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29 October 2007

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Walrus

I like this thinkpiece because it appears that at least some people are now dimly comprehending the scale of the damage that has been done to the cause of secular humanism by a variety of actors of which Cheney is only one.

I say that secular humanism is the victim here because the "great experiment" that was the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, is founded on secular humanist beliefs - that is that man is capable of organising his affairs through rational, fact based scientific experiment, argument and debate.

That means without the aid of appeals to Deities, Gods, Shamans, Priests or flying spaghetti monsters.

That also means without the aid of Kings, aristocrats, nobility or other hierarchical or god anointed upper classes.

Cheney, Bush and the entire NeoConservative movement, plus their acolytes and supporters, have shat on the founding fathers and then used the Constitution as toilet paper to wipe their backsides. there is simply no other way to put it.

Not one of them has any respect whatsoever for secular humanism. It's also why commentators, the President, Cheney and their Administration engage in convoluted double speak to justify their actions - there is no rational secular humanist justification for anything they have ever done.

Despite the fashionable NeoCon view that Washington creates its own reality, in actual fact reality can not be mugged. Washington is not Rome, and their are limits to American power.

Cheney may well succeed in attacking Iran, but the outcome is uncertain and I fail to see how an attack could possibly be to America's advantage.

I don't believe America can recover from Bush and Cheney. At best I think you are going to wind up with a bankrupt economy and civil unrest. At worst, you will have all that plus a police state.

R

Col. Lang:
The lack of paragraph breaks (and a gigantic block of text!!) make this quite difficult to read. Especially on a small screen.
Please have mercy on us faithful readers.

JohnH

Yes, they truly believe that might makes right. Democracy is just a brand to be managed by the strongest, a noble name for whatever system of government they choose to impose.

Drunk with power, they fail to consider the consequences of using their might. Bin Laden understands this very well and has to be delighted to see the US attack one muslim country after another. Playing the game on the opponents' home court is always difficult and extremely costly, unless you are truly willing to finish your opponents off via genocide. Bush and Cheney should have learned this from Korea and Vietnam as well as from the Soviet experience in Afghanistan and the British one in the American colonies. Like other imperial rulers, Bush and Cheney obvious feel that their case is exceptional and their experience will therefore be different.

But as more countries get invaded and victories continue to be more apparent than real, the odds increase dramatically that the weight of those "victories" will ultimately be pyrrhic.

But that will be Hillary's problem...

johnf

Admittedly this has to be seen within a European (heathen/balance of power) prism, because the European series of superpowers - Spain, France, Britain - all tended to bobble above their adversaries in a sea of balance-of-power alliances.

Some, at the end of their economic and military strength, have gone out with quixotic snarls - the Spanish in the Netherlands - some, like the British, quietly waited, then handed their empires over to their successors.

I have always seen America within this prism - the latest in a line of European Empires, each gradually succumbing to an alliance of rivals.

Perhaps the closest parallel is with France. Gradually, gracefully slipping into decline, then suddenly gone mad under the Revolution and Napoleon, plunging into the worst aspects of total war, before being smothered by an alliance of counterpowers led by its successor, Britain.

Although Cheney et al might see themselves as wannabee Zerosummers, the rest of the world seems to be acting as though it believes in a Hegelian balance of power.

Until the end of the Reign of Emperor Clinton, the world did come to Washington to kiss the purple toe and at least appear as though it was asking permission to do things before it was doing them. But since the Lurch of Tough Guy Cheney it seems to me the world, after some momentary disarray, has decided to pursue its policies, agree its trade terms, barter its arms, carry on generally as though the United States, as it destroys itself, is not there.

There is a new world arising in China, India, Russia, Brazil, even partly Europe, in which the US does not figure.

Cheney might be playing ZeroSum, the rest of the world (except losers like Britain and Israel) are playing Hegel - the continuation of balance of power diplomacy.

jlcg

Actually the transition, in Hegel, from the ethical substance that is the Greek polis to the equality of everyone under a Master occurs not in the Eastern Roman Empire but in Rome itself. One of the most splendid paragraphs of the Phenomenology is the one in which the necessity of acting is reached and because we cannot have an objective view of nature, because we are part of it, the result of our actions is unpredictable and their failure or success is later on explained away through language that, is spin. A lot of scorn has been heaped upon the guy that said that we create our own reality but he was onto something, because creating our own reality is our constant exercise, but the result may not be and usually it is not what we expected.

bstr

The 21st century may see the begining of truly endless war. Non-state actors becoming more obvious in their various roles as, insurgents, terrorist, global corporatist, private armies' and some yet to be developed. Our consummer society is, through the instruments of promotion, feeding on greed and evacuating fear.No wonder so many find a refuge in the arms of the Unitary Executive. The concept of a war having a single victor will not be possible.

