For years now, I've made it a practice in this column at Thanksgiving time to list some of the things for which Americans should be grateful. Here's my 10-point list for this year:
1. National elections at midterm which, though they were beset by vocally sharp and caustic language at times, brought about a power change in Washington peacefully and in orderly fashion. That is not always the case in lands elsewhere where democracy does not rule.
2. A strong American economy that has survived recession, 9/11 terrorist attacks, and a war in Iraq. A rising stock market and low unemployment are testimony to the economy's buoyancy.
3. A trial in Baghdad which, despite rotating judges and assassinated participating attorneys, has with reasonable fairness under Iraqi law, pronounced Saddam Hussein guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him for them. Whether he dies or lives, Mr. Hussein will not again commit murder against his own people, or his perceived enemies elsewhere.
4. Although jihadist violence remains a major, and perhaps growing, threat, the influence and leadership of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda organization appear to be fading.
5. A volunteer US Army that has performed bravely in Afghanistan and Iraq and deserves the support and thanks of its nation. In a few instances where individual soldiers have behaved badly, they have borne the full brunt of military justice.
6. A shift from unilateral to multilateral diplomacy on the part of the Bush administration. This is particularly evident in the case of North Korea, where the administration has opted for six-party diplomacy and enlisted China as the leading participant to bring pressure to bear on Pyongyang. Though North Korea may not, in the end, give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, no US military action against North Korea is on the horizon.
7. Though some snicker at President Bush's conviction that all men deserve to be free (for being unsophisticated), the desire to be free is a powerful motivation for mankind. Though people in some lands, particularly in the Islamic crescent of the Middle East, remain in bondage, democracy of one kind or another continues to make strides. Freedom House, the nonprofit monitoring agency, says the picture remains "distinctly positive," citing broad scope for open political competition, respect for civil liberties, independent civic life, and independent media.
8. The amazing advance of technology. Years ago, this column would have been written on a typewriter. Today, it is written on a computer which moves it in nanoseconds from anywhere in the world to its editing destination.
For journalists, businessmen, and students, the laptop and cellphone in this age are no more than omnipresent extensions of arms and fingers. To be sure, there are negatives: Bloggers without credibility spread misinformation to the unwary.
But overall, the ben- efits of this new technology are immense. We can only guess at the marvelous innovations to come.
9. New leaders ahead: America's political system may seem unwieldy, but the length of a presi- dential campaign and the extraordinary pressures it imposes upon candidates have a way of letting the voters discard the fragile and move the worthy along. Already for 2008 we have an array of Republicans and Democrats, many with impressive credentials, who seek the presidency and could be president. More will emerge to submit themselves to the scrutiny of inquiring journalists, doubting opponents, and finally the electorate. The system works – and usually spawns the best.
10. Tackling the energy crisis. Gasoline prices may have fallen, but their recent highs have awakened many to the need to tackle the problem of increasing oil consumption around the world in the long-term face of declining supply. China's extraordinary economic development has made it a voracious consumer, cutting deals with oil producers in Latin America, and Africa, and wherever else oil can be acquired. Talk of making the US independent of foreign oil is fanciful. The answer is to reduce the consumption of foreign oil as much as possible, but to discover and harness alternatives to oil. Thus the emphasis must be on cars that use less gasoline, while finding alternatives such as ethanol, and at the same developing solar power, wind power, and other power as alternatives to oil for heating and other domestic purposes.
Experts are divided about the time when natural sources of oil will dry up. But we should be thankful that at last Americans are beginning to focus on this issue that may bring serious problems for generations to come.
In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving.
• John Hughes, a former editor of the Monitor, is editor and chief operating officer of the Deseret Morning News.