“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, January 29, 2005

Post two

This post follows up on yesterday’s.

There is another fold in A and H’s interpretation of Kant. As we’ve been emphasizing, the system of the Enlightenment sacrifices what we want to be true to what is true. The oddity of this transaction is that the truth of psychology, with its dense casuistry of material motives, leaves little place for the unmotivated desire for truth. How, THEN, does the discovery of the truth account for itself within the Kantian system?

Interestingly enough, there is a space in the Kantian system for this apparent contradiction. It is a moment of abasement and glory, a moment of reflection on wanting what we don’t want. This crops up in a sort of Kantian baroque – self annihilating phrases, like purposive non-puposiveness [in the Critique of Judgment]. In the Critique of Practical Reason, this is sussed out by elevating one feeling, and one only, to a primary moral status: humility.

But Kant’s interpretation of the background sacrifice that makes the organization of science, and thus Enlightenment, possible, even if it rises to the surface in humiliation or the notion of the sublime, is never explicitly laid out in sacrificial terms. Sade, on the other hand, magnifies the sacrifice, until the enormous details are burned into his pornographic universe. This will form the substance of our last post about the Dialectic of the Enlightenment. Although we don’t promise not to continue writing about this subject from other angles: in particular, the difference between the Enlightenment as Kant saw it and the Enlightenment as Smith and Hume saw it. Hey, and we have comparisons between Hayek and A & H... Life is long, writing is short.

Friday, January 28, 2005

First part

Enlightenment does not begin with the question, “what is the truth?” It begins with a consideration of the interplay between two questions:

a. what is the truth?
b. and: what do we want the truth to be?

To understand the Dialectic of the Enlightenment, it is crucially important to keep this in mind.

LI’s experience of doing posts on philosophical topics is that it creates the sounds of people leaving the room. So we will not dwell on this too long. Don’t worry. We are going to confine ourselves to three or four more posts on Sade, Kant, and atrocity in the Dialectic of Enlightenment. Tops. Promise.


The ‘excursus’ entitled “Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality” forged a conjunction between Sade and Kant that, while unheard of when the Dialectic was published in 1947, has become a standard trope in cultural studies. Partly it owes this fame to its shock value. While A and H diagnosed the fascist politics of shock, they were not immune to its allure. This is confusing for those who believe that distance and distinction is the hallmark of the relationship between criticism and its object. A and H, however, question the cost of maintaining that distance – a cost that is paid in granting to the object the seriousness of the untouchable. For A and H, the satyr play is part of the whole cycle – parody, mockery, quotation, and other forms of secret sharing can not only not be excluded from the philosopher’s repertoire, but gauge the philosopher’s willingness to confront the history of his categories.

So, in this chapter we have a seemingly puzzling reading of Kant. If we remember the interplay between the questions we began with – and if we don’t, peremptorily, treat them as opposites – we have a Leitfaden – a guiding thread – to what A and H are doing here.

Kant, for A and H, is the most systematically intelligent Enlightenment philosopher, which is why they take the critical philosophy to be a sort of canon of Enlightenment. For Kant, the scientific use of understanding – the posing of the question, what is true, without regard with what we want to be true – finds a systematic object: what Newton called “the system of the world.’ And what is the system of the world? Cause and effect, as far as the eye can see. Yet there is a problem. Insofar as the object of understanding is a total and materially determined system, the understanding itself, if part of this system, is itself determined. But insofar as the true is different from what we want to be true – insofar as that is the boast of the Enlightenment – we seem to be denying the understanding that freedom among alternatives that would make for a disinterested choice. If understanding does not have the freedom to choose its version of its object, the truth value of that object becomes suspect. Such is the systematic place of freedom in Kant’s metaphysical project. Notice what we require here: a primary instance of freedom to found a deterministic system. For Kant, this instance of freedom does find an embodiment in the “I” – but an I that has sacrificed all its object-hood. The transcendental I, as Kant says, is an accompanying “x” – a variable. In terms of Kant’s system, the transcendental I is coherent with the ethical instance of freedom, which also requires a sacrifice of object-hood. A and H point to this sacrifice, and point to the fact that it is elided – that its mediate nature, to use Hegelian terminology, remains hidden. The ethic of freedom demands, in fact, all of the personal characteristics of the I, for those characteristics hopelessly cling to object-hood.

So, in both the metaphysical and ethical realms, we establish what is true only by such a total sacrifice of what we want to be true that we expel want itself – desire – from the system of human knowledge and morality.

To put it in terms of the Freudian return of the repressed – when human desire is expelled from the social, it returns as inhuman desire.

At which point we might ask: isn’t this a little facile? There are those who feel that Adorno and the whole of Critical theory relies on a sort of scam. On the one hand, Kant is a philosopher, and we use his corpus of works to talk about “Kant.” On the other hand, he seems to be one of the emanations of history, a sort of representative in some unarticulated Phenomenology of the Spirit. How, one might ask, is Kant ‘representative’ of the society of Enlightenment – which includes Ben Franklin and his neighbor and the members of Parliament and all of these figures. Can we do intellectual history by sampling without having some justification for our samples?

Thursday, January 27, 2005


The Dialectic of the Enlightenment is a notoriously knotty text. LI would recommend this article: Language, Mythology, and Enlightenment: Historical Notes on Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment by James Schmidt, in the 1996 Social Research. Schmidt isn’t a particularly nimble thinker or writer, but he does present a nice reconstruction of the writing of the text.

We like the fact that, in spite of Adorno’s contemptuous and semi-racist view of jazz, not to speak of pop music, A and H’s book started out in garage rock style:
“What eventually would become the Dialectic of Enlightenment first entered the world in December 1944 as a mimeographed typescript of over three hundred pages distributed to friends and associates of the Institute for Social Research. Printed on the brown pasteboard cover was the original rifle: Philosophische Fragmente. Theodor Adorno provided an explanation of sorts for the work's peculiar mode of dissemination in one of the aphorisms he presented to his coauthor Max Horkheimer the next February on the occasion of Horkheimer's fiftieth birthday:
In a world where books have long lost all likeness to books, the real book can no longer be one. If the invention of the printing press inaugurated the bourgeois era, the rime is at hand for its repeal by the mimeograph, the only fitting, the unobtrusive means of dissemination.”

As a blogger (that hideous word, seemingly composed of blotch, bugger and booger – all the grossness in the child’s garden of verse to which LI seems condemned, a lifer, to wander ), I can’t but clutch that aphorism to my measly little heart.

A & H passed the manuscript around to friends, who turned their thumbs down. Marcuse, the sweetest, but let’s face it, the least swift of the Frankfurt School crew, wrote:

Even their colleagues were not quite sure what to make of it. After struggling with the manuscript for a few months, a bewildered Herbert Marcuse wrote to Horkheimer,
“I have gone through the Fragmente twice, and I have reread many sections more than twice. However my reading was not continuous and concentrated enough .... The result: there are too many passages which I don't understand, and too many ideas which I cannot follow up beyond the condensed and abbreviated form in which you give them.”
Condensation was, however, with A & H., as with the Ramones, the whole point. And as with any garage rock band, there was always the tension between the Work and Work – as in finding work. And staying out of prison. A & H had not fled to America merely to end up as canned soup before the House Unamerican Committee. So before the book was published, Adorno did a little re-dubbing:
Martin Jay once characterized the Dialectic of Enlightenment as the "last leg" in the Frankfurt School's "long march away from orthodox Marxism" (Jay, 1973, p. 256). But a comparison of the changes made between the 1944 Philosophische Fragmente and 1947 Dialektik der Aufklarung makes this "last leg" look more like a quick step. The overwhelming majority of the revisions Adorno made in the work involved a purging of Marxian terminology. Thus, to take a few examples from the first chapter, "exploitation" becomes "enslavement" (5,p. 26), "capitalism" becomes "the economic system" (p. 26), "disposition over alien labor" becomes "utilization of the work of another" (p. 26), "monopoly technique" becomes "industrial technique" (p. 33), "object of exploitation" becomes "subject" (p. 36), "class domination" becomes "consolidated domination by the privileged" (p. 44), "exchange value" becomes simply "value" (p. 51)… Etc., etc.
So why did the duo decide to push upon the world a book that was, at least to their closest associates, incomprehensible? Schmidt does a nice job of tracking through H.’s correspondence for the genesis of the moments of uncanniness in which H. heard the prose of the world – in all its 30s incarnations, capitalist, communist and fascist. But LI likes this quote from Adorno’s correspondence most of all:
“The prohibitive difficulty of theory is today manifested in language. It permits nothing more to be said as it is experienced. Either it is reified, commodity-speech, banal and halfway to falsifying thought. Or it is in flight from the banal, ceremonial without ceremony, empowered without power, confirmed by its own fist of everyday discourse.”

