RE: Some interesting academic political essays

From: Lawrence DeBivort (
Date: Sun 10 Nov 2002 - 03:46:23 GMT

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    An "axe to grind" is a good way to characterize many of the articles you see in the foreign affairs journals. They are written to influence policy, and present well-honed arguments, while often pretending to be dispassionate. But they are invaluable as resources on who is thinking what, and the memetics of the Washington debate. There are a lot of smart people involved in this on-going debate, with many different PoVs.

    I do envy you your knowledge of Asia. I know a bit about the Middle East and feel saddened about how few people really know the area and its peoples. I wish I knew more about Asia, but know that I'll never know enough to begin to have a deep understanding. I do appreciate the reports and analyses you have presented here in this forum.

    There is nothing more relevant, I think, than memetics to our discussions about various political issues. How indeed can such divergent sets of opinions exist among people of good will?

    I have been working in the area of cognitive profiling since the early 80's, and have developed a pretty good set of tools for modeling a person's cognition. With the memetic research vectoring in from the other end, I am hoping to be able to discern some answers to the question you pose. Sept 11, the reasons behind it, and the 'war on terrorism' provide great raw material for this research. If only we had something less dangerous to contend with: it is always tempting to get sucked in to the content of the issues, rather than stay focused on their memetics and linguistics.

    Cheers, Lawry

    -----Original Message----- From: []On Behalf Of Grant Callaghan Sent: Saturday, November 09, 2002 10:25 PM To: Subject: RE: Some interesting academic political essays

    >Pollack was on the Clinton National Security Council, for the Middle East.
    >He has turned into quite a hawk on Iraq - one of the more thoughtful ones.
    >He is not greatly knowledgeable about the Middle East except for its most
    >recent US-related history, where he is very good. His book is probably the
    >best case for Bush's Iraq posture, but weak on the political impacts of
    >a move. His thinking focuses on the WMD and preemptive action themes.
    >"Saddam's Bombmaker" has been out for quite a while. It is a mixed bag of
    >fact, spin, and fiction, and if one can discern which is what, the book is
    >very interesting. It was one of the first exposes of Saddam that caught
    >public eye, and had a big impact on the US hawks.
    >FYI, the Policy Review, which comes out of Stanford's Hoover Institute, is
    >generally and unabashedly right-wing, as is the Institute. The Policy
    >Review was started as a counter to Foreign Affairs. I'm not sure what the
    >left-wing counter to Foreign Affairs is. They all try to publish articles
    >written by Washington insiders and supportive academics.
    >The Hoover Institute has one of the great collections of Middle Eastern
    >primary materials.

    Thanks again. I don't usually read the Foreign Affiairs type magazines because I find them boring and often have articles by people with an axe to grind but don't have the knowledge to back it up. I make this judgement based on articles I've read about China in these magazines where the writer usually knew less about what was going on in the country than I did. All they knew was what the government positions were on the subjects they talked about but usually didn't understand what was going on outside of Beijing and Washington. I always suspect coverage of the rest of the world is pretty much the same.

    Of course, I've had a front row seat from which to watch what was going on in the Far East since 1950 when I was dumped into the Korean War as an 18-year-old Marine and spent most of the rest of my military career in that area. Later, I went back as a teacher and worked for a number of computer companies writing their manuals. Needless to say, this kept my attention focused on the people and places where history was being made over there.

    I don't divide the world up into good guys and bad guys. I just see the world we live in as the result of the choices we made. Most of the people who made the choices couldn't have made any choice but the one they made because of the memes that run their lives. It reminds me of a software program that allows the computer to make if-then choices but it can't make any choices that aren't built into the program. Genes, in my opinion, act as a CPU for humans and memes act as the operating system and the working programs. The main difference between people and computers is that we keep evolving our software as we interact with the world and each other. That's why Saddam can only be Saddam and Bush can only be Bush. They both have to work within the parameters of the programs that they operate under. The same goes for the rest of us for the same reasons.

    I don't know why I'm going into this social analysis and exposition of my personal philosophy. Who cares other than me? I guess it's just one thing leading to another.



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