Our Nation’s Agenda?

Most of us, whether in opposition to or supportive of Trump, have long ago reached the “end of our rope” when it comes to coverage of Trump world!  I recently read an article in THE NATION magazine by **Andrew Bacevich (May 8, 2017).  In it, he offered a critique of the news media’s coverage of Trump’s actions, assertions and faux pas along with raising a number of questions and objections related to what major national security issues are truly news worthy in a democratic society.  I present to you 3 of the 24 points he thoughtfully presented:

The campaign is formerly known as Operation Enduring Freedom:   The conflict commonly referred to as the Afghanistan War is now the longest in US history—having lasted longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. What is the Pentagon’s plan for concluding that conflict? When might Americans expect it to end? On what terms?

As I read this one I thought of another quote I recently heard during a retreat.  It raised for me the broader question of our foreign policy when it comes to dealing with conflicts, especially war. It’s a quote from Vladimir Lenin on his deathbed: 

I made a mistake.  Without doubt, an oppressed multitude had to be liberated, but our method only provoked further oppression and atrocious massacres. My living nightmare is to find myself lost in an ocean of red with the blood of innumerable victims. It is too late to alter the past, but what was needed to save Russia were ten Francis of Assisi’s.  Letters on Modern Atheism, 1924                    

Another thought provoking concern/question of Bacevich:

Deaths that matter and deaths that don’t: Why do terrorist attacks that kill a handful of Europeans command infinitely more American attention than do terrorist attacks that kill far larger numbers of Arabs? A terrorist attack that kills citizens of France or Belgium elicits from the United States heartfelt expressions of sympathy and solidarity. A terrorist attack that kills Egyptians or Iraqis elicits shrugs. Why the difference? To what extent does race provide the answer to that question?

And the final question I choose is one that has always haunted me. . .

Our friends the Saudis (I): Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001, were Saudis. What does that fact signify?

Again, I am reminded of another author’s reflection on war as I recall the thousands of lives obliterated during and following 9-11. (I have a growing file on war and violence)

“One of the most fearsome ideas to emerge in the course of the 20th
  century was the idea of total war – the belief that the most effective
 way of winning wars was by the obliteration, or the threat of
obliteration of the civilian population of the enemy’s town and cities by
means of an annihilating attack from the air. . .civilians have more
and more frequently been made the target of wartime bombing, as death,
destruction and demoralization have grown increasingly intertwined in
the search for rapid victory. “       Guernica and Total War, Ian Patterson, 2007

Finally, I believe we need to be accountable to one another and vigilant with regard to the media along with other groups to which we belong.  Changing what now seems to be the national conversation (albeit major concern) with regard to the Trump administration let’s not be totally immersed and or distracted to what is truly important for ourselves and our country.

**Andrew J. Bacevich is Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he received his Ph.D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University. Before joining the faculty of Boston University, he taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins.

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