27 June 2012

A Strange Sense of Service Part 2

Actually the death toll from American foreign policy is pretty staggering. We condemn others for aggression, when in fact there has been no country since World War II that can compare with the United States in the realm of aggression. And I say this fully conscious of the charges many would bring against the Soviet Union. A very evil government, but in terms of aggression... their actions do not surpass the United States. Not even close.

We condemn others for terrorism, but from the standpoint of a good percentage of the earth's population, the chief terrorist in the world is the United States. We condemn others for chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction...while we use them with abandon. We condemn nations for controlling the media, and intimidating reporters, while ours is controlled by corporate interests, profit motive, and we imprison and kill any reporter who dares to question our narrative.
Oh you haven't heard about that? You wouldn't unless you bother to look at international media. America has imprisoned reporters in Guantanamo, and the American military killed dozens in Iraq. They deny this of course, but only half-heartedly. They don't really care.
American media is completely biased, reflecting both corporate interests and in all honesty often reflects public sentiment.
But that's a far cry from even attempting objective truthful reporting and analysis. Nor can it be labeled 'liberal' in any sense.
Pardon the cliché, but in this case it is true. In war the first casualty is always the truth. War is about deception and about controlling the narrative. Napoleon attempted this when he invaded Egypt. Lincoln did it during the American Civil War. And as we entered the 20th century America the Grand Mistress of Marketing became the standard. Imperial presidents like Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson sold their wars to a duped public, and Wilson perhaps pulled off the greatest social coup d'état, by unifying the country in World War I. The divide between North and South began to really close as the nation unified in the cause of war.
I suppose people open themselves up to this kind of deception. People would lose their minds and tear their hair out at the thought of their sons dying while committing murder. Think of the mother whose son is gunned down while robbing a bank. It's a tragedy. But if her son was 'liberating' another country, then he's a hero. The families of heroes won't take to the streets and call leaders to account.
Poor Lyndon Johnson. People were taking to the streets for all sorts of things under his administration. He lost control of the narrative. The tool of fear was no longer working and people began to see...for the first time in a long time...that their sons were dying for nothing and in some cases, dying while doing something bad.
All these forces combine to contribute to self-deception. It's like if we just keep saying it over and over again...it will be alright. 'They're serving, defending us, keeping us free.'
The Germans who had been abused and kicked after World War I, which was not entirely their fault by any stretch of the imagination, believed this too. Hitler was going to make sure they weren't abused like that again. Slobodan Milosevic said the same thing when he stood in Kosovo and rallied the Serbs in 1989, evoking the 600 year anniversary of their defeat at the hands of the Turks.
Fear, idolatry, a search for meaning...a nationalistic and commercial narrative...powerful stuff.
I remember listening to Focus on the Family several years ago to several wives whose husbands had been killed in Iraq while 'serving' us and 'liberating' the Iraqis. The show of course presented them as not just heroes, but Christian heroes and martyrs, and lauded these brave widows who continue to persevere. Any sympathy I had quickly dissipated as I listened to them spew lies about Iraq and what America was doing there. They talked about how awful Saddam Hussein was (and he certainly was) and how the people lacked basic services such as schools, water and electricity under the terrible dictator.
Secular Iraq and Iran had been perhaps the most advanced Middle Eastern countries prior to American meddling. The Iranian people threw out the American proxy and of course Iraq became our servant in the war between these two nations during the 1980's. I've always found it ironic that the Iranian military under Khomeini was using American hardware from the days of the Shah, and the Iraqis were using Warsaw Pact goods from the 1970's when Iraq had been our antagonist. We went from supporting the Iraqi Kurds in the 1970's, to ignoring them in the 1980's (as we still do across the border in Turkey)...to supporting them again in the 1990's.
Iraq was hardly the backward portrait these military widows painted. The reason their water and electrical infrastructure was ruined as of 2003, was because the United States had been systematically destroying the country for twelve years. And I'm sorry to say I played a part in the logistical support of the illegal No Fly Zones. My European base was a key transit point in the supplying of American bases in Eastern Turkey which were from the standpoint of many NGO workers....contributing to genocide in the 1990's.
Over 1.5 million Iraqis died during those years, not to mention over half a million children. Madeleine Albright famously said it (the half million dead children) was worth it. But these 'christian' widows blamed all the Iraqi sorrows on the Iraqis and seemed to view their husbands as martyrs for their Christo-American religion.
I guess they have to believe the death of their husbands had meaning. It did...but it's not something they want to deal with. Their husband's died while killing for the empire, nothing more.
And it is not missed by others in the region that America condemned their former ally Saddam Hussein, but across the border Turkey has ethnically cleansed and slaughtered thousands of Kurds for attempting to retain their language and culture. The media in the United States will not report this story, and if it's mentioned at all, they only speak of the PKK terrorists. Cross the border (which is largely fictitious) into Iraq and they become Peshmerga freedom fighters combating Saddam the tyrant. There are many casualties in the region...truth and honesty were slain long ago.
Returning to the helicopter shot down in Afghanistan, I also found it interesting that on the 'christian' radio station the 'reporter' noted that a 'lucky' shot from the Taliban brought down the helicopter which killed the American troops.
The word was used deliberately...why?
I could be wrong, but I'll make an attempt to explain.
Just as these people struggle with the whole notion of Sovereignty and Providence when it comes to events like September 11. For example, they cannot grasp the dynamic that an event like that and many others can be both in accord with and contrary to the will of God... they cannot grasp that the downing of that helicopter was also God's will.
So they ascribe it to...luck.
I thought the comment said far more about their understanding of God and how the universe is ruled.
The nations are as a drop in a bucket. I'm afraid this does not resonate well with American concepts of self-importance. That must apply to all the other nations, right? Not us. God's on our side.
Assyria was used as a tool. God used the Assyrian Empire to bring His judgment on other nations...including Israel. They were His tool, His Providential rod of anger. But then He also condemns them for their pride and the bloodthirstiness. They are cursed. They're doing it, they're guilty, but it was all according to His plan.
I am pleased to say there are a growing number of Christians who are beginning to see this, but there are millions more who do not grasp this...it would never occur to them, not in a thousand lifetimes that the country they venerate and in fact worship is no different than Assyria.
Woe to Assyria.


