Dancing In The Dark

Amid the increasing dishabille of our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no whiff from the Bush administration of a comprehensible strategy for dealing with the brouhaha fermenting of North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear brinkmanship (not to mention India’s or Pakistan’s), our newly minted Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California’s 8th district (San Francisco), is about to introduce viewers at home, and those paying attention abroad, to a new perspective on the threats we face in the world today.

Andrew Leonard, in the always fascinating How The World Works gives an excellent introduction to the spectre cast over the near and medium term by the rising hegemon, Mainland China, and draws Ms. Pelosi out as perhaps our earliest and most dogged defender against what used to be called “The Red Menace.”

Or is it the Yellow Menace? I can’t keep ’em straight sometimes.

In the face of resurgent Taliban extremism and undimmed supply to the world opiate trade in Afghanistan, despite mounting chaos and the free flow of blood in Iraq, a vocal and persistent wail among devotees of the Chicago School and Ayn Rand demands the United States attack both Iran and North Korea before those remaining spokes on the Axis of Evil attain a capability to advance their aims with nuclear weaponry.

Seymore Hersh, in the November 27th, 2006 New Yorker, reports on a current CIA assessment that Iran is not, in fact, progressing with a secret program to develop nuclear arms, and that it would in any event be some years before it might develop internally the resources for doing so.

North Korea, who the hell knows? They’re all supposed to be starving, aren’t they?

Among time-honored aphorisms familiar to all Americans of a certain age, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” seems appropriate on a couple of levels.

We know that China is among the chief financiers of American prosperity these past fifteen years, and we know Chinese interests hold a mortgage on a rapidly increasing portion of our long-term debt. We know China’s expanding economy presents, along the forseeable arc of history, our most comprehensive challenge at the feed trough of world energy production.

We know they will work with us as long as it is in their interest: it’s a trait the Chinese have evinced most consistently throughout a 5000 year history of good times and bad. And because their interests are ever-expanding, we have many fronts on which to engage their aspirations.

In a happy coincidence, an effectively managed China policy might tend to have a calming effect on regional tensions in the Korean peninsula and Pakistan/Afghanistan, and it’s possible, with constructive engagement of China’s plans for surviving into the 22nd century and beyond, we could triangulate the world’s competing abilities and ideas into something that provides for the survival of the species.

Or, we could send another 40,000 youngsters to Iraq and ready the airforce for high altitude assaults on only the most strategic targets in Iran and North Korea. We could allocate another $150 Billion or so to secure what no less an authority than Henry Kissinger calls “impossible” in Iraq.

And we can continue down the aimless road George W. Bush has had this country on since the moment he took office.


  1. Mike - November 21, 2006 @ 9:11 am


    Sorry I missed Nancy’s take on China. She should be careful as Chinese American represent about a third of her voting district.

    I have been an interested China observer since the mid-70’s and they are certainly a growing force to be reckoned with. Historically China has had an internally focused foriegn policy, sometimes to their own detriment. The case could be made that the mainland went Communist as the CCP was the only party with a viable plan and policy to keep foreign devils (mostly European in the first half of the 20th Century) from dominating Chinese society.

    We are now several decades past the revolutionary zeal for independence that swept the “third” world after WW2. One take is the Muslim world is finally getting that urge for independence and that the Arab Street no longer has the stomach to be ruled by lackies of imperialism. That kind of ferver will generate instability for as long as it remains unresolved.

    Meanwhile large swaths of what used to be the heartland of revolution have embrace capitalism, if not in name, then in practice. This includes China, not to mention Viet Nam and the rest of SE Asia. Even Latin America has settled down prefering in most cases the ballot over the bullet. How can this be bad?

    One thing I’ll put out as universal; people act in their own best interest most of the time. China invests inthe US economy because to date it has been the most stable place to invest their new found wealth.

    Mao understood that China is/was a sleeping giant and that the giant part was less about land mass and all about the sheer number of people. With approximately a third of the planet Chinese interesting times are ahead for sure.

