Thursday, August 15, 2013

Defining Quixotic

If you think because most of official Washington is on vacation, that you'll need to go on some kind of grand quest to find real news right now, we can say with one hundred percent certainty that you're wrong.

Much to the chagrin of those of us in the news and information business who were expecting a relaxing August, there are a ton of great stories right now. From the news that networking company Cisco is planning to cut 4,000 jobs, to the beginning of the end of the recession in Europe, to the final end of California's Prop 8, to the upcoming budget battles in DC, important, substantive news stories are nearly everywhere we look today.

Some of the biggest stories this week though involve war, in one from or another. Sadly, most of these wars seem to be accurately defined as "quixotic": Exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical.

The "war" extremist Republicans seem desperate to wage against Obamacare is one example, as we pointed out Wednesday. Another war is the United State's ridiculous "War on Drugs," a conflict that Attorney General Eric Holder made clear earlier this week, the Obama Administration is no longer looking to fight.

Frankly, we can't disagree with the Administration's decision to stop tilting at the drug war windmill. As both Ed Kilgore and Greg Sargent noted, stopping pointless overspending on drug policing, while ending ineffective mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent criminals are things that large numbers of Americans across the political spectrum agree on.

The biggest war going on, however, isn't on American soil. It's in Egypt, where the concept of a mostly civil revolution may have finally proven the most impractical of any of the conflicts in the news this week.

Reliable and verifiable media reports from Egypt were often hard to come by before the recent clashes of violence. After the deaths of hundreds - including the deaths of multiple journalists - that happened during the crackdown on protests by the military, firm statistics on the numbers of dead and injured are even more difficult to find.

The short version of the ongoing conflict is this. Supporters of recently deposed President Morsi, who generally side with the Muslim Brotherhood, make up a significant and sizable minority in Egypt. They are rebelling against the primarily secular and Christian factions in the country who have been attempting to form a new government. Neither side is too fond of the military, who has put Egypt under a month-long state of emergency, complete with daily curfews throughout the country. It appears some in the military may even have designs of taking control of Egypt once again, as it was for thirty years under Hosni Mubarak.

In the Middle East, a perpetually unstable region, Egypt has long been America's ally for many reasons - not the least of which is that whoever controls Egypt controls access to the Suez Canal, a key shipping route for major corporations from the Middle East and Asia to the Western hemisphere. Egypt has also, for many years, helped the U.S. to keep a lid on the perpetual conflict between Israelis and Palestinians - who are currently starting peace negotiations once again.

For those two reasons alone, America has been loathe to change policies and call what's been going on in Egypt a legal "coup". Doing so may endanger the passage of American ships in the Suez, while admitting America no longer has a powerful political ally in the region.

No matter what the outcome of any of the conflicts we covered today, the simple fact is this: If a war costs too damn much, has no obvious end, and won't be of much benefit to anyone, no matter who wins, isn't that also a definition of quixotic?