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2. The Political Crisis 
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Americans are too free that they are unable to get what they need. They can have everything so they do not take what is important only what is desired. The vehicle is their symbol and they uphold this symbol on the alter of cheap foreign goods.

The world doesn't like American foreign policy because after 9/11 sympathy was given and often returned with suspicion, or demand that you were either a supporter or opposition. Iran suspended the daily "Death to America" chats and offered condolences only to be listed as a terrorist state. Iran feared they would be Americas next target to face military force, they probably were, now they rightly feel power and freedom in Americans faults as a war, political and economic machine. A failing America weakens other institutions such as the UN but not wholly, just in principal.

The American strategy of war is at best a classical example. The Nazi blitzkrieg with modern artillery. Even then, during the WWII, French underground resistance was a problem much easier dealt with through the suspension of human rights. Something America only secretly and unfavorably can get away with. American lack of intelligence is a huge problem and the greatest national security threat that is rarely talked about. America acted following 9/11 in a manner obviously suggesting that it didn't really know: they relied on poor information and propaganda. It couldn't have acted in any other way. America blaming itself? No f**king way, not a chance in frosty hell, not even in my wildest dreams! Unspeakable crimes? Not really, stories best not told around the children perhaps but undoubtedly the most representative of our classical, modern and post-modern human history. A history slopping around in blood. Can you really see in America a Stalin, a Hitler, a Lenin, a Mao or even a Pinochet etc? I think not: then there is nothing that should be unspeakable about America; but it does make for a convenient metaphor doesn't it. People say that you see more death on TV than by any other manner; however, the telling of this death has been intrinsically altered. The idea that one lost life is somehow important agonizes and holds appeal in that this is how we see ourselves, rugged individuals fighting for our lives (self-gratification, justification, and rationalization). Meanwhile we counter each other in self-inflated subterfuge as the whole planet goes to shit.

http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page= ... _ctrl=1223

Perhaps the worst would be not to give credit where it is due. The positive America and the mistaken America can be seen as two very separate topics. Positive America following a certain set of characteristics and mistaken America another. And what is America? Is it the soldier pulling the trigger or the missionary from the Bible Belt? Europe must be wallowing in its obscurity right now because nobody bitches about their foreign policy all the time. I guess not getting results reducing AIDS, poverty and hunger is acceptable where supporting hostile politics is not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesser_of_ ... _principle

Can the government change the people in ways they are not willing to change? People elect those who will serve their self-interests. Nobody will win saying that they are not going to protect American freedom and safety, or that they will enact legislation which will result in loss of profit for the economy. Unfortunately the way to provide everything is to take from the weak. Bacevich rightly suggests that everything needs reform. Governments reflect the people who reflect what they have been given as children and sold as adults. This advertising is peddled, often surprisingly poorly, by those who want power.

http://www.caregivershome.com/professio ... cfm?UID=29



Thu Nov 06, 2008 6:38 pm
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Actually, Bacevich's view of the world is pretty far to the left, at least with regard to foreign policy and military matters. That's not a criticism; my political philosophy is also rather liberal. The main difference between his views and those you read in The Nation is that Bacevich doesn't mention economic factors like corporate power and the broadening gap between rich & poor.

Bacevich's depiction of our political institutions was depressing, but I couldn't argue with any of it. The bounds of mainstream political discourage don't make room for any policies less aggressive than Bill Clinton's. Even after the 2006 elections, the Democratic-majority Congress let the Iraq War continue.

Bacevich made some fascinating points about the ineptitude of the country's military and intelligence organizations, and how Presidents have as a result disregarded the opinions of the Pentagon and the CIA. It's great that JFK learned from the Bay of Pigs debacle, and chose to ignore the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs to invade Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, it was an enormous mistake for the Bush administration to dismiss the generals warning of the immense difficulty of an Iraq War and occupation.

I appreciated the historical arc, going from Forrestal to Nitze to Wolfowitz, explaining the mindset of the so-called Wise Men who have pushed US policy in such a nasty direction. That's a coherent big picture that I hadn't seen before.



Sun Nov 09, 2008 9:23 pm
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Yes, and what really strikes my is how beholden the nation has become in its own hindsight. Never have the people in power become so recitent and self-interested in the same paradigm. Everyone knows what the problem is now that it is too late, and it is not like recent history has shown anything less than a crystal clear warning. Those who say the situation isn't as bad as it seems are the same people who created this mess, had the greatest benefits, and now stand with the most to lose. Bush, Greenspan, and that $700 billion government banker guy, can't apologize because it would make everything they have said and done forefit, it would prove that they are incompetent and would force them to face up to their actions in a way that is much to real for their comfort.

It must be of top importance not to give in to the idea of the exceptional America that is somehow unlike what history has shown us as the political and soical norms for those in power. It is easy to acknowledge the statement that those in power are trapt and aggressive by their own facination with status, without realizing that we are the ones with the power.

When you feel that Bacevich is "left" do you mean that liberals are realistic. I would argue that there is no "left" or right to the American situation as presented by Bacevich, only reality and delusion, trial and error. The domination of the right with fundamentalist Americanism as a key to popular support is mirrored by the lefts natural role in the government structure as opposition. There is nothing inherent about being a liberal that would have prevented Afghanistan and Iraq. That said the role of Bush & Co. is insidious, these are the ones who absolutly must not be seen as exceptional!

The greatest emotional contract I feel towards Obama is the real chance that he will take meaningful steps to bring those responsible for true evil, toture and terrorism to justice (Bush, Dick, Rummy). Even though he has not promised as much I feel that he is least likely to grant an undue executive pardon as has been the norm. Bush may yet try to pardon himself. Bacevich bring this point up where those with responsibility are seen as immune to responsibility to their actions. This is a must change! It is as though the system is structure so promotion is given until the person reaches a level where they are incompetent and can progress no further. So you have a system full of progressive incompetents.



Mon Nov 10, 2008 3:18 pm
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Grim wrote:
Bush may yet try to pardon himself. Bacevich bring this point up where those with responsibility are seen as immune to responsibility to their actions. This is a must change! It is as though the system is structure so promotion is given until the person reaches a level where they are incompetent and can progress no further. So you have a system full of progressive incompetents.


wow. that's something I had not considered, but of course should have. Bush pardoning everyone involved. Of course he will. He basically did it for Libby. We'll never get to the bottom of what really happened. :wall:


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Mon Nov 10, 2008 6:53 pm
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Post Grim links to Ayn Rand
funny that you should do that.

You don't really mention her writings in your post, but if you look at all the recent corporate bailouts, it's looking like 'Atlas Shrugged' to me.

I'm not blaming this all on Bush, but (excluding the last 6 months), the pattern has been there particularly in the last 10 years. The last couple of months have been a hockey stick that is absolutely unbelievable. I'm sure that Ayn is spinning in her grave.


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Mon Nov 10, 2008 6:57 pm
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Grim wrote:
When you feel that Bacevich is "left" do you mean that liberals are realistic. I would argue that there is no "left" or right to the American situation as presented by Bacevich, only reality and delusion, trial and error. The domination of the right with fundamentalist Americanism as a key to popular support is mirrored by the lefts natural role in the government structure as opposition. There is nothing inherent about being a liberal that would have prevented Afghanistan and Iraq.

There's a worldview, which I largely agree with, associated with the contemporary American left. Bacevich shares that world view, at least with regard to matters involving the military and foreign policy. While I personally feel that that viewpoint corresponds to reality better than centrist or conservative perspectives, labeling it as leftist is more clear and less confrontational when addressing an online audience with differing beliefs.

A core component of the leftist philosophy is opposition to virtually all military action. (Where there have been leftist military organizations, most present-day American leftists are pacifists.) Military activity is viewed as immoral, since it usually leads to increased suffering, often among innocent civilians, instead of improving the situation. People on the left would rather avoid military action, cut defense spending, and post fewer soldiers overseas.

