Friday, September 30, 2011

Footnotes 'n' Follies From Near and Far

Isn't it funny that, right in the middle of an adversarial action on the part of the NLRB having to do with where it's allowed to build airplanes, the FBI and DEA stage a drug bust on a Boeing plant outside of Philadelphia? Well, we know the government would never stoop so low as to intimidate anyone in this fashion. Right? Right?

A local columnist refers to the presidency as “the hardest job on Earth”. Frankly, I don't see what's so hard about it – you just follow orders, like an Army private. The decisions are all made somewhere else. Hasn't it become pretty obvious that this is way things are – especially when it comes to foreign policy and economic “programs”?

A local woman wound up with two counterfeit $10 bills when she consented to trade a $20 bill for the two tens. Now... who goes around asking other people to “unbreak” $10 bills? (And a better question is, how can they tell what sort of person would fall for it?)

“Pope frustrates listeners with conservative message.” This was in Germany. Well... I guess one way to not be “frustrated” by the Pope would be to not attend gatherings where he's speaking. But I guess that would be asking too much of people who have nothing better to do than gripe about the “outdated” Catholic Church. (If it's so outdated, then just leave! Go join the Episcopalians; they're never outdated. In fact, they're at the vanguard of nearly everything.)

Researchers in Europe claim they've detected a particle that travels faster than light. It's temporary, catchy acronym is ARSHASHDeGloWDED; that stands for Accusations of Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Anti-Semitism, Holocaust Denial, Global Warming Denial, and Evolution Denial. (And what's so new about that? These particles have been zipping around the U.S. and Europe at greater than the speed of light for decades!)

Now it turns out that the (former) director of Al-Jazeera was in the back pocket of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency – or so it appears. Which, once again, brings up the question, are we all living in the Matrix? I mean, if Al-Jazeera is a DIA, or CIA, front, then what isn't? Maybe Al Qaeda is too (we know that the Taliban were – originally at least). Maybe we're just fighting ourselves in Iraq and Afghanistan... or maybe those places are fictitious, and the wars are actually being fought somewhere in the Nevada desert, the way the Moon landing was filmed on some sound stage in Los Angeles. (Time to feel around the back of your neck for that shiny metal plate.)

And speaking of wars in the Middle East, which side are we on in Yemen? I keep reading about events over there but no one ever mentions who we're supporting, or why... and yet we are involved. Weird...

Oh, and in case you were skeptical when I claimed that we're really fighting a war on Islam, please note that the FBI has been “orienting” its employees and other law enforcement personnel on the dangers of Islam – not on militant or radical Islam, but simply on the danger presented by devout Moslems. And, of course, now that this has come out all the usual excuses are being made, blah blah blah. But what I suspect is that if you get any U.S. law enforcement organization, or military organization, behind closed doors you'll find that the story line is that Islam is bad, period – and that it's Islam that we're waging war on. Just a hunch... but it makes sense. After all, there were no “good” Germans or Japanese during World War II, and no “good” Russians during the Cold War. When you're waging war on someone, you have to, for the sake of “morale” and to erase any doubts or confusion from the minds of the simple, identify the entire nation, culture, race, religion, whatever, as evil and bad. There is plenty of time for fine distinctions and nuance later on, one we've pounded them all into fine powder.

We used to laugh about how corrupt other nations are... but lately I've noticed that people elsewhere are getting locked up, and even executed, for doing things that, at the most, cost an hour or two before a Congressional committee here. Even in places that share, with us, a belief in state socialism, it seems that higher standards of conduct are expected. I'm willing to count this as still another measure of our ongoing decline; we can't even do socialism right!

According to a recent report, “Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi... said he was a 'generous, diamond-like' person who had not made any mistakes in his political career.” And, further, that “I have a high regard for myself and I have nothing to reprimand myself for when I look at myself in the mirror”. Hmmm... and here I thought Bill Clinton was unique.

In the latest round of schizoid behavior regarding Israeli spying, a NASA scientist pleaded guilty “for trying to sell classified information to a person who (he) thought was an Israeli intelligence officer”. That's right, “thought”. It was a sting operation, mounted by the FBI! So... now the FBI is pretending to be Israel in order to catch people for espionage, when everyone knows that Israel has unlimited access to our technology (not to mention our politicians, our military, and our national wealth). The article also mentions that he participated in a project that found ice on the south pole of the Moon – bet he wishes he was there instead of in the loony-tunes world of American intelligence ambivalence about Israel.

Anyone who claims that the U.N. is soft on bad behavior ought to consider this. At Al Fateh University in Libya, during Gadhafi's reign, the “Revolutionary Committee spied on students and protesters”, even hanging a number of them right on campus between 1977 and 1988. This assault on academic freedom only ended “when a U.N. agency threatened to decertify the university.” Hear that? “Threatened to decertify”! Wow. Those U.N. guys are not to be trifled with, that's for sure. (Wonder what it would take to get them to decertify American public schools?)

Hugo Chavez must know something. He's calling back $11 billion in gold reserves from American and European banks. “He says the recall of the gold reserves is intended to help protect (Venezuela) from the economic woes in the United States and Europe.” Well, fair enough... but gold is still gold, no matter where it's being stored. So why does he feel it will be more secure in Venezuela than in the U.S. and Europe? (And for that matter, why did he stash it overseas in the first place? Better interest rates?) OK, given that Chavez might be a bit on the paranoid side... still, it's intriguing that he thinks there's some risk involved in keeping his gold in the U.S. and Europe. And I don't think it's the kind of risk that places like Iran run, when if we don't like something they're doing we “freeze” their accounts. I think it's more like, he doesn't want his gold to remain in the greasy, corrupt hands of American and European bankers any more. 'Cause, gosh, if things got tough, who knows what they might do with it? They might decide they need it more than he does. After all, haven't they been treating the American taxpayers the same way for years now?

How come the MSM seem to consider Obama a shoo-in for reelection, and yet spend all of their time engaging in character assassination against all of his potential opponents? All but one, that is – who seems to be getting pretty much of a pass from the media... and that's Mitt Romney. The media, for example, never breathe a word about his Mormonism – which is kind of remarkable since it was considered a big deal when his father ran for the nomination way back when. So yes, it appears that the media have picked their Republican candidate – i.e., the one that would upset them the least in the wildly unlikely event he unseats Obama. Hey, if Wall Street campaign donors can hedge their bets, why can't the media? It's only fair. The main point is that the media don't have to come out in favor of Romney; all they have to do is render all of the other contenders unelectable – and, as can be plainly seen, that process is well underway, and contenders are biting the dust faster than characters in a Sam Peckinpah movie.

And speaking of the MSM... every time another scientist wanders off the global warming reservation, he's immediately declared a non-person and consigned to the outer darkness. Problem is, that outer darkness is starting to get kind of crowded... and the global warming buffs aren't helping their cause any by hopping into bed with politicians and squealing like stuck pigs every time their sacred model of climatic reality is questioned. And have you noticed, no one ever converts “back” to global warming orthodoxy; once people become skeptics they tend to stay that way. Doesn't that tell you something? My feeling is, if you don't want to be accused of being dogmatic, quit acting dogmatic. Authoritarianism has been shown, over many centuries, to be a particularly flawed mind set in the world of science... and yet it is nonetheless engaged in, with each new generation, and most often in the pursuit of non-scientific goals – like big government and collectivism.

And speaking of orthodoxies – who else is getting mightily weary of the almost-monthly revelations from the “scientific community” as to the descent of man from other life forms? The more models that come along – each supported by “solid evidence” -- the more skeptical I get. Because these models are, typically, not compatible – it has to be either one way or the other, or “none of the above”. And yet they keep getting trotted out, based on evidence that wouldn't be enough to get someone a ticket for jaywalking... but upon which we're supposed to base our entire conception of the human race – its origins, its significance (typically “none”), and its destiny... not to mention the total irrelevance of religion and “superstition”. Sometimes I wonder – who is more “superstitious”, the man of faith or the man who creates a world out of a tiny piece of bone, and demands that we believe in that world, and be satisfied with it, and teach it to our children to the exclusion of all other ideas?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Rights (and Wrongs) of Nations

I need to comment further on the topic of a nation's “right to exist” -- because this topic has serious implications for diplomacy and foreign policy, not unlike the concept of “just war”. I indicated in my previous post that “every nation on earth, basically, has the same right to exist as every other, and that can be summed up as 'the right of conquest'”. Now, I do not mean to imply that the “right of conquest” has any moral or ethical status, for it does not; it's purely a matter of power – of which group, or race, manages to exert sufficient power over another to take over a given piece of territory. So when I say that the right of conquest should be “recognized as the premier criterion for diplomatic recognition”, I'm not taking a moral/ethical stand, but one based more on what's known as “realpolitik”. Which is to say, in most cases we prefer not to question how things “got that way” -- we just accept the status quo and work with it. This is, in fact, the essence of “diplomacy”, which is probably the least ideational of any government enterprise. Diplomats are notorious for being what one might call “value-free”, even though they might be weighted down with various agenda items. And it's this relatively pragmatic, level-headed approach that stands in eternal opposition to the more idealistic, ideational, zealous mind set of many elected representatives, as well as the populace at large. Our diplomats are criticized on a regular basis – by persons on both the left and the right – for being too “soft” on one thing or another... for being relativistic, cynical, jaded, and so forth. And so they are – and so they have been trained to be. If there are few if any permanent alliances in diplomacy, but plenty of “interests” of varying degrees of permanence, then it does make sense for the people who are hired to pursue those interests to be pragmatic and non-idealistic -- “unprincipled” even, if it comes to that. If, for example, cozying up to a dictator or tyrant in Africa or Asia is in the perceived best interests of the United States, then that, clearly, is what ought to be done – and never mind the objections of idealists on the left or right (depending on the alleged political views of said dictator or tyrant – not that it makes any difference in the long run). And this is precisely what has been the case up to now in the Arab/Islamic world – but our counterparts in those places (“counterparts” because they are equally pragmatic and non-idealistic) are falling, one by one, to the forces of change – in this case “change” back to a more traditional concept of what an Islamic nation properly ought to be – back to a form of absolutism that despises, in principle, the cynical, blasé diplomatic attitude. The taking of our embassy personnel as hostages by Iranian radicals back in the 1970s was virtually unprecedented, and was an early indication of this growing gap in world view, which can be summed up as absolutism vs. relativism. The “Arab street” has consistently voted against relativism, cynicism, and collaboration with the power structure of the West, and for what is called a “confessional state” -- i.e. one that is, unabashedly, in favor of a certain creed, and opposed to all others. (I might add that Israel is, and has been from the beginning, a confessional state – but their version is considered perfectly acceptable, unlike the Islamic version. The U.S., which cherishes a mythical “wall of separation between church and state”, seems to have no problem with other countries ignoring this concept – as long as those other countries are Jewish and not Moslem.)

So if the right to exist is based largely on the right of conquest, should any other considerations be relevant in our dealings with other countries? It depends on how far you want to go in enforcing ideals – and whether you consider those ideals to be uniquely American, or Western, or “Judeo-Christian”, or whatever. How much weight, for example, did the right of conquest have in the case of Nazi Germany? We might call the ascendance of Hitler and his cronies a “revolution within the form” -- it was, after all, the “Third Reich”, and not the “First Reich” of a brand-new country. Germany was the same place before the Nazis, and it remained the same place after (speaking now of its core culture). And yet, I think it is still valid to consider it a “conquest” of sorts, because, as I pointed out, “conquest” can also include “insurrection, revolutions, 'regime change'”, and so on. And there is no particular, established moral hierarchy or template by which our State Department decides which forms of conquest they are willing to recognize (and therefore validate) and which ones they aren't. Those decisions are made on a purely political basis, and there's no use denying it. We recognize coups d'etat by the military when it's convenient, and “democratic” elections when it's convenient – and everything in between. So again, one cannot accuse the State Department of idealism – or, let's say, hardly ever (with a few bizarre exceptions like Cuba – and even that may have more to do with politics than anything else; there are a lot of votes in the “Cuban exile” community in Miami).

