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Triadic Failure

Bank Regulation, Drone Warfare, Cracks in the Alliance

by NORMAN POLLACK

The Obama administration isn’t inexperienced, it is criminal.  This accounts for its failures, all glaringly visible in just the past week, which POTUS himself will not admit as failures but weasel out of through posturing or otherwise invoke specious arguments.  Much goes on regularly in USG (no branch is exempt, Congress and the Court vying with the Executive for temporary honors—this may change week-to-week—in elevating capital at the people’s expense), so that the recent past is illustrative rather than exceptional in still further weakening the foundations of the Republic.  Reaction is on a role in America, wearing the ingratiating smile of liberalism.  I refer first to the Eavesdropping Scandal, second, further revelations on targeted assassination, and third, the pending Morgan Chase settlement.  I’ve written on each here, but extensive NYT Comments, not previously published in CP, prompt additional discussion, because of an overriding point: the fascistic-inclined symmetry of the Obama policy framework.

Symmetry implies “beauty of form arising from balanced proportions” (Webster’s Ninth Collegiate), yet, as in so much else, Obama transmogrifies what he touches or rather puts his mind to, so that “beauty” takes the form of women and children vaporized now blood spats on the pavement thanks to his own authorization and executed from the distance of 8,000 miles off; and “balanced proportions” become so completely out of balance and assuming such grotesque proportions, as to say, what is good for the United States must therefore be good for the rest of the world, and somehow if not, that must not be permitted to change the superior-inferior comprehensive relationship.

Symmetry also, beyond Webster, implies an organic core from which the sum-total of parts radiate out.  In America, that core is shared between capitalism and militarism, or analytically speaking, these form a power-oriented syncretism, the resulting fusion structurally realized as the militarization of capitalism, and such offshoots or radiating arcs from the center as deregulation (the better for consolidated private wealth as the economic base for military prowess and commercial expansion to be established), armed drone assassination (the better for making terror a central goal in executing policy), and spying on world leaders (the better to underscore cynicism, nihilism, and openly declaring hegemony, to elicit the response of authoritarian submissiveness) complement and complete the organic systemic design.

There are no mistakes.  Banks are deliberately let off the hook, women and children deliberately slain (the signature strikes on first responders and funerals), personal cell phone and state communications deliberately intercepted, because each of these is testimony to the unrestrained power of the offending nation, us (to paraphrase Pogo), and each, deemed essential to keeping the US in a position of global economic-ideological preeminence, the better to serve its capitalistic ambitions and requirements.  The converse practice, in each of these areas, would reveal (as Americans see it) unsuspected weaknesses endangering the Homeland, undermining confidence in the efficacy of American might, even call into question the doctrine of Exceptionalism, and the presumed leadership and moral standing domestic and foreign conferred by its tenets of divine blessing.  Destroying civilians, their body parts littering the landscape, before the eyes of their families (see Comment 2), is the practical work of pacification, i.e., normalization of the hegemonic assertion.  Who would believe US claims to moral leadership in the world, otherwise?  Facilitating banking promiscuity, likewise, given the need to strengthen the only morally-ideologically just system, capitalism, particularly its American imprimatur, and keep it safe from terrorists and—the deep-lying anxiety seen in the Red Scare, McCarthyism, and permanently ingrained in the American imagination—the fear of a socialist modernizing alternative.  (Whether from cultural lag or opportunism, Russia and China remain on the US most-wanted list, their own socialist credentials now long gone.)  And invading the private as well as public space of Merkel, Hollande, Rousseff, and the list is climbing to thirty-five world leaders, is simply frosting on the cake—impunity in capital letters.

The Ship of State is on course.  The EU has been put on notice that friendship is spelled in letters of realpolitik, and even then encrypted to hide US multilayered advantages (including the support of NATO in interventionist adventures); Russia, as in Putin’s sage advice about not bombing Syria, has stiffened Obama’s upper lip; the Pacific-first strategy is fully operable, the deployment of military assets and joint-exercises on schedule; drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan continuing; embassies reinforced and more greatly fortified (Halliburton, thank you), ditto; in sum, under Obama, I would argue, more than in the case of Bush II and earlier, we see a firm hand on the tiller, speeding from one confrontation to the next, while juicing up the resources—the extreme and still intensifying concentration of wealth—as reward and guiding purpose for all the military effort, as testimony to the virtues of capitalism, and, through wedding upper groups to American militarism, building a domestic society to which all in that strata can be proud: massive surveillance, the increasing abrogation of civil liberties, and the growing disparities of wealth and power.

