Monday, January 30, 2006

The Cancer of War: Iraq, the Home Front, the Planet Earth

According to Technorati's statistics, there are something like 25 or 30 million blogs out there now. One of my favorites is Eric Alterman's Altercation, which appears on MSNBC. Alterman's primary talent as a blogger is his ability to condense the essence of a big and complex story into two or three brief paragraphs, while not narrowing the reader's perspective. That's what he did today in his piece about the global warming issue (to refer to it as a "debate" is to slide beyond ignorance and into the agenda-driven denial characteristic of our leaders in Washington and our mass media).

Why are people swallowing this studied ignorance? Why is global warming (incidentally, it was near 60 degrees again in New York today) even remotely considered a "debate"? Just turn to the business section of today's newspaper, and there's your answer: Exxon raked in a record $10.7 billion in profits in its last quarter, and set another record for 2005—over $36 billion. That's six months' worth of the Iraq War, ladies and gentlemen. It all ties together.

Which brings us to our next contribution from Terry McKenna, who we heard most recently in his health care series (which, according to the Progress Center, is to be a major theme of the King's SOTU speech tomorrow night). Tonight, Terry demonstrates how the mindset of war sets itself into a tyrant's brain, so that foreign policy and domestic policy are no longer apart. Mr. McKenna:

The history of recent foreign policy is of old men sitting in a well-appointed room somewhere planning how to preserve the good. For them, the good is defined by what is good for the existing economic and social order. The two world wars show us that despite good intentions, we have a hard time controlling outcomes.

The first WW was a complete disaster—nearly everyone was destroyed by the process. The second WW was equally unfortunate to both winners and losers. France and Britain lost their empires; Germany was destroyed, and split in two for 45 years. Only the US and USSR improved their position in the world.

After WW2, the US and Great Britain decided on a mix of force of arms, direct subversion, and the use of armed surrogates to contain the Soviet Union and Red China; and to maintain access to the bulk of world oil reserves. We were smart enough to not blunder into another global war, but our efforts to strangle Soviet expansion faltered (remember the domino theory).

We are in a new era where the US is the single “super power” but now no one cares.

In Africa, from the Sudan to Zimbabwe, impoverished but corrupt dictatorships commit the worst sorts of atrocities without the least concern for “world opinion.” (Just check out the dominant members of the "20 Worst Dictators" Club). The middle east remains a mostly benighted place with the brightest spots (Iran and Palestine) residing the farthest from the US orbit – and yes, Israel is a democratic nation in the middle east, but that’s almost beside the point, given the massive shifts underway in the deserts of power. In Asia, China and India are emerging industrial powers competing with us for oil and steel and going their own way on foreign policy (hence China’s and India’s policies towards Iran).

What will we do now? Iran elected a fundamentalist extremist – after we suggested to moderates that they sit this one out. The results may have been the same regardless, but how can we pretend to support emerging democracies unless we allow for the give and take of electoral politics? In Palestine, Hamas won a stunning and shocking victory. In Bolivia, the Americas have their first indigenous president - left-leaning Evo Morales. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez thumbs his nose at the US. And in Chile, socialist Michelle Bachelet, will soon take power. And as far as the bomb goes, our “ally” Pakistan traded technology with (it seems) everyone. Iran should have a bomb soon. Korea probably has a few already. Who next?

How can we reassert control? Iraq shows us that a new war is out of the question; our army is stretched to the limit. But subversion won’t work either. Not anymore, not in the days of satellite telephones and the internet. (Nor will the arming of surrogates – remember Afghanistan! We essentially created the Al-Qaeda playbook and provided them with arms to do it). No… we have no options.

So what is a right wing president to do? Maybe that explains the secret domestic surveillance. Perhaps GW and Co. have decided that if they can’t control the world, maybe they just need to control the home front. That’s right, in the mode of Richard Nixon, they may have embarked upon a course of domestic spying against domestic enemies.

Paranoid? Over the top? Sure! But without congressional oversight, we’ll never know, until history, someday, tells the tale.

—T. McKenna

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