November 18, 2012

The Infinite Human Capacity to Deny the Obvious

I'm working on some new articles concerning aspects of U.S. foreign and domestic policy that I haven't addressed in detail before. In the course of that work, I looked over a few earlier essays. I was curious about whether and to what extent I'd discussed certain analytic points. Since I've been at this for over ten years, I've written a lot, and I sometimes can't recall specific earlier arguments with great particularity. (There are also occasions when I discover posts I'd completely forgotten, usually when a reader has twigged to them for some reason.)

Especially after our last episode of national nausea, more commonly described as a presidential election, and even more especially because we've been regaled with endless tales of the unfathomable evil of Republicans -- which is unquestionably and irrevocably worse than anything the Democrats could possibly do, and this despite the fact that Democrats do everything Republicans have ever done, but a few years later and with better public relations -- I was quite struck by the following passages. I probably should note that Democrats frequently do more than Republicans have ever done, and worse. That's the great utility of effective PR, and of using front men (and women) who appear to be "good," "attractive" and "intelligent"; usually, the liberals and progressives who continue to peddle the "lesser evil" lie will forbear to add, "good, attractive and intelligent like us," but we all know that's what they mean, don't we? Yes, we do, if we're honest.

First, there's this:
[M]ost Democrats and their dedicated partisans (and I regretfully include almost all liberal-progressive bloggers in this category) remain absolute in their determined refusal to see the continuity of our foreign policy, from the annexation of Hawaii, through the Spanish-American War and the occupation of the Philippines, through Woodrow Wilson and the Open Door doctrine of global hegemony, to global interventionism, and all the other issues I've discussed in my "Dominion Over the World" series.

The Democrats don't object and they completely fail to mount serious opposition to our inevitable course toward widening war and an attack on Iran, not because they are cowards, not because they're afraid of being portrayed as "weak" in the fight against terrorism, and not because of any of the other excuses that are regularly offered by their defenders. They don't object because -- they don't object. That is: they agree -- they agree that the United States is the "indispensable" nation, that we have the "right" to tell every other country how it is "permitted" to act, that we must pursue a policy of aggressive interventionism supported by an empire of military bases. They agree about all of it; moreover, in most critical respects, they devised these policies in the first instance, and they implemented and defended them more vigorously and more consistently than Republicans, with the exception of the criminal now residing in the White House.

They agree. Try to wrap your head around it. Try to absorb the indisputable fact, which has been proven over and over and over again in the last century, and particularly in the last 60 years.
That's from "The Worsening Nightmare," published in August 2007.

Since I wrote that, a number of people have finally recognized the truth of these observations. Better late than never, I suppose. But the same cannot be said about the following. Even many of those who now strongly criticize the Democrats for the identical reasons they have long criticized Republicans (even many "dissenters") still profess bafflement about what is, in fact, a derivative point which necessarily follows from the preceding argument.

Here's the second passage, from a different article. After excerpting an enormously valuable article by Robert Higgs, I wrote:
This is the general policy that Obama continues, and that he will continue into the foreseeable future. He made his intentions clear from the beginning of his campaign, and nothing has changed. Nor will it, certainly not insofar as Obama is concerned:
Any individual who rises to the national political level is, of necessity and by definition, committed to the authoritarian-corporatist state. The current system will not allow anyone to be elected from either of the two major parties who is determined to dismantle even one part of that system.
So all of the feigned bafflement and incessant caterwauling about the supposedly indecipherable actions of the United States -- Why, oh why, did we invade Iraq?, and Why, dear God, are we in Afghanistan? -- represent only the capitulation of the purported critics to precisely those arguments U.S. leaders hope you will engage. They want you to spend all your time on those arguments, because they're only marketing ploys having nothing at all to do with their actual goals. As I said the other day, if you want to stop this murderous madness -- and I dearly hope you do -- forget about what they say their goals are (fostering "democratic" governments, “regional stability,” “security,” and all the associated claptrap), and focus on the real problem: the carefully chosen policy of U.S. geopolitical dominance over the entire globe. On the day Obama announces the scheduled closure of at least one-third of the U.S.'s worldwide empire of bases, I'll believe he's serious about altering any of this, and not a moment before. He never will, and you know he won't. (I myself would prefer the closure within three to six months of three-quarters of them at a minimum. But contrary to some of my critics, I actually do reside in this world, and not the one I would prefer.)

Higgs' argument and those I consistently make explain the U.S. presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in countless other places around the world.
That's from an article published in October 2009.

Three years later, I continue to see writers wailing about the fact that no one has ever provided an explanation for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan; I've even seen this criticism offered by "dissenters" I had once thought more perceptive and intelligent about questions of this kind. The simple, incontrovertible fact is that the ruling class has announced over and over and over again what their actual aims are. The information is freely available and has been for many decades; just follow some of the links provided in the above excerpts to see the evidence. And that's only a small part of the available evidence; to provide anything close to a full account would require volumes, and thick ones at that. Most people refuse to credit those statements, because they find them far too upsetting. So they accept the "softer" part of the public explanation and treat it as the totality of the argument (even as they grant that the "softer" explanation fails to explain the policy in question).

The second excerpt in particular ties into another theme I'm developing at the moment. I began the discussion here, and I'll continue it in the next installment of that series. I said that the next article on that subject would be titled: "Believing the Lie." That's the problem: the lie is omnipresent, and it affects almost every political argument we attempt to analyze. But a great many people continue to believe the lie, and to believe what politicians say their goals are, as opposed to what their actions consistently reveal.

The willingness to believe voices of "authority," the enthusiasm for believing the "softer" part of the public fiction and disregarding those elements that might profoundly disturb us, affects nearly everyone; it certainly affected me very strongly in various ways long after I had become an adult. But at this late date, it surely should not be controversial to acknowledge that political leaders lie, and that they lie all the time. But the full implications of that fact still escape many people.

Before I leave you for the moment, there is one more point to be made. From one perspective, it is the most important point of all. We must always remember what I call The Higgs Principle. This was identified by the same Robert Higgs mentioned above, and I consider it indispensable to understanding political events. Tragically, this excerpt has special relevance given what now unfolds again in Gaza. But the great value in Higgs' identification is its broader meaning. This applies to any public policy you care to consider; it applies to U.S. foreign policy in spades, across the board. This is what Higgs said:
As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent "failed" policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.

When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

So U.S. soldiers get killed, so Palestinians get insulted, robbed, and confined to a set of squalid concentration areas, so the "peace process" never gets far from square one, etc., etc. – none of this makes the policies failures; these things are all surface froth, costs not borne by the policy makers themselves but by the cannon-fodder masses, the bovine taxpayers at large, and foreigners who count for nothing.
I've been quoting this Higgs passage since at least September 2007.

And with that ... to be continued.