far as criticism of the government during time of war, a valuable lesson
from Vietnam is the fate of representatives who protested early on against
U.S. involvement in Vietnam, said Sicilia. History has shown they were
correct, but at the time they were accused of being unpatriotic.
Sicilia made several points about the role of government in war time.
He succinctly summarized how war "expands federal government," "narrows
political discourse" and "reorders national priorities." He named a
few priorities of President George W. Bush that might be affected in
the aftermath of the September 11. The terrorism might reinforce Bush's
plan for developing a reduced welfare state, the Star Wars II plan,
a tax reduction proposal, and a domestic energy supply-- in order to
not be as dependent on the Middle East for oil. Sicilia gave a cautionary
reminder that tax reduction has proven to be a risky scheme, as evidenced
by high inflation rates during the Vietnam War.
Thus, the lecture drove home a few main points about the nature of the
conflict and how media and government have reacted-- or might react.
The solidification of tensions between countries that are anti-terrorist
and those that refuse to actively fight against terrorists (in this
case, Afghanistan), is comparable to a Cold War perspective on international
relations. Sicilia had more to say on this during the interview on Friday.
At the beginning of the informal interview (more of a discussion than
a question and answer session), Profesor Sicilia and I discussed the
speech President Bush gave before Congress on Thursday, September 20.
Sicilia mentioned that the speech's content offered even more parallels
between the Cold War and the post-September 11 political climate. The
non-negotiable position of the U.S. government-either a state is with
the U.S. in it anti-terror campaign, or it is with the terrorists-is
similar to the U.S. position on communism.
In addition, Dr. Sicilia commented on the rhetoric being used and how
this might inflame the tension. He said, "without downplaying the tragedy,
attention needs to be paid to inflammatory remarks," such as the use
of the words "crusade" or claims that God is on our side. However, he
said that many people have reacted very well to the attacks. He mentioned
that the public has responded particularly well: concerns about racism
are being heard, people are volunteering in record amounts, people are
coming together, and workers are going back to work. The public discussion
has been decent as well; there has not been just a "go get 'em" attitude,
something that has changed since Vietnam War.
Discussing the change in foreign policy since the attacks of September
11, Sicilia said the U.S. started from a bad position. Until the attack,
the Bush government was pursuing a more isolationist position in global
affairs. Now, the administration is putting a "straight jacket" of pressure
on allies around the world to rally to the U.S. task of ridding the
world of terrorism. Furthermore, the U.S. has declared this an international
war on terrorism, but there has been no international consensus on the
definition of terrorism or what international cooperation would entail.