Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The price of ignorance and arrogance

This comes from a recent interview reported by Josh Marshall. Ahmed Rashid, author of the famous book on the Taliban and of many other works about the course of events in Central and South Asia, has stated that the Bush administration has "actively rejected expertise and embraced ignorance." Such a statement is of course not new, at least to some of us, but the price of this truth worries me. Our highly trained professional military have paid dearly for this commitment to ignorance.

The question now is, is our government -- the administration and the congress also -- really doing any better? One has the feeling that, whereas the Bush administration has eschewed the knowledge that might enable competence, the democratic congress rushes to make decisions that are politically attractive to the American public with little regard for the long term implications. Surely the sentiment of a public, however importance it is for the political process, cannot be the ground for wise decision making about affairs on the other side of the world.

In our age, what has become of statesmanship? It is too easy to suppose that the American supremacy will continue as it has in the past. How many other great powers presumed themselves to be so secure and powerful that they did not need to care about affairs in the wider world? Or cared little what their arrogance might cost? How many of them have been wrong in the past? The United States is young by comparison with the great imperial systems of the past: Rome, the Ottomans, the Muslim empire of the 8th-10th century, the Yuan dynasty, etc. Will the modern world as we know it -- or as we think we know it -- survive without wise and competent leadership?

Click on the title for the interview and comment by Marshall.

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