Friday, December 02, 2005

The Political Battle over Modernity: IV

The Political Battle over Modernity

Part IV: MORE WEAPONS IN THE NEOCON ARSENAL


We have spent some time analyzing the most effective tool used by the neoconservative movement, in their march to almost-total power ofer the government and institutions of American life. That trick -- almost never discussed in press or punditry -- has been to maintain a broad “big tent” coalition of wildly disparate (and even contradictory) interest groups. This has been achieved through deliberate inclusiveness, in contrast to increasing left-wing dogmatism and litmus tested exclusivity.

This impressive accomplishment is reminiscent of earlier political alliances built by Franklin Roosevelt. It has also involved an incredible dance of vagueness, abetted by a media that will not report on how little some of these interest groups are actually getting, other than lip service.

But it doesn’t stop there. Coalition-building was only the first of many GOP innovations -- weapons that were honed and sharpened during years spent hungry, in the political wilderness. A shortened, abbreviated list of other methods would have to include:

-- fomenting “culture war” as a function of religious identification, regional identification, rural-vs-urban identification, etc., taking advantage of every possible source of resentment.

-- mobilizing wealthy supporters to buy up crucial companies, gradually gaining control over most news media, radio outlets and manufacturers of most of the nation’s voting machines.

-- perfecting the art of state-by-state gerrymandering, in order to maximize every electoral advantage.

-- associating conservatism with Mother-Pie issues like patriotism, military readiness, preservation of the family, and childhood innocence.

-- systematically using Congressional appointments to fill the US military academies with entering cadets selected according to strict political and religious standards. (This one is obscure and possibly very dangerous.)

-- playing upon fear. Of foreigners. Of terror. Of technology gone out of control.

By combining these and other innovative techniques, conservatives -- (or rather, neoconservatives) -- have overcome the inherent disadvantage that they would normally face in direct debates over specific issues.

This particular point is an important one. As shown by public opinion polls, Americans tend to lean in modernist-progressive directions when asked -- in a neutral manner -- about particular policies, ranging from retirement to budgetary restraint, from energy research to science education, from labor law to conservation, from agriculture to border policy, from taxation to global warming, from teaching evolution in the schools to abortion, from excessive secrecy to civil rights, from foreign intervention to transparency and accountability in government. Consensus opinions on most of these issues generally swing neither left nor right... but do tend toward mildly progressive-moderate, with possibly a tilt toward “liberal.” One consistent example would be overall public support for budget balancing as a priority, instead of tax cuts for the wealthy.

Faced with an intrinsic disadvantage when it comes to the broad sweep of policy, the GOP has viewed it as vital that elections not be about these issues. Party leaders needed every one of the innovative methods that we are describing in this essay. Even so, the last two presidential elections were the closest in a hundred years.

What is clear is that today’s GOP knows how to turn narrow victories into overwhelming political power. By applying a wide range of techniques in a well coordinated manner, the far-right has taken over every branch of the federal government, as well as most of the press, eliminating any need for classic political negotiation.

Which raises another interesting point. Those who used to speak in praise of “divided government,” as a restraint on federal excess -- for example, during the Clinton Administration -- are now strangely -- and hypocritically -- silent, as every kind of exorbitant political indulgence is excused during the Republicans’ total monopoly of power.

One outcome has been the most passive US Congress since 1930. Despite the greatest pork barrel feeding frenzy in hiostory, in fact, rates of actual work on Capitol Hill have slowed almost to a dead stop. Most notably the committees assigned to supervise and investigate executive departments have waned into near complete torpor. Especially telling is the fact that President George W. Bush used his veto power less often than any other president in two centuries. So much for the virtues of “divided government.”

Most dangerously, members and supporters of the Bush Administration have also expanded the use of secrecy, to a degree never seen even during the Cold War, back when we faced the towering enmity of a mighty Soviet empire. What is the rationale for this unprecedented dive into shadows? The vague and amorphous threat of “terrorism” -- a foe that has killed fewer Americans in the last decade than routinely die of car crashes in a month.

This push for secrecy is, of course, what elites have always tried to achieve, in every previous society, but never so relentlessly in our democracy. One result; it effectively quashes almost all prospect of accountability.

==THESE CONSEQUENCES HAVE CAUSES==

While we may bemoan what all of this has done to our country, it is important to recall our central point in this article, which concerns political innovation.

And in that realm there can no longer be any doubt about neoconservative creativity and persistence. Their time in the wilderness left them lean and hungry, filled with energy and fresh ideas about how to wage effective political war.

If their opponents choose not to respect and learn from these accomplishments, well then, the neocons will happily take advantage of that, as well.

After successive electoral debacles in 1994, 2000 and 2004, are Democrats ready to perform a similar re-evaluation? Perhaps even readjusting their priorities and methods for a new century?

By all signs, the answer is no. Instead, we seem set for the same pattern, next election, that we have witnessed time and again.


...next... "Was Clinton Different? The exception to the rule of liberal self-destruction...

or return to Part 1: Ideas for Rescuing Modernity

31 comments:

Brian Bleakley said...

"As shown by public opinion polls, Americans tend to lean in modernist-progressive directions when asked -- in a neutral manner -- about particular policies, ranging from retirement to budgetary restraint, from energy research to science education, from labor law to conservation, from agriculture to border policy, from taxation to global warming, from teaching evolution in the schools to abortion, from excessive secrecy to civil rights, from foreign intervention to transparency and accountability in government."

This list gets me thinking. I think, as a result of their inclusiveness, these conservative principles seem to be more of a random array than an ideological collection.

Do the same people want to take evolution out of schools and liberalize trade and immigration? I don't think so. I know labor interests are traditionally left wing and conservative, but pro-globalization forces are hardly anti-modern.

I think the very positions the republican party advocates have been chosen to get just enough support from as many camps as possible to grab votes. It's the ideological version of jerrymandering.

This is why the talk radio crowd bitches about the open border and the cato crowd bitches about the drug war. Yet neither of these groups would vote democrat. That is because the republican party has found the perfect mix of positions to stay in power.

