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US Foreign policy: Coke-Republicans vs Pepsi-Democrats?

by Melanchthon Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:11:17 AM EST

For those of us non-Americans who, like me, have been following the evolution of US politics and the Progressives' fight against the Bush/Cheney administration, the 2006 mid-term elections landslide has been a great relief. It will be an even greater one when, as it seems likely (I cross my fingers), Democrats will win the 2008 presidential election and get rid of the worst administration ever.

So, everything seems going all right. Well, not exactly. The hubris of the Bush/Cheney administration has brought such a maelstrom of failures, corruption and crimes, it has lead the world so close to a global disaster (it could still happen...) that, in comparison, any other administration will look like angels come on earth to save us. But I don't believe in angels.

While I reasonably (optimistically?) trust the Democrats for restoring democracy and civil liberties, implementing (slightly) more responsible socio-economic policies and promoting environmental awareness within the United States, I still wonder if they will bring any change to the United States foreign policy doctrine. So far, I have little hope.

From the diaries with a slight edit - afew


My doubts have been nurtured by Tony Smith's editorial in the March 11 issue of the Washington Post (thanks to BooMan)

Democrats don't have an agreed position on what America's role in the world should be. They want to change the Bush administration's policy in Iraq without discussing the underlying ideas that produced it. And although they now cast themselves as alternatives to President Bush, the fact is that prevailing Democratic doctrine is not that different from the Bush-Cheney doctrine.

Many Democrats, including senators who voted to authorize the war in Iraq, embraced the idea of muscular foreign policy based on American global supremacy and the presumed right to intervene to promote democracy or to defend key U.S. interests long before 9/11, and they have not changed course since. (snip)

...if the Democrats do win in 2008, they could remain staked to a vision of a Pax Americana strikingly reminiscent of Bush's.

This idea of the legitimacy of the United States global supremacy, the vision of the U.S. as the indispensable nation entitled to intervene wherever and whenever it suits its interests, regardless of international law,  its use of America's overwhelming military pre-eminence to promote the global expansion of "free market democracy" through "regime change" is extremely dangerous. It is, in my view, one of the main obstacles on the way towards a better world order.

This doctrine has been pushed to its limits by the Bush/Cheney administration, but it existed before and it still exists among the Democrats:

Democratic adherents to what might be called the "neoliberal" position are well organized and well positioned. Their credo was enunciated just nine years ago by Madeleine Albright, then President Bill Clinton's secretary of state: "If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further into the future." (snip)

Since 1992, the ascendant Democratic faction in foreign policy debates has been the thinkers associated with the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and its think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI). (snip)

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, published a book last year, "The Plan: Big Ideas for America," co-authored by Bruce Reed, editor of the PPI's magazine Blueprint and president of the DLC.

Not a word in their book appears hostile to the idea of invading Iraq. Instead, the authors fault Bush for allowing a "troop gap" to develop (they favor increasing the Army by 100,000 and expanding the Marines and Special Forces) and for failing to "enlist our allies in a common mission." The message once again is that Democrats could do it better.

In fact, these neoliberals are nearly indistinguishable from the better-known neoconservatives. The neocons' think tank, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), often salutes individuals within the PPI, and PPI members such as Marshall signed PNAC petitions endorsing the Iraq invasion.

For the rest of the world, a key issue of the next presidential election lies in the ability of the Democrats to propose and promote an alternative doctrine.

It is obvious the United States must have a prominent role to play in the shaping of the future world order as a leading country, but this role must be fulfilled in coordination with other countries, particularly Europe and in agreement with (renewed) international institutions.

It is also obvious that this role will, alas for still a long period, require the military capacity to intervene in different parts of the world, but this must be done within the framework of international law and institutions.

This means a radical change in the US doctrine, from the oxymoronic "progressive imperialism" to a role of "first among equals".  Furthermore, this change of doctrine is a precondition for the badly needed reform of international institutions in which the United States should play a key role.

So, what are the main candidates' positions?

The early positions of the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates illustrate their party's problem. The front-runner, Hillary Clinton, has not moved from her traditional support of the DLC's basic position -- she criticizes the conduct of the war, but not the idea of the war. Former senator John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama are more outspoken; both call the war a serious mistake, but neither has articulated a vision for a more modest U.S. role in the world generally.

Given the powerful special interests groups that have been supporting this aggressive foreign policy (and will try to maintain it), changing the doctrine is certainly not an easy task for the Democrats. It is nevertheless vital for the future of our world that they make the first steps in this direction.

