Dick Cavett got it about right when he wrote the other day, “There’s something almost funny in the idea that she [Palin] is being speedily stuffed, Strasbourg-goose-style, with knowledge she should have had before she was selected.” Judging from her first interview, when she clearly didn’t recognize the term “The Bush Doctrine,” Palin needs more time and more stuffing.
Has she been paying that little attention to world events? Maybe. Do Americans care that a potential Vice-President is unable to identify the term that has been the guiding principle of the most colossal foreign policy disaster in US history–taking the lives of thousands of Americans (and now, perhaps, her son’s precious life), the lives of more than 100,000 Iraqis and which may ultimately cost this country several trillion dollars. I hope so.
But Palin’s cluelessness should elicit more than anxiety, concern, snickering– or disgust that McCain was so cynical and reckless in selecting her. Not that those reactions aren’t warranted. But for those who care about this country’s security, for those who put country above partisan gutter politics, what’s key is that we repair the damage the misconceived Bush doctrine has inflicted on our security and engagement with the world. Palin may not have known what the Doctrine meant. But her answers revealed, clearly, that she and her running mate will inflict more damage and destruction on our country and world with their hyper-militarized, pugilistic and atavistic Cold War policies, temperament and mindset.
So, the first order is to defeat these Republicans. Yet, as we work hard in these next days and night, we must also be honest about the work demanded to craft a sane security policy because our political system continues to evade the challenge of finding an exit from the “war on terror.” At a time when we need a coherent alternative to the Bush doctrine and an alternative vision of what this country’s role in the world should be, we see both parties calling for intensifying the “war on terror” –even for increasing the size of the military, and for expanding its ability to go places (Afghanistan, Pakistan) and do things.
Obama has spoken, well, of “ending the mindset” that took us into Iraq. But in recent months, he hasn’t fleshed out what that means. It may well be that this campaign, with Republicans desperate to make it a referendum on swine and lipstick, moose and baby bumps, and not on the ruinous policies of these last 7 years, doesn’t leave room for fundamental questions of life and death, war and peace. Who’s asking, for example: Won’t a war without end do more to weaken our security and democracy than seriously address the threats and challenges ahead?