Perspective from Afar | Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver | Millennium: Winners and Losers In The Coming World Order by Attali

I am basically quoting passages in Barbara Kingsolver’s article, “Small Wonder” and including the link of a review of Jaques Attali’s book which she mentions, “Millennium: Winners And Losers In The Coming World Order

Barbar Kingsolver, Small Wonder_1

Barbar Kingsolver Small Wonder


At a time when the modern imagination seems fully engaged in discussion of swords of every length and breadth, there’s little room for other kinds of talk. But I’m emboldened by Medea to speak up on behalf of psychological strategy. It’s not a simpleminded suggestion; her elixir of contentment is exactly as symbolic as Jason’s all-conquering sword, and the latter has by no means translated well into reality. The strategic difference is the capacity to understand this one thing: Some forms of enemy are made more deadly by killing. It would require the deepest possible shift of our hearts to live in this world of fundamental animosity and devote ourselves not to the escalating exertion to kill, but rather, to lulling animosity to sleep. Modern humanity may not be up to the challenge. Modern humanity may not have a choice…. The easiest thing is to think of returning the blows. But there are other things we must think about as well, other dangers we face. A careless way of sauntering across the earth and breaking open its treasures, a terrible dependency on sucking out the world’s best juices for ourselves — these may also be our enemies.

The easiest thing is to think of returning the blows. But there are other things we must think about as well, other dangers we face. A careless way of sauntering across the earth and breaking open its treasures, a terrible dependency on sucking out the world’s best juices for ourselves — these may also be our enemies.

The laws governing international trade render it more difficult each year to inject moral considerations into the marketplace, frustrating the many nations and individuals who still wish to balance economic motives with compassionate ones. Indeed, international trade laws increasingly restrict access to the very information that makes any such concession possible — witness, for example, the endless battle for accurate labeling waged by U.S. consumers who prefer their food organically grown and not genetically modified. The profiteering drive of commerce owns no malice or mercy, is incapable of regret, and takes no prisoners; it is simply an engine with no objective but to feed itself. And it is a Goliath: A decade ago, the combined sales of the world’s ten largest corporations exceeded the gross national product of the world’s hundred smallest countries put together, and the gap is growing.
Inevitably, hungry souls and angry hands rise up against that amoral giant, and ever-higher walls of armaments are required to keep them at bay. These walls create among us a huge class that the French author Jacques Attali has named the “millennial losers,” for whom the fantasy of prosperity promoted by the media is both a continuous allure and an endless slapdown. The siren’s song calls them toward Paris and New York, glittering Emerald Cities walled off by inaccessibility. In his 1991 book, “Millennium: Winners And Losers In The Coming World Order”

Millennium: Winners And Losers In The Coming World Order

Millennium: Winners And Losers In The Coming World Order


Jaques Attali observed with a chilling prescience

that particularly among those in the Middle East who’d suffered repeated humiliations by the West, the fiercely absent presence of worldly affluence tended to inspire fervent cults of frustration and outrage.

We who are alive in this moment didn’t build these walls, nor did we ignite the fury that has smoldered for eons and hurls itself at us now as a burning question. But we have inherited the urgent necessity of answering it. And possibly we will succeed.”

George Monbiot continues to articulate the problem of the environment in terms of constraints created by the global political elite – in the pockets of the corporate oil oligarchy and such, with his recent post “The Problem With Freedom“. “Propaganda works by sanctifying a single value, such as faith, or patriotism. Anyone who questions it puts themselves outside the circle of respectable opinion. The sacred value is used to obscure the intentions of those who champion it… When thinktanks and the billionaire press call for freedom, they are careful not to specify whose freedoms they mean…one person’s freedom is another’s captivity.”

Funny, attended a group circle of mostly ex pastors in a parish in Santa Fe of mostly the over-80 crowd. All agreed without question in human induced climate change, which they mentioned was the new word after ‘global warming’ became politically incorrect. One of them offered this information, that ideology is the major blocking point. As soon as ideologies become the subject, peoples’ comprehension or ability to even see or discuss an issue, goes out the window.

Each of the above are worth reading.

What can we do? Here are 10 things you can do to impact the environment in a positive way, according to Defenders of Wildlife.