Jim C. said...

I've observed that when it comes to the history of American foreign policy, its theoretical basis seems to shift back and forth (dare I say "zig-zag") between materialistic Realpolitik (pragmatism?) and what I can only call idealistic PNAC neo-conservative adventurism. To explain this better, a good historical comparison can be made with the former Soviet Union.

After Lenin's death, the two competing ideas that had emerged in the power struggle within the Politburo were Stalin's "socialism in one country" (Realpolitik) and Trotsky's "permanent revolution". Both believed that the nascent USSR was surrounded by enemies but differed on how to deal with the problem.

Stalin (rightly) observed that the conditions for worldwide socialist revolution did not exist (especially in light of the failed revolutions in Hungary and Bavaria) and that the USSR needed to focus on consolidating the gains they had made in their own country - even if it meant doing business with the enemy to get badly-needed hard currency to build their infrastructure.

Trotsky, on the other hand, believed that for the revolution in the USSR to be safeguarded, the Communists had to spread it across the world as quickly as possible. As long as opposing systems of state-political government existed, he reasoned, they would always pose a threat for that reason. This line of thinking is not entirely without merit. Spreading the revolution to other countries, especially developed ones, would have given them access to badly-needed economic resources. Further, soviet-style communist countries would undoubtedly be trusted allies. However, they lacked the economic resources they needed in the first place to wage these revolutionary wars and if they had taken this course of action it is highly likely that the USSR would have been overrun/imploded much sooner.

