Monday, January 30, 2012
ANDREW BACEVICH: THE MISSING PIECE
No, I am not neglecting the closer look at Catharine MacKinnon, that noted Radical-Feminist (R-feminist).
But something rather key to the entire position I have been making in the recent series of Posts has come to my attention and it’s worth one more essay before I get back to her.
Andrew Bacevich, retired US Army colonel and now noted professor at Boston University and acute commentator on national strategic and military matters as they relate to international relations, has a new book out entitled “Washington Rules”.
(The title is a neat triple-entendre: the book a) discusses the ‘rules’ that are currently driving US foreign policy and the US government’s basic Stance toward the rest of the world, while b) the title also captures the current slang that this or that ‘rules, dude!’, while also c) capturing the US presumption that it now rules the world by some sort of non-Divine Right.)
I am not here reviewing the book in the larger sense of the term, but merely pointing out some highly-relevant aspects of his thought in relation to my own analysis of recent (the past 40 Biblical years) US history, foreign and domestic.
You might want to look at this short but effective discussion of his book.
What Bacevich has done, in regard to my own analysis (nor do I here seek to reduce him to a footnote to my own thoughts), is to identify the powerful but almost unseen source of a major gravitational pull that has been deranging this country’s politics for decades, and with increasing intensity.
As you may recall, I have been making the point that the Beltway – starting with the Dems in 1972 but soon joined the Republicans for their own purposes – hit upon the idea of solving the grossly unmanageable fractalizing effect of Identity Politics (with its lethal roots in that Alien political Universe of Marx, Lenin, Gramsci, the Eurocommunists – as adopted slyly here by the R-feminists) by pandering to the radicalized Left’s Big Identity (for votes) while also deriving political contributions by pandering to the Right’s Big Money (for shrewdly legalized PAC contributions).
But I have also been speaking of the Left’s National Nanny State or Leviatha, and the Right’s National Security State or Leviathan: they are both “sisters under the skin” in that neither of them have any use for any “deliberative democratic politics” nor for the Framing Vision nor for The People as We are conceived in the Framing Vision as not only being the governors of the government but also as grounding the legitimacy of the government.
The conceptual missing-piece is right there between ‘Big Money’ and the ‘National Security State’.
Wouldn’t ‘Big Money’ indicate a National Corporate State rather than a National Security State?
And this is where Bacevich wonderfully identifies that missing piece. A piece that exercises a powerful if still unseen gravitational pull that deranges the course and track of the US and, consequently, much of the rest of the world’s affairs.
There are un-heralded but verrrry real and rigid ‘rules’ governing the Beltway’s Stance toward the world.
First, there is a “credo” and that creedal dogmatic belief is that the US exercise “global leadership”.
Second, there is a “trinity” of methods by which that dogma is to be actualized and maintained. That trinity is a) global military presence, b) global power projection, and c) global intervention.
You cannot be part of the Beltway in-crowd – and ‘you just don’t get it’, to borrow the hoary R-feminist cackle and bray – unless you allow yourself to become completely indentured to these assumptions and presumptions.
As part of that Credo it is taken as given that the US “must lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world”. This presumption – ironically self-serving but ultimately self-destroying – sets the nation on a path that is most pithily described as Griff nach der Weltmacht, that dark and bloody vision of Grasp For World Dominance that drove Nazi Germany. But it also embodies the terraforming lunacies of Marxism-Leninism, that sought to impose Year One and the ‘workers’ paradise’ on both Russia and any other nation the USSR could get its hands (or boots) on. A truly frakkulent and whackulent two-fer.
But then it also mirrors with eerie symmetry the R-feminist insistence (also derived from Marx but requiring the police-state regime common to both the Third Reich and the USSR) that in regard to the ‘patriarchal’ oppressions of world and Western and American Culture it is only the devoted cadres who “get it” and who possess the secret but ultimate Knowledge that ‘getting it’ gives you who are fit and authorized to call the shots for everybody else (in the name of ‘liberation’, of course).
Upon the ‘justification’ and ‘emergency’ of that awful poo-pile of presumptions so much of the American polity has been ‘liberated’, ‘reformed’, ‘transgressed’, and ‘creatively destroyed’ until now there is almost nothing that does (or conceptually can, if you buy into the presumptions) unite the country as a Citizenry, a common American Culture under the Framing Vision, or even a workable polity. At this point, you could say without too much fear of exaggeration, the US is now essentially ‘a government without a country’, meaning that the Culture and the common bonds have been ‘liberated’ and terraformed away (precisely what Antonio Gramsci in the very early 1900s and the Eurocommunist thinkers in the 1970s sought to achieve).
In birthing the (and his) ‘American Century’ 70 years ago, Henry Luce baldly exhorted Americans to “accept wholeheartedly our duty to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit”. I can’t see how this ex cathedra elite exhortation differs very much from any sermon Lenin would have delivered to a Party Congress or the Central Committee.
Nor can it really be seen as differing from R-feminism’s essential self-issued Warrant for going after American Culture (‘dominant’, ‘hierarchical’, ‘oppressive’, and ‘marginalizing’ - to use the terms they filched from Gramsci) and ‘patriarchal’ (their own conceptual tweak, substituting ‘women’ for ‘the masses’). A Warrant for which the vote-desperate Dems deputized themselves with no further questions asked.
The American Century, foreign and domestic, would indeed be “red in tooth and claw” – or, perhaps: red, white and blue in tooth and claw. Such progress. Such liberation.
Ach! Oy! Oy gevalt! And phooey.
From this Credo four corollaries spew out like a pyroclastic flow.
First, “the world must be organized or chaos will surely reign”. No doubt that human nature and consequently human affairs need an order, ordo in the Latin. But it has been the genius of classical Christianity (itself ineluctably but not vitally deranged by the assorted gravitational pulls of an essential human dis-order) that any such ordo must reflect a higher Ordo, instilled by the Divine and constituting a Higher Law to which all human enterprises (governments not excluded) must conform.
This con-forming would guarantee a genuine liberation and freedom, as defined by that Divine Ordo rather than cobbled together out of scraps and for less-than-genuine purposes by this, that, or the other human agency and power as Time goes by.
But in reducing all human existence and activity and authority to merely this Mono-Plane of historical existence, Marx essentially wound up ascribing liberation and authority to whomever managed to get the power to assert and enforce their definition of it.
The R-feminists did this to sweep away moral, traditional, or cultural obstructions to their agenda domestically – but all in the name of liberation, of course, and with both the very bestest of intentions and the hyper-excited guarantee of a paradise to be delivered at some unspecified future date and on a cost-plus basis. Thus the American Leviatha was birthed (you should pardon the expression).
But of course such a gambit also served the Marxist-Leninist purpose of erecting a government power unanswerable to any Higher Law but rather granted plenary power to fulfill its own self-appointed promises by doing ‘whatever it takes’ to force the mulish lumpen-masses into doing what was best for them, as defined by that same government. Thus Leviathan was returned from the outer darkness into which the Framers had cast it.
You can make a good case that in Hebrew thought, what God ‘created’ in Genesis was not so much matter out of nothing (a rather Greek approach) but rather a social and cultural ‘order’ that enabled humans to move beyond the tooth-and-claw hell on earth to which their primal and primitive tendencies, un-Shaped by any vision of - or commitment to - their higher capacities, condemned them.
To the ancient Hebrews, such an improvement was wondrous – and in light of the abiding human tendency to wreak havoc upon themselves and each other it was utterly mysterious in its origin. Thus, they concluded, only God could have intervened to show them the way out of that tooth-and-claw labyrinth of their own primitive tendencies and urges.
Nor, I would say, were they wrong in their conclusion.
