I am eager to make up a round-up of sorts and get to Christmas errands and Christmas related blog posts. But this is not exactly a typical rounding up of facts from current events in the world and my life. This is about the acts of the USA in these days and what they might mean. Winter following late autumn or fall is always the season after our federal elections and before the new Congresses and White House administrations take office. It is often very appropriate to the tone of the institutions. However, the current situation in Washington D. C. does not seem frozen, inactive and bleak to me this is perhaps a different face of winter.
America is facing a crisis and the US Congress seems to realize that this is the case and seems to be seeking to act responsibly. The trillion dollar agreement the Congress has achieved and which now goes to the vote is one sign of the real work, real effort and real politics going on there. In addition, the Healthcare.gov website at the heart of Obamacare seems to be working much better this year. Washington has hosted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and real meetings have been going on all over the town to prepare for the new Congress. Overall, this is a bit more like the Winter Olympics than it is like a blizzard caught up in smog of a big city’s early winter in many years gone by. The ducks that are the Congress and the White House do not seem so blind. In addition, the new report on torture during the Bush Administration shows that these two institutions can still inflict some political pain and are willing to do so. This seems like a serious group of important institutions about their business. But is that the whole story? If not the whole story then how much of the story is it?
In addition to the facts I mentioned above there are other factors to consider. Among these facts are the fact that the Democrats suffered the most severe partisan battering in their history of 225 years in Congress with only two possible exceptions. Both of those exceptions occurred long before the age of radio and television — much less this evolving period of social networking. Further, America has been able to lend very little real support to the Democracy movement in Hong Kong in recent weeks which have been crucial weeks for that group. By “support” I mean also the kind of mature advice and critical diplomatic triangulation that an old democracy and China’s largest single trading partner might be expected to provide. Despite the role the United Kingdom must play in such matters and despite the varied views of Americans toward all things Chinese this is an area of substantial interest to the United States. It is also true that things have not gone all that badly so far and many Americans have been engaged under varied guises and in many capacities. Nonetheless, America is once again more flat-footed and out of sync in the world of foreign affairs in part because of the degree of flux and transition and in part because of the policies which drove people to vote for change and transition.
In addition to these events in China there is the rise of ISIS, the failed rescue raid and the less failed on an Al Qaeda camp including the death of Luke Somers and the South African humanitarian. There is the death sentence of a Christian woman in Pakistan for blasphemy and all the horrors associated with that situation. The world is spinning on and Russo-Ukrainian situation, the Syrian crises, the Egyptian crises, the brewing political turmoil in Britain and much more so in other parts of Europe are not suggestive of a time in which there is room for a lot of error and indecision. In addition we have school shootings that are certainly a real disaster and crisis despite our disagreements about how they ought to be addressed. Then we have the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever whose story combines school shootings and religious extremism in Pakistan. Our President is a Nobel Prize winner and Hillary Clinton is one of the world’s most prominent feminists but our support for Malala’s cause in these days has been more muddied and muted than not. That is because of failed policies and the electoral judgment on those polices. One can imagine a neo-con WHite House being more engaged.
So, on longer look the Lame Ducks are not so lame as they could be but they are showing signs of lameness nonetheless. America’s challenges never sleep. The transitions we make have to be made in realistic terms and in awareness of all that is going on. Stagnation is deadly but believing that change is without cost can lead to disasters as well.