Tuesday, September 9, 2008

When the Tiger Chastises the Lion for Being a Predator

The Orwellian nature of the US response to Russian action in South Ossetia and Georgia has been comical at best, and a bellicose display of overt hypocrisy at worst. As I wrote mid-August, US leaders were able to simultaneously declare "the days of spheres of influence behind us" and sign a missile-defense pact with Poland (to compliment the existing deal with the Czech Republic) to, in essence, extend their sphere of influence. Thus, they went a step further than the typical hypocritical foreign policy stances and were actively engaged at that precise moment in exactly the thing they were speaking out against.

It is certainly a mark of supreme arrogance to engage in such practice, to make it so blindingly clear that the rules one would apply to others shall have no application to oneself, and perhaps in a bygone era the US's argument would have flown. But the Iraqi occupation is not yet a thing of the past, and the moral standing of the US, already shaky, has worn perilously thin. Here was one predator to another saying, "Thou shalt not eat meat." And the entire Western world nodded in unison.

The US continued its campaign of unintentional brevity yesterday, by withdrawing from a nuclear pact with Russia (at least temporarily), as a means of punishing them and teaching them those lessons we never felt beholden to ourselves. But, it seems, recent history has caught up to the administration, as they withdrew that proposition today.

The Bush administration, after considerable internal debate, has decided not to take direct punitive action against Russia for its conflict with Georgia, concluding that it has little leverage if it acts unilaterally and that it would be better off pressing for a chorus of international criticism to be led by Europe.

Their aversion to unilateralism is perhaps a few years too late, but laudable nonetheless. Of course, the underlying accusations are the same, the Bush administration just realized it has no leverage. They still believe that only certain nations are allowed satellites, only certain nations are granted retaliatory action, and only certain nations are to be given so much as a matter of weeks to withdraw its forces from a country.

That this comes from a country that invaded a country that had performed not a single act of aggression towards it (Georgia, however, did attack Russian citizens in South Ossetia), and a country that still occupies a country more than five years after it declared the end of a war, has met with only miniscule cynicism speaks volumes as to the waning influence of reason and logic in American politics.

The reality of the situation can be debated, but no matter the conclusion of such banalities it remains true that none in power are concerned with the outcome of such an argument. Reality does not matter. Reality is not indicated by truth or objective assessment, but by success. That is to say, that which breeds the desired result shall stand as reality. If the ends sought should change, so, too, will 'reality' be bent to serve them.

Though they may plea otherwise, the dealings of the past three weeks have been nothing if not overt exertion of spheres of influence, those despised relics from the past. Georgia's inclusion in NATO, and by extension, further isolation of Russia, is all that is sought, and the arguments are being bent around that goal (inevitability, rather). Standards of democracy do not apply. Even such basic tenets of forward-progressing time do not apply, as Georgia's initial incursion into Ossetia has been effectively flushed down the memory hole.

Such assaults on logic and reason are not merely tolerated, but celebrated. The realpolitik of a new generation, citizens, pundits, and journalists alike stumble over each other to play the game better than the next. Citizens can be expected to be overly credulous. On foreign policy, pundits range between 10 and 9.5. But journalists should provide a voice of reason, or at least an honest accounting of facts. That they don't is the pillar of the degradation of American democracy, for without an independent, functional media corps, democracy ceases to exert the will of the people and rather begins to merely echo the sentiments of the ruling class.

This doesn't have to be so. But as long as the economics of today's corporate media dictate producing news as cheaply as possible, journalists will continue to rely on the easiest source of that news: the very people they're meant to cover. As long a journalists defer to their subjects to preserve open channels of communication (what was once called propaganda), they fail the population in performance of their nominal task. If journalism was meant to be mere repetition of the company line, it would be sufficient for the government to also be the sole source of news.

Assuming that the majority of Americans would be adverse to a Ministry of Truth for a new era, the time has long since passed to begin calling on journalists to perform their jobs effectively. Cheap sources of news are not necessarily the best sources of news. Sometimes stories must be worked for, sought out, recovered from the abyss. At the very least, journalists could begin by pointing out conspicuous absurdities in the government line, such as those that have propagated themselves surrounding the Russia-Georgia conflict.

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