LI’s old far flung correspondent, T. in NYC, called us to buck us up about our new direction on this blog – our turn to the vehement language and shocking images of German dada.
Well, the venom is temporarily out of our system. I won’t put any cracked open mouths and eyeless, bloody faces up to illustrate these here paragraphs. I’ve thought – rather than just rattled and put my fangs out – a lot about the current state of moral and mortal play in America since the Democratic cave in.
One of the things that is most striking about this war – and striking about post-Cold War kultcha in general – is the lack of any reference to class. When Marx analyzed the civil war in France, after the French defeat in 1870, he naturally turned to class analysis. Somehow, this handy and hardy tool has become obsolete. Googling for some reference to class analysis of the situation in Iraq, I found zip.
So let me take it out of my ass here.
I could make a joke, and say that the sectarianism really is a big problem in the Iraq war – sectarianism in the U.S. of A.., that is. But that would be inexact. More coldly, the class segmented structure of Iraq has been shattered by the war, and that shattering has been the prerequisite to sectarianism. It is an odd American colonial venture, precisely for that reason. American foreign policy has consistently sought out its natural constituency – the management and upper class - in other countries for at least the past one hundred twenty years. The shift from supporting ‘republicans’ was going on even in the late eighteenth century – hence, Tom Paine’s disgust with George Washington over the French Revolution. However, it wasn’t until the domestic U.S. scene had assumed the plutocratic cast we are familiar with, under McKinley, that this was reflected fully in U.S. foreign policy. And even then, there were big exceptions. Wilson’s foreign policy is always defined by WWI, but as important, during the Wilson years, was the reaction of the Americans to the revolution in Mexico. That reaction was internally conflicted by the struggle between the progressive side and the plutocratic side. Add, of course, the idiosyncracy of Wilson’s own Puritanism – he truly disapproved of the personal lives of certain Mexican generals – and so the struggle went forward, and in a way forged the patterns that then became apparent on a world wide scale after 1918. The progressive side was looted for its rhetoric, while the plutocratic side was exploited for its internationalism – for plutocrats are, among other things, the truest internationalists. And the Wilsonian Puritanism always provided a wild card – for instance, the outsized influence exerted on the U.S. china policy by Christian missionaries.
In Iraq, however, everything quickly reversed itself. Rove was right to admire McKinley – Bush’s administration is the most plutocratic since McKinley’s – but on foreign policy, there is nothing McKinley like about the Iraq adventure. The merger of the Christian faction and the plutocratic faction created a contradiction that couldn’t sustain itself in Iraq, since the Christian side had no interpretive grid through which to understand Iraqi society. Consequently, the U.S. fucked up in its outreach to its natural constituency. Instead of getting the middle and upper class on its side – and one has only to read the Iraqi bloggers, the ones who write in English, who are mostly from that strata, to see how much they truly longed for the U.S., how much trust they had in America – the U.S. unleashed all the forces that scared them to death. In essence, the U.S. underwrote the expropriation of the upper class in Iraq without even knowing it. Contra those who think that every mistake that the U.S. makes is part of some devilish, conspiratorial plan, this unleashing of forces is precisely the kind of thing that upsets the plutocratic vision of Iraq. To see this, look at the place where the class structure remains intact, in Northern Iraq: characteristically, there, the plutocratic, ruling sector is adamant about privatizing oil resources. But this is a program that could only be carried out by a confident, ruling upper class. It couldn’t be carried out at all by the U.S.’s supposed ‘allies’ in the rest of Iraq. Such is the incompetence of the Bush administration that it even fucked up its relationship with its ‘base’. This isn’t a small thing. While the U.S. will no doubt, one of these days, get some version of its oil law through, I very much doubt that law will endure. Meanwhile, the professional class and their capital leave Iraq every day.
What about the U.S.? One of the things that discredits class analysis is its use as an inflexible tool. Class doesn’t determine everything. We know a lot more about how strata endure, how they self-identify, how they communicate now than we did in Carlos Marx’s time.
There was a striking Gallup Poll that came out a couple of week’s ago, which categorized support or opposition to the war according to age and sex. Unfortunately, they did not include either race or income as an indicator. http://www.galluppoll.com/content/?ci=27562 The poll showed that support for the war is strongest in the male group, from 18-49. It is merely to speculate – but I would guess that within that group, race matters – more white support than black – and income matters – more upper income support than lower income. Who knows, there might be a peckerwood factor here, but that is the general pattern in American wars. What is striking about that is that in the upper ranks of the supposed opposition party, the Democrats, we find an overabundance of the white male group, aged 18-49. It is this group that is most convinced that the war is somehow still popular. It is this group, on the Dem sides, that still holds a fearful respect for Bush. And that makes sense. This group talks to itself. It goes to lunch with itself. It watches tv made by itself. It sees itself on the political shows. It reads newspapers written by itself. It is living in the bubble of its own exhalations. Thus, even when members of it come out and shit, and speak up against the war, they consider themselves to be doing something daring.
As you go up from 49, however, you find that opposition grows and support shrinks even among the male segment. This is where the real American strategy is being fought out. On the one hand, the plutocrats have seen, for a year at least, that Iraq is not only a foul mess, but that it is fouling up a lot of potential money in the Middle East. It is going to be much harder to privatize enterprises in the Gulf states – a bonanza awaiting a lot of private firms – if the war is going on. Privatization is a soft soap job anyway – a population, being robbed of its resource, has to be in a tranquil state where it will swallow the minimum number of lies necessary to affect the heist. The spillover from Iraq is very bad for that business. On the other hand, it is even worse for business for America to be weak. To track the real economy – that mix of the material and positional one – you have to have a sense not just for dollars and cents, but for the symbolic systems that support dollars and sense. And most important for that system is the illusion of America’s strength.
Thus, there is a push and pull that blurs the plutocratic line on Iraq. The Democrats, who have made compromise itself into a universal solvent and policy to meet all ills, reflect that push and pull. The withdrawal from Iraq is not going to be built within the Democratic party at the present time, but… there is no antiwar movement to build it outside of that party, either.
About which, I will have more in a future post.
“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
"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads