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Quotes: On the rise of militarism and the need for compromise

Sara Paretsky:

"When Congress passed the USA Patriot Act in the weeks following 9/11, the name of the act itself seemed to me to be Orwellian, the kind of title Stalin or Hitler or Franco might have chosen, one that tried to force people to choose sides. “You are either with us or against us,” Mr. Bush famously told the world, but he was delivering the same message at home. “You’re a patriot or a terrorist,” the Patriot Act screams in its very title. Indeed, in the run-up to the now-famous elections of 2006, when the Republicans lost control of Congress, Mr. Bush toured the country, proclaiming that a vote for Democrats meant, “The terrorists win and America loses.”

The Economist:

"The attempts of his [Obama's] secretary of homeland security to replace the word "terrorism" with "man-caused disasters" attracted much ridicule."

Arjun Appadurai:

"...the war unleashed on 9/11 was above all a war between two kinds of systems, both global in scope. The first may be described as vertebrate, the second as cellular. Modern nation-states recognize their common belonging to the vertebrate world and, like the last dinosaurs, see that they are in a desperate struggle for survival as a global formation."
Arjun Appadurai. Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006. p. 21.

Susan Bordo:

"I once heard a speaker at an elite university sharply criticize the hierarchical, "binary" thinking of the (then) Republican administration, its good guys/bad guys, we-are-the-saviors-of-the-Western-world mentality. Without missing a beat, the speaker went on to congratulate the assembled audience for "of course" being "beyond such hierarchical, dualistic thinking." Pardon me, but I think the notion that there are those who are unimpeachably "beyond" and those that are hopelessly stuck in the muck is just a bit "binary." (Note, too, the presumption that one can tell the good guys from the bad guys on the basis of neighborhood.)"

Appadurai again (p. 3):

"No modern nation, however benign its political system and however eloquent its public voices may be about the virtues of tolerance, multiculturalism, and inclusion, is free of the idea that its national sovereignty is built on some sort of ethnic genius.

Andrew J. Bacevich in 2008:

”In consonance with this "military ascendancy," these American hawks are inclined to see the United States as already beset by acutely dangerous threats, with even greater perils lurking just around the corner. With a low tolerance for uncertainty, they are highly attuned to the putative risks of waiting on events, while discounting the hazards posed by precipitate action. This perspective found classic expression in September 2002, when Condoleeza Rice rejected a lack of detailed intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program as a reason to postpone a planned invasion of that country since "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." For his part, Vice President Cheney was even more explicit. Even a remotely suspected threat could provide a sufficient rationale for action. "If there's a one percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon," Cheney once remarked, "we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response."”

Bacevich again, in 2011:

In his 1956 book, The Power Elite, C. Wright Mills, a professor of sociology at Columbia, dubbed this perspective "military metaphysics," which he characterized as "the cast of mind that defines international reality as basically military." Those embracing this mind-set no longer considered genuine, lasting peace to be plausible. Rather, peace was at best a transitory condition, "a prelude to war or an interlude between wars."

Amos Oz:

"I think peace is possible because there is fatigue and exhaustion on both sides. I am a great believer in fatigue and exhaustion. Most human conflicts — not only international conflicts but even individual conflicts — don't solve through a magic formula. They die down through fatigue and exhaustion. And finally I see syndromes of blessed fatigue and exhaustion both on the Israeli side and on the Palestinian side. Not on the side of the fanatics; they never tire. But the majority is tired and ready for a sad compromise. And compromises are sad by definition. There is no such thing as a happy compromise."

Or, as a proverb has it: “The perfect compromise is the one nobody likes.”


Sara Paretsky. Writing in an Age of Silence. Verso, 2007. p. xvii.

"Two cheers and a jeer." The Economist. April 11-17, 2009. p. 26.

Arjun Appadurai. Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006. p. 21, 3.

Susan Bordo. Twilight Zones: The Hidden Life of Cultural Images from Plato to O.J. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1997. pp. 18-19.

Andrew J. Bacevich. The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008. p. 83.

"The Tyranny of Defense, Inc." Andrew J. Bacevich. The Atlantic. Jan/Feb 2011. p. 76.

Amos Oz, interviewed by Tom Ashbrook on the On Point radio program, Oct. 31, 2011.


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