In our next post, or one soon, we will discuss the chapter on Sade. And that is it, since we don’t want to sink Limited Inc utterly into the swamps of obscurity.. Looking around the ‘sphere, we noticed that the philosophy.com blog has been intermittently reflecting on the Dialectic of the Enlightenment. We contributed a long, outraged message to one of their posts. It’s a good blog. /

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

When George Bush declared war on Iraq in 2003, the Stop the War movement was, de facto, defeated. It was no longer a question of stopping the war from happening; and so, logically, a whole field of new questions were posed.

Unfortunately, since then, the international movements that have coalesced in the stop the war movement have clung to the idea that the War in Iraq has two sides: the Americans, and the insurgents. In this, they have, unconsciously, collaborated with the Americans. Thus, progressives have continually foreclosed on doing what Marx did, surveying the ruins of the revolutionary movements in 1850: creating a side. Instead, they have been all too satisfied with the one they have been given.

Consequently, I have never seen a progressive movement wielding such popular support secure so little power to shape events as has happened with the relation between opponents of the war in Iraq and the war itself. Besides acres of trees and thousands of manhours of downloadable criticism – of which LI has contributed its fair share – the stop the war movement has had no influence whatsoever with the insurgents, nor have they stopped the Americans from commencing a single plan, bombing into ruins a single city, torturing a single prisoner, or selecting a single seedy CIA contracted exile to rubber stamp American made decisions. What has stopped the American juggernaut, so far, has been the harsh fact of armed resistance. In fact, that resistance has been enough to reverse or drastically modify almost every American plan, and looks like they will continue to do that for the foreseeable future.

Looking at this record, one would think that progressive would reconsider their tactics. They might even reconsider their tacit agreement with Americans about the definition of sides in Iraq. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. Thus the utter sterility of the debate over the elections outside of Iraq, endlessly recycling the two side refrain, with the addition of the worry about the disaffected Sunnis ( a worry completely detached from any consideration of the American Groznyfication of Fallujah). If, as seems likely, Sistani’s coalition and Allawi’s party are the big winners, the progressive community internationally, in spite of the reams of journalism and criticism with which they have gifted Iraq, will not have made a single concrete suggestion or made a single connection. Our virtuousness will be perfectly unpolluted by our power, since we have none.

We imagine that the post election situation in Iraq (in spite of what we will read in the inevitable monthlong orgy of heralding whatever candidates win that will ensue in the U.S. press) is going to be extremely fluid. In a previous post, we called Sistani a good chess player. The post election situation is going to show how good a games player Muqtada al- Sadr is. Sadr has staked out a position that is both anti-exile (meaning Iranian exiles, as well as American ones) and anti-occupation. If, as seems likely, the crew that comes into power after the election is distinguished by the amount of real estate they own in Southern France or the United States, and if those politicians continue to follow a compliant line with the Americans, we expect that Sadr will have a great window of opportunity. What he does with it is the question. The appeal to poor Shi’ites would seem to be the right appeal in a country with a forty to sixty percent unemployment rate.

