I can't resist devoting this post to my own letter that has appeared today in the March 30, 2011 New York Times. See this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/opinion/l30libya.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=preskill&st=cse. A few days back David Brooks wrote a column which concluded that if you want to be a dictator for 42 years in a poor, developing nation like Libya, then you should be more than a little crazy. Or, as my letter says, "megalomania pays." While I didn't disagree completely with Mr. Brooks, I countered that Qaddafi's staying power has much more to do with the largesse of the American-based multinational corporations that have been propping him up and paying him off for decades.
What especially bothers me about Brooks's column is his reluctance to consider the kind of power analysis which has far more explanatory power than the "wacko" thesis ("wacko" is his word, by the way) he employs. There is something safe and even reassuring about the idea that Qaddafi can be explained away by individual and idiosyncratic behaviors, not something as complex and as enduring as the hegemony of American economic and military self-interest.
Of course, on the other hand, David Brooks is an easy target. He is the conservative we progressives love to argue with because, well, because he's still pretty reasonable and not in some utterly foreign ideological universe. He recognizes the strengths of someone like President Obama and how extreme and strident most right-wingers have become.
So, I guess this is just my way of saying that although I hope to write more letters to the Times in the future and to see some of them published, I also hope to resist the temptation to take on David Brooks. He is much more friend than enemy, a lot closer to being an ideological ally than some inveterate and unmovable foe.