So, in 2008, while raising my glass to celebrate the end of the Bush/Cheney administration, is there any chance I will also be able to celebrate the opening of an era where the United States will join Europe in building a new multilateral world order?

Display:
Bush/Cheney lasting their whole two terms will be like a dictator dying in power. Cause for celebration but nothing to be peoud of.

I don't see Europe really trying to build a multipolar world - it's still comfortably subservient to US interests except in the most blatant cases.

As for the foreign policy, Bush is not t e disease but the symptom. The problem is systemic and the Democrats are as much a part of the system as the Republicans.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 01:48:23 AM EST
A multi-polar world, as you pointed out, is difficult to build when the only other power capable of matching America, economically and militarily, sits on its hands -- or, worse, falls to pieces the moment America leans on a few of its members.  To be quite clear, one can't really complain about America refusing to take Europe seriously when Europe doesn't even seem to take itself seriously.  (Think of it as the Democrats, but on a much larger scale.)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 02:59:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right about the difficult task to build a multipolar world, and I agree Europe has still a long way to go to fully assume its role in the world, but it is not an excuse for the aggressive US military imperialism.

It's like the schoolyard bully saying: "There is nobody to challenge me, so I'm entitled to continue bullying"!

There is little chance to build a new and juster world order if the United States keep believing in the legitimacy of their supremacy and refuse to adopt a multilateral foreign policy.

 

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 05:01:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I, in no way, mean to imply that it justifies the schoolyard bully.  I'm wholly in agreement that it must stop.  But, as we both know the story continues, it's still the case that the schoolyard bully continues being the schoolyard bully until another kid, whom he can't push around, stands up to him.  Where power exists, it is typically used.  That's my primary criticism of the practice of international relations, in general, and of the UN, in particular: Even when it told the Neocons to shove it, the Neocons still did what they wanted to do.  So what, then, is the purpose, other than to give the appearance of good relations and waste money?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:02:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The international community may be in a position to punish the US for the neocons' break of international law in the future. So, that they failed to obtain UNSC cover for the Iraq misadventure is a significant fact.

From a realist point of view the UNSC exists to prevent open war among the veto members, which is no mean feat.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:12:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How are they going to punish them?

The UNSC exists to prevent war between members who all know well enough that they're perfectly capable of completely destroying each other?  I think you're giving far too much credit to the Security Council.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:20:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By allowing the veto members to draw lines in the sand for each other through abstentions and vetos, the UNSC prevents conflict between them. It the US left the UN the risk of a military confrontation between the US and Russia or China would increase greatly.

The US can't be punished now, but if it trips over Iran and breaks its neck, it will be punished for its past violations of international law. At least I hope so.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:29:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the chances of a fatal misadventure are not small.

China flexed it financial muscle recently, and the markets responded instantly.

The US isn't really a superpower. It just thinks it is one, and has (almost) everyone else fooled.

But it can't afford its current levels of adventuring, politically, financially or socially. There will be a payback period. It may land on the wrong people for the wrong reasons. But even so - I'll be hugely surprised if there isn't an accounting within the next decade, and possibly even within the next couple of years.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:52:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes.

Key to the "accounting" is the relationship between the Dollar and Oil.

It HAS to change and soon: I'm two years bid and five years offered

In the meantime, if I were a hedge fund manager I'd be borrowing as many dollars as I could and using them to buy energy assets in any country mad enough (or coerced enough) to sell them...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:05:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the US is still an Empire... it still has military bases , and economic influence and manpower. It has been highly debilitated and has lost Asia a little bit(much more) sooner than expected. But the US will be an empire until they lost control and influence over South America in the hands of Brasil (or a combination of countries) and Europe completely disregards US opinion.

SO I still give the American Empire a range of 10-40 years.. and if it were to pursue the first among equals policy instead of Empire (with intelligence) .. it could keep on for over half a century  (and it could be longer but I do not dare to predict anything 50 years from now)

Other than that, it will be another England/France/Spain at the most within 40 years.

An opinion of the future.. a mere opinion.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 09:19:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
« Il y a un moment dans la vie des empereurs, qui succède à l'orgueil d'avoir conquis des territoires d'une étendue sans bornes, à la mélancolie et au soulagement de savoir que bientôt il nous faudra renoncer à les connaître et les comprendre...

...c'est le moment de désespoir où l'on découvre que cet empire qui nous avait paru la somme de toutes les merveilles n'est en réalité qu'une débâcle sans fin ni forme, que sa corruption est trop évidemment gangréneuse pour que notre sceptre puisse y apporter remède, que la victoire sur les souverains adverses nous a rendus les héritiers de leur lent écroulement. »  Italo Calvino in « Les Villes Invisibles »

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:53:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Countries can draw lines in the sand without the UN.

