GREAT CHESS GAME, ANYBODY?
Following along with a theme I’ve been working with in the recent Posts, I am looking here at Zbigniew Brzezinski’s (ZB) 1997 book “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Implications”.
As you may be aware, I’ve been concerned recently that A) what is dawning for the US now is a dark and regressive age of Go Out And Grab (GOAG) in order to compensate for Our increasing national Scarcity – rather than Abundance – in Productivity and Position;
and that B) the Beltway elites have realized this for quite some time but haven’t taken useful or serious action to forestall such a dilemma as We now face, pushing Us into becoming a Predator State in order to keep up appearances and hang on to some form of Primacy on the world scene, while simultaneously enriching the already-wealthy and enriching a government committed to providing bread-and-circuses for its newly erected, entitlement-dependent client classes;
and that C) the Leftish elites are as responsible for this frakkulent mess as the Rightist elites, though each would dearly like the other to be tarred with all the blame and neither has any workable alternative to offer at this point.
ZB is writing in 1997, and it will become clear just how ancient a history that year represents these days around here.
He starts off soberly enough by discussing acutely if rather briefly the causes for the decline of the Roman empire: cultural decay, political division, and financial inflation … those are his three general causes.
The “cultural decay” comes to Us courtesy of the Left and its pandering political enablers. If the Boomers were a handful because they actually thought they reeely reeely were “a new generation with a new explanation” (as the Songster groovily advised in that song about coming to San Francisco and being sure to wear some flowers in your hair), then the impatient and self-sure revolutionary cadres of this or that Identity – with radical feminism being the most thoroughly soused in Leninist-Maoist thought and praxis, either directly or through assorted ‘postmodern’ Continental thinkers – increased exponentially the dangers to maturity posed by the multiplying-like-rabbits Boomers.
If the Boomers wanted to sorta get rid of a lot of old stuff just ‘cuz it was old and they obviously knew more about life than anybody over 30 (or perhaps 25), it was still merely more of a desire than anything else, and they could too easily be distracted by bright shiny objects or loud noises or frequent sex or any of half-a-thousand vivid drug-induced visions and sudden illuminations.
But the genuine cadres of this or that Revolution – and especially radical feminism (which is what most people now think of as ‘feminism’, since the radicals got the Beltway to accept them as the ‘genuine spokespersons’ of ‘all women’, and had the balanced and sober moderates sidelined and silenced as backlashers or self-hating traitors to Cause and Gender) – had far more focused objectives.
While the positive-valenced of their objectives included liberating all women from the holocaustal slavery of the male patriarchal gaze and grab, the negative-valenced objectives included the rapid discrediting and dismantling of the reputed white, male, male-besotted, macho, dirty, sweaty, abstract, logocentric, reason-based, anti-emotional, repressed, oppressive society of Industrial Productivity by which – the mantras proclaimed – macho males were doing nothing except keeping ‘women’ in bondage literally, figuratively, and whateverly.
The males and their industrial-strength sweaty, bossy, violent culture had to go; it would be replaced by a female-themed Knowledge and Service culture which would be much more concerned for the individual’s desires than for whatever purpose or vision existed within the company that had hired them (or had had to hire them) in the first place.
The US could afford to lose competence and sustained Productivity in its economy (and sustained efficiency in its military) – burbled the cutting-edge ‘thinking’ and justifications lustily – because this was a matter of ‘rights’ and of a demanded liberation from a purported ‘oppression’; and because the US had nothing to fear in the whole wide world and could well afford the indulgent sacrifice of some macho ‘efficiency’ in order to clear the path for the upcoming sensitive mistresses of the New Correct Order; and because the US (it was apparently presumed by the cadres and agitprop apparatchiks) would always be the Number One Economy and Military and Culture in the world.
We were asked to believe this – or rather our political ‘representatives’ were seduced into believing these assertions and predictions – by the very same cutting-edge and transgressive ‘scholars’ and ‘thinkers’ and ‘writers’ and ‘experts’ who were certain that you could kill a Golden Goose by either cutting off its head or cutting out its heart or chopping away its spine … and yet STILL enjoy a reliable supply of Golden Eggs. (Clearly the Correct, Nanny State aversion to classical and so very realistic fairy tales such as Grimm’s has simply rendered its elite classes lethally vulnerable to far more whackulent fairy tales. Funny how the fairy-tale night moves.)
After all, the pols figured, since the good ship U.S. of A. was by definition and unshakable belief ‘unsinkable’, then you could chop as many holes in the hull as you wanted because the great ship would never – could never, actually – sink or be sunk. Sort of the Titanic meme. (Clearly the Correct, secular State’s aversion to any genuine belief or Belief has simply rendered its elite classes lethally vulnerable to far more whackulent beliefs. Funny how the belief-and-Beyond night moves.)
The Left got rid of white, male, macho oppression; the pols got all sorts of new ‘bases’ among the young, the female, the other assorted minority groups (whose loyalty would be purchased by the government Thumb on the scales of justice and the government Hand taking from the workers to fund a new, imperial Roman ‘diverse’ client-class utterly dependent for its preferences and entitlements on the pols); and an ever-increasing swath of immigrants, the regrettably large majority of which were unfamiliar with the ideals of the American Experiment’s Vision and/or were simply happy to be here on any terms at all and/or were simply looking to make a few bucks for purposes benevolent or otherwise.
And the Left got rid of a civic-ly competent Citizenry that had been effectively cut out of the deliberative political process by virtue of ‘deal politics’ and the ongoing and ever-going ‘emergency of rights’ that allowed neither delay nor doubt nor disagreement nor deliberation; especially by those myriad Citizens who ‘just didn’t get it’ in the first place.
The Right got an increasingly militarized and regimented and surveilled culture and population, all the better to stretch forth the national military power to support the long-militarized and so rightly techy Israeli Realm (The Staunch Ally Without Treaty – or SAWT); and got a surviving American labor force undercut both by a flood of immigrants willing to work temporary jobs for low wages and by off-shoring that had been declared Good by a Democratic President; and got a national government increasingly dependent upon modern day Robber Barons – in the person of financiers and entrepreneurial bankers and assorted other denizens of the toothy, scaly eel and shark families – to help keep up the illusion that the US was still a robust and solvent sovereign.
And both Left and Right got a Citizenry that in its younger cohorts had been besotted with immaturity-making indulgence and attention, largely deprived of any maturity-making parenting or education, and swaddled half to death from the crib onward by the soul-rotting fantasy that there is no Beyond and that this world of appearances is both totally sweet and utterly nutritious;
and a Citizenry that in its older cohorts had been so bethumped with vital anxieties about actually keeping a job and holding a family to together, and so distracted by the seemingly endless failures of the America that had once been the wonder and envy of the world, that those cohorts did not think to imagine the unimaginable: that the Democrats had joined with the Republicans in a mutual attack on the middle and working classes, whose assets would be divvied up between the already-wealthy and the utterly dependent client-classes that had been created by a government that now combined the worst of Dr. Baron Victor von Frankenstein and J.P. Morgan’s Robber Barons of the first Gilded Age.
And both the Left’s emotion-seeking ‘just do it’ revolutionary mantra – seeking to sweep aside or sidestep any rational objections as to its various demands – and the Right’s Fox-news I-know-what-I-know patriotistic posturing – seeking equally to sweep aside rational objections as to its various schemes – helped reduce an already-bethumpt adult Citizenry to primal, limbic rather than prefrontal cortical, processing of information; ‘the Young’, of course, were already there in the primal stage, having never grown beyond it in the first place.
And is all that working for Us? (Rhetorical question)
And here We are. (Non-rhetorical observation.)
A government cannot long sustain itself simply by imposing its will in every minute and numberless civic instance by raw exercise of force. A government requires a Culture – a habitual civic stance or attitude toward the government held by a substantial majority of all the citizens. That way, the Culture does most of the government’s heavy lifting for it – assuming that the government doesn’t try to screw with the Culture too drastically.
