Dyslexia and Foreign Policy

Buencamino does political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in newspaper Today, February 4, 2005, p.11.

“Dyslexic people are visual, multi-dimensional thinkers…Because we think in pictures, it is sometimes hard for us to understand letters, numbers, symbols, and written words.” – Davis Dyslexia Association International

In an interview with the Washington Times, George W. Bush revealed he read a book called The Case for Democracy, by Natan Sharansky. Slate magazine reported policy wonks and pundits scrambling for the book after Bush said, “If you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy, read Natan Sharansky’s book…”

The real news, however, was Bush graduating from picture books like the one he continued reading while jets were crashing into the World Trade Center, to books with long words and small type. Bush is dyslexic.

The Dyslexia Institute says dyslexia affects “short-term memory, mathematics, personal organization and sequencing.”  That would explain why, as far as Iraq is concerned, Bush has forgotten claims he made just two years ago; why he miscalculated how much his adventure
would cost; why he cannot say whether he has planned and organized for a long stay or a quick exit; and why he placed the cart before the horse by holding elections before there was even a semblance of stability in Iraq.

Bush, as anyone who watched last year’s presidential debates or has seen him in press conferences and interviews, is someone who doesn’t take criticism kindly. His enthusiasm for a book that Slate’s Chris Suellentrop says contained pointed criticisms of  his sincerity and foreign policy makes one wonder whether he read the book from cover to cover front to back instead of the other way around.

Here are two out of several examples of criticisms quoted by Suellentrop.

From page 15: “Even within the Bush administration, the president’s words, expressing a profound faith in freedom, are not always translated into policies that reflect that faith”; from pages 72-74: “Sharansky directly criticizes the administration’s haste to hold elections in Afghanistan and Iraq. He writes that “elections are not a true test of democracy… elections are never the beginning of the democratic process.” The Allied powers after World War II “wisely decided not to hold federal elections in Germany for four years. Had elections been held in 1945 or 1946, the results probably would have undermined efforts to build German democracy, something those who hope to build democratic societies in Afghanistan and Iraq would be wise to keep in mind.”

What could have prompted Bush to describe The Case for Democracy as “a
great book”? Without a doubt, it‘s Sharansky‘s central policy
recommendation. It’s simple enough for Bush to comprehend and it gives
legs to a dyslexic foreign policy.

Chris Suellentrop writes, “Most of the discussion surrounding Sharansky’s book has focused on what he calls ‘the town square test’ for free societies… ”  Sharansky describes the test as “Can a person walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm?”

Suellentrop adds, “Sharansky uses this test to devise the central policy recommendation… to “turn a government’s preservation of the right to dissent—the town square test—into the standard of international legitimacy,” and he recommends sanctions and pariah status for the nations that fail it.” Can post 9/11 America pass the “town square test”?

Post-9/11 America will not pass the “town square test”—try proclaiming
“Allah Akbar!” in a shopping mall or an airport and see if the phrase enjoys the same protection as exclaiming “God Bless America!”.

Bush’s endorsement of Sharansky reveals the dyslexia inherent in his
approach to spreading freedom. Instead of concentrating on making his
own country a truly free society first,  he will start by correcting the shortcomings of other countries.

The Davis Dyslexia Association International offers help through Davis
Dyslexia Correction® which “provides tools to overcome problems with
reading, writing, and attention focus. These methods enable children and adults to recognize and control the mental processes that cause distorted perceptions of letters and words. Once students can be sure that their perceptions are accurate, they can resolve the underlying cause of their learning difficulties through methods that build upon their creative and imaginative strengths.” There is a remedy for dyslexia.

Now if only someone could find a cure for stupidity and the arrogance that comes along with it.

No comments yet.