The point I'm trying to close in on is this. Aside from the right of conquest, nations really have no right to exist – not on an absolute basis. We can argue all we want about a “moral” or “ethical” right to exist (and those arguments have been applied in the case of Nazi Germany more than in any other single case) – but that always involves applying our moral and/or ethical standards to another nation, and another culture. Tempting as it might be to say that one ought to declare war on a place like Nazi Germany just because they're “wrong”, or “evil”, we have to face the fact that, as far as the Nazis and many of their subjects were concerned, they were the greatest thing since sliced bread – and that Germany was going to conquer, and dominate, the world in the name of the Master Race. Are our neocons any more rational or reasonable, when they talk about “spreading democracy” through the use of bombs, bullets, missiles, and drones? Is the “democracy” they claim to want to spread really democracy, or is it just a cover story for expanding the American Empire? And if so, how does it differ, in principle, from the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia or Poland? If all ends are political, and power-based, and everything else is words, then I don't see how we can claim any sort of moral superiority. Granted, the yoke of the American Empire may be lighter than that of the Greater German Reich, but, in principal, it amounts to the same thing.

All I'm saying is when we start to judge another nation's “right to exist” based on what we consider sound moral and ethical considerations, we enter upon a slippery slope. For one thing, we risk mistaking “democracy” for the height of human freedom and liberty – and, in fact, it is nothing of the sort. “Democracy”, in pure raw from, can be every bit as tyrannical as the most blatant of tyrannies... and, at the same time, an absolute ruler can be benign and benevolent if he so chooses. So it's a matter of confusing structure with principle, or “system” with moral/ethical standing. We promote “democracy” overseas because we expect those who adopt it to conform to our interests – diplomatic, military, commercial. And let's not forget that we promote a certain form of democracy; not just any one will do. It has to be the kind that holds elections that Jimmy Carter will find no fault with. That, right off the bat, should tip you off that there's something wrong with that scenario. Carter was notorious in his adulation of Third World dictators, and never mind how they acquired power.

Another point, and perhaps the most important, is that nations are made up of people. Now, the rights of individuals and the “rights” of nations are not the same. Some would argue, in fact, that nations have all the rights, and individuals have none; this was certainly the premise underlying the Soviet regime. In our time, the issue has come down to an energetic debate among various contingents, the “tea party” and the Obama administration being, perhaps, the two leading contenders in the debate as to which comes first, the government or the governed. But the real argument for liberty comes from the libertarian side – and very few of their arguments fully penetrate the muddled skulls of the tea partiers. For the latter, it's more a matter of pragmatics; for the former, it's a matter of principle. Liberals, on the other hand, hold that the basic unit of human existence is the group, or state – not unlike a bee hive or ant hill. Under this model, the individual is of no intrinsic value and is justifiably dispensed with once his “value” to the group is exhausted (or before he even has a chance, as in the case of abortion). When they talk about “freedom”, for example, you'll notice that they're always talking about freedom of a group, not of individuals; individual freedom would be far too threatening to their agenda.

But let us, for the sake of argument, relegate the delusions of liberals to the ash heap of history where they belong. Let us propose, for example, a completely radical notion... one that only the most fervent, fanatical zealot would come up with... the notion “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Oh, very good, class! This is from the Declaration of Independence, which is supposed to be one of our “founding documents”, but which, if uttered today in public, would be considered “hate speech”. But that is beside the point, which is that there really are such things as individual rights, which, I would say, are infinitely superior in stature to any alleged “rights” of nations. In fact, I would suggest that any “rights” of nations are no more than the aggregate of the individual rights of their citizens. And notice also that the source of these individual rights is not the state (no matter what Obama says) but the Creator – i.e. God. Now, we can argue all we want about whether the Founding Fathers were Deists – and whether they were pursuing a purely Freemasonic agenda – but they did, in fact, use the world “Creator”. That's what's in the document. It's not “blind watchmaker”, or “spirit of the Universe”, or “mutual aspirations of mankind”, or any other sort of humanistic/agnostic nonsense. And were they simply catering to the inclinations of the mob? It doesn't matter. It remains as a definition – not perfect, perhaps, but superior to most – of human rights. And, by contrast, any alleged “rights” of the state fade into insignificance. Without the support of a free people, a state or nation has no rights. With the support of a free people, it only has the aggregate rights of those people, not some sort of emergent, extraordinary rights based on popular consensus or mandate.

What does this all add up to? In judging whether a nation has “the right to exist” we have to, first, defer to the time-honored concept of “right of conquest”. It may seem cold and non-idealistic, but without it we would be confronted with chaos on all sides. It would be like what we see now on the domestic side, where a new group demanding “reparations” comes into existence every week or so. Everyone has grudges... everyone has been bullied and mistreated by someone else at one time or another... and, heartless as it may seem, the message that should be delivered to these groups, more often than not, is: Get over it!! A life of resentment is no life at all. And, once again, these “class actions”... these resentments and feuds... are the product of “group think” -- of the notion that my value, my worth as an individual, is predicated on the recognized worth of the group to which I belong (racial, ethnic, religious, gender, etc.) and nothing else. So if I'm born into a loser group, I'm a loser, and vice versa. Isn't the whole idea of America to get past this mind set? I mean – if there is anything still good and commendable about this country, it's the idea that we don't have to be prisoners of our heritage... or background... or DNA. And yet every “victim group” will assert precisely the opposite – that they are, indeed, prisoners, and helpless, and the only thing that can make them whole is new entitlements and preferences. This is the new “American way” -- but it will wind up destroying the old American way and all that it has produced.

So when it comes to diplomatic stances and strategies, what would I recommend to all of those jaded, elitist, WASP-ish types who fill State Department ranks? Number one, recognize, in a non-abashed way, the right of conquest as a pragmatically valid starting point for any sort of diplomatic negotiations. In other words, the people who occupy a territory are, and should be, in nearly every case, the people we should be dealing with – not the “right” people who are probably already in exile, or in retreat, or in hiding. And yes, this is the epitome of “realpolitik”. Then, we might want to venture, very cautiously, into the area of a moral or ethical right to exist. But here's where there is a fork in the road. The typical American diplomat will define “moral or ethical” as no more than the extent to which a given nation's, or regime's, point of view matches our own – which, in this day and age, amounts to the extent to which they're willing to become part of the American Empire. But that's not what I'm talking about. If our diplomats would, just once, sit down on a quiet Sunday afternoon next to a cozy fire, with a dram of Scotch at hand, and study the Declaration of Independence, they would discover that individual rights are not only paramount, but they are the basis for all other rights and privileges – i.e. of the collective sort. And if they were to – in a fit of subversive derring-do – add to their reading list the Constitution, they would discover, basically, the same message, with hints as to its application. So, if this set of basic principles is good enough for us, why isn't it good enough for other nations – or, at least, for our dealings with them? In other words, why can't we turn the usual paradigms of “realpolitik” upside down and say that the “system” of government of any given country doesn't matter as much as the human rights of its citizens? That no matter what the system is called, or what its leaders claim, it means nothing if the basic rights of the citizenry are violated on a regular basis. This would be diplomacy, or statesmanship, of the highest order – but it would also grossly violate the values and priorities that are implanted into the skulls of anyone who wants to enter into diplomatic service. It would amount, that is, to us really and truly defending that which we claim to believe in – and surely a violation of hypocrisy of that magnitude would shake the foundations of American diplomacy.

To put all of this into a schema of sorts, I propose that we recognize, first and foremost, an individual's right to exist, as stated, quite explicitly, in the Declaration of Independence. This could be called a metaphysical right – based on our status as creatures, i.e. created beings – and also as a moral right. Another way of saying it is that we have a right to exist because the Creator – i.e. God – put us here, presumably for a reason. In other words, our existence is superior, in some way, to our non-existence – but only if we accept that it has purpose; a random/accidental model like that proposed by the hard-core “Darwinists” doesn't do the job. (How does one establish the superiority of one type of randomness over another, or of one result of randomness over another? It can't be done.) Even a hard-core existentialist, who has no interest in religion, will hold that existence is, in some way, preferable to non-existence. In fact, for them, material existence is all that there is, which means that they will hold it in even higher regard than someone who believes that we are a combination of matter and spirit.

And our existence as individuals is a moral right because any threat to our existence has to have moral implications; this is why murder is “immoral” -- because it violates another person's moral right to exist. And if ethics follows from morals – as it should – then we also have an ethical right to exist, i.e. undue impositions on our freedoms and liberties by others are unethical acts on their part (and this includes the government, by the way).

Compared to all of this, the “right of conquest” seems like a crude, materialistic, arbitrary, conditional thing, subject to the whims and accidents of history. And so it is! A nation is not a creation from on high... it has no metaphysical status, and very little in the way of intrinsic moral or ethical status. Its highest claim, in other words, is that of conquest – although it may offer endless rationalizations to the contrary. And in this era of philosophical relativism – which might be termed anti-philosophy – one cannot even claim, with any hope of success, that one nation is wrong, or evil, compared to another. If everything is relative, then, in fact, everything is relative – you can't have it both ways. So the delusions of the Nazis – the “master race” idea, and “lebensraum”, and so forth, cannot be shown to be – using the currently-in-fashion tools of philosophy – any less valid than the delusions of the neocons. This fact troubles our academic philosophers very little, of course, since they are perfectly willing to set “reason” aside when something threatens their subjective prejudices.

Once again we're faced with the phenomenon that when the typical secular humanist of our time proposes a system of ethics based on a supposedly-universal, agreed-upon vision of humankind, he finds that there are, in fact, countless mutually-incompatible visions of humankind, and that he, working strictly on the level of ethics, with only the tools available (i.e., permitted) to philosophy at this time, has no basis for preferring one over the other, aside from pure subjective preference. Even the most abject tyranny has what it considers a valid ethical system based on what it considers a valid view of the nature of man – and when we have two or more competing systems using only materialistic premises, we cannot hope to ever settle the issue. We wind up with a stalemate – or a “Mexican stand-off”, in popular parlance. Either ethics must defer to morality – i.e. to revealed standards for the conduct of humankind based on a higher truth – or it must remain self-referencing, which means subjective, arbitrary, and, ultimately, subject to politics and the collective whims of the moment.

So while “the right of conquest” is a pretty thin, relativistic argument with no moral standing or nobility, it's the best we can do, on a day-to-day basis, in terms of how to deal with other nations. What makes it tricky is that it's neither “conservative” nor “revolutionary”. It seems to favor the status quo, but that will change the minute a new element gains the upper hand, as has recently happened in Libya. Then any and all loyalty and attachment to the previous regime will be forgotten. Cynical? Fickle? Perhaps. But I'd like to know what the alternative is, that does not involve our chronically getting involved in other countries' business. If we decide to support the status quo at all costs, that's a problem. If we come down on the side of revolution, that's another problem. If we try to come up with a unifying theme that makes sense of what appear to be arbitrary decisions... well, other people can see through all of that very readily. We should adopt a hands-off attitude in order to preserve our own sanity, if nothing else; at least that's a motive people can respect.

In lieu of neatly winding up this discussion and gathering up all the loose ends, I will simply note that if we take the nation, or state, as the starting point in our discussion of ethics, then anything is possible, simply because the nation or state is a work of man – with all of the arbitrariness, cupidity, and viciousness that one would expect from such a thing. So any talk of the “rights” of a nation is already premised on the notion that a nation is something special – superior to the individual. And this is, in fact, the central premise of the collectivist mind set – and, not incidentally, the way in which collectivists work to shirk any sort of individual responsibility or accountability. It is more challenging, in fact, to see the state as an outgrowth of individual human aspiration – since that implies that any state that finds itself working assiduously against the interests of its people is, by definition, a failure. How something can be good for the state, or the collective, but bad for the individual, is the conundrum of our time. But the Gordian knot can be cut simply by recognizing that the state does not exist, in any valid way, independently of its citizenry... and that the only valid basis for its continuing existence is that it serves the interests of those citizens. Otherwise, it might as well wither and die, and the notion that this would be a terrible thing is based on a fetish and a delusion.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why So Serious?

“U.S. feverishly works to derail Palestinian statehood bid.” Oh, where to begin? The first in a long list of ironies is that the Palestinians are taking their case to the U.N. -- an organization located in the United States, and which the U.S. had more to do with founding than any other single nation. It was supposed to be a forum, where the nations of the world could gather to iron out their differences in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the New World Order. With the Soviet Empire out of the way, along came the Islamists, and the Intifada, and the “Arab Spring”, and all the attempts to expel Arab/Islamic rulers who were “cooperative” (i.e. with the U.S. and Israel) and replace them with more democratic, theocratic, nationalistic types – assuming there can be a combination of that sort. So when the Arabs/Moslems woke from their long, hashish-induced sleep, they discovered that the U.N. was, indeed, a perfectly good forum in which to air their grievances against the host country (us) and Israel. And thus did the U.N. become “the enemy” to American conservatives, and a source of unease to American liberals. (When's the last time you heard of the U.N. being praised in the halls of Congress, or in the American media?)