How could the US break its neck by tripping over Iran?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:02:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We've discussed various ways in which an Iranian adventure can be a disaster for the global economy. Plus the US has 150 thousand sitting ducks in Iraq. Plus if China gets pissed off enough they can cause a financial crash, too?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:07:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Plus if China gets pissed off enough they can cause a financial crash, too?

You're assuming China is interested in using a strategy that amounts to an economic version of a suicide bombing.  On a side note it seems that China has been buying a lot of mortgage securities.. I'm amused - if the really bad version of the housing crash happens the way it will look to me is that the US spent a lot of money buying shiny little consumer goods in China, China will have spent a lot of that money building up infrastructure at home, but also lots of housing in the US in the form of loans that won't get paid back.

A decision by China to crash the US economy means two things:
a) the collapse of China's export led model of economic growth
b) wiping out all those accumulated surpluses that they've earned due to the export boom.

Sure, it's not the only model available, so they can change. But the sudden forced transition will be at least as unpleasant for them as it will be for the US.

by MarekNYC on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 03:49:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MAED... Mutual Assured Economic Destruction

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 04:44:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In a normal situation, China has no interest in breaking the "Bretton Woods II" fragile equilibrium and weakening the dollar. But if the US create havoc by starting a war with Iran, the situation will become very different and it could trigger the collapse of the financial house of cards...

Also don't forget the old Chess game saying (from Aron Nimzovitch): "The threat is stronger than the execution"

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 08:41:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
China and others holding dollar balances could pull the same trick as the US did to the Brits at Suez.

ie threaten to pull the plug.

In fact I would be amazed if the Chinese etc don't use the same threat to get a piece of the Great Iraqi Carve-Up (Grand Theft Babylon).

The US is about to learn that Dollars are priced in Oil, and not vice versa.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:10:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like the Bushistas, you misunderestimate the value of just getting people to regularly sit at the same table to talk geopolitics. Like I said, it's a systemic thing.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:15:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's also the basic idea behind the EU.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:11:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Countries can draw lines in the sand without the UN.

Whatever the forum for mutually accepted quasi-obligatory drawing of lines in the sand, you can call it UN(SC).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:10:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Countries can draw lines in the sand without the UN.

It does help to have somewhere where you know that not only you are being watched over where you draw lines, but also where you know that the people watching do speak the language of diplomacy and so are going to go back and tell the opposing government the correct message that you are trying to send.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:03:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah, you just swagger in the privacy of your own home, and if someone crosses the line you blame them for how knowing about your threat.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 05:23:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I know that works with the youths on my street

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 06:12:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I already said once (and you disagreed) that one of the causes of WWII was that the US refusal to cooperate with the League of Nations emboldened the Axis powers in the early 1930's.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:33:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But who is emboldened in a world where the major players can't defeat each other?  This isn't the 1930s.  Past performance doesn't guarantee future performance.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:47:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The major players can rarely defeat each other, they generally go into wars of attrition and often fight themselves into a truce by exhaustion (the 100 years war, the 30 years war, WWI, the cold war). WWII saw the death of 50 million people and war on three continents in order for the axis powers to be defeated, and that's counting the preludes in the 1930's.

Past misperformance suggests future misperformance.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:58:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean not counting the preludes.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:23:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
WWII made more than 62 millions casualties and probably 10 millions more if you include the Sino-Japanese war starting in 1937.

If by preludes you mean also the Spanish civil war, then add 500,OOO casualties.  

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 08:06:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia gives over 20 million casualties for the second Sino-Japanese war including 1931-37.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 08:16:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but 10 millions of them are already counted in the 62 millions of WWII.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:47:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The UN does a lot of really great research. Other than that, I think that having a talk shop and a body that formulates norms and lends legitimacy to actions is a good thing, even though its influence is hard to demonstrate. Hey! We can't tell if those with power always use it. At least we haven't had another world war, although that may easily have been due to a dozen other causes.

The costs of the UN are overrated anyway. Looking at some general data, the yearly cost seems to be around $1.5 - $2 billion, which is less than 0.05% of worldwide GDP.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:25:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that means whereas the American progressives have to develop and promote a new non-militaristic narrative within the Democratic Party and in the American opinion, our task as Europeans is to fight for an European Union strong enough (non-militarily) to stand up to the US...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 10:44:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See Jerome's diary on the latest delirium by the FT's Martin Wolf on the EU.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 03:43:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See Dems' backdown on Iran, flagged by Fran in this morning's Salon.

