Saturday, January 20, 2007
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Demotrons have recently invaded Who Is IOZ to spread the Donk gospel on Iraq/Iran, which, like the gospel itself, is born of many authors and self-contradictory. Next stop, Tehran!
The sad thing is that Das Netroots don't even see the bait-and-switch going on here. "Let a thousand non-binding resolutions bloom!" They learned during the Kerry debacle that it's bad to be for and then against. Now they'll try against and then for!
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
There's a tendency among liberals to view current American foreign policy as exceptional rather than apotheotic. Fine. It is every United States of Amnesian's prerogative to ignore the history of American foreign policy from the Mexican land grab on down. Laugh all you want at the hippy-dippy ANSWER clowns getting pepper-sprayed outside of the School of the Americas. They, at least, had it figured out.
John Judis writing in The Non-Republic, weeps that we've become a rogue state, such as the saying goes, and while I quibble with the apparent timeline of the becoming, I say again: at least he figured it out.
Some other joker, meanwhile, takes to the rhetorical battlements with a hearty cry: "If Canada is overrun by Nazis, America shall fight!" That isn't a caricature of his hypothetical. For the record. His name is James Kirchick, and he indulges the bizarre American fantasy that "sovereignty" is a known quantity to be claimed, sort of like home equity but for whole nations. Transfer requires elaborate payments, percentages, and a Fannie-Mae-like international community approbating its "recognition." If the bank says it ain't yers, it ain't yers!
Via Dennis Perrin, I see that Max Sawicky, of whom I'm not usually a great fan, has explained that "The 'Internet Left' is a mostly brainless vacuum cleaner of donations for the Democratic Party." Even from these boondocks of Pittsburgh, I can feel the heat rising into the pale, aquiline face of Markos Moulitas, subcommandante of the Netroots revolution. Sawicky also says:
The "Internet left" is substantially a captive of the Internet bubble. It's a nice bubble, full of fun. It is awash in hypertext and flash graphics, but it doesn't demonstrate much depth in history, political-economy, or ideology, which is another way of saying it is fairly stuck in mainstream ideology and narrow tactics. It needs to step away from the LCD monitor and crack some difficult books, go to some boring meetings, wear out some shoe leather.To which the Donkle rabble rises like a fish to a fly with such songs as "Marx was a communist!" and "the SDS were terrorists!" All this in service of positing Thomas Franks and his Sweet Kansas: Suite as a better Antonio Gramsci and the FireDogLake chicks as the Sophie Scholls of this generation.*
Elsewhere and otherwise, Glenn Greenwald mildly chastises big libbloggers K. Drum and Atrios for speaking too blithely of the war. Atrios can be forgiven, I think, for his tone, which I take to be dismissive of Drum's moderated lust for launching aggressive wars and not intentionally callous about the toll of this particular aggression. Greenwald notes properly that what is absent from our present dialogue is any "horror" at the prospect of war, and there you have another unfortunate concurrence between the current powder keg in the Middle East and the pre-Great War situation in Europe. A happy comparison, surely.
In any case, the Internet Dems whine day and night that their elected officials demonstrate an insufficiently zealous committment--or any committment at all--to ending the Iraq war, even though they themselves show zero ideological committment to a dismantling of the imperial apparatus of the American state. They can chatter all they want about how "extreme" the right has become and how hard they're pushing back against the rightward drift of the American center, and they can yell "Progressive!" up to the damn rafters, but the truth is that they have staked out one side of a very carefully circumscribed intellectual territory. Hucksters like Kos and egomaniacal half-rate scholars like Eric Alterman spend as much time excoriating the far left or futiley courting a few dedicated libertarians in the name of Democratic victory as they do "opposing" President Bush. They're as fond of stab-in-the-back narratives as the prowar right. "If not for that fucking Nader . . ." Dennis Kucinich looks funny. Libertarians should support welfare statism and we will deign to prosecute fewer and more graceful imperial holding actions. You know the song and dance.
I don't know. What's a Democrat done for me lately?
*Good health and best wishes to Jane Hamsher, regardless, who has again been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
If any question why we died,Dreher, you'll note, says he was thirteen when Reagan was elected to his first term. So he's either lying about his age of lying about the hippies. I suspect it's the hippies. There may have been a few already-aging acid flashbackers putting daisies in rifles circa 1976, but most of them had hung up the bong for the cocaine spoon, the dashiki for the wide lapels, the sandals for the heels, and, by the time morning broke over the right coast of America, the pursuit of love was being everywhere exchanged for the pursuit of real estate profits. The mother symbol of Dreher's adolescence wasn't Joan Baez; it was Roxanne Pulitzer. During the Tet Offensive, Rod was exactly zero years old. While Hendrix played "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock, someone read Dreher Good Night Moon.