Defenders of Wildlife, Help

Defenders of Wildlife 10 Things yYou Can Do to Help


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Carol Keiter aka nomadbeatz welcomes donations for her writing, photography, illustrations, eBook & music composition

Carol Keiter, blogger, selfie, hitch, skiing, aos

Carol Keiter the blogger with a selfie prior to getting the ride on return hitch from skiing in Taos

What Will You Do? | Citizen Muscle BootCamp | “Man” by Steve Cutts

Regarding this post I recently did on my other blog https://digesthis.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/solution-to-what-will-you-do-citizen-muscle-boot-camp-be-a-climate-changemaker/

I’ve been engaged in the process guided by Annie Leonard who created the StoryofStuff.

ponder whether you choose to be a guardian or a destroyer

ponder whether you choose to be a guardian or a destroyer

This is my take so far, on a personal level, of why I’m involved:

I really believe that every animal and species has a right to be here sharing the planet with us, and that we (human beings) are sort of the stewards (guardians rather than destroyers); since we are the top predator and ultimately have done the most damage to the planet. I’ve seen images captured by scientists about the amount of plastic that has collected in several tremendously huge garbage patches in each ocean. I believe that even what we do here, in our own backyards, affect this. If we are aware of how we use materials like plastics and chemicals that drain in water run-off, going into streams and ultimately into the oceans, perhaps we would tread a bit more lightly and be more thoughtful in how we direct our actions. I notice for example that Pennsylvania has a dramatic amount of sunny days, and that we could create a community that embraces using this renewable energy. We are all responsible for how we tread on the earth and it is not our right to consider it merely as a commodity to make a profit from or use, abuse and discard.

I’m sure that you would want your children to be able to live in an environment with clean water & air, where there is a possibility to play outside and swim in streams, lakes and the ocean. And for your kids to know what their parents have done to respect and love all of the different species that make this earth so wonderful.

I’ve seen that in parts of China, people literally have to wear gas masks and the children can not play outside, but in fabricated airtight blowup gymnasiums. “In China, Breathing Becomes a Childhood Risk“. Do you recycle paper and plastics? Do you think about how your daily actions can add up and affect not only your local environment but also places far away, that are ultimately choking and destroying animals’ habitats that are far away?

Think about this quote by Albert Einstein: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I’m sure that if all of us would take the time to stop and recognize how incredible this life is and see everything as a miracle, that time and one’s actions become less of a commodity, and more recognized as something vital and precious. Being consciously aware of how our actions contribute en masse, to everything, and stepping back to breathe in just how magnificent this planet and all of its creatures are, will propel us to think and act differently.

And because I feel that this animation “Man” by Steve Cutts says it quite humorously and eloquently, here it is again.

Man, animation, Steve Cutts

“Man” animation by Steve Cutts displaying the history of human beings’ cruelty towards life forms in 3 minutes.

A letter to my sister | preciousness of life | Carl Sagan: freedom through scientific skepticism

I am certainly happy to hear from you. Naturally I think about you every time that I enter the room to look at the lovely paper lanterns you hung for Mother’s birthday party and the teepee you constructed in the yard – which I‘m still raking! Memories of things people share and artifacts that they leave behind imbue all of these things with the spirit of the person. I am sorry that we had difficulties communicating at times. I have not been ‘above’ reacting emotionally to someone’s emotional reactions towards me. However, that doesn’t mean that I can not attempt to move beyond my reactions to reach out with more compassion and understanding. 

I went out with a family friend last night and afterwards, realized that he knows even more profoundly how precious life is, as he has lost both of his parents. Certainly, if we all had an acute awareness of death (sitting on our shoulders) – Carlos Castaneda style i.e. “the Teachings of Don Juan” – in each response to every moment, we would never be anything but kind to all people and creatures, at all times.

That sounds like a pretty heavy way to live. The context is not, to be continually fearful, but rather, continually present with the fact that every moment of life is precious. People need to accept the rights of other’s to be and perceive as they will. It is a rather large task, to put differences and competitiveness, jealousy, envy and judgments … aside. Yet it’s the only way for everyone to get along. (I just read in Salon dot com a rather scathing article about the writer Carlos Castaneda, saying that Don Juan was not only an astounding hoax, but that Castaneda went on to form a bizarre cult.) He nevertheless had strong poetic and spiritual points to emphasize in his writings.

