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With Our History, Spinning America's Image Isn't Enough By Thomas Palaima

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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 11:08 AM
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With Our History, Spinning America's Image Isn't Enough By Thomas Palaima

Mr. Palaima is Dickson Centennial Professor of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin where he teaches war and violence studies.

The historian Tacitus explained the secret of the peace that prevailed in the early Roman Empire. Romans used their military might to create a desert, then called it peace...The Bush administration is now seeking a Pax Americana through nearly unilateral use of military power based on a similar principle: Make a desert and call for a public relations campaign.

Admittedly, this is several stages better than what we did with bombs, artillery, napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam. As the fictional Capt. Willard in Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" describes it, "We cut 'em in half with a machine gun and give 'em a Band-Aid."...Image is close to everything now in our domestic politics, business and life in general. So it was perhaps inevitable that our commander-in-chief would extend the power of positive advertising to foreign policy as well. But it strikes me as either myopic or hubristic to ask the nearly 50 percent of American citizens who did not want him to continue his policies as president to participate in this bit of Wag-the-Dog-ism. And how about the two-thirds of Americans who think our military is bogged down in Iraq, and the 60% who think the war is not worth fighting (Washington Post-ABC poll)? And that is with an all-volunteer force that does not force most families to worry about their children being drafted into the war, and with most Americans being in cloud-cuckooland about the catastrophic state of our economy, our consumer debt, our balance of trade deficit, and the precarious weakness of our dollar.

It is my experience living and traveling abroad extensively for more than 30 years that foreigners are less concerned about our image than they are about our essence and the actions our government takes, often in concert with our international corporate interests. They know the kind of beauty that the president is aiming for is only skin deep...The president's gambit is, however, consistent with the value our culture places on seeming rather than being. Let's start with something trivial: television. The craze for makeover shows is but one symptom of our addiction to unreality. Have you ever wondered what the lives of the common people who appear on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" will look like when, to use Captain Willard's metaphor, the temporary Band-Aid of high-end products and consumer goods falls off? How many of these just plain folks can afford to return, on their own dollars, to the chic styling salons, accessory boutiques, designer clothiers and gourmet food stores that made them over?

...The Iraqi makeover is still under way. It has mostly slipped from the front pages, and its beauty lies mainly in the eyes of neoconservative beholders among the forty percent who think it might be worth fighting.

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