Bret, thanks, once again, for responding provocatively. I love the stimulation. Unfortunately, it seems that only you and I are active in this blog. Let's hear from you other great guys! Anything from satire to sermons to talk-show one-liners would be appreciated. I don't think that forging agreements is the goal here. Mental gymnastics, that's the name of the game.
Bret, I like your point about dire predictions rarely coming true. I'm not so sure, though, that they never do or will. For example, a few people predicted the dot-com bust which was a small to medium-sized disaster. Not many people listened, though.
As to the philosophy of the Romans, I don't see much relevance. I'm not a Roman historian, so I could be wrong on this one, but, based on my in-depth learning from the movie, "Gladiator," I think the Romans won battles mainly because of superior strategies, tactics, and discipline, with only a little help from superior weapons. Today, in terms of weapons, we are like King Kong in a world of chimps. Ironically, as we gorge on weapons, many crumbs fall off the table into the hands of those who will hurt us. These weapons, now widely dispersed, make us massively vulnerable to the point that no amount of spending on security will stop those bent on some pretty significant destruction. Intelligence can only help to a point. Our current self-reinforcing system is all about the weapons. We are so prepared for war, it's not even funny. And we are preparing our enemies as well. I'm basically of the opinion that if you invent a weapon, you'd better be prepared for it to be used on you someday.
I hate to say this, but I think there are many people associated with our current administration who do not want peace at all -- at least not until every country bends to our will -- and maybe not even then. What is our will? Is it a guarantee of cheap consumer goods, including gasoline, for our mindless citizenry, forever? Could be. There's no way I can tell because, like his father, I've never heard George W. expound anything that even remotely resembles a vision.
Which is my main beef with everything. What's the vision? If you don't know what you're trying to achieve beyond this year's military action, how can you possibly expect to achieve anything except by chance? There's certainly nothing coming out of America now that inspires people -- except, of course, those who are impressed by our endless consumerism (another "ism," which really may be the basis for our system of government). Don't get me wrong, I'm not against people buying what they want to buy with minimal government interference. But, I don't see the need to put our military might to work to make sure the prices never rise at Wal-Mart.
OK, I'll grant you, vision is a tough thing. But, at least we might ask for engagement by our leader on the world stage with other leaders. Then, just maybe, a vision for the world, which we have an unprecedented opportunity to shape, would eventually emerge. Why isn't Bush constantly meeting with leaders of other countries, one on one and in groups? Even with Kim Fucking Jong-Il for Chrissake! (I know that's not the way it's worked before Bush either, but that's no excuse.)
Here's the geopolitical aspect of the vision I would put forth:
- Peace between and within countries (this does not include common crime which, unfortunately, may be with our species forever)
- Universal self-determination for women
- Free trade (which we should lead the way on by immediately eliminating all farm and apparel subsidies; let the Europeans stand out as the only schmucks depriving poor countries from getting an economic foothold at the bottom of the productivity ladder)
- A few common principles for all justice systems (which would exclude capital punishment; there's really no value in it)
- An aggressive program to eliminate deprivation of children (food, medicine, education)
Most people would say that this vision is not realistic. But, it is certainly much less so if it is never stated. I believe it is realistic within less than two decades. The world peace part is actually much easier than people realize. Why? Because peace and cooperation, once the dynamics of violence and injustice are rooted out, is so compelling. There's a ratchet effect. For example, Western Europe, Japan, and the U.S. are very, very unlikely to go to war again (at least not under world circumstances even remotely like we have now).
With regard to a vision for our own country, perhaps I'll go into that later. But, one thing is certain, if the vision for the world is achieved, a whole lot of our domestic problems will go away.
Why are visions scoffed at? Because they are not action-oriented. Well, that's the next step. While communicating the vision -- again and again and again -- you must accurately assess the obstacles, develop measures of progress, forge plans and policies (many of them, as you've suggested Bret, initially on a small, experimental level), then implement, monitor, and adjust across relatively short cycle times (otherwise people lose track of what's going on). Not much different than the Apollo program.
The obvious argument is that the Roadmap to Peace for Israel and Palestine was a vision, and it didn't work. Why? Because it wasn't backed up by the engagement necessary of our leader to overcome all the complex obstacles. Why? Because he's an idiot who can't possibly lead people through the problems that are bound to arise. That's probably why he avoids the whole vision thing to begin with.
So, as a country, we can just keep jacking off, and hope that everything works out despite our worthless leaders.