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Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Baller convention, free admission:
The savvier among our Very Serious People talk about skillful manipulation of various and sundry fissures in Regime X, between Nations Y and Z or (these days) among Tribes A through F. And on the surface, the importance of the effort in question often gives reason to believe that exploiting such divisions is a sensible course of action. This is high-stakes geopolitics, after all, with direct consequences for economic prosperity and national security. "What, we're going to do nothing?" asks the Very Serious Person, and soon enough her interlocutor has the same question in the back of his mind, stifling his nascent objections.
Rarely factored into the calculation is the idea that the U.S.'s chosen vehicles for such-and-such strategy of division -- our proxies -- are playing us. That they know us better than we know them. And that they're more than adept at exploiting our desire to see Something Happen to advance their divergent agenda. Barnett Rubin, in what's already a contender for blog post of the year, doesn't quite use this prism to explain the circumstances leading up to the murder of Benazir Bhutto, but it's embedded within his insight:
Sometimes we really don't have any choice except to intervene in unfamiliar disputes, from internecine politics of Country X to tribal wars in Failed State Y. What we can't afford to do is fool ourselves into thinking that we're not walking into a hustle, or that we know more about a hustler's corner than he does, or that the hustler is motivated by the goodness of his heart or the wisdom of our arguments.