FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Lethal Ideologies

Paris.

The determination of the Republican congressional majority to destroy the country’s legacy of what once was known (in religious circles, at least) as social justice is being accomplished amidst the ignorance of the vast majority that such a thing ever existed and was defended, in the 1940s and 1950s and even after, by what were known as progressive Republicans. Not only has that breed been stamped out but so has the memory that such a movement existed under the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover (a humanist, if a credulous economist), Dwight Eisenhower, Wendell Willkie, Thomas Dewey, and even under the demonized Richard Nixon.

What has replaced it has been an ignorant and repressive socio-political ideology that rests on assumptions of class and individual privilege devoid of responsibility. The United States has experienced this before. It might in Rumsfeldian idiom be called one of the known knowns of American history; and that history would indicate that it will eventually be brought to an end by electoral choice, after voters have experienced its consequences. When this will happen is an unknown known.

This ideology in its modern American version is a “conservative” attack on the popular rights proclaimed in Europe in the nineteenth century by such genuinely conservative figures as Prussia’s Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (in 1883-1887) and Pope Leo XIII, in his 1891 Encyclical Letter “Rerum Novarum,” intended to liberate people from a condition in which “the rich had in effect enslaved the poor.” The Encyclical demanded the guarantee to workers of a minimum wage, the right to form unions, to bargain collectively, and to possess individual property. Bismarck, “against violent opposition,” created national sickness, accident and old age insurance, limits on child and women’s labor, and fixed working hours for laborers.

The contemporary rationale for oppressing the poor is national debt and deficit, which could otherwise be relieved only by raising taxes on the rich and requiring corporations to bear an equitable share of the national tax burden, which in the Republican party, and a part of the Democratic party today, is unacceptable (and plausibly thought politically suicidal, in view of the current alignment of available political funds and of the legislation governing campaign practice – quite possibly irreversible, since this alignment would seem automatically to disallow reversal).

There is another possibility for ending national indebtedness which is rendered impossible by the power of cowardice. That possibility is to end the country’s two trillion-dollar wars against “terror,” and its futile effort to maintain what is seen as a crucial strategic domination of global affairs, an increasingly expensive, steadily deteriorating, and seriously unreasonable undertaking.

The irrationality of trying to rule the world is widely sensed, even in Washington. The effort is cumbersome, horrendously costly, and everywhere unsuccessful. Even Barack Obama, the Chicago community organizer innocent of experience in international affairs, who took office with advisers who convinced him that Afghanistan was the “right war” and that Pakistan with its nuclear weapons had to be brought under decisive American influence, now has turned wary of further engagements.

He backed off from the Libyan intervention as rapidly as possible, even though he insisted, while doing so, that he would not hesitate to use American military power unilaterally not only when American interest were at stake but when its “values” were threatened. Conventional international opinion and neoconservative Washington interpreted this as a move by his administration towards “disengagement” and “isolationism.” Would that it were so.

He and others lack the courage of their doubts or criticisms, fearing still another American ground engagement in the Islamic world, but afraid to condemn the ones to which the United States is already committed because they fear electoral attack as “surrendering” to terrorism, “betraying our soldiers,” inviting the Taliban and al Qaeda to install Shari’a law in American courtrooms, and humbling America before the new caliphs – all of which is utter nonsense. People claim that “defeats” in the Middle East or Asia would create “terrorist lairs.” A terrorist lair can be created anywhere that is sparsely populated and has airstrips, or better yet, is heavily populated and inadequately policed. The major terrorist attacks on America, Britain and Spain were ultimately mounted from within those countries.

James Baker and Henry Kissinger have recently [in the Washington Post] said that the foreign policy choice between realism and idealism is “false,” proposing a substitute policy they describe as “pragmatic idealism,” since “our values impel us to alleviate human suffering; but as a general principle our country should do so militarily only when national interest is at stake.” In their next sentence they add that “Libya is arguably an exception to the rule.” Even they are afraid to offer more than equivocation.

Global war has silenced and numbed America. The national deficit is moral. The people pay in deprivation, indigence, ill-health, insecurity, the humiliation of men and women who cannot find work, support their offspring or properly educate their children in what it should mean to be an American.

WILLIAM PFAFF is the author of The Irony of Manifest Destiny, published in June 2010 by Walker and Company (New York) — his tenth and culminating work on international politics and the American destiny. He is a regular columnist for the International Herald Tribune. He can be reached through his website.

 

 

 

More articles by:

A D Hemming is a pseudonym this writer uses on a regular basis.

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail