Inability to Dialogue on Iraq (or much else)

Date April 12, 2007

I was forwarded a post about another out of the box idea regarding our current Iraq Quagmire. It involved drafting all the 18-35 year olds in Iraq to occupy them with reconstruction instead of leaving them to their own (destructive) devices. I’m not sure the idea will work, but I like the mindset of searching for a completely different way to respond to the currently unsolvable situation. We can’t leave and we can’t stay, and the idea I proposed as the only way to win in Iraq can’t be considered less out of left field. Unfortunately, we have reached a point where we need to be looking somewhere else for a solution besides where we are now. Are these ideas crazy, or are they creative, seeking not to be constrained by the same type of thinking that got us into the problem in the first place?

More to the point of this post, I believe an enormous part of the problem is that we don’t know how to forge a useful discussion about this very painful, expensive, dispiriting and complex problem called Iraq. The Republicans and Democrats can’t talk about it without accusing and being accused of spin and political opportunism. In Iraq, they can’t talk about it without killing each other. It’s so easy to throw up our arms in disgust with all of this. But they’re not the only ones having difficulty.

When I read all the comments on this idea, both on Marginal Revolution and Economist’s View’s original posting of Kotlikoff’s idea, most of them (if I’m reading sub-text correctly) are sarcastic, critical, derogatory, belittling, etc. I can’t help but think that the rest of us don’t know how to dialogue any better about this issue than the people who are deciding what to do. Nothing terribly constructive is happening over in Iraq, but are we doing any better? Sure we’re not killing each other, but our language is pretty violent/aggressive.

I suppose the above observation can come across as judgmental, but I don’t mean it that way. We’re all angry, frustrated, hurt, righteous, despairing and confused about this situation, regardless of what side of the argument (leave/stay) we’re on. It’s hard to keep our cool, especially when we feel like other people aren’t listening or the stakes/consequences are too high to bear.

In my personal life experience, however, when we talk in this frame of mind, we end up escalating the situation. I feel hurt/criticized, so I get angry in response… which hurts and angers you. And so goes the cycle of violence. I find it very difficult, in situations that are charged for me in my life, not to behave this way. But we no longer have the luxury of indulging these behaviors. The world situation could get A LOT worse, if we leave and if we stay.

How can we build on each other, seek for the nugget of genius in each idea, cultivating and evolving it, combining with other little nuggets, questioning our certainties about the world, engaging instead of belittling each other (here I mean we on these blogs, and we the US with the Middle East)?

Now that would be a marginal revolution.


Shayne Hughes


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