Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

George Soros said the following at Davos, and he's correct.

After asserting that the United States is recognizing the error it made in Iraq, Soros said, "To what extent it recognizes the mistake will determine its future."

He went on to say that Turkey and Japan are still hurt by a reluctance to admit to dark parts of their history, and contrasted that reluctance to Germany's rejection of its Nazi-era past.

"America needs to follow the policies it has introduced in Germany," Soros said. "We have to go through a certain de-Nazification process."

Until we admit our errors, we will continue on a downward spiral towards oblivion.  I was driving into Boston when the lite-brite ridiculousness went on, the marketing ploy that Mayor Menino used to scare the city.  A mayor and police department shutting down a city based on fear, incompetence, and arrogance is a serious abridgment of freedom.  That he has paid no price for his smearing of two men suggests just how tightly this country is wrapped in a blanket of nationalism and fear.

The smears against Soros are coming from a specific AIPAC-dominated corner of DC, from those who promote fear-mongering and murder.  I was struck by this revealing fact about Marty Peretz, who never hesitates to imply that other Jews are antisemitic in a third-rate McCarthyist retread performance.  Here's Steve Clemons:

Martin Peretz, to my knowledge, has engaged in little to no self-scrutiny about the role that his own influential commentary had on the buildup to the Iraq War. He, to my knowledge, has not exposed his close personal relationship with Ahmed Chalabi -- whom I met at The New Republic at a meeting organized by Peretz for editors of the magazine. I emphasize to my knowledge.

Peretz helped sell Chalabi -- and helped sell the Iraqi National Congress -- to official Washington. Chalabi, whose intelligence chief later defected to Iran, and Chalabi who himself allegedly passed on information he was getting from his American contacts to Iranian sources.

Peretz and those who worked at The New Republic have blood on their hands.  Soros is making the simple point that accountability to the past is essential to prevent future error, and using the denazification process as an example of how to do this correctly.  

We need to grapple with the tremendous arrogance and errors of our ruling class, and as the American public, we need to grapple with our own willingness to tolerate it.  Of the candidates I saw over the past few days, only Bill Richardson pointed out that Iraq is the symptom, but the disease is arrogance.  As citizens, we need to figure out how to move beyond notions of electability, strategy, positioning, and partisanship, and move to the larger issues that Soros discusses.  What is our America?  How do we deal with a fundamentally illegitimate Republican Party in a two party system?  How do we correct a money-driven lack of democratic process and an increasingly militarized state?  How do we correct the irresponsible actions of our corporate ruling class, and impose accountability on this increasingly global and unaccountable elite?  How do we deal with politicians who will not admit error?

These are not easy questions, and for us, it's much more fun to slip into a rank partisanship and sniping about 2008.  But we ought to forget about the candidates we're boosting once in awhile, and remember that we are citizens whose actions have moral consequence.  Each of us can make choices about our America, and it's our actions that suggest where our values lie.  If you can't admit error, if you can't handle the words that Soros is holding as a moral mirror to our guilty faces, then you need to look within yourself, and work to bring yourself to a position where you can eventually come to recognize wisdom.

Tags: Bill Richardson, George Soros (all tags)



Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

The frustrating thing, one of them, is that people like Peretz, Paul Wolfowitz, etc., who were wrong from the beginning on Iraq, are still taken seriously while people who were right a little bit before everyone else, are somehow fringe characters.  The same thing was true in the Vietnam era.  Somebody like George McGovern, an early opponent of the war, was labeled a wide-eyed nut while the late Scoop Jackson, for example, is now considered a foreign policy visionary.  There is no greater sin in the clubby world of the powers that be than being right before one's peers.  It's better to be wrong, and for long, that being right early.

by howardpark 2007-02-04 07:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

Actually, Howardpark, you can be as wrong as you wanna be in that clubby world, or pretty much anywhere else, so long as you wear a three-piece suit.

