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August 11, 2006



I invite your analysis and interpretation of the latest Economist cover.

Still, I couldn’t help jumping the gun with my own Middle East A, B, C’s.  (Yes, letters courtesy of The BAG.) Primarily, I question the assertion that Uncle Sam is lost at all.  Not if A is Iraq, B is Lebanon and C is Iran (where the folks that hijacked Sam are looking for the big bang).  In this scenario, the labyrinth is merely a artifice making it seem like the ends were reached in spite of the best efforts and intentions.

… By the way, doesn’t Sam look a little dark? 

(illustration: unattributed.  The Economist.  North American edition. August 12, 2006.  Cover.)

  • Bob

    This reminds me of John McCain’s questioning of Rumsfeld and two sycophant generals last week at a Senate hearing — referring to violence popping up again in Fallujah once Americans troop pull out of there to defend Ramadi, then violence in Baghdad requiring troops to be pulled out of Ramadi, McCain said it looks like a game of Whack-A-Mole.
    Look at Uncle Sam’s eye level. He has no idea where danger lies ahead. Then look at the bullet holes. The shots were fired by a sniper high enough to aim at him.

  • Cactus

    Ya’ know, that cover pretty much says it for me. Condi and Gdub having a tiff, the fundies cheering for the apocalypse, every time we turn around something else blows up in our faces. It’s as if there are crazy men leading the world into a maze of destruction.
    If Gdub is ‘uncle sam’ then he seems lost in a maze of foreign diplomacy which he doesn’t understand, thus if he ever finds his way out of the maze, there are explosions and upheavals awaiting him.

  • dead earl

    This is one of their better ones. The ABC guideposts are meaningless, with the exception of “C” which is a fucking explosion. It’s the Amazing Magazine Cover that’s Three Years Too Late. Seriously, where was all this controversy within the media before the war began?

  • stevelaudig

    “By the way, doesn’t Sam look a little dark?” he’s “in the dark” lost in the maze, doesn’t understand the theory of mazes, has no escape plan, hat pulled down, eyes on the ground, not looking up, doomed to plod to the inevitable explosion end.

  • ummabdulla

    The maze is obviously manmade… but by whom? Someone who’s keen on erecting cement barriers around everything for “security”? It seems pretty well-built, so it wasn’t a Halliburton project.
    There are bulletholes to the left and right of the entrance, and straight inside it. Does that mean that Uncle Sam maybe ducked into this mess without really meaning to, just as a way of dodging bullets? He’s not prepared for this; he thought he could keep making war over there but not have to be touched by it himself.
    And the only thing he’s got to go by are the plumes of smoke, which he must be able to see from down there. There must not be even a breeze, since they all go straight up in the air.
    In any case, I don’t think he has any idea what he’s doing, where he’s going, or where he wants to go. He’s just getting deeper into the maze, and he’ll be lucky if he simply avoids getting blown up along the way. He won’t ask for help from anyone who actually knows what’s going on; the people he trusts are all ignorant. Not a very optimistic scene…

  • Keir

    I agree with the Bag’s contention that the maze is an artifice. I don’t know why the Economist would choose to portray American activity in the Middle East this way; it’s either naive or intentionally deceptive (I’d lean towards the latter). Permanent war is one of Umberto Eco’s 14 points of Ur-Fascism—regardless of which invisible man you pray to—which I linked to here yesterday. Everything the Bush Administration does is to consolidate power and control, and whenever it seems “lost” in the Middle East, remember that the Bush family and its friends are making enormous profits on the manufacture and sale of weapons, and the building of bases, prisons, and torture chambers. The longer we’re “lost” in the Middle East, the better, at least for the guys flying their private jets from ranch to office in safety and comfort.