The Christian contribution was to Ground that Ordo in the dignity of each human being as created by God, in Whose Image humans could find their genuine nature and purpose – toward which they must for the sake of their own genuine fulfillment as individuals and as societies strive against their abiding lower, more violent and self-serving tendencies and predilections.
The Framers built on all of that, and while they stipulated the separation of Church and State, they could not and did not imagine their American Experiment as working without that subterranean foundation of virtue, character, and conformity to a common Beyond that was the Afterglow of the personal and cultural formation imparted by classical Christian civilization.
To Marx, of course, such concepts as ‘virtue, character, and a con-formity to a Beyond’ were all merely distracting and addictive tools, slyly imposed, to keep the masses content with their oppression – and so, for that matter, was the concept of any Beyond or God at all. Ditto for all of Marx’s latter-day adherents and descendants.
So for the Framers, it was not enough to have just any old political order. Leviathan – in the shape of unbridled monarchies or parliaments (thinking of Oliver Cromwell) or any other form of government that acknowledged no limits to its authority – was the natural enemy of the American Experiment. It was not enough to just have ‘order’ – it had to be an ordo that somehow conformed to the larger Ordo and remained answerable to it.
And that larger Ordo was built upon the dignity of each individual and the capacity and natural right of individuals to come together and govern themselves through the instrumentality of a government of which they were the ultimate governors.
The ‘totally autonomous’ individual was as alien and noxious to them as the ‘totally autonomous’ government. And yet – by the most amazing coincidence – the ‘valorization’ of the ‘totally autonomous individual’ has somehow gone hand in hand with the re-vivification of the ‘totally autonomous government’.
Thus the second corollary: that the United States will do the organizing of that new order. But of course, having simply gotten rid of God (the secular but fundamentalistic Radical Left – which for all purposes is the Left now) or having declared itself the un-opposable Deputy of God (the neocon and Christian-fundamentalistic Right), the US now asserts that for all practical purposes the US will now be managing the world, either in the absence of God or as His sole agent. Take your pick. But do what you’re told.
While there is always plenty of room in human history for wondering just what the hell God can be thinking, the track record of Marxist governments has surely not proven itself a suitable replacement. Nor, really, has the track record of the Beltway. Ask yourself: is your country better off now than it was 50 or 60 years ago? Do you care to imagine the world and country in 50 or 60 years’ time?
At least with God you get omniscience and benevolence (as well as Accompaniment and Help and Consolation, and of course that whole Higher Plane of Existence). With the Kremlin or the Beltway you get … well, you see what you get.
The third corollary is that henceforth the US gets to define the principles of that new order. But once you have started with a grossly insufficient conception of the humans and human existence, then you aren’t going to be coming up with any marvelously complete principles governing those humans and that existence either.
And Marx’s conception of the individual and of government is fatuously and yet almost wickedly insufficient. Squashed into this base Plane of Existence, with no Higher Plane of Existence, and originating as an accidental agglomeration of substances, the human being is nothing more than solitary and alienated and existentially homeless business and cannon fodder in whose name and for whose benefit any government that ‘gets it’ can wield unanswerable power.
Nor did R-feminism effect any constructive ‘liberation’ by asserting the ‘total autonomy’ of each individual (as long as s/he conforms to Correctness and whatever laws that the all-controlling government chooses to impose).
Curiously, while it was in Luce’s time a Rightist mantra that the US must resist any ‘world government’ (such as the UN), it now seems the bipartisan Correctness of both Left and Right in the Beltway that the US is the sole worthy government in the world. And of it.
One thinks, as I so often do these days, of the Bhagwan and of half-a-thousand cult leaders and variously agenda-ed gurus proclaiming themselves and their personal illuminations the sole and ultimate fulfillment of everybody’s needs and desires.
But – in a ruthlessly marvelous Orc-variation of Gramsci’s dampdream of the ‘marginalized’ (emarginati) taking over the Center of a Culture – the Bhagwan and all the other fringe-loonies have now, along with Marx, become the spiritual and conceptual direct ancestors of the current sitting political class and its assorted strutting parasitical off-feeders. Funny how the night moves.
Thus the dearest-held agendas of both Radical Left and Radical Right will constitute the governing agenda of this New World Order. And here is the 1970s Beltway ‘strategy’ of pandering to Big Identity and Big Money come back with a vengeance in what must be the national GOALAG State (Go Out And Liberate And Grab; or – if you prefer something a tad more tasteful – Go Out And Liberate and Govern. Take your pick – you’re totally autonomous in that.)
And the fourth corollary is that all the world’s leaders are dearly seeking for the US to do this and would be simply désolé if the US didn’t step up to the plate and take-over. This is necessary, of course, to keep up appearances: if the world’s leaders didn’t want the US, then it would become clear as a volcanic eruption that the US was roaring out of control all over the world.
It’s true, surely, of the Western European countries whose economies have followed the US economy into the poo-pile. And of such client countries who rely on the US for money – or perhaps don’t have the military means to fight back if they are selected for the honor of being intervened-upon. I doubt the Chinese and the Russians welcome it – but then, being far longer exercised in thinking in Great Power terms, this gross overextension of American might and writ clearly promises the best chance for the US doing itself in and leaving a well-furnitured penthouse suite behind at the top of the global condominium.
You get the idea that – having decades ago given up on any concern for the American commonweal – the Beltway macher are now going to reprise and improve upon the old Soviet nomenklatura’s last game-plan: use what you have to get what you can for yourself and then get out of town with your swag.
But the improvement will be something the old USSR never had the strength – or lunacy – to try: if we’ve gotten as much as we can out of our own country, let’s go out and Grab everybody else’s. Let the Game continue!
And surely there will be far more ‘governance’ and far less ‘liberation’ even as the new imperial procurators fan out from the Ultimate Rome and terra-form cultures and societies in order to conform them to Correctness even as the local resources are ‘harnessed’ or ‘more creatively employed’ or whatever.
Come to think of it, this is the old Soviet gameplan. Or at least its abiding dampdream.
Or a world-class replay of the old Greater Southeast Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. (Which leads the strategically-minded to wonder: if there is another war in the Pacific, will the US now play the part formerly owned by the late Imperial Japanese? History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does speak in rhymes: maybe World War Two will indeed ‘come back’, except that now We will be playing the part of the Imperial Japanese. It puts a whole new spin on watching those military-history documentaries of the good old days when the foundations of Luce’s ‘American Century’ and its Empire were forged.)
All of this will be accomplished (as in ‘Mission Accomplished!’) and We will be greeted as liberators (ditto) through the Trinity of global military presence, global power projection, and global intervention.
The gambit being that the US can spend whatever’s left in the national till to GOALAG enough stuff before the cash runs out. This is a move which at this point seems eerily like Berlin’s hopes for what turned out to be the Battle of the Bulge: use the last reserves to make a Grab that will turn the whole thing around. Or (less widely publicized) to make enough of a Dent so as to improve whatever bargaining might follow. Take your pick: in this you are totally autonomous.
In all of this, the US exempts itself from the rules that it insists everybody else has to abide by. Curiously, this is another eerie and dark symmetry with the claims of the R-feminists and Identity Politics: that the ‘emergency’ is so great, and the Good sought so marvelous, that to observe law (or the Constitution or the Framing Vision) would be mere obstructionism, fetishization of the ‘quaint’ and outmoded, and indeed constitute a cooperation in ongoing oppression, hegemony, dominance, and etcetera and etcetera.
In the face of which the Beltway pols in the 1970s decided to make deals, and – hardly less important – cut themselves in on the deals and make hay while they were at it.