It's what I have to keep explaining to the folks who like to join in marches wearing tie-dyes whilst holding up giant puppets:  They make themselves look silly and fringey, even though they're right.

by Phoenix Woman 2007-02-04 07:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

I gotcha, but I'm talking about policy types, writers, Senators, etc., not the folks at demonstrations.  I've never seen Russ Feingold, Howard Dean or Wes Clark in a tie dye or waving a puppet but somehow they are considered sort of fringe while people who supported the war are "realists" or "mainstram."

by howardpark 2007-02-04 07:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

Michel (sp?) Focault talks about society labeling people as deviant. He was talking about in other ways, but this applies to ideas too. In it's way, this is similar to the in group, out group mentality that one might expect to find more strongly represented in high school clics, but which are in fact a natural part of human psychology. We tend to search for identifier marks (he's a hippy liberal with long hair even if someone doesn't perfectly fit the stereotype that's the effect) to make our ability to understand the world easier given the amount of information that even before the information we had to take in, and that is now made worse in the information age.  What's happening here is that people are looking for easier ways to understand the world so that addressing error such as the kind that Stoller talks about is harder to do. Stoller is really talking about changing the group pscyhology of the US, but think about how hard it is to change the behavior of an individual much less address the underlying forces driving the behavior. This world view of how Americans see America is so ingrained I don't see how you can change it. Even we, and I'm actually a moderate, amongst the progressives tend to have a hard to seeing outside of ourselves as Americans. To understand that we have limitations- which is Soros point from reading his prior works- and to understand what those limitations are. This would require Americans a change in how we view America- which is boundless. How do you keep that sense of optimism without teetering over into hubris or ignorance etc.

by bruh21 2007-02-04 08:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

PS, another Democrat I know points out how the GOP plays into that psychology of the American Dream on the economic issues, or used to. Every American wants to imagine that he or she will one day become Bill Gates as he explained it. So when Democrats say "no you won't" that's not something people want to hear or imagine.

by bruh21 2007-02-04 08:22AM | 0 recs

To me, militarism is where it starts. The hoary expression "if all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail" has a lot of truth to our responses to situations now. So much of our political economy is built up around the military machine that it drives the reactions to so much. The arrogance Richardson is talking about is the arrogance of an overweening military power. Iraq at least has demonstrated, in a brutal and mind-numbingly tragic way, the limits of military power.

As progressives, we need to move forward from the tragedy of Iraq with a determination to expose the lessons of Iraq. One of the most important things the Congress could do is hold extensive and public hearings on the corruption and war profiteering that has built up around the Iraq War. It can expose the MO of an entire apparatus that is inimical to the ideals of a progressive democracy. And then, when the fabric of that apparatus starts to fray during those hearings, start pulling on the loose threads. There's just far too much corruption in that process, and much of it supports the political infrastructure of hawkishness and war.

At the same time, we need to build an infrastructure around other responses to crises, at home and abroad. The most recent appropriation request for Iraq alone would probably fund twice-over a full governmental effort to move us toward a sustainable energy economy.

This is the true political fight of our times, the one that will define our future. As Soros says, will we learn the lessons of Iraq that show us the extent to which a corrupted machine has taken control of our discourse and political processes?

by BriVT 2007-02-04 07:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Militarism

How's this for a start, publicly put the option of a unilateral preemptive attack on a sovereign state in the absence of a casus belli and a formal declaration of war by Congress into the shredder as General Clark has suggested.

Or a declared and unequivocal nuclear weapons policy of no first strike?

Or a committment to respecting the Geneva Convention, habeus corpus and/or international law in regard to detainees imprisoned on American soil?

I don't see how any of these things would weaken our position, or narrow our reasonable options, in world affairs one iota and in fact it would go a long way to restoring the values which we, as a nation, so long and well maintained.

...surveys suggest that there is still strong support around the world for the values enshrined in US society.  But it looks as though America itself is seen to be living up to those values less and less.

BBC World Service - BBC international opinion poll analysis

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-04 03:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

This is the thread that must be pulled to unravel the entire cloak of deception that has led the United States to where it is today.

How did the United States become the client of a deranged minority in a tiny country thousands of miles from its shores?