So much for the U.N. -- for now. But why are our leaders so upset – frantic, desperate even? Allegedly, it's because they fear that if the Palestinians take their argument to the U.N. and succeed in getting a vote on their bid for statehood recognition, it will “force” us to veto their proposal, which will, in turn, lead to a backlash in the Islamic world – protests, instability, danger to our troops, inconvenience to Israel, etc. Well yes, and so it might – since we already know that even the lowliest goatherd in the Hindu Kush is keeping track of world news 24-7. These are a very sensitive, thin-skinned, highly-reactive people – nearly as much as the Israelis themselves (who are already mounting protests against the impending vote).

But the question that is never asked, for the usual reasons, is – why do we have to veto any sort of U.N. resolution related to Palestinian statehood? After all, some of our politicians have even, from time to time, expressed the thought that Palestinian statehood, AKA the two-state solution, might be a good idea – until they were hushed by Israel, that is. So let's take a brief trip down memory lane – the well-worn path that represents how we got to this point.

Way back in 1917, the British, who occupied Palestine as a result of World War I (the area having been part of the Ottoman, i.e. Turkish, Empire up to that point), came up with the Balfour Declaration, which promised the establishment of a “Jewish National Home” in Palestine. (This was while a lowly soldier by the name of Adolf Hitler was slogging through the mud of Passchendaele.) But there were as yet no specific proposals for what the boundaries of such a “national home” might be. The idea for a partition of some sort was raised in 1936 and was met with indignation from the Arabs, who, I'm sure, could already see the handwriting on the wall.

Fast forward to 1947 and – guess who – the United Nations had come up with a partition plan. And if you look at it, it appears like some sort of checkerboard as seen by someone on acid – three areas each for the Jews and Arabs, with little or no connectivity between. But there is one interesting feature, which is that Jerusalem was supposed to be "under international control". How about that for an idea? The U.S. supported the plan – I repeat, we supported the plan which featured separate but equal areas of “Jewish sovereignty” and “Arab sovereignty”. (And guess which party was in power at that time.) The British, ironically, abstained from the vote – already eager to cut their losses in that part of the world, I'm sure. And this time Arab indignation turned to violence, which led, a few months later, to a complete British withdrawal from the area – at which point a newly-minted State of Israel was attacked by all the neighborhood bullies at once, and proceeded to thoroughly kick their butts. But it wouldn't be the last time the Arabs foolishly tried to defeat the young Clark Kent.

The bottom line of this dust-up was that the acidhead checkerboard was turned into something more reasonable – the State of Israel was all one piece, and the Arab enclaves of Gaza and the West Bank were connected to Egypt and Jordan, respectively. And all was well except for a brief unpleasantness with Egypt in 1956. Then, in 1967, the Arabs got ideas into their head again – attacked again – had their butts whipped... you know, the usual. But the result was that Israel won Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula, and was now bigger and better than ever... bigger than the British had dared imagine, but the Zionists are a different story.

But the Sinai was a bit too much to hold on to... and it wasn't exactly the land of milk and honey. So the Israelis eventually gave it back but held on to everything else. (And in the meantime, in 1973, here come the Arabs again, butts kicked, etc. Do you detect an element of masochism in all this? I do.) And that, boys and girls, brings us up to the present day – and it shows that one element of any reasonable, objective assessment of the situation in Israel/Palestine has to be the questions: (1) What are the proper, agreed-upon borders; (2) What is, and should be, the status of anyone living within those borders; and (3) Does what I refer to as “the right of conquest” have anything to do with the issue?

Now, on this last point, I will say, again, that every nation on earth, basically, has the same right to exist as every other, and that can be summed up as “the right of conquest”, simply because it would be rare, if not impossible, to find a nation that did not get to be the way it is today because someone conquered someone else (with or without the added fillips of genocide, enslavement, ethnic cleansing, etc.). I challenge you to name me a single instance where this is not the case! I don't think it can be done. Even places that are isolated in the vast reaches of the ocean, or the fastnesses of a mountain range or the jungle, were, at one time, someone else's property and then overrun by some invader. And to this I add, since when have the rules changed? We (that is, the U.S.) certainly recognize the right of conquest, if not explicitly – especially if that right includes the outcome of insurrection, revolutions, “regime change” (ahem!), etc. In other words, it doesn't all have to be a foreign, alien invading force. It's the sort of thing that makes the world – and its history, and foreign relations, and diplomacy – go round. We only get indignant about it when the “wrong” people take over a place – as in the cases of North Korea, Cuba, etc. -- but even then we eventually come to some accommodation. (I would say that in the grudge-holding department we don't hold a candle to the Semitic peoples – Arabs and Jews. They are absolute masters of the art – which, I'm sure, only serves to aggravate the problem I'm discussing at present.)

So, if we take the “right of conquest” as our prime criterion, then the current borders of Israel, including the West Bank and Gaza, are the proper ones, and the Israelis are free to do as they please within those borders. This is, of course, why Israel threw a fit when Obama suggested that the 1967 (pre-war, that is) borders were worth taking into consideration. And what he said was – going to his defense here (!) -- not that the borders should be identical to those of 1967, but “should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps”. Is this unreasonable? Israel could have lived with those 1967 borders indefinitely, if the Arabs hadn't had other ideas. But what was livable back then is no longer so, apparently – what with Scud missiles and all.

Now, I'm not claiming that “right of conquest” should be the only consideration in our dealings with the Middle East – only that it be recognized as the premier criterion for diplomatic recognition, both historically and at the present time. There are very few areas where even our State Department calls it into question – the “breakaway territories” between Georgia and Russia being an example. The vast majority of the time it accepts a fait accompli as the new status quo – as in the case of South Sudan. The problem right now is that we seem to have this strange fixation on bringing “peace” to a part of the world that, as far as I know, has never known it and is not interested in knowing it. And the fact that our favored method of bringing peace is to declare war... well, that has to have impacted our credibility a bit. So it's really not about peace, after all; it's basically about what Israel wants, and in this case, I will grant that what they want at least corresponds to the right of conquest. In other words, they want to keep the territory that they won, fair and square, in a war. How can we call that an unusual or unreasonable demand? Clearly our best move, diplomatically, would be to just back off, get on a plane, and leave – and let all parties in that area settle it for themselves. But this is clearly not going to happen, for any number or reasons.

So now come the Palestinians to the U.N. demanding recognition – and we're not content to simply oppose the idea and veto it, but want to keep it from even coming up for a vote, because that will “force” us to veto it, and so on. But we have, historically, not always been opposed to the two-state concept; this is a relatively recent escalation in our thinking. It would be just as reasonable to support the Palestinians' request and then provide aid and advice in its implementation. But that, of course, would be to say that all of the countless Israeli “settlements” that have been built in the occupied territories are unlawful and have to be abandoned. But hey, aren't they a form of conquest too? I mean, we “settled” in Jamestown back in 1607, etc. So the whole thing is a muddle – and nothing we do makes any more sense than anything else. The best thing about it, perhaps, is that it's putting a bit of stress on Obama, his administration, the State Department, and Hillary Clinton – all of whom are way overdue for a bit of real stress (as opposed to the usual bogus whining and boo-hoo'ing they engage in constantly). Obama is only the most recent president to have to deal with the whirlwind that we reaped when we sowed the wind back in 1947.

And I can't leave this topic without adding that the Republican candidates for president are dutifully piling on – not only absurdly accusing Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus”, but foaming at the mouth over the upcoming confrontation at the U.N. And just for good measure, they're also accusing him of "kowtowing to Iran". (How? When? What have I missed?) Leading the charge are, predictably, the good hair boys -- Perry and Romney -- but I can't imagine the other candidates are far behind. And as for the U.N., well... I suppose they could always bomb the place; that would certainly be a contribution of sorts. But the point is, anyone who thinks there is the slightest difference between the two major parties when it comes to foreign policy should take a look at this situation, for it is being laid out in an exceptionally clear way. The Republicans and Democrats – regardless of the candidates' rhetoric – are marching arm-in-arm on this. The words may differ, but the actions are identical. But I'll say again -- the situation at least provides much-needed stress to both sides, and that can't be a bad thing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't Bother to Vote, the Results are Already In!

It's been in the media and on the Internet long enough that people are actually starting to believe it: Obama's popularity ratings are down, his “base” is eroding, his administration is starting to fray at the edges with gaffes and scandals of all sorts... and so on. The message is that he's running scared... or ought to be. At the extremes, it's “dead man walking” and “shovel-ready” -- all of which ought to lend greater urgency to the Republican primary and nominating process. After all, if you know something is a lost cause, you're going to run out of energy sooner or later... but if there's real hope! That's a different matter.

And sure enough, the Republicans are already starting – with the enthusiastic aid of the media – to slough off the more radical, “extreme” candidates... and to gently, but firmly, marginalize the “tea party” contingent. What we will have in November of 2012 will be a choice between white bread and light brown bread, and very little else. Nothing nutritious, nothing with any flavor... nothing that has any hope of keeping the nation's economy (or anything else) alive and well.

So the bottom line – already! With over a year to go! -- is that it's not going to make the slightest bit of difference who wins in November of 2012 – Obama or one of the “good hair boys”. Oh, there might be some twiddling around the margins in terms of domestic policy, but when it comes to foreign policy – forget it. The juggernaut of folly will continue to roll, on the path to destruction, and no one with any power or influence will be the least bit interested in stopping it.

But having said all that, it's far from obvious that Obama is “in trouble”. In fact, it's fairly obvious to me that his reelection is pretty much assured – and here's why. All you have to do is ask - what, or who, makes up his “base”? Well... in the broad sense, the base of a socialist politician has to be made up of people who benefit, or expect to benefit, from socialism, i.e. from government control of some sectors of the economy and tight regulation of the rest, and a legal and regulatory system that continually serves to redistribute income from the producers to the non-producers – i.e. parasites (not that there aren't “deserving poor”, but they're a small minority). And with half the population of the country being tax receivers, as opposed to tax payers, you already have a substantial group that is reliably in Obama's corner and is likely to stay there.

Then you have, among working people, government workers at every level, many of whom are unionized – and don't forget to include public school teachers in this category! They are government workers, and the most politically reliable ones to boot. Then you have non-public sector unions, which are also politically reliable, and which offer enormous campaign contributions besides. Then you have “minorities” of all sorts, who – even if employed – will always prefer the candidate who offers the biggest safety net, and mouths the proper words besides – words like “fairness” and “social justice”, for example. And besides these actual voters, you have the vast mainstream media structure that works full-time to influence their votes – and that is overwhelmingly liberal, and on Obama's side.

Then you have political liberals and ideologues on the left, which includes the vast bulk of academia and nearly the entire “entertainment” industry. One also has to include powerful special interest groups, like trial lawyers. Then we have habitual Democrat voters (the “old blue-collar” class, who vote Democratic because their fathers, grandfathers, etc. did), college and university students, and the vast array of willy-nilly liberals of all sorts, who will tell you, with very little prodding, that they find Republicans “creepy”, “stiff”, “square”, “anal”, “white”, and so on. (And let's admit that candidates like Bachmann, Perry, and Romney do nothing to disabuse them of that idea...)

I'm sure I've left some groups out of this tally, but I think we're already well over 50%... not that they are all guaranteed to vote, but they seem more likely to whenever they are frightened and panicked through the efforts of the media. You threaten people's “benefits” and ideals enough, and they will make their way through the most inclement weather in order to cast their vote.

Now, you'll notice whom I left out of this tally. One group is the one that is above the fray; it makes little or no difference to them who is president, since their reach and power will remain unaltered. This group includes the titans of international finance, and the upper reaches of Wall Street, as well as big – by which I mean really big – business and industry. Their fortunes are made no matter who is in charge. Their only concern is to insure that no one who might cause problems comes anywhere near the presidency, and they accomplish that through their influence on the major parties and the media.

A related group to whom it makes no difference is the armaments makers. We're going to be in a state of perpetual war no matter what – and again, their only concern is to keep any genuine anti-war candidates, not to mention pacifists, libertarians, etc., off the ballot.

And – this might surprise you, but I'm convinced it's true – the “neocons” don't care who wins, since their agenda -- perpetual war on Islam -- is going to be carried out in any case. Admittedly, they aren't hanging around the White House in droves the way they were during the Bush administration, but it doesn't matter – “conservative” think tanks by the score, within a mile of the White House and Capitol, are bursting at the seams with neocons, and they have their spoon in every pot and their finger in every pie. Obama is their man every bit as much as Bush was – in terms of their core agenda.