And being on only nodding terms with the Framing Vision, the pols simply accepted whatever ‘justifications’ (and the Marx/Gramsci-inspired cadres of R-feminism had ready-made tomes of them) were pushed their way to keep up appearances. Thus We have had forty years of ‘liberation’ that have made Us less free, and forty years of an ongoing continuation of the great Vision of King (very much a descendant of the Framers and of Lincoln) that has resulted in the creation of Leviatha and the Frankensteinian re-animation of Leviathan.
So much for The People, for ‘deliberative democratic politics’, maturity, gravitas, and any sense of the boundaries imposed either by ‘common sense’, ‘tradition’ or any Higher Law.
Oh, and the government is now God – either replacing the aforementioned or acting as His sole Deputy and agent but in any case enjoying all the authority and plenary power appertaining thereto.
Or, as those DWEMs, the Romans put it: Quos deus vult perdere prius dementat. Those whom the divine wishes to destroy (or punish) he first drives insane. Although in this case, the insanity was voluntarily embraced in the treachery of replacing the Framing Vision with the Marxist gobbledygook from an entirely Alien political Universe forty Biblical years ago.
Nor can this New Order be judged by any standard other than its own. Again eerily echoing the R-feminist assertion – filched from Marx and Gramsci – that you don’t really ‘get it’ until you are inside of it and feel it and are in sympathy and sync with it. There’s no such thing as ‘objective’ knowledge, and anyway such ‘objectivity’ is merely a cloak for keeping the ‘bourgeois status quo of oppression, dominance, hegemony’ and etcetera and etcetera.
Oh, and there’s no objectivity because there’s no ‘reality’ ‘out there’; reality is whatever you think it is or want it to be or dream it can be. Everybody – and every Identity – has his/her/their/its own ‘reality’ which must be ‘recognized’, ‘respected’, and – with the government now in on the game – conformed to.
Thus, as the article notes: “the idea that American leadership can help bring about whatever fantasy world each member may hold in his heart” Or hers. And hasn’t this been the operative fantasy about government-imposed fantasy for the past forty Biblical years? I’m not denying the Content of some of those dreams and hopes; I am, rather, pointing out that the Method for achieving them was imported from that Alien political Universe of Marx/Lenin/Gramsi/Eurocommunism and that it is that very Method itself that has lethally – perhaps fatally – damaged the American polity and Republic.
We will achieve all this with a hefty world-wide application of boots, bombs, and drones. Although Napoleon himself – whose career should remain an example to the Beltway and whose statue should be erected forthwith on the Hill as a memento mori - had that one lucid moment in his megalomaniac madness when he observed ruefully that people don’t appreciate “missionaries with bayonets”.
To which, no doubt, the Beltway response will be a righteous rending and tearing of the ceremonial garments, followed by the further application of even more boots, bombs, and drones. It will be – one way or the other – God’s will because God Is With Us. Or, pithily put, on the German belt buckles back in the day as Gott Mit Uns. Which, however, might also imply the translation of God Help Us – except that there is no God, except that the Beltway is God. Figure your way through that and take your pick. In that you are totally autonomous.
The article continues: “As long as everyone who counts agrees to the necessity of the system, it doesn’t matter if what the system actually does is incoherent”.
So too, this is an eerie reprise in foreign policy of what has been pretty much the script for domestic policy for the past forty Biblical years: so long as you ‘get it’, then you needn’t (and had better not) take notice of the numerous incoherences within and between agendas and demands erected into law and policy. Who cares about ‘reason’, after all? Reason is simply another patriarchal tool of oppression; so instead you want to go with ‘feelings’ and you want to ‘just do it’ because you ‘get it’ and most of the lumps out there (formerly The People) ‘just don’t get it’.
But so as not to stampede the herd on the way to the pens, you can keep up the ‘appearances’ of simple and legitimate ‘change’ and ‘reform’. This was a major method by which so few Nazis (even armed) managed to get so many people to mush along to their deaths (and upon those millions be peace).
This country – certainly its government – has been morphing from an Elf to an Orc for quite some time. Did We not notice?
And precisely in that regard, Bacevich notes that the US “must be set up to project its power globally, wither that means boots on the ground, bombs from the sky, or knives in the dark”. [italics mine]
Our government has now taken to all the same dark-side operating procedures by which the Soviets used to subvert opposition in target countries, and that includes assassinating anybody who might oppose them. Since the national policy is some form of actual or replacement Divine Will, and therefore by definition undeniably and un-opposably Good, then anybody who opposes it – no matter on what grounds (patriotism, say, or principles of human freedom) – is clearly Evil. And when dealing with Evil you – being Good – have a 007 authority to ‘do whatever it takes’.
The Soviets got rid of the Polish intelligentsia – professors, politicians, priests, lawyers, and anybody with an education – in the Katyn forest, among other places: they shot them. (I recall one Soviet-inspired revolution – perhaps Pol Pot’s – where simply being able to read and write was grounds for automatic execution). It was far more efficient to be ‘pre-emptive’ than to wait around until you got set up and then encountered their principled resistance and then had to deploy the secret police and the security forces to find them, bring them in, and go through all the trouble of trying them before shooting them.
It amazes me that for all the eagerly-embraced historical attention given to the Greatest Generation, especially since Reagan’s day, yet We never connected the dots and thought to imagine that the same lethal forces or energies or demons against whom that Generation had to expend itself were still operative, and not very far away at all.
To the point where today, I think many folks look at those old or new documentaries – at best – simply to nurse the fantasy that the US is still the way it was back then, and that whatever happens now things will turn up roses the way they did in the summer of 1945. Not hardly.
Thus, as Bacevich limns, even the Clintons stayed within the bounds of that overall deep-plan for global imperium through global ‘engagement’. But neatly, they brought on the age of ‘governance feminism’, which hugely accelerated the insinuation of R-feminism into the Beltway and the national political brain and bloodstream – and it was then that the alliance was forged between the Content and Method of R-feminist elites and the neocon and dominance-minded Rightist elites. Hence, nowadays, the GOALAG Project is supported in a ‘bipartisan’ fashion by ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’.
That is to say, by R-feminists for whom American Culture and the Framing Vision and the Constitution and ‘deliberative democratic politics’ are simply tools of dominance, oppression and hegemony that must be swept away; and by ‘patriots’ and ‘realists’ for whom the boundaries on government power imposed by the American Culture of the Framing Vision and the Constitution and ‘deliberative democratic politics’ are merely pacts with weakness that must be swept away.
But, of course, all in the name of liberation and of The People. Yah.
Bacevich goes back to Woodrow Wilson, the elite professor-cum-preacher, who insisted that the US should “show mankind the way to liberty” but whose principles “are the principles of mankind and must prevail”.
So in case you aren’t willing to be ‘shown’, you will most surely ‘get it’ when the boots and bombs arrive.
And if these principles are are the principles of Correctness as defined nowadays, then a lot of countries and societies (even if not their governments) are not going to take kindly to American “missionaries with bayonets” and drones (and black-ops assassinations).
If these principles are ostensibly the principles of traditional American democracy, then they will merely be a lethal kabuki, because even though the world is much more interconnected than it was in 1787, still there is a huge difference between being a ‘model’ of democracy and being an ‘agent’ of it – as Washington and Adams saw. And there’s even more of a hellish difference between preaching democracy and practicing the very stuff of Soviet and totalitarian and police-state regimes.
Bacevich uses the term ‘semiwar’ and ‘semiwarriors’ to define the type of perpetual military activity. It began immediately after WW2 – this constant militarizing and all the derangement that supporting it required in the culture and the society and the economy and the polity. Constant undeclared warring.