Rob Perkins said...

David, are you going to discuss the Reform Party's part in the '92 and '96 cycles?

Micah J. Glasser said...

I'm a someone who votes conservative and I can tell you that there are many issues that I am not in agreement on that the Republican party have supported lately. On the other hand the democratic socialists (I refuse to call them liberal because that is not what they are) stand in opposition to almost everything that I believe. But when I vote I am most concerned about the big issues and when it comes to that I believe that G.W.B. has vision.
In particular what I support is increased trade liberalism and international law enforcement. People who think the war in Iraq is some kind of conspiracy drive me nuts and all the Lou Dobbs out there make we want to pull my hair out. Like I said there are plenty of things that I can't stand about the Republican party but these two issues in particular drive the debate for me and I think many others feel this way too. Also it seems crazy to me to think that Republicans are trying to be all things to all people. Just look at Bush. He's about as unslick as a politician can be. He's a straight shooter. Sure he's still a politician and he's still slimey but he's no 'slick willy'. The reason that the Republicans have been sucsessful is a combination of having vision, having a philosophy that Christian America doesn't find repugnant, and dumb luck.

reason said...

micah j glasser ...

I read your comment with a sinking heart. If there are more like you then America is doomed.

Don't you ever look at what people actually do, rather than just listen to the rhetoric? Bush - "international law enforcement" - are you kidding me? The bush regime only supports international institutions when they see it in their own interests. It is like driving on the right in the UK. Supports liberalising international trade - "ditto" - steel, tobacco, sugar - the so called free-trade agreements are mostly about extending privileged intellectual property rights not real free trade.

But the number one case of hypocrisy on the part of the bush regime, is to do with democracy itself. They are for it in principle but against it in practice. Wake up America!!!

Don Quijote said...

That trick -- almost never discussed in press or punditry -- has been to maintain a broad “big tent” coalition of wildly disparate (and even contradictory) interest groups. This has been achieved through deliberate inclusiveness, in contrast to increasing left-wing dogmatism and litmus tested exclusivity.


Ever wonder why the press rarely discusses the issues, but always discusses the horse race & the personalities involved.

Propaganda combined with news suppression (if the MSM does not talk about it, has it happened?) works.

I seriously doubt that The Dems will come to power any time before the next depression.

DoctorB said...

Glasser's post indirectly points out the primary way that I think Republicans have won in America.

They realized that the vast majority of Americans don't actually pay any attention to politics except during an election season. Therefore, Republicans only need to say the right things and pretend to be a big-tent party while elections are actually going on.

Once they are in power, they can pay off their cronies and political allies at the expense of the country before going back to saying the right things during the next electin cycle.

Apparently, most voters pay little attention to what politicians actually do, even when it undermines our economy, our military, our world standing, and our own democracy.

Americans are going to have to become more politically saavy if we are to save our country from the current insanity.

Brother Doug said...

Good writing Brin. Now if you clean up part III with some short concrete examples and qualify your statements it will make it much better.

David Brin said...

One item... Ross Perot, according to polls, took votes EQUALLY from Bush Sr. and Clinton. His populism was at right angles to left-right. Though it wasn't along the modernist axis.

David Brin said...

Micah’s posting clearly showed how insanely self-destructive the liberals have been. For example, by opposing this war for all the most idealistic and moralistic reasons -- reflexively falling back into Vietnam mode -- they allowed the GOP-controlled media to portray the battle over this war as “wimpy idealist losers” vs “practical and assertive defenders and enforcers of international law.”

What hogwash!

Look, I have in many places declared my pragmatist willingness to see the United States use its time as this era’s “imperial” power, in well-chosen and well-executed actions on the international stage. To idealists of the left, I ask -
. “WHAT international law can oppressed peoples around the world appeal to, other than Pax Americana?” (PA)

To the EU? Ask the people of Bosnia and Kosovo how well that worked. To the UN? Please.

True, America has botched many uses of PA power. All too often the Marines were sent in to protect the interests of rich corporations. And while Michael Moore is loony in some ways, he is right to worry that we might still be doing that.

Still, our record includes many OTHER examples of interventions that had a lot of idealism and practical will about them, to make a better world. We know we have done this before, more often than any other “pax” and Americans feel pride over that. It is this idealistic will that Bush & co cynically appeal to, now that it is revealed that the terrorism and WMD justifications were flat out lies.

(Some straight shooter.)

No, the universal measures by which a Pax Americana overseas enforcement effort should be judged are far more pragmatic than the debate has been allowed to be. Take these criteria.

* Were all other options tried first? (Yes for Clinton/Clarke in the Balkans. A resounding no in Iraq.)

* Did we build international consensus? (ditto)

* Was international trust built, on the bases of openness and truthfulness and patience? (all three traits utterly void in the run up to Iraq.)

* Was the affair managed competently? (In the Balkans, we achieved all objectives within 6 months. CLEAR objectives. And then some. How about a continent of Europe at peace for the 1st time in 4,000 years? I defy anyone to show me any competence in Iraq.)

* Are our own losses kept low? (Total US servicemen lost to enemy fire in the Balkans? Zero.

(Let me repeat that. None. NAda zip. nil, null, none.

(Oh, you will see those words repeated below, when we talk about comparing Clinton era to Bush era INDICTMENTS.)

* Is American military readiness preserved? (Answer. After the Balkans, all engaged forces were replenished and restored to ready positions before any other party could say boo. Re-enlistment rates skyrocketed so much that the Army was able to CUT re-upping bonuses, saving big bucks.)

(Today, despite tripled re-enlistment bonuses costing BILLIONS of dollars, and despite cutting its recruitment goals repeatedly, the Army cannot meet even reduced quotas. Its draw-down of the National Guard has crippled ouOtherwise, w reserves. We could not face another sudden shock anywhere on land... though thank God for the US Navy. We are - in fact - at a readiness ebb lower than Pearl Harbor. BTW, this is an issue that separates loony neocons from older true “conservatives” who were very skeptical of “foreign adventures.”)

