Secretary of Defense Robert Gates just made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, and talk about embarrassment, even if in a minor vein: he was met at the tarmac by Afghan War commander General David Petraeus and here, caught on camera, was how they greeted each other:
General Petraeus: Mister Secretary. Welcome back, sir. Flying a little bigger plane than normal? You going to launch some attacks on Libya or something?
Gates (laughing jovially): Yeah, exactly.
Think of it as rule by frat boy. Hey, and have you heard about the CIA contractor, the Taliban commander, and the talking penguin...?
Of course, it’s good to know that our leaders have their light side. I mean, they’re always joking, aren’t they? How about that one about the table? You know, the omnipresent table on which we keep “all options open.” Right now, it’s evidently piled very, very high with “options,” including a Libyan “no-fly zone,” including in fact “everything”!
That table, never photographed as far as I know, must be enormous and in a very public place because just in the last few days, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder, and even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has been somewhat option-shy when it comes to plunging militarily into the Libyan situation, have alluded to it. And don’t forget those hordes of table-loving anonymous “U.S. officials” who swarm through our news pages and can’t keep themselves from talking about the option feast available to our country.
In Washington, as in Afghanistan, everything right now could be considered unintended farce, if it weren’t so deadly serious. Unfortunately, it is. As a result, the last month of imperial chaos and confusion, as caught by David Bromwich in his latest piece “The Embarrassments of Empire,” has been a strange spectacle of our moment.