While the United States is not the Soviet Union and is not fighting for world communism, and is also in a much more stable condition than the Soviet Union was in 1924, one cannot deny the historical parallels. Realpolitik is basically the American version of "socialism in one country" (minus the socialism of course). This is best exemplified by Nixon's visit to China in 1972. The Chinese were in the midst of the cultural revolution and anti-Americanism had reached its apogee. University students were bayoneting pictures of the American president as part of their compulsory military training. Nevertheless, a rift had emerged between them and the Soviet Union over ideological and territorial disputes and Nixon sought to exploit this. He formed a "United Front" with them against a common foe and to this day the Chinese have benefited economically from this. Of course Nixon would have never endorsed the kind of system that existed in China at that time but he was willing to look past it for the sake of pragmatic political expediency. This was also the case when he visited Ceausescu's Romania.

By contrast, the Trotskyist position of "permanent revolution" finds its counterpart in the current war in the Middle East. Iraq may or may not have had weapons of mass destruction. The Taliban government in Afghanistan may or may not have had the resources to wage a full-scale war against the United States in the first place. What was key was that they had systems of political economy that were in diametric opposition to the American model and on that basis were deemed threats. Therefore to secure "freedom" at home (i.e. the American system of economy and government), the US military was tasked with creating "freedom" there. That's what I believe the ideologues at think-tanks like the Rand Corporation have in mind when they say that soldiers were/are "fighting for our freedom".

Cal said...

Right on the mark, per usual!

A couple of questions/comments thoughts:

Could you link me to a story or profile for any of the dead/imprisoned Journalists? I'm curious to read that. Even any book recommendations would be great. I'd greatly treasure however many of your sources you can provide.

Also do you have any good sources, besides knowing American social history, to explain in depth Wilson's uniting in WW1. While that seems a banal fact, or a consolation of previous factors like Southern industrialism or cumulative carpet bagging. I know Wilson, to use an archaic phrase, was a doughface (I don't consider him much of a Southerner just because he happened to be born in Virginia; which according to some Southerners isn't even apart of the "South").

Haha, Lyndon Johnson. The man was a thug wearing cowboy boots. He was an idiot to think he possessed the skill and tact that Roosevelt or Kennedy had at keeping a cohesive Social Narrative. His Great Society was a joke, a cruel parody.

As for your dissection of luck. Very good points. At first, I thought you were going to point out that it wasn't "luck" that the Taliban had such a precise killing machine. It was probably sold to them by Americans.

Maybe we have different opinions on Sovereignty. Yes, God did not pull the trigger (contra fatalists) or make that Taliban crusader fire that rocket. However, God could have stopped it, something could've changed and the man missed. This event was providentially accounted for, in passive permission of such an event. Yet in the midst of this, God is there by His Spirit and weeps. He bore this sin and all sin, on the Cross. That's the answer we have, It is Finished.

This isn't presupposed on the nebulous word "Freewill". A lot of evangelicals wouldn't be able to say that God let it happen because. It needs a rationalism instead of Incarnation. Most evangelicals sort of forget that Christ was God with men, not just a tool for achieving fire insurance. We have a High Priest who sympathizes with us. All questions of Theodicy go back to the cross.

Woe to Assyria, indeed.

Jim C:

I had some memories come back from when I was in 10th grade and I had to write a paper about Leo Strauss and the roots of Neo-Conservatism.

Stalin and the American financial hawks are ugly, banal, dry. When I was a kid, my mouth watered at the vaults of power and glory Neo-Cons presented. It is much more wonderful to die for the Communist Revolution, or Making the World Safe for Democracy than wealth or stability. Their idealism though is filtered to the unwashed masses, for most can't comprehend such truths. Like Themistocles, if America was to prosper and survive, it might take 'honorable lies' to convinced the ignorant masses.

Jim C. said...


You had to write about Leo Strauss and neo-conservatism in grade 10? Did you go to private school or something?

