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19 February 2007

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Babak Makkinejad

All:

Campbell discusses the symbloic meaning of the Great Seal of the United States in his book, "The Power of Myth".

It is a fascinating presentation at the end of which he states that US left the path of Reason, which was her founding principle, by joining Britain in dominating the world starting with WWI.

mlaw230

Thank you, these comments go a long way to explaining the apparent odd dichotomy between domestic American culture and our foreign policy, at least since the Spanish American War.

I am reminded of the long standing tradition of not dipping our flag at Olympic Game ceremonies, i.e. countries may bow, but ideas may not. That illustrates the point well, I think.

Frank Durkee

Col. An historical question out of curiosity on this issue. Since most 'liberal democracies' emerge from the history of Western Europe over the last several centuries doesn't that situate them as adifferent culture? If so hasn't the drive for liberty in the political, economic, religious, and social spheres been the dominant motif? Since it can be at least,in part, claimed that these forces have assisted in the development of Western power.Shouldn't one then anticipate that other cultures will have to both resist and take on elements of the West as they recapitulate in some form the parallels to the earlier and to some extent on going struglles in the West? I think the analysis neglects some of the parallels between the tensions in all societies on the globe inckluding the US. We are after all at present under trmendous conservative Christian and Jewish religious pressure in our politics and that provides some of the pressure for our policies. Combine that with a president who is part of and depends on that conservative religious pressure for both emotional and political sustenance and the eschatological elements of the Abrhamic Faiths comes into play. This mirrors some of the same characteristics of the Islamic radicals orientation. Most of our 'tech-know' types, which includes military managers, simply look for "..the most efficient way to gain an end " to phraphrase Jaques Ellul, the French thinker. When the religious aspects of 'exceptionalism' as well as those of the en- lightenment combine it is a very heady brew for all sides. Scienfic technology simply amphlifies the harm which can be sone while reducion focus on the human, cultural, and historical issues involved. There is a certain degree of mirroring going on, with the consequent misreads on all sides. A minor point in this dilaogue, perhaps, but an important one. As one who is religiously trained I have tended to be a foreign policy realist ju st because of my knowledg e of the power of religion.

jr786

Prof. Cantori’s remarks reminded me of E.H. Carr’s idea of the Harmony of Interests, which Carr critiques as:

“…the natural assumption of a prosperous and privileged class, whose members have a dominant voice in the community and are therefore naturally prone to identify its interest with their own. In virtue of this identification, any assailant of the interests of the dominant group is made to incur the odium of assailing the alleged common interest of the whole community, and is told that in making this assault he is attacking his own higher interests. The doctrine of the harmony of interests thus serves as an ingenious moral device invoked, in perfect sincerity, by privileged groups in order to justify and maintain their dominant position.”

The United States often conflates its own interests with those of the world and, as Carr points out, there is a certain underlying truth to this conflation. The problem, as Prof. Cantori suggests, is what happens to groups or countries that do not believe their own interests are harmonious with those of the U.S. Furthermore, as Prof. Cantori notes, it is often the social sciences that confirm the rightness of superior power. Carr continues (with my parenthetical comments):

“When Mr. Churchill declared that "the fortunes of the British Empire and its glory are inseparably interwoven with the fortunes of the world," this statement had precisely the same foundation in fact as the statement that the prosperity of British manufacturers in the nineteenth century was inseparably interwoven with British prosperity as a whole.” (Recall Macauley’s comments on India; Carr also quotes Henry Ford’s maxim that “There can be no conflict between good economics and good morals”)

“Moreover, the purpose of the statements was precisely the same, namely to establish the principle that the defense of the British Empire, or the prosperity of the British manufacturer, was a matter of common interest to the whole community, and that anyone who attacked it was therefore either immoral or muddleheaded.” (The now combined tactic of accusing one’s opponents of stupid immorality remains the principal rhetorical weapon of the Bush Administration, as exemplified in the condescending smarminess of Tony Snow: You people just don’t get it)

“It is a familiar tactic of the privileged to throw moral discredit on the underprivileged by depicting them as disturbers of the peace; and this tactic is as readily applied internationally as within the national community. "International law and order," writes Professor Toynbee of a recent crisis, "were in the true interests of the whole of mankind... whereas the desire to perpetuate the region of violence in international affairs was an anti-social desire which was not even in the ultimate interests of the citizens of the handful of states that officially professed this benighted and anachronistic creed."

