If the incompetent management driving the New York Times from junk status to oblivion wished to decelerate their terminal decline, they might usefully amend their motto to “All the News That’s Fit to Distract.” Tom Blumer of Newsbusters notes that in the last 30 days there have been some 2,500 stories featuring Obama and “distractions,” as opposed to about 800 “distractions” for Bush in his entire second term. The sub-headline of the Reuters story suggests the unprecedented pace at which the mountain of distractions is piling up: “First North Korea, Iran — now Somali pirates.”
Er, okay. So the North Korean test is a “distraction,” the Iranian nuclear program is a “distraction,” and the seizure of a U.S.-flagged vessel in international waters is a “distraction.” Maybe it would be easier just to have the official State Department maps reprinted with the Rest of the World relabeled “Distractions.” Oh, to be sure, you could still have occasional oases of presidential photo-opportunities — Buckingham Palace, that square in Prague — but with the land beyond the edge of the Queen’s gardens ominously marked “Here be distractions . . . ”
As it happens, Somali piracy is not a distraction, but a glimpse of the world the day after tomorrow. In my book America Alone, I quote Robert D. Kaplan referring to the lawless fringes of the map as “Indian Territory.” It’s a droll jest but a misleading one, since the very phrase presumes that the badlands will one day be brought within the bounds of the ordered world. In fact, a lot of today’s badlands were relatively ordered not so long ago, and many of them are getting badder and badder by the day. Half a century back, Somaliland was a couple of sleepy colonies, British and Italian, poor but functioning. Then it became a state, and then a failed state, and now the husk of a nation is a convenient squat from which to make mischief. According to Chatham House in London, Somali pirates made about $30 million in ransom and booty last year. Thirty mil goes a long way in Somalia, making piracy a very attractive proposition.
It’s also a low-risk one. Once upon a time we killed and captured pirates. Today, it’s all more complicated.
Not to mention 1979. Liberals always find strange new respect for GOP leaders they once despised when a newly minted Republican president is in office. Similarly, there seems to be an urge amongst conservatives and libertarians at the beginning of each successive liberal president’s bumbling first months, to find newfound appreciation for Jimmy Carter, as witnessed by these items from P.J. O’Rourke in 1993, and Rod Dreher at the start of this week.
I yield to no man in my appreciation for Jay Nordlinger’s brilliant “Carterpalooza”, but say what you will about the feckless President #39: other then the botched rescue mission, he didn’t do much during the Iranian hostage crisis except be the harried leader of Strategic Vex Command. But worry is at least a far more appropriate emotion from a president than the appearance of aloofness.
Want proof? Our current foreign policy, whether it involves North Korean missiles, Iranian centrifuge construction, and now, Somali pirates, demonstrates a newfound eagerness to yell, as Robin Williams once described the battlecry of unarmed English bobbies, “Stop!…or we’ll yell Stop Again!” In contrast, the French seem to be displaying a newly found de plus grands testicules.