Though I personally had my doubts about invading Afghanistan after 9/11, it was clear that any electable US administration would attack a country that provided a haven to Osama bin Laden. However, launching a preemptive war against Iraq was such an extreme and boneheaded measure that only a right-winger like W would propose it. However, once it was on the agenda, far too many Democrats voted in favor of starting the war, and almost all of them continued to fund it.

Though the book jacket calls Bacevich a conservative, his depiction of the world is surprising close to Noam Chomsky's. It's not clear to me what definition of "conservative" would include Bacevich.



Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:04 am
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JulianTheApostate wrote:
Though the book jacket calls Bacevich a conservative, his depiction of the world is surprising close to Noam Chomsky's. It's not clear to me what definition of "conservative" would include Bacevich.

His category interests me, too. Either he keeps his conservatism pretty well hidden (as he does his religious affiliation), or we have to look back to the classical conservatism of people like Edmund Burke, and indeed to Bacevich's mentor, Reinhold Niebuhr. He also could be that currently rare bird, a member of the Christian left.

You mention Chomsky. As I reviewed this chapter, it struck me how radical is Bacevich's view. He begins by calling Washington dysfunctional, but his evaluation of our central government turns out to be much worse than that. Washington actually endangers our welfare. It is an extreme view, and one can see why he puts the word "crisis" in every chapter title I find myself being just a bit cautious in going all the way along with him. He makes strong assertions, and this is not the type of book where elaborate proof is offered for the assertions. Rather, the book is a polemic.

If Bachevic is correct in calling our situation a crisis, it will take a president bent on addressing it two terms to even make a start, it would seem to me. That is assuming that any president can wield enough power to turn things around.



Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 am
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Quote:
JTA: Though the book jacket calls Bacevich a conservative, his depiction of the world is surprising close to Noam Chomsky's. It's not clear to me what definition of "conservative" would include Bacevich.

DWill: His category interests me, too. Either he keeps his conservatism pretty well hidden (as he does his religious affiliation), or we have to look back to the classical conservatism of people like Edmund Burke, and indeed to Bacevich's mentor, Reinhold Niebuhr. He also could be that currently rare bird, a member of the Christian left
.

Chomsky's conservatism, which I think is a sibling of Bacevich's, involves commitment to the founding ideals of classical liberalism: individual liberty, public responsibility, freedom of expression, and the necessity for creative work and critical inquiry. I think they are siblings: not twins. Chomsky makes the case that the natural (and correct) evolution of classical liberalism would be a kind of libertarian socialism...an enlightened anarchism or anarcho-sydicalism dependent upon wide-spread participatory democracy in all areas of life.

I'm not sure, but I haven't discovered Bacevich's ideas concerning participatory democracy beyond electoral politics. Chomsky argues that all structures of domination require confrontation and challenge: authority in all shapes and sizes must prove its validity before imposing its will. Legitimate authority (in the workplace, the academy, the marketplace, the family, the forest reserve...) rests upon democratic participation of those impacted by decision making. Notice, this is not simply an electoral event that limits political power to elected officials: it is an all-pervasive attitude and practice...a continual criticality and constant confrontation with authority in whatever role it takes.

I think there is a deeper fraternal link between Chomsky and Bacevich, and I think DWill alludes to it by identifying Bacevich as perhaps part of the Christian Left: it is a link to those ancient Jewish Prophets who served as pugnacious pains in the ass to royal and ecclesiastic centers of power...and who also castigated the masses for abandoning righteous ways of living...who predicted terrible fates for all involved unless radical change took place...who identified the role of the intellectual as the voice of justice and reminder of moral accountability...who envisioned what a righteous society would look like and challenged all to adjust their lives accordingly.



Wed Nov 12, 2008 12:21 pm
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Dissident Heart wrote:
Chomsky's conservatism, which I think is a sibling of Bacevich's, involves commitment to the founding ideals of classical liberalism: individual liberty, public responsibility, freedom of expression, and the necessity for creative work and critical inquiry.

