“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

Monday, February 20, 2006

a pygmy speaks

Foreign policy is one of those areas in which pygmies are treated as giants. This, LI thinks, is the reason “Frank” Fukuyama has such an outsized reputation. I might be unfair – I am judging him on the basis of the only one of his books I have read: The Great Disruption. Fukuyama's theme is a cockamamie attempt to cast the postwar period, the West’s Magic time (les trentes glorieuses, as the French say) as a time of Hobbesian insecurity. To distort history like this, you have to go to ridiculous extremes – and I remarked on one of them on my review of the book in the Austin Chronicle. It should be remarked that the distortion of history by the right, here, is consistent with their effort to distort the EU economy as it works now -- both are ways of embedding a corporationist conservatism as a sort of utopian template. That in fact the European health systems work so much better than the American that the comparison is laughable (same with workers rights, pensions, etc.), and that the real problem with the EU is that Europeans save too much (the one thing the American right is actually right about is that there is that fear inflation is not a macro-economic policy) has to be obscured by an ideological filter that gives us a no alternative past and future. Ronald Reagan's grinning features are the end of history for this group -- imagine them set in plastic, twenty feet high, the mouth open, and all of world history going for a ride in a boat between those teeth.

(By the way, looking at this article again, my figures for the number of killed in war and by mass murder, 1919-1945 (in Europe only) are way too conservative):

“The argument, briefly, is that, starting in 1950, about, and going all the way until the mid-Nineties (say 1994), the West experienced a prolonged moral disruption. Violent crime rose, marriages eroded, civil life became more precarious, and drugs became widespread. Fukuyama pegs this argument to several graphs, showing rises in bad behavior all over the place, from Sweden to California.

What to say about this argument? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that it must be wrong.

Consider, for instance, violent crime. Fukuyama considers whether his statistics account for all crimes, or just reported crimes. What he never considers is the status of crime itself. You would never understand the moral climate of Germany, 1933-1945, by looking at the police reports. Why? The police were committing the crimes. To consider violence and violent crimes to be one entity is to strain at a mugging and swallow a massacre. Really, between World War I and the end of World War II, there was a grand disruption, which resulted in the massacre of perhaps 25 million people, the forced emigration of perhaps another 20 million, and the death toll, from wars, of at least 10 million. If we project backward with those figures in mind, we find that the Grand Disruption is characterized by one thing: The West was much, much more peaceful than at any time since the end of the Napoleonic wars. Fukuyama is a suburban Toynbee. His world view has the restricted scope of the confirmed philistine.”


All of which is by way of intro to the article in the NYT Magazine, which is Fukuyama’s farewell to neoconservatism. Or, rather, it is the most visible moment in the extended party of Fukuyama’s farewell to conservatism, which has been rumbling along in Commentary and the National Interest for some time.

The neocon response to Fukuyama, in short form, is given by Roger Simon in a post entitle Fukuyama opts out. Simon has pared the zombie ideology to an economy of words that is impressive, sort of like a hypnotists mantra:

“Fukuyama seems to be a man in a hurry. The Iraq War here he declares to be a failure after only three years. Nostradamus? [Don't say "Well, maybe" again-ed. Okay, I won't.] In my own way, I sympathize with Fukuyama. The opinion game is ruthless. You have no time to wait for history and must make pronouncements based on thin and fleeting evidence. Still, it seems very early to close the book on Iraq. I suspect there are many twists and turns yet to come. Even Germany and Japan took a while to settle down after WWII - and that wasn't the Middle East. Sometimes I think people like Fukuyama (I'm being mean here) write these things to get their New York Times cards back, to be welcomed home into the fold and not to have to spend the rest of their lives writing for the Weekly Standard.”

Analogy, which once played a weak intellectual role in helping to interpret events in Iraq in the summer of 2003, now plays precisely the same role in interpreting those events as dreams do in helping you decide your lucky number in a lottery. Which is, perhaps, why the zombie followers of our Rebel in Chief, arms outstretched, are still solidly behind the vanity project in Iraq. After all, how many millions, week after week, buy lottery tickets on the off chance that their number will come up? On tv they can see people whose numbers came up – why not me? The only difference is that the U.S. has bought 500 billion dollars + in lottery tickets, disguised in supplementals, and there is no prize at the end of it. The lottery office was blown up long ago, and the only prize left is the prize for closest country to the Khomenei revolution in a supporting role. Eventually, of course, the zombies will notice that a lot of money has drifted out of the savings account, and they will have to blame someone. Who knows who the lucky victim will be? And frankly, who gives a fuck?

In any case, instead of going directly to Fukuyama’s article, I’d rather look at the article by Dmitri Simes, the guy who is the head of the Nixon Center, entitle Jihad, Unintended, published in the National Interest this December. Which I’ll do tomorrow.

2 comments:

winn said...

I can't read Fukuyama- I get hoarse screaming at the page. I marvel at the staying power to get through an entire book without getting laryngitis.

The zombies will blame the liberals, of course! And those dirty welfare queens/kings who were not sufficiently full of pluck, ingenuity and the AMERICAN WAY to be born to plutocrats. Drones that don't cluster around the exits to the bee hive on a late autumn day to die are not playing the game.

roger said...

Winn, you've reminded me of Mandeville's satire, the Fable of the Bees.

Here's a bit of it:

These Insects lived like Men, and all
Our Actions they perform'd in small:
They did whatever's done in Town, [15]
And what belongs to Sword, or Gown:
Tho' th'Artful Works, by nible Slight;
Of minute Limbs, 'scaped Human Sight
Yet we've no Engines; Labourers,
Ships, Castles, Arms, Artificers,
Craft, Science, Shop, or Instrument,
But they had an Equivalent:
Which, since their Language is unknown,
Must be call'd, as we do our own.
As grant, that among other Things
They wanted Dice, yet they had Kings;
And those had Guards; from whence we may
Justly conclude, they had some Play;
Unless a Regiment be shewn
Of Soldiers, that make use of none."

Bees with dice, don't you love it? I suppose they can't say, come on, mamma needs a new pair of shoes -- cause they all have the same mamma.