Politics & Policy

Hearts Aflutter

Will Blix Blink?

Hans Blix reports back to the UN Security Council today. Much of they hype is wrong. He does not arrive with war or peace in his grasp – the United States will do what it needs to do whatever Blix says. But he may yet sway the fate of the Atlantic Alliance. A strong Blix report may give France and Germany a face-saving way to retreat from their dangerously anti-American isolation. Schroeder and Chirac could concede to the UN what they could never concede to the U.S. alone. On the other hand, a weak Blix report would offer the French and Germans no way out. The quarrel between them and the U.S. would drag on and on, poisoning relations for many years. It’s a heavy responsibility for one Swedish civil servant to bear.

Monkeys in a Cage

My diary yesterday about the obsession of former National Security Advisers Brzezinski and Scowcroft with restarting another round of Israeli concessions to the Palestinian Authority prompted reader Daniel Foty to send in this very apropos story:

“Supposedly, some research group somewhere put eight monkeys in some sort of enclosed area. There was an escape route available, which a monkey could access by going up a staircase or ladder or something to get to an escape window; however, if a monkey got up to the window, he got an electric shock or something which kept him in and caused him to retreat. Eventually, all the monkeys got the message, and also apparently reached a point where if one of their number started to climb up toward the exit the others would grab him and pull him back to keep him from getting shocked – none of the monkeys even got the chance to get shocked any longer.

“Then, the researchers replaced one of the original eight monkeys with a new monkey. The newcomer at some point would try to head up toward the escape hatch, and the original guys would grab him and pull him back down. He eventually learned to do the same with any of the others who started up the ladder.

“Over time, the researchers one-by-one replaced the original monkeys with a new monkey. Things continued as above, with the newcomer being deterred from climbing the ladder by the others until he learned to do the same thing himself. Eventually, all of the original monkeys, who had actually experienced the shocks, had been replaced by newcomers, who had never experienced the shocks. But they all still would pull back anyone who tried to climb toward the escape hatch, even though by now none of them really knew why.”

I don’t mean to make a disrespectful between monkeys and former National Security Advisers – but still: why don’t we just try one final time to climb that ladder up and out of the claustrophobic prison called the Mideast peace process?

St. Valentine’s Day

I’ve never liked the Valentine’s Day holiday. Our culture celebrates romantic love morning, noon, and night 364 days a year – and then sets aside one special day every February to really rub the lovelesses’ noses in it. Not so nice. So: if you are lucky enough to have a sweetheart, of course you must kiss her (or him) today. But if you want to do a good deed, give a thought to the many lonely people around you: the divorced, the widowed, the unlucky – and maybe, if you have a spare dollar or two, you might want to send a small anonymous bouquet to one of them. Oh – and send it to the office, where everybody can see.


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