Where we see two Associated Press writers speak of "conservative and moderate Democrats" plus "lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel", which, in aggregate, seem to make up a decisive constituency among DC Democrats.

"I didn't think it was a very wise idea to take things off the table if you're trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize it in a civilized way," said Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York.

As soon as you talk about keeping things on the table, you're deliberately echoing Bush and supporting his policy. That's all the sadder in Ackerman, who isn't typically, iirc, a "spineless" Democrat. The thing on the table Bush and Ackerman want to keep there is the use of "surgical" nuclear strikes, (a well-known and excellent means of getting people to "normalize" their behaviour "in a civilized way").

And further:

"This supplemental should be about supporting the troops and providing what they need," said Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., on Monday upon returning from a trip to Iraq. Boren said he plans to oppose any legislation setting a clear deadline for troops to leave.

Is that a "conservative" Dem there? Or just a "moderate"?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 03:19:40 AM EST
What worries me is that, regarding their position on Iran, the three main Democrat candidates have echoed Cheney's words: "We must keep all options on the table", which means, as you say, including tactical nuclear strikes.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 04:47:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed, except that "options on the table" were Bush's words almost a year ago.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 05:12:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bush still has his cowboy boots on the table.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 05:22:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The fake cowboy boots of a failed C-movie actor. (He is not a true Texan as we know.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:20:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That doesn't mean anything, though.  Politicians always say this, whether they mean it or not.  It's a throwaway statement.  As though all options are somehow not going to be on the table.  If they're not on the table, they're necessarily not options.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:06:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a throwaway statement.

...that is until Thomas Friedman gets ahold of it, at which point it becomes the foundation for pseudo-intellectual bullshit wrapped in criminally-insane metaphors.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:10:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Strange throwaway, that has been echoed over and over, and has become code for tactical nukes.

Anyone who wants to indicate they're in line with Bush on Iran just says "options, table".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:51:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The House Democrats just agreed upon a plan to withdraw from Iraq by mid-2008, a few days ago.

To further demonstrate the difference: Condi Rice told the Israelis that they could not hold informal, exploratory talks with the Syrians. Under a Democratic President, America will still be Israel's bestest friend. But they won't tell them not to hold informal talks with Syria.

America will not join in a 'multilateral world order' so soon, though there will be some steps in that direction under a Dem Presidency (it will probably stop undermining the ICC and the post-Kyoto process even if it will not necessarily fully join in).

An America that will stop doing harm will be a big step forward!

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 04:02:12 AM EST
On House Dems' plan for Iraq withdrawal, see my comment above: it contained a clause giving Congress oversight over a presidential decision to attack Iran - the Dems have pulled it. And not all Dems agree on Iraq withdrawal, either, see the Oklahoma representative I quote.

You may be right there'll be a difference between the administration that is on the way out, and the incoming one. The question is how big the difference will be.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 05:18:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's more like a clause affirming Congressional oversight over the President's actions. As far as I can read it, Congress never ceded the authority to go to war to the president, except with regard to Iraq where he got a blank cheque. The authority for any other wars is still legally with Congress.

The question whether Bush will give a damn is a different one...

It's a shame that they struck the clause to placate the right wing of the democratic party. But note that this is the right wing of the party we are talking about, not the leadership. The DLC, though it has a lot of influence, is also on the right flank of the party. Hillary, though she is front-runner, is also one of the least 'liberal' candidates running.

Basically, what can you do? There are few options in the US because of its disproportional representation system. You can let steam off on the internets, name and shame, write letters to your representative. Come 2008, the only option is electing "more and better Democrats", as Atrios likes to put it. And in a lot of cases, the perfect will be the enemy of the notably less disastrous.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 05:55:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the DLC is ready for this move and will come out swinging.

It's very similar to the situation in the UK, where you can elect a radical (by Noo Labour standards) MP, if you're lucky. But the game is fixed so that you radical MPs are irrelevant to policy. Practically the electorate has a choice between extreme fundamentalist versions of Smith-ite policy, or softer versions with some token red-meat social spending.

There's no option to elect true Euro-style social-democracy.

And after a while the soft options turns into the hard one anyway, by Treasury-led bureaucratic default.

The DLC, meanwhile, knows where the money is and is more than happy to keep right on taking it.

If some teenage bloggers make a fuss, who cares - they're only poor anyway.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:03:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An America that will stop doing harm will be a big step forward!