Which, again, bears an eerie resemblance to the dynamics preached by Gramsci and the Eurocommunist R-feminists: a “necessary antagonism” or many of them, which could be the only fuel of politics (in the vision of noted R-feminist luminary Chantal Mouffe). It dovetailed in a mutually-rewarding synergy with the Cold-Warrior semiwarriors in the Beltway and continues even now, constantly engorging and intensifying.
JFK, I think though, is not so easily classed as a classic Cold-Warrior. He was hoping for some sort of Jamesian ‘moral equivalent of war’ in his Inaugural, and although he had no intention of yielding to the Soviets, yet he had a junior-commander’s abiding and tire-kicking attitude toward the Big Brass: in the Cuban Missile Crisis the Joint Chiefs – urging military action quick and fast and damn the consequences –were not allowed to play a serious role in the deliberations of the Ex-Com group he convened to plan the US response to that crisis.
He also wanted to “break the CIA up into a thousand pieces and scatter them” after the debacle of the Bay of Pigs. And he wrote Levi Eshkol in July of 1963 when that gentleman replaced Ben-Gurion as Israeli head of government to tell the man in no uncertain terms that the US would not countenance the Israeli’s having the Bomb. But then suddenly he got shot.
But like Ike, JFK too went along with assassination as being a more cost-efficient way of effecting change than sending in the boots and bombers (and starting, possibly, World War 3).
Bacevich raises the very interesting point that long before the Political Correctness of the “tenured radicals” of academia, there was – starting as early as 1976, the year after that final frenzied helo lift-off from the Embassy building in Saigon – a push spearheaded by Anthony Lake, to make sure that the experience of Vietnam didn’t push the US back into ‘isolation’ and isolationism.
If you wanted creds in the Beltway, you had to get on-board with that and toe the line with all the eager career-concerned caution of a Delegate applauding Stalin’s arrival on stage at a Party Congress.
Thus there was a ‘Political Correctness’ from the Right even before there was one from the radical Left.
An interesting symmetry indeed. But I would add here that given their base in the Alien political Universe of Marx/Gramsci, the radical Left – shrewdly eliminating its moderate elements to become the liberal-Left – is not and never has been reducible merely to those looney-tunes in the far end of the faculty dining room behind the plastic potted plants, sputtering their arcane politicobabble like new Bolsheviks.
The truly Alien roots and nature of the radical Left – which became the Left through the R-feminists – posed and continues to pose far more of a danger than might be imagined when contemplating in bemusement its symbolic whacked-out academic cadres down there behind the fake potted ferns.
And that Correctness on the Left was pretty much introduced as early as 1972 when the demographically-desperate Dems decided – come hell or high water – to kick the Framing Vision to the curb (although tastefully and secretly) and invite the Marxian vampire in through the front door.
So my take would be that Political Correctness was burning with increasing intensity on the Left by 1972 and on the Right by 1975, if not sooner.
The difference being that back then the Left was seeking to assault and change the entire American Culture verrrry publicly, whereas on the Right the gambit was to simply ensure that elite, Beltway-insider types got their marching orders and the public really didn’t enter into it at all.
Special attention is devoted, and nicely, to Madeleine Albright. Although as Secretary of State she cut a far more ‘normal’ figure than the truly weird Attorney General, Janet Reno, Albright by that very ‘normality’ symbolized and embodied the intensifying bond between the Left and Right as they coalesced into the foundations of a GOALAG regime that came to full blossom in the next decade.
If she was spun as yet another ‘victory’ for ‘women’, she demonstrated just how little the nation might get out of such a symbolic victory and how much actual cost such a victory might impose.
She was not going to support any Munich-type ‘appeasement’ of whatever enemy was on the list that day.
She was willing “to use force … because we are America … we are the indispensable nation”. How quickly being indispensable morphs into megalomania. But it was a shrewd cover for what I think was, even back in the Clintons’ day, a growing Beltway awareness that the productive infrastructure of the economy was in deep trouble (it had, after all, been incoherently wrecked in great part to enable the R-feminists to have a more woman-friendly Knowledge and Service economy and get rid of the macho, productive industrial culture of ‘mehhnnnn’) and that consequently, the US was going to need fresh infusions of assets in order to keep funding its dominance and hegemony (another marvelous irony lost on the fundamentalist cadres of R-feminism and neocon jingoism).
She was perfectly willing to use the military to get those assets – telling the vastly overrated Colin Powell that she couldn’t see the point of this vast military if it couldn’t be “used”. One recalls Hitler mentioning to Schuschnigg or somebody similar: you don’t think I have built this vast army for parades, do you?
And in pursuit of all that the potential deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children would be an “acceptable loss” and would be “worth it”. So much for sensitivity and ‘the children’ as being of concern to the cadres of the Left. In an Orc-like echo of Identity Politics, ‘children’ are only important when they’re yours; everybody else’s can fill, and should be prepared to embrace, the role of egg-broken-to-make-the-omlette. And of course, the truly disturbing Reno had authorized the fatal Waco assault ‘to save the children’, who were, she feared said she feared, being molested (as were the untold – and now apparently nonexistent – myriads of victims of Libya’s Viagra-crazed rape-battalions … but that last was, oops, under the Madam Secretary Hillary).
Rumsfeld wanted to institute a Revolution In Military Affairs (shades of the many ‘revolutions’ of the Left in the past forty Biblical years): wars could be won on the cheap, quickly and totally successfully and with no ill-consequences. I think of Ludendorff, histrionic and hysterical, telling his staff that he didn’t want to hear about ‘operational plans’ and ‘strategy’: he would have vast forces thrown into the meat grinder with the assertion that ‘we are going to go over there and take that position, and after that we shall see’.
Petraeus comes under well-deserved fire for coming up with the way to keep up appearances after the failure on the ground in Af-Pak: counter-insurgency operations (COIN). This would replace the clearly frakked “Shock and Awe” strategy left over from the first Gulf War and keep up the appearance that the Big Brass and their civilian Bosses and Bossettes knew what they were doing.
But it gets worse.
Petraeus solved a truly awful problem: how to keep funding for a military that clearly wasn’t able to win the wars – such as they were – it was sent to fight? The solution, through COIN and also through the frenzied embrace of drones (recalling the 1920s assurance by Douhet that ‘the bomber will always get through’ and that wars could be ‘won from the air’), “demolished the idea of the army as something that fought and won wars”.
Roll that one around in your mind for a while. We are funding a military that is not going to be there for winning ‘wars’, but that will be able to use the latest tech to win wars from the air. Although neither part of that pair of concepts has an impressive track record at all.
And in a neat two-fer, such a shift also solves a problem for the Left, where R-feminists lobbying for more women in the military, in combat, in everything a ‘male’ can do, had run up against the problem that in ground combat, especially sustained field operations, mixed-gender units are an even more resource draining proposition than all-female units.
If war is now going to be nothing more than manipulating a joystick – perhaps from the air-conditioned comfort of a strip-mall in Nevada or an air-conditioned combat ops computer-center on a warship - then there’s a huge (and verrrrry real) difficulty simply and suddenly ‘defined away’. As if the problem were merely an undigested bit of beef rather than the urgently monitory revenant of Jacob Marley.
Appearances rather than reality, shifting appearances rather than complex reality, ever-shifting definitions to define reality away, best-case scenarios to dispense with hard questions of consequences, and all with the very bestest of intentions. And above all, a slavish primary allegiance to the regime (conceptual even more than political) that rewards you with creds, status, and checks drawn on the public till … this is a) great progress and liberation and the sign of a mature, healthy, responsible and sober polity or b) an intensifying spin into a hubristic lunacy enabled by a passive Citizenry that will lead to a final charge into the valley that will wreck everything and everyone.
Take your pick. In this you are totally autonomous.
A couple of other thoughts.