And, not coincidentally, the Israelis, and the Israeli lobby – to the extent one can distinguish it from the neocons – are unconcerned. Every candidate from either of the major parties is thoroughly vetted by AIPAC and related organizations... they are all required to swear a loyalty oath to Israel... and anyone who doesn't is relegated to the political outer darkness. Now, you might say, but isn't Israel starting to get a bit impatient with Obama & Co.? Well, admittedly, Obama and his crew occasionally mouth words that might be taken to imply that they consider the Palestinians something other than a lower life form – an admission that no one in the Bush administration ever made. But this is nothing more than show and window dressing. In fact, what I suspect is that it's a way to avoid awkwardness with the part of Obama's base that is (1) black and (2) Moslem. If you occasionally seem to recognize that the Palestinians might be human, and might have some rights, you're going to stand less of a chance of antagonizing their fellow Moslems in this country – especially those of the black sort. But all it is is mouthing words; it has no bearing on anything that is actually done, Middle East policy-wise.

Likewise, people whose entitlements are ironclad have no worries – the agriculture sector being one example. No one is seriously threatening farm subsidies, and in fact Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid almost seem more under the gun than agriculture – which ought to add another large group of people to Obama's base, since he's the one who promises to save all of the “entitled” from the ravages of the cruel, heartless, mean-spirited, death-worshiping Republicans.

Now, what about the flip side? Who can be characterized as being firmly in the Republican base – or at least in the anti-Obama base? Certainly anyone who is opposed to socialism has to be counted as anti-Obama, and that would include libertarians and anarchists – but these groups are no more likely to be pro-Republican than pro-Democrat, so I think we can write them out of the scenario, since – if they vote at all – they're likely to vote for a third party, or a fictitious character, or their dog, or something else. And that leaves people who are both anti-Obama and pro-Republican, and this group is made up almost entirely of the middle class, AKA bourgeoisie – a group that is shrinking before our eyes, like the Wicked Witch of the West. Now, they aren't all “tea partiers”, because that group has pronounced populist vibes, and I can't offhand imagine a conservative businessman – let's say a guy who made it big in plumbing supplies in Kansas – getting too enthusiastic about the “tea party”, which seems a bit rag-tag and hysterical at times.

One thing I hope I've established here is that just because someone is working, and self-supporting, doesn't mean they will automatically be opposed to socialism, big government, and Obama. The bases of the two parties are not synonymous with “working” vs. “non-working” -- they're synonymous with “self-sufficiency as a value” vs. “safety net as a value”. There are working people whose biggest fear – what keeps them up at night – is that they will, perhaps very soon, be non-working. And it is the sum total of their self-image, and their attitude about what the government's duties are toward them, that will determine how they vote. And their numbers are, I daresay, substantially higher than the numbers of the non-working who, nonetheless, believe in self sufficiency.

The impression the MSM want to convey is that the “tea partiers” are a small, paranoid group of right-wing fanatics, bigots, and “haters” -- sort of the middle-class equivalent of the KKK. And it's funny how tea party demonstrations are treated with contempt – when they are treated at all – whereas left-wing and/or liberal demonstrations and treated with the utmost sympathy and given generous news coverage. It's no longer (assuming it ever was) a matter of the “in group” vs. the “out group”, but what they represent in terms of ideology – not to mention background, social class, skin color, ethnic background, religion, etc. The establishment of our time has – in the fashion of all establishments down through history – defined acceptable protest (i.e., worth listening to) and unacceptable protest (i.e., worth demeaning and ignoring). Al Sharpton and his rent-a-mobs at least get thrown a bone once in a while, but the tea partiers are made to feel like outliers and freaks – like the “unpopular kids” who had such a hard time in middle school.

So with all of this in mind, I grow weary of the “polls” and the allegations on both sides. I suspect, in fact, that the left/liberal media are engaged, more than anything else, in fear-mongering – not unlike what Bush & Co. managed to do vis-a-vis the Iraqi WMDs (alleged). So while we don't quite yet have mob rule, we certainly have mob preferences, and the preferences of the media for some kinds of mobs over others. And this is all accomplished through media “coverage” and the pronouncements of the administration – which, in turn (sadly), go a long way toward determining the overall mind set of the public, and therefore of their voting “patterns”. Look, for instance, at how the media have set up as a bogeyman the image of the “angry white man” -- an image which has been nicely merged with that of the tea party. The tea party is, according to the script, no more than a bunch of angry white men plus their female relatives (who are too oppressed to speak up for themselves). And the thing of it is, this propaganda strategy really works! Anyone who believes in “traditional values” is made to feel ashamed, embarrassed, and outmoded. And we are talking, by and large, of the shrinking pool of working people – overwhelmingly white, let's admit – who aren't so sure this brave new world is the one they worked all their lives to create for their children and grandchildren to live in. They are what I call the “new disenfranchised” -- not in the literal sense so much as the social/cultural sense.

And you would think that – if the historical and socio-economic models are correct – the working middle class would be considered the most important single source of the nation's wealth. After all, isn't there are high correlation between middle-class prosperity and the overall prosperity of a nation? But this is either disbelieved or ignored by the controlling class of our time and its media servants – much as it was at the time of the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the (second) Chinese revolution. The eternal vision of the proletariat, and the populists, is that the middle class is part of the problem, and that we don't need them, and the sooner we get rid of them the better. So what we have now is a bloodless (to date) revolution of the same sort – eliminate the bourgeoisie and all will be well – forgetting that the people at the top have much more money and power than the bourgeoisie of old ever did, and are the ones responsible for the "income gap". It's almost as if the proles, and minorities, and entitlement junkies of our time think that the government is the source of wealth – which they obviously do! You'll notice that everyone out there is begging Obama for “jobs”. They aren't asking businessmen and industrialists for jobs – that would be too humiliating. (And besides, they might wind up with real jobs, i.e. ones where you're expected to work! And we can't have that.) Government “jobs” on the other hand, are almost guaranteed to be sinecures – and the greater the proportion of jobs that are government jobs, as opposed to private sector jobs, the better they like it. The problem is, those jobs don't produce anything – which means that, in economic terms, they aren't jobs at all, but just a different form of welfare. And yet this is seen as the key to “economic recovery” -- maximize the number of non-productive jobs, and make it difficult for anyone to create the productive kind. But then where is wealth supposed to come from? I guess from the same magic tree that sits in the Capitol rotunda, and which showers down money on the preferred and entitled.

A student of Ayn Rand would be tempted to ask, when is Atlas going to start shrugging? The problem is that the Atlases of our time are, to an overwhelming extent, in bed with the government. They are just as anxious to aid and abet the coming of the Servile State as is the government itself. And if the GNP suffers, and the currency is degraded, and savings are consumed by taxes and inflation, it's all to the good because that will only accelerate the process.

And need I add that this process is diametrically opposed to any sort of wish for American dominance on the world stage? We can see quite plainly that a two-class society (slaves and controllers) like Soviet Russia may be able to exert dominance for a while, but eventually that kind of system collapses and makes way for societies that have a more natural class structure and are less hobbled by debilitating “ideals”. Our ruling elite are falling into the King Midas trap – turning all they touch into gold while, outside the castle walls, everything is falling into confusion and chaos. Is that really the kind of world they want? So it appears. But do we have the will to stop, or even slow down, their folly? It remains to be seen – but don't look for the answer in the 2012 election.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

All Hail the Conquering Euros!

Sometimes headline writers say more than they mean to say (or maybe not): “Western leaders march into Libya” -- to describe the victory lap Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron are taking around the country they did so much to help conquer on behalf of the rebels. And... well, for one thing, where was Obama? Isn't he feeling a bit left out? But let's admit, Britain and France did most of the heavy lifting, and all we contributed were a few million tons of bombs, drones, and missiles, and a few billion dollars, all of which we can easily afford since our economy is doing so well... so one can hardly blame Obama for not wanting to upstage his allies and steal even a tiny fragment of their glory. Plus, he has better things to do, like saving his behind in next year's election. But still – it is a bit grotesque, in this day and age, to see the two most prominent colonial powers of the 20th Century celebrating as they once again descend on the helpless hordes of Africa. Is this the beginning of a new colonial era? Or simply the last dying gasp of the old one? One thing's for certain – they are protecting their interests when it comes to oil, and the interests of their banks when it comes to finance... and, I suppose, in some sort of roundabout way, the interests of Israel.

But not so fast! Hasn't it turned out that, in many cases, these drives for “democracy” in the Arab/Islamic world have resulted in greater hostility toward Israel, and toward the West in general, than was there before (or, at least, evident before)? It turns out that, in the view of the various rebel/insurgent groups, their estwhile leaders were actually “American puppets” -- although we always saw them as sketchy allies at best. After all, didn't they require a steady diet of bribes – oops, I mean “foreign aid” -- to keep their hands off Israel? And thus the resentment grew among the unwashed and disenfranchised. We never really supported democracy in the Third World; only pretended to. And we're only pretending to support it now – until it turns out not to be in our best interests, in which case we'll be the first ones to cheer when a military coup brings another tyrant to power.

But I don't want to give the wrong impression here. I fully agree that our interests don't always coincide with what other people might consider “democracy”. The best thing, or one of the best things, that could ever happen to our foreign policy would be to disavow all interest in converting countries to democracy that have no interest in being converted. And in fact, “democracy” and human rights – which we should support – are not necessarily synonymous; that's a misconception. You can, at least in theory, have human rights in a dictatorship... and few if any human rights in a democracy, if it results in radical majority rule. So I'm not interested in their forms of government per se, and I don't think the State Department or the administration should be either. And I suspect that they really aren't, but see a need to mouth the right words from time to time. Does anyone really think that Sarkozy, or Cameron, or Obama care about the form of government in Libya? Please. Whoever, or whatever, serves our interests is the right form of government, by definition. We see this already in plenty of other places around the world.

So with that picture of hypocrisy in mind, let's at least reflect on the fact that Sarkozy and Cameron descended on Libya like conquerors. It's a miracle they didn't stage a victory parade, with Gadhafi supporters being led along in chains behind flatulent elephants. In any case, it left no doubt as to who is now in charge in Libya, and it has nothing to do with the National Transitional Council. No – Libya is now securely in the hands of the E.U., as are all of its assets – the newest jewel in the crown of the Euro-Empire, and hopefully a much less troublesome one than Libya and its neighbors were in former times.

And then – coincidentally, perhaps – we also read about a new bailout plan for the E.U. and the euro – namely an infusion of American dollars, courtesy of the Federal Reserve. That's right, folks – your taxpayer dollars are now being used to bail out the behinds of ne'er-do-well European countries and of the banks that are located in the more prosperous countries. And I guess it would be silly to ask whether the American taxpayers, or even their representatives in Congress, had anything to say about this; of course they didn't. This is a deal hatched at the very top of the heap, and serves the interests of those at the top and no one else. And, as usual, the American taxpayer is the cash cow, just sitting there waiting to be milked – or bled. And besides – since when have the Europeans been so enamored of American dollars? Aren't they betting against it and assaulting it on a regular basis? And yet we see that “(t)he coordinated action is intended to give large European banks ample access to dollars...” And that “European banks... have had trouble raising dollars from U.S. investors and financial institutions, which are scared off by Europeans' heavy exposure to Greece” (as if Greece isn't part of Europe – it makes it sound more like a disease than a country). Translation: No one right now wants to voluntarily invest in European banks, so the Fed will cheerfully step in with money stolen from the American taxpayer and do the investing itself. Isn't international finance great?

And get this: “European banks need the cash to make loans to their U.S. customers and repay their own dollar-denominated borrowings.” Translation: We're bailing them out, period. (Plus, why do "their U.S. customers" need to borrow U.S. dollars from European banks? Can't they borrow from American banks? I'm sure I don't want to know why... ) So... the Fed, not being satisfied with overseeing the massive bailouts of criminally-negligent American banks, investment houses, insurance companies, mortgage companies, automobile companies, etc., are now doing, or helping to do, the same thing in Europe.

And then – get this! -- here's Timothy Geithner – (I can't believe he's still running loose, and not in jail!) -- going over to Europe to “press his counterparts for stronger action to stem the crisis”. “Take our money! Please!”