That window is open for others as well. LI thinks that it is time to think across the frozen surface of appearance and ask; from a progressive perspective, what should be done in Iraq? Obviously, the lacing and inner texture of the answer to that question can only be worked out iby the Iraqis themselves. However, the idea that the Iraqis can work out there politics in isolation from the rest of the world has been tested by reality, and by reality bombed. The world is in Iraq.

Here are some programmatic pointers for another side in Iraq.

1. The government must make a timetable for the departure of foreign troops. It must not be fuzzy. It must also be timely: a matter of months rather than of years. Soldiers of the former army should be called upon by the government to join up.. Soldiers should not be trained by foreign troops, for the most part.

2. The Iraqi government should no longer cooperate with either the U.N. or the U.S.A. in paying either reparations or debt. Last week, the U.N., from its fund, and with American approval, paid Kuwait 143 million dollars as another in the series of reparation payments for the invasion of 1991. There is no justification for this. In the package of payments managed by the U.N., Iraq even paid U.S. companies reparations and/or Saddam era debts, in effect paying the collaborators of Saddam Hussein. Not a dollar more.

3. The government must defend the natural resources of Iraq. The control of Iraq’s oil field production should be left entirely in the hands of the state corporation that has run it, and least until there is a real elected body to make democratic changes.

4. The government should demand the reduction of the personnel structure of the U.S. embassy and all U.S. government agencies working in Iraq.

5. The government should negotiate for a non-aggression pact with all of its neighbors, agreeing not to allow any troops based on its soil of whatever nationality to incurs into any neighboring country.

6. The government should commit to the immediate repair of the infrastructure by, among other things, reviewing the timeliness and efficiency of the work of all contractors, and putting up for renewed bid all those that have unjustified cost overruns or unsatisfactory performance schedules. The government should combine this with a massive employment effort.

The insurgents have no interest in seeing the Americans leave at the moment, and we know that Allawi’s party, already deeply corrupt (as is the way of client parties in colonial states) depends on the Americans too. This means that the goal of getting the foreign troops out of Iraq isn’t going to come easy, after the election. But we think that it would be nice if the progressive punditry started pressing a broader agenda that refuses the static and ultimately sterile categories pressed upon them by the occupation powers.
The radio, right now, is talking about the crimes happening in Darfur. We are very used to hearing about genocide or mass murder in terms of crime. This has been the consensus since the human rights movements of the seventies. It is a comfortable and pragmatic perspective, but from the point of view of critical philosophy, it is a huge lie. Philosophy that is critical does not abolish particular and contingent structures under the principle of sub species eternatatis, but, like a detective pondering the dog that didn’t bark in the night, inquires into the very possibility of the historic fact. A crime, then, requires not only a perpetrator and a victim, but a third power – embodied in the state – that judges what is and what is not a crime. How that power gains obedience – how a crime becomes a non-crime, and a non-crime a crime – is the really important categorical question posed by philosophy outside of the Enlightenment.

Take, for example, what happened on June 11th, 1942. Victor Klemperer, a Jew married to an Aryan in Dresden, is living in the apartment house the authorities have designated as the Jew House. Klemperer is a philologist, and he is keeping a secret diary. His project is to study the Nazi idiolect. He is, I believe, in his late fifties. Here he records a visit from the police:

“Upstairs everything seemed at first to be vented on Kaetchen, who was sitting in the bath… and appeared in her bathrobe. In the morning she had received a long, typewritten report from her brother-in-law about the air raid on Cologne, and about the great destruction. In itself nothing punishable, since the raid had been described in all the newspapers and since Ludwig Voss’s letters are patriotic. But to a Jewess! ‘That makes you Jews happy! You use it to make mischief!’ The envelope lay on Kaetchen’s table besides a postcard from her mother, who promised her cooking oil from her ration card (that, too, is a crime). The letter was found crumbled up in a leather armchair (“hidden”). Everything was ransacked, Kaetchen had to roll up the carpet, was kicked as she did so, wailed, was threatened, had to write down her brother-in-law’s address. Her rooms were in as great a chaos as on the first attack. The range of nasty words of abuse was rather narrow. Again and again ‘pig”, “Jewish pig,” “sow,” “piece of dung” – nothing else occurs to them. I was forced onto a chair in the lobby, was forced to take down the heavy paintings…I thought I was out of danger when The Myth of the Twentieth Century [the canonical Nazi philosophy book by Alfred Rosenberg] and my sheet of notes beside it led to a catastrophe. The time before, with an officer who was evidently more senior, book and notes had hardly aroused any objection. Now this reading matter was held against me as a terrible crime. The book was thumped down on my skull, my ears were boxed, a ridiculous straw hat of Kaetchen’s was pressed down onto my head. “Now you look pretty.” When I replied to questioning, that I had held my post until 1935, two fellows, with whom I was already acquainted, spat between my eyes.”

Klemperer’s sanity as a social being depends, crucially, on that distinction between what is punishable and what isn’t punishable – as is ours. That Klemperer’s privilege of checking books out of the public library falls, after this visit, into the punishable category almost crushes him.

The Nazi regime developed a sort of great encyclopedia of punishable types, and its fragments travel about today – lesbians in Florida, gypsies in Romania, Jews in Russia, etc. If the Enlightenment is represented by any one thing, it is the Encyclopedia, so one way of grasping the Dialectic of the Enlightenment is to suppose that it is confronted with just some such Nazi Encyclopedia, the mirror image of Diderot’s Encyclopedia, where the entries all seemed to be subtly distorted by some great malign force.

Interestingly, the issue of how a crime becomes a crime lept from philosophy to the courts in the West German prosecution of Nazi personnel. Adenauer made sure that the West German constitution contained a clause forbidding retroactive prosecutions – one could only be prosecuted for crimes that were crimes when one committed them. The point, here, was to create a legal equivalent for Adenauer's larger goal of encouraging Germans to forget about their recent past.

In a book we recently reviewed about the largest trial of Auschwitz guards and officers held by the West Germans in 1963, the author, Rebecca Wittmann, shows that the prosecution was hindered by the fact that it could only accuse Nazi guards of violating Nazi law. Since the state countenanced the extermination camp, the prosecution was forced to find and prove extraordinary acts of cruelty in the processing of prisoners for extermination. Hence, the upper tier of the camp management, who simply organized the selections and the functioning of the gas chamber, received lesser sentences than guards who were witnessed to kill, with "excessive cruelty" (for instance, putting a board across the throat of a prone prisoer and standing on it).

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Dialectic of the Enlightenment was the first in a series of post-war books that variously attacked the Cold War consensus on both sides. I’d include, in that list, Galbraith’s Affluent Society and New Industrial State, Djilas’s New Class, Medvedev’s Let History Judge, and Foucault’s The Words and the Things (translated as The Order of Things) and Discipline and Punish. Intellectual history went into the streets for a historical moment in 1968, a moment that is preserved with marmoreal heaviness by many a museum hearted lefty prof. However, beyond the nostalgia of the ex hippies, there was a real core to that moment – which extended, actually, to the end of the Bretton Woods agreement and the first oil embargo. It created a cultural prototype that has gradually immersed in its presuppositions, for good and ill, a capitalist system that has ground the bones of proletarian culture into the service economy and removed all trace of the protest of labor from its 24 hour cultural industry. Now, the protest of labor is, of course, simply the exhibition of labor itself – a thing so devotedly to be avoided that its very appearance has the air of accusation – but at the same time, that culture has so maniacally and singlemindedly developed the libido of purchase that it has created something new and daring: the fetish has replaced the norm. Demand, now, is oriented to a great variable x – to the inconnu, the great white whale, the diabetic ghost of all the sugarplum fairies you ever cannibalistically devoured, to chewing anything and everything all day long (Black milk of daybreak/we drink it at evening/ we drink
it at midday and morning we drink it at night/ we drink and we drink), to filling the houses we can’t afford on the mortgages we can’t turn down with the finest high resolution tv screens ever to watch actors who portray people who never watch television – the dream being that life goes on somewhere, and that somebody will be arrested for it.

