Within the environmental movement is a concept called “charismatic megafauna.”
These are the attractive, sometimes cuddly creatures that no one objects to saving. They are useful to environmentalists because interest in, say, the giant panda or the snow leopard requires habitat preservation, which necessarily spares a myriad of other species.
The charisma of one beautiful beast protects all the lesser critters. The same is true in politics, which is why we’re cramming to shoot at Iraq.
Saddam Hussein and his minions pose no threat to the United States and have no meaningful connection to terrorism. But President Bush and his minions are using the Iraq issue to cause the American electorate to cling to its charismatic mega-politician and, in the process, save the Congress for the president’s party.
If you think this is cynical, write a note to yourself, read it in early December and ask yourself if Iraq is still a major issue. It won’t be.
Or it may be for the wrong reasons, which is what makes this game of political chicken so dangerous. We’re crying wolf but with real bullets.
And should those bullets start to fly, we’re all in it deep for years to come. Don’t believe that? The CIA does. And they’re the ones advising the president, the “C” student who now thinks his gut is a better guide than the refined research he simultaneously claims to abide. This one has Orwell puzzled.
It’s one thing to wag the dog, but in this case we’re wagging a very big, rabid dog that no one controls. If we pour gas on the fire of anti-Americanism, there’s no telling what harm might come.
Ironically, Bush seems to be doing this to cling to power, but if they succeed in tactic and fail in strategy, they will have clung to the power of governing an ungovernable mess. Or maybe not, if this is all the bluff I think it is. And that’s where the cynicism gets very thick.
Here’s the logic, if the war ploy works to the president’s advantage, we don’t go to war because we never intended to, but he claims another false mandate for his damaging economic mismanagement.
If it fails, well, who knows? He’s already got blank check, war-making authority from Congress. We would hope cooler heads would prevail but it’s hard to say. When you get this close to the edge and real, live personnel take bullets, anything is possible. And once we commit to war, the lid is really off. Sept. 11, 2001 could look like the opening shot on Sumter, a comparatively small spark that led to grave destruction.
So we have a dilemma. Or do we? After all, the lie of an Iraqi threat is all too naked. We should be able to cure ourselves of bad politics with the sunshine of truth.
If that truth becomes commonly known, the November election can double as a message against both the administration and the war. A loud message. The truth is out there, trumpeted by the many pundits and thought leaders, though frightfully few politicians, for they fear the political morrow.
We need someone of stature to pound the podium and speak truth to power regardless of the political consequences. We need a statesman.
Where is the charismatic megafauna of peace?
Paul Swider is a USF firstname.lastname@example.org