You're defining conservatism vastly differently than the way most contemporary Americans think about it. While Bacevich's views may not fit into any standard category, it's ridiculous to call him a conservative.

Instead of trying to pigeonhole him, we should discuss Bacevich's ideas and whether his arguments are sensible.



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JulianTheApostate wrote:
Dissident Heart wrote:
Chomsky's conservatism, which I think is a sibling of Bacevich's, involves commitment to the founding ideals of classical liberalism: individual liberty, public responsibility, freedom of expression, and the necessity for creative work and critical inquiry.
You're defining conservatism vastly differently than the way most contemporary Americans think about it. While Bacevich's views may not fit into any standard category, it's ridiculous to call him a conservative. Instead of trying to pigeonhole him, we should discuss Bacevich's ideas and whether his arguments are sensible.
Conservatism is a useful term to discuss, in that its meaning is contested. Bacevich is a conventional American patriot. Christ Almighty, his son was killed in Iraq. Conservatism means building on what we have, with respect for existing institutions. It is contrasted to radicalism which calls for replacement of what we have by something different.

Bacevich sees Bush as the radical, with Bush departing markedly from conservative tradition, but exploiting the class basis of conservative tradition as a device to steal the Republican Party and achieve his deluded radical ends of world domination.

In quoting Niebuhr, a mainstream Christian prophet, Bacevich is arguing that conservative America has the resources to engage in dialogue with the national security state, which at least since Eisenhower has sought to appropriate the meaning of conservatism for its rather wild purposes.

I am not sure that DH is right to call Chomsky conservative, as my superficial understanding of Chomsky's views is that he is more socialist than market oriented.

I see the economic view of support for free markets as a defining characteristic of conservatism, and by this standard Bacevich is no radical. Rather, he is looking to how to make capitalism work, observing that the national security state has stolen resources which should have been invested to produce wealth. Capitalism has always had its buccaneers, and Bacevich is calling them to account.



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I don't know, Robert. The terms conservative and liberal are indeed confusing. They seemed to have traded places over time, with liberals formerly in favor of free market, laissez faire economics and conservatives less gung ho about the accelerated change that unbridled capitalism would bring. Bacevich does call us back to origins to a great extent (even though he tells us there was a worm in our apple from the start). That is the sense in which I find him conservative. A free-market kind of modern conservative? I didn't hear him talk about this in the book. Touting the free market might conflict just a bit with his thesis that proifligacy got us into the mess we're in. Profligacy could have been enabled by the free market, which seemed to be functioning just wonderfully to keep our supply coming.



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Chomsky's conservatism challenges tyranny in all its forms: especially as it takes shape in the workplace and corporate boardroom.



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Reinhold Niebuhr appears to be a very quotable writer. Of course, Bacevich sprinkles his insights throughout the book. One I especially like. on p. 122: ""the whole drama of history is enacted on a frame of meaning too large for human comprehension or management." The truth of the statement should be a prerequisite for election to high office, Bacevich says. The opposite belief constitutes a large part of the hubris whose bad effects we're now seeing. I would also add that snap characterizations of of history, of which we're all probably guilty, are always suspect, for the reason Niebuhr states.

On the same page, Bacevich convicts us, the American people, more than any other party as responsible for the nation's woes. We have "allowed our democracy to be hijacked." He could have added, "while we weren't looking." We've refined our entertainments to such a degree that we have no time to pay attention. I recall that Charles DeGaulle despaired that getting the French people to sacrifice seemed an impossiblity, faced with 200 different types of cheeses. We have a similar situtaion, not with cheese, but with our 500 channels of TV.



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Ah, ye olde political debate! :bow:

A defining point of liberalism includes that:

"Liberals define liberalism itself as 'freedom', so they rarely think consent is required for the imposition of a liberal society. In fact, most would say it can not be imposed, inherently. After the Cold War this belief has acquired a geostrategic significance: many western liberal-democrats now believe, that a war to impose a liberal-democratic society is inherently just. This belief influences interventionist policy, but as yet no war for the sole purpose of liberalization has been fought."

