22 October 2011

Oh, for the love of Karl…

It is a very strange phenomenon of American foreign policy that neoconservatives like Tom Ridge (yes, that Tom Ridge) are STILL refusing to learn anything from history and aligning themselves shamelessly with the extreme Ba’ath Marxists in the Mojahedin-e Khalq (or, for that matter, the extreme Sunni Islamist Jundullah), all the better to throw Iran into another more ‘America-friendly’ Pahlavi dynasty dictatorship (until such time as those same neoconservatives decide they have non-existent weapons of mass destruction a sufficiently evil dictator a dearth of the kind of democracy we like, over which we need to go to war with them, and so on and so forth).

Iran has had a very rich history of human rights, constitutional monarchy, philosophical and artistic sophistication, firm religious moderation and respect for the rule of law going all the way back to its great Achaemenid shahs. (Mr Mosaddegh himself was a moderate Shi’ite, a fervent constitutional monarchist and, in spite of his Western demeanour, a stout Iranian patriot.) I am certainly not friendly to the borderline fundamentalism of the current administration, but I also have enough sensitivity to Iran’s national experience to know that interference from abroad, whether by Marxists, fascists or Western liberals, has rarely if ever turned out well in the long run. Which makes me much more deeply sceptical when the neocons – who combine in their political philosophy many of the worst elements of Marxism (a deterministic and teleological historical mindset), fascism (the articles-of-faith that states must always compete in terms of hard power, and that hard power is the only thing that ‘some states’ not-like-us can understand) and Western liberalism (the article-of-faith that American-style democratic capitalism must be spread around the globe, whether by its technocratic missionaries or by the sword) – seem so gung-ho about interfering in the region yet again


  1. Unfortunately, it is not just the neocons who favor intervention. I have noticed that many progressives have been crowing about Obama's “notches on the revolver” which now include Muammar Qaddafi. I personal have no love for the late Libyan dictator or any of the militants who have died under Obama's watch, it is just that I find all of this gloating over death and destruction to be very disturbing.

    For example, I was just watching Bill Maher gush over the president, calling him "Michael Corleone." I know Maher is a comedian, but still, I think there is a serious part of him and other progressives who need to show the GOP and the neocons that they can kill Muslims just as well as Bush and with even more machine efficiency via the increased use of drones.

    Anyway, sorry to go on a rant, but I think there may be something wrong with Americans, psychologically, when we are so removed from the process of war via no war taxation, no conscription, and an increasingly robotic (literally) approach to combat, that war is increasingly seen as an odd spectator sport with Democrats and Republicans trying to outpoint each other ("points" being dead people).

    I think the neocons realize this and have tapped into this dark side of the American psyche. They certainly don't want the kind of experience we had in Vietnam, where war was weaved into the daily lives of many more Americans.

    For all the awful aspects of Vietnam, it seems like more of a "citizen's war," whereas the War on Terror has a kind of disturbing mercenary feel to it, which perhaps makes Maher's mafia references apt (please note that I am not suggesting that our troops are mercenaries or gangsters, just our policymakers).

  2. Hi John! Welcome back!

    Well, I certainly agree with you on Libya. The day that Obama declared we were going to help Sarkozy take down Gaddhafi was the day I started questioning whether I really wanted to be an Obama supporter at all. After all, my family used to be Quakers, and I was raised in the Mennonite church...

    I also think you're right about the psychological victory won by the neoconservatives, and how they pretty much forced progressives to 'play on their level', as it were. But I think it also bears teasing out that the neoconservatives themselves were (in the first instance) drawn from the ranks of liberal interventionists and technocratic social democrats, rather than from the older Jacksonian libertarian, Calhounese Dixiecrat or Adamsian Yankee conservative traditions. (Though the libertarians and former Dixiecrats overwhelmingly jumped on the War Platform, basically drumming out folks like Jim Jeffords, Chuck Hagel and Lincoln Chafee...)

    I'm probably going to have to dissent from you a bit on Vietnam, though. By the time Vietnam came around, an aesthetic and moral individualism had already begun to manifest itself. Whereas in WWII, everyone knew someone who was fighting and the social capital from those times endured for generations afterward (and they continued to support social programmes which benefitted everyone), the divisions by class and by race which Vietnam served to exacerbate pretty much guaranteed that the generation which emerged from that experience would be irresponsible, self-centred and suspicious of those poorer than them (hell, they elected Reagan!).

    To some extent, I believe the mercenary and mechanical qualities of the War on Terror are path-dependent on Vietnam. Because of the reputation conscription has in this country, the leaders who push for war are not eager to ask citizens to do anything other than wave the flag; as a result, war is distorted into a sick and twisted spectator sport.

    At any rate, a very warm welcome back! I saw your post on the media mistreatment of the Greek fiscal situation; it was a very good article.

    All the best,