Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Predictable Piffle

My old paper the Chicago Tribune had an editorial this morning about the vote on Monday to admit the Palestinian Authority to membership in Unesco. Predictably, the editorial deplored Unesco's decision and approved the automatic (by law) withholding of further United States support for the organization. Equally predictably it gave as the reason for all this the fact that the Palestinian bid for Unesco membership was "pure political theater, symbolism without substance," and that it "undercuts attempts to restart Middle East peace talks."

Puh-leeze! I wonder how my former colleagues can write this sort of piffle with straight faces. By now everybody knows that the Tribune is going to disapprove whatever the Palestinians do on grounds that it "undercuts attempts to restart Middle East peace talks." And, of course, we'll read in a day or two that Israel's announced intention to speed up more construction in its illegal West Bank settlements was, well, just something that was forced on that poor, beleaguered little state by those meanies at the Palestinian Authority. What's a tiny, nuclear-armed bully to do?

Come on, Tribune. Surprise us! Say something other than the tired, AIPAC-inspired foolishness that insults the intelligence of any thinking reader. Get brave!

Recommended Reading

In this morning's (11/2/2011) New York Times, an excellent analysis by Helene Cooper under the odd headline "A Silver Lining to America's Waning Influence." She uses the European sovereign debt crisis and the upcoming G20 meeting in Cannes as pegs for a thoughtful piece on how Obama has altered the trajectory of American foreign policy. In part this was Obama's design from the beginning--to change the way America interacts with allies, rivals and bystanders elsewhere in the world. In part, it is dictated by America's straitened financial circumstances.

This is one of the most insightful pieces of its kind that I've seen anywhere. If I have a quarrel with it, it's the tone, which is almost despairing: "We ain't the big dog we used to be." To my mind that's a significant improvement. It will require more subtlety in our diplomacy, but that's not a bad thing at all.