Saturday, June 11, 2011

Righteous Indignation

Reading the news of departing Defense Secretary Gates’ comments concerning NATO members this morning, oddly perhaps, produced associations in me of a Wolf Blitzer interview with former President Carter some years ago. Gates criticized NATO countries of lack of enthusiasm in supporting the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The most quoted part of his speech follows:
The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress, and in the American body politic writ large, to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.
The NATO defensive alliance came to be formed, largely at U.S. initiative, to prevent Europe falling into the hands of the Communists. Thus it was de facto an anti-Russian alliance, but legally requires members to come to the aid of any other member nation that is attacked. Now a cold and sober view of today’s situation makes European reluctance to spend heavily on the Afghan war, be it bodies or money, quite understandable. The 9/11 attack on the United States was not by a state actor but by a terrorist group, it took place just shy of ten years ago. In that attack approximately 3,000 people lost their lives and several buildings were destroyed. The American response to this event has been way, way too excessive. It has spawned two costly wars of which Iraq was never linked to the 9/11 attack; the second began as an invasion of a country where the terrorists were located and trained their operatives. That war went far beyond destroying training camps and killing or dispersing the terrorists; it has morphed into a neo-imperialist venture under the new name of nation building.

At minimum Gates’ demands for heavy European participation in the Afghan war stretches the meaning of military alliance to unrecognizable shape. It has come to mean supporting U.S. military efforts, wherever they might take place and for whatever reason—just because, for reasons of our own, not out of any gratitude, we put airfields and troops all over Europe once to keep Europe from going communist.

So why does the Blitzer-Carter interview pop into my mind? Turns out that Gates’ speech and that interview have a common feature. They both represent distortions in reality. The New York Times positions the Gates’ story as righteous and appropriate. Blitzer displayed the same aggressive righteousness in using, back then, what struck me as an almost insulting tone when he interviewed President Carter. The occasion was Carter’s publication of a book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The book came out on November 14, 2006. The interview in CNN’s so-called Situation Room, took place on November 28. Carter had dared to look at Israeli behavior realistically and soberly rather than politically correctly. That last stance requires that Israeli behavior must always be presented as justified and right, whether it is or is not. Similarly the U.S. position and view of reality must always be seen as correct and right even when it has drifted into collective insanity.

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