    One thing I’ve observed about the Chinese community here in the US is they support one another in a way that other immigrant groups do not This cooperative spirit may be the most foreign and threatening thing to the mostly competitive European Americans who highly prize individualism and struggle for superiority. One look no further that the long road Europe took and is still taking to create an EU while China remains, as it always has, one giant Empire of the Sun. This is one reason why Taiwan is such a thorn in the side of Chinese nationalists.

    So I say all people will do what they believe is in their best interest. The US has been top of the heap since the end of WW2 and was in ascendancy for decades before that. Those early decades of the 20th century it looked as if old Europe was still on top even as they unravelled. The US stepped up tot he plate and now is considered the only remaining superpower even as we strain under the burden of that. Remember it was escalating expense to compete in the Cold War which is largely credited with bringing down the Soviet Union.

    By all accounts even though we are the one remaining super power, our people are not feeling all that super as they labor at their minimum wage, unbenefitted fast food nation jobs. Is this what it felt like to live in Spain, France or Portugal in the early 20th Century? Once on top of the world those citizens became less than in that new world order. Is this what will happen under a world dominated by the Chinese?

    One lesson that Chinese leaders seem to have learned is they must take care of their own people or they will not stay on top. Famine has traditionally been the downfall of every Chinese regime. Its a big country with many mouths to feed and “a hungry man is an angry man” to quote the old reggae song. The Chinese have more experience in this than most.

    Mao would be proud at today’s China emerging as a world power and I think he would also be appalled at the unbridled capitalism that is fueling it. FWIW China literally translates to “center of the earth”. When the Chinese court sent explorers out in the 12th Century to see what was out there they came back and reported there was nothing out there any better than China had at home, that Chinese Government did as most have done, they turned inward.

    I say the Chinese Government traditionally has an almost impossible job of trying to adminster to so many people. One undoing of all Chinese regimes has been corruption in the countryside and the inability to carry out national policy at the local level. This seems to be replayiong again based on many, many reports from the Chinese countryside. It is not likely that China will go marching off to try to dominate their neighbors militarily (with the possible exception of Taiwan, as they consider it China). It is entirely probable they will use their sheer force of numbers to dominate markets and will be wildly successful based on numbers alone.

    What to do? As always think globally, act locally. Same here as in China.

  2. Paul Burke - November 21, 2006 @ 10:22 am

    Michaels been awfully quiet. We need you big guy. Don’t be mad – there are a lot of excellent conservative values – like smaller government – less taxes (for the middle class), no payroll tax, a strong defense department (not bloated and awash in a sea of poorly mis-managed money) real libertarian values, and a strict adherence to the constitution, bill of rights and declaration of independence. All good stuff – and both parties are vital to a system of checks and balances.

    That being said my latest thoughts are – it’s all about power and money. Geez aren’t I brilliant. I went to school to come up with that one (sarcasm). Look we could do more to assuage the fears and hatred of those who can only guess at what we are up to if we just acted like the good Samaritans we pretend to be (every Sunday for some).

    It’s wealth and the haves and the have nots – but this present administration showing it’s complete ignorance is even squeezing the middle class out of existence here at home. If we brought plumbing to the third world instead of star wars fantasy laser weapons to space – the economic boom to us and the globe and the positive environmental impact would reverberate for a century. But no we go about everything from a negative view point. Yes nuclear weapons could rain down on us and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make them obsolete. But that can’t happen – the uprising on the west bank was fueled by rocks thrown by kids – probably a rock is about as obsolete as you can get for a weapon – yet surprisingly effective.

    No the point is we need to solve our problems on a global level because guess what that’s where they are on a global level – there’s global pollution, global war, global terrorism and a global economy. We have got to try and make positive attempts to negotiate and bring prosperity to all. The varying degrees can be left to the free market system.

    Was it Tam who said it in the last post – that the great European wealth was gained by exploiting the natural resources of the third world? Well what do you think the mid-east is about – they want to run the pipelines and reap the profits for themselves. They don’t want to just work for Halliburton – they want to run things themselves as they see fit – power and control. Bad news for their sisters and wives, bad news for our mutual funds and bad news for Exxon Mobil stomping all over their turf bringing the profits back to their board members pockets. It’s time we put something back in and not just reforestation but something more back in some small measure of what we have taken/consumed.