Clifford Kiracofe

An analysis of the Cheney-Neocon network, which serves a broader imperial faction (Ike's "military-industrial complex"), would take into consideration their imperial ideology, or "mindset."

Some components I find rest on the German Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt and his pupil Leo Strauss. This is a Nietzschean mindset, and a form of Caesarism.

Another element in the construction of the current Bush regime would include Max Weber's concept of the "charismatic leader."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charismatic_authority

To which add, Spengler's concept of "Second Religiousness" as a counterpart to Caesarism:
"The Second Religiousness is the necessary counterpart of Caesarism, which is the final political constitution of Late Civilization... The material of the Second Religiousness is simply that of the first, genuine, young religiousness-- only otherwise experienced and expressed. It starts with Rationalism's fading out in helplessness, then the forms of the springtime become visible and finally the whole world of the primitive religion, which had receded before the grand forms of the early faith, returns to the foreground, powerful, in the guise of the popular syncretism that is to be found in every Culture at this phase..."
http://www.duke.edu/~aparks/SPENGQ.html

It is not as if Strauss, Irving Kristol, and all that crowd haven't studied their Schmitt, Nietzsche, Weber, and Spengler now is it?

It is worth noting that their imperial strategy, resting in some ways on the so-called "hegemonic stability" theory is not just their personal fantasy. It is the official policy of the United States as outlined in the official "National Security Strategy" of the United States (2002).
http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html


markf


I personally believe in the laws of Physics. A tree which falls in the forest makes noise, even if there is nobody there to hear.

I also believe in the basic insights of Game Theory: that some strategies on average work significantly better than others, in give situations. It follows from this that a process of natural selection will increase the frequency of actors who use good judgment, over the long run.

None of this tells us what our personal, or national, fate will be, but we can try to be wise.

Cold War Zoomie

I’m afflicted with an optimistic nature. This doesn’t mean I saunter down the road whistling a tune and ignore the death and destruction these morons have unleashed. It does mean, however, that I don’t initially jump into the doom and gloom scenarios, predicting total destruction of the Republic because some idiots ran the show for eight years. We will survive these two clowns and their cohorts. We’ll still have an election next year. It will be fairer than some in the past, less fair than others. There will be nasty politics as always – even our Founding Fathers weren’t immune from that. There will be election fraud. There will be greed, and lies, and backstabbing. There will be abuses of power. There will be corruption. The mass media will be controlled and manipulated. The next president will have an enormous amount of work to do, trying to make up for the terrible things we have done the last six years.

As if these things have never happened in the USA before?

One thing I always had to explain to my Imperial British Cousins is that America is the land of extremes. The pendulum perpetually swings. There rarely is a middle ground on anything for very long. We’ve swung into the Unitary Executive with the likes of Dick Cheney. It is slowing down as gravity pulls us back towards the center.

I do believe we are a power in decline. But it isn’t because of Bush and Cheney alone. They have simply accelerated the process through their foreign policy fiasco and fiscal overreach. No, we’re in decline because our corporations put profit before country and our citizens are disengaged from politics. Our corporations are forcing us into a race to the bottom. Only half of eligible voters actually show up on Election Day and probably only 30-40% of those are fully engaged. My guess is that no more than 20% of eligible voters are actually paying attention day in and day out. We get the government we deserve.

We’ll survive and become a former empire. Personally, I don’t think that will be a bad thing. Life in Britain, Spain, Italy and France is pretty darn good. Being the Big Dawg is a lot of work…work that our Founders never intended us to do. Maybe then we can concentrate on what’s best for us citizens rather than playing empire.

JohnS

Also note that in Game Theory, there are cooperative games and non-cooperative games.

In cooperative games, groups of players form coalitions that enforce cooperative behavior. The game becomes a competition between coalitions of players.

In non-cooperative games, the players can cooperate, but that cooperation must be self-enforcing.

Cheneyism is a zero-sum, non-cooperative game.

Duncan Kinder

An important factor in one's ability to negotiate effectively is one's credibility, or - in strict financial terms - one's credit rating.

Nations, like individuals, have variable credit.

This ultimately affects one's ability to exercise raw power.

A classic example is the 18th century struggle between England and France. Because of the South Sea Bubble, an 18th Century financial panic, France but not England defaulted. England, meanwhile, through the Bank of England, built up a sound financial structure. As a result, throughout that century, England enjoyed a much higher credit than France. Therefore, although until the Industrial Revolution England had a much smaller economy than did France, nevertheless it could through borrowing raise more funds to wage wars. This, in turn, enabled it to have better logistics than did France.

