The Widdershins

An unexamined fantasy…

Posted on: February 18, 2015

A wintry Wednesday to all our Widdershin friends. I hope you are warm and enjoying mobility without the assistance of a dogsled team. I’m still on the puny side. This round of meds seems to have me just behind Bruce Jenner in my transition or so it seems. As we say here in the Big Blue Nation of Kentucky Wildcat basketball, this course of steroids has me in the throes of men-o-paws.

About half my day is spent in fits of hot flashes, shaking nervousness, and just general unfocused anxiety. All I can say is if I had had one chromosome of athletic ability, steroids would have been enough to send me back to the library as the nerd I was destined to be. Even watching the Westminster Dog Show, ’roid rage has caused me to be irritated at the Affenpincher.

As a way of introduction into today’s subject, let’s review: In the thirteen years since 9/11, almost 8,000 Americans have Democracybeen killed and somewhere between half a million to a million Iraqis and Afghanis are dead, we have irrevocably broken or maimed hundreds of thousands of others, spent about $3.0 Trillion, and perfected the art of creating failed nation states courtesy of what conservative thought leaders call the “worst foreign policy decisions in the history of the country.”

Astonishingly, in these thirteen years only 65 Americans have been victims of what could be conceivably described as terrorist acts. While uncomfortably close to the modern-day heresy of science, statistically, there is a 1 in 1,700,000 chance of dying at the hands of terrorists. Conversely and with an astronomically higher probability, you have a 1 in 700,000 chance of being bonked in the head by a meteor.

Yet in these thirteen years there has not been an iota of reexamination in the foundational premise of nation building — a neo-con anathema until Dubya’s selection as President. Since that time nation building, premised upon democratization, has been the vestigial tail plaguing the fever dream wars of the neo-cons. No one dares question this last point since one-size-fits-all democracy is little more than a third grade panacea plumbed from the intellectual depths of a dime store mirror.

What got me thinking about this was last Sunday morning’s discussion on Meet the Chuckles Todd. Senator Jack Reed was giving the Democratic perspective and John “Get off my yard” McCain was giving the Republican spin. As might be expected, Reed thought we should have never invaded Iraq and McCain thought we should have never left Iraq. Yawn. Neither inquiry was much beyond the old axiom of, “If all you have in your toolbox is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.”

Translated into the lack of American foreign policy self-reflection, this axiom becomes: When you have the most lethal and effective armed forces in the history of the world, everything begins to look like a war. Here’s a news flash — we can bomb extremists with impunity, but it will never eradicate the extremism. We have tried to force the hammer of participatory democracy into hands ill-prepared to do much beyond break, harm, or kill based upon insular tribal philosophies.

My thinking on this subject was bolstered by an excellent piece of long-form journalism in The New Yorker by Jon Lee Anderson entitled The Unraveling. The subject is Libya and the east/west civil war now consuming the failed nation. It is a long read, but a good one detailing the unintended consequences of a possible Somalia on the Mediterranean. Given the long historical affiliation of France and Libya, France led the interventionist charge with the U.K and the U.S. reluctantly agreeing, but agreeing nonetheless.

A French philosopher named Bernard-Henri Levy was one of the first to lead the charge for intervention. Here are his reasons when asked, “Why did you support attacking and intervening in Libya?”

Why? I don’t know! Of course, it was human rights, for a massacre to be prevented, and blah, blah, blah — but I also wanted them to see a Jew defending the liberators against a dictatorship, to show fraternity. I wanted the Muslims to see that a Frenchman — a Westerner and a Jew — could be on their side.

At its essence are these words any different from the heraldic claims of “American exceptionalism” surrounding the Iraq War? Granularly, it’s the same egotism as “American exceptionalism” — whatever that is — showing the world we are draped in deep blue hero stuff and whatever we do couldn’t possibly be as bad as the unknowns lurking just beyond the horizon.

Gen. Khalifa Haftar, former Qaddifi operative and financed political refugee, former CIA affiliated Virginia resident, now, General of the Libyan National Army

Gen. Khalifa Haftar, former Qaddifi operative and financed political refugee, former CIA affiliated Virginia resident, now, General of the Libyan National Army

What is politically suicidal in questioning this type of American egotism is a simple truism: Need begets despair and that desperation fathers violence. It is this orphaned violence that then looks for meaning by craving a sense of self and needing a place to be. It is this type of violence that easily falls prey to the perfect predator of a cause, be it ISIL, Al Qaeda, jihadists, ethnic militias, tribal warlords, or disaffected young men trolling the internet.

To dare advance such a notion is inviting an instantaneous political scrum with you at the bottom. A perfect example is Deputy State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf who said essentially what I have written here and was met with a vociferous cacophony of derision.

