The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

The Gauntlet

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The doctrine of the big enchilada

—Carl Hertel

Carl Hertel - Sandoval SignpostAccording to a Bush Administration official one of the results of the recent Republican election sweep will be the “Doctrine of the Big Enchilada.” We are left to wonder if it comes with red or green chile, but early indications are that it involves a high likelihood of going to war in a battle of good against evil.

Harper’s magazine editor Lewis Lapham, in his new book of essays Theater of War, quotes General Helmut von Molte on what the Doctrine of the Big Enchilada seems to imply about going to war: “Perpetual peace is a dream, and not even a beautiful dream, and War is an integral part of God’s ordering of the universe.”

Recent reports in The New York Times also seem to confirm that such warfare is conceived of in video-game terms. That is, as electronic, abstract, and without significant consequences to our own forces, but devastating to those on the side of evil including, perchance, unknown numbers of innocents.

In such warfare Lapham notes that we act out Bertrand Russell’s observation that “Our world has sprouted a weird concept of security and a warped sense of morality. Weapons are sheltered like treasures and children are exposed to incineration.” Lapham, along with outspoken critics like Bill Moyers, author Samantha Power (A Problem From Hell), and historian Simon Schama speaking on Moyers’s PBS program Now, all regard the Bush Administration as “suffering the temptations of imperial euphoria.” In Schama’s language this makes our government’s foreign policy closer to the globalization of Big Macs than to an enchilada plate served at the Range Café.

Most of us do not think of ourselves as part of an empire, and it comes as a terrible shock to us when people abroad hate us. We forget, according to analysts like Power, that as a so-called superpower—the only superpower—we frequently fall into acting in terms of self-interest abroad while spouting a rhetoric of democracy and belief in freedom for all at home. The disparity between how we exist at home and how we behave abroad is not lost on those directly affected by our imperial behaviors in their backyards. In addition to this is the problem of enemies operating on the basis of asymmetrical approaches to warfare. That is, enemies who are not concerned with self-preservation but value dying for their cause, who represent no nation state against whom we can retaliate, who have no massed, visible armies, and who observe no generally acceptable rules of warfare. Making war on such terrorists places us in a state of perpetual war, General von Molte’s idea of paradise. Such a state creates vexing problems and many fears that directly affect our daily lives along the Rio Grande. It is as if the wars we have become accustomed to viewing on nightly TV have come home to roost and we cannot turn them off with the flick of a switch. It is as if the electronic video-game war without consequences “over there” has arrived on our doorstep and we are confronted with the effects—at least psychologically—of being at war against the proverbial barbarians who challenge every empire in history. We become, as it were, war torn.

A recent book called War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters who Covered Vietnam coincidentally describes what we are in for. This poignant collection of memoirs intimately relates how civilians reporting the war in Vietnam were forever affected by their experiences there. How experiencing that horrific war made them feel incredibly alive, but also brought death, violence, and antilife into sharp focus in their lives—forever.

Perpetual war and the Doctrine of the Big Enchilada could easily result in collective and individual indigestion unless a broader dialogue is undertaken to prevent its full implementation. Schama, speaking as a historian and native of the British Empire, expressed it as follows: “When you declare yourself an empire it’s a kind of declaration of (long term) suicide.”

New Mexicans are especially close to the historical roots of the new imperialism because of the birth of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. With that event America essentially became the superpower that it is today. Many of our presidents have enunciated doctrines since that time, but few of the doctrines have held the possibility of such profound consequences for our democratic way of life as the Bush big enchilada. Let’s have it with a little green on the side, please.

re: letters to The Gauntlet

We greatly appreciate your letters to the Signpost and are pleased to be able to provide a space for community dialog.

Please note, however, that letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations. Please keep this in mind when writing to us, and please limit your letter to a maximum of four hundred words.

Letter submissions are due by the twentieth of the month prior.

Thank you,

Barb Belknap
The Sandoval Signpost


re: rambunctiousness on Open Space?

Dear Mr. Belknap:

As the owner of a lot in Sundance Mesa and plan-to-be homeowner there I have read your article "Placitas Open Space faces uncertain future" [11/02 Sandoval Signpost] with much interest. What knowledge I have of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) derives from reading Bay Area newspapers. For example, articles appear on a yearly basis describing a so-called San Francisco based counter-culture (the authors' word, not mine) event known as the Burning Man Festival which takes place on BLM land in the state of Nevada. The festival appears to be a sort of perennial Woodstock. It baffles me how an agency of the federal government can tolerate the massive use of illegal drugs on federal lands. Obvously one might wonder if the BLM's definition of the recreational use of Placitas Open Space might be broad enough to include such events as Burning Man or indeed other less momentous but perfectly legal forms of public rambunctiousness.

