Walter Russell Mead is a serious scholar who writes serious essays. I’ve enjoyed his scribblings over the years and was delighted to find his reviews for two new books in a recent issue of Foreign Affairs: Peace, They Say by Jay Nordlinger and The Global Right Wing and the Clash of World Politics by Clifford Bob. Nordlinger’s book takes a hard look at winners of the Nobel Peace Prize and concludes these honorees have done little to affect world peace. Bob’s book debunks the assumption that, over time, the direction of civil societies is to the left. He argues the Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim Brotherhood are examples of forces that continually pull societies to the right.
Mead’s conclusion is that “…intractable problems, such as war, poverty and injustice, are just that: intractable.” The best way to avoid a sense of failure, he advises, is to “abandon grandiose global goals and focus instead on smaller but achievable ones.” (“Peace Out” by Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs, November/December, 2012, pg. 149)
Frankly, his advice fills me with relief! Tracking global warming leaves me in despair as the solutions are too big to contemplate. On a smaller scale, I am willing to clear the drain of leaves along my curb and pester my local government for a recycling program. I will even contribute cash to plant street trees. On the matter of world peace, I am resolved not to complain to my neighbor for letting his dog poop on my lawn and will ignore the motorcyclist across the street who guns his engine on Sunday mornings.
But here’s the rub. Sometimes, I’m at war with myself. Why else would I be sitting with a slice of pecan pie in front of me when I’m trying to lose five pounds? If I could win the inner conflict between “what I want” and “what’s good for me,” the Nobel Peace Prize should be mine by rights.
Giving up pecan pie seems like a small task, but if it’s the first step toward world peace then, like Glum in the Adventures of Gulliver, I must confess: “Mr. Mead ‘we are doomed.’”
(Courtesy of nickiwoo.com)