How did this happen?

by Ethelred 2007-02-04 07:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors
Oh yeah it's _their_ fault. _They_ did it. This thread talks about accepting responsibility. The causes of the war are indiginous, self-made and carry that weight.

How did this great land ignore President Eisenhower's direct warning of the coming military-industrial crisis, how ignore the warning's of Kennedy, of Chomsky, the Chicago Eight or McGovern.

How did most of the media become a propoganda tool. Why are the schools so ^%#&$#&#.

America's Exxon just tried to bribe all the world scientists involved in the UN global warning study. None of this is somebody else's problem, no one else caused these events. Stop blaming, it's our fault.
by inexile 2007-02-04 01:44PM | 0 recs

As citizens, we need to figure out how to move beyond notions of electability, strategy, positioning, and partisanship, and move to the larger issues that Soros discusses.
No candidate can save us.  At best, they are tools we can use to save ourselves.  But first, we have to be clear about what needs to be done. I think the analogy with de-Nazification is quite apt.

Except, I'm not so sure it's an analogy.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-02-04 07:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Amen!

Killing millions in concentration camps and allowing three quarters of a million civilians in Iraqi to die are both crimes.  Though we've still got aways to go, morally speaking, if you don't factor in genocides due to our work heating the atmosphere, etc.

by Matt Stoller 2007-02-04 08:27AM | 0 recs
In The Cyberpunk Novel 'A Song Called Youth'

There's a very powerful, very well coifed neo-nazi movement.  A couple of young enthusiasts from the boonies show up, proudly dressed in Naiz uniforms.

The leader of the movement, inwardly horrified, greets them warmly, invites them to his compount, has them killed and disappeared.

You see, the Nazi's were never really interested in mass murder for its own sake.  They would have been quite satisfied with world dominantion and mass sterilization on the side.  So don't mistake changes in the secondary strategies and tactics for a deviation in the core philosophy and motivation.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-02-04 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: In The Cyberpunk Novel 'A Song Called Youth'

You make a very interesting point.  As I recall one of the initial proposals considered before the Wannsee Conference in 1942 was to ship European and Russian Jews to Madagascar instead of killing them.  Logistical difficulties forced it's abandonment.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-04 03:39PM | 0 recs

Mass murder was simply a matter of efficiency for them.  It was never the essence of what they were about.  But if mass murder was what it took, they were quite, quite willing to follow orders, without ever asking questions---Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil."

Interestingly, I heard an interview with Chalmers Johnson today on KPFK, where the banality of evil came up for considerable discussion,  Johnson stressed that it was the unthinkingness Arendt was focusing on, the thoughtless obedience.  He touched on Abu Ghraib, and Sergeant Joseph Darby, who blew the whistle, as a contrasting example of someone who hadn't stopped thinking, hadn't stopped questioning.

Then I went to see Pan's Labyrinth, which turned out to have a lot more fascist violence and a lot less fantasy than I was expecting.  Still, it had a very telling ending that revolved around that very same issue.  It's all about questioning... or not.  That is the essence. Everything else follows from that.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-02-04 06:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Precisely

Yes, the BBC did an excellent documentary on Auschwitz which managed to convey that banality, and vacuous social cupidity, which permeated the attitudes of the technicians, administrators and camp guards, as this unthinkable killing factory slowly grew, unremarked, around them.

Each of us has to make that choice daily in a myriad of contexts, what to accept and what to resist of our beliefs and the ones we are invited, or persuaded to share.  It is a high wire act with no net though, as ever.  What was that sign over the door in Hesse's Steppenwolf?  For madmen only.