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
I had a heretical thought for a conservative--that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word--that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot--that they have to question authority.
On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn't the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?
Uh, no. It wasn't "the hippies" who tried to tell Rod Dreher that. It was EVERYTHING THAT'S EVER HAPPENED IN ALL RECORDED HUMAN HISTORY. But I can see how it's easy to mix that up with "the hippies."
Dreher, like most thirty- and forty-something conservatives of my acquaintance, got a tremendous hard-on for Reagan and went absolutely bonkers for Operation Just Cause. Reagan, of course, was an habitual prevaricator and a liar of the first order. Say what you will about the lies of George W. Bush, at least he never told an Israeli that he had personally filmed the liberation of German concentration camps when in fact he hadn't been in Europe . . . or the army at the time. Carter, for whom Dreher holds a bottomless disdain, was of course the American president who did the most to shove us into the morass of Middle Eastern politicking with his "Carter Doctrine," and Reagan continued the royal pooch-screwing by dealing weapons to Iran and Iraq and the same time, using Israel, everyone's favorite shining white Knight, as a hack-job intermediary.
Dreher hitched his car to the train of official mendacity and imperial officialdom, and scorned "blithely" the few people erecting warning signs along the tracks, thinking them pussies for refusing to masturbate at the spectacle of the gloriously un-American dead. It was only when the train went spectacularly off the tracks that he decided that maybe he should've paid attention, thus joining the likes of Andrew Sullivan and the rest of that tribe of self-pitying fools who insist on blaming the burden rather than the white man.
These are the sorts of people who buy into pyramid schemes. They'll give credence to anything as long as it's sold with a firm handshake, a soulful look in the eyes, and a series of assurances that anyone shouting about unworkability and unsustainability is afraid of success and afraid to take risks for benefits. As I've written before, theirs is the mindset of the failed investor, who always imagined himself prescient, who thought that prognostication is an economic virtue, when what was really needed was a judicious evaluation of present circumstances. Dreher et al. bought the Iraq lies because they thought they were going to ride the wave of the next big thing. They thought they'd sign up just eight more investors and get their reward. They liked the promise of extra steak knives and vegetable corers for free with just a few easy payments of $9.95.
"Why had we scorned them so blithely?" Because you're all a pack of goddamn morons, that's why.
Monday, January 15, 2007
"Gates Says U.S. Resolved to Remain in Persian Gulf."
We all know the sentiments in the linked article to be true and held more or less universally in Washington, with occasional dissent from figures too marginal or isolated to matter. We all understand that the Persian Gulf is a "vital strategic region," and we all know what it is about the region that makes it vitally strategic. Some of us understand that regardless of the future disposition of the world's recoverable petroleum resources, the best, simplest, and most universally beneficial way to acquire those supplies still extant would be to follow Jim Henley's simple insight:
But what American access to oil reasonably requires is nothing more nor less than a functioning oil market. Oil costs money. Producers will want to sell for a profit. Buyers will want to get the best possible price. The juice itself is fungible. Iran can sign all the deals they want with Russian and Chinese companies, for instance, but that doesn’t keep Americans from buying gasoline. Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower undertook a deliberate, decade-long program of edging Britain and France out of control of Middle Eastern oil regimes. Will anyone argue that British and French consumers received a drop less petroleum as a consequence?The basis of American foreign policy was supposed to be what you might call Washingtonian commercialism. Perhaps we never really practiced it, but it was and is a good and decent basis for dealing with other nations in the world. Trade with those nations that have something to offer on reasonable and reasonably equitable terms. There are plenty of excuses for pursuing other paths, and most of them begin with the staggeringly facile rationale that "the world is more complicated now." That seems to me to be a debatable point anyway. Global intercourse is as old as civilization, and growth in speed and scope don't change the most basic economic facts: people will buy what they want and sell what they have as long as the means of exchange exist.