Toynbee, as later Carr points out, means that the security of the British Empire was in the interests of the entire world. The ‘drum beating liberal ideological crusade’ that Prof. Cantori attributes to the U.S. uses the same armor that Toynbee used: it’s for the good of all mankind.

To paraphrase Carr: ‘We have become the monopolists of international morality because it is we who have created the current canons of international virtue’. It has been our failure to think critically that got us into this mess in the first place. Thanks to Col. Lang and Prof. Cantori for offering a forum to think our way out.

plp

“Unfortunately, the American approach to international conflict is the ideological one sketched in the preceding.
.

What is clear is that the discourse of the war on terror is largely that of an American ideological monologue.”

Exactly, American people have nothing to do with the war beyond trusting their leadership. The ideological monologue is in the heads of academics at top US universities, paid ideologs at think tanks and their pupils and followers in the government (note that most neocons have PhDs in something like philosophy or history). 99.99% of Americans would not care for Isaiah Berlin's ideas and who he was (who was TBW not some home grown thinker but a Russian-born Jewish philosopher who taught in Britain; America is known for only one school of philosophy and that is PRAGMATISM! Peirce, William James, John Dewey - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatism).

As I pointed out in a previous post, the war is to give the Middle East a push so that it would tern into a liberal democracy, the final and most complete form of political organization.

But what is ideology and idealism? Aren’t they just idol worship of ideas, which are in many cases nothing more than dreams and imaginations? Like pagans, men erect idols in their heads and then bring on the altar of their barbaric “gods” real human lives. In any event, all these ideological talk is a European import (a foreign culture), and it will wrack havoc in the US, just like it destroyed Europe.

Babak Makkinejad

plp:

"No man is justified in the eye of the Lord."

VietnamVet

Thanks Colonel;
This is the best discussion yet on the contradiction that is Iraq. How in a million years did the American Establishment believe that it could bring secular democracy to the Middle East at the point of a gun? They believed their own propaganda. Besides, there are billions in dollars to be made in war profits. Exxon-Mobile pumping Iraqi oil outside of OPEC is the best of all possible worlds.

Duncan Kinder

For a description about how Western cultures have impacted Third World cultures, read Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe.

A novel with doubtless implicatins regarding the current Nigerian uprisings, it, by portraying the destruction of one Ibo's life, encapsules how British colonialism destroyed Nigerian culture.

The Amazon.com blurb is as follows:

One of Chinua Achebe's many achievements in his acclaimed first novel, Things Fall Apart, is his relentlessly unsentimental rendering of Nigerian tribal life before and after the coming of colonialism. First published in 1958, just two years before Nigeria declared independence from Great Britain, the book eschews the obvious temptation of depicting pre-colonial life as a kind of Eden. Instead, Achebe sketches a world in which violence, war, and suffering exist, but are balanced by a strong sense of tradition, ritual, and social coherence. His Ibo protagonist, Okonkwo, is a self-made man. The son of a charming ne'er-do-well, he has worked all his life to overcome his father's weakness and has arrived, finally, at great prosperity and even greater reputation among his fellows in the village of Umuofia. Okonkwo is a champion wrestler, a prosperous farmer, husband to three wives and father to several children. He is also a man who exhibits flaws well-known in Greek tragedy:

Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo's fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father.

And yet Achebe manages to make this cruel man deeply sympathetic. He is fond of his eldest daughter, and also of Ikemefuna, a young boy sent from another village as compensation for the wrongful death of a young woman from Umuofia. He even begins to feel pride in his eldest son, in whom he has too often seen his own father. Unfortunately, a series of tragic events tests the mettle of this strong man, and it is his fear of weakness that ultimately undoes him.