It’s pretty much a life-long task, given the fact that all humans have a tendency to subjectively interpret and judge other peoples’ actions. I do it, we all do it, from personal complaints, grievances, expectations, disappointments on up to community and cultural, political and religious differences of interpretation, that result in the worst cases to prolonged wars and strife between ethnic groups and neighboring countries.

This appears to be one of the biggest challenges and aspirations for humankind; to look beyond differences and strive for understanding, compassion and kindness. The ‘tree-hugger/environmental activist side of me’ is kicking out judgements every time I see people’s actions or material opulence (not to mention hearing about plans for more gas drilling in the arctic etc.) which I perceive as offensive. I put them into a box I label offender/perpetrator; a personal judgement which is my own way of playing in the ‘us against them’ scenario. So, I’m as guilty as anyone. The obvious extreme is the fact that people are blowing each other up in the Middle East …. and that wars and conflicts and ominous actions of manipulation continue to proliferate worldwide, despite the fact that most humans have access to rather extraordinary tools.

We are technologically light years ahead of where we are emotionally!

As Carl Sagan mentions in this interview “A Way of Thinking” in which he delivers insights into the dangers in our present culture; based on the fact that we’re a science and technology-based culture, the inner workings of which few comprehend. That puts us in a position in which we are in danger of being more easily manipulated.

Sagan points out that science is a way of skeptically interrogating the universe. And that it’s dramatically important for each of us to ask skeptical questions about everything, particularly to those in authority; otherwise we are up for grabs to the next charlatan, political or religious, that comes along. He mentions that Thomas Jefferson said that people need to be educated in order to practice their skepticism, otherwise ‘we don’t run the government, the government runs us’.

Worth Taking Your Time to Breath In All of This Message | Mother Earth

Earth Upworthy, Home

Our Earth, Our Home

I happened to look at this eloquent short video by Bitthu Sahgal brought to us through Upworthy. It brought tears to my eyes. Densely populated with images and edited so articulately that the message is profound. It is a testimony to our home, the earth, which humans share with all of its creatures. Our earth, our mother, is hurting, from what we humans have been doing. Human beings have the unique capacity to grasp this information, understand its implications and do something about it, before it is too late.

Upworthy Video If you Live on Earth

If You Live On Earth, You Must Watch This

Earth_home_upworthy

Earth_home_wetlands_upworthy

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” – Desmond Tutu.

In other words, one who witnesses something that is wrong and does nothing, is an accomplice.

I want

Human Want and Greed

sliced up earth looks like circuit board

Slicing up the natural world until it looks like a circuit board

Habitat_loss_Upworthy

We Share Our Planet, Kumi Naidoo GreenPeace

We Share Our Planet, Help Us Remind Those Who Forget

Issac Cordal Politicians Discussing Global Warmingl

Politicians Discussing Global Warming

This sculpture by Issac Cordal in Berlin is called “Politicians discussing global warming.”

Below are several links to blogs I’ve written previously, regarding recognizing how precious our earth is, having compassion for the creatures that share this earth and leaning in to taking responsibility towards doing what we can to change our habits. We need to bring her back into balance, and make this our top priority.

https://carolkeiter.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/the-truth-earthlings-love-letter-to-the-earth-thich-nhat-hanh-kumi-naidoo-greenpeace-saving-the-earth-from-ourselves-only-after-cree-indians/

Banksy street art Global Warming

Global Warming

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/dothemath-350-org-bill-mckibben-global-climate-crisis-washington-d-c/

WHAT WE CAN DO

Carbon_Capture

Carbon Capture How It Happens

Read about and watch these videos to familiarize yourself with the impact of your actions & educate yourself about how your own personal actions can positively affect change!: The Story of Stuff: The Impact of Overconsumption on the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-And How We Can Make It Better

