Tuesday, January 07, 2003

One more item from Didion's article. Didion goes on to describe how the early questions that people had about "why they hate us" were short-circuited by those who didn't want to go there:
I was struck by this, since it so coincided with my own impression. Most of us saw that discussion short-circuited, and most of us have some sense of how and why it became a discussion with nowhere to go. One reason, among others, runs back sixty years, through every administration since Franklin Roosevelt's. Roosevelt was the first American president who tried to grapple with the problems inherent in securing Palestine as a Jewish state. It was also Roosevelt who laid the groundwork for our relationship with the Saudis. There was an inherent contradiction here, and it was Roosevelt, perhaps the most adroit political animal ever made, who instinctively devised the approach adopted by the administrations that followed his: Stall. Keep the options open. Make certain promises in public, and conflicting ones in private. This was always a high-risk business, and for a while the rewards seemed commensurate: we got the oil for helping the Saudis, we got the moral credit for helping the Israelis, and, for helping both, we enjoyed the continuing business that accrued to an American defense industry significantly based on arming all sides.
I agree with Didion's point, but I hope she doesn't think this is something that began with Roosevelt. Most of United States history is filled with periods where difficult questions were continually put off for later because trying to resolve them would cause to much grief. Slavery was among one of the most obvious. Unfortunately, as history shows, these issues have a way of eventually breaking through the obfuscations and force some kind of resolution. We can only hope that such future resolutions won't require bloodshed on a scale comparable to the Civil War.

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