Achebe does not introduce the theme of colonialism until the last 50 pages or so. By then, Okonkwo has lost everything and been driven into exile. And yet, within the traditions of his culture, he still has hope of redemption. The arrival of missionaries in Umuofia, however, followed by representatives of the colonial government, completely disrupts Ibo culture, and in the chasm between old ways and new, Okonkwo is lost forever. Deceptively simple in its prose, Things Fall Apart packs a powerful punch as Achebe holds up the ruin of one proud man to stand for the destruction of an entire culture. --Alix Wilber

ali

Babak it takes a wilful ignorance of US history to conclude that WWI was some sort of great turning away from the light of reason to the dark ways of British style Imperialism.

We have the Spanish-American war in 1902. largely cooked up in the Hearst press with flimsy evidence that the sinking of the USS Maine was Spains work.

America was a far more frankly Imperial nation in the 19th century than in the blushing 20th. Ask any Mexican about la intervención norteamericana in 1847 or how Texas got filched from them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_American_War

Note the Thornton affair; another very fishy pretext for war on territory the Texans had just unilaterally declared theirs and Abe's testy "show me the spot".

It goes right back further than that. A large motivation in The Revolutionary War was the desire to drop all treaty obligations with the Indians; the British insisted they be maintained and this got in the way of Manifest Destiny.

Great idea Manifest Destiny another God given mission just like The White Mans Burden but shorn of the whig hypocrisy of having a duty of care to the natives.

The drive West is as much a piece of Imperialism as the near contemporaneous drive east into Siberia by the Czars or the East India Companies stealthy theft of India.

pbrownlee

It will be interesting to see what happens when the "surge" (as The Economist points out, rather more of a squirt) fails. What, I wonder, is this Plan B's Plan B?

If it is somehow related to the SoS's "work" on resolving the Palestinian question, God help us. Since the US appears to be maintaining its position that that the only acceptable Palestinian is a Zionist, there is no hope and these proceedings are now some sort of grisly, amateurish low farce.

Pace Professor Cantori, I suspect that POTUS is flailing (not "flaying", but I can understand the slip) inside a psychological (rather than ideological) paper bag and when it bursts there will be quite a bang.

Not entirely incidentally, "Ich bin ein Berliner" has a different meaning for most people who met Isaiah Berlin - "I only hope you don’t over-estimate me too far – that you do so is clear to me; but then my life has been entirely founded on a systematic over-estimate of my capacities – I do not quarrel with this, long may it last, nevertheless I am aware that it is true" - http://berlin.wolf.ox.ac.uk/writings_on_ib/johnson.htm

John Howley

Thanks to Professor Cantori for his succinct and readable essay. [I note his reference to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia after 9/11. I wonder: Who won the "Battle of Nine Eleven"?]

Intellectuals refine ideas which then trickle into public discourse which in turn influence the policy debate and ultimately the decisions taken. Mass media operates at every step to shape and amplify discussion.

The realities of mass media have a critical role in elevating the more strident and ideological voices -- Clash of Civilizations! Film at 11!

Television magnifies some voices and ignores others. Many factors influence the editorial process: ideological blinders acquired at university, intimidation by White House appointed regulators, financial interests of network owners, and so on.

It's also the case that when two programs are run head to head, say, Prof Cantori and Col Lang discussing the complexities of blah, blah, blah and two partisan ideologues bashing each other, the latter will win the ratings battle every time. This factor, and it's a powerful one, results from the nature of the television medium and how we relate to it (and not from any hidden conspiracies.)

Television is a neutral technology that can educate or distort.

I thumbed through this one at the store:

Silence of the Rational Center: Why American Foreign Policy Is Failing by Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke.

Has anyone read it?

Chris Marlowe

George Bush's current ME policy is the last hurrah of the western domination of the world economy, which has lasted for the past 200 years. Much of this leadership was based on ideas from the enlightenment, the industrial revolution, then later the information revolution.

