A Modest Proposal

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A
few days ago a Reuters release appeared with the eye-grabbing headline
"US Sees Threats from Terror, Iran, and North Korea."
I was wondering how Jonathan Swift might react if he saw such a
headline and in the vein of the great satirist, I started to conjure
up a modest proposal to submit to our Excellency, the honorable
George W, Bush, emperor of these 50 United States and soon the rest
of the world. As his recent State of the Union message revealed,
no matter what platitude is uttered, no matter what deception is
papered over, the assembled throng of senators, congressman, justices,
cabinet members, and press lackeys rise to their feet in a thunderous
ovation. So, my proposal is that he say the following at his next
address just to test whether another standing ovation is in the
offing:

"My
fellow Americans, I come here tonight to inform you of a grievous
mistake and a new day in American foreign policy. We have read our
history books for the first time and discovered that there was once
a time when we believed in armed neutrality and nonintervention,
avoiding all entangling alliances and serving as a beacon of liberty
by example and moral suasion. We are uniquely situated, even more
so than that famed neutral Switzerland, to avoid the petty grievances
and internecine warfares of other states. We are separated by vast
oceans from Asia and Europe, have an arsenal of defensive weapons
and superior technological skills to repel and deter attacks. While
we deplore the abuses of liberty that have occurred and continue
to occur in most nations of the world, we have learned time and
time again that taking the sides of insurgents or foreign leaders
is often a trap for the unwary. Even where we obtain initial military
success, our interventions breed resentment and hostility, and the
post-revolutionary leaders installed often go on to perpetrate worse
crimes and abominations than the tyrants displaced.

"It
was not that long ago that we thought Saddam Hussein was our friend
and we supported him in the protracted Iran-Iraq war. You have seen
what road that ultimately took us down, and the lesson we have learned
is that we should have stayed out of harms way from the beginning.
Our private citizens have the right to go abroad and support whatever
regime and insurgent group they wish but they do so at their own
risk. We will simply mind our own business, protect our borders,
endorse free trade with all, and foster by our example a spirit
of peace and cooperation. While we still may suffer in the short
term some revenge terrorist acts for our provocative acts in the
Middle East, we are convinced that sooner rather than later terrorist
threats will abate. You may not have noticed that there have not
been any terrorist acts against neutral countries and their citizens – this
is not a mere coincidence.

"As
part of this new foreign policy, which we are calling Operation
Dismantle the US Empire, we are upon 30 days notice immediately
withdrawing all troops from Iraq, shutting down all military bases
in the Middle East and other countries where we have presently stationed
troops. The monies that were budgeted for these efforts will be
returned to US citizens in the form of a tax refund of $25,000 per
family, and each citizen in Iraq will be given as reparations for
our war crimes and destruction of property a one-time payment of
$10,000. We strongly urge the Iraqi sects to resolve their differences
and to form the smallest possible government units as possible with
a constitution modeled after our original US Constitution and Bill
of Rights. We have not been using our constitution at all so it
is freely borrowable. I know these changes will bring temporary
dislocations and affect the profitability of my plutocratic corporate
allies in Texas, but as I no longer have to worry about reelection,
I am now only running for the history books. I want to be remembered
as this century's John Quincy Adams, standing proudly before you,
urging you to not to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy"

I
am afraid my modest proposal is more likely immodest speculation.
For it is now clear that what we have before us is a real-life Dr.
Strangelove or more aptly, given the public speaking malaprops,
a Moe Heilstone telling a cheering Moronica the world is mine, with
Curly holding up the applause signs.

February
18, 2005

Steven
Berger [send him mail]
is an investment manager in Boston.

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