Reagan’s Warmongering By Gregg Robinson Nacogdoches THE YEAR BEFORE an election is always a period of political instability and con flict. In the best of times the rhetoric heats up, the flashbulbs pop, and we get a quickening of the political pulse without, one would hope, too many risks being taken. But these are not the best of times, nor is Ronald Reagan the best of men. There is a political exercise that right-wing politicians of Reagan’s sort are attracted to in times such as these. It is known as “Thatcher’s maneuver.” It involves an unpopular leader who has inflicted unemployment, recession, and poverty on her/his constituents returning to office as heroine/hero on the basis of a little well-planned imperialism. Though Margaret Thatcher, in the spring of 1982, looked to be the most unpopular Briton since Typhoid Mary, she was swept back into office a few short months later, after managing to kill a few hundred of Her Majesty’s troops, and rekindling the old glory/gory days of empire. There is nothing complicated about this maneuver. The lives of one’s countrymen are traded for a small national victory and a large amount of personal popularity. Of course, the maneuver must be carefully conducted: the opponent must be small and easily subjugated \(fair fights are to be avoided at all and the whole business must come no more than a year before Election Day \(ours is a TV generation with one’s opponents are of a different race \(nothing like a little guilt-free racism to get the national temper win, and win big. No minor concessions or acts of apology are acceptable. Land must be taken, nuclear Gregg Robinson teaches sociology at Stephen F.Austin State University. reactors leveled, or governments overthrown. In the words of Vince Lombardi: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” Television coverage is also crucial, but it must be of the right sort. There can be no shots of your soldiers with their brains blown out in some rice paddy, or of your Marines raping or napalming your opponents \(not suitable for the kind of family audience that should be is mandatory, and can be justified country \(admittedly somewhat of the news media themselves. This last one has the added advantage of making oneself appear to be a champion of the press. There are, however, two problems with the Thatcher maneuver. First, it is addictive: once used, it becomes all that much easier to use again; its effects last for only a short time and must be constantly repeated; and each episode must be grander than the previous one. Second, the maneuver is best carried out by former colonial powers or isolated garrison states with few international responsibilities. The maneuver, you see, has a tendency to make future diplomacy much more difficult, to lock one into military action, and to isolate one from allies. After the invasion of Grenada the U.S. will have no lack of opportunity to learn of these consequences. Take Central America, for example. The U.S. is tied, as is well known, to a number of right-wing dictators in this area. What little control the Reagan Administration has had over these butchers is now gone. Since the opponents of these regimes have already been labeled as part of the “Marxist/Communist/ Cuban Conspiracy,” it will become virtually impossible for the U.S. to initiate peace negotiations or to deescalate hostilities. Are we to sit down with members of thd “Evil Empire”? Are we to push Central American generals to negotiate with forces against which we have just shed American blood in Grenada? Can we allow our martyred boys to become victims of appeasement? Of course not. The events and rhetoric of the last few weeks have built a set of public expectations both here and in Central America that equates dialogue and discussion with treason. We have in fact strengthened the hand of the D’Aubuisson’s in Central America and left ourselves with only military options in that part of the world. The American experiment with the Thatcher maneuver in Grenada is a frightening way to begin an election year. Given the potential sources of military conflict around the world \(Lebanon, Iran, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Philipmonths. We have isolated ourselves from any but our most reactionary allies \(both in Latin America and Soviet Union into a corner and through our rhetoric and adventurism made negotiations or compromise nearly impossible. We have managed to define every Third World insurrection as part of some international Communist menace. We have backed ourselves into a foreign policy corner in which military intervention has become the only “patriotic” option. Nineteen eighty-four may be as bad as Orwell imagined. Reagan’s Praying By Robert 0. Lively Dallas ALOT of mail crosses my desk. If it is the impersonal kind, which most of it is, I allow it to pile high until gravity works its magic by pulling it to its deserved destiny on the dusty floor of my wastebasket. This system of intentional neglect is designed to assuage my sense of guilt in that gravity, rather than my own hand, disposes of those letters which are addressed to me by some far-off computer. An envelope I received one morning last spring did give me some pause to scratch what little hair remains upon my scalp because it fell between the obvious categories. It didn’t appear personal Robert D. Lively is Associate Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Dallas. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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