So terribly painful and so true.  I wish that message(substituting US for America) could be imprinted in the public´s mind.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 08:20:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Any American politican who comes forward and proposes a foreign policy that is NOT based on swaggering military and moral superiority would be burned at a stake.  It is a discursive impossibility to say such things, and it will be unless/until the current global system undergoes a complete and total collapse.

However, that does not mean that America will always and forever live up to its rhetoric.  Slow, low-profile, yet meaningful changes towards multilaterialism and the rule of international law could theoretically take place.  Just so long as not too many people hear about them.

by Zwackus on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 05:39:14 AM EST
Now cross-posted on DailyKos

Please recommend.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 05:41:21 AM EST
There was a window for crafting a different kind of American foreign policy, and that was the Carter presidency. Unfortunately, the counterreformation inaugurated in the Reagan years has been so successful in defining the national consensus (and not merely on foreign policy) that it would most likely require a generation of incremental change for the US to move toward a multilateral stance. (Those of you who are feeling optimistic, read "will" for "would".)

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:39:29 AM EST
The oil crisis and the Iranian hostage crisis were very effective at derailing any kind of progressive momentum and lurching policy right-wards.

Without those years, Thatcher and Reagan would never have happened. Environmental Carter-ism would have become the default position, and any attempt at a counter-revolution would have to move the Overton window well over from a leftward starting point.

But that's not what happened. And given that the same players seem to have been deeply involved in both that crisis and the recent 'war on terra' - I'm looking at big oil, big war dollars, the NeoClowns and the Saudis here - I have paranoid moments when I wonder if this was entirely accidental.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:57:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Iran in particular was ironic bordering on tragic: the chickens came home to roost just when the people who had messed it up were off the bridge - and the fallout enabled them to return to the helm in triumph and repudiate all attempts to change course in foreign policy.

But isn't interesting how often these discussions come back to the Overton window - and the failure of progressives to work it?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:28:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Progressives don't understand the Overton window because we're rationalists from the enlightenment and believe that you just give people facts and the narrative fixes itself around it (example).

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:33:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I subscribe to that too... except for the word "give".

Education is more than just giving someone textbook and expecting them to master it alone. Learning new stuff and building a coherent structure out of it on their own is hard work, more than most people evidently are willing to take on. An Overton window creates a matrix into which facts can be fitted. (The fact that facts that don't get fit fail to be perceived might well be more a strength of this model than otherwise).

We either need to use the Overton window ourselves, or develop a progressive (in the larger sense of the term) approach for actively promulgating ideas.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 08:34:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And even that window would have been difficult to climb, with Brzezinski at the helm. But your counterreformation reference is exactly how I view the 'Reagan Revolution'.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:15:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have any hope and do not see any possible change coming with Democrats. Not in foreign policy...No way!
And it's going to end up ugly.
Good diary!

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:28:42 AM EST
See Arthur Silber, on his site The Power of Narrative.

Arthur Silber is one of the few U.S. observers who openly and extensively blasts the Democrats for not vigorously challenging the Iraq War and Occupation and deplores their obvious agreement with the Republicans on U.S. world hegemony, empire or whatever you may like to call it. The lack of an alternative among the majority of the Democrats has been apparent to him for a long time. It's shameful and disturbing. Give me neither Coke nor Pepsi, please.

by Quentin on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 08:28:38 AM EST
In fact, I drink neither Coke, nor Pepsi, just plain water and wine...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 08:58:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Me too. Not so much water though.
by bil on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:14:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Silber is a national treasure - one of the few voices speaking genuine truth in a concentrated and mature way.

So far as I can tell in real life he's an elderly guy who's struggling to make ends meet. But his blog is priceless.

(There's a donation button at the top of the page on the blog, just in case anyone feels like making his life a little easier.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:08:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spread the word: read Arthur Silber on his site The Power of Narrative. He deserves recognition.
by Quentin on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 03:53:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually a first among equalspolicy  would probably allow the US to keep a certain hegemony for a slightly longer period of time.

Other than that.. it really does not matter what the US elites want.. they have already lost Asia (thanks to Bush and there is noclear  way back).. and amazingly they could lost South America in the next decade (almost impossible to imagine without Bush).

So, in any case, the US will not be an Empire for much longer..the question is if it will become  a first among equals or an last among equals ( China, India, Brasil, Rusia ... and Europe? eje ejem  far ahead).

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 08:48:36 AM EST
I agree: Bush has done a lot to hasten the end of the American Empire, and we should be grateful to him for that... but it has been paid a terrible price (and it  could even worsen in the months to come).