Burke Ritchie
Livermore, CA


re: Congresswoman Wilson’s efforts on pipeline legislation

Now that the November 5 election is behind us, and with reference to an article in your September issue that referred to Representative Udall’s comments on pipeline legislation (now part of the energy bill), we believe it is useful to point out the important work Congresswoman Heather Wilson has done in this legislation on issues of specific concern to Placitas residents and of importance to the nation as a whole.

Both the House and Senate versions contain language that allows for faster environmental reviews for constructed pipelines. However, through Wilson’s strong efforts on the Energy and Commerce Committee, the legislative history of the legislation will show that Wilson sought and received clarification that the Environmental Streamlining section would pertain only to repairs of operating pipelines, and not to a major refurbishment (like the NMPP).


Ashton B. Collins, Jr.
Susan E. Collins
Citizens for Safe Pipelines


re: know your neighbors


I agree with Mr. Crofoot’s take on knowing your neighbors and shopping the local stores. It is a real convenience to have the Mini-Mart, Tag Gr Mo, and other shops located so close to home. But we can’t overlook one of the area’s greatest assets: Homestead Village.

Homestead Village, located right on the road home, offers a wealth of convenience. There is banking, dry-cleaning, video rentals, a couple of eating establishments, computer repair, investment advice, a cocktail lounge, and even a day spa. And of course there is The Merc.

The Merc stocks a wide array of items ranging from basic food items and locally produced goods to one of the best wine selections in all of New Mexico. The prices at the Merc are competitive with any big chain store in the area and I find their selection covers all the bases nicely.

All this convenience comes with something else: ambiance. “Friendly” is the only way to describe the atmosphere and the people in all the shops. I really appreciate getting the products and services that I need from places of business that actually seem glad to help me.

In looking further than the convenience and friendly attitudes of the businesses located in Homestead Village one can see the economic impact. All the employees of the businesses are local. They live either in the village or just down the hill. They are thankful for the opportunity to work close to home as well as the opportunity to get to know their neighbors through providing much appreciated services. The financial impact of family incomes is obvious, but there is more.

Local property values have risen as a result of Homestead Village and the businesses located there. Ask any appraiser and you will hear that a small yet complete set of convenient shops located in an area where before there were gaps in services raises property values. Not only are the Merc and the other stores convenient for us locals but just by being there they add to our bottom lines.

Small business like those in Homestead Village need the support of the locals to remain viable businesses. Shopping locally provides convenience and positive economic impacts for all.

To all those who have taken the financial risk and set up shop in the Placitas area, thank you. Keep up the good work.

Eric Collins


re: Placitas wild-horse roundup

I'm writing to ask if you are aware of the wild horses being killed in the Placitas area and if this is acceptable to the citizens of New Mexico. 

We've been getting several e-mails over recent months from people in New Mexico who are extremely upset about what's happening to these free-roaming wild horses.  Here is the most recent:

Help! I am a volunteer helping to save the cruel abuse of our natural free-roaming wild mustangs in Placitas, New Mexico. The local livestock inspectors captured and killed our stallion and killed a foal. Many of the mares they illegally captured were sold for dog food before we were able to rescue them. Now we understand the BLM has plans to round up the remaining few horses (there are less than 20 left now). We desperately need help. I am with an organization called WHOA (Wild Horse Observers Foundation). We are just a group of volunteers in Placitas fighting to keep our horses free.  Aren't they protected by the 1971 Act?

I would like to think the people of New Mexico have more compassion than to allow this to continue and I wanted to bring this to your attention if you're not already aware of the situation. I would hope that the citizens of Placitas and all of New Mexico will voice their outrage.  Whether these mustangs are federally protected or not should not matter where humane handling and their future are concerned.

Terry Watt
Arizona, National Policy Research Director
American Horse Defense Fund


re: New Valles Caldera Coalition Web site


Please have a look at our new Web site at As you'll see, it's still under construction and needs much more to fill it out, but you'll get the idea. Check it now and then for links to other sites and the latest updates and information. And many thanks to Web designer David Douglas who did a lot more work than we were able to pay him for.

Ernie Atencio
Valles Caldera Coalition
PO Box 9314
Santa Fe, NM 87504

Telephone (505) 776-1882




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