It seems as if this lesson though, without being enunciated as a policy, might be gaining purchase. We can no longer police the region of the Middle East while at the same time being criticized by the beneficiaries of that unending patrol. For instance, after twenty-one Egyptian Christians were symbolically beheaded on the Mediterranean shore facing Rome (either old Rome or “new Rome” of Constantinople), another 45 burned alive, Egypt started bombing Libya. Jordan and the U.A.E. are bombing Syria. Europe is now reexamining its own security and reconsidering criticism of the intelligence troves we have supplied them through NSA phone intercepts.

All in all, sixty countries are now contemplating their own positions and policies regarding terrorism and radicalization. It seems nothing so much as concentrates an autocratic despot as his impending demise at the hands of a murderous mob.

It is just this simple — a ballot box will never resolve radical extremism without first being preceded by a lunch box. We can never expect a mishmash of 7th century theology to be superimposed on the realities of the 21st century and translate into anything other than unfocused anger. It is this anger, unfettered by law or cultural ostracism, that finds its most productive channel in conspiracy theory atrocity barbarism.

There are successful models of this type of delayed democratization transformation — Singapore, Taiwan, One Size Fits AllSouth Korea, Malaysia — of setting in place the necessary structures for economic success before subjecting the transitioning government to the ballot box. It isn’t neat. It isn’t 30-second sound bite friendly. It isn’t quick. It does make us face an uncomfortable reality. Before we dismantle a country’s social structure — no matter how offensive it is to our traditional sensibilities — a compatible social structure must be in place to regulate and eventually modify behavior.

Why is this important? This issue will be the central focus of the 2016 Presidential campaign. Hillary is uniquely qualified to understand the inherent weaknesses of the old neo-con dogma. Let’s hope she has the opportunity and strength to bring that much-needed learning to the world.

Take the conversation in any direction you might like.


22 Responses to "An unexamined fantasy…"

Excellent, thought provoking post. My fear is that “American Exceptionalism” is rapidly morphing into “Manifest Destiny”.
And you are spot on – nature abhors a vacuum, so if you eradicate a group, one will rise and fill up the space allotted.

@1, Chat agreed on “American Exceptionalism” — it seems to be one of those baby boomer concepts sold along with suburban ranch row houses and creationism in the ’50s. By those standards I should adhere to it, but just as with sports, it seems as though I don’t have the right chromosomes.

I’m one of the aforementioned Boomers. We were told that America, the shining example of democracy, stood ready to assist other nations in their quest for liberty. Somewhere along the way, it conflated with Manifest Destiny, and the peoples in question will adopt our ways, or else.

Prolix said: About half my day is spent in fits of hot flashes, shaking nervousness, and just general unfocused anxiety.

Well Prolix, if taking that prednisone leads to you writing a post like this one my friend, you should get a PRN prescription for it. 😉 Absolutely great post and spot on.

a neo-con anathema until Dubya’s selection as President.

Absolutely agree. Do we recall when Clinton was accused of “nation building” in..what Bosnia/Serbia?

I shouldn’t say anything about this because I have not attended a service today, but if I were home I would probably take advantage of this.

@7: I could live with that.

@7: I wonder how they handle confessions? 😆

@8, They handle confessions by you putting your phone on speaker and then putting the phone in the glove box then confessing away.

@5, During the 2000 campaign, Dubya specifically campaigned on NOT being a nation builder or engaging in nation building. Of course, when the media forgot they had a job to do in the run up to the Iraq invasion, you heard nary a peep about that little inconsistency.

@9: I suppose that you would have privacy by then sticking your head into the glove box?

Prolix@9: Wow, I’m surprised you’re here today. We got terribly cold last night and I saw on the weather map that y’all were going to be waaay cold (below zero?). We’ll be down in the teens again tonight and it did not get above freezing today. Brrrrrrr!!!

This is a really comprehensive and informative article on ISIS, where they came from, and why they are a difficult foe not just for the West, but for Islamic countries around them. Bush’s war in Iraq is the reason ISIS exists today.

And another fascinating article, a Russian-American novelist spends a week watching nothing but Russian TV. It’s by turns funny and horrifying. Some of these issues I discussed in my guest posts on Ukraine and Russia.

Hey D!!! You stayin’ warm up there in New Yawk?

Fredster, yes! But it really hasn’t been that bad. We’ve gotten barely any snow. And I got a ski mask, so walking around isn’t too hard! Other places have gotten it so much worse than us. Although all the news cares about is weather in NYC, of course.

Yay…one of my fave movies is coming on, Dr. Strangelove!

@DYB: Yes, I was concerned about the low temps for you all.

And I got a ski mask, so walking around isn’t too hard

Oh my…man walking around NYC in a ski mask. Nothing to see here, move along…move along. 😆

I haven’t been stopped in the ski mask yet!

@19: Hahahahahahahaaa!!! Have you walked into a store with it on?

Actually yes! K-Mart. The security guard stopped me. I’m thinking, “Oh lord, here we go.” And he says: “Where did you get that mask? I need one like that and can’t find one.” True story!

@21: Oh that’s too funny!!!

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