Saturday, August 28, 2010

At Their Beck and Call

I witnessed a rare event for Pittsburgh on Friday – a totally cloudless sky the entire day. And I suppose that the clouds that would normally have been here have all moved east to Washington, D.C. in order to loom over what the mainstream media are treating as "Glenn Beck's Hate Fest 2010”... on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, no less! In the very footprints of Martin Luther King, Jr.! And... but hey, isn't that federal property? Which means that someone in the federal government – SOMEONE WHO WORKS FOR OBAMA – had to give these wing-nuts a permit to use the space. Clearly an investigation is in order, to find out who is responsible for this outrage! Why, the Very Reverend Al Sharpton has to hold his own rally in some obscure corner of D.C., while Glenn Beck gets the National Mall?!? Oh, the humanity...

But of course letting the Glenn Beck crowd blow off steam in D.C. is actually a smart move on the part of the powers that be. It's certainly no skin off their noses; Al Sharpton will recover in time; and besides, they know a dirty little secret about Beck's fans and/or the “tea partiers”... the same one I know and am about to tell you.

For while it is true that the Glenn Beck/tea party crowds are opposed to much, if not all, of what the Obama administration represents on the domestic side – you know, general ideas like socialism, collectivism, big government... and specific programs like the bailouts, the economic stimulus plan, ObamaCare, and so on – on the foreign-policy side it's a different matter, and neither side wants to admit how much it agrees with the other.

For if I were to attend the rally on Saturday, and take every person in attendance aside, and ask them the same question -- “What think ye of Iraq and Afghanistan?” -- I would, I imagine, get roughly the same answer from nearly all... and it would be some conglomeration of “defending the American way of life”, “defending our freedoms”, “supporting our troops”, “spreading democracy”, “not cutting and running”, “defeating terrorism”... you know, the same lame, stale hash that was ginned up by Bush & Co. and is being carried forward unaltered by Obama and crew. And if I were to breathe a word of Israel... well! Then it would be all about their “right to exist”, and “existential threats”, and “allies forever”, and “our best (or only) friend in the Middle East”, and our obligation to defend them “at all costs”. For, you see, these are memes which have evolved into tics – they're the sort of responses a standard-variety “conservative” will give even if lying abed in a deep coma – and they are the reason that all the protestations when it comes to domestic programs and policy, big government, and socialism are doomed to defeat.

And why is that, you ask? Well – far better minds than my own have pointed out that you cannot practice what is euphemistically called a "robust" or “muscular” foreign policy (AKA empire-building) while preserving freedoms on the home front. It's a built-in contradiction, and simply cannot be done. And why, in turn, is that? Because this “muscular” foreign policy requires a massive political and financial infrastructure – a large standing military, weapons development and manufacture, logistics and other forms of support (especially medical – for troops and veterans alike), and intelligence-gathering capability – not to mention a bloated diplomatic corps with its countless hangers-on and all of its own support requirements. To put it another way, it requires an administration, and Congress, willing to spend a huge portion of the taxpayers' money on things that the taxpayers have never voted for, and that might not survive for five minutes in a free market. In other words, empire building requires big government, period. And it also requires a broadly-defined domestic tax base and a massive bureaucracy devoted to collecting said taxes and punishing tax avoidance. In other words, more big government. Then you have other things on the domestic side like VA facilities, military bases, job retraining programs, education programs... all the earmarks, in other words, of the garrison state. And all of this is supposed to, somehow, coexist with an otherwise free society with minimum taxation and minimum intrusion of government into the lives of citizens? It simply can't be done. And if even if you could eliminate all the “social programs” the conservatives hate so much... and the bailouts, subsidies, stimulus plans... public education schemes... the entire “left wing”, if you will, of the government... the needs of empire would still require government to remain large and grow ever larger.

So this is the secret the Beck Brigades and tea partiers don't know about themselves – that they are, in fact, just as much for big government as anyone else. And this is why it's no particular threat to the administration to have them demonstrating and speechifying down on the Mall a few blocks from the White House... because ultimately they are on the same side. And when it comes to the domestic agenda, well, the administration's captive media can make short work of that; their job is to keep the citizenry on the defensive when it comes to domestic issues and provide a convenient soft spot when it comes to war. So the great co-opting proceeds apace... and, as usual, all that will be left that everyone can agree on is the felt need for America to flex its muscles anywhere in the world and at any time it sees fit – and the administration will say, thank you very much... and it will be business as usual. And no one who attends the rally on Saturday will ever make the connection – which is exactly the way the powers that be want it.

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