  • jt from BC

    When Saddam Hussein retreated from Kuwait he set only oil wells ablaze, Uncle Sam has torched the Middle East, in brief he has become the worlds number 1 pyromaniac. In his own backyard covert or outright aggression for regimes changes are in the works for Cuba, Venezuela for starters (The maze is an artifice part of the overall deception of the current reality) In the good old days we got by with MAD now the threat level is edging toward Insanity

  • Scorpio

    Before warfare was dubbed CBR, it was called ABC. Think about it.

  • PTate in MN

    Pre-2001, my family and I spent a pleasant hour thoroughly lost in the famous maze at Hampton court. Finally someone told us to put our hand on the wall and just keep walking. Sure enough, we were out in just a few minutes.
    This cover suggests that the Uncle Sam figure doesn’t see that he is in a maze. He can’t see what is causing the explosions ahead. He is proceeding blindly. He is lurching from one event to the next. Uncle Sam doesn’t have his hand on the wall.
    This cover also suggests that there is no way out. Those of us watching from afar can see that the maze continues as far as we can see. Uncle Sam’s only way out is to turn back and retrace his steps.

  • MichaelDG

    This groping through the maze, blind to the fact that one is stumbling toward moral catastrophe reminds me of the situation that some Germans found themselves in before and during World War II. I would like to share the words of Major Karl Plagge, a German officer who once supported the Nazi party, but ultimately came to see the horror of what he helped create. From 19441-44 he worked in Vilna Poland to help protect Jews from the genocide being carried out by his countrymen and ultimately helped save the lives of 250 of his protectees. Here are some passages from a letter he wrote in 1956 to a Jewish attorney living in Israel whom he met at a war crimes trial (the “germs” he refers to are an allusion to Camus’ book “the Plague”):
    “He, who—as it was with me and many others—has seen with his own eyes so many dreadful, alarming, and unfathomable things in the course of two World Wars and—what was not given to all—has experienced it with complete consciousness in his total metaphysical gravity, will not only be tormented all his life from “the fear of the bacillus,” but feels himself also summoned not to set these things aside and leave it at the documentation [history books]. He will, as long as he lives, seek to solve or at least understand the enigma that the human breast conceals. He will cast himself to the minority of thinkers and will make for himself as the rule of conduct: observe everything, doubt much, be suspicious of many, reflect, hope and dream…
    The priests demanded from us the fervent avowal to the church, the politicians of that time the fanatical belief in the state. What was there to do if one raised doubts against both? If one discarded the great Word and the aspiration for power? If one, involved in the mistakes of life, tried to remain honest and upright? …
    Where does the moral begin, the good, where are the boundaries at which the crime begins? How was it at all possible that such borderline situations arose for which the people were not strong enough and to which they became accomplices? How conditioned are the destructive germs to such abuses, and since when and on which fertile soil do they thrive? Is it a question of a specific German pathology, or is the whole of mankind threatened? I find, dear doctor, one observes much too much the few big people; one should pay much more attention to the many small ones, to their fate and their thoughts…
    Let me close with the words of Aristotle, Nikomachean Ethics VII , that I am taking as my guidance text for the third report:
    “One must not only say the truth, but also thoroughly investigate the reason of the errors.”
    By “errors” I understand here all errors of judgment, mistakes and confusions of life and the people who, unhappy under their influence, perhaps even turn into criminals.
    Respectively yours,
    Karl Plagge”

  • mdhatter

    Whos say’s Sam is lost?
    I say he is the Minotaur/

  • readytoblowagasket

    Like jt from BC, I am reminded of the 1991 oil fires in Kuwait when I look at this illustration (I remember the sky being a lot blacker than this, however). Is The Economist trying to say the U.S. is going *backward* rather than forward in its involvement in the Middle East?

  • putnam

    The image fails to convey the fundamental truth of the situation, that the Bush Administration version of Uncle Sam is setting fires all around himself.

  • Annoying Old Guy

    I see it as typical Western hubris, as if the USA was the only actual actor in the Middle East and everyone else not really people but just part of the terrain, represented here as maze walls. The view that only the USA can do things, or be responsible, is just another form of soft bigotry against the people who actually live in the Middle East.