Before the 19th century, China had the world's largest economy for the past 18 centuries. Along with western ideas, Europe, then America, dominated through their control of the oil-based economy. Naturally, this required domination of the ME region.

Now though, the world has evolved into an economically and ideologically multilateral world, where no single country and economy has complete domination in ideas. In this new multilateral world, China and India are most likely to be the largest economies, even though they will not dominate (have more than 50%) of the world economy.

The "war on terror" is a poorly disguised naked war of aggression against the peoples of the Middle East, who want to take control of their futures and their natural resources. Bush, never an ideologist, has reduced it largely to "might makes right", based on American force of arms. This is the very last hurrah, before the American dream sinks under the waves.

However, the American dream did not fail; it was just that the rest of the world copied it. Everyone understands and uses the same technology and the same economic principles. The perfect example is Vietnam. While most Americans think that America lost the war, today's Vietnam, with its opening economy and gradually opening politics, is becoming a more open, more prosperous society, like American was before the "war on terror". Asia is growing and prosperous because people just want to live better, and have a better future for themselves and their childrens' future.

When a country becomes too ideological and narrow in its approach, that is a sure sign of failure. That is why America is failing now.

There is another less ideological and less intellectual interpretation too. This story talks about someone who behaves badly in a restaurant; exchange the person who behaves badly for the US under the current administration, and the other guests in the restaurant as the world community, and you have something which applies very well to our current situation.

http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1171620180188

Charles

huh. plp seems to be the very manifestation of the Lang/Cantori thesis. If America's only philosophy is pragmatism, why don't they nuke Israel now?

And for heaven's sake, when was the last time humans or states could be taken at their words when the issues are competition and consumption? The post WWII interregnum produced economic conditions that facilitate luxuries like some limited rule of law, the welfare state, an SUV in every pot, 99 flavours of toothpaste and an accretion of educated chattering classes - IN SOME PLACES. And in some of those, a thin veneer of 'liberal democracy". It induces predictable, calculable behaviour - for now. Obviously, conditions have changed.

We are simutaneously being told we are in an exsistential struggle for our very survival on several fronts - religo-political, energy/technology and environmental- and that at such a time our only hope is to forcibly export our political order whilst the political economy that supports our comfy liberal life has irrevocably and inexorably changed. We exported the "liberal" part - the forced free markets of globalization- while our governments feverishly fiddle with the domestic economy to insulate powerful stakeholders from the effects of our export of "freedom".

Whatever the merits of expanding liberal democracy, the global spread its present formulation would be its end. As is occurring now. The liberal ideals are thrown out to sustain the economic juggernaut that some have learned to milk and others survive. There are just not enough of the nuts and bolts of "liberal democracy" - economic security sustaining libweral democratic social order and political legitimation of the use of force - to go around the planet today. Perforce, something else will develop.

There is no more virgin, mostly unpopulated frontier to monopolistically exploit. Obviously our fantastic technology is not up to solving that problem on a global scale. Even with that basic foundation, a legitmated, accepted monopoly on the use of force is required to sustain a state and economy to the point where a liberal democratic social order can emerge. That monopoly used to be the province of the nation state. Those days are gone, except insofar as the relation holds within the current western nations. Power is busily reinforcing that relationship wherever it can - by whatever means necessary.

Anyone could imagine that the same inexorable, unpredictable forces are not acting to complicate and irredeemably change "liberal democracy". They could dream up anything that circumstances allow, including the chimera that this is the way it is, and that's it. But dreams of liberty and justice for all don't fill hungry bellies and gas tanks - or think tanks, for that matter.

I assure you, an armchair intellectual dilettante, champion of the poor and oppressed in my community and the world, that B.A. and law degree in hand, I will be jumping up and down on my M.P.'s desk demanding whatever it takes, and threatening whatever else, if there is not enough gas to run my stereo and get to the cottage.

Wait til the west starts exporting THAT.


