Author’s Note: I prepared these remarks for the “Going on the Record: Resistance and Writing” panel discussion at the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, but the format of the panel was changed, so I didn’t end up delivering them. The Mantle has kindly offered to publish my remarks as an essay.
President Barack Obama and his national security team are no doubt making final preparations for the upcoming trip to Israel. Obama already began to lay the groundwork for his trip by sending messages to the Israeli leadership who remain fanatically wed to coercing the United States to go to war with Iran. And it seems the coercion is working. The president's message had nothing to do with peace. "All options are on the table," he professed to an Israeli news outlet. Of course these seemingly threatening statements drummed of another looming battle.
Whilst we all watched perhaps the most pointless debate in presidential history last week, I found myself wondering whether there will actually be any real substance to any of these debates. Has political theater taken total control of the American political process? I mean, yes, I support Big Bird and I had a good laugh tracking Twitter during the debate, but at what point do the candidates get serious and move from offering sound bites and zingers to actually talking about and debating the real issues? There are important decisions to be made by the next president, and the American public deserves real discourse about them.
On May 24, 2011, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United States Congress. In his speech he declared that, “you [the US] don't need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves.” Yet, in his more recent United Nations speech, he seemed to push the US to, yes, ironically protect Israel from a potentially nuclear Iran. Of course, American soldiers would not fight from Israeli soil, but rather from the Persian Gulf. What is the difference?
Today, let's step through the looking glass for a moment and imagine what the reaction of the United States to the ongoing crisis in Syria might look like if the regime of Bashar al-Assad were an ally of the United States, rather than an opponent closely linked to our enemy du jour, Iran. Perhaps the media coverage might look something like this:
It is way past the time to sit back and take a deep breath and rethink this reflexive rush to military solutions to foreign policy conundrums.
Their meeting made for some uncomfortable visuals as Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf defended a national law that criminalized homosexuality in front of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, long an advocate for gay rights, who was visiting Liberia in his capacity as the founder of the African Governance Initiative (AGI), a nonprofit dedicated to building the capacity of African governments. But the terse exchange masked a deeper, more serious question: should Western leaders try to impose their mora