Posted by: quiscus | August 10, 2009

August 10, 2009

1.  This business of making people conscious of what is happening outside their own small circle is one of the major problems of our time, and a new literary technique will have to be evolved to meet it. Considering that the people of this country are not having a very comfortable time, you can’t perhaps, blame them for being somewhat callous about suffering elsewhere, but the remarkable thing is the extent to which they manage to be unaware of it. Tales of starvation, ruined cities, concentration camps, mass deportations, homeless refugees, persecuted Jews — all this is received with a sort of incurious surprise, as though such things had never been heard of but at the same time were not particularly interesting. The now-familiar photographs of skeleton-like children make very little impression. As time goes on and the horrors pile up, the mind seems to secrete a sort of self-protecting ignorance which needs a harder and harder shock to pierce it, just as the body will become immunised to a drug and require bigger and bigger doses.
– George Orwell

2.  “An Antiwar Effort Only the Right Can Lead

So an interesting question presents itself. Is it possible to generate opposition to war and empire in the very population on which the empire relies for its fighters? I submit that the “Left” and “liberals” cannot do this. They do not speak the language of this population used for cannon fodder, nor do they share its values – at least not now.

So what is to be done? Who can turn the tide? It seems that this great and crucial contribution can be made by the libertarians and the paleocons. They speak the language of patriotism, “isolationism,” and individual liberty, which are certainly not the first words that pop onto the tongues of the Left. But these ideas are part of the bedrock of the ideology informing the population from which the soldiers of empire are drawn.

And so the libertarians and paleocons can do what the Left cannot: convert the soldiers of empire into anti-imperialists. Why then has the genuine Right failed at this? A minor reason is that some opponents of empire are inconsistent. For example, Pat Buchanan’s columns on war and empire are often strikingly at variance with his pronouncements on The McLaughlin Group. But a major reason is that the anti-imperialist Right has not attempted a serious organizing effort aimed at the population used as cannon fodder. It has not attempted to go much farther than writing, and that largely for an audience that is likely to be more urban and “Left.” So it is writing for the wrong audience, and it has entirely failed, largely because it has not even tried to organize and mobilize the population whence the warriors are recruited.

3.  Good – I despise all lobbying:

“The pro-Israel lobby, long seen as an immutable part of American politics, may be headed toward obsolescence.”

4.  “The Persistence of Empire

The public understanding that control of the occupied country is somehow unselfish goes a long way to legitimate staying on. By contrast, empires that actually profess their selfishness are rare. The Belgian interest in the Congo represents an extreme and not an ordinary case; and the hatefulness of such adventurism sets a natural term to its efficacy. Most people, most nations, love themselves more than that. We love the idea that we are good; that we have and practice the best way of life. (The Roman Empire held the latter belief with so unmixed a fervor that its armies could maintain its colonies in subjection without the slightest pang of remorse. The best and luckiest of the colonized might always become Romans.) Self-love feeds on and builds up amour-propre—the sense that we are showing a good face to the world. Hence, imperial conquest naturally mingles high reasons with base motives. For the occupying power, to have gotten in, and to have suffered losses in a foreign place, deepens the tracks of collective self-love to such an extent that no counteraction can be expected from self-reproach.

Only nations that (A) were defeated beyond the ability to pretend otherwise, and (B) had the luck to be well-treated by the power that vanquished them, may later exemplify the judgments of collective conscience. Germans of the last two generations have been thoughtful about the uses of national power in a way that Americans after Vietnam have not been thoughtful. Indeed, the Dolchstosslegende of “how we lost Vietnam” was freely invoked as recently as the last American presidential election. Among the guilty who are only half defeated, the very idea of national conscience is an oxymoron.

When conquest and occupation turn into a customary practice for a people not congenitally cruel—and let us agree the English-speaking peoples (as Churchill called us) are not raised to be cruel—the first effects of conquest will be registered in a mood of ecstatic wonder. This mood cannot be coaxed into retraction or reform without an intervening stage of bewilderment caused by setbacks. In British India, after Robert Clive’s victory at Plassey in 1757, the transition from imperial triumph to the first glimmers of reform took twenty-five years. In Iraq, violence contracted the necessary span to three or four. This second stage is characterized by doubts that have not yet crystallized into thoughts. The occupying power reflects on itself, with perplexity, as a natural ruler beset by resistance whose motives are unimaginable. (To call the resistance simply evil is to restate in other words this default of imagination.)

“No imperial power,” Rajeev Bhargava observes of the British departure from India, “has been known to withdraw from a colony without securing its strategic interests”; for the “occupying power,” he adds, “must appear, at the very least, to exit on its own terms.” This is true of the not-wholly-defeated, for reasons of national amour-propre. But the words of Lord Chatham to Parliament on the occupation of America are still pertinent: “We shall be forced ultimately to retreat: let us retreat when we can, not when we must.” Why, it may finally be asked, is there ever a “must” so long as the occupying power holds command of the field and so long as it can enforce its will as the greater power? An answer memorable in its plainness was given by the North Vietnamese commander General Vo Nguyen Giap. We will defeat the Americans, said Giap, because we cannot leave this country. The Americans will leave because they can.”

5.  “The State of Civil Disobedience on the Left and the Right

In an article entitled “Stop Complaining About Right-Wing Protests! The Left Should Be (Re)Learning How It’s Done”, progressive writer Dave Lindorff writes:

The real question is why is the left in the US so goddamned polite and domesticated…

Where is that passion today? For the most part, the left, in all its various guises–environmentalists, labor unions, civil rights advocates, health care reform advocates, anti-war activists–have become neutered office-chair potatoes, sending canned emails to their elected representatives or to the White House, occasionally marching politely inside of pre-approved, permitted and police-prescribed routes, and attending sponsored events like the current round of town meetings, perhaps to raise polite objections to aspects of a proposed piece of legislation.

The agenda of the left in today’s America is being written not by uncompromising radicals in the street as in earlier decades of struggle, but by the bought-and-paid Democrats in Washington…

Where is the passion and commitment we once had?”

6.  “Honduras Coup: Template for a Hemispheric Assault on Democracy”

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