Shifting to a non-imperialist policy would allow the US to maintain their influence in a multilateral world for a longer period of time.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 09:04:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree completely... case in point South America...Clinton policy of influence in South American in shatters after 8 years... amazing.

Yeah.. it all depends on how badly they fuck up the middle East... if they do not bomb Iran and soemhow a future US president can fix Afganistan it would have been one country (Iraq) in exchange for a speed-up of the power transition towards Asia and certain European and South-American freedom.

Good for the world, awful for the iraqies.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 09:08:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Little can change for the good until the military industrial complex collapses in on itself (I hate using that term because it sounds so much more conspiratorial than it is). It is the main driver of national politics in this country and not even the president can do much to change it. When Clinton got into office, the cold war had just ended and any excuse for huge military budgets had evaporated. Yet he only recommended cutting the military budget by 5%, and over the course of his term the budget did increase (although I believe it did decline as a % of GDP as well as a % of the federal budget). I think that's the best case scenario for a new democratic administration particularly in the face of the quagmire they will inherit.

Only external events will cause major change. China cashing in or a worldwide depression due to peak oil (or effects from bombing Iran) come to mind. In either of these cases there will be a race between the usual propaganda operating on a frightened public and a public sick of war and desiring something more productive for their tax dollars such as schools and infrastructure.

From there two things can happen - the US turns into a  version of what England or France is today as some here have suggested, or it turns into a completely militarized police state wherein the public is forced to serve the ever growing needs of the military industrial complex (or even to maintain current levels in the face of a declining dollar / shrinking GDP). I can see either scenario happening.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 12:36:52 PM EST
The third possibility is that the US turns into a version of Russia.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 12:42:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a full police state version of America would feature some of what Russia is today (but I won't go into it because I need to get some work done before lunch).

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 12:50:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a full police state version of the USA would be worse than Russia. It is a distinct possibility.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 12:59:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The fourth and worst is the Afghanistan option, with nuke-wielding warlords.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 02:08:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, they already have the American Taliban...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 03:08:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remember Somalia was supposed to be a model of anarchocapitalism in action. I'm sure those libertarians would be delighted to try the Somali model in the land of the free.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 04:56:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now you're just fantasizing out loud.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:06:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
US defense spending as percentage of GDP

1986 6.2%, 1993, 4.4%, 2001, 3.0%

Relative Size of US Military Spending, 1940--2003

by MarekNYC on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 12:49:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
20 minutes of googling and I could not find that chart. Thanks.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 12:51:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
2005: 4.2%

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 04:05:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's the narratives.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 04:54:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
is that with the suplemental cost of the Iraq adventure factored in?  whenever you see defence spending quoted it's x billion, plus an extra 100 billion for Iraq. so might the current percentage be higher

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:22:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's with the supplemental but it does not include veterans benefits and health care for the wounded (covered under a different budget) nor does it cover maintenance and development of the nuclear arsenal (under another budget also) which, if you add the two, gets you up close to 5% of GDP.

Just by way of a comparison, Sarkozy, that famous left-winger to which certain American apologists for their militarism might strive to be like, has proposed that France set as a minimum a level of 2% of GDP for defence spending. Which is about where it is now.

And if memory serves, we have the highest defence spending per capita in the EU.

Just so we get the narratives straight, and know whose parroting which narrative.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 09:24:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We've already had the 'Yes, but what does GDP really measure?' discussion many times on here.

Asserting that a nation can afford X% of GDP is simplistic. In the case of the defence industry, the whole concept of GDP is distorted by pork barrel corporate welfare which keeps the game running. It's likely that a good proportion of the spending/investment/pork doesn't even appear in official accounts, either for reasons of secrecy, or criminal conspiracy.

Estimating the real effect of military adventuring is hard, and would have to include intangibles like the loss of good will and business as a result of reactions to brainlessly evil war mongering.

A better metric is the growth of public sector debt, because tax distribution is the only part of GDP that is actually used to pay for bombs 'n guns. And - informally - spending on ground troop requirements and veteran welfare.

On that basis the US is looking very sick indeed.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:16:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you all for your contributions. the conclusion is frightening: most of the posters think only a major collapse of the system would allow a paradigm change.

Zwackus said that, provided it is not publicly presented so:

Slow, low-profile, yet meaningful changes towards multilateralism and the rule of international law could theoretically take place.

But to do so requires a very strong will from the leaders. Is anyone of them strong enough? It would also require to build a strong public opinion against the military wasting of economic resources.    