Ellen1910

So . . . do we attack the elites' defenses of their global economic position -- defenses by and large selected by them on pragmatic grounds -- or the people's blinkered, ideologically determined patriotism?

zenpundit

That was thoroughly interesting to read.

The Enlightenment paradigm dominates because it is intrinsically generative and critical. It isn't simply a culture but a dynamic epistemological framework, which is where, I suppose, the "aggressive" quality comes from. It is never at rest. Nor can it long entertain the idea of final answers to questions.

Ingolf

We seem, with Professor Cantori's contribution and much of the subsequent discussion, to have travelled quite a long way from the starting point of Col Lang's article. For my part, I'm not at all sure the journey has been particularly profitable.

Professor Cantori uses Berlin to make the argument that liberalism can so easily become the "perpetrator in the present assumed 'clash of civilisations'". While I don't think there's any doubt the west, and America in particular, have been doing exactly that for quite some time, I do think it's a grave error to attribute that to liberalism. I haven't read the essay of Berlin's that Prof. Cantori leans on, but from my understanding of Berlin's work and thought, I suspect he would have been referring not to liberalism generally but to the very negative consequences that can flow from particular conceptions of "positive liberty". The concept of self mastery, of being in control of one's destiny which are central to positive liberty as Berlin defines it, lend themselves all too easily to abuse by those who wish to bring about a particular kind of society. I'd imagine it was this perversion of one of the two broad conceptions of liberty to which Berlin would have been referring when he laid at liberalism's feet some of the blame for communism and fascism.

There’s little doubt that liberalism will often tend to view some alternate, “obdurate, uncompromising point[s] of view” as barbarous. Although I struggle to see where and how Taoism could fit into this definition, or even Buddhism for that matter, Islam can obviously only too easily do so. There are, however, two considerations that ought to inform any attempts to draw conclusions from this. Firstly, I think a reasonable argument can be made that the genuine liberal, pluralist philosophy is in fact the most evolved to date. Its great virtue is that more than any other system it allows all varieties of belief and lifestyle to flourish, save the coercive. Here it has the right, indeed in my view the need, to be pretty uncompromising. Uncompromising, though,and here we come to the second consideration, only in defense of its own freedoms, not in any presumed right to spread those notions by force. The perfect summary of what I would call the true liberal position on this matter came from John Quincy Adams (as Secretary of State) in July 1821:

“Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all; she is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force … . She might become the dictatress of the world; she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.”

Unfortunately, the hijacking of bits and pieces of classical liberalism and the unashamed rhetorical use of some of its language and concepts by those who more correctly belong on the other side of the philosophical divide has done incalculable harm. As, to a lesser degree, has its takeover and misuse by the American strain of liberalism. It’s hard to say whether the rather lovely original creation can ever be extracted from the resulting linguistic and conceptual wreckage. We should not, however, in my view, allow these failures and perversions to undermine our understanding of the great value of the underlying principles.

American exceptionalism, together with the wider presumption that it is the west’s right – or duty – to forceably spread these beliefs is a terrible mutation, not something which naturally grows from liberalism itself. As one comes to understand that many of the dilemmas the west now faces are in fact the result of our relentless interference, it’s easy to overcompensate and begin to doubt and criticise the whole basis of our society rather than just focussing on where it has gone wrong, on the degree, in short, to which it has betrayed its foundation beliefs.

Charles

Apropos to my comments on liberal democracy, power and that "a legitmated, accepted monopoly on the use of force is required to sustain a state and economy to the point where a liberal democratic social order can emerge." comes this editorial today from the New York times:
"Making Martial Law Easier"

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/19/opinion/19mon3.html?em&ex=1172034000&en=a62c4d8c568f28fc&ei=5087%0A

Brent Wiggans

In 1972, while in London on a foreign study program, the group of American students I was with met with a Tory MP to discuss politics. He said something to us that I think I rejected out of hand at the time (he being a Conservative and me being, well, something else, mostly wet behind the ears) that has resonated through the years and which I now find compelling. He said that foreign policy should be based upon respect for the reasonable self-interest of others. This simple formulation leaves plenty of room for argument over what constitutes “reasonable”, but it does acknowledge the legitimacy of the ways and aspirations of others while never denying one’s own. It implies a dynamic world of contesting ideas and cultures and a kind of practical limit to how far one may go in pursuit of one’s interests. We need not apologize for the limitations of our own cultural and anthropological vision. They are no worse than most. It is the arrogance of our belief in an American exceptionalism that is neither reasonable nor respectable.

