Saturday, May 22, 2004

My 2 cents about 15 seconds 

A light day for blogging today - wife is studying for her MBA and has requisitioned the home computer. Besides, it's weekend, folks; you should be having fun outdoors instead of sitting in front of your PC reading this blog (although I'm happy that you are).

Earlier in the week I wrote about the sense of perspective and context as the antidote to political pessimism that seems to descend upon the right with every setback or unfavourable turn of events. For the purposes of our current situation this means we should remember that both Iraq and the war on terror are only minor chapters in a very long struggle against the enemies of freedom - if we bear that in mind, we won't get so easily depressed and think that the prisoner abuse scandal or the strategic failures in Fallujah are the end of the world. The war will go on.

This morning I read this quote from General John Abizaid (unfortunately it's only available online for "Time" subscribers). Abizaid was talking about patience as the tool that our enemies use: "We think in terms of sound bites of 15 seconds. They think in terms of hundreds of years."

It's because we are citizens of dynamic, democratic societies that our attention span has dramatically shrunk and we increasingly live in an eternal present, unanchored in the past and unencumbered by the considerations of the future. It's because many of our enemies live in traditional, static, often deeply religious societies, that they haven't lost the ability to see their lives and actions as only a small link in a chain that forever stretches back into the past and forward into the future. Bin Laden is still avenging the Crusades and the Spanish Reconquista; meanwhile the West often fights in the latest news cycle, or if we're lucky, electoral cycle.

Yet to fight this war well we have no choice but to match the enemy's perspective. Not by slowing down our own lives, but by regaining the ability to think long term and to see the big picture, no matter how fast we actually choose to live.

Meanwhile, the media continues their obsession with the prisoner abuse scandal, showing that you can keep stretching that 15 seconds for as long as you want if it suits your biases. Weeks into the whole controversy, Google news still lists 1560 news stories on the topic published in the last 24 hours. The next most popular "quagmire" - Chalabi - generated 747 stories.

While you're at it, don't forget to scroll down a bit and share with the rest of us your ideas in our competition "Remake the Middle East." Most have failed in the past, but you might have a solution to the region's many problems (if you don't feel like scrolling down, here's direct link).


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?