The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Ironies of 2007

Robert Heinlein, the renowned science fiction writer, once quipped, “The supreme irony of life is that hardly anyone gets out of it alive.” I’ll humbly add that hardly anyone could have gotten through 2007 without a sense of irony. Let’s examine some of the many ironies of 2007.

Although 2008 is a presidential election year, 2007 was the year of the primary race, a time when inevitability was fashionable, “change” was the operative stump concept, and the knives of dirty politics were sharpened for use in 2008. The irony of the presidential nomination process is two fold. First, that the best and the brightest lack the masochistic tendencies (not to mention the utter chutzpa) required to crisscross the country raising money, criticizing your opponents, and suggesting facile, poll-driven solutions to intractable problems. Second, that the vaunted momentum required to become a party’s presidential candidate is provided by two scarcely populated, mostly rural, mostly Caucasian (94.9% in Iowa and 96.1% in NH) states that are truly unrepresentative of the attitudes and desires of an increasingly urban America.

Even before the primary season began, the Democrats, basking in the glow of a congressional election victory, told us all that they would clean-up the mess that was Washington, that “special interests” would not hold sway, that the Iraq War—a catastrophe in their eyes—would come to an end. Backed by a left-leaning MSM, the newly elected Congressional leadership, exemplified by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, all but declared defeat in Iraq and demanded that our troops be withdrawn immediately. At the time, I thought that the crush of public opinion would precipitate a calamitous withdrawal, that President Bush would cave as his popularity plummeted, with all of the ruinous unintended consequences that would have accrued as a result.

Ironically, instead of removing troops he increased their numbers. The resulting “surge” worked. Although it’s far too early to declare victory, it’s reasonable to assert that significant successes have been achieved over the past year. Ironically, as successes mounted, media coverage of Iraq (measured in minutes broadcast or column inches written) fell by almost 50 percent. Curious, given how interested the MSM was when car bombs and IEDs were the norm.

And as the anti-War fervor gained momentum in mid-year, we listened to more than a few argue that the US is turning into a “fascist” state in which our freedoms are being threatened by a nefarious government cabal. Of course every person who makes these claims continues to make them, again and again. Ironically, their freedoms remain intact. They proudly “speak ‘truth’ to power” and preen as they lounge on top of their self-defined moral plateau. The irony is that the “power” they confront is benign. They take no risks is confronting it and that makes their delusional ranting all the more pathetic.

It’s equally amusing to observe the irony exhibited by those on the far-Right who (justifiably) revile Islamists for fundamentalist acts that threaten lives and dramatically limit freedom, Ironically, those on the far-Right who defend Creationist science (oops, excuse me, I should have said ‘intelligent design’) practice a form of fundamentalism. I’m sure the Taliban would be pleased. Like the Islamists, they substitute “belief” and “faith” for rational thought, and the result in never good.

The recent National Intelligence Estimate—suggesting that Iran had stopped its quest for nuclear weapons—was, in its own way, a poster child for irony. In an earlier post I noted:
It seems interesting to me that virtually every MSM source and all politicians who were, with hindsight, appalled by intelligence failures before the Iraq war, now appear to embrace the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) “high confidence” estimate that Iran has terminated its nuclear weapons program. It appears that like Bush and Chaney, who used earlier estimates to fit their own political agenda, the MSM and the Left appear now to embrace this NIE because it fits their political agenda. Two wrongs, don’t make it right.

And who can forget the irony of the latest installment of “Peace Theater” – the Mid-East summit held late in 2007. The irony is that otherwise sensible people like Condi Rice appear oblivious to the irony that promises in the Middle East mean nothing – nothing! In an earlier post , I wrote:
When dealing in Middle Eastern politics, words are meaningless, but actions do matter. For example, that great Palestinian “moderate,” Mahmoud Abbas said just yesterday that “everyone wants peace” in the region. But what actions has Abbas initiated to achieve that goal? Has he reigned in terrorist groups within his own Fatah faction? Hardly. Has he confronted Hamas in any meaningful way? Negative. Has he moderated his Arabic speeches to lay the ground work for Palestinian concessions that will be vital to peace? Nope. Has he hinted in Western media that his people are even willing to make any concessions? Uh uh. Actions are what matter.

On the Israeli side, actions have occurred repeatedly, but they never seem to be quite enough. Have the Israelis unilaterally given back land to the Palestinans? As an example, Gaza comes to mind, and look how that turned out.

On a truly global scale, who can resist the irony of Al Gore’s cinematic career topped off with a Nobel Prize. Wow. Here we have a non-scientist, quoting flawed climate models, and misinterpreting ambiguous data telling real scientists who disagree with his conclusion that they are “deniers,” that the debate has ended, that a true consensus has already been reached. Here we have a private-jet-traveling, 20,000-square-foot-house-owning aristocrat telling the rest of us about sacrifice, while he banks imaginary carbon credits to assuage his profligacy. Uh huh.

The real ironies? That the signatories of the Kyoto protocols have done far less to cut carbon emissions than the US, even though we refused to sign the flawed document (by a Senate vote of 95 to 0, by the way). That Draconian measures to reduce carbon emissions would hurt the world’s poorest nations and would retard their efforts to enter a 21st century economy. That (paraphrasing an earlier comment) substituting “belief” and “faith” for scientific thought is wrong, whether it’s coming from the left or the right.

And finally, we encounter the irony of a Republican administration, along with Republican contenders for the presidency, all of whom tout their expertise in national security, completely missing our most important national security strategy. Again, in 2007, as in the 30 years that have preceded it, we have no meaningful program to gain energy independence. We encounter the irony of a struggling US carmaker, GM, refusing to accelerate its program for plug-in hybrid vehicles. We have a Congress that talks the talk, but does almost nothing to encourage short term fixes and longer term energy advancements. We have a populace who refuses to recognize that pain is necessary, but the end result will be worth it.

The broad irony of 2007—and every other year—is that we all recognize that we live in a global community and that we should care about what happens in China, Sudan, Iraq, Germany, Indonesia, Iran and everywhere else. But at the same time, we just want to be left alone to live our lives, love our family, do our work, and believe what we believe – without threat, without stress, without concern

The old Chinese curse comes to mind: “May you live in interesting times?” We do.