Via Jim, I see that Greenwald has emerged from the burrow, seen his shadow, but decided against the advice of the other groundhogs to stay in the sun for a while. And yet.
For many decades now, people like Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky and James Bovard have been airing what we now call the imperial critique, which, as someone once said, has the unique benefit of being correct. Men like Chalmers Johnson have affirmed it from the inside. Its basic tenets are empirically demonstrable. Its fundamentals comport with nearly everything we know about American policy at home and abroad. It provides a basic intellectual framework through which all the events, actions, and outcomes that so puzzle Democrats ("I'll never understand why we went to war in Iraq in the first place. How could this have happened?") become understandable and predictable. It provides a clear history of the precedents to our current politics and current wars. It allows us to easily grasp the linkages between our militant posture abroad, our system of worldwide military satrapies, our inability to extricate ourselves from ill-conceived foreign adventures, our slow militarizing of the mechanisms of law and law enforcement within our own borders, and the otherwise inexplicable complicity of the supposed opposition party in all of these things. It is plainly, clearly, almost self-evidently true, and for fifty years at least it has been scorned as a conspiracy theory or an intellectual parlor game for bored old men, crank writers, and the comfortably tenured.
So when Glenn Greenwald says:
This is the most extraordinary aspect of our political culture. Rep. Davis' assumption is that we are going to be fighting a series of "wars." That is just a given. And the only question is whether we will fight our wars "wisely" or unwisely. We are a nation more or less permanently at war, and we really do not debate whether that should be the case. Enforced Beltway orthodoxy requires that this is a given and anyone who challenges that premise will be deemed extremist and insane (see e.g., Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, "paleoconservatives," the "anti-war left", "isolationists," etc.).I want to tear out my hair. The United States finished the Second World War and never stepped down from its war footing. The entire government of the United States was methodically rearranged to support imperial ventures. The threat of the Soviet Union was consciously and carefully manipulated, exaggerated, and propogated to justify the construction of the vastest military capacity the world has ever known--and, hopefully, ever will know. Intelligence services were created with the specific capacity and intent to control, influence, undermine, and subvert foreign governments. A long series of territorial skirmishes in Asia, Africa, and Latin America commenced. A complex system of proxy wars, client states, and puppet governments was begun. Post-War affirmations of universal rights were conspicuously repurposed, as goes the current neologism, as "humanitarian intervention," which, you'll note, is a euphemism for military actions in foreign territory for purposes other than immediate self-defense. The phrase "vital national iterest" entered the lexicon as a euphemism for using the military to control resources, access, and assets. This is not some hidden, secret history. It requires no special discipline or competency; no access to state secrets; no extraordinary skills as an analyst or historian or economist. It is neat, accessible, and sitting in plain view for anyone with the slightest inclination to shed the enforced--and not very skillfully, I'd add--doxologies of the American Empire, principle among them: That America is not an empire.
The Grand Beltway Consensus, one that encompasses both parties, is that War is how we rule the world. The only debates allowed are how many we should fight, where we should fight them, and how "wisely" we prosecute them. And the principal reason that we don't really debate the fact that we are a Nation permanently at war is because such a tiny percentage of our population -- and an even tinier percentage of our Beltway opinion-making elite -- actually bears the burdens of those wars (at least directly).
Nonetheless, I have listened to these ideas mocked or dismissed since my earliest recollection of political awareness by people who call themselves "liberals" or now "progressives" or always "Democrats." These are the people who now claim to be antiwar, who have spent the last six years rightly lamenting the horrors wrought by the present executive, finding that the institutions of representative democracy have been seriously undermined and exist at present mostly as formal ritual and tradition, and discovering that their party of identification is not actually interested in taking concrete measures to rectify any of it, although they'll occasionally complain about it before voting to authorize this or that further expansion of military funding, presidential power, domestic surveillance, ad inf. These are the people who coined cute phrases like "the new Naderism" and who treat as children anyone who notes that the line they toe is naught but dust on a windy day. They say to those of us who absent ourselves from the current liturgies and catechisms of phony democracy that we're lazy, have no program, and take no action. But of course the whole purpose of writing this history day in and out is to try to convince enough people of it to create a program and to have something to do. Even then, I wouldn't be optimistic, but enough people could at least put a small wrench in the imperial works from time to time. And when we seem cranky, irritable, and misanthropic, it's because so very many of these liberals and progressives and Democrats are willing to walk right up to the edge, as Greenwald does, and to acknowledge the legitimacy of our critique, and to acknowledge that it's true their party has sold them out again and again and again because it is dedicated to the bipartisan, imperial governing consensus, only to come back, a day or two later, pimping some Democratic Party nonsense and some Democratic Party candidates and telling us that we are assholes once again for refusing to make the expression of our political will the choice between a blond imperialist from Chappaqua and a balding imperialist from Manhattan.