Saturday, February 08, 2003

Jeanne D'Arc has an interesting post up about the reaction of the Oprah Winfrey audience to Tom Friedman's suggestion that we may have to occupy Iraq for 20 years.
The latter part of the show consisted of an interview with Tom Friedman, and the interesting thing there was not Oprah's fawning, but seeing what happens to Friedman's suggestion that war with Iraq will have to be followed by a twenty year occupation when it hits the real world. People who follow news religiously – and for the most part, that's not Oprah's audience – have heard the call to imperialism so many times we've become numb to the idea. But when the camera turned to the audience after Friedman's suggestion, you could see the shock on their faces. Mouths open. Shaking their heads. Friedman looked increasingly ridiculous saying that this twenty-year occupation is what Americans have to be prepared for, while (mostly) women looked at him as if he were out of his mind. One man in the audience, in fact, rose to tell him exactly that. Watching the show was worthwhile if only to see Friedman get taken down.
We who spend our time following this stuff closely can sometimes forget what it must be like to be an "ordinary" citizen who only finds out about this stuff the day before it is about to happen. Could it be that the neo-imperialists have made a serious miscalculation that public opinion will swing to their side once their program becomes apparent? Americans have never been hot on the idea of imperialism. Indeed, much of our political history is devoted to the idea of getting involved in the affairs of others only when we absolutely have to. Imperialism is a violation of the core of that idea.

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