From what I can recall Strauss drew heavily on the ideas of the 19th century irrationalist Georges Sorel, especially incorporating the idea of the social myth as a means to arouse mass participation regardless of whether it was objectively true or not.

Apparently his favorite TV show was Gunsmoke and he endeavored to be home on time every day to watch it. The simple message of the fearless, self-sufficient cowboy triumphing over evil by shooting first and asking questions later was to have a huge influence on his development of the American social myth.

I know the comparison between Trotskyism and modern neo-conservatism has been made before but it's not commonly espoused and it's a thesis that needs to be fleshed out more thoroughly. On a related note and an interesting piece of trivia, Christopher Hitchens was once a Trotskyist who became a neo-conservative in later life. The almost blind idealism found in both philosophies was not lost on him either. I recall an article written about him when he was in Lebanon ripping down flags of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, flagrantly indifferent to the context in which that movement arose and the reasons people had for joining it. Not once would he ever entertain the idea that the American model of government and idea of freedom simply would not work in some cultures/societies.


Cal said...

No, I went to a public school (a good one though). It was for the 10th grade research paper in the context of reading Ibsen's Public Enemy. I was handed a list of topics and I picked the hardest one on there because that's how I am. I'm glad my teenage thirsting for glory was restrained by my teacher's liberalism (she didn't know my sympathies, she shuddered when she spoke about Paul Wolfowitz or any of the Bush neo-con crew to my displeasure).

The most alluring thing about Trotskyism and Neo-Conservatism is the idea of victory. It is the battle of history, to overcome the barbarians and see the gods of your city have dominion of the world. For Trotsky it was the Workers' Paradise, for the Neo-Con's I'm not quite sure.

I think being in such a hypercritical and liberalized country made them temper their image. They couldn't preach revolution or dominion openly.

Maybe that's why such secular Imperialists of American capitalist democracy teamed up with the "christian right". It was, to be extreme, Hitler working within the forms of German Christianity. If Falwell et al. were more successful and the American public not so critical, we'd be 2 steps from a reichsbishop. Oh of course, no establishment of religion. Well he wouldn't be a bishop, but a faith based initiative council adviser secretary head only sponsored by the Whitehouse and not a government agent!

It's odd and sad that the groups that seem to restrain the "religious right" are secularists. The Spirit of Christ keeps the True Ekklessia from being swallowed by Hades. Wake up Christ-Followers, O ye sleepers, and follow the lamb!

Protoprotestant said...

Maybe I'm being simplistic, but with Stalin I don't know that was even a conscious ideology. Communism so often served as a vehicle, a doctrinal structure for those who wished to capture power. With Stalin it's more of just plain gangsterism...the guy was incredibly cunning. His story is quite fascinating. As with many such men no one would have ever guessed he'd end up as anything important...let alone the Red Tsar.
Trotsky was indeed the real deal and apparently knew that Stalin wasn't and tried to warn Lenin about this dangerous Georgian climbing the ranks. Although as we know Lenin was pretty pragmatic when he needed to be. Leninism allowed for temporary accommodations and modifications in a way pure Marxism did not.
I think Trotsky really and truly thought a communist revolution was going to break out everywhere. He was a true believer. I wonder if Stalin knew better?
I think really the whole thing fell apart during the Russian Civil War...a chapter largely forgotten in the west. People forget American soldiers invaded Russia and how nasty that conflict became. It's a wonder the Bolsheviks pulled it off.
People through around the terms Marxist, Communist etc... and they often confuse the economic theories with the political narratives. As you say, the continuing worldwide revolution was a big part of their idea. It all failed pretty dismally.
Yes why is it America can support socialism in other countries...even help set it up!...but then so vilify it here?
Nixon and Kissinger were really disliked by the ideological conservatives....they wouldn't make it all today in contemporary Republican politics. Nixon was a crook, but he saw a great opportunity in the Sino-Soviet split and he went for it. Obama caught all the flak back in 2008 for suggesting that he would sit down with Ahmadinejad....while Nixon the Republican shook hands with one of the great mass murderers of history...Mao Zedong. Of course the US also supported the Khmer Rouge after they were ousted by Vietnam in early 1979....not because they loved Pol Pot but they hated the Vietnam Ho Chi Minh had built. And yes, Romania and Yugoslavia were pragmatic moves on the part of the United States.
Nixon was respected and even after Watergate when he re-emerged in the 80's...he was still respected on foreign policy. I think he has evil but at least he usually wasn't trying to pretend he was good. It was the same with the Camp David accords under Carter. No ideoogy...just pragmatics...security, what do you need to make it work?
This sort of thing was impossible under Bush.