* Is the nation united?
. . The answer of the right wing, to this question, is positively weird. They look at this nation’s present state of horrific, hate-fest division, which is the most devastatingly decisive proof of bad leadership... and they respond by shrieking at the left. Never noticing the irony. In fact, if one of them were reading this paragraph right now, he would honestly scratch his head and wonder, “what irony?” Never pondering that the measure of a leader is not how well he leads one side of a house against itself.

* Are our alliances bolstered?
. . I dare you. Go anywhere in the world, and ask this question. Ask how citizens in allied nations feel about America today. Especially our GOODNESS and our CREDIBILITY. No matter how many sneers you aim at the French (many of them deserved!) it nevertheless boils down to this. Only incompetent jerks would have guided America into a world situation in which we are so hated. So little trusted. So NOT seen as the world’s natural leader.

I could go on and on. For more see:
http://www.davidbrin.com/realculturewar1.html
and especially
http://www.davidbrin.com/neocons.html

But what it boils down to is that these unrepentant and perseverant liars, cheats, torturers and law-breakers want to be defended by honest conservative Americans on the basis of COMPETENCE. But competence at what? Show me one example of competence.. except competence at theft. Oh, let’s do one more.

* The issue of credibility tho, has to be returned to. Under Clinton, secrecy went DOWN. Under these guys, secrecy has skyrocketed to levels never seen even when we faced the KGB. How does this correlate with “straight shooters?” This is a pure fact. It runs counter to the “slick Willie vs Straight Shooters propaganda so decisively that nobody with an IQ over eighty ought to be able to feel anything but a creeping, sinking feeling of embarrassment, trying to maintain that hypnotic trance. But delusion is the hallmark of humanity. They resist all contrary evidence.

Take those indictments. Again, we were promised that Slick Willy - and hunnerds of his guys - would all go to jail! Yeehaw! Just as soon as “honest republicans” got those Executive Branch filing cabinets to pore through. “Any day now...” we were assured during the first six months of 2001. Until - in a panic - the Bush team realized they could not deliver. And people were starting to notice.

Ok, let’s skip ahead; it’s 2005. They’ve had FIVE years! And believe me, I know some of the guys who have been looking! Taxpayer paid bloodhounds whose ONLY job was to find Clinton era peccadillos to indict. You’d not believe me if I told you how many of these guys our taxes have been paying.

Alas, they are morose, depressed, near-suicidal. Because they cannot keep the promises. (And, despitre every distraction waved in from of Americans’ faces, some are noticing.) Try as they might, these poor guys have only been able to find enough dirt to indict....

...well... um... I mean, jeez... er...

.... Zero.

Let me repeat that number of “slick and dishonest” Clintonites that a decade of relentless screeching vendetta have managed to indict for actual malfeasance in the performance of thier official duties. None. NAda zip. nil, null, none.

Ah, but in contrast. Even while the GOP controls every executive department, every Congressional committee. Nearly all law enforcement agencies and mass media. Even so, already, the “straight shooters” are falling all around us, for bribe-taking and money laundering and treasonously earmarking defense contracts and selling their offices... but oh, why go on?

Micah, I should stop, right? Because in all honesty, I am wasting my time, right? Because facts won’t make a scintilla of diff, will they?

Only hate.

---

Oh, a final note: We should listen to lectures about morality and about Saddam Hussein, from the cynical morons who had him in their hands in 91... then betrayed the Iraqi people by leaving him in charge for 12 more YEARS???????

Their credibility should be nil. People who make excuses for them? ditto.

-----

ADDENDUM...

Brother doug, any suggested statements that need qualifying? Any supporting evidence YOU'd care to offer? This is supposed to help me, eh? ;-)

Anonymous said...

"It runs counter to the “slick Willie vs Straight Shooters propaganda so decisively that nobody with an IQ over eighty ought to be able to feel anything but a creeping, sinking feeling of embarrassment, trying to maintain that hypnotic trance. But delusion is the hallmark of humanity. They resist all contrary evidence."

Doesn't this go against your statements earlier about how saying that liberals are losing the propaganda war equals saying that the American people are dolts and that this just turns them away from us? Look at that statement again:

"But delusion is the hallmark of humanity. They resist all contrary evidence."

And you say that *other* people alienate the masses with their contempt?

Secondly, from your questionairre:

"With whom would you ally? Which of the following persons would you listen to?

Person A, who agrees with my long-range dreams and goals, but disagrees profoundly with my program for getting there.
Person B, who agrees with my near-term political agenda and despises the same opponents, but has a very different image of what kind of society we should eventually arrive at."

From what I've read so far, you seem to be saying that the neocon did a great job at choice B (putting people who want the world to end in the same party as those who clearly don't.) Are you suggesting that we follow the "Power is all, make any short term promises to get it" attitude as an eample of "coalition-building" or just be aware of it?

It may sound as though I am just trying to play gotcha but I am trying to reoslve the contradictions I perceive.

Jon

Mabus said...

Brian> For the last half a year or so I have been working on refining the concept that there are deep-level agreements between most (not all) groups in the conservative coalition, even though they might not immediately recognize the similarities themselves. I came to this notion by examining the attitudes of poor conservatives on economic issues. I've read articles by many liberals bemoaning the fact that these people consistently vote against their own economic interest (at least, as liberals understand it).

A quick response, not altogether wrong, is that many of these people are sacrificing their own welfare for principle--to attack abortion rights, for instance. But as I actually asked conservatives about the matter, many insisted they were voting their own self-interest as well--that economic liberals fundamentally misunderstand how the economy works. (Others did not--some seemed extremely dejected about their declining personal fortunes but resolved to stay the course even if it killed them.) So I began to look elsewhere.

I decided to look at one of the main "contradictions" Democrats see in Republican rhetoric--small government and freedom from government control. They ask, rightly, how this squares with the assaults on the personal liberties Democrats support, and conclude that Republicans are just blowing smoke. But when I actually looked at the kinds of things Republicans are concerned about, I saw something different.

