A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Heads In The Sand

Who is the president of Mexico? Don't know? Neither do I.
Meanwhile, our neighbor to the north, Canada, held a national election on Monday. Do you know who won?
Most of us know that Vladimir Putin rules Russia, but who rules China? Or Japan? Or India?
Who are the major players in the Middle East, which is giving us so much trouble these days? Or on the Indian subcontinent, where India and Pakistan keep threatening to go to war with each other, both armed with nuclear weapons. Who's in charge there?
And that's just the leaders. I won't even bother asking who leads the opposition in these various countries. Or what the major political issues are. Or what people in other countries think of us. Or why.
My point is that we Americans are woefully ignorant about the rest of the world, and that's a recipe for disaster. If anybody runs the world, we do; but we know next to nothing about that world we seek to lead. So we continually get taken by surprise, over and over again.
Admit it: Before the terrorist attacks on 9/11, you had never heard of Al Qaeda. Ditto for ISIS before it suddenly popped up in the headlines last year. For that matter, why does Obama call it ISIL when the media call it ISIS? There's actually a reason, but do you know what it is? I don't.
The pundits predict that foreign policy will be a major factor in next year's presidential election; but with an electorate that knows absolutely nothing about the issues, how can we possibly make an informed choice?
Most Americans would say that we already lead busy lives and don't have time to do the homework, so we leave it to the experts to do our thinking for us. But these "experts" don't know much more than we do.
In 1953, the experts in the CIA and State Department teamed with the British Secret Intelligence Service to overthrow the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossaddegh, and replaced him with the Shah.
We promptly forgot all about it, but the Iranians sure didn't. So when the Shah fell in 1979, the Iranians, instead of turning to pro-Western alternatives like Abolhassan Banisadr, turned instead to Ayatollah Khomeini, who wasn't tainted by association with us.
In 1954 the experts did it again, overthrowing the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz. That let loose a Pandora's Box of Arbenz's followers, including Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, who spread throughout Latin America, fomenting revolution wherever they went for the next forty years.
Ten years later we went to war in Vietnam on the theory that North Vietnam was just a proxy for Chinese expansion. Who knew that the Vietnamese and Chinese have mistrusted each other for centuries? Not the experts in Washington.
And no one was more surprised when the Soviet empire imploded in 1989 than the CIA, which had no clue that the USSR had been rotting from the inside for decades.
There's plenty of blame to go around, including the news media and our schools, who have been woefully inadequate in educating us about the world. But in the final analysis, as Shakespeare said, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

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