The Story_Of_Stuff _ Annie Leonard

The Story Of Stuff Project Annie Leonard

People's Climate March September 21st NYC

People’s Climate March September 21st NYC

Water Dragon

Water Dragon

If you wish to donate to my cause of sharing information, please do so. If you are aware of any groups or individuals who may wish to listen to my intentions and help me to reach them, please help to guide me and put me together with those who may wish to financially help me reach these goals. My intentions are to continue to write, photograph, illustrate, compose music and basically communicate in order to educate the public about social injustice, raising peoples’ awareness about what they can do to have a lighter environmental footprint, advocating for animals through writing and producing music that gives a voice to creatures whose time is limited due to habitat loss and poaching as well as completing the writing of my interactive eBook which is geared as a multi-lingual educational tool involving a great deal of scientific discovery, for which I will compose music for a soundtrack. It all takes time, and it’s worth it. I’ll be happy to join a group full-time who are involved in projects of this sort as well.

Donate Button

My first intention was to blog this announcement: I must shift from merely writing blogs to gaining income through submitting articles to publications, and subsequently linking these to my blogs. It will be a much more convoluted process; taking the time and effort to research first what publications may want to print the information I write, and then after sending the query, waiting to hear from them. I have little choice, since I have no income whatsoever.

An article I will write promptly, is a social anthropological one. It came from a conversation that I had last evening, in which i was bringing up parallel points that are all cases involving increased community, at the cost of less freedom. The examples tied together are through people I have known who have delivered their first-hand observations of communities in which they lived. Hopefully, you will get to read this if one of the publications or internet magazine sites that I send the query to opt to print it.

Above the blogger below, is one among many of Joel Sartore’s photographs documenting species.

Joel Sartore, animal catalogue

Picture of primate, compliments of Joel Sartore’s photo catalogue of species and me, Carol Keiter the blogger

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/gross_domestic_problem_-why-measurement-of-wealth-depends-on-a-healthy-environment/

TED talk James Hansen | Tax on Fossil Fuel Companies < reduce CO2 to 350 ppm | WWF The 3% Solution

The scientist James Hansen gives an informed TED Talk presentation about ‘Climate Change’, pointing out a way that our government(s) could reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, enough, to avoid the catastrophe that we are headed for. Knowing that it’s essential that we diminish the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in (ppm) part per million, to 350, Hansen has a plan; a tax on fossil fuel companies. And yet, our government(s) (the USA is up there on the guilty list) not only appear to ignore this fact, but are encouraging corporations to do all sorts of activities that will accelerate the rise in temperatures even more.

http://www.ted.com/talks/james_hansen_why_i_must_speak_out_about_climate_change.html

During the former Bush administration, Hansen was informed that he could no longer give talks without first having NASA censor them. At that time, the NASA Mission Statement, which Hansen had used previously to introduce his presentations, was suddenly no longer allowed. “To Understand and Protect the Home Planet”, was now omitted.

Hansen’s idea, is to diminish the level of CO2, by the government putting a tax on fossil fuel companies. This carbon fee on fossil fuel companies, would then be distributed equally to all (legal) residents, 100% of which could be used to stimulate the economy and innovations, to move us rapidly towards a clean energy future, with the government not keeping one dime.

Jim Dipeso Republicans for Environmental Protection, is quoted saying that this idea sounds, sound! In his words, it’s “Transparent. Market-based. Does not enlarge the government. Leaves energy decision to individual choices.. Sounds like a conservative climate plan.”

Yet, instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to discourage the process, our government is forcing the public to subsidize it (400 – 500 B dollars per year, world-wide) and in fact, encouraging the extraction of every fossil fuels through: mountain top removal, longwall mining, fracking, tar sands, tar shale, deep ocean arctic drilling…A path which if continued, will not only ensure more environmental destruction, but also lead the world to the tipping point of ice-sheet disintegration, which will accelerate the warming process. This warming will inevitably commit a large fraction of the world’s species to distinction, besides the massive extremes in weather which are already occurring, resulting in massive famines…

And the longer we wait in taking action to divert this process, the more difficult it will become; until it will be irreversible.

