Wednesday, October 30, 2013

AFTER IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN: WILL THE U.S. BE LESS INCLINED TO USE FORCE ABROAD?

By Ronald Fox

The U.S.-Russian diplomatic initiative to induce Bashar al Assad to abandon chemical weapons and join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which voided Washington’s threat to use military force, inspired me to reflect on the legacy of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Does the U.S. opting for diplomacy rather than force in Syria mean that Washington learned valuable lessons from its policy debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan? Could it be that the Syrian crisis represents a turning point in the U.S. proclivity to project global power through the use of military force? Unfortunately there is no reason to believe, Syria notwithstanding, that our recent experiences in the Middle East will produce any significant moderation in American militarism. As the Vietnam War failed to produce any lasting dovish tendencies in U.S. security policy, so won’t the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are, to be sure, a number of positives to draw from the apparently successful diplomatic effort in Syria. We worked closely with the Russians and through the U.N, rather than in our usual unilateral way, President Obama went to Congress for the authority to order military strikes, rather than acting imperially, as all recent Presidents have done, and the American public sent a clear message that it was in no mood for yet another military adventure in the Middle East. A deeper reflection, however, leads me to believe these positive developments will be fleeting. There is little evidence to conclude that President Obama and the national security elite have lost any appetite for using force first, rather than as a last resort, as the operational code in our approach to peace and security. Expect Washington continue to pursue global dominance in the name of peace, framed in the lofty ideals of promoting democracy, civil society, economic development, and rebuilding failed states.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

THE COLLAPSE OF INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM AND THE GROWTH OF INSTITUTIONAL CORRUPTION

By Ronald Fox


In my essay on economic inequality and the cheating culture, I admonished our governmental regulatory system for aiding and abetting the growing prevalence of institutional corruption and individual cheating in America. I would be remiss if I did not also include the changing face of political journalism in my indictment. Political journalism in the United States has suffered a serious decline in the last three decades. This is primarily the result of greater concentrated media ownership in the hands of large corporations, who have adopted market-driven, business models mandating, among other things, the downsizing of news divisions, which they no longer consider profitable. A number of once great newspapers and news magazines have even ended daily publication. The result has been less coverage of political issues and elections and a narrower defining of newsworthiness to the priorities of the owning corporation‘s bottom line. These priorities no longer include watching out for, and going after, institutional corruption and wrong-doing.

Corporate media has become full-fledged members of the power structure. Rather than speaking to power, as was the press tradition for most American history, today it largely echoes the priorities and policies of the economic elite. Free-market theories and prescriptions are the corporate media’s guiding light, which in practice leads them to take a generally conservative, pro-business slant on economic and fiscal issues. They use their financial and communication power to consolidate the power of the economy in the service of the economic elite. This makes off-limits and unquestioned those areas that people in power agree should be left alone. As business conglomerates, with vast arrays of diverse holdings, the media giants tend to avoid presenting any bad news about topics near and dear to their own financial hearts (they certainly wouldn’t want to bite the hand that feeds them).

Friday, October 11, 2013

ECONOMIC INEQUALITY AND THE CHEATING CULTURE

By Ronald Fox


The notion that each American has the right to pursue happiness and the freedom to strive for a better life through hard work and fair aspiration lies at the heart of the “American Dream.” This idea, which drove the hopes and aspirations of Americans for most of the country’s history, begin to be transformed in the late 1970s when wealth began to steadily ascend to the top of the economic hierarchy. According to David Callahan, in his book, The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, the soaring income gap has given rise to a fundamental value shift in America: the time-honored commitment to community, self-reliance, fair play, truthfulness, compassion for the less fortunate, and rule-following, has morphed into selfishness, hedonism, greed, jealousy, and an excessive preoccupation with materialism. It has also inspired a growing number of American institutions as well as individual citizens to cut corners to get ahead.

The growing income gap has divided Americans and weakened our social fabric—undermining the notion that we’re all in this together and no person is above the law. The lavish and ostentatiously displayed lifestyles of the super rich, relentlessly displayed everyday on TV and in movies and magazines, has transformed perceptions of what it means to live the good life. Instead of aspiring to a standard of living relative to one’s peer group, the proverbial Joneses, a growing number of Americans now aspire to emulate the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Everyone wants not just a better life, but one filled with jet-setter luxuries. In an earlier time when there was less wealth at the top, Americans aspired to get a “fair share;” now they seem to want it all, whatever it takes. America is now engulfed in a greed-driven, money culture that has reshaped the moral climate of corporate America as well as the personal ethics of American citizens.