This post will make the most sense for those who have witnessed war and are not freaked out by the cold calculus of accepting death as a constant and the loss of buddies as gut-stirring but as inevitable as taxes. Most of the rest of the world has been forced to experience war first hand. Perhaps that’s why the rest of the world is unimpressed with this administration’s gung-ho attitude, so typical of raw recruits and so uncharacteristic of adults who’ve peered into the abyss and lived to describe it:
I hate to diss fellow bloggers, but the warbloggers seem to have a paucity of combat experience. We would never entertain the views of programmers who’ve never hacked code, or historians who’ve never read history. Why would we listen carefully to warbloggers who’ve never watched tracers arcing toward their position?
Every warrior knows that perfect safety is a fool’s paradise. The premise of the current war on terror is that we can entertain our way out of the terrorist threat. It’s entertainment to feel an illusory omnipotence that will hunt down every evil-doer and infidel–a kind of adolescent road rage, really. The old heads in your squadron know to protect such greenhorns from their enthusiasms, at least until they learn or die. “There are old pilots and bold pilots. There are no old, bold pilots.“
The warbloggers’ broad lack of combat experience is so obvious a disqualifier that I apologize for not pointing out this disconnect last winter.
The Bush Administration dismissed European caution last winter as a malady of “Old Europe,” as if cultures which include Dresden and Hiroshima bring nothing to the dialogue. Reflecting on this, and the consistent disapproval of our unilateral course, emanating from the lands that all of us hail from, I wonder what the people of those cultures might bring to our current election cycle.
Second Hand Smoke
It must be frustrating to be a rational non-American. One suffers from a kind of secondhand smoke, a victim of behavior you can’t stop. Or like a neighbor to an appealing but uncontrollable, rowdy and violent adolescent.
While non-Americans can’t vote, I know many feel the same urgency so many of us do, and may be even more anxious to help, their energies otherwise constrained. Aid and assistance from non-Americans can be galvanizing to the conscientious objectors to unilateralism, who often feel cut off from informed discourse and often seem numbed by what has happened.
In addition to tech support and assistance, here are some projects that anyone in the second superpower can contribute to:
Who, when, what, where, why, with attribution. A fact is simply what an authoritative source reported. True authority is part of the research, including background like how Rev. Sun Myung Moon set up the Washington Times to look like a legitimate newspaper, or Murdoch’s Fox News.
Though conservatives seem fact-averse, a year of unfolding revelations might help some see the breadth and depth of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that people laughed at when Hillary labeled it, but now has been well documented.
Armed with the right sets of facts, someone could build a series of timelines, contrasting spin vs. reality. I imagine these to be a vertical web page, a very long table, with a center column being the solid timeline, presumably just a background color, with links among the discrete areas reported. Others will think of better ways to do this.
The Virtual Anti-Spin Room
Properly organized, these “facts” can also be a resource for people watching a Presidential debate or Fox News. A researcher could constantly “push” fact-based web pages which the viewers could compare with what is being said. Debates are now accompanied by “Spin Rooms” of partisans, so we should build a virtual non-spin room. They could also be archived as a post event video with interleaved sound bites vs. facts.
A pressing project is to give a voice to people who feel disconnected from each other. We need to expose our best thinking, starting with individual blogs. Because the campaign issues are reasonably clear-cut, a straightforward taxonomy is available to form the basis of a knowledge aggregator. That capability could persist after the election to inject fact-based opinion into the American political dialogue. Technorati has some enabling technology for this purpose.
Finally, there may be entrepreneurial opportunities. If we are serious about building extramural governance tools, enterprises must be formed using the pool of passionate, under-employed American techies. These activities may be as important to our democracy as voting-machine companies but more resonant with the Constitution and good practice.
There are better ideas than these. Whatever we do, we must overwhelm the contrived urgency of the war on terror with our own passion and intensity. Many Americans feel these are extraordinary times requiring unprecedented actions. They are right, but the actions are not a crusade against disenfranchised Muslims.
We need a global convergence of knowledge and novel economic tools, obviously Net-based, that lead the world out of its nearsightedness toward the common destiny we all understand but which politicians choose not to give voice to.