Protoprotestant said...

Back to China, it's interesting...Mao is still revered because he's Mao...even though he was a disaster. Deng Xiaoping is the one they should be revering if anyone, but the Chinese I've talked to kind of chuckle about him...silly old grandpa type.
That's also true that current American policy is sort of like the Marxist idea of permanent revolution. But as you say...and I really believe this for both the USSR and the USA...it's all window dressing. It's geo-strategy and power. That kind of 'Rand' reasoning though is extremely dangerous...because it does create a situation of permanent warfare....pretty much can't quit until you've conquered everything.
The US has never quit and only grown more audacious since 1991. The USSR helped communist movements, the Brezhnev doctrine committed them to holding the Warsaw Pact by force... but apart from Afghanistan 1979, they weren't out trying to conquer in the same way the US was. They were evil but ironically I think they were largely more pragmatist and trying to hold what they had. The US kept pushing, communist movements would arise sometimes inspired more by Mao or Castro...then Soviets would give them aid. I guess what I'm trying to say was the USSR was awful but they didn't have the same expansionist impulse the US had. Easy to say I guess when they held about 1/5 of the earth....but they just weren't the aggressive threat they were made out to be in the American psyche.
Whether it's Angola, Nicaragua, Cuba....when you dig a bit deeper you find the American narrative is less than truthful. There aren't any good guys. The only ones are people defending their homes from invading and occupying forces.

Protoprotestant said...






I watched several documentaries about some of this...several years ago. Now that Bush is out and Iraq is winding down..it's interesting how resources aren't as quick to find. Several info warehouse websites I used to visit back in 2000-2003 are long gone.
I can't think right now off the top of my head where I've read about American society coming together during WWI. Several places in years past...I think actually it may have been from several years ago when I was reading a lot of neo-Confederate type stuff. They kind of viewed the WWI era as their downfall...
Of course it was more complicated than merely WWI...immigration, industrial changes in society. But I do remember some social historians talking about WWI being key in that regard. Wilson wanted the country to unify around ideas rather than cultural identification.
I don't think I could say Wilson was 'the' architect of that, but it was the big event that brought a still pretty divided country together. A few years later radio and ultimately television would begin to erase all the cultural lines...at least in terms of pop culture etc...
A lot of people also don't realize the Amish had a tough time during WWI...didn't want to buy war bonds etc...


As far as the Sovereignty issue....permissive/active decree....another dialectic.

Protoprotestant said...

I see a lot of paleoconservatives trying to make hay with the whole Trotsky-Strauss-NeoCon narrative...in other words the conservatives today are really leftists!

But that's where it all breaks down. Left and Right are subjective terms and subject to perspectival definition.

If Nationalism and Militarism are historically associated with the 'Right'...then it's pretty hard to call NeoCons Leftists in disguise.

Pat Buchanan was talking about some of this today...the shift from an ethnic based static cultural consensus (I'm paraphrasing but he did emphasize the ethic part)...

to an ideological, international, dynamic etc....

