Hear the Mighty Roar of the Peter Pan Conservatives: those conservatives who think that policy failures are not due to strategic, tactical, or logistical flaws but solely due to to a lack of will. It appears that this way of thinking has completely permeated Little Lord Pontchartrain’s brain. Neocon Irwin Stelzer had a luncheon meeting with the president. His description is chilling.
Stelzer describes four ‘lessons’ that were discussed. Here’s the second lesson:
Second lesson: Will trumps wealth. The Romans, the tsars, and other rich world powers fell to poorer ones because they lacked the will to fight and survive. Whereas World War II was almost over before Americans saw the first picture of a dead soldier, today the steady drumbeat of media pessimism and television coverage are sapping the West’s will.
It could be the media…. or maybe the majority of Americans are beginning to comprehend the foolishness of invading the wrong fucking country. Stupid, but, by now, that should be expected from the neocons. What’s disturbing is that they talk about what is supposed to be a democratic republic as if it were an empire*–and they think this is a good thing. We shouldn’t aspire to be Imperial Rome or Tsarist Russia.
A perpetual military garrison state is not good for democracy–we see the end result in the Bush Administration’s disdain for diplomacy and the doctrine of preemptive war–which no other president has ever endorsed. It is also financially unsustainable. The most galling thing, however, is the euphemism they call “will.” What they mean is the lives of our fellow citizens. Only a coward fights to the last with someone else’s child.
While we’re on the subject can anyone tell me what fight for survival we are actually in? Does anyone really think that the U.S. is about to be subsumed into bin Laden’s fantastical caliphate? It is Hofstadter’s paranoid mindset unleashed on the country:
The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms–he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millenialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date fort the apocalypse….
As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated–if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.
The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman–sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional).
It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry. Secret organizations set up to combat secret organizations give the same flattery.
Crazy people are running the country.
*The question of whether or not the U.S. is an empire would require a whole set of posts.