March 29, 2004

The vitally important words of George W. Bush

There may be plenty of reasons to vote for George W. Bush in November, but his commitment to fighting AIDS in Africa (2003 State of the Union speech) and his desire to put a human being on Mars (2004 State of the Union speech) aren't among them. Rather, it is his ability to brazenly pretend to do these things that makes Bush an effective leader in these troubled times.

An article in the New York Times today suggests that the Bush Administration is, predictably, not following up on its pledge to spend $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa:

While Mr. Bush promised in his 2003 State of the Union address to spend $15 billion over five years on AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, his budget requests have fallen far short of that goal. For the most recent donation to the Global Fund, he requested only $200 million, although Congress authorized $550 million.

The President's future budget requests are unlikely to do anything but shrink, given the continuing need to clean up after our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the need to solve Medicare's fiscal crises, and so on. There doesn't seem to be any room for funding a manned mission to Mars anytime soon.

But this news isn't new. It's not surprising, and it isn't even particularly troubling. Anyone with any rudimentary understanding of how our elected leaders speak recognizes that Bush's last two State of the Union pledges weren't descriptions of substantive policy. They were, instead, rhetorical nods to our vital need for make-believe.

We need to believe that our nation's abilities have no limits. We need to pretend that the United States can maintain and strengthen its position as the pre-eminent global military power, capable of acting unilaterally across the globe to reshape societies, nations, and cultures to our liking. We also need to pretend that our pursuit of these ends don't constrain our ability to eliminate AIDS in Africa, or to advance the frontiers of human space exploration. After all, if we abandoned either one of these fantasies, we might actually have to admit to ourselves that our pursuit of one goal limits our pursuit of the others. We would have to acknowledge the costs of our desires, and we would have to choose from among them.

Of course, we must actually choose some goals over others. But we'd rather not face that fact, since it would make us uncomfortable. Since the goal of global military hegemony is the goal we will actually pursue, it's important to pretend that America is also committed to fighting AIDS in Africa, and to putting a human on Mars. Hence, the words of George W. Bush in his last two State of the Union speeches aren't "empty and meaningless," as some on the Left believe. Rather, they are vitally important national fantasy stories, which allow us to send our military forces into conflict across the globe without feeling bad about it.

If we decide to throw George W. Bush out of office, we might run the risk of disrupting our carefully-constructed imaginary image of America as a nation without limits. We might have to engage in an unpleasant discussion about real policy and its consequences--and this would probably make us uncomfortable.

So, for the sake of the willful blindness and self-deception so crucial to America's pursuit of global hegemony, let's re-elect a master of make-believe, George W. Bush.

As a second choice, please vote for write-in candidates David Blaine or David Copperfield.

Posted by Carey at March 29, 2004 11:50 AM
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