“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

Thursday, October 12, 2006

a non-contrarian, going with the crowd on moral relativsm, kind of post

LI had a nice little poem/screed about these here states that we penned yesterday, but looking at it this morning, we thought: so much typing!

So perhaps for later. For the moment, we’d like to consider the notion of interest in American foreign policy. Oh, don’t worry – this won’t be a long and dull post – I’m saving that for when I feel like doin’ more typing.

Specifically, we would like to know: what advantage does the U.S. accrue in remaining hostile to Iran?

The assumption that Iran should be our enemy is laid on so thickly by the D.C. pundit class that it has helped blur the question that should guide any country in chosing, or having forced upon it, its adversaries. Let me use a Slate writer for an example – Slate being the dead level of conventional wisdom. I don’t think you can write for Slate unless you can come up with twelve contrarian reasons to defend the status quo just as it is – which, lo and behold, is the same status quo that has so richly benefited those who write for Slate! It is a minor miracle that reporters and opinion makers, using only the most objective criteria, continually discover that they are not only at the top of the heap, but deserve to be there. It is like self-beatification. Anyway, today one of the truly dumb writers at Slate, Jacob Weisberg, pens a stirring condemnation of the Bush foreign policy that was all the rage, at Slate, in the post-coital glow of invading Iraq. Weisberg starts off in classic Slate fashion – when Slate wants to come down hard on a platitude, it begins by first dismissing the clueless majority of striving pinheads that are clinging to some obvious error:

“In his first State of the Union Address in January 2002, George W. Bush deployed the expression "axis of evil" to describe the governments of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Critics jumped on the president for his belligerent rhetoric. But the problem with Bush's formulation wasn't his use of the term "evil," a perfectly apt description of the regimes of Saddam Hussein, the Iranian mullahs, and Kim Jong-il.”

There you go, for those of you who don’t think Saddam, the anonymous but shadowy mullahs, and Dear Leader were evil! The majority, in this case, is the 90 to 99 percent of Americans who have dismissed God as a fiction and are wallowing in moral relativism. Of course, included in that are the ever powerful Chomsky crowd, and maybe Howard Dean. However, Weisberg is one tough cookie. A cop, even. Sure, he sees there’s evil afoot – plenty of it, baby! But he’s hard as nails. He’s been on this beat for all too long. The things he’s seen! Why yesterday, the waiter brought him a cold coffee. So he uses his super powers to see that there is a problem with the formulation in spite of its clear descriptive power. The article runs into the ground from there, covering the usual blah blah in 1000 words or less. Isn’t that sweet?

Now, we do wonder if the evil Iranian mullahs are as evil as, say, the ruling elite in Egypt. Or the one in Saudi Arabia. Are they as evil as Israel’s recent war with Lebanon? How about Putin – are they as evil as Putin? I am not going to insult your intelligence by asking about the U.S., which recently legalized torture – obviously we aren’t evil! Like angels, we are perched her on our mountains of virtue surveying the world for evil.

Weisberg is an echo chamber of D.C. assumptions, and that’s the worth in this otherwise worthless article. By making the mullahs (they are always in a crowd, those mullahs) evil, the discussion of what advantage we accrue by being Iran’s enemy is obviated. No advantage necessary when it is St. Michael against Belzebuub.

Otherwise, though, we see a history of disadvantages:
- hostility to Iran prevented the U.S. from discouraging the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan
- hostility to Iran prevented the U.S. from operating in an efficient way in the 90s to topple Saddam Hussein, without armed U.S. intervention
- hostility to Iran prevents the U.S. from forming any kind of exit strategy from Iraq at the moment.

So where, pray tell, are the advantages in this? or: cui bono?


Brian Miller said...

You forget the overwhelming reason for said hostility: Plenty of short term prfiteering opportunities and, to borrow Mr. Scruggs' lovely term, Plenty of Career. There need be no other reason.

roger said...

Brian, while that is true, it would also be true if we recognized Iran. It is simply - true. I think the automatic reduction of ideology to profit can go too far. In fact, there are other markers of advantage than money. It is odd that the criticism of neo-classical economics so often accepts the main idea of classical economics -- that all motives boil down to more money. I don't, though, although I think the embedding of the social in the market is an attempt to enact just that.

roger said...

ps - oops, that reply looks rather opaque! I hope it isn't, but - for instance -- recognizing, say, Libya doesn't mean that the people who profited before we recognized (or desanctioned) Libya are now out on their ass. They are the very people who are making money. Haliburton recently tried to make some money in Iran and were scared off from doing so.

Which means, simply, that profitmaking requires an ideological instance shaped by other factors to really determine some course of action by the Gov.

Amerigo Sciurofascista said...

Good morning all. "Plenty of career" was taken from Stirling Newberry, who summed up his ventures into the field applications of ideology with that as a motivating factor. My impression of the guardians of the status quo, and the aspirants to be its arbiters, is that their ideology consists of passive necrophilia (the fucktoy for the undead critique), fear, rage and narrow greed. The intellectual content with which they lard their screeds consists mainly of shopping for justifications after the fact. It's a disservice to what's left of their humanity, and semantics, to call that ideological. The late Frank Zappa correctly identified their program as sinister potty training, currenly playing out in the infamous enema kidnappings. They can quote Zizek, Nietzsche, Kant and Habermas all they like, revile Strauss and Schmitt or praise them, but these simple truths still hold up. In others words, I agree with Roger. It's a mistake to reduce it solely to the profit motive.

new york pervert said...

I've read very good things by Jacob Weisberg. He wrote the best piece in New York Magazine after OJ walked.

roger said...

Mr. NYP, you surprise me. This is the same Jacob Weisberg? Well, every dog has its day, I guess. But I've been reading him for a while on slate, and his article today is his usual m.o. - first, disentangle an issue from straw man objections, and then, in a tone of contrarianism, drum out a message that was D.C. CW two months ago.

However, I will look try to be fair about the next thing I read of his.

new york pervert said...

roger--I admit to not knowing that much of his work, whereas you definitely do. Sometimes he has been tough, but I do admit to not having read him regularly, and may well not take the time to try to prove a point that I don't cherish that deeply...