Given that – in postmodern and R-feminist thought – there is no ‘real reality out there’, then of course one perennial human idealistic project is instantly rendered meaningless: “the judicious study of discernible reality” (which study has led at this point to several millennia’ worth of organized thoughts about fundamental stuff). In the pomo/R-feminst worldview all of that is useless because it is all tainted with either a) the unconscious adherence by those who ‘just don’t get it’ to a rotten and wrong matrix of hegemonic, dominant and oppressive presumptions or b) a willfull and deliberately and with malice aforethought 'patriarchal' and 'hegemonic' oppressiveness. (Although this profound mistrust of and revulsion to all prior thought and indeed to any serious thought – unless it is by Gramsci’s “organic intellectuals”, i.e. those intellectuals who ‘get it’ – does not include the dense and intricate tomes of pomo thinkers who assert that thinking does no good. Go figure.)
Thus in matters of human knowledge the pomo/R-feminist cadres officially declared Year One, on or about September 1, 1972.
But if it was Year One for ‘thinking about reality’ in literature (French literary theory is where this bunch of thoughts were first organized and declared in the 1950s and 1960s), and thus Year One for the Left and the Identities, it also became Year One for the Right and the government.
If there was no objective reality and thus no need to be ‘judiciously thinking’ about it for the ‘liberal’ Left, then wouldn’t that also be true for the government and the Right?
And though the government doesn’t write up a lot of ‘literature’ in the strict sense of the term, yet it does generate a lot of stuff in the form of written laws and policies and – as always – there was that pesky Constitution that sought to impose boundaries on the government’s range of action and – not to put too fine a point on it – on the (moral) quality of its actions.
And of course in regard to that ‘moral’: if there is no objective reality out there, then there is no ‘truth’ either. So why any need to be truthful?
All you really need at this point is to seem to respect truth just so as not to stampede the herd. Stephen Colbert has rightly belled this feral cat of a concept as “truthiness”.
And if the Constitution is not an owner’s or maintenance manual, but rather is simply a piece of ‘literature’ like a novel – a ‘text’ as the pomo’s say – then today’s reader’s ‘feelings’ are even more important in studying it (or not) as were the intentions and visions that informed the Framers who authored it.
Which the Right used for its purposes as vigorously as the Left did for its purposes. Because if any modern reader can make of a 'text' whatever s/he feels like making out of it, then why can't the President? With the Constitution.
The second point to make (and I’ve made it before in prior essays) is best exemplified in the 1990 historical novel “New York Detective” by William Marshall.
The work is set in 1880s New York City, where toil the odd team of City Detective Virgil Tillman and Patrolman Muldoon. Tillman is a shrimpy but idealistic detective, orphaned in childhood and a little distant from the hurly-burly of life, but dogged and intrepid when he’s on the case. Muldoon is a big bluff Irish veteran of the Civil War who was detailed from the police Strong-Arm Squad (comprised of the biggest and toughest bruisers on the force, for those times when you need the extra edge at a scene).
Tillman has a tough case, and he is getting pressure from above to make an arrest and close it. He can’t work out just yet who is the perp. Muldoon advises him in the accents of some homespun Nestor to this effect: You can’t always nab the real perp in a case, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with the right man to be pinched; there’s a million bad actors out there who are guilty of something, after all; so if you have to, you pinch a guy you know is guilty of something and you’ve solved all your problems; and someday down the road somewhere, some other decent copper will maybe pinch your actual perp for something else and it will all work out; in the Big Picture, God keeps the books and God will understand; and that, Virgil, is how it all works.
You can only imagine that in the hands of a John Ford, this homely bit of wisdom, delivered with a twinkly eye, a rich brogue, and lubricated by several snorts from a pocket flask, would be enshrined as practical wisdom in the hands of an actor like Victor McLaglen.
But, of course, Muldoon’s philosophy is hell and gone from the Framing Vision, where the Founders most precisely did not want the government conveniently leaving judgment of its action to a God who is conveniently not directly available, thus leaving the government ‘free’ to do whatever it takes to do whatever it thought best.
(And you can see here why the homely peasant wisdom of immigrants not schooled in the American Anglo-Saxon experience so frightened decent thinkers in that 1880s-1920s era of Immigration. The Southern Italian peasant approach to the whole thing was even more lethal: you can’t trust the brass-buttons and if a wrong has been done to you, then take care of it yourself or see your neighborhood godfather.)
While the Framers presumed a certain ‘Christian decency’ in all Citizens, they were still aware of the human tendency toward violent self-interest. And they most surely realized how that tendency can be amplified when a government is given great power (including a monopoly on the use of violence).
In that sense, I would say that the recent Right is actually regressive, taking the country back to a‘sturdy peasant wisdom’ that actually moves Us all back beyond the Framing Era into much more dark and bloody ground.
Of course, I will also then say that the Left – with its witless and/or treacherous embrace of postmodernism and R-feminism – is not only regressive but literally assaultive (or ‘deconstructive’) toward the entire Framing Project. And, really, if We abandon the Framing Vision and its Project, what is left to Us as a Republic or as America? We become a herd under the management of trail bosses who, whatever their nostalgic reflections at sunset or around their campfire, do not ultimately have our best interests at heart.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
OLD THOUGHTS VERY NEW
Before I get back to the inimitable philosophical stylings of Catharine MacKinnon I have to put this essay up.
I just finished reading for the first time the December 29, 2008 issue of ‘The Nation’ magazine.
I find that there is a tremendous value to reading ‘old’ journals of opinion ‘fresh’. As you get into the reading, you are of course absorbed into the streams of thought that were very much ‘fresh’ and usually ‘urgent’ and presumably insightful when they were written. Yet simultaneously your mind is informed by all of the actual events that you know have happened since the articles were written (now 3 full years ago and a bit).
It’s a rather stimulating and useful mental exercise on several levels.
So to a couple of the articles or columns and the thoughts they prompt.
Eric Alterman discusses the up-coming Presidency of Barack Obama in terms of whether Obama – as a welcome relief to the outgoing George W. Bush – is going to repeat the failures of a longish string of Democratic presidents who failed because of their “militant liberalism”.
First he tries to dispose of the fact that “barely one in five Americans embraces the label ‘liberal’ to describe themselves”.
“This is easily explained”, Alterman breezily asserts, “by the mountains of opprobrium that conservatives – working hand in glove with a cowed MSM [mainstream media] – have heaped on ‘liberals during the past three decades and the negative associations that have resulted”. So, it’s all been the work of a predominantly conservative and cowardly MSM and the ‘conservative’ political machines themselves.
I think not.
First, I am not at all going to get into the ‘liberal’-vs-‘conservative’, he said/she said kabuki that has come to pass for politics and political commentary over the past Biblical 40 years here. In my view, the ‘liberals’ are not really liberal, and the ‘conservatives’ are not really conservative. And they both are “sisters under the skin” insofar as neither of them have any use for any “deliberative democratic politics” or the Framing Vision which anchors the entire Constitution and the political vitality and survival of the American Experiment and the Republic on the robust fundamental of a three-point circuit consisting of The People, their elected representatives, and the Sovereign Authority of the government, all of which is underlain by a common and mature commitment to that Framing Vision.
Second, as We have been seeing since the very early 1970s – and especially after the stunning defeat of the Democrats’ New Order Party vision in the presidential election of 1972 – The People, given what may have been their last chance to kick-tire and deliver their judgment on that vision, utterly rejected it, 49 States to one (the hold-out being Massachusetts, politically controlled by Teddy Kennedy and his powerful electoral machinery in his home state).