Different Clue

How poor, or at least austere, could we become, and still keep for ourselves
a liberal-philosophy-based civilization in America and some other countries where it emerged, and whose peoples still want it? If we could shrink our economy to the point of not needing resources from non-Western countries to survive, then we would not need to impose liberalism upon them in order to extract economic support from them. Could we
shrink our economies that much and still retain our own liberalism?
How do we "make America safe for the world"? How do
we replace American Exceptionalism with American
Ordinaryism? How do we set aside our "middle kingdom complex"? How do we go from
"We're Number One!" to "We're good enough"? How
do we turn National Greatness Conservatives into
National Okayness Moderates?

H.G.

Let's not get carried away here.

A very large percentage of Americans never wanted this war in the first place and a fluid majority were convinced it was maybe a good idea only after being repeatedly lied to about the purpose: removing Saddam's "mushroom cloud". This also came about on the heels of the emotionally charged post-9/11 period.

With either a change of 600 votes in Florida in 2000, or a glitch in the plan of the 9/11 conspirators, the Iraq war would NEVER HAVE HAPPENED. 9/11 created what I would describe as our collective "Flitcraft moment" (Hammett's Maltese Falcon character), and GWB was just exactly the wrong person, at the wrong time, in the wrong job.

The moment is over now and we are returning to the neocon-loathed "pre-9/11" mindset. Americans are returning to their innate concerns which are primarily "I want a nicer car, bigger tv, and posher house".

Americans who back this war (dead-enders to use Cheney's term) don't really think everyone in the world is created as equal as we are and never have. Americans have just always been a sucker for con jobs from up top. This has little to do with our thinking everyone is like us. In fact, the "Bush Americans", and maybe even the larger majority of Americans are scared to death of foreigners and convinced they ARE NOT LIKE US AND NEVER WILL BE! Sadly, Europeans are starting to share that sentiment as well. The problem for the Bush American is not that he loves the US for being a melting pot, in fact he fears it: anything that gets added to a melting pot changes the flaver and may turn it into a dish he doesn't want to eat. He wants a nice, familiar chicken noodle soup, not lentil stew, andoulle gumbo or pho tai.

For the dead-enders, the new/old Iraq battle cry is "We fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here." and every combination of that. I tried an interesting thought experiment last week during the congressional hearings: every time I heard a war supporter use the phrase "jihadist" I mentally transformed it into the phrase "really angry brown people". If you strip the code-speak off, that is the mindset with which we are dealing and it is very enlightening.

Chris Bray

And here's the source of the current tragedy: The historical counterweight to this crusader ideology has been a political conservatism that seeks to avoid reckless foreign adventures.

Grover Cleveland refused to ask the Senate to annex Hawaii, for example, because he was appalled by the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by American business interests. We could also talk about the American refusal to accept a German invitation to the conference in Berlin where European powers divided Africa between themselves. And so on -- there are plenty of examples of an America that sought to keep its fingers out of everybody else's pie. (Of course, there's also William Walker and Sam Houston and Richard Henry Pratt.)

Today an administration full of people who call themselves "conservative" model their foreign policy on Woodrow Wilson, minus the multilateralism, and they talk about reengineering the world with American power.

