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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Pods 

Courtesy of our stalwart colleagues at Cursor: Was it not the beloved populist George Corley Wallace who used to say that they ain't a dime's wuth o' difference between the Republican and the Democratic parties? We fear that the late governor of Alabama was ahead of his time in several alarming ways, but one faction in particular seems determined to make a prophet of him: the "National Security Democrats," a group (recently profiled by Jeffrey Goldberg of the New Yorker) that includes 2008 Presidential hopefuls Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, John Edwards and Bill Richardson. Despite polls showing that a majority of Americans now believe the adventure in Iraq was a mistake, you will hear no anti-war whinging from this ballsy band; their prescription for electoral success includes a rejection of "post-Vietnam ambivalence about the projection of American power," increased "openness" to the idea of preemptive military action, and a new eagerness to embrace Republican icons such as Ronald Reagan.

When we read this sort of thing and contemplate the choices that are likely to face us as we enter the voting booth in 2008, we are quite naturally overtaken by the urge to heave. Unfortunately for us, Matt Taibbi of the New York Press is monopolizing the toilet:
The Democratic party leadership's persistent and bizarre campaign of self-condemnation and Republican bootlicking is one of those things that, on its face, makes very little logical sense. It makes cultural sense; we have come to expect that the cultural figures we call the Democrats will respond to electoral failure first by sniveling and finger-pointing, and then by puffing up their chests and telling their dates they know how to handle themselves in a bar fight. From the Republicans we expect just the opposite; beaten at the polls, they immediately start cozying up to snake-handlers and gun freaks and denouncing school lunches as socialism. It is impossible to imagine a Newt Gingrich responding, say, to LBJ's Great Society by concocting its own expensive plan to feed the poor black man—but we fully expect that a Democrat who loses an election will suddenly start to reconsider his opposition to preemtpive invasion and Reaganomics.

We expect these things, so they strike us as logical when we see them happen. But they make no sense. A merely cynical opposition party would be emboldened by poll numbers showing majority opposition to the war to court those votes. And a moral one would seize upon news of the sort coming out of Britain to argue to not only to their own voters (who would unanimously support them in this aim), but to the country at large, that the invasion of Iraq was based upon a fallacy, illegal and impeachable.

But the Democratic leaders do neither. Instead, they tell 53 percent of the country [that opposes the Iraq war] that they are mistaken, and throw their chips in with the other 47 percent, who incidentally support the other party and are not likely to ever budge. They then go further and try to argue that fighting the war on terror requires abandoning health care, education and Social Security—an idea that, let's face it, makes no fucking sense at all.

Franklin Roosevelt never argued anything like that, and he fought a global world war against two mighty industrial powers. But now 4000 retards in caves are going to close down the entire American school system. If that is the Democratic idea of looking "strong," one hates to imagine what weakness would look like.
When the so-called opposition party has been intimidated -- make that "colonialized" -- to such an extent, we have no choice but to agree with our rambunctious colleague Arvin Hill that the revolution has already occurred.

SEMI-RELATED SIDEBAR: See also former State Department official John Brown's "Why World War IV Can't Sell," an excellent analysis of the process by which the endless war on global terror gradually metamorphosed into the endless crusade for worldwide democracy:
Since at least 9/11, the neocons have rambled on… and on… about "World War IV." But no matter how often they've tried to beat the phrase into our heads, it hasn't become part of the American mindset. Peace and honest work, not perpetual war and senseless conflict, still remain our modest ideals -- even with (because of?) the tragedy of the Twin Towers. True, right before the presidential election, WWIV surfaced again and again in the media, fed by neocon propaganda; and even today it appears here and there, though as often in criticism as boosterism. Pat Buchanan and Justin Raimondo have recently used the phrase to criticize neocon hysteria in their columns; and in its winter 2005 issue, the Wilson Quarterly published "World War IV," an important article by Andrew J. Bacevich, which turns the neocons' argument on its head by suggesting that it was the U.S. which started a new world war -- a disastrous struggle for control of Middle Eastern oil reserves -- during the Carter administration. For Bacevich, it appears, the neocons' cherished verbal icon should not be a call to arms, but a sad reminder of the hubris of military overreach . . . .

If there's one thing the sad history of recent years has amply demonstrated, it's that the Bush White House is profoundly uninterested in ideas (even the superficial ones promulgated by the neocons). What concerns Dubya and his entourage is not thought, but power. They pick up and drop "ideas" at the tip of a hat, abandoning them when they no longer suit their narrow interests of the moment. (The ever-changing "justifications" for the war in Iraq are a perfect illustration of this attitude). The Bushies are short-term and savvy tacticians par excellence, with essentially one long-term plan, rudimentary but focused: Republican -- as they interpret Lincoln's party -- domination of the United States for years to come. Karl Rove's hero, after all, is William McKinley, the twenty-fifth president of the United States, who, some argue, was responsible for creating GOP control of American politics for decades.

The current administration, perhaps more than any other in history, illustrates George Kennan's observation that "[o]ur actions in the field of foreign affairs are the convulsive reactions of politicians to an internal political life dominated by vocal minorities." Indeed, there is a strong case to be made that the war in Iraq was begun essentially for domestic consumption (as White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card, Jr. suggested to the New York Times in September 2002, when he famously said of Iraq war planning, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August"). While all the reasons behind this tragic, idiotic war -- which turned out far worse than the "mission-accomplished" White House ever expected -- may never be fully known, it can be said with a strong degree of assurance that it was sold to the American public, at least in part, in order to morph Bush II, not elected by popular vote and low in the polls early in his presidency, into a decisive "commander in chief" so that his party would win the upcoming congressional -- and then presidential -- elections . . . .

But now Americans are feeling increasingly critical of our Iraqi "catastrophic success." "The latest polls show that 53 percent of Americans feel the war was not worth fighting, 57 percent say they disapprove of Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq, and 70 percent think the number of US casualties is an unacceptable price to have paid." To the Pentagon's great concern, the military is having difficulties recruiting; national Guardsmen are angry about excessively long tours of duty in Iraq; spouses of soldiers complain about their loved ones being away from home for far too much time . . . .

So, after all the administration has done to ruin America's moral standing and image overseas -- "preemptive" military strikes that violate simple morality and the basic rules of war; searching in vain for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction; mindlessly rushing to implement "regime change" in a far-off Third-World country, an ill-planned effort that could result in the establishment of an anti-western theocracy harmful to American interests; brutally incarcerating "terrorists" with little, if any, respect for international law; arrogantly bashing "old Europe" just to show off all-American Manichean machismo; and insulting millions abroad by writing off their opinions -- Americans are now being told by Dubya and his gang what we've really been up to all this time across the oceans: We're democratizing the Middle East, and with great success thus far!

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