Third, I would have wondered then – and certainly so now – if Alterman et al. aren’t trying to pull a leaf from the Israeli playbook: that if you object to anything the ‘liberals’ have done or to any consequences that have flowed therefrom, then you are a ‘conservative’ (and a ‘backlasher’ and etcetera and etcetera). After all, especially now that the aura of national ‘wealth’ has been burned away, all sorts of consequences of so much of their agenda are now suddenly appearing, as if by magic although actually they have been hiding in plain sight for decades.So it is hardly outré to imagine that The People sensed something very wrong, perhaps even very dangerous, deep in the Democrats’ vision for the country’s New Order.
Indeed, Nixon (for whom I hold no brief) realized that some sort of ‘elitism’ – comprised as We now have seen of both homegrown Progressive elitism and the shockingly Alien Universe of Marxist-Leninist thought as shrewdly developed by Antonio Gramsci and already by 1972 embraced (without attribution) by radical-feminists here - was lurking in that Democratic New Order.
Recognizing that ‘elitism’ Nixon made a hardly-ungrounded claim that the views of a vast majority of Americans – whom We now know to have been classified in the Gramscian scheme as bourgeois, dominant oppressors of the marginalized (all of which are Gramsci's terms), and in radical-feminist thought as being a huge bunch of oppressive lumps who ‘just don’t get it’ – were being sidestepped and utterly disregarded (as per the gameplan of Marx, Lenin, Gramsci, and the radical-feminists who had filched that gameplan for their own purposes).
That vast majority of Americans constituted, in Nixon’s phrase, “a silent majority”.
Apparently, by 2008, even Alterman has to admit that that group remains very much in the majority.
Rather than engage the idea and examine the whole matter, Nixon – who voiced it – was wholly discredited by the later (and in light of, say, LBJ’s machinations in regard to Vietnam and Israel’s acquiring nuclear material for their upcoming Bomb,utterly secondary) Watergate brouhaha.
But – of course – while the messenger was slyly done in, the reality of the message, to the extent that it was real, remained very much alive, despite the best efforts – widely picked up by the MSM – to spin it as merely ‘backlash’.
But the spin-stampede was kept up in a massive elite-driven and Democratic and Beltway-supported demonstration of all the primary plays in both Gramsci’s and Goebbels’s game-book. Thus unto this very day.
Of course – as We now know – “majoritarian politics” and “deliberative democratic process” had already been written off by the Dems at the behest of their newly-embraced radical-feminist clients, whose ‘philosophy’ was slyly plagiarized from Gramsci and that Alien Universe. Since most Americans ‘just didn’t get it’ then they would have to be herded, stampeded, or penned up into irrelevance. Or: if The People failed the elites in 1972, perhaps then The People need merely to be replaced: youth were given the vote and immigration increased to bolster the possibilities of destabilizing the Culture that had rejected the elite dampdreams.
While all the while, the whole thing was spun as merely a continuation of MLK’s marvelous and genuinely American vision, calling all Americans to participate in a “new birth of freedom” for the American Vision.
But, of course, what had happened by 1970 or so was that the entire American Framing Vision had been written off in favor of a) an elite-driven imposition (with the full collaboration of the Beltway) and of b) that thorough-going and multi-form assault against the ‘dominant, hegemonic, oppressive’ Culture that Gramsci had envisioned (and those descriptive terms are his, not radical feminism’s) as the best way to undermine the target Cultures of the West.
Alterman says that if you change “liberal” to “progressive” then you will double the “number of respondents” who identify themselves on that end of the spectrum.
But that is hardly a solution here. “Progressivism”, even as a natively American movement, had always relied upon ‘elites’ to help educate the unwashed masses of newly arrived immigrants. And, in a hardly irrelevant coincidence, Progressivism was contemporaneous with the burst of anarchist and socialist thought already running at high speed through Europe and Russia. As was, by amazing coincidence, Gramsci’s thought.
But to embrace and unleash this approach on the mature postwar American polity and politically mature Citizenry in 1970 and since then was a hugely dubious and dangerous gambit, even without taking into account the stunning presumptions of Gramsci that the whole targeted Culture was rotten and irredeemable and had to be undermined and attacked as often and as widely as possible, and by any means necessary.
Alterman then goes on to sniff assertively that “it’s rather a stretch to argue, following George W. Bush’s Vietnam-like Iraq misadventure, that Obama is likely to reprise [LBJ’s and Bush’s] catastrophic combination of arrogance and incompetence”. And here We are in 2012 and what do you think?
But I would agree with him, to some extent, that Obama did not “reprise” that “arrogance and incompetence” exhibited and deployed by his aforementioned presidential predecessors. Rather, I would say that Obama – a callow and youthy as well as ambitious fellow – merely found himself indentured from the get-go to the nefarious dynamics of that Alien political Universe that by 2009 was already (irretrievably?) embedded in the nation’s politics and its political discourse (greatly and intentionally corrupted and weakened by decades of dishonest and distracting spin into nothing more than a mostly immature kabuki of dueling cartoonish conceptions and assertions, into which no light of clear analysis was allowed to intrude).
Whatever his natural fall-back gifts, he wound up reverting to them in order to keep himself afloat in the treacherous riptides between the Scylla of the National Nanny State and the Charybdis of the National Security State, between the now-embedded pandering government indenture to both Big Identity and Big Money.
And here We are in the Year of Grace Two-Thousand-and-Twelve and of the independence of the United States the two-hundred-thirty-sixth.
America is, Alterman perhaps regrets, far “less liberal than Europe”. But he refers to a Europe wracked by Eurocommunism, which was the 1970s erection of Gramsci into a Plan by numerous European nations whose Socialist and Communist Parties were already trying to somehow find a new role for themselves, given the brutal postwar and post-1956 revelations of Leninist-Stalinist Communism’s treacherously violent wrecking of the very ‘masses’ in whose name that regime – in Russia and in the satellite nations – imposed its ‘visions’.
Thus in Christopher Hayes’s article “The Pragmatist”, that author seeks to explain what it might mean to say that Obama is a “pragmatist”.
He notes a then-recent George Packer essay proposing that in order to secure election, Obama’s campaign rhetoric had been neatly designed to send out ambiguous messages that would lead both “progressives” and “post-partisans” to think he was on their team.
That “post-partisan” is a clear if oblique reference to the fractalizing partisanship that is built into the Gramscian-derived Identity Politics.
In the context of Beltway dynamics, to be “pragmatic” therefore means that one is not going to remain restricted by – or committed to – the de rigeur (one could say ‘ideological’) requirements of that Identity Politics so irretrievably permeated with Gramsci’s thoughts and plans from that Alien political Universe of Marxism-Leninism and Eurocommunism.
But the restriction of having to satisfy its now decades-old Indenture to the Far, radical feminist Left constitutes one of the only ‘reliable bases’ of the Democratic Party – which had been precisely the pols’ intention to establish 40 Biblical years ago.
In the service of which they had to slyly (and treacherously, in light of what they had sworn to preserve, protect and uphold) begun a double-life: for public consumption praising the American ‘thing’, while claiming to merely demonstrate their wise and effective chops in implementing ‘reforms’ and ‘continuing’ MLK’s great civil-rights work; and yet actually betraying all of that in order to implement whatever their New Order advocacy bosses and bossettes wanted.
Thus the Beltway and almost the entire sitting political class (in 2008 as well as 2012) were already into a verrrrry baaaaad habit of duplicitous treachery, for which ‘pragmatism’ is very much too nice a term.
