The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.Interesting that this is proposed as a paradox. "The most powerful country every to inhabit the earth" makes warfare its main concern? You don't say! Gross martial preeminence is not the wellspring of social justice? Empires are by nature oligarchic? It never fails to amaze, this inveterate capacity to be astonished by the most essential characteristics of a thing.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
The Libya intervention shows just how shallow antiwar sentiment is, how readily and swiftly the nominal opponents of Western military hegemony give up their wobbly, knock-kneed opposition to militarism as soon as some slick salesmen presents them with the bloody tissue of humanitarianism to stuff in their waxy ears. Actually, that overcredits them. Obama isn't even a slick salesmen; he is a waffler and a babbler, a pedant whose sentences wind in and out of reasons with all the dull pace of a bocce ball on its slow circuit. And yet, he is not a cowboy'd "conservative", ergo he must be telling the truth when he says we're doing this to go after a murderous dictator, we're doing it for the People, for the Children, for the Future, for democracy. Of course, Saddam was a far more brutal, "dangerous" dictator that Qaddafi, and Saddam had been brutally suppressing domestic insurgencies and rebellions for decades. But George W. Bush pushed the wrong cultural buttons; he spoke with a fake drawl; he embraced ersatz middle-American pseudo-Christianity; he mispronounced nuclear. We OPPOSE this WAR BASED ON LIES! But when Barack Obama wades in, they wring their hands. Oh, dear. Oh, my. Qaddafi is killing his own people. God, someone please, bring up torture chambers and rape rooms. Someone bring up Milosevic. What, would you rather
The Taliban Saddam Qaddafi remain in power?
What you find is that most soi-disant radicals in this country are nothing more than educated white liberals with a mild streak of contrarianism; tug their heartstrings and find them weeping uncontrollably in the driveway over a story on NPR; prick them, and find a cruise missile aficionado. Put someone in charge who makes the appropriate cultural signals, and skepticism vanishes. Their is no anti-war movement in America, no "left"--merely an unseemly collection of neoliberal cultural chauvinists, just as eager to cheer on the carnage, so long as it wears the appropriate guise and does not embarrass them at the dinner table.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Via Daniel Larison, two fine articles on Libya, the first by Adam Garfinkle in The American Interest, the second by Brendan O'Neill in The Australian, but while the latter is a better stem-winder full of pointed knocks at our Narcissi-in-Chiefs here in what we fancifully call The West, it is the former that lays out in grotesque detail just how thoroughly absurd and ill-conceived is our "intervention."
I read these pieces reflecting on Ladypoverty's two recent posts in which he asks, effectively: well, what do the Libyans want? Now that may sound a little woolly-headed, and it's an inelegant paraphrase on my part, so let me say right off that it's a wholly reasonable question.
This in turn points to my method for evaluating the legitimacy of authority in a particular situation, which might best be described as something like a non-ideological anarchism. For our purposes here, I will only reiterate that it's really not important what your view is in a situation that primarily impacts other people. It's important what their view is, and what their preferences are under the circumstances as they experience them.But while this is a valuable insight and a good question, it seems to me to be wholly inapplicable to the actions of the Western powers in Libya. First, what Libyans? The Libyans in the West, centered on Tripoli, who seem politically and tribally loyal to the extant regime, or the Libyans in the East, centered on Benghazi, whose own "leadership," as it has so far coalesced into something only marginally less objectionable than Qaddafi's government--indeed, has coalesced around former figures from Qaddafi's government? Even a cursory examination of the news reveals the paucity of the pro-intervention line, which would have a dictatorial government on one side and a benighted people on the other, the latter begging for our assistance. Well, no, in reality, there is an existing government on one side and a rival power on the other, and the "intervention", whatever supposed humanitarian garb it wears, is alliance with one side in a civil war. And while it's true, as ladypoverty says, that non-intervention is not wholly in itself a principle of anarchism, the bars he sets--is it justifiable? is it the desire of the affected parties?--are entirely too low. I can imagine circumstances in which even I would support an exercise of American military power, but they are so hypothetical as to be merely ridiculous. If Angela Merkel rearms Germany and the tanks roll toward the Rhine, I will join you in calling for the swift defense of my beloved Strasbourg; if Russian troops land in Vancouver, by all means, send in the Marines; but the rebellious half of Libya is not an absurd hypothetical; it is an armed, albeit insufficiently armed, semi-secessionist, warring faction within a foreign nation, and the notion that "we," or "Europe," or "NATO," or whomever can dispassionately evaluate the different parties' wants, hopes, desires, and demands is of the same species of narcissism that impelled us to heedlessly intervene in the first place.
