S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Borders and political reconciliation

Groups with differing interests often operate within their own "borders." Members of the group defend against incursions across those boundaries. My own geographical boundaries, for instance, I know to be my county lines. No matter my street address, I feel "at home" almost anywhere in this county. And I am "reconciled" with residents of neighboring counties, though I sometimes fall into stereotypical generalizations about them, such as characterizing the other/residents as "rural/backward," "urban/aggressive," or "uppity." They do not feel like my "neighbors," though our two counties have been in reconciliation for some decades. Rivalries are relatively minimal.
Further analysis reveals similarities among territorial situations all around the world, including our own nation. Groups' defensive actions against threats or actual boundary violations range widely - from nonverbal and verbal - all the way to violence and war-making.
Several current news items show interest group defenses against perceived "different-ness" of those outside of perceived boundaries. Lack of reconciliation and seeing groups as "the other," can be discerned in the following events:
  • Tribal interests vs. national security interests (linked 6/8/08 Reuters story on criticism of current G8 pledges) - Currently we hear about this in connection to "U.S. national security interests" in Iraq, Particularly to our new tribal allies in the province of Al Anbar. But this term is most often applied to the continent of Africa, which does not seem nearly as important to us as Iraq. This pre-G8 summit article illustrates the point. The Reuters (5/31/07) headline reads, "Blair urges G8 to keep African promises." To quote,

    "Wealthy nations and Africa both face a choice ... Our challenge is to support the good. Africa's challenge is to eliminate the bad," Blair said in the speech.

    "Next week at the G8 (Group of Eight) Summit, leaders will show whether, having put Africa at the top of the global agenda, we have the perseverance and vision to see it through. I hope we have," the outgoing British leader said.

    Blair's visit came on the eve of the G8 summit scheduled for Germany, during which Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to press rich nations to fulfill aid pledges to Africa under a 2005 Blair initiative.
  • Partisanship vs. anti-Bush characterizes the immigration reform legislative fight ending with the bill being pulled by the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-Nevada). Political reconciliation will no doubt be required before the legislation could be reintroduces. Here is the headline: "Immigration bill stalls in U.S. Senate, short 15 votes" from the International Herald Tribune (6/8/07). To quote,
    The sweeping immigration overhaul endorsed by President George W. Bush crumbled in the Senate on Thursday night, leaving the future of one of the administration's chief domestic priorities in serious doubt.

    After a day of tension and fruitless maneuvering, senators rejected a Democratic call to move toward a final vote on the compromise legislation after Republicans complained that they had not been given enough opportunity to reshape the sprawling bill. Supporters of cutting off debate got only 45 of the 60 votes they needed; 50 senators opposed the cutoff.

    . . . The outcome, which followed an outpouring of criticism of the measure from core Republican voters and from liberal Democrats as well, was a significant setback for the president. It came mainly at the hands of members of his own party after he championed the proposal in the hope of claiming it as a major domestic policy achievement in the last months of his administration.
  • Turf wars within the White House - (link to WaPo story containing details, near the end, about the following concerns) Several Senators expressed questions and concerns, including "astonishment," that the Iraq/Afghanistan role of Assistant to the President for National Security, Stephen Hadley, would be supplanted or changed under the new so-called War Czar nominee, Lt. Gen Douglas Lute. I listened very carefully to this hearing and have concluded that this fine patriot will not be interested in fighting a turf war. Rather he sees himself as helping Hadley. The only real turf war he faces will probably be with Vice-President Cheney's neocon shop. This fascinating hearing is listed under "recent programs;" see the C-SPAN broadcast of the Senate Armed Services Cmte. Hearing on War Czar Nomination:
    Pres Bush has nominated Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, USA, as the "War Czar," coordinating the Iraq and Afghanistan war efforts. The Senate Armed Services Cmte., chaired by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), conducts a hearing on the nomination. His full title would be Assistant to the President and Dpty. Nat'l Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan.
    6/7/2007: WASHINGTON, DC: 2 hr. 44 min.

  • Sectarian rivalries in Iraq (linked Al Jazeera story on Iraqi parliament vote on US troops) will make or break the eventual outcome of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Kurds will go it alone with their own oil deal, according to the Financial Times. Al Jazeera has the (6/6/07) story of "Twin blasts hit Baghdad junction," from which comes this marvelously understated (Sunni-Shia split) quotation,
    At least seven people have been killed and 27 wounded by two car bombs at road junctions in a Shia neighbourhood of Baghdad, defence and medical officials say.
    . . . The district is a Shia enclave in a mixed Sunni-Shia area around a shrine and protected by a combination of Iraqi security forces and local militia.
    . . . The government of Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, is struggling to kick-start a stalled national reconciliation process, and the city remains divided into rival Sunni and Shia districts beset with gun and bomb attacks.
Territoriality is found in many species, including humans. It is exacerbated by scarce resources; natural instincts to protect "one's own;" prejudice, fear and stereotypical thinking; testoserone and learned behavior, and failure to heed the lessons of geography and history. It is ameliorated by acceptance of those different from us, avoidance of claims of God being on our side, and active dialogue in the spirit of peace and reconciliation. Heaven help us.
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