Somewhat similarly, the Soviet Union in the 1980's lacked the United States' credit. The much criticized Reagan deficits were actually a brilliant exploitation of the United States' superior credit to overwhelm the Soviet Union. "How many divisions does the Pope have?" Stalin once asked. By the late 80's the Soviets discovered their credit to have been so drained that the Pope did not need any.

Bush / Cheney, in contrast, are depleting the United States' credit. They can indeed rush around, issuing signing statements and immunizing Blackwater, but in the process they are making all of us grab our wallets. The deficits are but external signs of this decline in credibility.

The federal government now lacks the effective moral authority to levy a draft or to raise taxes. I am surprised that foreign governments remain so willing to lend to us and am certain that, in the intermediate future, this will end.

As a result, with all due respects, I regard Col. Lang's writings about the need to revamp the military post Iraq as academic. We ain't going to be able to afford anything like that.

chimneyswift

This is nitpicking, I admit, but is the statement, "in cultures derived primarily from imperial Rome, like the Eastern Christian world and the Muslim world" accurate with regards to the Muslim world? I guess I never would have thought that.

Martin K

The tragedy is that Afghanistan alone was doable. As was Iraq, if the Bremer admin hadnt been so amazingly corrupt, and the Phase IV nonexistent.

Why dont the democrats drag Bremer for a hearing, by the way? Those Hercules-airlifted moneybricks, what happened to that history?

Martin K

BTW, check out Malcolm Nance over on Small Wars journal concerning waterboarding. He sets the tables straight.

: http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/10/ waterboarding-is-torture-perio/index.php

Sorry, the linking thing doesnt function on Mac.

VietnamVet

One only has to listen to Norman Podhoretz, Foreign Policy Adviser to Rudy Giuliani, godfather of the neoconservatives, on last night's NewsHour to realize we all are screwed. The USA is led by nutcase ideologues who are intent on overthrowing the Iranian government by bombing the Iranians to back to the Stone Age. What is more horrible is that neither Hillary nor the Democratic Congress are attacking these ideologues. Apparently Democrats are content that the most radical elements in Iranian society will seize control as America bombs away; that the federal government goes bankrupt; not to mention, endless gasoline lines nor world revulsion at American Bad Guys, the Cowboys of the Apocalypse.

anna missed

"Now, in cultures derived primarily from imperial Rome, like the Eastern Christian world and the Muslim world, there's an assumption that the world is composed of a singular hierarchy, where equality is equality of submission to a higher entity. Negotiations would then obviously be negotiations of surrender once it was ascertained who would "naturally" win an all-out battle."

I think it is here, that a critical conflation between religion and politics has occurred in U.S. society and is a major source of our woes. There is a parallel in the rise of both the new republicanism and the current reconstructionists religious right where both have used the other for political gain. Both entities have of course, always been latent in American culture, especially the Puritan/Calvinist/Scots Irish zero-sum theological branch, along with the manifest destiny predilection for authority worship and empire. But it hasn't been until recently that the two have been merged into a full symbiosis. Where these religious (worship) structures such as irresistable grace, obedience to faith, or unconditional election (T.U.L.I.P. in Calvinist speak) have been templated into the quasi-authoritarian nationalism where obedience to god is replaced by obedience to country and is as paramount to it as it is inflexible to question. Reduced a tad more, we're living in a "you're either with us or against us" world, which because of the doubly deep entrenchment of religion, is going to be one hell of hole to dig out of.

Jose

Col, maybe we need to look beyond Hegel and "Zero-sum" to something more innate:

“Since the time of Homer every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.”
- Edward Said

This is the only way I can explain the lack of empathy of the American people to what our actions in the Middle East are causing.

Are we really "winning the hearts and minds?"

sheerahkahn

And what will it matter, to whom will care?
The actors are in their places, the curtain is up, the play is on...there is no stopping it now.
No, this must play out now, for to many in the US have bought into the Republican lie, to many harbor the same thoughts as Cheney, the NeoCons, and many have thought the way Bush has thought about "just do it!"
Unilateralism, the hobgoblin of all international relationships, and our mastubatory foreign policy has finally been revealed and we are now faced with the consequences.
Like a train wreck, we can see the engine from the back cars slamming into the mountain, and though we have not felt the impact yet...we know it's coming.
Yes, things are only going to get worse, but hopefully, hopefully when it's all over with we can reshape our national collective thought process and realize that the constitution, with it's many gaps, still had at it's core the idea that people should be treated with respect and dignity. Also, that people in government are still people who are tempted by the same thing that has tempted Emperors and Kings throughout history and that a robust Congress, Judicial Branch, and Executive branch will check the accumulation of power of the others.

