The Long View 2004-03-09: Kerry's Folly; SETI; Culture War & Foreign Policy; Propaganda

This post is more current events commentary by John on events that are no longer current. In retrospect, the only thing really interesting is his mention of a campaign ad by Citizens United. Yes, that Citizens United.

Kerry's Folly; SETI; Culture War & Foreign Policy; Propaganda

In a sidebar on Sunday, March 8, The New York Times published a synopsis of a long interview with Democratic candidate presumptive, John Kerry. These sentences are good evidence that it would be a lethal mistake to put this man in the White House:

North Korea should never doubt the resolve of the United States to be serious about proliferation. But that's one of the reasons where I think this administration has even sent mixed and bad messages. Because if you don't do it in a sort of global and effective way, and if your own policy is to break the ABM treaty, move to rapidness of deployment, research and develop nuclear bunker-busting weapons, move to more tactical nuclear - you're sending a message that contravenes everything else you supposedly were taking seriously. And that has consequences in a dangerous world.

Shall we list what's wrong with this statement?

* The big news of the last few years is that effective non-proliferation and the global institutions to achieve it have proven mutually exclusive.

* The US left the ABM treaty precisely to discourage the North Koreans from developing an ICBM, because even a light shield would mean that any missile they could deploy might not work.

* Rapid deployment is supposed to make a conventional attack on the South less attractive to the North.

* Bunker busters and tactical nukes make clear to the North Korean leadership that they will not live through another Koread War

That list of bulleted items exhausts the list of things to the US could do to show "resolve" to the North Koreans, and Kerry is against all of them. I don't know what he's talking about, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't either.

* * *

Speaking of not knowing what something means, a recent radio signal from space attracted some interest among the SETI people. By the time you read this, the signal will probably have been traced to a satellite or a ground source. Still, a real SETI success might start with a report just like this. You won't see it on CNN right away.

* * *

The problem with arguing against the gay marriage campaign is that it makes you forget just how ridiculous the idea is. The notion is a cultural and historical exotic. Like all exotics, it will not flower long. In the meantime, however, the world outside the West draws its own conclusions about what such episodes demonstrate about the societies in which they occur.

Consider this assessment by Peter Zhang about the implications of the gay marriage issue for Sino-American relations:

So it should not come as a surprise to learn that the regime takes a keen interest in American political and social trends. Seen through its eyes, at least those of many of its officials, the assault on marriage by homosexual activists and their allies in the media confirms their optimistic view that America is rapidly descending into a moral morass which will ultimately subvert her political institutions and sap her resistance....

The point is that irrespective of the misgivings of some party officials, there are plenty of others who believe that the Bush presidency is an aberration. In their opinion, even if he defeats Kerry social, moral and political trends are now irreversible and America is heading for political damnation.

I am reasonably sure that the Chinese leadership's assessment is not true. Of course, I am also reasonably sure that the gay marriage offensive will fail. The stakes here are much higher than the political system will admit.

* * *

You must imagine my shock when I learned that innocent commercials are being forced to serve as vehicles of political propaganda:

The ad shows Kerry, boats at a marina and oceanfront property as an announcers says: "Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Hairstyle by Christophe's $75. Designer shirts: $250. Forty-two foot luxury yacht: $1 million. Four lavish mansions and beachfront estate: Over $30 million."

Another shot is of Kerry and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., with the words: "Another rich, liberal elitist from Massachusetts who claims he's a man of the people. Priceless."

Since, as we know, this presidential campaign is going to go on forever, we must take steps to make it endurable. The best way to do that is to make it less noticeable. This is particularly true for negative ads, which we can expect to proliferate as the centuries roll by. Some way needs to be found to fold them into those gauzy, feel-good political spots. The ideal commercial must plant doubts about the opposition's humanity without disturbing the surface image of oily, vegetable bliss. I suggest something along these lines.

Copyright © 2004 by John J. Reilly

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