    Bringing plumbing to the third world would fuel the economy, spread a ton of good will, mitigate and wipe out disease, show we care about something other than ourselves, educate those locals doing the building, operating and running, leave the profits for the countries and help the environment immensely thus helping our own health on a global scale.

    It’s time to stop playing tough guy and use some wisdom. We have the financial resources to do this but those with their hands on our tax dollars aren’t going to let go without a fight. We need to at least shift our vision around and start helping people, really helping not just lip service. Right now foreign aid is less than 1% of our national budget. If politicians go on charm offensives when they are politically wounded – don’t you think those lunk heads on the hill would see the wisdom in having the United States as a whole go on a charm offensive. It would be money well spent – if it brought tangible, positive change to the locals and they reaped the benefits completely. Withholding birth control ain’t gonna cut it. We can and must do better than that!

  3. charles rachlis - November 22, 2006 @ 6:54 am

    Plumbing to the third world? They would probably just drink the water or use it for local agriculture. They are not like us. They don’t understand the real value of the stuff.

    Of course we all remember Ben Linder the Bay Area youth who was shot dead for bringing plumbing to Nicaragua. The “freedom fighters” there knew what you don’t seem to understand, water in the hands of the locals is spelled communism. And of course “Better dead than Red” is our theme song so if we end up sending plumbers to the third world they better work for Evian or Perrier.

    As for the nuclear threat no one is paying attention to the secret arm of David hanging like the sword of Damacles over the entire near east situation.

    I for one call for the dismanteling of all nuclear weapons in the USA, Russia, Israel, France, and England. Until such a stand down is implemented North Korea, China, Iran, Pakistan, India have as much a right to develop their own military nuclear arsenal as they can muster.

    Of course a little good will may go along way in winning the hearts and minds of the populus of these nations who might prefer fresh water to cold water reactors. But that presumes that our country has the ability to take international action based on good will as opposed to corporate interest.

    I’ll have my Evian with a twist.

  4. Tam O’Tellico - November 22, 2006 @ 3:09 pm

    Mike: One thing I’ll put out as universal; people act in their own best interest most of the time.

    Your view ought to be self-evidently true, but alas, those for whom ideology trumps reality tend to dismiss such a view as idealistic. How ironic that it is “true believers” who are first to pooh-pooh someone else’s idealism.

    For further study on this view, I recommmend Diplomacy Lessons by John David Keisling. Here’s a brief blurb:

    “A tour de force! John Brady Kiesling believes deeply in diplomacy but exposes all the bureaucratic warts that hobble its effectiveness. His resignation from the Foreign Service due to his conviction that the impending war with Iraq would prove disastrous for our nation has liberated him to write this catalog of wise lessons for both our political leaders and our diplomats.” – Amb. Samuel W. Lewis, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and president of the United States Institute of Peace

  5. Tam O’Tellico - November 22, 2006 @ 3:21 pm

    Charles: “I for one call for the dismanteling of all nuclear weapons in the USA, Russia, Israel, France, and England.”

    From you fingers to God’s – and the Decider’s – ears. In my movie, The Seventh Day, I explained that while we shall always have “wars and rumors of wars”, the fact is all our previous wars only knocked down a few buildings and decimated a population or two or three – minor inconveniences humans have historically proved more than capable of allaying.

    But since 1945, the rules of war have changed. Now Man is able to fail utterly and destroy life as we know it on this planet. It is only when all men come to understand this that we will be able to do anything meaningful to prevent that happening.

    Unfortunately, the nations that should be leading the charge are the nations most unwilling to give up their advantage in weaponry – even though as a practical matter those weapons have become unusuable. Can you imagine what would happen if Iran nuked Israel or North Korea nuked South Korea? Fallout is not unidirectional, nor are the refugees, the human misery and the diseases from such disasters.