So what does all of this tell me? It merely confirms my suspicion that the true power center these days is nowhere near the U.S. The Europeans get us to help them conquer Libya, then move in and gather up all the goodies and glory. The Europeans create this bogus crisis with the euro and the “PIGS”, then call on us to bail out their banks. So – who's in charge, after all? It certainly isn't us. We have become, for all intents and purposes, a European colony once again – a source of military resources and of money – just like any colony in the old empire days which provided soldiers, raw materials, and other forms of wealth to the colonial powers. And I don't care how many stories I read about “Europe in crisis”, and “when is the euro going to crash”, blah blah – it might be true to some extent. But we are in an even worse crisis, which is that our fate – economically and militarily at the very least – is no longer in our own hands. Welcome to the Euro-American Empire, which – once the mask is no longer of any utility – will be known simply as the Euro-Empire, with us as the largest chunk of meat hanging in the smokehouse.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Deconstruction of the American Mind

I've commented before on the issue of what it is that the “insurgents”, or “terrorists”, or “fighters”, or whoever they are, in Iraq and Afghanistan, want – as in, do they want us to stay or go? They will always say they want us to go, but everything they do seems designed to force us to stay... so do they secretly want us to stay, and keep getting picked apart and bankrupted and humiliated? Or have they been making a really big mistake all this time?

Well, here's an item that indicates that they might just be catching on. An Iraqi cleric – described, of course, as “anti-American” rather than “pro-Iraqi” -- “is urging his followers to stop attacking U.S. troops in Iraq so that their withdrawal from the country isn't slowed down...” Muqtada al-Sadr wants his people to cool it “until the withdrawal is finished at the end of the year”. Implication: Once we're gone, the pressure on our puppet government will be re-applied with vigor, with the object of turning Iraq into another “theocracy” along the lines of Iran.

OK, well and good – except for the premise that we're actually leaving, or planning to leave. No matter what labels our government applies to all the Americans whom they have no intention of ever pulling out of Iraq -- “non-combat troops”, “advisors”, “trainers”, and the like – not to mention the army of “contractors”, i.e. non-uniformed combatants who are, by and large, employees of our intelligence agencies – it is clear that we aren't actually leaving, or withdrawing, at any time in the foreseeable future. I mean... no one builds a square-mile, multi-billion-dollar embassy in a country that they plan to leave. And it's not just about “supporting” the puppet government; it's about keeping Iraq firmly in the fold, as part of the American Empire. But maybe al-Sadr knows this as well, and has plans for what happens after our alleged “withdrawal”; who knows? In any case, he at least seems to be on the right track in his thinking. At this point in our history, our foreign policy has morphed into the stage of absurdity, where the worse things get, the more persistent we become, regardless of the losses incurred.

But is this something new? A survey of our history of foreign interventions gives a mixed picture. In the good old days – starting with the Spanish-American War and the Great White Fleet (aptly named, I must say!) -- we were all about expanding American power and influence world-wide, for the sake of... what? To show off our military muscle and to define “spheres of influence”, which had come a long way since the Monroe Doctrine. You might call it the triumph of nationalism over true patriotism; now it was important that we “show the flag” in the far corners of the globe – military expansionism for its own sake. (At least we were not, at that point, claiming to be “spreading democracy”; that delusion came later on.) The main point was that as long as it worked – as long as we were consistently on the winning side – the question of our motives, and how to get rid of us (strategically), didn't come up. It was limited to the occasional demonstration with signs saying “Yankee Go Home!” -- and we all know how effective those were. The high water mark, if you will, of the successful projection of American power came with World War II, which ended with the atomic bombing of Japan and our occupation of that country and Germany, along with “bases” in most other places in East Asia and Western Europe. It would have been quibbling to claim that we had suffered a serious loss by turning Eastern Europe over to Stalin – although some people tried in vain to make that point.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to world domination. Soon after World War II ended, we “lost” China – as if we ever “had” China... and then we got tangled up in Korea, which was fought to a draw. And as countries around the world, not only in the Warsaw Pact, either opted for communism or had it forced on them, we felt our grip beginning to slip. Vietnam was, in this sense, the end of an era, in that we suffered a defeat – for whatever reasons – and had to beat an ignominious retreat. But had communism triumphed? It took another 15-odd years to find out, but eventually – to the dismay of liberals, theoreticians, and academicians everywhere – communism as a major world political system collapsed of its own weight and incompetence... not without help from us, of course, but we shouldn't take too much credit for what may have been inevitable. All the same, the communists had a pretty good run – 70+ years in Russia, and China was still going strong, although undergoing its own evolution from a hard-core communist state to a communist state disguised as a capitalist state. And of course the communist “dream” is far from dead, as witness places like Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, various African pestholes, etc.

But the point is this. How did we react to the Korean War turning out to be a draw? I guess we felt that communism had at least been held at bay – which it had, in that particular place. We didn't hold out, in other words, for total victory on the Korean peninsula. But then there was Vietnam, which had a more complex trajectory. Our response to initial defeats and setbacks was something called “escalation” -- as overseen by the proto-neocons of that era. And I suspect we would be fighting in Vietnam to this day if politics on the domestic side had not turned against the effort – and I attribute this primarily to the draft, although all of the other cultural changes of that time – our very own “cultural revolution”, if you will – certainly contributed. For a while there it almost seemed that we had given up on empire-building... but the forces of empire were still hard at work behind the scenes – under Reagan, Bush I, and even Clinton. The Cold War became less of a military matter than a matter of intelligence, intrigue, and “black operations”; it was still about anti-communism to some extent, but even more about laying the groundwork for a new American Empire. What could not be accomplished through sheer, overt force would be accomplished by other means – or so it was thought. In other words, the Vietnam experience did not turn us into a nation of pacifists, the way the World War II experience is supposed to have done to Japan.

One of the arguments – transparently fraudulent as it was – for our exertions against communism was always that we believed in spreading the blessings of “democracy” to benighted and oppressed peoples – and never mind that the communist states were almost invariably self-titled “people's republics”, or “the people's democratic republic of...” whatever. We knew that those were just cruel, mocking labels, and that we had the only genuine version of democracy, the others being shams. But in any case, even before the Soviet Union broke up, there was a certain feeling of loss of mission... a kind of winding-down that began with the immediate post-Vietnam period and the Carter administration. But then – a miracle! Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and we embarked on a new mission, hot on the heels of the Cold War, and even overlapping it slightly. And I cannot describe the relief and jubilation that ran through the American military when we finally discovered a new cause, as represented by the Persian Gulf War. Yes!! A new cause, to replace the war on communism! A new opportunity to play with all of our war toys! A brand-new line of camouflage battle wear! And thus, a new era was begun – and it would be idle to claim that it had not been part of a plan of long standing.

But even that auspicious beginning was only a preliminary bout – a “primary” if you will. There was a truce of sorts during the 1990s – a time of regrouping for much of the world – and this was, to say the least, very unsatisfying for the empire-builders. Oh sure, we had a few desultory military exercises during that period, but nothing to match the short-lived glory of Operation Desert Storm.

But then – another miracle! And an attack “on American soil” to boot. The events of 9-11 surpassed the sum total of all the previous casus belli (or whatever the plural is for that term – I should have taken Latin in high school instead of the language of all those cheese-nibblers) – better than the USS Maine, better than the Lusitania, better than Pearl Harbor, better than the Gulf of Tonkin... and so on. And once again, American hubris was out in the open and in full cry. Nationalism was back in fashion, and the ghosts of Manifest Destiny were stalking the land. We had “won” the Cold War after 45 long years of struggle... and golly gee, we had tried to keep the peace since then as best we could, but now here were all of these nasty Arabs and other Islamists attacking not only America, but “the American way of life”, and “our freedoms”, and so on. And after all, they had been asking for trouble for quite some time – the most prominent early episode being the “hostage crisis” in Iran (while the Cold War was still on – which explains our somewhat delayed response). We were willing to leave Iran alone at that point, but when Saddam invaded Kuwait, well, that just tore it! And at that time, our New World Order visionary-in-chief, Bush the First, sent out the call, and Americans responded – and with considerable relief, as I said. Our mission in world history had been renewed and re-validated, and not a minute too soon. So when 9/11 happened, we were ready. I mean, we weren't “prepared” for the attacks, but we were more than ready to go to war. And once again, the early victories – “shock and awe”, “cakewalk”, and so on, convinced us that we were in the right once again, and that the unpleasantness of Vietnam and the mediocrity of Korea had been the exceptions rather than the rule. Plus, now we had a new cause, namely “spreading democracy”, not as a foil against communism but as a foil against dark, medieval, superstitious theocracy of the Islamic kind.

And when you think about it, the hand-off from one cause to the other was amazingly clean. One minute we were witnessing the dissolution of the Soviet Union – our favorite enemy for 45 years – and the next minute we were taking up where the Crusaders had left off 700 years earlier. (Strikingly, the fall of Acre, the last Crusader city, was in May of 1291, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union was made official in December of 1991. History does provide us with some intriguing symmetries now and then.)

But once again, the American mind was put to the test. Iraq was not so much a cakewalk as a long siege, which continues to this day, no matter how many words our politicians mouth about “drawdown”... and Afghanistan proves to be as intractable for us as it was for the Russians or any of their predecessors. But now – even after what should have been the chastisement of Vietnam – we have adopted a renewed mind set, one symbolized by the empty and mindless phrase “staying the course” -- preached endlessly by our most empty and mindless president to date (and not preached but certainly adhered to by his successor).

So it's no wonder there's confusion on the other side. If they expected Iraq/Afghanistan to be another Vietnam, the way Afghanistan was, allegedly, Russia's Vietnam, they have been proven wrong. And in this, they have, perhaps, underestimated the extent to which we – as I discussed in a previous post – have embraced absurdity as our theme in foreign affairs.

Of course, there are other possible psychological explanations for this. One is that thing that has become a kind of fetish to the American mind, namely “closure”. The Korean truce, as unsatisfactory as it was (and is), constituted closure of sorts – or at least stagnation. Our defeat in Vietnam was certainly humiliating enough, but it had its closure aspects – we were forced out, or withdrew, or retreated, or gave up, or whatever. In any case, the war was over. And considering the price we had all paid – resource-wise, in lives, in political and cultural turmoil – I would say that all but the most fanatical among us felt some sense of relief. It was an unpleasant episode in every respect; and besides, Vietnam was a less-than-credible location in which to plant our flag as part of the American Empire – and may never have been intended to be. But the Middle East is, for whatever reasons, another matter. We gave up on Latin America a long time ago... Africa never seemed all that attractive... China was a lost cause... so what was left? The Middle East – conveniently located right next to Israel, and holding in its sweaty, malodorous hands a good deal of the world's oil. If there was ever to be an American Empire in our time, it would have to be there. And this, it seems to me, is why the effort has persisted far beyond the point where reason and logic fail. There are, in fact, “reasons” for our being over there – albeit far-from-honorable ones. But what is keeping us there is, above all, the fact that it is our last hope for empire; if that fails, then all is lost – we then become “just another place on the map”... the worst possible fate for a nation that was founded with transcendent glory in mind. So the only way to obtain “closure” is through total victory – and yet that is proving impossible – so we continue to “double down”, and sink further into absurdity. And this is why al-Sadr and his ilk are on the right track in the short run, but on the wrong track in the long run. Yes, continued “terrorist” activity will make us stay; we are way beyond the point of ever giving up just because something is a lost cause. But a moratorium on terrorist activity won't necessarily make us leave – not really. Al-Sadr understands the American mind up to a point, but the mistake he is making is that he considers us at least semi-rational. This may prove to be his undoing – but not before it has proven to be ours.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Embrace the Absurdity

In meditating on my last two posts, I've come up with a “new madness” -- and allow me to insert a quiet note of caution... not like the strident din of the alarm that sounds when the deep-fat fryer at McDonald's gets too hot, but as a warning that the following is more speculative than usual.

Let's say that Navrozov's idea is on the right track; what does this imply? It implies that the Big Lie is more effective as a controller of the thinking of the masses than a thousand small truths – and the array of alternative theories about 9/11 is nothing if not a collection of a thousand (or more) small truths... or at least questions. But the popular mind is too used to dealing with life in very large chunks – in ideas that, basically, cancel out facts and common sense. People lose patience with “analysis” -- with “wonkish” probing... they want answers, and answers now! And the simpler the better (and politicians know this). And – the more inflammatory, the more of a call to direct and violent action, the better. What could be simpler, for instance, that a “Global War on Terrorism”? It has all the conceptual makings of a crusade – and it is, in fact, a crusade, albeit one that is guaranteed to fail in the long run even more than it is failing in the short run. Communism was a crusade, and anti-communism was a crusade... but “anti-anti-communism” was a bit more subtle, and thus remained the province of academics, by and large. (There were no unruly mobs who set cars on fire in response to Nixon's “outing” of Alger Hiss – at least not as far as I know.) Feminism – dare I say it? -- is a crusade, which stands as a single, seamless monolith against all the subtleties of history, sociology, and anthropology (not to mention biology, especially endocrinology). Racism, likewise, is a comfortable bit of simplicity compared to the intricate subtleties of human behavior, aptitudes, motivations, etc. In fact – come to think of it – many of the “-isms” of our time are vain attempts at simplification of that which is intolerably complex. “Leave it up to the experts”, some will say – as if they ever listen to what the experts have to offer. The problem is that even the experts fall into the same trap, but because they are experts (or so they contend) their theories, models, and recommendations fall into the hands of busybodies, demagogues, and tyrants – and thus become woefully relevant to the everyday lives of everyday people. We are living in, among other things, an age of technocracy – where “findings” and “data” (alleged) are used to shout down and drown out things that are right before our eyes. We are still infected, for example, by what remains of urban optimism – despite what can be plainly seen as the state of our cities. We accept a simplistic, superficial, National Geographic/chamber of commerce view of urban society at the price of ignoring all the blatant dysfunctions that it entails.

But Navrozov's thesis implies more than the Big Lie. It implies that the effectiveness of the Big Lie lies not in its credibility, but in its very incredibility – the fact that, upon analysis, it is far from air-tight and is full of holes. He even says, in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, that “part of the intention of those who had conspired against DSK was to create a flagrantly absurdist case – yet have him publicly destroyed despite its overt implausibility.” But why the absurdity? Shouldn't the Big Lie – or even a Little Lie – be as smooth, easy to swallow, and digestible as possible? That's what one would think if people were thinking rationally – but the Big Lie is premised on the notion that people do just the opposite... that they embrace absurdity, not in the existential Kirkegaardian sense but almost as a political statement – a statement against reason and logic. It is – to reference Kirkegaard again – an expression of despair... in the face of a world that has ceased to make sense. If the goal is to influence behavior, an absurdity is as good as reasoned argument – better, in fact, because it forces people out of whatever residual habits of reason and logic they may have. It's like Maxwell Smart's iconic line, “would you believe...?” -- and the response is expected to be based on emotion and impulse rather than reason and logic. When the government tells us fairy tales about things like 9/11 it's appealing to our desire – our burning need – to believe in fairy tales, because there is no arguing against them. They are sufficient reason to make sacrifices and alter our entire way of life in a way facts can never be.

How often, after all, are the most serious actions we take in life based primarily on reasoned consideration? Consider going to war... or getting married... or joining a political party. The two pillars of most decisions, for most people, most of the time, are: Emotions, and emotions disguised as facts. We don't even have the luxury that less sophisticated peoples have of doing something on impulse alone – hot-bloodedly. We have to fancy that we have “good reasons” -- but that is not a deference to reason as much as to the need to rationalize, which is programmed into us from preschool on. The courts still make a place in their deliberations for impulsive behavior, but in everyday life it's considered shameful to do anything random or arbitrary. (How many times each day does some politician or law enforcement official describe a murder as “meaningless”? Forget about Johnny Cash's line “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.”)

“It seemed like a good idea at the time” is the universal plea. It would almost have been healthier, for instance, to simply attack and invade Iraq for no damn good reason... but this could not be tolerated, so rationalizations and arguments had to be provided. And when those rationalizations and arguments proved baseless, what then? Did we retreat shamefacedly? No – because once the act had been performed, it became its own justification. “Staying the course” defies all logic, but it does appeal to emotion and primitive impulses. So we could throw out all of the original justifications without regret, since we had found a new reason – which was no reason. Absurdity, in other words. And yet – and this is key – that lack of a reason, paradoxically, lends itself to greater persistence than we would have been capable of showing otherwise... since there is no risk of any new information or arguments succeeding against it. This is closely related to the concept of cognitive dissonance, which I've discussed before – the idea that the greater the cost, or sacrifice, involved in a given action, the more likely it is to be valued and to persist. The worst thing one can say about our troops who perished in combat (or the civilians who perished on 9/11) is that they “died in vain” -- that is the epitome of shame for a society, which is why the phrase is endlessly repeated by demagogues who, from the beginning, have been anxious to exploit this most unfortunate human trait. There is also the phenomenon of “mission creep”, which is another way of saying that whenever we fail in one mission, we quickly morph it into a different mission which is supposed to have a higher probability of success. Thus one absurdity gets piled upon another ad infinitum.

Consider also that folksy saying – popular, apparently, among male fans of country-western music -- “That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.” No amount of humiliation or exposure of weakness can deter people from developing and maintaining that attitude – and, again, the more absurd the situation becomes the more likely it is to be expressed. And as Navrozov points out, the absurdity of the original narrative does not, in the least, keep it from being clung to as long as no viable alternative presents itself. The original reasons we went into Iraq turn out to be entirely false – lies, in fact. But what is the alternative? If there is one, it's too subtle for the unwashed masses to comprehend, so they stick with the original. Saddam may not have had WMDs, but he would like to have had... or he might have acquired some... and besides, he had a bad attitude. Case closed! JFK may not have been killed by a lone nut with a gun, but the alternative is unthinkable, so we're sticking with the lone nut theory; case closed! There are more holes in the government's 9/11 narrative than there would be in a chunk of Swiss cheese the size of WTC1, but the alternative is unthinkable, so we're sticking with it. And so on. A more carefully laid-out, more nuanced narrative might invite analysis, and surely we can't have that.

The point is that people will believe what they want to believe – or what they are told, by the proper authorities, to believe, because they believe in those authorities. They are, in other words, authoritarian in their thinking. A reasonable argument might open the matter to debate, so the Regime selects absurdity instead – or at least allows absurdity to dominate. This forces the matter away from reason and logic and into the realm of pure emotion, which is exactly where they want people to be, and remain. And, it's more important to preserve the myth of benevolent (or, at least, non-malevolent) government than to entertain any alternatives – this being the almost unique Achilles heel of American politics. Since we are an “idea people” above all, and since government of the people, etc. is the paramount idea, we are uniquely immune to facts – especially when those facts appear to violate all of our fervently-held premises about government and ourselves. A more cynical, hardened, world-weary attitude – like that allegedly held by Europeans – might be in order. But wasn't this Republic founded in order to leave all of that doom and gloom behind? Aren't we still the shining city on the hill – even as our real cities fall into decay and anarchy? And again, I suspect that few if any of our so-called leaders believe this, but they have to pretend to in order to dupe the rest of us into believing it. And that is part of the absurdity as well – and perhaps the most dangerous and fatal part. Because of what we believe about ourselves, we can tolerate any degree of deviation from it, even the most blatant. The rest of the world sees this in all its enormity; the tragedy is that we don't.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ere the Dismal Tide

On this, the eve of which is going to be a very long day of “observances” and “memorial services” -- in which the “wall of separation of church and state” will be strained to the utmost – I have to offer a brief footnote to the preceding post, lifted from an article in the July issue of Chronicles by Andrei Navrozov. Now, Mr. Navrozov is, without a doubt, a conservative, or he would not be a regular columnist for, and European editor of, Chronicles. But he is also a man of the world, and a thorough cosmopolitan, and he does not hesitate to make this known on a regular basis. So it's interesting to see what happens when he starts talking about American “conspiracy theories”. In the case of JFK, for example, he refers to the assassination as “an act of terror directed against the population at large” (by the state) and “ritual murder”... and refers to “the absurd explanations [by the powers that be] that came in its wake.” In other words, rather than taking his ease in the bubbling cauldron of conspiracy theories, he has made a leap – solo, at least – into a form of conventional wisdom which only a European, or other non-American, can enjoy. Of _course_ JFK's assassination was an act of terror – it was meant not only to eliminate someone who stood in the way of many and varied agendas, but to serve as an object lesson to anyone who might follow. And sure enough – you'll notice – not one president has come anywhere close to bucking the Regime ever since.

In other words, you don't actually have to be a “conspiracy theorist” -- with all of its implications of fanaticism and monomania – to believe that the government – the state – is behind many acts of “terror” and other unsavory things. If you adopt a “reality-based” view, weigh the evidence, and simply conclude that this is the case, that does not even require an ideological premise, to say nothing of neurotic or ego needs. All it means is that you're seeing things as they are – or objectively seem to be. And this could be the case for 9/11, except that our degree of collective hysteria about those events make it virtually impossible. (Again, there is something to be said, from time to time, for European cynicism.) But let me move on to a quote from the article:

“The point was not to hide the fact that the President was not killed by a crazed loner, and yet leave the general population no alternative except to say that this was indeed the case. The object of the exercise is less the demonstration of plausibility for a given story and more the show of muscle that is above such vulgar issues as plausibility, opportunity, or even motive. All we need to do is to say that burial at sea is a Muslim custom, and our citizens will repeat this absurd fabrication without so much as a reference to Wikipedia.”

Now, let me try to deconstruct Navrozov's somewhat convoluted prose here. (Like many Russians, he has a much better command of English than most native English speakers and writers, but there is occasionally a turn of phrase that leaves one somewhat bewildered.) What he saying is that despite such monoliths of misdirection as the Warren Report, the government did not overly strain itself to deny that there was more to the matter than “a lone nut with a gun”. All they had to do was refuse to consider any alternatives – to put the entire question of alternatives beyond the pale, which means that – with the help of the ever-compliant media (who were totally enamored of JFK up to that fateful day, leave us not forget) – people had nothing else to “cling” to but the official story – which they happily did, out of fear. The logic of it reminds me of those “dissing” contests between two “homies” in the inner city, where one says “You mamma ain't nuthin' but a... (whatever)” And the other one says, “Oh yeah? Well, _you_ mamma...” and so on. The second guy never says “That's not true!” It would be absurd. It wasn't meant to be true; it was just part of the dialectic. The government doesn't waste time trying to convince people of the truth of the official narrative; it is enough to deny any alternative narratives (or their proponents) the right to exist. If there is only one story, in other words, it will be the one people believe, no matter how absurd it may be.

That this was true in the case of JFK is obvious. Conspiracy theorists ever since have been scrambling around trying to put together a credible, alternative narrative – and some have done a decent job of it, even in pre-Internet days. Then when we move up to the events of 9/11, we find much the same thing – an official line which is not defended by anyone in government, because it's no one in government's job to defend it... and plenty of alternative theories, or partial theories. But the alternatives, just as with JFK, are considered beyond the pale, and their advocates – regardless of their qualifications – are universally portrayed as paranoid nut cases. (And you'll notice that this is the media's job, not the government's.) And this is even more striking in the case of various liberals who were highly skeptical of the official line as long as Bush remained in office, but who have fallen into comatose silence even since Obama ascended to the throne and took over the narrative, without altering either jot or tittle. There is, as I've said before, only one Regime, and therefore only one narrative... and it is kept in a position of dominance less by brute force than by sheer default. As Navrozov points out, “plausibility, opportunity, or even motive” are non-issues when it comes to the narrative; all that counts is that there is a narrative, and that it comes from what most people continue to consider an unimpeachable source – namely the Regime, as represented by the government, in whatever thin partisan veil it presents itself at any given time.

Navrozov calls events like the JFK assassination “acts of nascent totalitarianism”, and, even though it may be somewhat of an exaggeration to claim that the events of 9/11 turned this country, overnight, into a police state, they certainly constitute a very large notch in the ratchet – as did the JFK assassination, or the Gulf of Tonkin (non-) incident, or Pearl Harbor, etc. Each instance offers the Regime an opportunity to acquire and consolidate more power – and when the harvest is as rich as this, for a relatively small investment, is it all that wild and speculative to imagine that the Regime has something to do with these events, rather than playing a strictly passive role? The object of terrorism, after all, is fear – and since the state thrives on fear, why should “state terrorism” not be added to the arsenal? I suspect that it already has been.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Great Divide

The impending 10th anniversary of the events of 9/11/2001 puts me in mind of a state of affairs which, as nearly as I can determine, has been identified by certain of the media, but seldom is its true significance pointed out. It is, I would say, just too big, too overwhelming, to contemplate in any sort of rational manner. What I have in mind is the fact that there is a great divide in the American populace – every bit as profound in its implications as any previous one in history... and there have been plenty, among which we must count slavery and abortion. There are certain issues which, in most other countries, would lead to considerable civil strife, if not to outright civil war or revolution – disagreements so profound that no middle ground is possible (at least not for sane people – philosophy professors, “ethicists”, and politicians are another matter). And in fact, the issue of slavery did aid and abet the run-up to the Civil War, although there is disagreement to this day as to how critical that issue actually was.