Thanks for not giving away the ending of the movie.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-04 07:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors
Just keep telling the truth.  Telling it as brilliantly and incisively as Stoller does here helps a lot.
 We must continue to acccumulate a body of truth to counter the MSM propagandists out there who  work so hard to control public opinion. It is axiomatic that we have to tell the truth before we can change anything.
  The liars still have the airwaves and they don't seem to have budged an inch since the election --the election which showed that the voters were not taking them seriously any more.   (I'm from the voters rights contingent and one of those who thinks that the landslide would have been greater still without the various forms of cheating that are still out there.)
  However, I really thought that the MSM would come around more after the election, because of a concern for their ratings, if for no other reason -- but they seem to be doing the opposite, digging in and keeping tight rein (reign).
One of the advantages to being one of the older folks is that I remember clearly how the television news used to do something else entirely, they used to raise the level of information, really bring in experts, and now it's mostly some kind of horrible sham, dumbing down everything.  And the choices they make are so clear-- I see very little in-depth coverage of the Libby trial -- no sensationalizing on what's coming out about the role of the VP, no legal opinions on every channel.  They are downplaying it completely.  So we have our work cut out for us.  As far as I'm concerned no one is doing it better than you guys.  Stoller's work just gets better and better.
We need more focus on the wildly irresponsible and murderous AIPAC contingent who are abusing every humanistic and democratic value we were raised on, with their willingness to promote war and to pollute the truth for their version changing the balance of power.  If it is based on lies and anti-democratic values it will never work.  If we disrespect the democratic elections in other states, and disrespect the elections in the U.S. then ... what? Of course, to deny that is happening is the biggest lie.
by syolles 2007-02-04 09:21AM | 0 recs
It's not a football game

I really appreciated the last couple of parapgraphs of Matt's blog.  I would add that before we can change the country we need to change our party.  Before we can change our party we need to change the progressive blogs.  The primaries are more than just a football game.  It's the future for our grandchildren.

by haypops 2007-02-04 10:15AM | 0 recs
Re: It's not a football game

Well, let's roll up our sleeves then, and get started on the progressive blogs.  We could use your help, it's been like a neoconservative echo chamber around here lately.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-04 09:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

Funny, Soros separating out Germany from Japan and Turkey.  If I had to play the Sesame Street quiz of,  "Which one is not like the others?" I would have picked Turkey as different as the other two are committing demographic suicide/genocide.

I mean there's something way out of kilter when a country has a negative growth rate like Germany and Japan do.  Dinosaurs/rich people like Soros might feel more comfortable in those failing first world countries but the future of the world lies in the Turkeys.  

Ultimately accepting  the wisdom of our errors is not a black and white idea, at least from the distance that most of us have.  Probably someone like, oh, the Buddha could do it or Lao Tzu or Jesus, but certainly not your average political operative like most of us are.

by Working Class in Oregon 2007-02-04 12:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

I think he was probably referring to the alleged genocide of Armenians in Turkey in 1915-17.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-04 03:43PM | 0 recs
Ya Think?

Working Class in Oregon should get The BrionLutz Superbowl Sunday prize for the most off-the-wall miscontruction by someone other than BrionLutz himself.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-02-04 06:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Ya Think?

Shhh.  Brion would be hurt if he heard that.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-04 08:00PM | 0 recs
A genuine problem, but...

I think there's an immense problem in accommodating a reasoned discussion about US foreign policy goals and the means employed to reach them in the existing political environment - and in any political environment plausibly existing in foreseeable future.

Try to imagine a plausible 08 prez candidate taking the line that the US needs to tailor its defense commitments to the resources (particularly human resources) available.

Or calling for the absurd War on Drugs to be ended.

Or demanding a rebalancing of Middle East policy by depriving Israel of its status as the tail wagging the dog.

Or even politely suggesting that these possiblilities be discussed.

I'm trying hard, but - how possibly could those questions be legimated?

Yet - so far as I can tell, no plausible 08 candidate has said that nuclear attacks on Iran ought not to be on the table.

Of course, this is not the only policy area where the US political system is logjammed: other worthwhile missions impossible would include introducing single payer healthcare and dismantling the military-industrial complex. Both complete fantasies, as of now.

And, in common with those areas, the problem with the foreign policy jam is to conceive of how one might move from here to the desired end-state.

No sane consultant in the world would suggest to any pol with prospects of advancement - even an outside bet - that he ought to be the first to jump in: the risk-reward ratio just isn't there.

