Incidental Acts of Spontaneous Cerebral Violence

Monday, July 05, 2004


Just finished re-watching Phillip Noyce's "The Quiet American", starring Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser. It is a great movie highlighted by Caine's (much-deserved) oscar-nominated performance as the burnt-out, cynical English correspondent, Thomas Fowler. And it's one of the rare adaptations that truly captures the feeling, spirit and setting of its original source (Graham Greene's prophetic novel).

The novel was written in 1955 and contemporaneously set toward the end of the French occupation of Indo-China. While, on the surface, it is a simple love triangle set in a foreign land, its portrait of the country, the people and the political instability immaculately foreshadowed and predicted the morass that would define American involvement in Vietnam throughout the 1960's and early 1970's.

Although nothing is ever as simple as it seems, I hope those in power remember that there is always a depth to "popular" culture beyond two sentence summaries and log-lines. Graham Greene obviously saw in 1955 that a "big stick" colonization approach (whether French, American or underwritten third-party) would fail miserably in Vietnam. I'm certain he was not the only one.

Similarly, our current foreign policy failures should not be viewed in a vacuum. There have been indicators, signs and guideposts (domestic, international and cultural) that should have led rational actors to envision the current reality (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). Obviously, our decision-makers have been acting with either blinders or simple arrogance. While September 11th apparently gave the administration a blank check, we must remember that the end does not inherently justify the means. And every time Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Powell, Ashcroft, Bremer, Sanchez or any of the other "leaders" apologizes to the press, a Congressional committee or the American public for another underestimation, misinterpretation or oversimplification, please ask yourself: Was any of this truly necessary? And, if yes, have we proceeded rationally, learning from both our prior mistakes and what we can reasonably glean from the world around us?

While reasonable people may disagree as to the first question, every day the answer to the second becomes a stronger and more definitive "no." We cannot undo our prior mistakes, however we can attempt to proceed in a manner that will bring value to the United States and stability to Iraq without further extreme losses of life, property and liberty. Although I cannot prescribe the appropriate course of action, I am not a decision-maker in the executive branch. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that our current residents of the executive will do anything to ameliorate the situation, in either the short- or long-term. Without even referencing their ridiculous notions of domestic policy, it is quite evident that the current administration must be replaced.

Do what you can.
Give what you can.

And if you will be in Los Angeles tomorrow evening (Tuesday, July 6), go to this great concert. I, for one, will be there.

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