A new report from WWF and CDP speak of “The 3% Solution: Driving Profits Through Carbon Reduction” as an initiative to move companies forward towards profitable and practical ways to reduce emissions to help curb climate change. The CEO’s of WWF and CDP were joined by Steven Swartz, a partner of McKinsey & Company, in a webcast unveiling their groundbreaking analysis. World Wildlife Fund reveal that climate change poses a fundamental threat to the places, people and species that WWF works to protect. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an independent, non-profit organization working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by providing a global system for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share vital environmental information. Working together, the two of them have chartered a means to instigate companies to substantially reduce carbon emissions, while increasing resiliency, ROI and profits, in “The 3% Solution“. The report launch can be viewed in a webcast recording which took place on June 18th, 2013.

Goal for the reduction in parts per million of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere
http://www.350.org/

Incidentally, there have been recent detections by scientists of methane bubbling up from cracks in the permafrost in the continental shelf of the Arctic, which is 30 times more potent in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Read more about this in this Times article.

Bicycles Rule | Healthier and Happier Riding Bikes | CycLAvia | Critical Mass

On a hopeful note, on Sunday, October 7th, 2012 100,000 people took to the streets of Los Angeles. Instead of whizzing by the city in a blur in their automobiles, or for that matter sitting in traffic jams with their annoyance levels rising, they were out in the streets on bicycles, en masse.

People claimed that they were seeing things they never saw before; checking things out for the first time that they never realized were there, just by slowing down and cruising around on bicycles. It was like a big street party, as the writer of this article Ari Bloomekatz describes in the Los Angeles Times. The CicLAvia bicycle festival, during which time bicycles rule downtown LA for a day, was inspired by a weekly
ciclovía festival that has been taking place once a week for the last three decades in Bogotá, Columbia.

Other cities in Latin American and the United States have had similar festivals. The ‘critical mass’ bike riding event was first initiated in San Francisco. The idea is that if enough people join in, the bicycle is no longer a dangerous extraneous potential victim in a ‘car-driven culture’, but that when many bicycles come together, they tip the scale to the critical mass, and ‘become traffic’. The San Francisco critical mass has been taking place the last Friday of every month from downtown San Francisco by the Embarcadero, for decades, since it started in 1992. Something similar to this was going on in Stoclkholm, Sweden in the early 1970‘s. The critical mass bike ride has basically swept across the country and sprung up in metropolitan areas all over the United States, for sure in various European cities as well. New York city has had a long established ‘critical mass’ of its own and plenty of other bicycle related activities, sponsored by a very heavily active organization for the cause Time’s Up. As they say on their home page: “TIME’S UP! is a New York City-based not-for-profit direct-action environmental group that uses events and educational programs to promote a more sustainable, less toxic city.”

I’ve personally ridden in dozen’s of the San Francisco critical mass as well as several when I lived in New York city. The Halloween Critical Mass has always been a great one. Well, Halloween itself and the Day of the Dead/ Dios de los Muertos for sure have been dampened by the recent storm, and my heart goes out to all of those families who have had their lives and homes robbed from them. I’ve heard that in light of the fact that the public transportation has been deluged with water, that there are plenty of people resorting to riding bicycles, which should be prioritized in many metropolitan areas anyway. People would be healthier and happier, if they resorted to riding bikes more often! One of the stunning sensations I had when riding bicycle among thousands of other people during a critical mass bike ride, was to see the streets clogged with people, and yet to predominantly have silence; the hushed sound of only a breeze of people going by – no noise pollution or loud motors whatsoever – fantastic!

Too Potent to Pass | TomDispatch feat. Peter Van Buren: What They Won’t Talk About in the Foreign Policy Debates

I’ve only recently been exposed to Tom DisPatch; self described antidote to the Mainstream Media. It was a referral from the online Utne Reader, an alternative press magazine which I’ve valued as a source of information for years. Peter Van Buren’s style of delivery and content emphatically blows open the doors of perception. I felt compelled to re post his blog, in awe of his insights and frankly, because I believe we all need to be shaken out of our presumptions.

re-post:

Don’t Ask and Don’t Tell
Six Critical Foreign Policy Questions That Won’t Be Raised in the Presidential Debates
By Peter Van Buren

We had a debate club back in high school. Two teams would meet in the auditorium, and Mr. Garrity would tell us the topic, something 1970s-ish like “Resolved: Women Should Get Equal Pay for Equal Work” or “World Communism Will Be Defeated in Vietnam.” Each side would then try, through persuasion and the marshalling of facts, to clinch the argument. There’d be judges and a winner.