This goes against what I would previously defined a liberal as, I always assumed that to be a liberal was to accept things as they are and to move forwards to a more accepting social order for the benefit of all people. But it is true that liberals also as a matter of definition would believe that:

"Liberalism is therefore inherently hostile to competing non-liberal societies - which it sees not simply as different, but as wrong. In the last 10 years, Islamic society has replaced the Communist state, as the perceived 'opposite' to a liberal society."

These technical points-of-facts seem to run contrary to what Bacevich and Chomsky's message continually delivers potentially meaning that neither is truly a liberal. However, does Bacevich, a former army official, ever debate the necessity of war under appropriate situations, or of protecting American freedoms? Not directly he talks rather about his great concern that the notion of exceptional America responsibility/legitimacy to act out of turn with the rest of the world has gone beyond the limits of the system by which it was created, especially considering the results and consequences. A liberal would feel that any action is necessary to spread the democratic form of freedom and realize the ideological ends of the system.

When he talks of "the crisis of profligacy," he never actually denies that the people had the rights do do as they wish all along, rather that the results of their blinded and unleashed inhibitions should have been rationally moderated. Again I feel that the liberal would advocate freedom for the members of his ideological group at any cost to the outsiders.

He talks about limits of power, and the undesired consequences of the exceptional American questioning the necessity of it for equivalent American freedoms, saying that exceptionalism is false and dangerous in the sense that it is woefully misguided.

"...neoconservative hearts certainly beat a little faster, as they undoubtably did when he went on to declare the United States to devote itself to 'ending tyranny in our world.' Yet Bush was simply putting his own gloss on a time-honoured conviction ascribing to the United States a uniqueness of character and purpose." (Limits of Power pg 18 )

Where I think that the liberal would see that the motivation for action as an acceptable extension of liberal-democratic ideology would find outrage only in the apparent lack of competency during execution of this expression: the interactive system of Americanism.

Finally, and most importantly in my view, he shows concern that as a result of recent American history the people have lost a measure of their freedoms, where in fact the defense of the required yet unintended loss of necessary freedom is what I see as a motivating rational behind his entire book. The end of American Exceptionalism ie The end of American Freedom as we Enjoy it. I believe that this is technically a conservative arguement: that the loss of certain freedoms currently taken for granted will be a necessary yet acceptable result of the current atmosphere.

"Liberals believe that the form of society should be the outcome of processes. These processes should be interactive and involve all members of society. The market is an example, probably the best example, of what liberals mean by process. Liberals are generally hostile to any 'interference with process'. Specifically, liberals claim that the distribution of wealth as a result of the market is, in itself, just. Liberals reject the idea of redistribution of wealth as a goal in itself."

"Liberals therefore reject any design or plan for society - religious, utopian, or ethical. Liberals feel that society and state should not have fixed goals, but that 'process should determine outcome'. This anti-utopianism became increasingly important in liberal philosophy, in reaction to the Communist centrally-planned economies: it anticipated the extreme deregulation-ism of later neoliberalism."

To respond quickly to another comment it is to my imperfect understanding that market liberalism is typified by the free-market rather than conservatism which would favour regulations.

All quotes except the one from Limits of Power lifted from:

http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Trea ... alism.html

I am sure there are many holes in this reasoning so please flame away I am interested in where this goes. Unless it is off topic.



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In his book The New American Militarism Bacevich says in the preface that:

Quote:
"Only upon leaving the army...as much in response to deeply felt religious convictions as anything else, I became a self-described conservative."


Quote:
"Today, I still situate myself culturally on the right. And I continue to view the remedies proffered by mainstream liberalism with skepticism. But my disenchantment with what passes for mainstream conservatism, embodied in the present Bush administration and its groupies, is just about absolute."


Quote:
"Certainly, someone for whom service in Vietnam did not figure as a formative experience or who does not share my own Catholic conservative inclinations might well interpret the same facts differently."


:book:



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