That's the sound that my TV remote makes when I smack it against my forehead in frustration and utter disbelief.
I missed the BBC news last night but did catch McNeil/Leher or whatever they call it now on PBS, and then surfed the cable networks most of the evening. I'm not sure who said it or where but I was shocked to hear that the US doesn't have an ambassador in Syria. When I was a Fulbright Fellow, the State department folks where quick to tell us that the Syrian Embassy was the 17th most important embassy in the world for the US. With a US-led war going on right next door, I can only imagine that its importance has risen. But we have no voice there, no one to be the face of the administration and talk directly to the Syrian government and give feedback to the administration about how things are on the ground. The Bush administration, ever eager to look tough, as opposed to being tough, pulled the ambassador as part of the "get tough on Syria" drumbeats way back when it looked like remaking the Middle East might just be a neo-con cakewalk. Now, when real diplomacy and behind the scenes maneuvering might just save lives and end the current conflict who does the world's remaining superpower have to talk to in the government that they see pulling levers . . . No one.
Earlier in the day, Juan Cole, had brought my attention to the "off-the-mike" conversation between Bush and Blair at the G8 conference. Like Cole and Billmon, I was horrified by the simplistic, black-and-white attitude of President Bush to a situation that reflects 60 years of history and conflict. I'm paraphrasing (now the audio and video has been seen around the world), Bush say to Blair: "The irony is that Kofi needs to call [Bashar Assad, President of Syria] and tell him to have Hezbollah cut this shit out!"
The horror of the statement is how it ignores the history of this conflict as well as the general history of guerilla movements, militias, and paramilitary movements. It would be like 50 years ago, calling the racist governor of Alabama to stop the KKK from operating there. Sure, there's a connection and influence between Syria and Hezbollah but its a far cry from direct command-and-control authority. But, that's not what led to the thonk. No, that came when watching Nightline or Brian Williams, some standard American news fare. What angle were they taking on this frank exchange that had been beamed around the world? A sophisticated analysis of real politik, an examination of the links (real and imagined between Syria and Hezbollah), an assessment of the failed peace process that has led us to this moment? No, in the American media, it would be spun as (cue music and deep authoritative voice) "and when we come back, the President speaking off-the-mike and with casual bluntness, did his language go too far?" His language? His language?! The least of our concerns should be the use of the word shit for pity's sake!! The media really is making us stupid!