But – of course – that is precisely what the Beltway did starting in the late 1960s: desperate to kick the old New Deal working-classes and middle-classes and their Productive culture to the curb, and eager to invest in the government’s newly-erected client ‘Identities’ that were supposed to fill up the gaping emptiness where the working and middle classes had been, the government literally and deliberately and with malice aforethought attacked its own national Culture, desperately seeking to destroy it and replace it before too many folks noticed.
It didn’t work – not well enough to avert a rather predictable fracturing and fractalizing of the Citizenry and the common-weal.
To realize all of this in regard to the past decades of Beltway frakkulence is to have one of those unpleasant moments that often arise when you are stranded on public transportation – a subway or train, say – with your time draining away while noticing the dilatory insouciance of the still-employed and largely-paid public employees and suddenly realize that Yes, Mussolini had a good point, and where is the man when we really really need him? Oy.
Writing in 1997 ZB asserts clearly and forthrightly that “American economic dynamism provides the necessary pre-condition for the exercise of global primacy”. That makes sense now, and it made sense back then.
Although even back then in 1997 the ‘economy’ was already a thing of smoke-and-mirrors, as shaky as any inverted pyramid that was simultaneously unbalanced and losing the cohesive strength of whatever was holding its constitutive blocks together. But the glossy limestone facing, so triumphantly spun and burnished by the asininely ‘optimistic’ mainstream media, made the whole rotting wrackety thing kinda pretty in the sun. (Or, as Gilbert & Sullivan’s Rich Attorney cackles about his Elderly, Ugly Daughter to the Penurious Young Attorney: “She may very well pass for forty-three … in the dusk with the light behind her!”)
For all his competence in his own field of international relations and the Great Game, ZB perhaps couldn’t bring himself to face the Elephant in the Middle of the Common Room, and stuck to his own professional cubicle.
While he acknowledges that the American global primacy of 1945-1970 was far too wonderful to ever last (do you recall being officially advised of that fact by any Administration since V-E or V-J Day?) yet he is content – somehow- with the “30 percent” of global GNP at which US economic performance had “stabilized” in 1997.
America, he (pick one: believed, asserted, hoped, desperately hoped) was “supreme” across four “decisive domains": Militarily it had far and away the most technologically advanced equipment of any nation on the planet (the competence, quality, and morale of the troops at that time not having become a lethally vital matter of concern); Economically the US “remains the engine of global growth”; Technologically it “retains the lead in cutting-edge innovation”; and Culturally – “despite some crassness” – yet “it enjoys an appeal which is unrivalled, especially among the world’s youth”.
The first three of his categories speak more or less for themselves.
Let me spend a moment on the fourth, the Cultural. He is, I would say, hugely insufficiently aware of just what has been the result of those ‘culture wars’ (a poisonous rainbow-amalgamation of gender wars, race wars, belief wars (or wars-against-belief), tradition wars (or wars-against-tradition), common sense wars (or wars-against-common-sense), wars-against-crime, and in general all sustained, government-abetted, hostile operations against anything white or white-friendly, male or male-friendly, European-derived, middle-class, working-class, old, and/or ‘established’.
Those wars – Jesse Jackson may take satisfaction to note – have been successful, and Western Civ is Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Gone, Baby, Gone. In fact, it seems that that those wars have been so successful that nobody among the elites seems to want to generally admit to the fact these days. Imagine that: pace John F. Kennedy, this is a “success” without any fathers (or – oh very yes – mothers). Most curious, don’t ye think?
The Correct “culture” that has risen off the table in the Beltway’s laboratory tower on the hill, stitched together rather obviously and jolted with enough taxpayer “redistributed” cash and assets to choke a whole convention of zombie Godzillas, is Groundless, Shapeless, and essentially invertebrate. Meaning – in that last case – that it relies upon government and Beltway fiat not only for its cash-jolts but for its structuring direction, precepts, and principles.
And, in addition to being Groundless, Shapeless, and invertebrate, it is also non-Productive in any sense that has relevance for the vitally realistic task of making stuff that can be sold to other nations in exchange for money. Unless, of course, you imagine that a hard few minutes’ worth of concentration thinking, texting, and tweeting about what sort and size of latte to order somehow counts as a productive morning’s work.
And the fact that it “appeals to youth” around the world gives far more cause to doubt ZB’s seriousness and competence, rather than give any cause for pride. Before the immigrants who either weren’t clear on the American Constitutionally-framed concept or largely uninterested in anything except the material benefits; before the radical-feminists’ gimlet-eyed and cocky (as it were) revolutionary determination to wipe out the whole male Infamy at a stroke; before the victimists who simply saw the government as their personal instrument of closure and revenge; before the secularists who lived in a Flat, mono-dimensional universe like virtual cartoon characters; even before the Israeli’s who knew how to make use of a woozy giant when they saw one … before all of them, there were the Boomer Young and the Young as a general demographic.
Because, after all, if you’re a certain type of government, it’s a lot cheaper and more efficient to mold the historically-uninformed and cater to their cocky self-assurance than to have to re-negotiate a social compact with persons whom for all practical purposes you plan to royally and treacherously screw and betray. The young – as Hitler and Lenin and Mao and even Mussolini realized – are the easiest to lead by the nose because they are so trusting in their own ability to remake a world that to them is brand-new and has no history or complexity (they have, after all, been up to their elbows in play-dough until just recently), and from play-dough to revolutionary ‘politics’ (which is no politics at all, let alone any sort of Constitutionally envisioned politics) is to them not even a hop, skip, and a jump – merely a snapping of the mental fingers, still pudgy with baby fat.
BUT if you’re a certain type of pol, they represent a great and hugely seductive ‘demographic’. And so ripe for the plucking that they constitute the world’s largest proven reserves of low-hanging political fruit. What’s not to like?
ZB, I would say, was either unserious or incompetent or rather sleazy in his analysis: the fact that one’s culture is so ‘attractive’ to “the young” and to “youth” isn’t really such an unmixed compliment, if you think about it. George the Second (the Bush not the king) sought to have a ‘youthy’ appeal (which, as he admitted in his memoirs, caught the roving eye of a young Karl Rove back in the day) but look how far that didn’t get Us.
Carefully, ZB insists that “it is the combination of all four which makes American the only comprehensive global superpower”. I’m not sure I would have been comfortable with America well-fulfilling those four domains even in 1997, but today – a verrrrrry long 14 years down the dark and twisty Road – it’s almost smile-inducing to hear such a confident assertion. And if ZB meant it sincerely, kinda really very sad. For all of Us.
But then ZB happily reasons – and on the basis of his assumptions logically enough – that because of such dominance across those four domains, the US relies on “co-optation” to keep its place at the Great Table: America is a force to be reckoned with among the world powers because of its four-domain dominance, yet since that dominance includes the attractiveness of American “culture” then it will hardly ever be necessary to take off the velvet glove and put down the seductive goodies and take up the iron-fist and the weapons – kinetic, atomic, drone, ‘newkular’ and so forth.
I’m not so sure. His assessment of the attractiveness of American culture is based primarily on ideals and virtues and characteristics that not only have been deconstructed as being part of the patriarchal-Industrial order, but have also been dismissed even as worthwhile or valid goals or principles of the Framers’ Vision. The America of 1787 or 1887 or even 1937 or 1957 is no longer the official Beltway elite version of ‘America’.
AND don’t think that the rest of world’s peasant-shrewd leaders and bosses can’t see that, or haven’t.
American culture today has been contaminated with a post-modernism that corrosively mistrusts tradition, common-sense, or even good-intentions and the hope of a common-weal; and, of course, classifies half of any population – the … ummmmm … non-female half – as incorrigible and dispensable lumpen-honks.
Can you seriously imagine – did ZB seriously imagine 14 years ago – that most of the world’s societies were going to take this type of lethal medicine lying down? There’s a reason, I think, why the now-seeking-overseas-venues National Nanny State is as slap-happy for government and military intervention as the most rabidly patriotistic Right-wingers looking to advance the date of the Second Coming or increase the reign of Jeezuzz or fulfill the most abyssal dampdreams of Our Staunch Ally Without Treaty. While also getting some loyal bayonets and drones firmly ensconced over whatever valuables the locals might have lying around (or under) the shop. And making sure the local males are suitably shunted off to some less-well-equipped version of secular American slacker-hood.
Do the Leftist elites think that the rest of the world’s males are going to happily accept such an enforced vacation from adulthood as easily as the slackers did here? That they will settle for giddy, gleaming metrosexual female-dependent inanity like so many of the elite and successful but fundamentally unripe and over-coiffed slackers here? Do the Leftist elites think that the National Nanny State will be accepted as a ‘liberator’ any more avidly than the National Security State’s imperial-stormtroopers-in-a-Good-cause?
Has nobody in the Beltway had the wit and integrity to avoid the Kool-Aid?
“Democracy” as it is touted today either by the ‘liberals’ or the ‘conservatives’ has precious little to do with the ‘democracy’ envisioned by Washington and Adams, and in either its Leftist or Rightist valence, will require hefty detachments of the imperial legions to help the natives appreciate it.
The days when American troops were welcomed as out-and-out liberators are as gone, baby, gone as the days when the American dollar was welcomed as the only reliable currency in a world where your local impressively-stamped flimsies the size of pillow-cases couldn’t buy a decent meal for your kids.
God, have We blown it now or what?
“Mass culture”, ZB opines, “whatever we may think of its aesthetic values, exercises a magnetic appeal, especially on the world’s youth”. “Hedonistic” it may be, he continues, “but its global appeal is undeniable”. Any enterprising drug-lord could say the same thing about his product.
Queasily, ZB has tag-teamed with the Lefties here in order to scoop out a niche for his own vision of the broad, sunlit uplands ahead. And in his equally queasy repetitive focus on ‘youth’ and ‘appeal’ – accurately reflecting the Beltway where he may still hold a key to an executive washroom or two – he reminds his readers unwittingly that Our elites and the pols have obsessions not quite totally dissimilar to pedophiles and drug-lords.
Is anybody concerned more for forming and Shaping these youth in order to give them the advantage of maturational, intellectual, and moral vertebracy, rather than simply luring them into the saccharine but toxic wraith-life of Correct, Soviet-like invertebracy?
It seems that for the Beltway elites and the pols ‘the young’ constitute the appetizing denizens of a planet-sized deer-park; and at a scope and intensity that make the occasional aberrant Catholic priest look like an un-enterprising, unimaginative, garden-variety drone or household pest. (Paging Dr. Freud: meet Dr. Niebuhr and St. Augustine in Examining One stat!)
Apparently if a priest does it to you, it’s rape; if the Correct elites gang-up and do it to you, it’s liberation. Such clear distinctions. O brave new world to have such types in it! Oy.
Along the same lines, ZB directly proceeds to bleat that “democratic ideals associated with the American political tradition, further reinforce” what is not at all a “cultural imperialism” because everybody wants what America has: there is a “spreading emphasis worldwide on the centrality of a written constitution and on the supremacy of law over political expediency”.
Gauging from just how virulently and fundamentally opposed to that Constitution and ‘foundationalism’ and ‘framerism’ the Left is, and how fungible every ideal or principle or virtue has become – either because of reasons-of-revolution on the Left or reasons-of-State on the Right … I don’t think that today many of the world’s non-youth are so impressed with how the American tradition has played out here.
What ZB touts in 1997 as the values of the American political tradition had already been in the cross-hairs of the Beltway elites of both Leftist and Rightist tinge for decades. And today, following all the culture wars and the 9-11 scare-mongering, there is very little functionally left of that tradition; elites will pay lip-service and mouth the old classic phrases, but this is not only not-your-grandfather’s Constitutional Republic any longer, but the Vision – sober but clear – of Washington and the Framers is gone, baby, gone, for all practical purposes.
Yes, many many many folks on the planet would love reliable drinking water, the chance to take a spin on an interstate, and maybe even going to bed at night knowing that the kids have had a decent meal and that the roof isn’t going to be blown off or the front door kicked in, nor the kids punctured collaterally as eggs for the Great Omelette.
But that doesn’t mean they want what is currently being drone-delivered under the various labels of Democracy, the Good thing, the Just thing, the coming thing, or God’s Will. Nor do many of them see Our whizzbang drones as cuddly Hogwart’s mail-owls, nor – probably – do they see the US as Hogwarts; and if they see American elites as wizards, I don’t think it’s Dumbledore and Maggie Smith they’re thinking of.
For the US, says ZB as he gets down to brass tacks, “the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia”. There you have it. He wasn’t the first to say it, let alone think it, but here he is mentioning it in a book in 1997 – just four years before 9-11.
Right now (that is, in 1997), he says, a “non-Eurasian power is pre-eminent in Eurasia” (referring to the US). That’s not a situation guaranteed to become permanent, he honestly admits, but how long it lasts and what follows it is vital, he thinks, and of “great importance to international peace”. Yes, very much so. And also of great-importance to whether We stay in business in the manner to which We have become accustomed.
But he could have had no idea of just how profoundly and thoroughly the economy would be a) undermined through the various modes of deconstructing Productivity, and then b) lethally ripped open by the new F.I.R.E. sector whiz-person elites who Bubbled until they burst while the Leftist elites gushed over the easy mortgage money and the Rightist elites continued to wave their plastic flags for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan (and Libya ‘helped by kinetic military action’ into a US-friendly regime change).
A more sober and interdisciplinary assessment might have revealed to him even in 1997 that the queasy greasy buttery glow of Reagan-era ‘prosperity’ had become even more rancid – yet also more gilt-painted in compensation – by Clinton’s second administration.
Now, the Economy and Culture domains are undermined; and if the Economy goes, then the Military domain will not be far behind: a hegemon that needs to borrow cash from the very folks against whom it may intend to deploy its Military is just a few bad hands away from losing a Seat at the Table.
But perhaps then the almost obscenely hasty – and repellently deceitfully ‘justified’ – resort to arms against Iraq and the second phase of Afghanistan (and just recently Libya) were not so much witless repetitions of the famously lethal ‘imperial overstretch’.
Imperial Spain quickly started looting the New World for its silver and gold and other resources just as soon as it realized what it had stumbled upon; thus it kept itself in business as a Player for another century and a bit, before the early 17th century saw it caught in an awful and fatal dilemma: it needed cash so it had to send out military expeditions either to hang onto colonially occupied assets (like the Low Countries) or to find new ‘assets’.
And yet the very military expeditions themselves ate up most of whatever cash resources they could Grab.
Rome had finally reached the point where the civil population was reduced to being merely a life-support system for the legions, which – increasingly hard pressed to hold the whole shebang together domestically and fend off the barbarians – lost their military edge.
We are to consider Ourselves consoled when the whackulent Max Boot cheeribly brays that it took Rome a couple of centuries to collapse so Why worry now?
What feculence. As if America were simply an investment to be milked by its wealthy investors for whatever time it still had left. But then: how many of the Left elites or the Right elites really ever had a positive and well-Grounded loyalty to the American Framing Vision and a working appreciation for what was actually accomplished between 1776 and 1787, and bequeathed to Us for safekeeping? How many really felt that the Vision of 1776-1787 was even worth keeping? How many even know the significance of those two dates?
If the spirit of the American Vision must rely on Beltway pols schooled in nothing but ‘doing the deal’; and on Left elites who consider anything prior to the erection of their own core advocacy Identity to be so tainted with ‘oppression’ as to be worthless for the present and the future; and on Right elites whose only solution is plastic flags, the legions, and whatever milporn-glossy new military hardware can be sent aloft or put afloat to avoid putting the increasingly shaky legions to the test of combat … if that’s pretty much all the Spirit of America (if I may) has to rely on then We are in a heepa trubble.
Because what ZB recommended in this book 14 years ago was going to require a hefty chunk of diplomatic skill and maturity, in order to effectively wield the advantages of dominance in those four domains. And his advice presumed that the country would sustain and continue such tremendous primacy as he thought he saw.
But if his presumptions were only modestly well-grounded in reality back then, they most surely constitute now a strategy without a country to wield it.