"Conservative" groups--generally speaking--have no fear of controls on their private lives. They regard those parts of their life as largely trivial--not necessarily to themselves, but to the law. They prefer that the law ignore personal issues most of the time because to do otherwise would be wasted effort. But when they occasionally see what they consider injustices that the government should right--the death of fetuses, for instance--they have no qualms about stopping for privacy's sake. Other parts of the coalition that disagree still see nothing wrong with the attempt.

Rather, "conservatives" fear government restrictions on the public sphere. They are afraid--for different reasons--that their enemies will attempt to mute them. To take away their ability to change the larger world. For one group, this is a fear of religion being shut out of public discourse; for another, a fear of not being able to manage their businesses efficiently; for still a third, a fear that they will have to tell the public truth instead of propaganda.

These dissimilar fears merge, because the coalition also differs in a separate respect; they endorse intensive controls (make behavior X illegal and enforce it with whatever level of power is needed) but fear extensive controls (fog the air with regulations that tell what to do in every possible situation). The first is seen as honest, direct, and relatively unrestrictive (since it binds only specific behaviors and leaves the rest alone); the second, deceptive and bureaucratic in every bad sense of the word.

It is here that such strange bedfellows as libertarians and the Christian right come together. As a group, they aim to clear away the constraining, bureaucratic fog they consider Democrats responsible for and replace it with a small number of specific laws--the nature of which they disagree on, sometimes violently. And here they also fall victim to two weaknesses--their own disagreements on what restrictions should be enacted, and the danger of destroying necessary rules along with unnecessary ones, either accidentally--or deliberately by problem factions (such as business kleptocrats).

Nate said...

Well, there's one thing the Republican "coalition" agrees on enough to spend political capital on, come hell or high water. Tax cuts. It's the only thing Bush Jr. has pushed through every year, despite war, natural disasters, recession, anything else. And I can see how most of the factions can fit that in with their main goals, the "starve the beast" "libretarians," obviously, the kleptocrats, because their "cuts" shift taxes off capital and onto income, and proportionally away from the rich. Some of the religious conservatives want most aid for the poor done by churches, and then there's just the people who want "my money back." Which sort of synchs up with mabus's post.

As for Dr. Brin's "idealistic and moral" reasons for opposing the war, one of the ones I heard quite often at the various protests in DC (which had predictably no effect, even when there were enough people to circle the White House for blocks) was rational, "realpolitik" points. Blowback. Insurgents and more terrorists because we invaded their country and killed their friends and family. Not trusting Bush and company to do it right. Not trusting the reasons they were claiming we needed to attack. There were plenty of "No blood for oil!" and "Raging Grannies for Peace" style signs, but they were hardly the only reasons. I should get a scanner and scan some of the pics I took at a couple and post them somewhere.

And one of the rebuttal points I wanted to bring up has already been brought up. How is saying the Republicans have been slandering liberals and Democrats as all sorts of things propaganda and disrespecting American voters, yet saying the Republicans have been faking being inclusive isn't? Sure, they're happy for anybody's votes, but if they proceed to ignore all of your concerns, how can you say they're being inclusive?

Don Quijote said...

Still, our record includes many OTHER examples of interventions that had a lot of idealism and practical will about them, to make a better world.

Like that little coup we supported in Iran that overthrew the Massadeq Goverment and put the Shah in power, or that other little coup we that overthew the Arbenz goverment and lead to a civil war that killed a couple hundred thousand Campesinos, or the on in on 9/11/70 that overthrew Allende, put Pinochet in power and lead to the death and disappearance of a few thousand chileans, or the little civil wars that we started in Central America in the eighties to keep our puppet Goverments in power.

Not to mention that nice little war in South East Asia that only killed 50,000 Americans and three million Vietnamese.

Not to mention the fact that we supplied Indonesia with weapons despite the fact that they had invaded East-Timor and were in the process of slaughtering a good chunk of the population.

How many people have our little coup & civil wars killed in the last half century?

Pax Americana, go tell the nicaraguans & the Salvadorans about it.


We know we have done this before, more often than any other “pax” and Americans feel pride over that.

Most Americans have no clue as to what is being done in their name, or why and if they did, I seriously doubt that they would approve.

It is this idealistic will that Bush & co cynically appeal to, now that it is revealed that the terrorism and WMD justifications were flat out lies.

It was to their jingoism & to their fear that Bush appealed to.

David Brin said...

Jon, you are right to gotcha me for contemptuous language. But there is no fundamental fallacy in shouting “wake up!” at people who are caught in a trance.

The whole “slick willie” thing has been a fantastic exercise in Goebbels level hate-think. I mean, was there ever a scintilla of evidence for the awful things said about the Clintons’ MARRIAGE being a sham? That they hated each other and stayed together for power? Whence such vcious nastiness... and nastiness that became a truism? I can tell a personal story that indicated to me what they felt about each other, a brief moment that no one but me saw.

The questionnaire is about provoking people to think. If they think different answers than I am trying to provoke, well, at least some things get re-evaluated.

Mabus, your exegesis of conservative commonalities was ingenious. Except for one inconvenient fact. (Isn’t there always at least one ;-)

ALas, nearly all of the actual DEREGULATION OF GOVERNMENT that has occurred in our lifetimes was initiated and enacted by democrats.

Yes I am erious. From decreases in secrecy and increased transparency under BC to deregulation of parcel post, banking, trucking, telecommunications, airlines, the internet. That is impossible to reconcile with stereotypes, of course...

...so nobody even tries. They simply blank it from their minds, like the fact that Clinton doubled the Border Patrol and Bush eviscerated it. People cannot conceive of such things, even when they know and remember that they are true. So they blank them out. And if that’s contemptuous, well, I never claimed to be human. I only claim to be honest about my being human.

Oh, the GOP did deregulate two industries. Savings and Loans in the seventies and energy more recently. In order to unleash a pair of looting frenzies.

Nate, they are only being inclusive politically and rhetorically. I never said they actually deliver their promises.

Quijote, you cite our errors as an empire and mea culpa, we must atone for our sins... though they (even Vietnam) pale in comparison to our good deeds. Snuffing Hitler. Freeing the Chinese from Japan. Treating enemies with kindness and generosity. Holding the Soviet Empire still until the fever broke. Absorbing more immigrants than ALL OTHER NATIONS COMBINED. And many others. I dare you to compare Pax Americana to any other imperium and say they did better.