Today’s presidential debates are a long way from Mr. Garrity’s club. It seems that the first rule of the debate club now is: no disagreeing on what matters most. In fact, the two candidates rarely interact with each other at all, typically ditching whatever the question might be for some rehashed set of campaign talking points, all with the complicity of the celebrity media moderators preening about democracy in action. Waiting for another quip about Big Bird is about all the content we can expect.

But the joke is on us. Sadly, the two candidates are stand-ins for Washington in general, a “war” capital whose denizens work and argue, sometimes fiercely, from within a remarkably limited range of options. It was D.C. on autopilot last week for domestic issues; the next two presidential debates are to be in part or fully on foreign policy challenges (of which there are so many). When it comes to foreign — that is, military — policy, the gap between Barack and Mitt is slim to the point of nonexistent on many issues, however much they may badger each other on the subject. That old saw about those who fail to understand history repeating its mistakes applies a little too easily here: the last 11 years have added up to one disaster after another abroad, and without a smidgen of new thinking (guaranteed not to put in an appearance at any of the debates to come), we doom ourselves to more of the same.

So in honor of old Mr. Garrity, here are five critical questions that should be explored (even if all of us know that they won’t be) in the foreign policy-inclusive presidential debates scheduled for October 16th, and 22nd — with a sixth bonus question thrown in for good measure.

1. Is there an end game for the global war on terror?

The current president, elected on the promise of change, altered very little when it came to George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror (other than dropping the name). That jewel-in-the-crown of Bush-era offshore imprisonment, Guantanamo, still houses over 160 prisoners held without trial or hope or a plan for what to do with them. While the U.S. pulled its troops out of Iraq — mostly because our Iraqi “allies” flexed their muscles a bit and threw us out — the war in Afghanistan stumbles on. Drone strikes and other forms of conflict continue in the same places Bush tormented: Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan (and it’s clear that northern Mali is heading our way).

A huge national security state has been codified in a host of new or expanded intelligence agencies under the Homeland Security umbrella, and Washington seems able to come up with nothing more than a whack-a-mole strategy for ridding itself of the scourge of terror, an endless succession of killings of “al-Qaeda Number 3” guys. Counterterrorism tsar John Brennan, Obama’s drone-meister, has put it this way: “We’re not going to rest until al-Qaeda the organization is destroyed and is eliminated from areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Africa, and other areas.”

So, candidates, the question is: What’s the end game for all this? Even in the worst days of the Cold War, when it seemed impossible to imagine, there was still a goal: the “end” of the Soviet Union. Are we really consigned to the Global War on Terror, under whatever name or no name at all, as an infinite state of existence? Is it now as American as apple pie?

2. Do today’s foreign policy challenges mean that it’s time to retire the Constitution?

A domestic policy crossover question here. Prior to September 11, 2001, it was generally assumed that our amazing Constitution could be adapted to whatever challenges or problems arose. After all, that founding document expanded to end the slavery it had once supported, weathered trials and misuses as dumb as Prohibition and as grave as Red Scares, Palmer Raids, and McCarthyism. The First Amendment grew to cover comic books, nude art works, and a million electronic forms of expression never imagined in the eighteenth century. Starting on September 12, 2001, however, challenges, threats, and risks abroad have been used to justify abandoning core beliefs enshrined in the Bill of Rights. That bill, we are told, can’t accommodate terror threats to the Homeland. Absent the third rail of the Second Amendment and gun ownership (politicians touch it and die), nearly every other key amendment has since been trodden upon.

The First Amendment was sacrificed to silence whistleblowers and journalists. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments were ignored to spy on Americans at home and kill them with drones abroad. (September 30th was the one-year anniversary of the Obama administration’s first acknowledged murder without due process of an American — and later his teenaged son — abroad. The U.S. has similarly killed two other Americans abroad via drone, albeit “by accident.”) [Here’s a link I’ve added for a quick view of the Amendments to the United States Constitution]

So, candidates, the question is: Have we walked away from the Constitution? If so, shouldn’t we publish some sort of notice or bulletin?