MY three New York Times Comments follow, the first on eavesdropping (Oct. 23), the second, drones (Oct. 24), the third, bank regulation (Oct. 26):

I  

POTUS is remarkable, a multitasker, equally gifted in eavesdropping and assassination, NSA and CIA–what a country and administration to be proud of, amoral to the core. Oh, but Exceptionalism excuses all sins; indeed, transforms sins into virtues. What we see is symptomatic of America’s decline in political-economic-ideological terms, which therefore necessitates a drastic increase in military power. And we, the American people, take it, loving every minute of intervention, armed drone attacks, the famous PIVOT to the Pacific, with naval power lined up to isolate, contain, confront China.

Merkel isn’t Hollande, himself prepping to become Obama’s lap-dog after Blair. The “natives” are rising up! They’ve seen enough of US global hegemony, and bank practices which brought the world’s financial system into crisis. Stupendous military budgets, directly related to a shrinking safety net, is a formula for the predisposition to aggression.

Bipartisan unity on everything fundamental to the degradation of a democratic people and society, with SURVEILLANCE an inexcusable practice of, and sure-fire indication of, the rise of totalitarianism in America, is being carried forward, not by Tea Partiers, but under a liberal/progressive banner, Obama leading the procession followed by Dimon and the Wall Street battalion. Europe is restive, the Far East ditto, because of US violations of international law. And no sensible leadership, say, an Adlai Stevenson, anywhere in sight.

II

“Transparency and accountability” are the worst enemies of the Obama administration, not only on armed drones for targeted assassination, but also every consequential area of public policy. I urge NYT to see the integrated picture: drones = political murder; massive surveillance = totalitarianism. Together, with deregulation, one finds an alarming configuration of power antithetical to democratic government. My current hero in the world is Angela Merkel, for she alone stands up to this imposter, posing as a statesman.

I have the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports mentioned in the editorial before me, and I deeply thank NYT for bringing them and their contents to the attention of its readers. Let me quote Nabeela, the eight-year-old granddaughter of Mamana Bibi, who was struck down in her garden by a drone missile: “I wasn’t scared of drones before, but now when they fly overhead I wonder, WILL I BE NEXT?” (caps, mine) My granddaughter is about the same age and looks very much like her. I cried when I read that and looked at Nabeela’s photo in the Amnesty report, the face of a child, the eyes of one who has known tragedy.

I’m sorry. Delete this if you must, but we are dealing with a moral monster, with his hit list and advisers on Terror Tuesdays planning assassinations. Not the stuff of Thomas Jefferson or FDR. The editorial mentions collateral damage: there is widespread evidence of specifically hitting first responders and attacking funerals

III

Thoughtful editorial, yet insufficiently punitive and not prepared to address the entire regulatory apparatus, whether banking, market, climate change, etc. How expect justice to be done, when regulators historically SHIELD (NYT thankfully uses the term) the interests to be affected? $13B with respect to Morgan–large as it may seem–leaves the bank, the industry, and regulatory framework perfectly intact, therefore plainly violating NYT’s justified call for “adequate redress for the wrongdoing and clear accountability up the chain of command.”

Even you admit, “this hardly seems punitive,” particularly in light of write-off tax advantages and profitability of units acquired. What’s to be done? First, expose the fraudulence of the charge, substantive regulation of Morgan would “endanger the economy,” which makes us all HOSTAGE to Morgan, B. of A., and other megabanks. Second, sharpen the attack, largely ignored, of Obama’s record of and passion for deregulation, which makes a farce of govt.-in-the-public-interest, and sharpen the analysis of the harm done by the financialization of capitalism in America, introducing systemic imbalances (viz., weakness of manufacturing, etc.). Third, lower both barrels: there must be criminal prosecutions at the highest levels. Dimon and others should NOT be placed above the law.

The trouble is, they are: Obama, shill for Wall Street; Obama, bleeding the bottom-half of American society, to enrich the upper-tenth. Speak truth to power.

Norman Pollack is the author of The Populist Response to Industrial America (Harvard) and The Just Polity (Illinois), The Humane EconomyThe Just Polity, ed. The Populist Mind, and co-ed. with Frank Freidel, Builders of American Institutions. Guggenheim Fellow. Prof. Emeritus, History, Michigan State.  He is currently writing The Fascistization of America: Liberalism, Militarism, Capitalism.  E-mail: pollackn@msu.edu.