I am of the belief that there are grave moral shortcomings in our policy of dominance toward the other nations of the world. For all the euphemisms and cloth-renting over dead civilians--the regrettable but necessary byproducts of a somehow otherwise just military policy--there remains a simple, numerical truth. Many more people died at the hands of the American military last year than at the hands of terrorists. And the year before that. And the year before that. That's not even a reflection of the various estimated "surplus deaths" caused by our occupation of Iraq. It's just a reflection of the dozens or even hundreds of people who die in a a Somali village every time we decide to bomb this or that terrorist. It's a reflection of our continued air war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reducing moral considerations of relative wrong to body counts is incorrect, and terrorism is just as condemnable for its deliberate targetting of civilians. Still the fact remains: we keep killing people. The United States of America is the deadliest regime in the world at the moment. But even absent moral considerations, there are practical impediments to our dreams of conquest. We have neither the resources, the skills, nor the wherewithal to accomplish the regional hegemony we seek, and the longer we seek it without achieving it, the more justified and more effective will be opposition to our plans.
The sad conclusion is that no American defeat in Iraq will suffice unless it gives birth to a serious and long-lasting disinclination to using military force in anything other than direct self-defense. This isn't something you'll hear from the Democratic wing of the War Party, who remain ga-ga over The Troops, each and every one of them a moral exemplar except, of course, when not. It's sad that Americans have to die in Iraq, and most of the soldiers there didn't choose to go, and I don't quibble with the long tradition of providing ordinary soldiers amnesty from punishment for the criminal policies of their leaders. Nonetheless, we have to understand that our soldiers are fighting a war of aggression and occupation, and that they are the enemy of justice and peace in Iraq just as much as any death squad.
50,000 dead in Vietnam barely restrained our imperial dreams for a decade-and-a-half before Mr. Morning in America reopened the bomb bay doors. I try to look at these things with good humor, or at least gallows humor, but I tremble a little when I consider what punishment we'll require as a nation to understand how terribly wrong we've been.
The news of the last week has been full and strange, and by the time the weekend rolled around I began to feel that we'd slipped past the farce and into more upsetting territory. Oh how we laughed at Vladimir and Estragon. Then suddenly how we pity them. Then suddenly how we pity ourselves.
Condoleeza Rice, who comports herself with the bland self-disregard of a junky cultist, eyes forever fixed on a point just beyond whatever or whomever she's looking at, is "in the Middle East," proposing that the Palestinians accept a "temporary state" or a "state with temporary borders." That the American solution to this admittedly intractable problem is based on the Kashmiri model should tell you all you need to know. Matthew Yglesias calls it another Cololnel Kurtz moment for Team Exterminate-the-Brutes, and seems ready to accept that madness without method is a method in and of itself.
Our soldiers are kidnapping Iranians in Iraq, to the tune of "Iranians must stop meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation." It's a little late for us to begin preaching the George Washington gospel, but I suppose if gentlemen like Ted Haggard can preach damnation and screw gay hustlers on the side, the United States can crusade around the world toppling governments and undermining elections which results it doesn't like while simultaneously demanding isolationism of everyone else. Iran, of course, shares a border with its bloody, chaotic neighbor. Hey, didn't we just cheer Ethiopia for crossing the border to put Somalia right? Hey, who cares?! A lot of people think that our provocations toward Iran are meant to spark some retaliatory incident that will provide a pretext for a bombing campaign, and there's probably some truth to that. But if there's one thing I've learned to accept in these last six miserable years, it's that our lords and ladies in Washington, for all their essential, inherent, fundamental mendacity, actually do believe whatever bullshit is coming out of their mouths at any given time. What was once is no longer. No need for transcendental meditation: politics does what would otherwise require a lifetime of rigorous mindfulness, or a whole sheet of really good acid: eliminates all externality and sets its participants up in an eternal now. Or, as I once said of Andrew Sullivan, who likewise exists pastless and futureless in the realm of pure being, "wherever he goes, there he is."
Still, the dauphin and his court have lifted the usual American incoherence to a special artistry. We behaved badly during the cold war, fucked up miserably in South America, supported nasty dictators here, undermined legitimate elections there, but in pursuit, at least, of a grand goal. Not freedom or democracy, of course. But beating the Soviets, at least. Beating the Ruskies. There are moral components to each particular action we took in those sixty years, but overall we fought, as any powerful nation fights, to top our rival. Reagan got to grin and gesticulate as the wall fell. Vladimir Putin now pisses on our Moscow delenda est parade, but it was a pleasant sentiment for a decade. Rome didn't destroy Carthage because it deeply needed to spread the system of the republic; it did it because Carthage was a rival. So too us. Now, however, despite all the jibjab about Islamofascianazitolitarianism, about the, ahem, "caliphate," about Iran, the bomb, jihadism, and all the rest, we have no singular rival against which to organize our brutishness. And so we're swatting flies with shotguns. Indoors. And reaping the benefits, which, it turns out, aren't beneficial at all.