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Stateside: Thinking Outside The Stadium

Stateside with Rosalea

Thinking outside the stadium

By Rosalea Barker

The most compelling reason the United States should not be in charge of any military operations around the world is American football. I came to this realisation at a hometown match this weekend, where I was continually in shock and awe of the daft things players did.

According to my football aficionado companion at the game, they were simply following the game plan, which cannot be deviated from at any cost because then your team-mates wouldn't know what to do next. Case in point: player A threw the ball to player B and player B was obliged to run on a left-slanting diagonal. No matter that a heap of players from both teams had piled up in his way even before he began running, and the path for a right-slanting diagonal run was clear practically all the way to the end- zone for a touchdown to put six points on the board.

Although each team fields only eleven players at one time, the remaining 74 players each college team is allowed are roaming up and down the sidelines alongside the play. Different combinations of them are put on the field at different times according to which strength is thought to be needed at which time. Each game play is deemed a success or not according to the number of yards gained (which is why a field for American football is painted like one of those gauges avid knitters use to get their tension correct).

And although the game consists of four 15-minute quarters, the clock is stopped after each little set piece is completed: the game yesterday, for example, took three hours to play, what with all the discussion that goes on between the 20 coaches and the team at every stoppage. And that's not counting the three "time outs" each team is allowed to call.

Now, while the concept of gaining ground yard by hard-fought yard might translate from the football field to the battlefield with some usefulness, nothing much else about the American game does. Nor does it translate to peacekeeping. It worries me that the folks on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, Latin America, and wherever else US troops are posted have been brought up to admire as a virtue a complete lack of imaginative anticipation, intuition, and on-the-fly decision-making.

Even more worrisome is the fact that the leaders of the US presence in Iraq are of Latino and Lebanese extraction and might have been brought up on a diet of soccer. Perhaps they don't even realise the conceptual limitations of the troops they command. Worse than that, it seems that while many of the troops are Latino - and therefore soccer-minded - their immediate officers aren't. Not if what you have to go by on TV is accurate, anyway.

Accordingly, it would be very helpful if the United Nations could pass a resolution saying that from now on only nations whose national sport is the same as the country they occupy may be in charge of any occupations.

And speaking of the UN, the President himself will be speaking of that body, no doubt, in his address to the nation this evening. Bear in mind that there are very large and influential sectors of this country who utterly despise the United Nations, and have despised the very concept of any world body having pre-eminence over the US, right from the time of the establishment of the League of Nations.

There is a caucus within the US Congress that is dedicated to opposing ever ceding any authority to the UN or to paying it any money. Frankly it will be a cold day in hell before the US will back down over this, and ironically a cold day in hell is the very thing such an intransigent US policy is creating. Right here on Earth. Isn't it time the rest of the world made that right-diagonal run and got a touchdown for peace, prosperity, and self-determination in Iraq?

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