Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Doing Unto Others 

What's the antithesis of "genius"? Or "saint"? Or "remotely intelligent man"?

(via Juan Cole)
As John F. Harris and Robin Wright of the Washington Post cannily note, US President George W. Bush has missed an important opportunity to reach out to the Muslims of Indonesia. The Bush administration at first pledged a paltry $15 million, a mysteriously chintzy response to what was obviously an enormous calamity. Bush himself remained on vacation, and now has reluctantly agreed to a meeting of the National Security Council by video conference. If Bush were a statesman,
Yes, we will pause here to allow laughter and/or nausea to pass...if Professor Cole ever loses his job in academia he could follow in the comedic footsteps of Steven Wright.
he would have flown to Jakarta and announced his solidarity with the Muslims of Indonesia (which has suffered at least 40,000 dead and rising).

Indeed, the worst-hit area of Indonesia is Aceh, the center of a Muslim separatist movement, and a gesture to Aceh from the US at this moment might have meant a lot in US-Muslim public relations. Bin Laden and Zawahiri sniffed around Aceh in hopes of recruiting operatives there, being experts in fishing in troubled waters. Doesn't the US want to outflank al-Qaeda? As it is, the president of the United States is invisible and on vacation (unlike several European heads of state), and could think of nothing better to do than announce a paltry pledge. As Harris and Wright rightly say, the rest of the world treated the US much better than this after September 11.

The Indonesian government itself has an opportunity to gain some good will in troubled Aceh, and appears to have taken a good first step by allowing international aid agencies into the area.
If Karl Rove were even remotely smart at anything except dirty tricks, we would have had a scenario like this: The first C-130 full of supplies lands at wherever it's headed to, the rear cargo bay opens up, and there's Flightsuit Boy in full regalia, directing the offloading of the cargo.

No Air Force One, no panoply or pomp of state, just a minimum number of Secret Service and the like. The astounded media gathered to cover the flight are told that the US President did not want to take valuable time away from the relief effort but wanted to personally express sympathy for the victims of this disaster, etc.

Imagine the worldwide reaction.


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