  • Rafael

    For once I agree with AOG! (doubt that will ever happen again, but here to hoping). Then again, you may argue that the maze was already there, like the Halls of the Minotaur, and only one that is truly ready and has allies within can survive. In this case, Uncle Sam was lead (or charge into) and existing labyrinth, and like something out of Dungeons & Dragons, it is full of traps for the unweary. Except that if you screw up you don’t get to roll up another character or load up a save game here. Real life doesn’t have save buttons or extra character sheets.

  • jt from BC

    I agree with AOG on “Western hubris”, as the empires of France, Great Britain and others were driven out marginalized or left fighting over scraps, Uncle Sam is staking out the biggest claim of all, at least verbally, militarily and economically.

  • readytoblowagasket

    AOG, I tried to read it that way too, but it doesn’t work. Where is Israel? Israel is an actor in the region, Israel is not an integrated part of the terrain as the illustration suggests. In addition, the U.S. and Israel are partners in the region, working in collusion, something the U.S. doesn’t hide very well. So I don’t get this “going it alone” idea, if that’s what The Economist trying to depict.
    Also, I don’t see the Uncle Sam character as having *any* hubris; he seems to be doddering along, almost senile, kind of reminds me of Donald Rumsfeld for some reason. *I* certainly think the U.S. can be accused of hubris, but I don’t see it in the image. Uncle Sam is small, isolated, not interacting with, let alone influencing, anything.
    If The Economist is trying to address the current situation in the Middle East, I think they are grossly oversimplifying or profoundly confused. Whatever the cover is trying to say, I think it fails.

  • donna

    “You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.”

  • mugatea

    You call it maze.
    I call it corn.
    Bushrepublican foreign policy – used to fatten hogs.
    I have nothing against fat hogs but not when people, like you and me, are exterminated for the indulgence, no. Upon viewing the cover I looked for a way out. Uncle Sam could jump off the page, I suppose. Bush will do that, in a couple of years he’ll just go off into hiding for the rest of his life – jumping off this world cover he has illustrated.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    RE: “This groping through the maze, blind to the fact that one is stumbling toward moral catastrophe…”
    …he’s not groping toward anything; the maze is endless, to the vanishing point.
    RE: “The maze is obviously manmade… but by whom?
    …he’s in a self-made maze, man. he is entirely existential ~ he “comes from no-where,” and he “is connected to no-thing.” He went in there for one reason, or another, or another; (it doesn’t matter, he’s there-there, now :) as there is no END, there is no beginning, either.
    Forward, Backward, Left / Right; UP is DOWNism: No Direction, HOME.
    But that’s OK. That’s just fine. “I’m All Right, Jack!”
    Before I went in there, I was a no-where, man: “President Select”. The best damn First Lady this country ever had {sigh} …sucks, man; IT SUCKS! better to rule my maze, man ~ than read “My Fucking Pet Goat.” Thing is, without >BLAM!< war, War-Mongers wither >BLAM!<>BLAM!< RE: PEACE OF MIND
    “cease-fire” and “disputed territory” are virtually meaningless expressions when, indeed ~ the occupied estate really exists in the minds and memories of Fundamentalist Jews and Muslims.
    What is needed is a withdrawal from Fear; a dis-armament of Fear Mongers; and, a disavowal of Fundamentalism, thus.
    It is not “the existence of the State of Israel,” or the survival of the Jews ~ that is at stake; rather, it is the threat of Theocracy, and the enlightenment of Humanism, which confront us.
    War and Peace are States of Mind over Matter. God willing, someday, most will choose to imagine the latter.

  • acm

    why is C in a bigger font than A and B? expecting even *more* Mess-o-potamia??

  • acm

    actually, I appreciate the commenter above who noticed that the maze extends to the vanishing point. the implication then seems clear that Uncle Sam isn’t finding his way out, but just stumbling ever deeper. all the more reason to worry about what C might be (or what comes after it)!

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