At this point We must rely on the legions simply to Go Out And Grab for Us enough stuff to counter-balance the crushing debt and lack of Productivity. There’s oil and gold in them thar Eurasian hills, but whereas what was done to the Indian tribes of the American frontier could at least be fig-leafed as Manifest Destiny, there is utterly no such theory that can fig-leaf the massive GOAG raids that must now be carried out on the far side of the world.
‘Human rights’ (with the definition of ‘right’ being expanded just as fast at the Beltway can erect a new Identity or valorize a new advocacy) has been pressed into service in a neat type of typical Beltway deal: since women can Correctly be presumed to be oppressed in every society and culture on the planet, then the US now has the liberal and humanitarian grounds for an open and ongoing Warrant to GOAG anywhere it thinks it can get away with it. The reportedly Viagra-crazed, sex-offending rape-troops of the Libyan government having been brought to heel, it may not be long before the whole excuse is whomped up again against some further juicy and militarily weak target.
Thus the domestic political ‘bases’ are happy that their ‘voice’ is being heard; the advocacies stay in business as Beltway elites and players; America’s ‘allies’ are pleased that a fig-leaf is still in place despite the bump and grind exertions of actual military invention with tooth and claw; mavens of Correctness, especially if employed in higher education will take increased devotion to the task of seducing fresh cohorts of the young into the cadre-like service of the combined Nanny-Security-Grab State; and the mainstream media will ooh and ah and cheeribly gush, just pleased as punch to be invited to the party.
There is the making of major farce or satire here, if it weren’t for the monstrous treachery (not ‘tragedy’) lethally wrecking spiritual as well as material life for billions.
Even in 1997 ZB observes that America is going to have to opt for the subtle and mature route of exercising influence rather than the more overt and clumsy route of seeking direct control through military action. After all, he says, “America is too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad”.
Bravely said and who can deny the fond hope and fervent prayer that it should thus be ever so?
The Nanny State has proven itself as intolerant of dissent against its Correctness as the Security State has proven itself intolerant of dissent against … well, anything the government decrees.
Decades ago the working classes could not imagine quickly enough the depth and speed of the treacherous betrayal that the Beltway was perpetrating against them. Only a bit later the middle-classes were soused with liberally sprinkled ‘credit’ (as if it were in itself wealth or asset) and anointed with the general and liberally strewn-about ‘professional’ designation, even as the rug was being pulled out – a bit more gently – from under them.
And then, so very very ominously, ZB imagines out loud that the only way this too-democratic-to-be-autocratic thing could change would be “in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well-being”. [italics mine]
The Communists went, and took their monstrous-ness with them – but the Red barbarians were a kind of solution, since they provided a simple (too simple) exo-skeleton which Americans could claim as their genuine identity (What am I? I am NOT a Commie … case closed and enough said!) .
But almost immediately ‘males’ were erected as slavering sexual monsters, just to get people used to the police-state necessary to prevent and to tag incorrigible monsters.
Then along came 9-11 in all its incomprehensible official mis-, mal-, and non-feasance before, during and after the fact. ‘Terrorists’ could now be used to create the type of ‘conditions’ that might float Americans over the beach’s long-established safety ropes and pull them out into much deeper darker water. The Great American Picnic was becoming a Picnic From Hell.
Europe, announces ZB, will be America’s “natural ally” in what I would call this Push Into Eurasia (Drang Nach Eurasien, if it perhaps sounds more apt in German). Yes Europe will be the natual ally, since so many of its economies, having followed the American hegemon into the pooh-pit, are now equally as desperate to GOAG (used as a verb; pronounced GO-agg) in order to meet the bills.
But ZB is playing a subtle hand here indeed.
“The crisis of political legitimacy and economic vitality which the West currently confronts [in 1997] and which it is currently unable to overcome … is deeply rooted in the pervasive expansion of the state-sponsored social structure … which favors paternalism, protectionism, and parochialism”.
Biff! Pow! Even 14 years ago he saw where things were going.
Nor did the West – led by its Leader, America, under Clinton and George the Lesser – choose well in meeting those crises of political legitimacy and economic vitality. Political legitimacy – even before you consider how deeply it is tied into successful management of vital economic affairs – became increasingly tenuous as the government responded only to its elites and Identities, and ignored the vast and now-devalorized working middle of the Citizenry.