If even in 2008 Obama and his strategy staff realized that somehow he had to distance himself (and the Party?) from at least the appearance of its indenture to Big Identity, then the 2008 version of ‘pragmatism’ was only going to be rhetorical, because the vampires and vampiresses of that Alien political Universe had now gotten very used to being in the Beltway house (having been invited in by the gate-keepers themselves) and, indeed, with the help of a helpfully unreflective and shallow MSM had gotten wayyyy too many folks thinking that if If it’s Democrat, then it’s ‘liberal’ – and Gramsci and the Eurocommunists are nothing if not anti-liberal and anti-Liberal: for them only ‘radical democracy’ will do, and that type of ‘democracy’ doesn’t include ‘deliberative democratic process’ since so many Citizens are enthrall to Dominance, Hegemony, and Oppression (whether the poor chumps realize it or not).
And when Hayes reports that Obama “plans to govern from the center-right of his Party” then that’s not usefully insightful either. Because by 2008, both ‘left’ and ‘right’ had been long-trapped in the swamp of endless cartoonish assertions of one’s ‘position’ – accompanied by all sorts of TV-friendly sound-and-light effects. But nobody of importance on either ‘side’ wanted to look more deeply into mattes, for fear of exposing the Gramscian Elephant in the middle of the national political room.
Nor did the MSM want to risk its ‘access’ to A-list dinner parties by mentioning the Elephant either.
In that context, to be “open-minded” and not “excessively partisan” – which to all appearances seem worthy objectives – could only mean to the Far Left cadres that you were not going to consider yourself bound by any ‘fetishizing’ of the Constitution, traditions, principles, or any of the other tools of America’s fundamental Hegemonic Oppression of its “marginalized”. While to the Rightist or even centrist, such an assertion would seem fatuous and guaranteed to fail, in light of the fanatical rage of the cadres (and ‘advocates’) of the Far Left bases who would no more consider yielding their ‘revolutionary’ gains than any Scriptural demon would politely leave a possessed body if asked nicely.
And – let’s face it – ‘pragmatism’ by 2008 meant simply layering yet one more level of unprincipled plasticity over an already hugely ‘plastic’ and mushy sense of principle that had been cemented into place by the original Beltway trahison in the early 1970s.
The name of Cass Sunstein flits by in the article, a University of Chicago law professor who had a nice little run explaining how Obama was not really a “flip-flopper” and not a “doctrinaire liberal”.
But of course, by 2008, both ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ had morphed together into a new Leviathan (or, in the Left’s Nanny State, Leviatha) that had no use on Left or Right for any ‘deliberative democratic politics’. Either the emergency of ‘oppression’ or the emergency of ‘national security’ required an engorged and intrusive and impositional government that knew far better than its Citizens or than The People what had to be done.
So commentary at the level of even bosky academics like Professor Sunstein and his ilk was, if more polite and polysyllabic than in-your-face radical feminist crowing or Fox News declamations and insinuations, about as useless.
Sunstein burbled that Obama was a “minimalist” who “prefers solutions that can be accepted by people with a wide variety of theoretical inclinations” – that is “his defining trait and chief virtue”.
But in the context of what had been going on in American politics since 1972 at least, then such competences were guaranteed to be of little use and would create even further damage. Because at the heart of American politics for the past 40 Biblical years has been a truly Either-Or Question that demanded to be recognized and Answered: would the Framing Vision of 1787 or the Gramscian vision derived from Marx and Lenin be the ‘ground’ for Beltway policy and legislation and for the ‘elite’ vision of what was needed for this country?
On that Question , I am saying, there truly could be no waffling and no middle-ground. You cannot simultaneously support the Framing Vision (shared by MLK, embodied in the Constitution) and the Culture which that Vision informs, and also the Gramscian vision that democracies are merely bourgeois tools of Dominance, Hegemony, and Oppression (adapted by radical feminism here, of course, to include Patriarchy and etcetera and et cetera) which along with their Cultures had to be attacked, weakened wherever possible, torn down, and replaced no matter what it took nor how long it took.
Like Hitler who, when initially planning the Wehrmacht’s invasion of England in the summer and fall of 1940, paid little attention to the “mere 20 miles” separating the Greater Reich and England, traditionally called the Channel. So too, the Beltway biggies apparently figured that they could paper over the genuine abyss yawning between the Framing Vision (to whose defense they were formally sworn) and the Gramscian Project (which was the price the radical-feminists were going to charge for ‘delivering’ the allegedly monolithic ‘women’s vote’). How, after all, could a simple ‘abstract’ matter of ‘principles’ and a long-past history really interfere with the big plans of major Macher in oh-so-cutting-edge modern American politics? How many divisions does the Framing Vision have (to borrow a trope)?
Thus the Beltway as it descended into the Valley of the Little Big Horn (to borrow an image).
Thus, Hayes quotes Packer quoting Sunstein, it is wrong for people to “expect Obama to be the anti-Bush” (remember him?).
After all, says Sunstein, the only problem with Bushism “is not its content but its form”. Which precisely reveals – although slyly costumed – the fact that by 2008 both ‘liberal’ Nanny State and Rightist ‘Security State’ subscribed to the same content: The People can’t be trusted to know what’s good for them nor to govern their own government. And that, I am saying – ‘justify’ it how you may – is pretty much the end of the Republic in a nutshell.
In trying to make the Great Experiment of 1787 a lot less demanding and ‘oppressive’, the Left grossly weakened it (and hardly surprisingly, considering they imported Gramsci’s methodological refinements of Marx and Lenin to do the job). And into that vacuum the ancient demon of Leviathan, traditionally seen as arising from the Right, did indeed awaken and burst back into the American polity, since the Left – out of the purportedly best of intentions – had weakened the walls built by the Framers to keep that ferocious Kong a safe distance away. And the sworn defenders and guardians of the Wall had, in 1972, happily put all the government’s resources into the Project.
What a movie! Or, to borrow the master vampire’s best line from the 1985 movie of the same name: “Welcome to fright night … for real”.
And here We are in 2012.
But back to 2008.
Obama, continues Sunstein, is really the “best kind of anti-Bush” because he is not “ideological”. But that’s bullplop. The entire Democratic agenda had become indentured to ideology the moment it invited Gramsci inside in 1972, brought to the nation’s Beltway entrance by radical-feminists insisting that such an Approach and such a Stance were simply the most ‘cutting edge’ and ‘fresh’ and ‘rich’ and ‘creative’ and ‘transgressive’ stuff and was completely their own invention and just a more efficient way of realizing MLK’s truly and genuinely American civil-rights Project. Should the Beltway pols – especially the Dems – join and support them, the radical feminists prophesied, they would make History rather than be oppressed by it, and they would all be greeted as liberators.
Sunstein intones that it is a fallacy to think that “all ideology is dangerous”. Meaning by 2008 that commitment and faithfulness to an overriding (and underlying) vision is not always dangerous. It is only dangerous when it is some other vision than their Correct elite vision (which, as I have said above and in the immediately prior Posts, is actually Gramsci’s and the Eurocommunists’ and Marx’s and Lenin’s vision about how to go about wrecking a well-established Western, democratic polity and its Culture).
If even – as Hayes slyly notes – Pat Buchanan observed that Bush’s biggest failure was his “embrace of ideology” (and I don’t at all deny the accuracy of that statement) yet We have to realize that the Beltway had been indentured to an even more Alien ideology – and even more lethally dangerous for being ‘spun’ as ‘liberating’ – since 1972.
So the kabuki mudfight between ‘pragmatism’ and ‘ideology’ had been nothing but a magician’s distracting trick for decades by 2008. And still is today.
Starting to get wrapped up in the toils of his own conceptual incoherences, Hayes then tries to point out that after 9/11 “pragmatists of all stripes – Alan Dershowitz, Richard Posner – lined up to offer tips and strategies on how to best implement a practical and effective torture regime, but ideologues said no torture, no exceptions”.
