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Catch 22: The 'No Win' Nature of Real Change

Patrons of the public transit system in any major American metropolis are privy to a wide range of conversational topics, with or without eavesdropping. Recently, an interesting exchange was overheard while hurtling through time in space in the congested quarters of a Northeast subway car. A man, well shy of middle age but presumably more than a few years removed from his fraternity days, drew close to his fetching companion and addressed the end of the George W. Bush era. "Thank God he's leaving office," the man began irreverently, "I think we've all had enough of American imperialism."

Interesting. For decades, a cacophony of voices both domestic and international chided the United States for aiding or otherwise supporting Third World strongmen. He might be a son-of-a-bitch, but he's our son-of-a-bitch went the "real politick" adage and philosophy they so earnestly despised. Such a Machiavellian attitude had to change in the opinion of the critics because, from Batista in Cuba to the Shah in Iran and everywhere in between, America's support of illiberal regimes has impoverished and/or murdered thousands worldwide while fostering a pervasive and justifiable hatred of the United States. In this vein, America's cordial relationship with the authoritarian regime in Riyadh has even been bandied about in some quarters as a legitimate grievance that manifested itself in the 9/11 attacks.

That the successors to our SOBs, ostensibly motivated as they were to emancipate their people from tyranny (Castro, for example), have installed regimes every bit as illiberal and repressive as their predecessors has evidently been lost on these critics. Similarly, American opposition to the excesses of our so-called SOBs-- like placing an arms embargo on Batista and ultimately denying him exile in the United States, not to mention CIA's misguided support for Castro's movement against Batista-- fall on deaf ears. But no matter, because America really shouldn't be in the business, if it can be conceivably avoided, of colluding with men who espouse values antithetical to our own. Out with tacit or material support fort Third World dictators? Will do. No more of the "real politick" world view? Check.

And then we come to Iraq. Adjourning further discussion on the rationale behind the invasion for another day, one salient feature of the Iraq War remains unassailable: America toppled Saddam Hussein and sought thereafter to plant the seeds of a future democracy, not to install another barbarous dictator and American puppet. If ever there was a break from the much lamented status quo, this was it. America replaced a ruthless tyrant and worked to instill the mechanisms of a fledgling democratic state. WMD notwithstanding, critics of America's "our son-of-a-bitch" foreign policy begrudgingly acknowledge this laudable endeavor and welcome its full admittance and maturation in Iraqi culture, right? Hardly. Most quietly demur, criticizing America for imposing its values on sovereign nation. Others haughtily accuse of America of imperialism.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Within the faux-enlightened/dissident group think that pervades too much of Western thought, America is apparently permanently consigned to this geo-strategic "catch-22."

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