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Farcical?

William Saletan, in Slate, explores Tenet to Mitchell to Chance:

Unofficially, Mitchell and Tenet, like Zinni, Oslo, and Madrid, are buzzwords designed to create an impression of progress where none exists.

The theory put forward by Powell, President Bush, the U.N. Security Council, and other peace process exponents is that Zinni will lead to Tenet, which will lead to Mitchell, which will lead to Oslo, which will lead to peace. But the history of the invention of these steps suggests the opposite. Mitchell was created because Oslo failed. Tenet was created because Mitchell failed. Zinni was created because Tenet failed. The peace process is growing ever more complicated not because each stage leads to the next but because it doesn’t.

But back up a minute. Gary Kamiya in Salon derides the Bush foreign policy catastrophe as a whole:

The Bush administration’s foreign policy is in shambles. Each passing day in the Middle East brings new horrors, new bloodshed, new hatred. And it isn’t just the Middle East: The bankruptcy of the Republican administration’s approach, not just to the most explosive and strategically crucial region in the world, but to foreign policy in general, has become impossible to ignore. In a little over a year in office, Bush has allowed the Israeli-Palestinian crisis to explode from a small brush fire to a raging conflagration; squandered the global goodwill toward the United States after Sept. 11; set back the cause of moderates in Iran with a comic-book invocation of “evil”; endangered key allies in South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Egypt; failed to pursue vital peacekeeping and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan; clumsily pushed the Arab world into greater solidarity with Saddam Hussein; put forward a potentially dangerous new first-use nuclear doctrine; and filled our European allies with contempt and rage at our heavy-handed unilateralism. The Bush administration is rapidly staking a claim as one of the most incompetent foreign policy presidencies in the post-World War II era.

As FmH readers know, I’m the first to deride Bush administration ideology, policy, ethics, etc. After all, what can you expect when the President’s main foreign policy analyst has a supertanker named after her by one of her transnational paramours? But, while I agree that the administration’s track record, when you assemble it all together as in the paragraph above, classes it as an incontrovertible flop, I’m not sure I would blame Bush for the Middle East conflagration. The assumption that failure at peacemaking equals responsibility for bloodshed is not a natural one except in a certain narrow subset of the public which accepts a notion of noblesse oblige re: policing foreign conflicts (even though my sentiments lean toward a US obligation, as the sole superpower, to expend its resources around the world in humanitarian crises…). The judgment of history, also, will probably be that there has been a longer-term failure of the US commitment to Middle East peace, at least partially inherited from previous administrations.

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Mobile phones that can lip-read?: “Shouting down your mobile phone may become a thing of the past, thanks to the latest gadget being developed by a Japanese company.

NTT DoCoMo Inc, a subsidiary of NTT Communications Corp, is working on the world’s first lip-reading telephone that could relieve the annoyance of loud mobile phone conversations…” japantoday

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Andromeda/Comet conjunction: “Northern sky watchers are in for a treat just after sunset on April 4th. As the sky fades to black, Comet Ikeya-Zhang and the great Andromeda Galaxy will meet about 10 degrees above the western horizon. Less than half a degree (the width of one full Moon) will separate the pair. Dark skies and an unobstructed view of the horizon are essential for observers who wish to watch the encounter. The comet and the galaxy will be only dimly visible to the unaided eye, so binoculars are recommended.” spaceweather.com

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Teen Challenges:

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley County, one of several Tennessee counties to vote recently to post the Ten Commandments, has been <a href=”http://www.tennessean.com/local/archives/02/03/15440830.shtml?Element_ID=15440830

“>asked to extend its endorsement of religious documents in public places to include the Five Pillars of Islam.


Adventures of the Passive-Aggressor

NEWTON, MA—According to sullen teenager Steve Geremek, the 23rd century, a time previously restricted to the fantastical imaginings of science-fiction writers and futurists, “sucks.” [courtesy of, and verbatim from, David]

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Can Asians think? ‘If the title of Kishore Mahbubani’s collection of essays seems provocative, a quick look through the book will convince you that the author takes the question Can Asians think? very seriously. In his introduction, Mahbubani, the Singaporean ambassador to the United Nations, writes, “Can Asians think? Judging from the record of Asian societies over the past few centuries, the answer should be no — or, at best, not very well.”  ‘ Salon

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Few Risks Seen to the Children of 1st Cousins: “Contrary to widely held beliefs and longstanding taboos in America, first cousins can have children together without a great risk of birth defects or genetic disease, scientists are reporting today. They say there is no biological reason to discourage cousins from marrying.” NY Times