No, by refusing to deal in yin and yang, and only shouting at the yin, you make yourself ineffective at then pointing to the the reasons for change. I point at both, in order to increase my credibility and effectiveness.

Don Quijote said...

Quijote, you cite our errors as an empire and mea culpa, we must atone for our sins... though they (even Vietnam) pale in comparison to our good deeds.

Atone for our sins where, when and how? Cause at the present time, I don't see to much atonement going on, but plenty of plundering, raping and murdering.

Snuffing Hitler. Freeing the Chinese from Japan.
Just because we have been on the side of angels once in the twentieh century does not give us a pass on all the other evil deeds that we have committed.

Treating enemies with kindness and generosity.
Only when necessary, in Europe & and East Asia cause we were afraid that we would need allies to contain the Soviet threat. Look at the way we have treated Central America, we did not have to be nice and we weren't, we looted, plundered and raped to our hearts' content.

Holding the Soviet Empire still until the fever broke.

An Empire that has never attacked the US, more than can be said of the US.

Absorbing more immigrants than ALL OTHER NATIONS COMBINED.

That may have been good for the US but I seriously doubt that it was all that good for the countries the emigrant came from.


And many others.

like letting our love of Democracy leave Dictators such as Franco in power for thirty plus years.

I dare you to compare Pax Americana to any other imperium and say they did better.

All rotten fishes stink, the bigger the fish the bigger the stink.

Now having said all of the above, I seriously doubt that if the Germans, French, Russians, Chinese (pick whatever Nation you care) had been in our place, that the world would have been a much better place, or substantially worse.

Rob said...

To my knowledge there are only two other "Pax-es" that are agreed upon from the perspective of Political Science: Pax Romanum when no unified threat opposed the Roman Empire, and Pax Britannica when no unified threat opposed the British Empire. To my mind, that is the requirement to suggest that a "Pax" exists- one global (or effectively global) superpower that is unchallenged within its sphere of influence. If you accept that definition, then "Pax Americana" as Dr. Brin wants to describe it can only be dated from the official fall of Soviet Russian Communism in 1989. Therefore, discussions of our failed "imperial" adventures in Chile, Iran, Nicaragua, Guatemala and elsewhere cannot be considered failures of Pax Americana; we were fighting the Cold War, not enforcing a peace, and we were generally actively opposed by the Soviets either directly or through their allies.

That also means that "Pax Americana" is a relatively new phenomenon. We are only 16 years into it and theoretically it is still going on, so I think it's a little early to declare it a success or failure.

Finn de Siecle said...

Don Quixote:

The only quibble I have with your list of appalling U.S. interventions is that each one dates from the Cold War (i.e., the age of battling superpowers), before the age of "Pax Americana" (the post-Soviet-collapse period that left the U.S. as the "sole superpower") that David was discussing.

Not that I'm saying the existence of the Cold War provided any excuse for the overt and covert actions American administrations took against "communist-sympathizer" foreign politicians and governments. Look at all the good will we had among the nations of the world after World War II ... and how quickly we pissed it away! I think we paid heavily (and deservedly) on the global level for those interventions but were able to ignore the consequences because the fear, anger and loss of respect the U.S. engendered was mostly among the governments and/or people of "Third World" nations, or the largely out-of-power leftists of "First World" allies.

Now, in the "Pax Americana" age, the neocons seem to be bent on alienating everybody — and the ironic thing is that they insist their efforts are intended to increase America's security in the world.

Regardless of whether the next administration is Democratic or Republican, if these assholes remain in charge of our foreign policy, we can be pretty sure of seeing alliances form among those who oppose us. And with the neocons in charge ... World War III anyone? Or will they just call it "Armageddon"?

Finn de Siecle said...

Oops — while I was here typing away, Rob explained my argument more thoroughly than I did. (Thanks, Rob.)

Brother Doug said...

Ok professor B since you asked the big weak link in part III is this passage and some that follows:

"one of fierce ideological exclusivity, driving away anyone who might deviate from standard liberal doctrine, even by a single litmus test.

No doubt some liberals will object, claiming that they don’t do this sort of party line exclusion. And yet, it’s easy enough to test. Just take a set of divisive issues from both sides of the horribly insipid but standard left-right divide. For example, a person might believe in:


* Every woman’s total right to abortion . . vs Parental notification for minors

* Support for public schools and teachers . . vs Vouchers for private schools

* Generosity over immigration . . vs Tight control of borders

* No drilling in Arctic Wildlife Reserve . . vs test drilling in ANWR

* Supporting Unions & minimum wage . . vs Letting the market decide wages

* Repealing the PATRIOT Act . . vs Greater powers of vision for the FBI

* Limiting foreign intevention . . vs Active exercise of Pax Americana power

* Restoring taxes on the wealthiest . . vs Letting the market solve deficits

* Complete separation of church/state . . vs Schools/kids need faith-based morality

* Concentrate on conservation/no nukes . . vs Restart the nuclear power program"


Take for example Denis Kusinish who has been stuffed in the left side of the divide. But he is also a Catholic and has voted for restricting abortion. Or Murtha is now for limiting foreign intervention but for years was pro war. Or president Carter recently saying that he did not believe in abortion. Rather than being run out of the party they seem to be accepted. So that part of the argument seems a little weak. You might want to eliminate that section and much of what came after it because it was not convincing to me as a test. Also labeling people “loopy and self destructive leftist activists ” near the end of the essay will not gain many listeners other than Mr.Glasser. Rather than getting people thinking logically it inflames their passions and makes a breakout from the left right divide more difficult. Plus you end up using up your valuable time defending a position rather than giving a solution. Think about putting it in a more positive light. Hope that helps.

Brother Doug

michael vassar said...

Thank you Don Quiote, for providing an excellent example of the core reason Bush & company are in power, the left's anti-Americanism and the helplessness of rational moderates of the Democratic party to wash their hands of it even though they absolutely don't partake of it. As a result, "liberal" is seen as a dirty word by 1/2 the population.