How do we do it?

by skeptic06 2007-02-04 12:22PM | 0 recs
A Future Option

Article V of the U. S. Constitution grants to state legislatures the right to call a constitutional convention.  Two-thirds of the state legislatures are needed.  Keep this in mind as a future option to force the federal government to recognize its errors as well as accomplish things such as denying "personhood" to corporations.  Article V is one more reason why strong political leadership is needed is all 50 state capitols.  Let's start looking for candidates for state races who will start this ball rolling if necessary.

by Airpower 2007-02-04 01:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

Thanks, Matt.  I was just starting to despair of our morality reading the posts regarding the option of a preempive nuclear strike on Iran.  Sheesh!

Let's stop perpetrating first.  Then have a good look at the ethical and moral values that have led us to believe that the United States is destined to be great among nations and lead the world by example, something we have perhaps come to take too much for granted, and see if we need to rededicate ourselves to these values once more.

Then we will be believed, and gratefully forgiven, when we say we are sorry.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-04 04:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

"Peretz and those who worked at The New Republic have blood on their hands."


Everybody at the New Republic?
That seems a bit broad.
I understand Peretz, but having read TNR, not everybody there agrees with him.

by v2aggie2 2007-02-04 09:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

Hungarian immigrant George Soros has stretched the limits of our capitalist system to achieve wealth beyond the comprehension of most of the world's population. But does living the "American Dream" and having a net worth in the billions give Mr. Soros license to batter us with continuous, eccentric commentary? Perhaps he is voicing a deep, unshakable frustration that no amount of money will elect George Soros, cunning financier and champion of The Open Society, to the highest office in this country.

Mr. Vachon, in support of the Soros comments at Davos, is, as always, a spin master. But his damage control comeback is old news; Americans know that mistakes have been made in Iraq policy and change is an immediate priority. Wasn't that message sent loud and clear during the last election when American voters spoke with an effectiveness that eludes Mr. Soros? And in response, seasoned politicians such as Senator John Warner are doing their job; addressing the issues, keeping the American public informed, and working for change. We do not need sensationalist Soros tirades to be informed citizens. President Bush may well be short sighted, isolated and arrogant, but I doubt he is a card carrying Neo-Nazi and I find Mr. Soros's supercilious outbursts an insult to American intelligence.

The political machine is not flawless, but isn't that why we vote and why our government has system of checks and balances? Make your contributions Mr. Soros; fund your grass roots organizations; support the politicians you feel will best serve this country, let them speak for you. And Mr. Soros, please do keep in mind our system of democracy is based on one man one vote, not 26 million dollars, 26 million votes.


by b2xh 2007-02-05 04:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

I don't think he is running.  And what is the problem in proposing, after all the mistakes we made and about 200k-440k civilian fatalities that we didn't intend, that we tell someone we're sorry?

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-05 06:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Accepting the Wisdom of Our Errors

Senator John Warner is not working for change.  He is working for damage control to try to save the Republican Party.  Otherwise, he would not oppose the Democratic resolutions to halt the implementation of the "surge" in Iraq and be trying to substitute his own, watered-down resolution.

I respect Warner and he is more tolerable than the President, but he is by no means on our side, on this or any other issue.

The message of change that was "sent loud and clear during the last election when American voters spoke with an effectiveness that eludes Mr. Soros" is being completely ignored by the President.  Senator Warner is enabling that behavior.

by liberalrob 2007-02-05 08:06AM | 0 recs
Truth & Reconciliation Time

IMO the best example of a country learning from its errors is South Africa.  True, that did not involve foreign policy, but it still offers some relevant lessons:

1) Let the aggrieved say their piece, and be heard by the perpetrators.

2) Let the perpetrators earn back their place in society IF they will face what they have done and make appropriate amends.

This means the U.S. government & its corporate puppeteers have to stop running amok worldwide like sociopaths on meth.  Possible?  

by chiefscribe 2007-02-05 09:02AM | 0 recs


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