fold up the tent: patriots with bonds in their pockets

…As the U.S. miltary officially leaves Iraq, much of us are still puzzled by the phenomenon of this conflict which pits the social, the psychological and the economic in contradictory positions vis. a vis. conventional thinking. Can the conflict be seen as the sundering apart of the feudal mechanisms that have defined Orientalism in the western mind since at least the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt and the west’s desire to impose bourgeois values with all its seething false morality of pacifist veneer contradicted by overwhelming force in a desperate effort to preserve the vestiges of the nation state idea, highly profitable, which is eroding at the edges along with many of the Voltaire/Stuart Mill assumptions regarding wealth and the inevitable invidious comparisons that must be embedded within the system to keep the cycle of profit and exploitation within the narrow bounds of our neo-colonial age. For the moment, we are still within the tradition of Clausewitz and his axiomatic theory that war is the continuation of policy.

image: ---Caudwell:It is quite different when the bourgeois States, through their coercive organisations, find themselves competing in the world arena for the backward lands. There is now no numerous exploited class menacing the existence of the class of bourgeois States as a whole. Inside the coercive State, if it came to a ‘show-down’, with street-fighting, bare hands, and man against man – the exploited would win. But in the Imperialistic arena the bourgeois States appear as highly developed organisms, for, thanks to the unification of the coercive State, they now dispose of all the resources of an advanced society, including the services, in the army, of the exploited class itself. The backward nations still play inside the world arena the role of the exploited class inside the State, but they are not a danger to the class of bourgeois States as a whole, as is the exploited class to the class of bourgeois as a whole inside the State. They are just inanimate things, almost defenceless, so much dead undeveloped territory.

The opposing view posits that the war gland and possible aggressive genomes will manifest themselves at inopportune moments as long as sex and aggression remain emblematic of human existence. Andre Breton as five star general putting psychic self-gratification on the front lines. The secret recesses of the human heart, ghosts in the machine holding armed marauders, rapists, pillagers, and sadists confronting decisions of armed conflict waged by rational men and women. Perhaps in the end its all about imposing the character and spirit of bourgeois values regarding property and affirmimg the coercive power of protection that is incumbent on this enterprise.

It goes without any effort of reason that a distinction exists in the case of Iraq between lawmaking and law-preserving violence.  As Walter Benjamin asserted,  lawmaking violence is foundational; the performance violence, society of the spectacle violence of a new order. A violence of inauguration. The violence of emergence. The violence of a not yet established legal and social order which claims historical precedent that will confirm it as having been just.  This is matched, ingeniously, by American style law-preserving violence, the kind of  violence undertaken systematically  by an already established state. A violence that is protective, conservative  and implemented in order to  defend the current legal order. It is the symbiosis of the two that from which we can see the foreign policy complexity of the West and although official departure from Iraq is now blessed by legal sanctity the American myth of pushing boundaries and new frontiers indicates Iraq as one chapter among many…

Slavoj Zizek: Along the same lines, Rightist commentators like George Will also immediately proclaimed the end of the American “holiday from history” – the impact of reality shattering the isolated tower of the liberal tolerant attitude and the Cultural Studies focus on textuality. Now, we are forced to strike back, to deal with real enemies in the real world… However, WHOM to strike? Whatever the response, it will never hit the RIGHT target, bringing us full satisfaction. The ridicule of America attacking Afghanistan cannot but strike the eye: if the greatest power in the world will destroy one of the poorest countries in which peasant barely survive on barren hills, will this not be the ultimate case of the impotent acting out? Afghanistan is otherwise an ideal target: a country ALREADY reduced to rubble, with no infrastructure, repeatedly destroyed by war for the last two decades… one cannot avoid the surmise that the choice of Afghanistan will be also determined by economic considerations: is it not the best procedure to act out one’s anger at a country for which no one cares and where there is nothing to destroy? Unfortunately, the possible choice of Afghanistan recalls the anecdote about the madman who searches for the lost key beneath a street light; when asked why there when he lost the key in a dark corner backwards, he answers: “But it is easier to search under strong light!” Read More:

Sontag: ...The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgement that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed super-power, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards. ... Read More: image:

To succumb to the urge to act now and retaliate means precisely to avoid confronting the true dimensions of what occurred on September 11 – it means an act whose true aim is to lull us into the secure conviction that nothing has REALLY changed. The true long-term threat are further acts of mass terror in comparison to which the memory of the WTC collapse will pale – acts less spectacular, but much more horrifying. What about bacteriological warfare, what about the use of lethal gas, what about the prospect of the DNA terrorism (developing poisons which will affect only people who share a determinate genome)? Instead of a quick acting out, one should confront these difficult questions: what will “war” mean in the XXIst century? Who will be “them,” if they are, clearly, neither states nor criminal gangs?…

Reza Deghati photo.---Alex Pareene:being a zingy writer and masterful debater, he was also a bellicose warmongering misogynist. Upon the death of the unlamented Earl Butz, Hitchens excoriated editors who published sanitized obituaries of a man remembered solely for a vulgar racist remark made in public. Hitchens leaves a rather more varied legacy, but it’s just as important not to whitewash his role in recent history. There was no more forceful intellectual voice in support of the Iraq War than Hitchens. There were others who were more prominent, more influential or more persuasive, but Hitchens was the perfect shill for an administration looking to cast its half-baked invasion plans as a morally righteous intervention, because only he could call upon a career of denunciations of totalitarianism and defenses of human rights. Read More: image:

…There is a partial truth in the notion of the “clash of civilizations” attested here – witness the surprise of the average American: “How is it possible that these people display and practice such a disregard for their own lives?” Is the obverse of this surprise not the rather sad fact that we, in the First World countries, find it more and more difficult even to imagine a public or universal Cause for which one would be ready to sacrifice one’s life? When, after the bombings, even the Taliban foreign minister said that he can “feel the pain” of the American children, did he not thereby confirm the hegemonic ideological role of this Bill Clinton’s trademark phrase? It effectively appears as if the split between First World and Third World runs more and more along the lines of the opposition between leading a long satisfying life full of material and cultural wealth, and dedicating one’s life to some transcendent Cause. Read More:

---Kurdish men play dominoes during the war in a café in the northern frontline town of Kifri. Photo by David Turnley.--- Read More:

However, this notion of the “clash of civilizations” has to be thoroughly rejected: what we are witnessing today are rather clashes WITHIN each civilization.Furthermore, a brief look at the comparative history of Islam and Christianity tells us that the “human rights record” of Islam (to use this anachronistic term) is much better than that of Christianity: in the past centuries, Islam was significantly more tolerant towards other religions than Christianity. NOW it is also the time to remember that

as through the Arabs that, in the Middle Ages, we in the Western Europe regained access to our Ancient Greek legacy. While in no way excusing today’s horror acts, these facts nonetheless clearly demonstrate that we are not dealing with a feature inscribed into Islam “as such,” but with the outcome of modern socio-political conditions….

Image: ---These changes prompted Clausewitz to ask: what is war? By setting the European wars in the context of political and social change he arrived at the insight that guided his theory: war was not a thing in itself, but was shaped by politics. As he wrote in the first chapter of On War, published in 1832, after his death, "war is nothing but the continuation of policy by other means."---Cale

…Every feature attributed to the Other is already present in the very heart of the US: murderous fanaticism? There are today in the US itself more than two millions of the Rightist populist “fundamentalists” who also practice the terror of their own, legitimized by (their understanding of) Christianity. Since America is in a way “harboring” them, should the US Army have punished the US themselves after the Oklashoma bombing? And what about the way Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson reacted to the bombings, perceiving them as a sign that God lifted up its protection of the US because of the sinful lives of the Americans, putting the blame on hedonist materialism, liberalism, and rampant sexuality, and claiming that America got what it deserved? America as a safe haven? When a New Yorker commented on how, after the bombings, one can no longer walk safely on the city’s streets, the irony of it was that, well before the bombings, the streets of New York were well-known for the dangers of being attacked or, at least, mugged – if anything, the bombings gave rise to a new sense of solidarity, with the scenes of young African-Americans helping an old Jewish gentlemen to cross the street, scenes unimaginable a couple of days ago. Read More:

…The question to be asked here is, of course: who then belongs to the UNFREE world? Are, say, China or Egypt part of this free world? The actual message is, of course, that the old division between the Western liberal-democratic countries and all the others is again enforced.

Image: ---Like others, he was astonished by the speed, mobility and mass of revolutionary warfare. The plans of generals --schooled in eighteenth-century wars of manoeuvre and drill - were useless in the face of armies inspired by patriotism and revolutionary fervour. Clausewitz spoke of the French as "a force that beggared all imagination. Suddenly war became the business of the people - a people of 30 millions, all of whom considered themselves citizens."- Cale

..So what about the phrase which reverberates everywhere, “Nothing will be the same after September 11″? Significantly, this phrase is never further elaborated – it just an empty gesture of saying something “deep” without really knowing what we want to say. So our first reaction to it should be: Really? Is it, rather, not that the only thing that effectively changed was that America was forced to realize the kind of world it was part of? On the other hand, such changes in perception are never without consequences, since the way we perceive our situation determines the way we act in it….

We don’t yet know what consequences in economy, ideology, politics, war, this event will have, but one thing is sure: the US, which, till now, perceived itself as an island exempted from this kind of violence, witnessing this kind of things only from the safe distance of the TV screen, is now directly involved. So the alternative is: will Americans decide to fortify further their “sphere,” or to risk stepping out of it? Either America will persist in, strengthen even, the deeply immoral attitude of “Why should this happen to us? Things like this don’t happen HERE!”, leading to more aggressivity towards the threatening Outside, in short: to a paranoiac acting out. Or America will finally risk stepping through the fantasmatic screen separating it from the Outside World, accepting its arrival into the Real world, making the long-overdued move from “A thing like this should not happen HERE!” to “A thing like this should not happen ANYWHERE!”. Therein resides the true lesson of the bombings: the only way to ensure that it will not happen HERE again is to prevent it going on ANYWHERE ELSE.

Image: Reza Deghati photo.---Metz:Van Creveld's conclusions run counter to much of the thinking within the US Army concerning the military force of the future. And, he feels, it is not simply armed forces that are growing obsolete, but also the world's basic political unit. Since the territorial state with a conventional army has proven unable to decisively defeat low-intensity conflict, it will fade into obsolescence. "The most important single demand that any political community must meet," he writes, "is the demand for protection" . If the territorial state cannot protect its citizens, "then clearly it does not have a future in front of it." First to go will be the weak states of the Third World, the last Western Europe and Japan. Even the United States may fall victim if proper preventive measures are not taken. Van Creveld writes: America's current economic decline must be halted; or else one day the crime that is rampant in the streets of New York and Washington, D.C., may develop into low-intensity conflict by coalescing along racial, religious, social, and political lines, and run completely out of control. This line of thinking leads to a stark picture of a future where war will not be waged by armies but by groups whom we today call terrorists, guerrillas, bandits, and robbers, but who will undoubtedly hit on more formal titles to describe themselves. Their organizations are likely to be constructed on charismatic lines rather than institutional ones, and to be motivated less by "professionalism" than by fanatical, ideologically-based, loyalties.

America’s “holiday from history” was a fake: America’s peace was bought by the catastrophes going on elsewhere. These days, the predominant point of view is that of an innocent gaze confronting unspeakable Evil which stroke from the Outside – and, again, apropos this gaze, one should gather the strength and apply to it also Hegel’s well-known dictum that the Evil resides (also) in the innocent gaze itself which perceives Evil all around itself.

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Ergo, the dichotomies of George and Veblen provide valuable insights as they examine the latent uses of patriotism and religion as tools to perpetrate war and violence. Their evolutionary approach exposes the nexus among the military effort, religion, and nation to reveal the coercive power of the military, which serves as a tool for domestic control as well as external control. The Veblenian dichotomy highlights the “predatory” nature of war, and the Georgist dichotomy focuses on the “negation” of progress by conflict and violence. … “Just as conflict is provoked, or association develops inequality of condition and power, the tendency to progression is lessened, checked, and finally reversed.” Warfare shatters free (progressive) association, nullifies improvement in the human condition [George 1879, ], and throws civil liberties into abeyance [Veblen 1904, ].