3. What do we want from the Middle East?

Is it all about oil? Israel? Old-fashioned hegemony and containment? What is our goal in fighting an intensifying proxy war with Iran, newly expanded into cyberspace? Are we worried about a nuclear Iran, or just worried about a new nuclear club member in general? Will we continue the nineteenth century game of supporting thug dictators who support our policies in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Libya (until overwhelmed by events on the ground), and opposing the same actions by other thugs who disagree with us like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad? That kind of policy thinking did not work out too well in the long run in Central and South America, and history suggests that we should make up our mind on what America’s goals in the Middle East might actually be. No cheating now — having no policy is a policy of its own.

Candidates, can you define America’s predominant interest in the Middle East and sketch out a series of at least semi-sensical actions in support of it?

4. What is your plan to right-size our military and what about downsizing the global mission?

The decade — and counting — of grinding war in Iraq and Afghanistan has worn the American military down to its lowest point since Vietnam. Though drugs and poor discipline are not tearing out its heart as they did in the 1970s, suicide among soldiers now takes that first chair position. The toll on families of endless deployments is hard to measure but easy to see. The expanding role of the military abroad (reconstruction, peacekeeping, disaster relief, garrisoning a long necklace of bases from Rota, Spain, to Kadena, Okinawa) seems to require a vast standing army. At the same time, the dramatic increase in the development and use of a new praetorian guard, Joint Special Operations Command, coupled with a militarized CIA and its drones, have given the president previously unheard of personal killing power. Indeed, Obama has underscored his unchecked solo role as the “decider” on exactly who gets obliterated by drone assassins.

So, candidates, here’s a two-parter: Given that a huge Occupy Everywhere army is killing more of its own via suicide than any enemy, what will you do to right-size the military and downsize its global mission? Secondly, did this country’s founders really intend for the president to have unchecked personal war-making powers?

5. Since no one outside our borders buys American exceptionalism anymore, what’s next? What is America’s point these days?

The big one. We keep the old myth alive that America is a special, good place, the most “exceptional” of places in fact, but in our foreign policy we’re more like some mean old man, reduced to feeling good about himself by yelling at the kids to get off the lawn (or simply taking potshots at them).

During the Cold War, the American ideal represented freedom to so many people, even if the reality was far more ambiguous. Now, who we are and what we are abroad seems so much grimmer, so much less appealing (as global opinion polls regularly indicate). In light of the Iraq invasion and occupation, and the failure to embrace the Arab Spring, America the Exceptional, has, it seems, run its course.

America the Hegemonic, a tough if unattractive moniker, also seems a goner, given the slo-mo defeat in Afghanistan and the never-ending stalemate that is the Global War on Terror. Resource imperialist? America’s failure to either back away from the Greater Middle East and simply pay the price for oil, or successfully grab the oil, adds up to a “policy” that only encourages ever more instability in the region. The saber rattling that goes with such a strategy (if it can be called that) feels angry, unproductive, and without any doubt unbelievably expensive.

So candidates, here are a few questions: Who exactly are we in the world and who do you want us to be? Are you ready to promote a policy of fighting to be planetary top dog — and we all know where that leads — or can we find a place in the global community? Without resorting to the usual “shining city on a hill” metaphors, can you tell us your vision for America in the world? (Follow up: No really, cut the b.s and answer this one, gentlemen. It’s important!)

6. Bonus Question: To each of the questions above add this: How do you realistically plan to pay for it? For every school and road built in Iraq and Afghanistan on the taxpayer dollar, why didn’t you build two here in the United States? When you insist that we can’t pay for crucial needs at home, explain to us why these can be funded abroad. If your response is we had to spend that money to “defend America,” tell us why building jobs in this country doesn’t do more to defend it than anything done abroad.

Now that might spark a real debate, one that’s long, long overdue.

Peter Van Buren, a 24-year veteran Foreign Service Officer at the State Department, spent a year in Iraq. Now in Washington and a TomDispatch regular, he writes about Iraq, the Middle East, and U.S. diplomacy at his blog, We Meant Well. Following the publication of his book We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (the American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books), the Department of State began termination proceedings, stripping him of his security clearance and diplomatic credentials. Through the efforts of the Government Accountability Project and the ACLU, Van Buren instead retired from the State Department with his full benefits of service.

Copyright 2012 Peter Van Buren