I await the rebirth of our Republic.

JohnH

Once again the lemmings have been convinced to march into the sea. Of course, real lemmings are not that stupid (it's an urban legened). But apparently a majority of Americans are just that stupid, despite having been fooled before--52% favor bombing Iran:
http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Bomb_Iran_majority_of_Americans_says_1030.html

No wonder politicians regard "the people" with contempt, an amorphous force to be ordered according to their needs.

TR Stone

How fortunate, that there are only certain families capable of leading governments. This phenomenon is playing out here, in Argentina and Russia. The people need leaders and obviously only heredity, or certain individuals (with skills or skills transferred by injection) are capable of supplying that leadership.

DeLudendwarf

CW Zoomie:

You might enjoy Thomas Jefferson's Letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 1816.

LINK.

Does what Jefferson was describing then sound familiar?

Jim Schmidt

“I await the rebirth of our Republic.” sheerahkahn

Isaac Asimov, in his 1940’s Foundation Trilogy published in “Astounding Science Fiction” and later as three novellas, tells of the Mule, a human mutant with telepathic powers, who arises spontaneously to upset the studied statistical mechanical tinkering of the Foundation Psychohistorians and casts the Empire into disarray against all forecasts. My mental image of the Mule back when I read this series was along the lines of Ghengis Khan, an image echoing the point made by Edward Said in the quotation provided by Jose. Of course, the current period did not suffer from want of other, more brutal savants, but Ghengis Khan, exotic in historical distance, sufficed.

However, if I were to recast the Mule today selecting from contemporary personalities, I’d choose someone less brutish, someone smoother, someone cleverer, someone more singular in point of view, someone socially charming while ruthlessly insidious and deadly effective in undermining the existing order. I’d pick Dick.

But, I’m not about to despair. I read the ending.

Dick, like the Mule who triggered the downfall of the fictional Empire, has damaged our republic, but the extent and residual is unknown. It might take a long time to even figure out what he and his self-righteous, self-saved fool of a boss did these last several years given the intense secrecy, lack of written and electronic records, enforcement of personal fealty and a dawning awareness of personal liability that keeps lips sealed. But, what he didn’t do -- and this is his lasting legacy -- was permanently silence and cow all his critics. Now, he faces an awakening congress, public servants with horrors to tell and a critical, aroused public. Cheney and Bush’s revolutionary theories of the unitary executive, of the unaccountable monarch, will, I think (I hope), end with this presidency.

The Mule was neutralized, leaving the pre-existing order in shambles, but, chaos breeds opportunity, the galaxy both survived and thrived, and my hope is, after what may be a VERY long final year of this dangerous nonsense, we will analyze the microstate of Dick Cheney’s worldview, learn from it, and then relegate it to a probability state approaching zero where it justly deserves to whither in shameful disrepute.

Long live the Republic.

Clifford Kiracofe

<"Both entities have of course, always been latent in American culture, especially the Puritan/Calvinist/Scots Irish zero-sum theological branch.">

Anna Missed,

I would suggest that one ideological strain we see in the contemporary "Religious Right" is what some refer to as "Neo-Calvinism" a late 19th and early 20th century development imported from the Netherlands in the 1920s.

As I am working on a book on the "Christian Right" for a London publisher, I have had to go into all this with some precision.

The interesting aspect is the relationbship to the Michigan Dutch-American community and also to such figures as the Rev. Carl McIntire (Presbyterian extremist) of the 1920s-60s era.

Specifically, the ideology emerges from one Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), an extremist theologian who created his own political party. I suggest that his political party is a model for some in the current "Religious Right." [It is not just a Falwell Baptist thing or a Robertson Pentacostal thing by any means.]

The owner of Blackwater, for example, started out in this Neo-Calvinist milieu in western Michigan. And you have the Amway folks and etc....

anna missed

Clifford Kiracofe,

Another good reference is "Calvinists Incorporated, Welsh Immigrants on Ohio's Industrial Frontier" by Anne Kelly Knowles. It covers the Welsh/Calvinist influence in Ohio's early iron ore production 1840-90. An area that today is 98% white, has a 30k average income, median house value 70k, and remains over70% republican. Can we say lingering influences?

JohnH

While you all have been waxing philosophical, Michael Schwartz has shown the economic side of the zero sum game.

At one point someone familiar with the thinking of the administration said that it was their belief that every drop of oil China got was one less for us. The result? Control the oil and distribute it according to whether the country in question had been behaving according to US dictates or not. The mother of all imperial power grabs.
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174856

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