My next rant, aimed directly at David, but for public consumption, is going to be full of overgeneralizations. That's how understanding of complex systems like human society has to be. To refuse to overgeneralize is to refuse to attempt to understand.

Face it Dave, you have as much contempt for the judgement of the masses as the rest of us. How can someone with any familiarity with history not have such contempt? OTOH, conservatives and liberals feel their contempt in different ways. Liberals become frustrated and angry. They hate ordinary people for Not Thinking. Conservatives take it for granted that ordinary people are tools, and use them as they wish to be used. It is possible to be intelligent, experienced, not in denial, and still love humanity, but you have to love them as fundamentally amoral ends onto themselves, the way we automatically love pets and small children, even small children who are cruel to one another. Trying to treat a person who only knows mammal status heirarchies with "respect" only provokes them. They can use the word, but not feel it's meaning. Treat them as a kindly master or beloved servant and they will love you. Treat them as an equal and you will expect them to act as an equal while they will be confused and scared, leading to mutual hatred.

Fundamentally, all of the groups in the conservative alliance except for the Libertarians (who are in most respects psychologically liberals) know this, though only the neocons verbalize it and only among themselves. A related point is that liberals keep trying over and over to prove the injustice and dishonesty of conservatives, consistantly unaware that conservatives simply don't care about such things as they don't value fairness, equality, or honesty the way liberals usually do. Also, liberals assume that in-group favortism (which they call corruption) is evil, and leftists often bend over backwards to prove that they are not committing it, even to the point of siding against their own group, or what outsiders might percieve as their own group when their own group is almost entirely but not entirely in the right. Conservatives think that NOT showing in-group favortism is evil, and call it treason, so the liberals will never impress them with displays of non-bias, only baffle, horrify, and disgust them. On catching conservative lies, words are just parts of rituals to their constituency anyway. It was a verbal understanding of this, and that it is somewhat true of liberals as well, that enabled Rush Limbaugh to coin his trademark "words mean things". It should be noted that when dishonest words are actually used to control thoughts, not just to fulfill rituals and "purify" ritual in-group affirming actions like the invasion of another country or the denunciation of a skape-goat, conservatives know it and recoil with more horror than liberals. The main example of this is their horror at Political Correctness, which liberals generally accept in their belief that social order is established by the shaping or "socializing" of tabula rasas into what some of their confused intellectual ancestors called 'The New Socialist Man'. Another example of the liberal/conservative split on the matter of language and meaning comes from religion. To conservatives, spouting obvious untruths (and moral principles so unnatural as to be obvious nonsense, the same principles that in an evolved, secularized, and moderated form constituted the essence of morality to liberals) is another in-group identity confirming ritual. Both the meaningless nonsense of mass-market theology and the radical message of Christian ethics are unimportant and have no real impact on them. By contrast, the intellectual ancestors, to whom words mean something, mass-market theology is offensive to the dignity of their idea of what humanity is (or what they feel obligated to believe it must be). Many other things people do/say/think also offend their sensibilities by contradicting their vision of mankind, giving them a deserved reputation as "angry". Unlike the theology, the morality of Christianity is so self evident to them that they don't see how unnatural and bizarre it is, recognize its origins in religion, or recognize its absence in other people. They don't see how anything But the universal love of an expanded ethical circle could claim to be morality at all (and feel, corectly but unhealthily, that without their form of universal morality, any attrocity, up to and beyond the Holocaust, is possible).


Two more things that liberals don't know but conservatives do, from two of the fathers of Modernism:

Such creatures are men that they will always run to lions for protection from foxes.
John Locke

Though a wise man may know better how to dress than the fool does, still the fool can better dress himself than the wise man can dress him.
Adam Smith

michael vassar said...

Brother Doug:
I think David is right here. I come in roughly split 50/50 on these issues, and it's intuitive to me that typical conservatives (but not the ideology focused confused small government liberals who call themselves libertarians) would find my positions more acceptable than typical liberals. Also, as for your examples, Carter may think abortion is wrong, but I doubt he thinks it should be banned (a distinction that libertarians make easily, liberals less easily, and conservatives barely at all). I don't know about Kusinish and abortion, but I don't think liberals (as opposed to leftists)are generally against all foreign intervention, just bad foreign intervention. Kerry voted for the war.

David Brin said...

Quijote said: “>Treating enemies with kindness and generosity.<
Only when necessary, in Europe & and East Asia cause we were afraid that we would need allies to contain the Soviet threat. Look at the way we have treated Central America, we did not have to be nice and we weren't, we looted, plundered and raped to our hearts' content. “

Sorry, this is so easily disproved. Just one example. Woodrow Wilson had no reason other than honor and idealism to fight at Versailles for generosity toward defeated enemies, for self-determination of former subject peoples, for de colonization and for the League of Nations. To the extent he succeeded, hope was born among millions, and we were rewarded with immense popularity. To the extent Clemenceau and Lloyd George over-ruled, him, the seeds for disaster were sown. When America had overwhelming Pax power in 1945, many of these reforms were actually instituted.

This is not only overwhelming disproof of your cynucal thesis, above, it also shows just how biased your view is, that it cannot even encompass the critical tragic moment of the entire 20th Century. This is sad because I WANT critics like you to gain credibility, not lose it, the way you do by oversimplifying.

As for the rest of your remarks, they relentlessly drove down your credibility with every word.

Take immigration. You actually can denigrate the goodness of allowing half of the world’s immigrants to come and find a truly better life... a consistent policy for generations... except when the door was slammed on European Jews in the 30s... with a straight face? It is one of the greatest things ever done by any nation. Ever. I know it. All my cousins who did not take up this hospitality died.

You can even remotely defend the Soviet Empire as anything but an outrageously evil monstrosity that had to be resisted? Hmmmm... find me one person who lived under their rule who would agree with you. One. I dare you openly. Just one. I mean it as a direct challenge. One.

Let me repeat that. Find... just... one.

