Friday, January 4, 2008

What's at Stake, Part 2

But even now there is hope left. I will not give you counsel, saying do this, or do that. For not in doing or contriving, nor in choosing between this course and another, can I avail; but only in knowing what was and is, and in part also what shall be. But this I will say to you: your Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while all the Company is true

------Galadriel in Lord of the Rings

Hundreds of years from now, what will people make of these times? Will this be seen as the beginning of an age of prosperity and peace, or when we threw that potential away? Can we see far enough ahead, and far enough away?

Right in front of our noses, right now, we see record prices for gasoline. Far away, can we see the sons and daughters of dirt farmers in Asia filling up their own new cars, bought with money from jobs earned by, not given to the Third World? Can you see them becoming a prosperous middle-class polity peeling away economic, and eventually political, power from their nations' power-and-ancient-pissing-contest-obsessed political elites?

Right in front of our noses, we see the slow passing of a fifty-year-old regime we do not see causing us that many headaches since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and only see some folks in southern Florida who care. Can you see reformers across Latin America, and even perhaps Africa, no longer having to fear foreigner-funded "peoples' movements" scaring away foreign investors and screwing up reforms? Latin America and Africa have not been as able to take advantage of the growth in the global economy. They were also the sphere of influence during the Cold War of Fidel Castro. This is not a coincidence.

Right in front of our noses, we see a war in the Middle East that seems to have no end, and seems to expand every day. Can we see the hopelessness of trusting the future of the Middle East to a moribund order that has even corrupted religion for its purposes, that has painted itself into a corner, having created the Frankenstein's Monster of terrorism and lost control of it? Can we see in the wake of this old order's fall the rise of average, bourgeois Middle Easterners more concerned with making money than making trouble? And on that day we finally find an acceptable substitute for the petroleum that had so far propped up the old order in the Middle East, would we rather see spasms of terrorism in its wake or a massive shrugging of shoulders across a Middle East with a more diversified economy?

What needs to happen in November is that we need people in charge in the United States prepared to take advantage of all this. Prepared to support the aspirations of regular people worldwide who long for freedom and prosperity, that there will be peace. Prepared to ensure the fall and discrediting of all those things that have held back freedom and prosperity. Prepared to hold the line in the Middle East. We cannot afford to fall to shortsighted populism and isolationism, or the false moral comfort of "noninterventionism."

At the Johnson Space Center in Houston, the final rocket of the Apollo program rots in the view of all. We decided foolishly that every dollar used on a lunar mission was better spent in foolish efforts to "cure" poverty that only perpetuated itself in the wake of government subsidy. Do we even remember how we used to believe we would be living on other planets in the early days of the twenty-first century? How quaint it all seems now.

Next to the rotting corpse of our aspirations to go into space, do we lay the dreams of reformers around the world we fail to directly or indirectly aid, our chances to actually make the world a better place, in view of equally shortsighted goals? If that is your choice, then you can make it without my assent.