“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Bollettino

Perhaps LI’s mood, lately, has effected our vision. We are seeing black in black. Our worst case scenario for this election seems to be coming true. Not only does Bush seem to be winning it, but he seems on the verge of winning it by a large margin.

So, is this just a case of a population taking a large detour from the reality principle – a mass neurosis? Mass neurosis among males has another name – war. Tom Friedman, the warmonger, gave as his reason for supporting the war in Iraq that we had to attack somebody after 9/11. You don’t have to charge 150 per to recognize a classic case of substitution and compulsion when it drops a bomb on you, or shanghais your kids making part time money in the Guard into a pointless death in the desert. We fight one war – a real one – with a comic dearth of troops and follow up, prolong it by way of incompetent mercenaries in Peshawar, while we turn our soldiers into mercenaries for an ex-Ba’athist president-for-life in waiting in Najaf, Mosul, Fallujah, and all the other names that grace the obituaries or the medical charts for the one limbed, the brain damaged, the scorched, and we crown this accomplishment with an election in which the moderate promises that he will have our soldiers out of there by 2008.

In the NYRB, this week, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. ponders how we got here in a review of The Vulcans. His answer, depressingly enough, is that we can lay a heaping helping of blame on Leo Strauss.

LI believes that Leo Strauss has as much to do with strategy in the Middle East as, say, the Shriners or the Freemasons. A lot of neoconservatives connected because they went to Chicago and took classes with Leo, or with one of the Straussians. The emphasis here should be on connection. Strauss’ idea of the noble lie, if that is his idea – wasn’t like Edison trying out that one last filament in the light bulb. The idea that you get ahead by telling people what they want to hear, while you are really pursuing another agenda, could have been jotted on a cocktail napkin by any Madison Avenue exec worth his expense account in the last one hundred years. We have serious doubts Paul Wolfowitz needed Hegel's Gesammelte Werke to figure out how to push a war through the soft maze of a D.C. establishment filled with corrupt know it alls and brownosers who all benefit from the military industrial complex -- otherwise known as metro D.C.'s major employer.

A more serious problem with Schlesinger’s article is that it accepts the Bush administration’s premises that the invasion of Iraq was about spreading democracy. Again, a brief glance at America’s history will tell us that none of the one hundred fifty some American military interventions were fought, according to American politicians, for anything else. We defeated the Indians, drove back the Mexicans, and penetrated the jungles of the Philippines for democracy. One imagines that if we had been able to poll Atilla’s horde, they would have mentioned “bigger horses” as a key motivator. Such is progress that our desire for a transportation system that guarantees all Americans the ability to make it on their own, at 65 mph, from LA to NYC, in metal capsules weighing 9 to 10 thousand pounds is now called democracy. In fact, the Pentagon pump house boys did, for a while, convince themselves that Iraqi households were filled with covert Republicans – and we don’t mean the Guard. That was because the only Iraqi they met socially was one named Chalabi. But even Paul Wolfowitz is not completely insane. The thought was that a new order in the Middle East could be implemented by an aggressive America with little native opposition, so that Israel would assume a first rank position, in alliance with Iraq and, eventually, a Pahlavi-ist Iran and a broken up Syria. This fits nicely with the traditional American pattern. In theory, it is a policy that could deliver on America’s two major interests – preserving Israel’s power, and preserving the state of the world’s oil economy – with a bonus – it would free us, to a certain extent, from an onerous relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Democracy, here, is merely a codeword for privatization. This can be thought of as the ultimate wave of privatization – taking away the oil from the various Middle Eastern governments that control it. The plan was, in fact, coherent with Cheney’s domestic plan, which had its meltdown in California in 2001, and will no doubt be back again in 2005.

The Wolfowitz doctrine hasn’t worked. It fact, it has exploded spectacularly, and will no doubt continue to create chaos down the road. However, this is neither because of democracy nor Strauss. Wolfowitz, a man who thinks Suharto (the one dictator outside of Mao who could compete with Saddam Hussein in the ‘Australian crawl through a sea of blood’ event) was a great man, could give a tinker’s damn about democracy. The American occupation of Iraq has been notable for a lot of things – the air bombing of cities we already occupy is one of them, that’s unique -- but democracy is not among them. The word has, of course, been used a lot, but to mistake that for the real thing is to mistake the phrase “yours sincerely” in everyday correspondence for a court administered oath. If democracy had been happening in Iraq, the most unpopular political figure in Iraq, Allawi, would not be running the place; the Iraqis themselves would be spending their oil money, instead of not having the power even to inquire into how it is spent; and the largest government building in Iraq, a palace paid for by Iraqi money for the past twenty five years, would not presently be the American embassy.

Of course, to admit that we aren’t fighting for democracy in Iraq would be to commit the sin against the holy ghost and the founding fathers, which is perhaps why an old Democratic politburo member like Schlesinger goes on about Leo Strauss. But perhaps, just as in psychoanalysis, the cure will only start when we admit what we really desire.

I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that moment.


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