Sunday, April 03, 2005

Changing the Mideast; Changing the Media

On March 8, I posted a diary about taking credit for results your actions did not cause. On March 11, Martin Peretz published “The Politics of Churlishness” in The New Republic, making the ridiculous claim that Bush should get credit for recent changes in the Mideast.

Of course, I am merely a blogger while Peretz is editor of an exalted publication. So I couldn’t expect him to pay attention to what I might say (any more than the Bush administration listened to the millions of us who yelled that it was ridiculous to imagine that WMDs and a threat to the US existed in Iraq—an administration now claiming that “everyone” believed as it did). Still, it might have behooved Peretz to have thought a bit before claiming success for the Bush administration in the Mideast—especially before claiming that there has been a “success” in Iraq that others want to emulate.

Success?

The received wisdom in the US is that Iraq is now serving as an example for other Mideast countries, leading to increased agitation for democracy elsewhere. Somehow, people here believe that Arabs in other countries are inspired by what they are seeing, are jealous of the achievements in Iraq.

Now, wait just a minute: there may be increased agitation elsewhere, but to claim that what is going on in Iraq is responsible is simply poppycock.

What about the election in Iraq could inspire people elsewhere? The election itself has achieved little, so far. Only today has the new parliament named a Speaker. The election has changed the country not one jot. So, how could the election be seen as inspirational?

It’s not elections that inspire (there are lame elections all over the world), but results. And this election has yet to have any results at all, let alone results that would provide a beacon for others stumbling around in the dark.

Are there other things about the US invasion of Iraq that could inspire Arabs in other countries? Well, I doubt that the doubling of malnutrition of children under five since the invasion is such a sterling example. Nor is the civilian death toll, estimated at 100,00 since the start of the war—much higher than the number likely to have died, had the US not invaded. Nor is the economic success of the Iraqi people likely to inspire: labor unions continue to be banned and foreigners have swooped in, making fortunes while Iraqis languished.

Peretz, and all of you lauding the Bush “success”: it’s really not so difficult to look behind the easy assumptions. It simply takes a little care and willingness to question. You are a professional, Peretz, with a staff behind you. That you could jump so easily to such facile conclusions, ones that those of us here in the blogosphere (and elsewhere) know are untenable, makes us wonder if you deserve the position you have.

You won’t have it long. You don’t know it yet, but you are being pushed aside by the blogs where—though we rant and rave at times, though we are a rabble, though we do make many mistakes—we actually have to take a certain amount of responsibility for our words. In five years, you will be forgotten, while we, the collective bloggers, will dominate (if you haven’t looked into ePluribus Media please do so—you will see the change, the new, online research community beginning to flex its muscles).

Peretz, though you claim to be a liberal, you are now being accepted with open arms by a new, Republican friend. So, “go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse.”

We don’t care if we lose you. A new day is dawning, and it’s not one Bush created or would even like. For (and finally, after five years in the wilderness), to quote an even earlier Dylan line, “the times they are a-changin.’”

The tide is beginning to turn. And the new momentum is most certainly not Bush inspired or created.

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