Friday, October 20, 2006

Where in the World???

From time to time the public reads reports that detail the inability of U.S. school children, college students, and working adults to identify – even using a map – the 50 states that constitute the Union.

More numerous are comparisons with foreigners in identifying countries in the world or even more generally, on which continents various countries are. And when it comes to history – our own as well as others, especially non-European – the knowledge gap always weighs against us.

But this?

On October 17, Jeff Stein of the Congressional Quarterly wrote a commentary for The New York Times that confirms – again – what the public has known instinctively for a number of years: Members of Congress doesn’t know who benefits and how from the laws they pass and the funds they appropriate in the name of the U.S. people.

Stein wasn’t delving into some minor program buried in some bureau of one of the less controversial executive agencies. Nor had he pulled out some massive 1,000 page bill that a Member simply could not read through before having to vote – as has happened when one or the other political parties wants to ram through an omnibus spending bill so Congress can go home.

He was interested in Iraq, specifically, if Members know the difference between Shi’ites and Sunnis and which sect is where. Considering the stakes involved – the U.S., coalition and Iraqi soldiers and the Iraqi men, women, and children being killed everyday; the more than half a trillion dollars spent or obligated for Iraq, Afghanistan, and the “global war on terror”; and the spectre of a fragmented, failed nation-state sitting on some of the largest oil reserves in the world – one would think that Members would know which was which.

More troubling is Stein’s revelation that some U.S. counter-terror officials could not answer basic questions about Islam. As Stein put it, “Most American officials …don’t have a clue.”

One Member who didn’t know but then asked to be filled in, subsequently remarked : “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”

One normally might simply observe “better late than never.” But for 2,780 U.S. soldiers and the uncounted Iraqis killed, there is no “late” – only “never.”

1 Comments:

Blogger sixpacksongs said...

Reminiscent of McNamara's admission that Washington leadership did not understand Vietnamese culture and perspectives (no "empathy", I believe he said), nor did they seek it out in the lower levels of the bureaucracy. He contrasted this situation with the Soviet/Eastern Bloc confrontation, especially in the "War Room" during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Those who do not learn from history....

9:40 AM  

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