What I have in mind at present, however, is the simple fact that a certain percentage of the populace continues to believe in, and defend, the official narrative as to the events of 9/11... whereas another percentage believes in, and defends, one or a combination of the many “conspiracy theories” surrounding those events. Now, what is significant about this disagreement is not on the same level as a disagreement about, let's say, the evidence pertaining to a trial... or to most historical events... or even to various economic models. There is, typically in those cases, “room for disagreement” without either side experiencing a mortal threat to their world view. Another way of putting it is there is room for a viable agnostic position... for gray areas. One doesn't have to have an entirely different world view from one's opponents across the debating table when discussing the causes of the Great Depression, for example... or of the fall of the Soviet Union. Even in a case like “what happened to Jimmy Hoffa?” there are various theories, but I don't think anyone would feel overly-threatened by the discovery of new evidence, unless they were directly implicated.

So what we have here are, really, two types of models of events, or two ways of building models of events. One way is limited, more or less, to the evidence at hand, and is reasonably willing to alter the model in the face of new evidence. This might be called the objective, or value-free, or emotion-free, model – and it is the one that courts and judges are supposed to adhere to at all times, although they clearly fail in this from time to time. The other model typically starts with evidence (or the lack thereof) but then proceeds to extrapolate and expand, based on other considerations – overall world view, political agendas, emotional needs, opportunities to make money or obtain power, etc.

Now – when it comes to money or power as motivators, I'm going to eliminate those factors as representing true differences of opinion or belief, although they can certainly disguise themselves that way quite skillfully – especially in the hands of a talented demagogue (of the political or “media” type). Political agendas, likewise, are suspect when it comes to genuineness; how many people can claim that they know what any politician really believes – about anything? Especially when their “beliefs” magically change every time new poll numbers come in?

So what does that leave us with? World view and emotional needs – and although emotional needs are authentic enough for a given individual, they aren't very reliable indicators of objectivity. But on the other hand, isn't one's world view founded largely on emotion – on what one thinks the world is, or ought to be, like, rather than what it actually is like? And going in the opposite direction, aren't our emotions – our feelings about events and situations – predicated largely on our world view, and how those events or situations fit into it? Isn't this, for example, what “values voters” are supposedly all about – voting for an ideal, or for someone who supposedly represents or promotes that ideal? But on the other hand, aren't all voters “values voters” in a sense? The media use this term to denote traditionalists and conservatives, but isn't someone who wants to stay on welfare for life a “values voter” too? Staying on welfare for life is a value, isn't it? It's just not a "traditional" one, although it's on the verge of becoming traditional when one considers how long the welfare state has been in place.

Is it, therefore, even possible to separate world view from emotion? The term “reality-based” has come into play lately, being applied to, for example, the “reality-based community” or “reality-based voters”. This is supposed to imply that there are people out there who are interested in “just the facts” and not in theories, models, strivings, emotion, nationalism, etc. Well, OK, but... how does one interpret “just the facts” unless it's on the basis of some pre-existing value system? Henry Kissinger pretended to be a master practitioner of “realpolitik”, but what his policies invariably added up to was the expansion of the American Empire, or its gradual merging with a one-world, New World Order empire. And doesn't that represent a “value” of some sort – an as-yet-to-be-attained ideal? No, I don't think it's in human nature to be satisfied with “just the facts”. Even the best courts and judges only use the facts as a basis for comparison to some ideal, as represented by the law. If the law represents a codification of morality and ethics, then it also represents the place in which those things encounter, or come into juxtaposition with, the facts – with actual events. We think we know, for example, what constitutes robbery, or murder; “It's obvious!” Right. But if it were always so obvious, there would be no need for trials or judges – the police could simply arrest people, gather evidence, and proceed with the execution (or jail time). Even the most barbaric societies at least pretend to have some modicum of “justice” above and beyond pure police work... some structure resembling a court, and judges (if not juries). There is a natural human resistance to the idea of being ruled by facts, and facts alone – a yearning, if you will, for nuance, for interpretation... for “judgment” in the broad sense.

So rather than define our continuum on the basis of a duality, I propose that it be defined on the basis of a polarity – with “world view” (including the emotional component) on one end and “the facts” (including the unavoidable subjective component) on the other. I know, this is unsatisfying in that it does not represent a crystal-clear dichotomy; there is no room for guys wearing either pure white or pure black hats. But this seems to be the situation we are confronted with whenever we consider current events – a maddening array of pseudo-facts, propaganda, feelings and ideals disguised as facts, facts ignored in favor of feelings and ideals, etc. And as the “election season” goes into high gear (as if it ever isn't in high gear) these things are more and more on display – much to the delight of the media and fatigue of the public.

So with that as a very large note of caution, let us proceed to the actual topic at hand, namely the ongoing response to the events of 9/11/2001. And I say “ongoing” because, in an era where the highest value when it comes to traumatic events seems to be “closure”, there has been no significant closure with regard to 9/11, nor is there likely to be – and part of the reason is this great divide in opinion... or, more than opinion, in world view... in reality, even – almost on the metaphysical level. I don't think very many people out there would argue that the World Trade Center towers didn't come down, or that nothing happened at the Pentagon or in Shanksville, Pennsylvania that day. I mean – one day the towers were there, the next day they weren't. One day the Pentagon was intact, the next day it had a hole in it. And something clearly hit the ground in rural Pennsylvania. But this is where the resemblance ends! There are no other “facts” or assertions – including the official narrative – that are not, somewhere and by someone, debated or contradicted. If you don't believe me, do an Internet search. Wade through the endless swamps and thickets of 9/11 conspiracy theories and “truther” sites, and you will find that everything you think you “know” about those events has been held up to serious question... and in many cases, compelling evidence exists to the contrary. But, but! -- you might say – at least there are videos of the planes hitting the towers, or of one plane, or... but what plane, exactly? There is evidence that the plane that was alleged to hit the tower, and the one that actually hit the tower, were two different planes. And please note, this is not the most ambiguous, but the most direct piece of evidence in the whole story. Everything else is clouded, and shrouded in mystery... and that mystery only becomes deeper the more one reads and hears, which is why the official government narrative is so appealing – it clears up the mystery. In fact, it keeps there from being any mystery at all. There is a perfectly simple explanation for everything, and all the evidence – all the admissible evidence, that is – supports it, and there is no evidence – admissible, once again – that contradicts it. Case closed.

Now, you'll notice right away that the government's – Regime's -- criteria for admissible evidence are quite stringent. What they amount to is that any evidence that fits the narrative is admissible, and any that does not is not. So it becomes a perfectly closed system – a “closed shop”, if you will, when it comes to data. And in this it resembles nothing so much as the official version of the JFK assassination: The report is written, case closed, and anything that bubbles up later on is of no interest. And – this is key – not only is it of no interest, but it is obviously the work of “conspiracy theorists”, nut jobs, crazy people, insane people, “haters”, anti-government anarchists, etc. Whenever you see character assassination – including of the preemptive type – entering into the discussion, you know you're dealing with a very firm, deep, and profound agenda that has nothing to do with facts, and everything to do with the acquisition and maintenance of power. Let's say that the official 9/11 report had been written and issued, but then a standing committee of Congress had been established to consider new evidence whenever it should become available, and from whatever source. Then you might have said that the government was truly interested in the facts of the matter. What if the FBI had actually sifted through the wreckage in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania looking for evidence and clues? But the narrative had already been written and published... the American public had drunk the Kool-Aid... so the evidence could be trucked off to unknown locations, buried, or destroyed. In fact, the most dangerous thing you can do when everything depends on the official narrative being believed by everyone is to keep evidence around. And, I might add, the sequence of events following 9/11 matched, to a remarkable degree, the events following the JFK assassination – right down to the full cooperation of the ever-compliant media. Someday the book will be written comparing the two – and, hopefully, by that time, the “conventional wisdom” about 9/11 will have evolved in the same direction as it has about JFK, now that all the guilty parties are dead and gone.

So it's clear that the Regime has excellent reasons for putting the story to bed and keeping it there – and defending it against all opposition or skepticism by labeling the non-believers mentally deranged in some way. So we see that the lines are drawn along the political/power continuum, and that the “paranoid style in American politics” consists mainly of the establishment labeling anyone who disagrees with it “paranoid”. But what are people disagreeing with? The facts? Or, more likely, the political/power agenda, and there is no secret as to what that entails, because we see it on a daily basis, in both domestic and foreign affairs. So yes, the events of 9/11 do fit a certain political/power agenda... but just because they fit, does that make it a direct connection? Some have termed 9/11 a “happy accident” or a blessing in disguise for the Regime – that it came along just in time to provide a rationale for declaring war on Islam and for accelerating the construction of a police state on the domestic side. Others will say that because this one event – this set of events on this one day – benefited so many people, and entities, so handsomely, it's clear that they had something to do with it. This would be coming to conclusions about intentions based on results. And some would say that it would be like claiming that the Jews supported Hitler because they knew that the long-term outcome would be the establishment of the State of Israel – a position that some actually hold, but I find it way too conspiratorial even for my tastes. For one thing, it would have required a level of omniscience that I doubt anyone is capable of – although some people seem to come awfully close (like Warren Buffet and George Soros, e.g.).

The events of 9/11, on the other hand, are much more readily attributable to a conspiracy on the part of the power elite. Provocateur and “false flag” actions are time-honored methods in foreign affairs, and in this case what could be simpler (conceptually, at least) than mounting a “terrorist” attack, attributing it to Moslem fanatics, and therefore declaring war on Islam (not in so many words, but what do you call it when we add a new Moslem country, or regime, to our list of enemies every month or two?). And in whose interest is it that we declare, and fight, a war on Islam? Well, we've been over this before – suffice it to say that the Islamic world is up against a “perfect storm” of political opinion and political and financial power in the U.S., combined with counterparts in Europe. The season has arrived for a new Crusade (but without the cross), and a new war on Islam, and nothing is going to prevent it. Now, this is not to say that victory (whatever that would look like) is assured, any more than victory was assured the first time around. The Crusades seemed to succeed for a while, but eventually the European powers were worn down by the opposition and by their own internal struggles – not to mention issues of logistics and expense. They were overextended then, just as we are now, and I imagine the long-term result is going to be the same. But simply knowing this will not prevent the waste and folly, because those are a matter of faith – not religious faith this time, but nationalistic zeal, not unlike that which infected Germany under the Third Reich. When a nation becomes a religion, then any war it enters into is a religious war... and that, in turn, almost insures waste, folly, and eventual defeat. It is just the opposite of the “reality-based” approach – assuming there can be any such thing as “reality-based warfare”... and I think there can be, if we go back to “just war” theory. (But when was our last “just war”? 1812 is my guess.)

So here is what it amounts to. People who believe in the government's narrative about 9/11 – and evidence be damned – are not simply expressing trust in their leaders. It is an emotional response to trauma, and that response can be wildly irrational at times – like the proverbial horse running back into a burning barn. At times when our world is shaken, we seek reassurance and security – and what entity is better at providing this than the all-encompassing, welfare-state, “caring” government? We see, or sense, “terrorists” landing on our shores... swarthy men with week-old beards and daggers (or box cutters) in their teeth, speaking in a heathen babble, reeking of garlic... and what could be more comforting than to run to the waiting arms of a whiter-than-white president (in Bush's case) and his whiter-than-white vice president (Cheney or Biden) and his whiter-than-white secretary of defense (Rumsfeld or Gates)? Yes, these are the men – straight out of “Life With Father” or “Leave it to Beaver” -- who will protect us from all the nasty, smelly savages of the world who threaten to destroy “the American way of life” (whatever that means any longer).