In fact, I agree with you that the age of empires must come to an end! It was vicious and stupid and there was only thing worse. That thing worse was EVERYTHING ELSE. Because chatotic tribes and kingdoms were vastly worse than imperial ages. Because at least the violence was lower during imperiums. Fewer cities were sacked.

Oh, the imperial age must end. We must have something better! But what? A good topic! (Will it better be replaced by dogmatism? Or by pragmatists?) And yet, I refuse to let this be simpleminded. The USA did many bad things as an empire... but it also relentlessly promoted the League, and then the UN. ... and almost FORCED Europeans to start talking about the EU. Americans bought 100 trillion $ worth of crap from Japanese then Korean then Chinese factories, resulting in economic booms at the cost of our jobs. The first empire NOT to practice mercantalism. (Any credit for that Marshall innovation? None!)

Until you are willing to absorb such yin-yang complexities and use them in argument, how effective will you be at arguing with imperialists?

THAT ASPECT OF PRAGMATISM IS THE BIGGEST REASON TO READ CAREFULLY WHAT YOU WILL FIND AT: http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.html

ROB, in contrast, your position on the other side of the spectrum is (sorry) just as silly. A “pax” means domination that imposes imperial will. By that definition, the Monroe Doctrine established pax Americana over the Western Hemisphere long, long ago. And in that hemisphere - dominated by yanqui might - there was much yang with the yin. Yes, we were brutal horrid pigs in Central America, handing over the US Marines as private thugs for United Fruit. Yet, no one speaks of the other effects. Keeping European imperiums out. Moreover, for a hundred years, the nations of S. America have spent vastly less per capita on armies than any other region. Why is that? Three guesses.

Rob, your theis is plain silly, sorry. Post WWII we imposed a genuine pax across 2/3 of the globe. I contend it was more good than bad. But the other side has very very strong points. Moreover, PA can only get better by LISTENING to criticism, not shrugging it off, the way the monsters do.

Quixote, you are different from Quijote, right? Good points.

Siecle, those exceptions were muted and no one ever actually asked for any RESTRICTIONS on abortion. Anyway, BOY was Carter punished by the left.

Michael V wins “thought provoking post of the day”... though I am also depressed by his cynicism. I also suggest inserting more paragraph breaks!

Brother Doug said...

“michael vassar said...
1. Brother Doug:
I think David is right here. I come in roughly split 50/50 on these issues, and it's intuitive to me that typical conservatives (but not the ideology focused confused small government liberals who call themselves libertarians) would find my positions more acceptable than typical liberals."

Sorry I’m still not buying it. I don’t see the evidence and I think your intuition is wrong. If you have concrete examples we can debate them.
But let me give you a personal example. I am a Pacifist and I know a lot of liberals and I guarantee you that if they were sure changing one of these positions would win back control of the government they would do it. They just don’t trust the republicans to implement it fairly, because of the history of cynical double dealing. A few Liberals I know are already in favor of solutions on the right hand side of Brin’s category, [such as abortion and nuke power] and I don’t see anyone ostracizing them.

However if I go to a conservative church or club and start publically quoting lines from the bible like “Love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you” or things like “Peace is patriotic” I will be shouted down and quickly ejected. I know someone who had this happen to him at his own church that he had attended for years.

Im sorry to say these are cynical manipulations of straw man positions. The GOP has done a good job in reinforcing these stereotypes. A few liberal zealots are not the reason the democrats lost power. I don’t see a big policy gap in either party. Majorities of Both of them voted for and renewed the patriot act, the war in Iraq, etc.

michael vassar said...

You can't deny that a few liberal zealots were Exactly why Gore lost in 2000.

wkwillis said...

Brin
IIRC, half the Russian population of the Union of the Councils of the Socialist Republics wishes that Russia was still communist.
They don't care about the 'stans and the East Europeans being communist, just about Russia.
This is the older half who expected pensions, subsidized housing, etc, and got their pensions, etc, confiscated by the new elite.

Mike said...

David, I'd like to see the statistics that say Perot took as many votes from Clinton as he took from Bush. That is not at all how I remember the polling numbers on Election Day in 1992. Perot won 19% of the general election and no electoral votes. Almost across the board, each pundit said Perot took votes from Bush. I know for a fact he took my vote from Bush. Why is it so hard to admit that Clinton benefited from Perot as GW Bush benefited from Nader? I don’t see how it discredits your other assertions.

Don Quijote said...

. Thank you Don Quiote, for providing an excellent example of the core reason Bush & company are in power, the left's anti-Americanism and the helplessness of rational moderates of the Democratic party to wash their hands of it even though they absolutely don't partake of it. As a result, "liberal" is seen as a dirty word by 1/2 the population.

No, I don't hate or even dislike America, I just hold it to a higher ethical standard, in the same way that I hold highly educated wealthy people to a higher ethical standard than poor homeless people.


Finn de Siecle said...

The only quibble I have with your list of appalling U.S. interventions is that each one dates from the Cold War (i.e., the age of battling superpowers), before the age of "Pax Americana" (the post-Soviet-collapse period that left the U.S. as the "sole superpower") that David was discussing.


Then we can always discuss the invasion & conquest of the Phillipines in the early 1900's, the anexation of the Sandwitch Islands or our various little colonial wars in central America in the early twentieth century.

Just one example. Woodrow Wilson had no reason other than honor and idealism to fight at Versailles for generosity toward defeated enemies, for self-determination of former subject peoples, for de colonization and for the League of Nations.

The league of Nation, which the US did not join.

What decolonization? Most colonies went from being colonies to being client states of the former colonial powers that better do what they are told or else...

Self-determination, you must be joking! Did we stop franco from overthrowing a leally elected goverment? Did we ask the Palestinians if they would mind getting kicked of their lands so that a bunch of European jews could move in?


Because chatotic tribes and kingdoms were vastly worse than imperial ages. Because at least the violence was lower during imperiums. Fewer cities were sacked.