But by 2008 any essential and fundamental loyalty to the Framing Vision and its ‘traditional’ virtues had long been ‘deconstructed’ by the ‘liberals’ and the Left precisely according to Gramsci’s gameplan. The objections raised against torture had to be only ‘practical’, because to claim any authority for the Framing Vision (and ‘virtues’!) was considered career-wreckingly not-Correct.
Indeed, as Rawls (and more recently Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen) had tried to assert, any commitment to any “comprehensive system” of explaining and grounding life and human action was inadmissible in American public discourse. Unless it was his and their Correct comprehensive system, which anyway was not based in ‘abstractions’ about traditions and classical Virtues, but rather in the (Gramscian and Eurocommunist) presumptions that a) you could not legitimately Ground and restrict humans’ ‘autonomy’ on the basis of such ‘abstractions’ but that b) you could ground such restrictions on merely human feelings and the insights of any particular historical moment.
Which turned out to be a ‘fence’ about as useful as an artfully constructed wall of oatmeal and corn-flakes in stopping either Leviathan or Leviatha. As We have now seen.
The Framers sought to boundary government because it would be made up of human beings and, the Framers knew, humans also needed boundaries not simply to ‘restrict their autonomy’ but to give them some reliable (and hopefully decent) Shape.
Absent such restrictions, human beings became mushy exo-skeletal insects and without the exo-skeleton to boot. And quite probably irrational and violent on top of everything else.
Humans are not ‘born free’ because, the Framers were convinced, they are born with a disturbing predilection to wreck other humans’ lives in pursuit of their own satisfactions. And the governments humans erect tended to do the same.
To give in to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s bland and burbly happy-face assumption that if there were simply no ‘society’ with its laws and customs and folkways then humans would be happy and good … that struck the Framers as the height of lethal and witless imbecility.
Who can deny it?
Hayes tries to recover himself by going for the spin that it is only the Right that is ‘ideological’ and that the Left’s ‘pragmatism’ is a counter to that. But the Left is committed to an even more fundamental ideology: that there is no Ground Beyond this life that somehow authoritatively (and benevolently) sets limits to human actions and beliefs in the service of helping humans reach their most Genuine Shape.
Such a Ground and such a Beyond would obstruct and ‘oppress’ the ‘total autonomy’ demanded by the Far Left bases, spear-headed by radical-feminism and now after 40 Biblical years distributed widely like a toxin throughout the American body-politic.
Nor is Belief on so profound and vital a level really adequately describable as ‘ideology’, as Hayes then tries to assert.
Certainly in Western Culture, built willy or nilly upon the bedrock of the classically Christian (not to be confused with the ‘Christian fundamentalism’ brought to the table in the Reagan years) Vision, this ‘comprehensive Vision’ (Rawls got that part right, at least) served the Framers as an unstated but utterly reliable bedrock upon which to build their American Framing Vision.
Without that Vision, the whole American Experiment would not work, could not function. Thus neither ‘secularist’ America as sought by ‘liberals’ here nor religiously fundamentalist cultures such as Islam nor Marxist-inspired cultures, have proven themselves hospitable to a genuinely ‘deliberative democratic politics’.
And without that ‘deliberative democratic politics’ the entire Framing Vision and the Constitutional machinery and the Republic cannot stand.
Hayes then works toward his conclusion by tying in Obama’s ‘pragmatism’ to the historically American philosophy of Pragmatism espoused principally by William James in the first decade of the 20th century.
For James, as Hayes says, Pragmatism meant a “skepticism toward certainties derived from abstractions” and that “truth is pre-eminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief”.
But surely, Gramsci channeling Marx and Lenin is based on a whole trunk-full of presumptions and ‘abstractions’ that must be taken as a given if you are to ‘get it’.
And most certainly, if We are to consider the track record of the Marxist-Leninst system, however variously re-jiggered over ensuing decades, then its “practical consequences” have been irrefutably baaaad.
And I say that if We are to consider the track record of the Gramscian-Eurocommunist Project here, especially without fear of being considered politically un-Correct and a ‘backlasher’, and especially on the profound but vital foundational level of its effect on the most essential and utterly principle of Our Republic, then I think the conclusion must inescapably be that things have worked out far less than well.
Our politics and political discourse are truly deranged, and thus seem so ineffective at addressing national problems, precisely because the problem on this profound level has not been addressed and indeed is being either ignored or spun as ‘progress’. *
It is, on this level, nothing of the sort.
Obama, Hayes says, “has no taste for culture war”. But that is precisely and unavoidably what the Gramscian and Eurocommunist gameplan call for.
Further, Hayes tries to go for the high-ground by quoting Lincoln: “We are not enemies but friends … Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection”.
But the Gramscian ‘war of positions’, the font and origin of Identity Politics, and essentially committed to an eternal war of “antagonisms” (via Chantal Mouffe’s “radical democracy” – which is no democracy at all), has already precluded any such appeal to Lincoln’s superb Vision. And to MLK’s as well.
You cannot simultaneously embrace Gramsci and appeal to Lincoln. They come from fundamentally different political Universes and the former is lethally Alien to Our own as well as lethal in and of itself.
There is an old Catholic maxim: suaviter in modo, fortiter in re. It translates roughly as: be decent and skilled in how you apply your principles, but be unshakeable in your own commitment to those principles.
It was, I would say, precisely this that both Lincoln and MLK were going for. But their unshakeable commitment was to the principles of the Framing Vision – which is precisely where the Gramscian-Identity Politics Project differs necessarily and inalterably.
Nor is it a matter of making the imposition-by-elites (those who ‘get it’) a little ‘nicer’. The entire ‘anti-majoritarian’ Gramscian Project must be abandoned and all matters and demands and ‘issues’ returned to the aegis of the Framing Vision, that is to say of a genuinely ‘deliberative democratic politics’, in which a fundamental common bond of Citizenship and commitment to the American common-weal override any other considerations.
The active and vital circuit of The People, their elected representatives, and the Sovereign Authority of the government must be re-established and nothing must be allowed to undermine it.
This is a slower and more deliberate process, but it is the only one that respects the Framing Vision (and sustains the Republic). The alternative for Lincoln – as Hayes mentions – was a terrible Civil War. In Our modern situation, it has been a Gramscian ‘war of positions’ or Culture War in which the Citizenry have been divided presumptively (and ideologically) along the axes of the Race and then – even more lethally – Gender. And, additionally, huge swaths of the Citizenry were presumptively branded as ‘hegemonic, dominant, and oppressive’ (Gramsci) and ‘patriarchal’ (radical feminism).
This has to be stopped. As Lincoln also said, quoting an ancient text Grounded in the Beyond: “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.
*In that regard, this article helpfully exposes the happy-faced burbling by which one recent author quotes another of her sistern to the effect that a) Nietzsche’s assertion that “truth is merely an illusion that we have forgotten is an illusion” has been “central to the liberal critique of American ideals” and that b) Nietzsche’s “perspectivism” – that there is no truth except what you can see from where you are standing, thus no truth except your own point of view – is also “central” to that “critique of American ideals”.
Nor can it be denied that “perspectivism” is on its surface simply a euphemism for relativism and in its substance an even more lethal proposition than relativism: not that positions or beliefs are all ‘equal’ but that each individual (or Group or Identity) has its own ‘truth’ which must be ‘respected equally’.
I would add that the radical-feminist Gramscian Project has not been simply a “critique”. If it had been only that, then it could have been proposed within the national political discourse, deliberated upon, and The People would have engaged in ‘deliberative democratic politics’ and things would have proceeded – vigorously no doubt – from there.
But precisely because The People ‘just don’t get it’ then this ‘critique’ became a ‘war of positions’ and a Beltway policy of imposition. And a sustained assault on the Framing Vision and the Constitution, the Culture, and the common-weal which they both vitally sustain.