Putting the moral question aside, and to steal a page from my friend la_rana, there is in any case no particular reason to tax our capacity for empathy, for understanding the minds of others, when the question of whether or not to intervene is so determined by ability and capacity. Assuming that circumstances were not as they are, that morality was not murky, that the rebels are good and the loyalists are bad, we nevertheless lack the ability to fix it; we have neither the capability nor the wherewithal to . . . well, to do what exactly? To slow the loyalist advance? To defeat the loyalists for the rebels? To defeat them how? To impose a new political regime on the country? To force "reconciliation"? For how long? And, as the playground taunt reminds us, with what army? The one "protecting" the Afghan people from the Taliban? Yes, it is true that generalized disapproval of Western power is sometimes a poor position from which to argue, but the opposite argument is more damnable still: I mean, under what specific circumstances can Western bombs bring peaceful solutions on terms acceptable to all sides? Under no circumstances. So while it may be morally correct for a hypothetical power with capacities far in excess of and motives far less questionable than those possessed by the actual West to intervene in a hypothetical conflict in which there are no dubious, hazy conditions of relative morality and relative good, in the practical, actual world, none of this obtains, and what you have, as per usual, is the US and its allies lobbing cruise missiles into a country without reason or planning; just another brutal exercise of DOING SOMETHING because the roots of our narcissism drink from a deep well of insecurity that requires we constantly blow shit up lest we admit to human limitations.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
In a statement released by Colonel Thomas Collins, the US Army, which is currently preparing a court martial to try a total of 12 suspects in connection with the killings, apologized for the suffering the photos have caused. The actions depicted in the photos, the statement read, are "repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States."Ever time "an atrocity" is committed in one of our wars, we get the same official response. I put the phrase in quotation marks because it is a kind of minimizing euphemism, a figure of speech that redirects the mind by way of false perspective. The atrocities are our wars; these horrors merely their constituent parts. "The actions depicted in the photos" are gruesome to be sure, but no more gruesome than the airstrikes carried out every single day. The sin is a sin against decorum, a failure of form. When you have mutilated a village, you must don a sober tie and American flag lapel pin and announce to the teevee that you deeply regret the loss of civilian life, or, better yet, deny that anyone was killed but the Lord of Hell and his demonic disciples themselves, although of course you will direct the committee to form a board to order an inquiry into the nature of the investigation of the allegations of the accusations. The crime is not killing an Afghan but posing tastelessly with the corpse. The soldiers are being court-martialed for wearing white shoes before Memorial Day.
The suspected perpetrators are part of a group of US soldiers accused of several killings. Their court martials are expected to start soon. The photos, the army statement said, stand "in stark contrast to the discipline, professionalism and respect that have characterized our soldiers' performance during nearly 10 years of sustained operations."
As usual, the spokescreatures confirm as much. "'The images have an enormous potential here in Afghanistan,' one NATO general told SPIEGEL ONLINE." The images. Ohmigod how will the Afghans react when they find out what we are doing to them?
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
This being said, Ron Paul is a fucking straightup rockstar. "Even if you can change it, you don't have the right." Hellzyeah.
Most legal scholars agree that the nation’s founders intended to separate the power to decide to initiate a war from the power to carry it out. But ever since the Korean War, presidents of both parties have ordered military action without Congressional authorization.I am glad that the Rands père et fils and some other congresscreatures are questioning Th'Obama's executive action here, but I find these appeals to the Constitution as a sort of biblical font of moral virtue--Is it right? Is it just? Let's ask the CONSTITUTION!--to be basically preposterous. Like, I sit on the board of a little non-profit in Pittsburgh, and if I take to the rooftop and start picking off employees of the non-profit down the street with a high-powered rifle, the question will not be whether or not I properly called the question under the bylaws. This sort of proceduralism is all fine and well, but it obscures the larger question of whoever gave any of us the authority to go kill people, regardless of the political and philosophical affinities we may believe ourselves to have with one or other faction in a conflict. It is very easy to be lulled by the assumed democratic aspirations of the Libyan rebels, but this seems to lead some to presume that America is not Alden Pyle, but Robert Jordan--perhaps a distinction without a difference, since both of them, in the end, and horribly for everyone, failed.
The divergence between presidential practice for the past 60 years and the text and history of the Constitution makes it hard to say whether such action is lawful, scholars say. “There’s no more dramatic example of the ‘living Constitution’ than in this area,” said David Golove, a New York University law professor