Objects: The squeegee that saved

: The squeegee that saved lives in an elevator of the World Trade Center on 9.11 is being donated to the Smithsonian. “It’s collected not as a squeegee handle itself,” the curator tells the Washington Post, “but as evidence of life’s affirmation.”

If you never read the amazing story of this by Jim Dwyer in the New York Times, read it now.

How does ‘King George’ sound?
: Robert Cooper, a British diplomat, argues in the Guardian that what the world needs now is a new form of colonialism.

The troublespots in the world, he says, are “premodern states — often former colonies — whose failures have led to a Hobbesian war of all against all: countries such as Somalia and, until recently, Afghanistan.” He also lists Chechnya and other former Soviet lands, every major drug-producing country in the world, major parts of South America, Burma, and much of Africa. Their threat:

The pre-modern state may be too weak even to secure its own territory, let alone pose a threat internationally, but it can provide a base for non-state actors who may represent a danger to the postmodern world. If drug, crime, or terrorist syndicates use pre-modern bases for attacks on the more orderly parts of the world, then the organised states may have to respond. If they become too dangerous for established states to tolerate, it is possible to imagine a defensive imperialism. The West’s response to Afghanistan can be seen in this light.

How should we deal with the pre-modern chaos? To become involved in a zone of chaos is risky; if the intervention is prolonged it may become unsustainable in public opinion; if the intervention is unsuccessful it may be damaging to the government that ordered it. But the risks of letting countries rot, as the West did Afghanistan, may be even greater.

Right. Zone of chaos = quagmire = Vietnam = death = political defeat = military defeat. So what’s Cooper’s solution?

What is needed is a new kind of imperialism, one compatible with human rights and cosmopolitan values: an imperialism which aims to bring order and organisation but which rests today on the voluntary principle.

We already have voluntary imperialism of the global economy through institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank. These multilateral institutions provide help to states wishing to find their way back into the global economy and into the virtuous circle of investment and prosperity. In return they make demands which, they hope, address the political and economic failures that have contributed to the original need for assistance.

The second form of postmodern imperialism might be called the imperialism of neighbours. Instability in your neighbourhood poses threats which no state can ignore.

But terrorism is precisely what makes this impossible. So with all good intention, we take on an imperialistic, colonial, avuncular relationship with Afghanistan and Palestine and a couple of former Soviet states and a few fun spots in South America and Africa and what would we get for our expense and trouble and risk? Attacks, that’s what.

Nice try.

Busy, busy, busy
: Oprah’s just so darned busy. She can’t do her book club anymore because she’s so darned busy. (Jonathan Franzen: Stand down.). She can’t go to Afghanistan because she’s so darned busy.

I say that Martha Stewart should be the new Oprah.

Oprah’s just too darned busy to be Oprah.

Can’t tell the players without…
: A Who’s Who of murderous slime.

Biting the hand that feeds
: William Quick bites the hand that feeds his blog, moving back to Blogspot (to get the free bandwidth) but complaining about Blogger. Bloggers are tough customers.

: Jamie Lee Curtis gets a patent on a new diaper.