Saturday, July 19, 2008

Obama, the Middle East, and enlightenment

Regarding Obama's tour of Afghanistan, Iraq, and other points of interest in the region, Gail Collins oh-so-cleverly asks:

Why is Obama going at all? Given the constraints under which he has to operate, the chance that he’ll see something enlightening seem to be lower than the chance of being shown something misleading. (See above: McCain/marketplace.) Really, anybody he needs to talk to would be happy to pick up a phone.

Well, there are several ways to look at it, starting with the most literal:

At least as far as Iraq is concerned, seven years after the US invasion, the land-line infrastructure is still in shambles and Kuwaiti-provided cellular service hangs on the ability of hired security to protect the cellular towers scattered throughout the country. So although Collins was simply trying to be cute with her rhetorical question, "picking up a phone" isn't much of an option.

And, of course, in the next few days Obama will visit more foreign countries than Bush had been to in his entire life up to the day he took the oath of office. So even if he never makes it out of his bullet-proof HumVee, it shows an interest in (or at least an awareness of the existence of) the outside world that Junior never really managed to show.

Or, think of it this way: Perhaps Obama just thought the folks in the Middle East might enjoy the novelty of seeing someone who could be the next American president behaving like anything other than an uninformed, arrogant warmonger.

In any case, as long as she's going to keep writing willfully dumb columns like this, it hardly becomes Collins sniff that anything anyone else does has a poor chance of leading to enlightenment.

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