…An understanding of the difference between latent and manifest functions is of paramount importance. The former is hidden and achieves results that go beyond the overt goals of the latter. The idea of the latent function explains why seemingly irrational behavior can be positively functional for a given group. Warlike preparations to promote defensive and offensive objectives are actually means for social control as they divert attention toward contrived external enemies and away from social problems. Latent offensive preparations for war are masked as manifest defensive preparations and are really means for “breaking the peace” [Veblen 1917, . George regards defense as a legitimate (manifest) function of government, but he recognizes the hidden (latent) function of military spending. The United States was so militarily strong at the turn of the twentieth century that George [1879] claimed there was little more need for a large navy than a “peaceful giant” would have for a “stuffed club” or a “tin sword.” Lavish military spending was promoted only for the sake of officers and those who would profit from the death and destruction of war.

Image: ---In an era of primitive technology, patriotism is functional as it promotes group solidarity in the real (material) interests of the group. The machine process greatly reduces the serviceability of patriotism and religion, creating the need for newer and more devious modes of persuasion that appeal to metaphysical concepts such as national prestige. Clever and subtle forms of sophistry replace the instinct of group solidarity as the perpetuating force in continuity of the war process. "Material grievances" become transformed into "spiritual capital." The Christian nation is mobilized through furtherance of the community's material interest and/or through a desire to protect national honor-Veblen

The military maintains a social order between officers and enlisted soldiers that George thinks is a throwback to times when the “nobility who supplied the officers” was considered a superior race to the “serfs and peasants” who filled the ranks of the enlisted soldier. Or as Veblen [1904, 396] would say, “troops and ships are officered by the younger sons of the conservative leisure class and the buccaneering scions of the class of professional politicians,” while the soldiers who often come from the community at large share little material interest with the elite class.

Recognizing the latent function of diplomacy, George and Veblen are no more complimentary of the diplomatic corps than they are of the military. George contends that the diplomatic system is designed after the “usages of kings” who plotted against the freedom of the people and its only purpose is to reward the unscrupulous and to “occasionally demoralize a poet.” Veblen views the diplomatic function as having very little impact on non-invidious human interests. The manifest aim of diplomacy may appear to promote security and defense, but most activity of this type has “much of a pecuniary color.” The diplomatist metier speaks of war in parables of peace. The reality is that diplomacy requires conspicuous military power and a will to use it [Veblen 1917, ].

Warfare is directed by a coterie of dynastic statesmen, bellicose diplomats, and a “junta of commercial adventurers and imperialistic politicians. The common person bears the burden of violence while the wealthy neighbor” harvests the benefits [George 1886, 20]. Veblen sarcastically notes that “a return to the ancient virtues of allegiance, piety, servility, graded dignity, class prerogative, and prescriptive authority greatly conduce to popular content and to the facile management of affairs.” The latent function of warlike business policy engenders a conservative animus on the part of the public as they are induced to think in warlike terms of rank, authority, and blind obedience, and this latent function therefore serves as remedy for social unrest. Patriotism and religion can provide the rationale for war and preparations for war as they “direct the popular interest to other, nobler, institutionally less hazardous matters than the unequal distribution of wealth” [Veblen 1904, . Read More:
Veblen argues that patriotism breeds predatory behavior through invidious distinctions and develops a superior and an inferior class. Even a peaceful society that is "not habitually prone to a bellicose temper" leaps into the arena of "warlike enterprise" when called to action by the seductive sirens of patriotism. Violence and injury to others take precedence over material needs and divert attention from social problems on the domestic front....

...Institutions (habits of thought) change with changing social circumstances, and the development of these institutions is "the development of society." Institutions of the past shape current institutions, and current institutions shape future institutions through a "selective and coercive process" [Veblen 1899, ]. Unfortunately, individuals are not always aware of the powers of habit. In a system characterized by inequality and injustice, even the reasonable person can perceive the most absurd states of inequality as part of natural order [George 1886, ] and come to accept the absurdity of massive armaments that serves vested interests as a matter of course [Veblen 1904,]. Education, religion, and government pass into the hands of “special classes,” which control thought in order to “magnify their function” and “increase their power” [George 1898,  1879, ]. …”Loyal and loving” patriots with “bonds in their pockets” do not charge to the front during armed conflict. Rather, those with “pocket sensitive” ethics pledge their loyalty to those who capture the machinery of government, distort social institutions, and ensure that an elite class will be able to “continue to cash their coupons” [George 1883, ]. George [1886,] also questions whether the elite class would find patriotism a sufficient incentive to support a war in which they would pay a burden that is equal to that of the working class. ibid.

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