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Are we playing checkers or chess?

Jack Balshaw 2/19/2003


The thoughts for this piece got started by the facetious comment that the latest increase of the terror alert is part of the President's plan to boost the economy. The heart of the plan is that if we buy enough duct tape and plastic to seal our homes against chemical attack, the economy will benefit. This got me to thinking more seriously about the world situation.

Years ago, on the city council, we had a member who believed there was always more to the issues before us than met the eye. I would kid him that we were just playing checkers when he wanted to play chess. In retrospect, I now can see that the policy shapers (not policy makers) were probably setting up precedents for future actions when we thought we were just dealing with the issue before us. I think this is what is now happening with both the terrorism and Iraq (two separate issues) problems. Caution, it takes a bit of paranoia and conspiracy belief to follow this.

Our interest in and awareness of potential terrorist acts that could affect America seems to be orchestrated by periodic release of government "intelligence" that "something" is about to happen. This causes a spike in cable and network coverage, which focuses our attention on possible terrorism. But, what does it focus our attention away from and why?

First of all, if we focus on one topic too long, alternate views begin to be presented. This causes people to think and that's dangerous to those who are trying to change the domestic agenda. But if those who are likely to be paying attention to such things are continually being diverted by changing "breaking news" topics, their alternate views never gain any traction.

Being aware of how presidents since Reagan have worked to control the "news cycle", we have to accept there is some degree of deliberate government information release for purposes other than just giving the public information. It's my growing belief that there is a deliberate - sinister - factor in how, why and when new topics are introduced into the news stream.

The news media, because it is so easy and inexpensive to report these things (news release journalism), fill the airwaves with the latest government worry of the day. The advertising industry has learned how long our attention span is and now government is using that knowledge for manipulating the public.

Iraq is a different story. On the subtopic of allied cooperation, we're focusing on the apparent historic opposition France has to U.S. interests. Joined by Germany and possibly Russia, this opposition seems to be poised to cause us difficulties in dealing with Iraq. But is that what their interest is?

Think about the European Union countries, which exceed the U.S. in population, and their positioning themselves for future economic activities. If we go into Iraq almost alone and have to police the aftereffects almost alone, will we be in a weaker position to use our economic base to compete in Europe? Would a combined France, Germany and Russia prefer to have us tied up in a nation building mess in Iraq?

If they find reasons to stay out of the Iraq problem, they don't have to divert resources to manage it afterwards. Is there some deliberate planning here? If actions against Iraq cause Muslim anger towards the countries involved, will their not being involved benefit them?

This is just scratching the surface of other possible hidden agendas in the domestic and international arenas, but, perhaps it would be beneficial if we did pay some attention to possible deeper and long lasting impacts that terrorism (domestic fears) and Iraq (international positioning) could cause.

Are nations playing chess while the public sees it as a checkers game?


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