Well. To get on with this – the genre of books we have listed above differs, in tone and purpose, from the pamphlets and bagatelles of the pre-war period – one has only to compare Wyndham Lewis’ The Art of Being Ruled, or Bataille’s writing for Acephale, with any of those books to mark the difference. The obvious difference is in the irony and distance that distinguish the authorial presence – even in Medvedev’s book, that carries a load of furious indignation from page to page. What made The Gulag Archipelago so interesting in purely literary terms was that it was a throwback to the pre-war style – Solzhenitsyn hated the cool affluent ironies with which the critics of the consensus dissolved, with experimental despair, the monster-system inside books, only to achieve status within the system outside the books, as much as any Stalinist. Adorno and Horkheimer understood before anybody that the conditions that had once made it possible to regard sincerity as a virtue had utterly vanished, up the chimneys of the crematoria: which is one way of interpreting Adorno's famous remark that after Auschwitz, poetry was impossible. What holds all of the critics of the consensus together was a curious loathing of paradise -- and an instinctive sense that the unmediated conjunction of paradise and hell in the twentieth century was no accident.

Next post, we will examine a nice little essay on the making of the D. of E.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Actually time is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively. I am comingto feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. – Martin Luther King, Letter from the Birmingham Jail

Sixty years ago, the Soviets were overrunning the concentration and extermination camps. Majdenek was reached in July, 1944 by the Soviet Army, which then overran the remains of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. Auschwitz was reached on January 27, 1945. Seven thousand prisoners were still there, awaiting the action of the SS, which was evacuating prisoners to other concentration camps throughout the Nazi empire.

This makes a good point from which to survey the last sixty years, a surveyor’s point from which we can string the lines and site the plat. Our contemporaneity stems from World War Two still – wars define us, not states. And since then, since then… the dialectic between heaven and hell has been pursued not in daydreams, but on the killing fields of Cambodia and in the back seats of Cadillacs. The NYT Magazine’s articles about fundie-thugs beating to death Bengali Communists with crow bars is laced about with everything you could want to order, ever. This is not to throw some ancient blame on that abundance – we are firmly for the land of Cockayne, for diamonds and cocktails. But we are puzzled as to that system that depends, for its diamonds, on armies of drugged little boys hacking off the arms of their parents in Liberia. Wear your diamonds with the appropriate blood might be one response, but the symbols simply add one more childishness to an atrocity committed against childishness. The simplest philosophical question of our time is: with the overcoming of the conditions of poverty, why hasn’t poverty been overcome? with the overcoming of the vile slave morality that stems from scarcity, why has that vile morality remained dominant?

Answers to which questions, or at least dancing around them, we are going to explore in our next post, about the Dialectic of the Enlightenment.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Idiot wind

There’s no better time to float a war scare than during inauguration week. Thus, the stories in the papers about stopping cold the Iranian ambition to weld nuclear weapons. This gallant devotion to non-proliferation synthesized well with the Presidential challenge to spread freedom anywhere except in those places specified in the small print (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Venezuala, Liberia, Angola, All Arab peninsula states, all former Central Asian Soviet Republics, and any other recipients of American military aid hereinafter to be known as de facto democracies). Yes, the heady ozone of freedom coming out of Bush’s mouth does have a few holes in it – but this is an administration that rather likes holes in the ozone, so it all makes sense.