Instead of being firebombed (Dresden, Tokyo) or Nuked (Hiroshima, Nagasaki)

Take immigration. You actually can denigrate the goodness of allowing half of the world’s immigrants to come and find a truly better life... a consistent policy for generations... except when the door was slammed on European Jews in the 30s... with a straight face? It is one of the greatest things ever done by any nation. Ever. I know it. All my cousins who did not take up this hospitality died.

I was thinking of our more recent policies, importing Nurses, Doctors & other technicians on H1B visas because it's cheaper to import them from the third world than it is to train our own, importing stuidents to fill our universities because it's cheaper import students than it is to run a decent K-12 school system, letting millions of illegal cross the border so that wages can be depressed.

The first empire NOT to practice mercantalism. (Any credit for that Marshall innovation? None!)

Now that was funny...

What do you think all the trade deals we have imposed upon the world that forces other countries to accept our IP laws are about if not Mercantalism.


Oh, the imperial age must end. We must have something better! But what? A good topic! (Will it better be replaced by dogmatism? Or by pragmatists?) And yet, I refuse to let this be simpleminded.

A true utopian would aim for a single world goverment, I believe that the best we can get is a balance of power system similar to thta of the Concert of Europe in the nineteenth century on qa Global Scale. A system in which China, India, the US, the EU, possibly Brazil, Russia balance each other out.

Don Quijote said...

Cato -A Look Behind The Marshall Plan Mythology


Moreover, receipt of aid did not track with economic recovery. France, Germany and Italy began to grow before the onset of the Marshall Plan, while Austria and Greece expanded slowly until near the program's end. Great Britain, the largest aid recipient, performed most poorly.


To be taken with a grain of salt.

Finn de Siecle said...

Said David Brin:
Quixote, you are different from Quijote, right? Good points.
Siecle, those exceptions were muted and no one ever actually asked for any RESTRICTIONS on abortion. Anyway, BOY was Carter punished by the left.


David, I think you may have skimmed this (increasingly lengthy) thread too quickly and mixed up who said what: There was no post by a "Don Quixote," just me replying to Don Quijote but getting his nic wrong; and I didn't say anything on the Carter/abortion topic — that was a dialogue between Brother Doug and Michael Vassar.

Said Don Quijote:
No, I don't hate or even dislike America, I just hold it to a higher ethical standard, in the same way that I hold highly educated wealthy people to a higher ethical standard than poor homeless people. ...
... Then we can always discuss the invasion & conquest of the Phillipines in the early 1900s, the annexation of the Sandwich Islands or our various little colonial wars in central America in the early twentieth century.


Don Q,

And we could bring up the settlers' wars and genocides vs. the Indians; our 19th-century territorial conflicts with Mexico and Canada; slavery; and a host of other American sins.

But I've got to say, in your replies to me and Michael Vassar, you've neatly encapsulated two reasons I'm not a liberal.

For one thing, I don't see why we shouldn't hold wealthy and homeless people to the same ethical standard. By that, I don't mean being blind to the respective situations of each; I certainly wouldn't consider a poor man's theft of bread to stave off starvation the same as a wealthy man's $100,000 embezzlement to pay for living even further beyond his means. But I would consider it an analogous crime if the poor man stole, say, an iPod for personal use instead of taking food. I find sliding scales of ethics unworkable no matter which direction the slide is pointed.

And, like Michael, I'm perplexed by many leftists' tendency to focus on their carefully detailed list of American/Western sins and their apparent brushing off of anything redeeming in the same history.

I think it's always appropriate to learn about and remember what our country and culture have done wrong in the past — so we know what not to do in the present, not for the purposes of dwelling on what bastards we are, which to non-"liberals" seems to be what "liberals" are all about.

One example: You counter David's point about past empires' sacking of cities by replying, "Instead of being firebombed (Dresden, Tokyo) or nuked (Hiroshima, Nagasaki)." Call me a heartless bastard, but I feel no shame about attacks we waged on enemies who (1) attacked us and our allies first, and (2) had already demonstrated total unconcern — hell, enthusiasm — for inflicting horrible casualties on noncombatants themselves. The Allied governments' obligation to their populaces and their troops was to end that war as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

And maybe I am a heartless bastard: I'd even quibble with David's use of "mea culpa" in reference to America's past sins — I don't believe in collective guilt, nor in historical guilt. The slavers' sins can't be redeemed, and the slaves' suffering can't be eased; they're all long-dead and beyond anything we can do for or to them. All we can do is address the pernicious effects of racism that still persist.

Nor do I believe America's sins stand out higher in their perfidy over those of any other culture; I'm not a student of history, but I'm not aware of any significant society, anywhere or anywhen, that could call itself blameless. We're all human. Sometimes we suck; sometimes we shine.

Leftists who do believe in collective and historical guilt may find what I just wrote appalling; in response I'd point out that dwelling on the injustices of the past hasn't worked well in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, the Middle East, etc., etc. Wearing a hairshirt doesn't accomplish anything but make the wearer itch.

Don Quijote said...

I certainly wouldn't consider a poor man's theft of bread to stave off starvation the same as a wealthy man's $100,000 embezzlement to pay for living even further beyond his means.

Sounds a lot like a sliding scale of ethics, after all they are both thiefs.

Qui vole un oeuf vole un boeuf.


" Call me a heartless bastard, but I feel no shame about attacks we waged on enemies who (1) attacked us and our allies first, and (2) had already demonstrated total unconcern — hell, enthusiasm — for inflicting horrible casualties on noncombatants themselves.

I thought we were supposed to be better than that, the last best hope of earth, a shining city upon a hill, not just another power grubbing empire.

My mistake...


I don't believe in collective guilt, nor in historical guilt.

Tell that to the Iraqis, you know the people we deliberatly starved for 10 + Years prior to invading and ocuppying.

what is seo said...

Thank you very much for writting this article. I am in the process of writting a website which will allow musicians to create an account in which they can have their songs posted and information about them and their band on it in order to help them spread their name and receive feedback on their music. The problem i found was would someone take my site seriously when it first starts out. I figured the more credible it was and the more believable it was the better it would grow.This article has helped me tremendously and will hopefully improve my site. Thank you again and i would recommend this article to anyone who plans to create a website.