Hmm, LI has been thinking that it is about time that one of the newspapers mentioned that Blackwater, the murder outfit, is still operating with impunity in Iraq. Or maybe that Andrew Moonan, a murderer whose escape to the U.S. was facilitated by the State Department, is not only still at large but happily living in the 300,000 dollar home he built in Seattle while the family of his victim is no doubt happily on the way to Syria or Northern Iraq, given that surviving in a Baghdad apartment when the man of the apartment is shot down in cold blood causes Hobbesian problems. But lo! what light in yonder faux liberal palace breaks? It is the irrepressible Michael Walzer in the New Republic, filling a page with such depressingly ill thought out and ill written dribble that one wonders where his keepers are.
Walzer starts out with a couple sentences that seem to have been written in a mild state of intoxication:
“Weber's definition suggests that the state is constituted by its monopoly on the use of force. It is also, and perhaps more importantly, justified by its monopoly. This is what states are for; this is what they have to do before they do anything else--shut down the private wars, disarm the private armies, lock up the warlords. It is a very dangerous business to loosen the state's grip on the use of violence, to allow war to become anything other than a public responsibility.”Since there was no preceding reference to Weber in this fucking throw-away, to refer to Weber’s definition is a bit of intellectual discourtesy – it assumes we all know Weber’s theory of the state. But, in actuality, it assumes that we all know the leading cliché that we get from a first year sociology class about Weber’s theory of the state. And even here we have this weird construction of “monopoly on” rather than “monopoly of”, which, though a common construction among sociologists (who are to the English language as the borer beetle is to the pine tree) shows a significant lack of looking up the Weber quote – which goes, for fans of the Economy and Society translation by Talcott Parsons:
“A compulsory political organization with continuous operations (politischer Anstaltsbetrieb) will be called a “state” insofar as its administrative staff successfully upholds the claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order. Social action, especially organized action, will be spoken of as “politically oriented” if it aims at exerting inflence on the government oof a polical organization….”
This, of course, is an entering wedge of rotten cheese for the decayed Walzer, because, being a moral interventionist of such moral gravitas that the moral atmosphere bends when he walks, and when he meets with his other good friend, that moral entrepreneur of fame and fortune, Paul Berman, it is almost moral hurricane weather – Walzer wants to consider whether another saintly organization, Blackwater – which he compares with the daring of a zombie on prozac to the International Brigades in Spain – should “save” Darfur.
“There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. Speaking at a conference of arms merchants and war contractors in Amman, Jordan, in March 2006, Blackwater vice chairman J. Cofer Black offered to stop the killing in Darfur. "We've war-gamed this with professionals," he said. "We can do this." Back in the United States, another Blackwater official, Chris Taylor, reiterated the offer.
Since neither the United Nations nor nato has any intention of deploying a military force that would actually be capable of stopping the Darfur genocide, should we send in mercenaries? Scahill quotes Max Boot, the leading neoconservative writer on military affairs, arguing forcefully that there is nothing else to do. Allowing private contractors to secure Darfur "is deemed unacceptable by the moral giants who run the United Nations," Boot writes. "They claim that it is objectionable to employ--sniff--mercenaries. More objectionable, it seems, than passing empty resolutions, sending ineffectual peace-keeping forces and letting genocide continue."
Some of us might prefer something like the International Brigade that fought in Spain over a force of Blackwater mercenaries. But the International Brigade was also a private militia, organized by the Comintern and never under the control of the Spanish republic. Does it matter that most of its members fought for ideological rather than commercial reasons? Scahill tells us that Blackwater is run by far-right Christian nationalists--for me, as for him, that doesn't make things better.”
Ah, you will notice that this brief from Max Boot and Blackwater skips lightly over Blackwaters Einsatzgruppe actions in Iraq – for instance, the recent massacre in Baghdad. If Walzer suggested sending, say, Al Qaeda to sort our the Darfur mess, he might have generated some controversy. But our terrorists have been normalized, in places like the New Republic, so that we don’t even bother referencing their blood spotty record.
Here’s how he finishes up – with a soupcon of irony that must make the ice rattle in the ice tea glasses in Princeton. Oh that Walzer, always one for the glancing reference to the tragic fate of man!
“Whatever Blackwater's motives, I won't join the "moral giants" who would rather do nothing at all than send mercenaries to Darfur. If the Comintern could field an army and stop the killing, that would be all right with me, too. But we should acknowledge that making this exception would also be a radical indictment of the states that could do what has to be done and, instead, do nothing at all. There should always be public accountability for military action--and sometimes for military inaction as well.”
So sweet! He is willing to send American mercenaries to the oil rich fields of Southern Sudan on … on moral grounds. I’m sure that the oppressed Christians of southern Sudan are contributing, even as we speak, a portion of their corn meal to raise a monument to this dissenter from the “moral giants.” Quoting Max Boot, whose sincere moral midgethood has been burnished by his support for the massacre of more than half a million Iraqis over the past four years – plus, let’s not forget, an amount of refugees that is a million over the count in Darfur – shows that Walzer is able to sally out and meet the knights of rightward thinking. His lance is at the ready!
Ah well. Walzer at one time did have a brain. But when you set yourself up as a moral panjandrum whilst slurping with the high and mighty, gradually it begins to slip away – down to the back pocket, then out the hole in the back pocket onto the floor, and next thing you know, mistaking that ugly grey spot for some chewing gum, you’ve thrown your brain away. A sure sign of that is writing pro-warmonger pieces in Marty Peretz’s mag.