Friday, June 19, 2009

Freshman Diplomacy 101

Here is why Rupert Murdoch's media organization is such a beautiful, jaw-dropping delight to behold. Earlier this week on the front page of the Murdoch-owned New York Post Toasties, the cover story told of the chaos that is now underway on the streets of Tehran as a result of the new leadership that was cynically denied to the people of that country by their theocratic rulers (And let's not deceive ourselves - Ahmadinejad lost - every poll concludes as much). In huge, black letters the headline blared (So help me Mitch Miller, I am not making this stuff up):
Rhymes with "URBAN WARFARE". Get it? The accompanying photograph showed a huge crowd of mostly men - all of them very angry - not one of them wearing a turban. Given the fact that Iran is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, there are probably only two turban-wearing guys in the whole place. I thought it was instructive that not a single person in the Post Toastie's editorial department had the sense to figure this out. Geniuses!

"And where is our president? Afraid of "meddling." Afraid to take sides between the head-breaking, women-shackling exporters of terror -- and the people in the street yearning to breathe free. This from a president who fancies himself the restorer of America's moral standing in the world."

Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post

Mr. Krauthammer's opinion is symptomatic of the Right Wing's historical failure to grasp the subtle nuances of diplomacy. He and his comrades in the vast right wing conspiracy didn't get it six years ago either, when they were goading on former President Bush to commit the stupidest foreign policy blunder in American history by invading the sovereign nation of Iraq. And where did that get us?

Contrary to the prevailing wisdom of the eight years of the Bush Mob's reign of error, diplomacy is not - and has never been
- about such overt things as black and white (or "good and evil", if you will) It's all about those subtle and annoying little shades of gray. This is something that the yahoos and assholes who identify themselves as spokespersons of the Republican party have never been able to understand.

I am reminded of a bully that I went to grade school with. I won't mention him by name because, like all of the bullies I knew as a school boy (and this is something that has always puzzled me), he grew up to be a genuinely decent and grand human being. Whenever the bell rang for recess, this jackass (excuse me, I meant "ex-jackass") would walk onto the playground with his chin jutted out and his fists in the air, waving them to and fro in a circular motion. So anxious was this (ex) knucklehead to pound the bleeding, mortal shit out of some hapless passerby, you could almost smell his lust for violence. Whenever I saw him headed in my general direction, my common sense always got the better of me and I would remove myself from his line of vision.

In the months leading up to the war in Iraq, George W. Bush's impudent smirk as he pounded the drums of war, always made my mind flash back to this dopey kid (who today is just a gem of a human being, I promise you). Like every other kid on the playground of international diplomacy, the Iraqi people had not done anything wrong, so-to-speak, to warrant George's homicidal animosity toward them; but he was determined to steal their lunch money (read: oil) nonetheless.

Fast forward to six years later. Bush's ideological heirs are literally foaming at the mouth for Barack Obama to "take action" (most of them never exactly specifying what that "action" should be) against the government of Iran for perverting the results of their recent election. A few of them have even had the chutzpah to suggest that the president send in the Marines. Mind you, if the Iranian military had come in and kicked some serious ass in the state of Florida eight years ago when Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris stole the 2000 election from Al Gore, I'd be all for a military incursion into that country - after all, what's fair is fair. But they did not act against Florida in 2000 (Damn them!) We lack any moral justification interfering in their internal matters in 2009.

I would only suggest to those who are so quick to criticize the president that they put themselves in his shoes and start thinking long range - which, after all, is the whole point of diplomacy. A good diplomat thinks little about tomorrow, or next
week - or even next year. The goal of competent international strategy is to think in terms of years, even decades down the line. It is, quite literally, the ultimate game of chess.

First of all, consider this: what do these people on the Far Right think would happen if tonight Obama denounced the results of the election and demanded that the opposition be installed immediately? I guarantee you that within five minutes, "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would be in front of the television cameras, having a positive jihad hissy fit:

"See?? The Great Satan has chosen sides! He wants this government - your government - to be skinned like rabid dogs. DEATH TO THE EVIL AMERICAN TYRANTS! And have a lovely day."

It is in the best interest of not only the American people - but the people of Iran as well - that our president exhibit for the world the demeanor of calm, cool detachment. That is what is known as "international statesmanship"; the type of which was never displayed by his half-witted predecessor. To put it in terms that Rush Limbaugh and the habitual viewers of FOX Noise will be able to understand, the very last thing in the world Obama needs right now is to get into a pissing match with these clowns.

It's no secret to anyone who reads this page on even a semi-regular basis that I am (to put it mildly) just a wee bit disappointment in this administration's direction thus far. Obama and the people around him should start showing a little less profile and a lot more courage. It is essential that they cease acting like Bill Clinton and start acting like Franklin Roosevelt. Their moment under the sun of political advantage is rapidly ebbing. As FDR was fond of reminding his contemporaries so long ago, they need to take "action. NOW!"

That being said, it must be conceded that they have handled this latest international incident superbly and with great skill. Jack Kennedy, who in October of 1962 was confronted with the most dangerous crisis in the history of the world, would be proud.

Ah! The beguiling art of diplomacy!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


by Thomas Ricks


At 6:06 PM, Anonymous John said...

If only the media showed nearly as much concern for public protests and questions of voting irregularities HERE...

At 9:50 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Great article, Tom, as usual. And, yes, I agree with you, John.

I'm surprised (well, not really) that the mainstream media hasn't connected the dots between the election that was just stolen in Iran, and the one(s) we had in 2000 (and 2004).

I'm also surprised (actually, I'm not at all) that Americans weren't taking to the streets, by the hundreds of thousands, in our major cities after each one of own stolen elections.

At 12:04 AM, Anonymous John said...


You might not know it even if we did. I was at a NYC protest just before the 2004 RNC. It was huge. The media transformed it into a tiny ripple. In every major news outlet I checked (and I was curious), the event was described briefly as 'tens of thousands' of protesters. About a week later, the corrections sidebar in the NY Times upped the estimate of the number of protesters to 400,000. My other observation was that there were more film crews and reporters than I have ever seen covering an event. What does that tell you?

At 12:44 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Our nation's media is still owned by a few who are very sympathetic to the right-wing agenda. As was pointed out here, as well as by another blogger--we're getting schooled by the irate electorate in other nations. You're right to observe that President Obama doesn't seem inclined to repeat the errors of the last administration. However, the right-wing screamers are distorting the implications of this position. It would be lovely if each of these bloviators could be sent to replace one of our troops who have been stop-lossed, every time these pundits start screaming for blood. Maybe there should be a law. Let's send Limbaugh or O'Reilly first. Better still, I hope the troops can be brought home.

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Rip Tragle said...

Your account of your own bully reminded me of mine.

When I was in Poughkeepsie High this one tough fellow just had it in for me. I remember one time he tripped me as I was coming out of class and snarled in my face,"you fucking Jew." Taken by surprise my first reaction was to say I not Jewish.

But later I felt bad about that because I had a bunch of Jewish friends and I felt as I denied them, feeling my response acknowledged that there was something wrong with being Jewish.

Anyway, years later I was on the train coming back from NYC and saw this fellow approaching me in the coach. Naturally I thought: here comes trouble.

Well, he sat down next to me and chatted as if we were long lost buddies and turned out to be a hell-uv-a nice guy. Go figure.


Rip Tragle

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Isn't that a paradox, Rip?

Maybe its because they burn up all their nasty aggression at such an early age that, by the time they come to maturity, they need to mellow out.

Every school bully I knew as a kid grew up to be fantastic human beings.

Isn't life strange?

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Prairie Waif said...


A medium and a particular television show did draw the parallel with the stolen election of 2000 to the Iranian "election."

They went into how the vote was "rigged" because the guy in charge of counting the votes was appointed by Amadinejad and how it went down the line--->aka Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush and Daddy's Supreme Court (i.e. the "court" in Iran belongs to Amadinejad and the Supreme Religious Authority).

Of course because it was on The Daily Show only those enlightened, or those wanting to see how "the other side works," otherwise, we continue preaching to the choir.

The party of "NO!" would rather destroy any and all chances of improving the country, out of spite.

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Although we've never talked about this, Tom, so I'm not even sure whether you have children or not, but I wanted to extend a happy Father's Day to you, your kind and loyal readership, and to one group I've never seen recognized on this particular day -- our Founding Fathers.

It's finally a sunny here, and the weatherman is promising a clear day at least until late in the afternoon, so fire-up the grill (or build a bonfire if you're more apt to celebrate the Summer Solstice) and enjoy the day. Again, happy Father's Day...and also happy Summer Solstice.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Prairie Waif said...

Jefferson's Guardian,

It is a lovely sentiment to think of the Founding Fathers on this day. Amazing how so many divergent views came together to work FOR a nation, isn't it?

When I see what is going on in the Legislative Branch, with today's version of the Founding Father's, I see a metaphor with Jesus throwing the money changers out of the temple.Would that the Founding Fathers could have seen that our government could be bought and sold, what would they have added to the Declaration of Independence?

Currently? We have a culture of hate and division; tragic. So much for "serving" the interests and people of the nation and the constituencies that elected them. I think the Founding Fathers would find a few hickory switches and head to the wood shed hauling a bunch of whiny, bratty legislators, lobbyists and media "personalities" kicking and screaming all the way.

Happy Fathers' Day to all. I honor the memory of my father, Richard Virgil Welch, who taught me about working and playing with others and within the rules to serve the nation honorably. He also gave me my values and ethics; sadly my sibling have rejected all in the name of worshiping the almighty "god-->Money."

Happy Fathers Day to all and thanks for instilling values consistent with those our Founding Fathers sought for all Americans.

At 7:16 PM, Blogger Citizen Sane said...

JG, happy Father's Day - hope you were able to connect with your loved ones!
John and Tom, are you guys also dads? That you know about, I mean.

At 8:25 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Ana Van Z....

I can speak for the both of us....

John and I are not fathers. But the both of us have been accused of being real mothers. Life is funny that way.

