Yes, Virginia

O.K. Let’s see where we are.

Russia has faded a bit from our front pages. Two reasons: first, the conflict around the Crimea and in Kiev seems almost indecipherable to us. Second: this is clearly something within the borders of another country, over which we have neither control nor in fact immediate interest. Oh, and third, clearly whatever Mr. Putin wants he’s going to get. There is no international outcry, either for reasons of economics or distance. Short of being an international bully and outlaw, there’s nothing the United States can do.

Moving down a bit on the world map we have astonishingly vivid and brutal slaughter being carried out against the Iraqi Shiites by ISIS. Unverified tapes and cellphone footage is horrific. Insofar as ISIS is also working along the borders of Syria, Turkey, and Lebanon, this is not intramural. On the other hand, it is clearly religious. People are fighting in Iraq now for their gods, or at least the spectre of such. There is no international outcry, either for reasons of distance or economics. Internationally, the hope seems to be that both Shiites and Sunni will kill themselves off, leaving a barren, emptied landscape suitable for neither democracy nor peace in any form. Short of being an international bully and outlaw, there is nothing the US can do.

Moving latitudinally, we still have Syria’s Assad killing his political and religious opponents. Initially this was within that country’s borders. The international community hesitated, and was lost. Short of being international bullies and outlaws, there is nothing it can do, having decided that Libyan children were worth more than Syrian children. Mr. Assad has been at this for more than three years. The world has watched and sucked its thumb.

Moving down the coast, we come upon Israel maintaining its innocence again in what is not publicized as an occupation against an enemy. In Gaza, Hamas denies hiding behind its civilian populations. Israel, however, maintains that it is giving Palestinians fair warning about bombings and drone attacks. It is dropping leaflets suggesting the Gaza population stay at home (a) or (b) leave, and appearing very proud that it is doing so – not noting that these warnings come minutes ahead of an attack. Nor noting that there is nowhere civilian Palestinians can go. The Palestinians are trapped but as before, or once again, they declare they will rebuild. Israel has left them nothing to reconstruct. This conflict, too, lies within the borders of an independent state. Here, however, the US has tried to make both sides face each other at a conference table. The US influence has, we believe, been exercised to the degree that there have been, lasting for a minute or a few hours, cease-fires. Beyond this, there are no economic reasons for being involved, and the damage is being suffered thousands of miles from our shoes.

Crossing the Nile and moving southwest, we come upon Boko Harum and half a dozen other outlaw fanatic sects raiding and killing blacks – or Arabs, take your choice – indiscriminately. Often these raids and killings take place under the guise of religious cleansing. This is happening in more than one country, and its victims include Christians, non-governmental do-gooders, Doctors without Borders. This is terrorism for its own sake. No throne is coveted, no parliament, no oil yet. Short of being an international bully and outlaw itself, there is nothing the US can do.

Finally, moving to the coast of West Africa, we have the Ebola outbreak, the very mention of which has paralyzed international powers, including ourselves. Assisting medically is nearly impossible due to lack of trust and information about the people who might be best able to help. People are frightened of white-coated heroes, not to mention the white people who wear them. Since the disease is impossible to cure (to date, at any rate), the international community hopes will run its course swiftly and die a miserable death on its own. Futility is the name of the game, not economics or even oil, which exists abundantly in Nigeria, which has only so far been scratched by the disease.

Here are two questions. What can any American do about any of this? And secondly, what would Congress have him do?

The world of today seems impossible to parse. Motives are hidden and smoke-filled. Trust is non-existent. We have reached in some quarters violence for its own sake. Reason has gone underground. We are experiencing mayhem coming at the end of a recession world-wide. Nations are timid, hoarding what assets they have. There is no desert big enough for all the ostriches who are desperate to put their heads beneath the sand.

Yes, Virginia, you too can grow up to be President.

In the words of Edward R. Morrow, “Good night and good luck.”

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