be cautious for history is filled with the seemingly impossible. For now, however, as it has been for centuries, Africa is a reservoir for exploitation and a way station for economic adventurers. In many ways China is the most interesting and important nation in the world today. With a land area approximately the same as the U.S., a population four times as large and a dramatically expanding economicindustrial system China is rapidly moving to the forefront among nations. But for more than half a century the U.S. has bungled its Chinese relations. The principal reasons have been our fear of Communism and contempt for Orientals. Fear led us to wreck our outstanding "China Desk" in the State Department and to embrace Chiang Kai-shek, whose commitment to democracy was shallow, whose religious conversion was probably political, and who was authoritarian and dictatorial. His self-serving use of millions of American dollars has his repeated failure to cooperate with American forces in World War II was a scandal. After the war efforts on his part to manipulate the U.S. government -- often successfully -- is a disgraceful chapter in our history reflecting the vulnerability of American democracy. The one redeeming feature of this story is Richard Nixon's recognition of Communist China. Today America seems at the top of the heap, but it is slipping as resources are wasted and as foreign nations develop technologically. And comparative population seems to nudge us toward the second rank. These realities call for critical attention; they require that we outgrow our immature fantasy of moral superiority and military invincibility. We are a great nation, but for all our virtues -- among them a written constitution encompassing an admirable Bill of Rights, an open society unlike any in the world and a spirit of forward looking hopefulness -- our country still has a bad habit of intruding into the affairs of other nations. The American psyche suffers a curious quirk -- the belief that other nations want to be as we are. Perhaps in some ways. But what they really want are more consumer goods and a higher standard of living. Most nonAmericans do not want "the American way of life" nor democracy as we know it. This is why the president's

notion that he is bringing democracy to the Near East is an illusion. Like all mortals we succumb to propaganda. In our case the code words are "freedom" and "democracy." Without definition or cultural analysis we are certain of their value for the rest of the world. Too few understand that code words are a fa? ade permitting the luxury of self-deception. They justify what we want without reflection and with indifference to their long-term consequences. Reality fades in the face of propaganda. This is a major reason why we flounder in Iraq. We live in a fairyland of political-moral-military-patriotic babel. Realistically we are in Iraq for three principal reasons: (1) petroleum, (2) corporate profits and (3) to protect Israel. No oil, no invasion; no money to be made, no war; no Israel, no military presence. There are lesser reasons -- too much military influence in American foreign policy, right wing clerical pressure, fear of Islam and the aggressive drive inherent in all military organization. But none of this justifies the slaughter and destruction our intrusion has brought to Iraq. Too often minimized in analysis of these struggles for Near East dominance and power is the role of Israel. Some facts seem beyond dispute: historically the Jews have suffered terribly; the political-military position of Israel is tenuous; fear and instability pervade the Near East; mayhem continues daily; and colossal tragedy impends without a stable peace. That peace requires the cooperative, collective effort of the major nations of the world. Short of reducing the Near East to ashes the U.S. cannot do it alone. That the major nations of the world must devise a formula for the safety and for the fair accommodation of all of the factions of the Near East is imperative. More arms and nuclear weapons on the part of the moslems or Jews is futile. This is despair; it is aggravated uncontrolled emotions. Surreptitiously arming with nuclear weapons is selfdeceiving. Proof for the layman outside the "inner circle of political power" is difficult, but American "gifts" of nuclear material to friends in the Near East complicate everything. And our political effort to disguise this by saying the material was "lost in the industrial process" is a repelling joke. Nuclear and chemical engineering are sophisticated sciences; their specialists are skilled students of physics and chemistry; they are excellent mathematicians; they do not "lose" material. The irony is nuclear bombs are vain, bootless. We ourselves sit on the largest nuclear arsenal in the world -- thousands of bombs -- and we cannot use them. If we use a "few" we alienate the world. We can destory the "enemy," but we may well destroy ourselves in the process. Misusing nuclear energy could prove the last human misjudgment. Lest looking at the world as it is discourages us, there is a basis for hope: humans are gifted with intelligence. The problem is to cultivate that intelligence with realistic, scientific and humanistically illuminating education. Lloyd Williams is a retired educator. He contributes to The Transcript monthly. Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->