Saturday, October 31, 2009

How Herman Melville Explains Contemporary U.S. Foreign Policy to Us

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Moby Moderate

By Barry Rubin

And so the captain ordered the entire ship’s company was assembled. Suddenly, Ahab cried out to them, “What do ye do when ye see a Middle East conflict, men?"

"We negotiate!" was the rejoinder from a score of the sailors.

"Good!" cried the captain, "And what do ye next, men?"

“We offer unilateral concessions!”

"And what tune is it ye sing as ye give them, men?"

"The Peace Process Chanty!"

More and more strangely and fiercely glad and approving, grew the countenance of the captain at every shout; while the mariners themselves began to get excited, especially the Conflicts’ Management Officer.

Ahab pulled out a huge Spanish gold coin from his vest with his good hand and took a heavy hammer in his hook hand. Pivoting on his wooden leg, the captain held up the broad bright coin to the sun.

"Look ye! d'ye see this Spanish ounce of gold? Do you see it, Starbuck?” Starbuck nodded. He was wildly popular among the crew because he made the best coffee you’ve ever had.

Ahab nailed the gold coin to the mast, exclaiming, “Whosoever of ye raises me a Moderate Islamist with a wrinkled brow and a promise not to get nuclear weapons or seize state power and create a radical, anti-American, aggressive regime shall have this gold ounce, my boys!

"Huzza! huzza!" cried the seamen.

“But captain!” cried out Stubb, one of the other mates, “there is no such thing as a Moderate Islamist!”

The harpooners, Tashtego, Daggoo, and Queequeg, who had looked on with even more intense interest and surprise than the rest, could no longer remain silent.

"Captain Ahab," said Tashtego, "that whale you thought was the Moderate Islamist must be the one we spotted near the coast of far Iran but he turned on us and stove in the port side of the ship.”

“Yes,” chimed in Daggoo, “you thought you saw him near Turkey but he turned on us and knocked in the starboard side of the ship.”

“Aye,” added Queequeg, “and off of Gaza, did not this whale you mistook for the Moderate Islamist not take off your left leg?”

"Who told thee that?" cried Ahab. "Aye, my hearties; it was the search for the Moderate Islamist that brought me to this dead stump I stand on now.”

“Oh,” cried Starbuck, “and off of Lebanon you thought you saw him but instead he chomped off your right arm!”

“Well, sure,” said Ahab angrily. “But that’s nothing much to worry about. I’m sure it’ll work this time.” Turning to the crew, he shouted: “What say ye, men, will ye find for me the Moderate Islamist!”

“Aye, aye!" shouted the harpooneers and seamen.

"God keep me!—keep us all!" murmured Starbuck, lowly. But in his joy Ahab did not hear his foreboding invocation.

Adapted from Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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