The other alternatives are either a major economic collapse which would shake he whole system and make the economic burden of the military unbearable, or a dramatic military defeat, which could happen only against a major power like China. In both cases, the whole world would suffer.

Let's hope Zwackus is right...

 

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 08:01:06 PM EST
Well I an 50/50 on a good outcome, and in the grand scheme of things economic depressions are nothing unusual.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:47:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the conclusion is frightening: most of the posters think only a major collapse of the system would allow a paradigm change.

Naturally.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 05:31:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a dramatic military defeat, which could happen only against a major power like China.

I would say losing the 150 thousand sitting ducks currently in Iraq would count as a dramatic military defeat. Just wait for an attack on Iran.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 05:33:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not even sure an attack on Iran is necessary to lose 10 or 20k sitting ducks...

The biggest core bases in Iraq are basically medieval fortresses with high wall of rebar concrete, but all the civilians/defense+petroleum contractors/diplomats/journalists in the green zone are basically naked in the event of a major upheaval (of a mob of a million with simple AK-47). Plus all the minor battalions away from the capital.

Methinks they lose 10k civilians + 10k soldier in a day if there is just one too many incident involving the killing of few iraqi children by GI's...

Plus they will have to destroy bagdad just like grozny if they want to regain control of roads between the airport and the main bagdad bases, otherwise the bases will fall, short of ammo to repel opponents charging with civil engineering gear to tear down the walls of the base...

They may still lose some major base if they fall short of B52's and cluster bombs to maintain continuous fire over several cities. Make another 10k soldiers lost.

Pierre

by Pierre on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 05:42:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even in the case of a major uprising in Iraq, the US wouldn't lose all of the 150 thousand military currently there. They would be able to evacuate many of them. As Pierre says, they would probably lose tens of thousands.

60 thousand KIA in Vietnam (plus 150 thousand WIA) didn't bring the system down...


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 06:15:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Depends how fast it happens, Say for for the sake of argument a couple of tactical neucs are deployed against Iranian facilities, and the whole Arab world goes up in flames about it. All support in the region melts away, because the local rulers can't be seen to support someone who is willing to use neuclear weapons against fellow arabs. you then end up with the whole international force cut off and surrounded pretty much in the same way as the Germans were in Stalingrad (or the British in the retreat from Kabul)

If you lost just 20,000 in the space of a couple of weeks that's going to look far worse than the vietnam losses over the space of several years.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 09:06:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In that case, I agree it would be a totally new situation and we can't predict what effect it would have, worldwide and within the United States.

A small correction: only a small minority of Iranians are Arabs, and they are Shiites, whereas the vast majority of Arabs are Sunni. That means solidarity must not be taken for granted. I however think an attack on Iran, coming after the invasion of Iraq, would be seen an attack on Islam. In that case, it would trigger violent reactions throughout the Muslim world.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 10:22:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only prediction I would make is that that the first move made would be to attempt to sack some senior military men, so that they carry the can rather than the politicians.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 01:07:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be a case for an impeachment procedure wouldn't it ?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 01:59:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You would have thought so, but I'm continuously proved wrong on things like this.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 02:33:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While I am greatful for anyone who holds some hope for my country, I would advise you to be moderate in your hopes for a return to sanity in the American policy.  The cultural and intellectual rot in the US is staggering.  It will take a bone-jarring crisis and good leadership to change anything for the better.  

As evidence I might point first to the simple fact that Americans have turned against our Conquest/Occupation of Iraq not because it was wrong but because it wasn't going well.  Many Americans have been moved by the stories emerging of the terrible suffering of our returning injured veterans.  There suffering has been terrible and is particularly dispicable for what it shows about our government.  But there is one subject you will never hear reported in any depth on any corporate media outlet and that is the suffering of the Iraqi people from what we have done.  But hey, we are only talking about two orders of magnitude difference in death and destruction.  Yet many gas-bag commentators in American will without self-consciousness, or irony, refer to Islam as a "violent religion." It boggles the mind.

Allow me to elaborate.  The typical American is steeped from birth in a cacoon of propoganda that would make Goebbels proud.  In our television and movies we learn that violence is just a wonderful way to solve problems from saturday morning cartoons to patriotic war movies.  Our public spaces have been so degraded by the automobile culture that any broad notion of community has pretty much disappeared, with some exceptions here and there mostly due to historical accident rather than intent.  The television is most peoples' connection to the outside world and it is one long corporate commercial with mostly anti-social messages.  

(As a side note, I banned TV from my home 15 years ago.  For families with young children I could give no better advice than to do likewise.  I do occassionally read TV transcripts, which is quicker and somehow less insulting.)  