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous John said...

Hey Mofo, I'll speak for myself if you don't mind! No.

I'm working on the mount for the solar collector and now have to go to the lumber yard. Dear ol' dad (who loved building things) would sort through huge stacks of wood that could only be dwarfed by the accompanying lecture. Sigh...

I may have to sip some scotch tonight to continue to commune with the ancestors.

At 10:34 PM, Blogger Citizen Sane said...

Well, that's good that y'all are sure about that. I was just wondering, because I could've sworn I saw you guys on a Maury re-run the other week ("Tom, you ARE the father!").
But I was probably just high...

At 2:01 AM, Anonymous Nhoj said...

Once again the media is rewriting the story for there own nefarious purpose.

Of course, some of what I write here is merely additional confirmation of what has long been apparent to regular readers of The Rant. But for the sake of new-comers, I will rehash the history of Tom's parentage. At this point it is irrefutable that tom is a cross between the linguist Henry Higgins and moralist Alfred Dolittle. Clearly the ethics question had yet to be addressed in fertility science, notwithstanding the team implanted the prized zygote within the Degan clan who anxiously awaited the new arrival. The early years proceeded without major incident. Indeed, it was not until the high school years began when he was identified as 'beyond hope'. It was from here he was sent to the neighboring Catholic high school where his legendary exploits led to his repeated expulsion. Some of those events also may have served as the thematic basis for Joe Frank's excellent 'The Bible Salesman' where the protagonist lands a job selling defective Bibles that have inadvertently been interspersed with handwritten Lenny Bruce transcripts, pornographic images, moon-phase data and risque photos of an aging Eleanor Roosevelt showing off her lingerie. Additionally, the tomes contained hidden cavities fitted for illicit toys and small containers of automotive lubricants.

The Povich interview was originally to be 'Love-Child of Virgin Nun (she was known as Spankie to the boys) United with Father'. Strangely, the celebrity lab (of Lewinsky fame) that conducted the testing claimed that the samples contained no genetic materials whatsoever, and obviously the less plausible story line was adopted.

Now its up to you to decide to believe Hannity's accusation that the whole thing was orchestrated simply to avoid 37 years of support payments.

At 4:01 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...


You obviously knew me when. Now I am going to lose a week's sleep wondering just who the heck you are.

Thanks for tuning in!

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 7:11 AM, Blogger Prairie Waif said...

Still hawking those Bibles? Put me down for 4; I like things in triplicate. ;-)


At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Nhoj said...

I believe the visionary work you are referring to was known as the "Hysteresis Trifecta" the multi-volume treatise for those seeking rapture in church, the synagogue and mosque. Sadly this valiant attempt to unite the traditions of Abraham failed due to its high production costs. In retrospect, it would have been a small price to pay to divert society's course from its current woes.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger jasondylan said...

Yeah, I agree. I thought the playground bully analogy was hilarious.

I think Obama is going to do well with foreign policy. I hope that he is sincere, but it is hard to be sure.

What he is doing on the domestic front is another story and sad to say the least.

You are right about FDR of course, there is no good reason why Obama cannot be bold right now. He has a bully pulpit.

My guess is that FDR had less of an entrenched system than Obama is having to deal with, but my fear is that he has been co-opted by the system.

I also think that Fox Noise exists to make the other stations seem reasonable.

At 9:35 PM, Blogger Ruby Hawk said...

Tom Degan,I enjoyed reading your rant and I agree with you. More luck to you buddy.

At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are a retard

At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one likes you
Go jump off a cliff

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Hi there! And thank you so much for reading, "The Rant"! Let's go over each of your messages individually, shall we?

1. "you are a retard"

The word, "retard" when used as a noun is grammatically incorrect. Just thought you would like to know. The word "you" should have been capitalized.

Example: "You".

2. "why dont you do every one a favor and kill your self"

Again, you neglected to capitalize the word, "why".

Example: "Why".

You failed to use an apostrophe in the word "dont".

Example: "don't".

Also, "your self" should be written as one word.

Example: "yourself".

Again, the words "every one" should be one word.

Example: "everyone".

That sentence was also posed as a question. You failed to use a question mark.

Example: "?"

3. "No one likes you. Go jump off a cliff".

One out of three isn't as bad as zero out of three, I suppose. Congratulations! That is the only grammatically correct sentence you were able to come up with. You should not be totally ashamed.

I would like to thank you for going through the effort of making my case, proving the intellectual bankruptcy of right wingers. Instead of attempting to engage in and honest debate, you resort to illiterate name calling.

There is a guy who posts on this site often who goes by the name of "Harry from Mass" and another guy named "Joel". They don't [TAKE NOTE OF THAT APOSTROPHE!] agree with a thing I say. Unlike you, however, they use their intellect.

Now, I want you to try all over again and write an intelligent critique. Come on! I know you can do it!

peace to you brother or sister....

Tom Degan

PS - I hope like hell you're just a mischievous kid and not a grown adult. There would be no excuse for your utter failure to grasp the English language otherwise. None.


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