The tragedy is the death of a principled American conservatism that valued prudence and restraint in foreign affairs. We see the result.

anna missed

While no doubt true that "monism" is an integral part the of "liberal enlightment" of western democracies -- was'nt it French colonialism that touted the policy of "assimilation" as its raison d'etre in its African colonies. Seems there's plenty of exceptionalist blame to go around, except that historically, American exceptionalism is, well, exceptional. In that much political science would proclaim it a significant differential as a matter of political diversification, when compaired to the European political history -- in that the socialist models have never taken root. Which has led to a particularly large blind spot, as the professor points out, in engaging indegenious societies culturally grounded in communilism, like Iraq. The French lost in Algeria, with perhaps a more enlightened cultural understanding and The U.S. lost in Vietnam where the ideological difference was on top, but in Iraq, the U.S. is loosing with the full monty -- on both the cultural and the ideological levels. And to underline this point we only have to look for the proponents of the sectarian Iraq resistance in the west -- there are none. Neither the liberals, the leftists, sectarian Christians, and certainly not the full spread of political parties could give a whit about what the Iraqis themselves might envision for their own future. Because its become all about us, and (as Cantori says) the particularly opaque bag, we have been thrashing around in for the past 6 years. And one has to wonder what is to happen in the aftermath, when the blind spot is turned upon ourselves -- do they know who we are either?

Babak Makkinejad

ali:

To Joseph Campbell, the US participation in WWI was the crucial turning point from the Path of Reason.

I do not know why he discounted the annexation of 1/3 of Mexico and other similar events.

For Robinson Jeffers, it was WWII; "shine: perishing republic ..."

Got A Watch

A very deep discussion here, thanks to all for posting such well though out comments. IMHO the "ideological blinkers" were simply another tool in the propaganda tool box used to support the drive for war, a flaw in the national psyche recognised and exploited quite adroitly by the neo-cons. Probably one of the very few things they have ever done competently, aside from enriching their friends in the military-industrial complex.

Yet, after all the talking, the USA remains mired in Iraq and seems highly likely to compound the problem by doubling-down in Iran. This relates directly to the real motive for the 2003 invasion and all its tragic aftermath. That cause is OIL - does anyone really believe the US would have ever invaded Iraq if there was NO oil there? Hardly.

The truth is plain to see: Afghanistan has no oil, is a low priority. Iraq, lots of oil, high priority. Iran, lots of oil/gas and the ability to control the Straits of Hormuz (even more oil), high priority. Can you connect the dots?

From "The Colonial Stag
in Rutting Season"
by Ann Berg
http://www.antiwar.com/orig/berga.php?articleid=10552
"The beastly nature of U.S. foreign policy becomes more apparent daily. As William Pfaff recently wrote, the current and future preemptive wars in the greater Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa are late tremors of colonialism, driven by America's deep-rooted delusion over its own exceptionalism. Given its ascendant position after World War II (comprising 40 percent of the world's GDP), the rapid dollarization of the global economy, and the embrace of military Keynesianism (deftly described by Chalmers Johnson), it is no wonder that the U.S. finds itself stuck in overreach and blustery denial......

Because of colonialism's horrific legacy, the U.S. wove elaborate tales to pitch its noble enterprise for subjugating the Islamic region and using Iraq as its central command post to oversee regional energy development. Prior to all its "liberation" talk, the administration extolled the invasion as a bona fide investment – yielding instant dividends and a continuous stream of good will. The fact that investment was impossible because of U.S. prohibitions against American/Iraqi capital ventures went unmentioned. Once the weapons threat and the Saddam- 9/11 connection fizzled, the U.S. ramped up the struggle as a clash of worldviews, one it couldn't afford to lose. Details supporting this axiom appear closely guarded – hushed circles must be envisioning Muslim hordes overrunning American soil – turning symbols of culture, capital, and religion into rubble."

To which I would add:
"If we don't stop behaving like the British Empire, we will end up like the British Empire.
– Pat Buchanan"

Frank Durkee

Arts and Letters Daily at
http://www.aldaly,com/ has an article by Michael Valhos: "The Fall Of Modernity: Has the American Narrative Authored Its Own Undoing?". The article adds to the comments on this Blog and adds some dimensions. One does not have to agree with all of it to find it insightful.

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