But sorry Pat, Lew, and all the rest of the paleos...that doesn't somehow make the NeoCons into leftists. That's just them trying to 'claim' the label of 'right' and 'conservative'

I'm afraid they're a bit naive. History isn't static. Economics aren't static. Theories on paper are static but the real world isn't.

And sorry paleos but America was already on the road to Empire before 1861 and certainly before 1914!

Protoprotestant said...

The Israeli kibbutzim are probably the only communistic experiment that's ever actually worked...outside the early Church. Gorbachev after visiting them said....this is what it was supposed to be like.
I do think many of these grand theoretical ideas, these social experiments have a chance to work on a local level and on a volunteer basis. The same is true of pure Capitalism.
I've always found it ironic that a paleo-conservative like Buchanan who wants to emphasize race/cultural consensus for the bedrock of society vs. multi-racial ideology and the more fluid hybrid it creates....that he says this as an Irish Roman Catholic.
When those folks arrived in the 19th century they were viewed as being of another race...not only due to the old antagonisms and enmities found in the British Isles....but because they were Roman Catholic. Those 'ideas' meant they were unworthy and frankly incapable of belonging to American society. The arguments and the method Buchanan employs would have meant his own exclusion just a century ago. He ought to relish multi-culturalism, tolerance, and a society built around common ideas instead of race. His racism is now just as sick and twisted as those that would have spit on his gg grandparents.
Also with Strauss and hence with the NeoCons, there isn't a lot of interest in historical and traditional norms....so to paleos that makes them anti-Conservative....and thus technically liberals.
Okay....but again that's where the liberal/conservative right/left paradigm breaks down. If they're leftists, they're promoting ideas that aren't even remotely associated with the historical left. Some paleos and other idiots like Glenn Beck have tried to push this and suggest see, see!---the Nazis were leftists. And then they make this big jump and suddenly the pot-smoking hippies, Crosby Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Joan Baez, the Beatles, Carter, Obama etc... Yup, all Nazis.
It shows the failure of these paradigms....failure because they're too simplistic....and thus shows the simple mindedness of people like Beck. Simple but dangerous.

Cal said...

Buchanon's best is when he goes on an anti-Imperial tirade and then turns around and says that American expansion across the continent wasn't Imperialism. I guess the Indians aren't real nations because they don't have extensive legal framework for the ownership of property.

As for Stalin, I don't think he was a true believer like Trotsky but I do think he was an advocate for Leninism perhaps when he was younger. Lust for power is the most powerful ideology of all and it can consume any ideology of all but the most fervent believers. Also, I'm sure Stalin liked all the attention he got. Here was a real working peasant not even from Russia proper, he was the real image of the Soviet. Not just another Bourgeois aristocrat with revolutionary ideas.

Plus, with Trotsky sending the revolution forward, that would not only exhaust Russia but (most importantly) create other nodes of power. I haven't read about Trotsky extensively but I don't think he would have made provinces of the "liberated" states like Stalin. I think Trotsky would've gotten along much better with someone like Tito than how Stalin treated Yugoslavia. They had to be friends on paper, just like the US and France, but not in actuality.

Protoprotestant said...

Stalin hated Tito and Mao because they had come into their own without needing him.

He treated Mao like garbage. Mao's visit to Moscow is actually a pretty funny story. He wanted Mao to be subservient...not a partner.

Stalin's cunning was wicked but from a political standpoint worthy of admiration. The way he manipulated everyone including China and the USA with regard to the Korean War was nothing less than masterful.

Tito was a pretty interesting guy. What a juggling act...keeping Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnians, Albanians, and Montenegrins at bay. And dancing betwixt East and West. The US poured a lot of money into Yugoslavia to keep it agitating the USSR. And even after Tito's death, Yugoslavia was rewarded with a big coming out party...the 84 winter olympics. I remember watching it on television...I had a bit of a crush on some of the ice skaters. On television Sarajevo looked to be such a beautiful city. What a shame that less than a decade later it was in a state of bloody chaos.