    And yet these self-destructive scenarios continue to be planned for by men who claim to be rational and realists. Ah, give me a dreamer like John Lennon or Gandhi any day!

  6. charles rachlis - November 23, 2006 @ 11:21 am

    Tam: You rightly ask “Can you imagine what would happen if Iran nuked Israel or North Korea nuked South Korea? Fallout is not unidirectional, nor are the refugees, the human misery and the diseases from such disasters.” Anyone who has read John Hershey’s Hiroshima or done an ounce of research into the consequences of the actions of “rational men who claim to be realists” abhor nuclear proliferation.

    Yet it is important to note that there is a difference between oppressor nations and oppressed nations, between the imperialists and the formally colonized between the bully and the victims. Indeed the question of which nation can be entrusted, because of their moral high ground, to be the keepers of the nuclear arsenal is both bogus and flawed. Claim to that moral high ground is held dearly by the American political elites and whomever they can sucker into going along with them. However that trust is not earned it is merely a slight of hand used to keep our populous living in fear of the “other” rather than turning the ruling class out in the cold and making real peace with the people of developing and third world. Why is thier claim flawed?

    Today there are only two nations using nuclear weapons on the battlefield. And those weapons are paid for by my (and if you’re a good tax paying American, your) tax dollars. The use of depleted uranium shells during Gulf wars 1 and 2 has littered Iraq with radioactive contamination, which will be doing genetic damage for untold generations. The other recorded use of a radioactive bunker buster type bombs were in Lebanon this summer by Israel. http://www.rainews24.rai.it/ran24/inchieste/09112006_bomba_ing.asp Not to ignore the atomic bombing of Japan or the threat to use such weaponry against North Vietnam by Nixon which both had inhumane consequences.

    Yet some American politicians (often Democrats and so called “peace activists”) admonished the neo-cons for invading Iraq while letting Iran and N. Korea go unchecked. Such Democrats flout hawkish credentials and dismiss that old chicken foot (the peace symbol) when they start talking about Iran and N. Korea in particular. They have long given up on bringing China’s nuclear program to a halt or putting a kibosh on the Pakistan/India nuclear build up. Why then is their entire fury is reserved for N.Korea and Iran. When Pakistan and India ran their tests were there sanctions placed on those nations by the west? No of course not! The west shrugged their shoulders and continued to make deals both business and military with them. http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/pakistan/nuke/chron.htm

    Not being an expert in American history I may have missed the episode where N. Korea or Iran invaded the United States. Nor am I aware of Iran invading Israel. However despite my lack of historical memory there are plenty of North Koreans who recall being invaded by the United States when they were poised to win a civil war, which would have put an end to capitalism on the Korean peninsula. There are also many Iranians who recall the antics of Kermit Roosevelt who (with our grand-parents tax dollars) instigated the first successful CIA coup over-throwing the democratically elected Mosaddeq. It was Mosaddeq’s plans to nationalize Iran’s oil (at the behest of Iran’s parliament), which was anathema to Washington, London, Standard Oil and all the big players in the oil industry. This action installed the reign of the Shah (then our parents tax dollars were used to train his killer secret police the SAVAK) who so oppressed his people that hundreds were willing to walk into firing machine gun barrage, unarmed dressed in white linen (symbolizing their readiness to die). When they were shot down in droves the Mullah had won the moral high groung ushering in the reactionary current regime. Indeed the current crisis in Iran and N. Korea are of Washington’s own making.

    Had the Korean civil war been aloud to be fought by the Koreans, Korea today would be united, may indeed be “communist” but judging from the acceptance of so-called communism in China and Vietnam by everyone from Nixon to Pelosi and Bush, that itself, is not considered to be an unacceptable option. Had Mosaddeq been left alone his democratically elected secular nationalist government may well have created the strong democratic stability in the Middle East that so many today claim we are fighting for.

    However the reasonable men with the power of the a-bomb in their bag of tricks took it upon themselves to save the world for Standard Oil, Wall Street and “our way of life”. Having failed miserably at making the world safe for democracy, their economy sinking under the burden of foreign debt (held by the “Communist Chinese”), their military bogged down in a civil war of their own making, they have no answer to the crisis the world faces environmentally, economically or militarily so they do what they do best point the “other” and rally the faithful.

    North Korea and Iran are not the enemies of world peace. Their attempt to build nuclear arsenals are clearly self-defensive. Were the west to stand down and dismantle all their armaments the threat they pose to developing nations would evaporate and developing nuclear powers have incentive to disarm as the enormous waste of resources could end. In the meantime the right of sovereign nations to self defense and the threat posed by the existing nuclear powers will continue to accelerate nuclear proliferation.

    I for one am not such a dreamer as to believe that Nancy’s Democrats even if they usher in a Democratic president in 2008 will “give peace a chance”. Rather they will continue their hawkish stance, maintain the nuclear arsenal and protect the American Capitalist Classes interest at home and abroad. Until the Working Class in America denies power to the Capitalist parties (Democrats, Republicans, and Greens) and builds a world based on social/environmental needs as opposed to profit we can expect more of the same; namely nuclear proliferation, war, environmental degradation, and quite possibly the destruction of life on this planet. I for one am more frightened by the Democratic/Republican regime than I am of the North Koreans or the Iranians.

  7. Meredith Charpantier - November 24, 2006 @ 1:19 am

    Tam O’

    Your movie? What is this? Document or Narrative, available on DVD or PBS? Are you writer, director actor or producer? Your words are always so true and clear. I would love to see the movie. Tell us more.

    We are the only dreamers here and now. We the dreamers, we the people. It is only our proactive outloud enraged beligerent insistent dreaming that will wake the ideals we hold so true. Dream on.

    irony intended

  8. Tam O’Tellico - November 24, 2006 @ 12:36 pm

    Thanks for the kind words, Meredith. You are quite right that dreamers need to keep on dreaming – as long as they keep their dreams based in reality. Otherwise, they end up like the fool who would be king who dreamed of changing the world and stepping from Daddy’s shadow and instead stepped into something far less palatable.

    Actually, I’m a writer. My book, The Disappearing Cemetery, is a broad history of the Scotch-Irish, as people in this country mistakenly call them, but who are more properly known as Ulster Scots. I’ve also written Scattered Thoughts, which is not in print yet.

    I also did the writing for a documentary called Artists in the Forest which features several of the talented mostly self-taught artists in the mountains.

    My own documentary, The Seventh Day, is a plea for sanity and peaceful conflict resolution that I created when I was keynote speaker for the annual meeting of the World Council of Universalist Churches in Baton Rouge, LA. Unfortunately, it is not commercially available.

    I am also a singer and songwriter and have seven CDs. What I don’t have is a website. For that, shame on me.

  9. Meredith Charpantier - November 24, 2006 @ 2:09 pm

    Well you are a rich addition to this website so the shame is off you again. Your other cultural contributions seem to justify your time here on earth quite thoroughly as well. I will say it again. I enjoy y commentary very much. Thank you. Keep it up and for heaven’s sake don’t branch off. There is only so much net surfing one can do in a busy day.

  10. lonbud - November 24, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

    I’d like to say for the record, in my post-Thanksgiving Day glow, I am personally thankful for all of you who visit I Just Have To Say, and especially so for those of you who take the time to share your wisdom, your thoughts, and your ideas with everyone who comes by here.

    I am gratified to no end, and feel blessed by the high quality of commentary found here and by the eminently civil tone almost all of our discussions take. For those of you who have spent any time surfing the Internet’s more popular blogs, you know civility is not one of the hallmarks of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists Brigade.

    So, again, thanks to everyone who finds a reason to come by here. May you and yours all be blessed with healthy, happy holiday joy and peace in the new year.

    Your faithful blogger, Lonbud.

  11. Meredith Charpantier - November 24, 2006 @ 3:31 pm

    love you too Lonnie.
    stuffed thanksgiving turkey, wild turkey or no turkey at all.

    see you soon

Leave a Reply