Mike the Mad Biologist

Triumph_poster

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.

Comments

  1. #1 Alejandro
    March 16, 2007

    Hehe. Before clicking on the link I assumed without thinking that any Hofstadter quoted on Science Blogs had to be Douglas. The quote didn’t seem very much in his style…

  2. #2 Michael Schmidt
    March 16, 2007

    “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.”

    My dad, a clergyman with a Ph.D. in Political Science, would probably analyze these historical facts in a different way: Rome, the Tsars, and other rich world powers fell to poorer ones because they lacked moral authority. You need to embody the morality of your people if you want to inspire those people to fight your causes. Empires are rarely moral, but almost always exploitative. The people on the ground, both in and outside the military, have a moral sense. Their “will” to fight depends on their morality being reflected in their leaders. You look at the lying, cheating and stealing in our “empire’s” leaders and wonder why anybody fights for them at all.

  3. #3 Jonathan Vause
    March 16, 2007

    *The question of whether or not the U.S. is an empire would require a whole set of posts.

    A simple ‘yes’ would do.

  4. #4 blf
    March 16, 2007

    Morons indeed! Even if the premise was plausible, when fighting, someone will loose

    Oh wait, I get it! The Big Moron in the Sky picks the winner. All’s right then…

  5. #5 SteveG
    March 16, 2007

    It’s a beautiful move that just clap louder, utterly unfalsifiable and allows you to always blame the liberals for your own failures.

    I think that Hofstadter’s paraniod characterization is part of it, but you also have to throw in the testerone poisoning element with those who can’t admit they are wrong and have to continually ratchet things up thinking if they go double or nothing long enough, they are bound to win eventually.

  6. #6 Brian X
    March 17, 2007

    G. Gordon Liddy is a big fan of willpower. He’s also a demented freak with self-mutilation tendencies. Make of that what you will.

  7. #7 Kapitano
    March 17, 2007

    Empires are economic, by definition. They exist to make wealth, and they fall when their economies collapse. Anyone who refuses to recognise this just ties themselves up in rhetorical knots.

    Empires might be enforced by the military or the imposition of a moral code, but anyone who claims military occupation or the spreading of a moral message is the point of having an empire is confusing the scaffolding with the structure.

    Apologists for the neocons have to constantly perform a circle squareing operation, whereby draining a foreign country for the benefit of the empire somehow benefits the country at the expense of the empire.

  8. #8 Michael Schmidt
    March 18, 2007

    “Empires might be enforced by the military or the imposition of a moral code, but anyone who claims military occupation or the spreading of a moral message is the point of having an empire is confusing the scaffolding with the structure.”

    Just to clarify, I claimed no such thing. Emprires are exploitative, and are thus incompatible with the native morality of the people. I’m not talking about any “imposition of a moral code;” I’m talking about the instinctive “golden rule” morality that doesn’t have to be–and cannot be–imposed by anyone. Empires are doomed to fail because of their moral bankruptcy. I don’t believe empires can spread a moral message.

    Maybe you got confused by mentioning that my dad is a clergyman; maybe the brainless right has so distorted the picture of what religions can be that you assume that he would be an apologist of the right and of empires. He is the opposite, endlessly warring against “principalities and powers.”

  9. #9 Paul Murray
    February 24, 2009

    Further to the point of empires being economic: war only enriches an empire when there is loot to be had. Yes, it really always was (and is) about the oil.

    The failure of this war is precisely in that the US is not suceeding in looting the oil. The taliban, the politics, and all the rest of it – the “freedon” and “democracy” – mean nothing. Unless they can get the black stuff into tankers and ship it home, the US will have lost.