I'm not talking “reality” here, note – at least not in the usual sense. I'm talking about how the American sheep respond when the wolf hops over the fence into the fold. And what event in any of our lifetimes exemplifies that better than the events of 9/11? We felt violated; we _were_ violated. So we ran into the arms of our protectors, even though they had failed to protect us... and turned over to them our rights and liberties, because what are those silly, abstract things compared to being protected from “terror” -- and sure enough, “there has not been another significant terrorist attack on American soil...” etc. Don't you see that this is a perfect replication of an experimental paradigm with lab rats? You administer both shocks and rewards... and the rat doesn't have the wherewithal to realize that the source of the shocks and the source of the rewards are the same. And nor do the American people realize that, more often than not, our “protectors” are also our tormentors, and our “leaders” are the very ones who work night and day to annihilate our values, hopes, and dreams, and drive us into bankruptcy and moral anarchy. And yet they claim to not only have our best interests at heart, but also have the unmitigated gall to ask for our “vote”! The situation is ludicrous and pathetic – but it persists because the vast majority simply refuse to see it for what it is.

So... one can do worse than to assume that virtually any current event represents, at base, a power struggle – a struggle, that is, among people vying for power. The struggle between the power elite and the people has, of course, already been won, so that is not even an issue, regardless of what the “tea partiers” believe. There is no such thing as a “people's candidate” in the next election – at least none that has a chance of winning. You won't see a major candidate, or a successful candidate, that has not already sold out to the power elite; this is simply the price that has to be paid for political glory in our time (and, probably, the price that has always had to be paid). And this, by the way, is why populism – of which the “tea party” is only the most recent manifestation – is doomed by nature. Power can only percolate up, but it never trickles down; not really -- short of revolution, and hardly even then. Even when the Regime seems to be accommodating some popular movement – like labor unions or civil rights, for example – it is only re-positioning itself and preparing to co-opt, compromise, and exploit the movement in question. It will never give up any meaningful power... and will only give up symbolic power for just so long. Eventually, it all comes back to home base as if attracted by a gigantic gravitational field. And, I might add, the size of government makes a difference only in the speed of this consolidation, not in whether or not it occurs. The national government was gradually increasing in power even during our period of greatest liberty – that between the Revolution and the Civil War. Since then, our freedoms have suffered an almost continuous series of buffets and blows, with only the occasional period of relief and relaxation. And now that we have firmly adopted a Perpetual War economy and a supporting political structure, I fear that we have also seen the last of any sort of relief and relaxation. From now on, it's going to be a full-court press on the part of the Regime to extinguish any and all remaining liberties and freedoms, for the simple reason that they have decided they can get along and prosper perfectly well with an enslaved citizenry – and they have no “values” that would keep them from acting accordingly.

Now, I hope I have presented a credible rationale for, at the very least, why the events of 9/11 would have played into the hands of the ruling elite. But even people who heartily agree with this will still contend that it was, as I said before, a “happy accident” -- an opportunity to accrue and consolidate power, but not intentionally caused for that purpose. Even people who contend that Al-Qaeda “won” by forcing us to become a police state will identify it as a matter of dumb luck on their part, and not intentional. In other words, they weren't trying to change the U.S., only get it out of the Middle East and get back at it for having been over there for so long. Or – an alternative theory is that Al-Qaeda is perfectly innocent, and that the government itself is the only guilty party. This might be wishful thinking, however, since it seems clear that Al-Qaeda, and like organizations, did, and continue to, wish us harm. I mean – if they weren't responsible for 9/11, they would very much like to have been; let's put it that way. So I'm not about to let them off the hook. But on the other hand, I'm not going to let anyone else off the hook who clearly benefited from those events – especially when there is a mountain of unexplained evidence and another mountain of unanswered questions.

But here's the problem. The people who adhere to the official explanation of the events of 9/11 claim to be “reality-based”, and yet they become extremely emotional when anyone questions that explanation, and start hurling epithets. Plus, as I pointed out above, their criteria for admissible evidence are bizarre – they will accept “facts” from the government that are wildly unlikely, and little more than fairy tales... but will reject convincing pieces of evidence from skeptics, many of whom are experts in the fields in question. So I think it's safe to say that the die-hard, dogmatic adherents to the official line are driven principally by fear, emotion, and security needs... by the need to keep their world (the one in their heads, that is) intact. And this, in turn, is related to their unfortunate habit of making the government, and “America”, and an entire galaxy of symbols and delusions, an essential part of their world view. They simply cannot divorce themselves from their preconceptions about America – about this country they were born and raised in, and educated in (in government-run schools, by and large).

Now... it should be possible to appreciate, and respect, this country for its better qualities, and for what is has done, and continues to do, right; this is a healthy kind of patriotism, and one that has characterized a goodly number of our citizens from the beginning of the republic. But at some point, a thin line is crossed, and what was a healthy attitude turns into nationalism, fanaticism, an obsession with Manifest Destiny, with policing the world, with “spreading democracy” -- and then it all gets crazy and foolish, and invites push-back from the rest of the world... the sort of push-back we got on 9/11. And associated with this are other subordinate collective neuroses – like progress for progress' sake, war for war's sake, triumphalism, bullying, and general obnoxiousness on the world stage. And make no mistake – the rest of the world actually holds a lower opinion of us than we think. It's just that we're still big, and still powerful, and also mean, irrational, and violent – so they have to cool it with their opinions. But there will be no end of rejoicing – even from our “allies” -- when our empire finally crumbles to dust. It's like the town bully whom everyone defers to, but when he finally meets his comeuppance they line up to create an unsanitary condition on his grave. And this is not even to say that what follows will be better! It will just be different; it won't be “us”. Then it will be someone else's turn to go through the same changes and follies – to retrace the same trajectory, and with the same ultimate results. If the highest spiritual aspirations of man are manifested in religion and great art, architecture, and music, then his highest (not to say best) political aspirations are represented in the building of empires... but those political aspirations have a way of getting humbled and rebuffed, and yet they persist from one generation to the next, because, as we all know, history never applies to the present day. “This time is different.”

So when it comes to 9/11, the people who want and need to believe, without question, the official line are, arguably, acting according to emotion much more than to facts. They are, apparently, acting in contradiction to many facts. And in this, they are expressing a kind of perverted faith – not in a religious creed but in a secular entity. (I don't worry too much about “the separation of church and state”, but I would certainly like to see more separation of faith and state.) And what if the government were shown to be, indeed, evil and malevolent; would this rock their world all that much? It would if they were brought up to believe that the government was their ultimate protector – their refuge of last resort. And sure enough, this is exactly the message that government schools – which the vast majority of them attended – provide. The ancient verities are no longer in force... family, ethnic group, race, church may all fail, but the government will always provide; this is the message, and it is believed on a profound level – even by the “tea partiers”, because they believe that the way to fix what's wrong with government is to come up with a different government – nothing else will do. Kind of like hiring a bodyguard to protect you from school bullies – which is great, except you still have to pay the bodyguard, and what happens when one of the bullies offers him a better price to stop protecting you? Or what happens if he simply loses interest? Government cannot cure government any more than eating more can cure obesity. What the “tea partiers” should be doing is re-examining the entire concept of government; but this is something they seem unwilling or unable to do. It should be remembered that the “tea partiers” are not, by and large, libertarians. They don't want to eliminate, or even necessarily reduce the size of, government; they just want to alter its priorities. But that, again, is like a bullfighter expecting the bull to become hypnotized by that red piece of cloth, and forget that he's in the ring. It might work for a while, but then... maybe not. (And, I might add, how many of the “tea partiers” are also skeptics when it comes to 9/11? Very few if any, I'd say – they are still much too “establishment” for that... much too wedded to the basic narrative, or metaphysics, of what the government is all about.)

I hope I haven't dismissed all of the people who adhere to the official line on 9/11 in a cruel fashion. I know that they are products of the public schools... the mainstream media... the “system”... and that they feel they “owe” their leaders more than a modicum of trust. They feel, especially, that although politicians may occasionally exaggerate, and bend the truth, or even lie... that they are patriotic citizens like you and me, and would never commit heinous, treasonous acts just for the sake of power, or to please some dark, unknown, evil entity somewhere in the world. After all, aren't they human too? Didn't many of them rise from humble origins – humbler even than my own? Well... the problem is that things happen to people when they rise to power – evil things, profound things. They get what I call that invisible plate implanted in their heads; they become pod people. They suffer not so much from physical lesions of the brain as from moral lesions... permanent damage to the conscience. And so yes, even from humble origins they come into the light and rarefied atmosphere of power, wealth, and carnal gratification (and don't, please, underestimate the importance of that last item), and they really do change. They cease to be like us in almost every way. So yes, they are, or become, capable of thought processes, and motives, and acts that the rest of us can barely conceive of. This, it seems to me, has to be part of our thinking on these matters – but it very seldom is. To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Let me tell you about politicians. They are different from you and me.” But unlike Fitzgerald's rich elite, they are, by and large, not born that way but become that way – and this is difficult, if not impossible, for the average person to understand. “How is it that power can change people so profoundly? It wouldn't have that effect on me.” But how do you know? And – even more mysterious – do the people who attain power know that they've changed? Maybe they really think that their values and actions now are perfectly consistent with those of their youth. (And if they do, that is further proof of their insanity.) And, I might add, the bigger government becomes the more instantly intoxicating its level of power becomes... so a politician who might, in former times, have remained in his right mind for at least a while turns into a power junkie almost immediately. Many mayors in our time oversee more people than kings did in ancient times; they employ more people and control more wealth. So imagine how it is for governors or presidents.

But if the conventional, party-line thinkers about 9/11 can be tried and found wanting, how about the “conspiracy theorists” and “truthers”? Are they any closer to the facts? Are they any less emotional? Do they have agendas of their own – particularly emotional agendas, every bit as powerful as those held by the conventional thinkers (or non-thinkers)? Do they, in other words, depend, to keep their world view intact, on the premise that the government is intrinsically evil and malevolent, and that the people who inhabit it are murderers and traitors? I think we can start getting a feel for this if we take a look at how nuanced their arguments are. If they start with the facts, or evidence, or at least questions, without prematurely attributing blame or motive, that is one thing. If they start with the premise that because government is intrinsically evil, it can and will do anything, and therefore it must have done this – that is another thing. Now, the second group may be right, but the argument from premise is unlikely to convince anyone else. And yet, it's unlikely that many of them are going to alter their line of argument, since they have some reason – personal, most likely – for deeply distrusting the government. Maybe it's an actual experience that they have extrapolated into a general view of things – again, not necessarily wrong. Or, maybe it's more on the Freudian side – problems with authority, father figures, what have you. But again, “just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you”. If we start making ad hominen arguments – that a person has to be in perfect mental and moral health before I'm willing to listen to them about anything – then where does it stop? Eventually we get into that (alleged) Quaker business about “only me and thee, and I have doubts about thee.” Again, I think it helps to get into the dynamics of the thing – the “which came first” question – the world view or the facts? Which one is the driver, in other words? A person may have an agenda, but if they have facts, evidence, and questions that cannot be ignored, then it's a disservice to the truth to ignore them – or to demand that others do so.

And yet, as I said, then it comes to things like 9/11, there are very few “agnostics” out there – and a lot of believers. And every believer believes that he has the facts, and that the facts support his beliefs. So what we are seeing when it comes to 9/11 is not unlike a religious war, albeit a “cold” one. It's a conflict of faith, which uses facts as ammunition – but seldom with success. But it is, nonetheless, remarkable in that it constitutes a great and profound divide in this country – an epistemological divide for certain, and perhaps a metaphysical divide as well. And that a difference this profound can exist, and yet people go on living their lives in a more or less normal way, strikes me as astonishing... and yet it's absolutely the case, and one which our leadership never comes to grips with, either because they can't or they won't. And is it even “poisoning” our political dialogue, the way the abortion issue is said to do? No! And it's clearly not because the skeptics are in a tiny minority. I think it's more likely that the skeptics are, almost without exception, people with no political power and who are not interested in acquiring any. In other words, they are, politically, no-shows and nonentities, which means they will not be listened to no matter how good a case they make. And this is no accident. It seems that people who are skeptical about government tend to avoid it, quite naturally and understandably. And they are the same people who are ready to believe that government, and its functionaries, are capable of anything. Those who “believe in” government, on the other hand, cut off all other options – among which are the ability to see contradictory facts, analyze them, and act on them. This is, as much as anything else, the real “great divide” we are faced with, and, by comparison, it makes the contrived opposition between Republicans and Democrats, and between liberals and (so-called) conservatives, trivial to the point of non-existence. There are no “sides” within the system; if you're in the system, that's the side you're on. If you're not in the system, then anything is possible – conceptually. But not everything is necessarily true. This is the point at which facts again come into play – if only we can make our agendas conditional and give the facts priority, rather than make the facts conditional on our agendas.