Economic vitality was addressed merely by the old smoke-and-mirrors of symbolic politics, the distractions of celebrity politics, and the intensifying manipulations of official stats and numbers and definitions in order to keep the constitutional governors of the government – i.e. The People – from discovering the true and truly awful state of affairs.
And “paternalism, protectionism, and parochialism” can – marvelously – be applied to the we-know-better-than-you elites of either the Correct Leftists or of the patriotistic Rightists. If this country isn’t becoming a banana-republic, it is surely coming to resemble the torturously fractured European polities and societies of the interwar period of the 1920s and 1930s.
The result of all this, intones ZB as he slips into the accents of national bonze, is “escapist hedonism with spiritual emptiness”. Hedonism is bad enough; using it to escape responsibility doubles the frak; and doing so while in a condition of profound immaturity and unripeness pretty much makes a life a Trifecta of Frakkish insufficiency, personal incompetence, and – to use the old term – “existential failure”. So many Americans are essentially Slackers now.
We will be needing as many armed drones as possible; and far too many of Us are going to be tempted seductively to take the easy way out of this mess and send the happily Rainbow-ed and multi-culturally Correct legions to GOAG for Us, though – of course – first to liberate all those natives from all the things that have kept them in a condition of ‘they just don’t get it’ for soooo oppressively long.
But the government will collect the swag and pass it out according to its own Christmas list calculations.
The legions will be given many more drugs and lots of new medals.
While Americans – elite or lump – have notoriously short memories, other people in the world, undistracted by the endless task of keeping up with the Memos that ensure that they ‘get it’, can bear in mind what Americans say and do over the course of time. And Barry Goldwater said half a century ago that since Communism is genuinely evil (you didn’t need to know Stalin personally or read all of Lenin’s and Trotsky’s oeuvre to figure that out) then ‘you don’t give the devil a fair shake’; after all, if the devil is Evil then your job is to make sure he and it don’t spread, or to squash him or it like a bug if you can.
It’s not really so much of a leap from ‘you just don’t get it’ to ‘you are either with us or against us’ to ‘you are evil and you are going to get what’s coming to you’.
There are 8 year olds all over the planet who can draw their own conclusions and connect the dots for themselves.
The legions may quite possibly not be welcomed as liberators. But they will be necessary.
And that is the hellish conundrum facing Us now.
Politicians will have a limited number of stances toward this awesome and awe-full reality but the bottom-line – look for it and keep your eye on it at all times – will be that the legions will have to be sent, that they will have to Stay to Keep what has been Grabbed, and that there will be consequences and blowback.
Even more ominously, the very ‘blowback’ will serve the Nanny-Security-Grab State’s deep purposes: in the face of a (hardly unpredictable) resistance and revenge by the local natives, the State will announce itself robustly ready to send in ever more troops, drones, and so forth and so on. The blowback (or ‘backlash’, as the popular term has been for decades around here) will itself serve the State’s purpose (which all along has been to GOAG) and simultaneously solve the State’s main problem (which all along has been to convince whatever is left of public opinion that military adventures are now Necessary but also Successful).
This is the hellish band, and this is the hellish music, to the tune of which We shall now have to dance for a long long time to come.
Come to think of it: this tune may be Our swan-song, as a Republic and as The People.
This is a recent article by the estimable Stephen Walt in which he discusses the end of the American era.
Once again, an otherwise powerfully competent and informed commentator ignores the tremendous damage done to the American ‘Cultural Infrastructure’ (my term), focusing instead on the huge amount of national debt, the off-shoring of the industrial infrastructure, and the “sluggish economy”.
All of these are relevant.
But I say that beneath all of those are the monster and monstrous realities of a) the ‘deconstruction’ of the Productive Culture among Americans themselves (which some media now notice by warning of an impending ‘return’ to “self-reliance” among Americans as if it were a baaad thing); and b) the widespread efflorescence ‘deal politics’ that is a direct result of single-issue Identity Politics and its related ‘symbolic politics’.
Labels: American decline, GOAG, The Grand Chessboard, the Great Game