B.F. Skinner’s radical behaviorism (operant conditioning) theory employed to condition the American public over the last fifty years has had its negative toll. It is generally undetected by those conditioned by it, at least at the conscious level. No longer can “nothing new” and the “boring” be tolerated; the rate of speed in which “something new” must occur is ever increasing. The craze with which people flock to get their hands on the next newest technology gadget or the heightened level of impatience with which people react when waiting a minute or two longer than expected in the fast-food line for their ordered meal, or scrambling to get the newest video game all speak to this conditioning. But here in the case of Syria crossing the “red line”, as it relates to politics and global security, may seem to be “nothing new” on the surface but actually demands our undivided and heightened attention. Each day of “nothing new” is actually “something new” that must catch our attention and increase our alarm and outcry.
Let me explain. Yesterday I wrote an article about “Two ‘red lines’ to talk about: Iran’s and Syria” and how Syria has already crossed that red line. As important as that article was, this article today is even more important because today marks the third day of “nothing” and counting. Each day that passes beyond the crossover point that is void of any promised response from Obama becomes more serious and gravely important. The continued lack of a response is indicative of Obama’s truthfulness on the matter at hand and reflects his attitude and perspective about national and international security concerns as compared with his attitude and priorities about the 2012 presidential election. This same attitude and priority is also noted by his absence and minimal involvement at the UN last week. Furthermore, the longer Obama goes without responding the less he and the USA will be taken seriously relative to international security concerns. Why should any nation, including Syria, take seriously any “red lines” drawn by the USA and its president if they are merely idle threats?
I realize that the president’s elongated silence allows Skinner’s operant conditioning to play out in Obama’s favor, but the one variable that is overlooked here is the voice of “watch dogs” that can potentially undo this conditioning. I use the word “potentially” because in general, much of the American public has already been so heavily conditioned that they ignore anything that does not immediately and negatively impact upon the comforts of their daily lives. Thus, little can be done to raise the bar when something is perceived as “nothing new” or has little immediate personal impact. So, as long as someone does not cause them pain, reduce their pleasure or interrupt their “illusions” of materialism in the here and now, then most take the attitude “live and let live.” But wake up everyone because that approach, although seductive on the surface, will not lead to a happy end: having wisdom, forethought, morality and discipline are all critical to a safe and peaceful world.