Friday, September 26, 2003

The American Sentimentalist Is Back!

I noticed today that Mark W. Andersen, otherwise known as The American Sentimentalist (or at least that's his blog), has returned from a long hiatus. How long? Almost two months. Now, I don't know what he's been doing, but I can say that's he's back to doing what he does best - articulating on the American condition.
Not only does the U.S. continue to single-handedly dominate the world market for arms sales, as evidenced by a new report sent to Congress this week by the Congressional Research Service, but it also continues to pretend that it does no such thing, instead preferring to present itself as a peace-loving nation who deserves the respect and support of the world community for its unquestionable commitment to peace.

He concludes his piece along this theme with this question:

" can we trust those leaders who promise us peace and security in our own neighborhood but who fail to mention that it comes at the expense of those who live and die, unseen, on the other side of town?"

Here is my reply:

Setting aside the ghettos, and our lead in violent deaths and crime in the democratic world, and accepting the question as is, we cannot trust those leaders. Only a fool would do so.

There is such a thing as foresight, vision, strategy, and wisdom. You would hope your leaders have it. The Chinese have contemplated and experimented with it for thousands of years. We don't have that.

Our leaders have a clear economic self-interest in selling arms around the world. It is really less a national security strategy first, and capitalizing crony-style second, then allowing one's own interest to shape national security interests, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Since we cannot definitively call this a conscious process, which would be the same as an indictment (for all intents and purposes), this serves to underscore the need for checks and balances. One check and balance which is vastly out of order is that of the people themselves. Thus, the need for strengthening the freedom of information, increasing transparency, tightening conflict of interest rules, and being more vigilant against corruption.

The people must force this issue. Those who benefit as things are won't bring this to them. They'll avoid it, and battle each other on more surface issues.

As for the other suffering peoples who bear the brunt of our hubris and largesse, God bless them. There's not much to be done, because most of these countries are not even democracies, or free. It's elites who buy these arms, in order to further their own parochial power interests.

It's a mess, and here in America we can only demand greater participation and to give our informed consent. To do this, we'll need the information, we'll need transparency to ensure accountability.

Without it, we can do nothing, but have faith in leaders we do not trust, and who we know subscribe to a philosophy of self-interest being the greatest good.

I was sent scraping back for this exchange today after reading a post from Thinking It Through, where Tom referred to a piece written by Jack Beatty from the Atlantic Online.

The Founders feared that the republic would succumb to corruption without republican citizenship—without citizens who could transcend privatism and hold elected officials to account, demanding probity and competence, and judging their performance against both the clamorous necessities of the time and the mute claims of posterity.

We face the same danger today, and there is no excuse for it. Not with our unprecedented media reach and exposure. It's time we take back the media, and start taking charge of our democracy.