Last time I referred to the way the word “liberal” has mutated over the years... as has “conservative” and, indeed, a label we are trying to resurrect here -- modernism. Speaking of which, this next piece is fascinating. Apparently, the US meddled in the new Iraqi Constitution in lots of ways, not all of them beneficial to Halliburton, the Saudi family and the mullahs of Iran. (Of course, those three are the principal beneficiaries of this mangled and botched war, so far.)
Pause: I speak elsewhere of the odd alliance of three antimodernist movements that together make up today’s ruling troika. (See: The Real Culture War: Defining the Background) The kleptocrats, apocalypts and neocons. Together, these movements have pushed the three major programs of this administration and Congress - theft, fanaticism and an aggressive American Imperium. (As opposed to a judiciously assertive Pax Americana, which makes some sense. Lefties who oppose that simply do not grasp that we are still living in history. At best we will help make a better world. We do not live in perfection. Not yet.)
Nevertheless, having said that, let me concede that the Troika Model is simplistic in many ways. It turns out there are some quirky elements to the neocon ideology that go beyond those three dismal priorities. Some... the least objectionable neocon notions... are quasi-libertarian views that get slipped in between the cracks. In fact, they are called neo-liberalism, because, in classic terms, “liberal” means opening up both society and markets, removing artificial barriers to opportunity -- whether those were feudal privilege, excess tariffs, racial stereotypes, bureaucratic paternalism or lack of education -- in order to maximize instead creativity and freedom.
Over the long run, these reasons are good in their own right. There was never any need to abancon them.
But, just as some liberals DO remember this, it turns out that some neocons cling to a bit of the same lesson, here and there, sincerely mulling notions about how to unleash human potential, instead of habitually locking it in chains of unearned privilege. Glimmers of the modernist agenda still clings to life -- like blades of grass in Sodom -- even amid an anti-modernist firestorm on the right.
Now, some neo-liberal ideas like the flat tax and the “wise use movement” are simply loony, playing into the hands of aristocrats. Others should get a fair hearing, instead of simply being rejected out of hand by mainstream liberals. (e.g. tariff-free investment). These are at least sincere subjects worthy of discussion and even experimentation. Anyway how interesting that this - the one worthy part of the neocon agenda - is called “neo-liberalism”!
Enough of that rambling aside. Here’s the link. How the US Got Its Neo-Liberal Way in Iraq. “By the time the revised constitution was served on the table on August 28, the final draft of the Iraqi constitution must have tasted very different from previous servings. Not only were some of the key ingredients of the previous drafts removed outright, new ingredients with distinctly neo-liberal flavors were added. As direct occupiers, the US enacted laws that give foreign investors equal rights with Iraqis in the domestic market; permit the full repatriation of profits; institute the flat tax system; abolish tariffs; just to name a few.”
Fascinating! Yes, some of the motive is exploitation. And yet, I am sure there are elements that are truly sincere, aiming to bring "market liberalism" to the Middle East.
Lesson: never make a strawman of your enemy. Admit it, when he shows surprising quirks and complexities. For one thing, it shows that you are the one willing to negotiate. You are the one who knows a path out of ideological hell.
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Along with authors Stephen King, Amy Tan, Peter Straub and others, I have joined a fundraising auction to help the First Amendment Project, http://stores.ebay.com/AuctionCause - an online campaign to support free speech. Most of my peers are offering the highest bidder a chance to have naming rights for a character in a coming novel... or to be "killed" (in Stephen King's case, naturally). To be different, I am auctioning the right to have your name given to an alien race, a garish building, or a uniquely gruesome and inexplicable disease. Hey, it's for a good cause. Bidding opens Thursday Sept. 15, and runs through Sept. 25.