Meanwhile, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has a nice little historical piece on the (apparently aborted) South Korean effort to manufacture atomic weaponry. The article’s authors (Kang, Jungmin; Hayes, Peter; Bin, Li; Suzuki, Tatsujiro; Tanter, Richard) even advance the speculation that the nuclear ambition of the South (which has resulted, outside of the military sphere, in “19 power reactors generating 16.7 gigawatts of electricity--one of the biggest nuclear programs in the world” may have triggered the North’s own ambition:

“If North Korea was aware of the South's uranium enrichment research activities in the 1990s (and its intelligence capacities in the South should not be underestimated) then the South's activities may have helped motivate the North to acquire enrichment capacities of its own; in 2002, the United States alleged that the North began an enrichment effort in about 1998.”

We find the article interesting for two reasons. One is, the U.S. pursuit of an asymmetrical enforcement of non-proliferation ignores the fact that nuclear material, at this stage, is relatively easy for a determined state to acquire, along with the technological know how to make the bomb. Every time the U.S. ignores an ally’s nuclear build-up, it will reliably trigger, at some point, an enemy’s countering build up. Not that the U.S. countenanced South Korea’s nuclear ambitions. According to the article, presidents from Nixon to Carter scolded and threatened South Korea about secret nuclear programs. Furthermore, the Americans kept the Koreans from having a reliable supply of plutonium.

The second ponderable point is that the politics of nuclear weaponry and the politics of democratization are entangled to an extent that seems to have escaped both Western liberal international theorists as well as their cousins, the international interventionists. In Crooked Timber this week, there was a post about the Iranian nuclear program that made the point that the same protesting students who have become the mascots of various right wing groups in this country are the same people who strongly want a nuclear Iran. The blog quoted a talk by Ray Takeyh, from the Council on Foreign Relations :

“He had some interesting thoughts about how nuclear weapons are quickly becoming enmeshed in Iranian nationalism and identity. They quickly become too popular to give up. When he was teaching in Pakistan, he had students give him keychains shaped like nuclear missiles as token gifts. He saw clock radios shaped like nuclear missiles in Pakistani stores.

Furthermore, like any big program, it attracts a constituency of scientists, contractors, and so on, who have a direct interest in its continuation. He noted that Candidate Clinton campaigned against SDI, but President Clinton funded it every year. He thinks that, if Iran hasn’t already hit the political point of no return, they will very soon.

Someone asked if the liberal Iranian student movement might lead to disarmament. Just the opposite; the dissident students are big proponents of nuclear arms. They’ve conducted multiple demonstrations in support of the nuclear programs. He mentioned a conversation with one of the student leaders, who said that he hated the mullahs, he hated their character and their rules, and he was afraid that they were going to trade their nuclear program away.”

Which corresponds, approximately, to some parts of the South Korean case:
“And from the mid-1980s on some maverick intellectuals associated with the security (but not the nuclear) establishment in the South argued openly that it should obtain its own nuclear weapons, especially after the South Korean military dictatorship was overthrown in 1987. One even stood for parliament on a "nuclear nationalist" platform.”

Obviously, if the U.S. had operated with the same regard for regional balance in the Middle East as it did in the Korean peninsula, punishing those in the U.S. who supplied Israel with nuclear materials (probably the most criminal act ever committed by that Ur-monster, the CIA’s James Angleton) and cajoling Israel into giving up its nuclear commitment, we would have a much stronger hand to play in the Middle East today. To say nothing of Reagan’s tolerance of the Pakistani nuclear program.

The end result of this history is that the U.S., whatever its policy towards Iran, is burdened from the beginning by a lack of credibility that does not leak through the U.S. press at all.

Some blog notes. You’ll notice, we changed our motto. Yes, we are quoting ourselves – something we came across due to a google searcher who came to our site looking for “midget” +president. And as to those of you wondering when the interminable preparations for the great LI donation-a-thon will start, well, materializing – our sense is that most charitable contributions in January are naturally heading tsunami-relief-ward. The truth is, LI would rather you did contribute your pence, at the moment, to the tsunami relief charities. But we promise, like a mosquito, we will soon be coming back to beg for tiny bits of your blood.