It is true that the BushCo lied Americans into this disasterous war but he lied to a people who have been conditioned for a long time to accept these kinds of lies.  The deceit runs very deep and broad.  The non-stop corporate message is that auto-centered, suburban utopia is just fine and jiffy and will go on forever and it's all good....  The typical American sees no connection between fueling the huge SUV for another trip through the 'burbs and the violence in the Middle East and that is no accident.  Really, it's that bad.  The Repbulican Party has become so deeply criminal that truly anything will be an improvement, but the underlying dynamic that created this mess is not going to change quickly.

Several forces, possibly working together, may bring about a change.  One is a disruption in the oil supply.  The American economy (as presently configured) simply will not function without cheap oil.  The second is bottoms up change.  There is much percolating below the media radar in the US.  Ever more people, despite the corporate media, are starting to understand that things have to change.  (That could be a whole diary subject.)  And last, the US economy is staggering under several internal imbalances that cannot be sustained much longer.  We simply cannot afford our oversized military and that fact may become much more apparent in the near future.  

by Geonomist on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 09:28:08 PM EST
Watch out, man, you don't want to start another US-EU shitstorm. There are a few Americans on the board that might take offense.

I suggest we all chill out. Americans are good people. They voted for fascism against their will, and they really don't want to invade other countries to make them capitalist democracies.

Its just that their geopolitical interests sorta dictate for them to do so.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 09:32:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am an American and if any others want to take issue with what I have written, I welcome their comments.

I did not say that Americans are bad people.  I am trying to say that we are snared in a web of systems and beliefs that are producing some very bad outcomes and that it will be difficult (though not impossible) to change these systems and beliefs.

I would like to address your comments.

They voted for fascism against their will, and they really don't want to invade other countries to make them capitalist democracies.

Bush came to power in what could be charitably be called a judicial coupe-de-etat.  Yet we don't say these things in polite company.  Our corporate media will never say these things.  Why is that?  We have a huge systematic problem in how information vital to good citizenship is handled.  Bush lies so blantantly and boldly on so many topics that it would be a full time job to catalog them.  To my knowledge Keith Olberman is the only prominent journalist to have referred to Bush publicly as a liar and pointed to his specific lies.  Why is that?  

Its just that their geopolitical interests sorta dictate for them to do so.

Our geopolitical interests to control the world's oil is driven by domestic policy choices we have made over the last fifty years.  We have known full well since the 70's that our oil dependency would lead us into the kinds of wars we are enganged in now.  Yet we have chosen this path anyway.  The facts have been there to see but we have chosen to ignore them.  Why?  

The terrible fact is that the typical American non-blog-hound has a nearly impossible task to assemble useful information for casting an intelligent ballot.  That is not saying that Americans are bad people but it is saying that we have some very serious problems.

by Geonomist on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 11:02:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Watch out, man, you don't want to start another US-EU shitstorm. There are a few Americans on the board that might take offense.

I am an American and if any others want to take issue with what I have written, I welcome their comments.

See? It's always Americans that start the "ET is Antiamerican" pie fights.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 05:30:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the record, I agree 125% with everything you've written here.

Maybe I was foolishly glib about it, but I am very glad you are here saying these things. Somehow, when I say similar, long and sometimes vituperative threads often take place.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 07:45:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
as concise, cogent, and spot on.  

Europeans need to understand:  The situation of America is AT LEAST as dangerous as it looks.  Never mind moral slurs--James Howard Kundstler does a neater, and more scathing job of describing the essential deterioration of American character (tied to a number of factors, including oil consumerism) than anyone here.  But that is not really the point.  The point is the economic, political, and ideational (propaganda-driven) structure of America and the strategic implications of that structure.  

It is the strategic implications that have to be dealt with.  

Perhaps you are already doing some things right:  Jerome's posts over at Dailykos have been opening up the subject of energy--and of positive possibilities--to people who are almost ready to emerge from the trance of of the media--they are on the blogs, after all--but need the steady pressure of an idea of energy that goes beyond burning oil and driving cars.  Migeru, in describing the Spanish experience and the Madrid bombings, has been introducing the idea that there is another way to deal with terrorists and violence than random shooting by troops or indescriminate bombing.  This is important.  The argument itself comes not from what might be done--about which Americans never think seriously--but what IS being done somewhere by somebody.  

On the other hand, Dailykos has grown, and in growing has attracted some seriously clueless people.  Markos certainly does not want to clue them:  He wants use them to elect candidates whose positions he does not much care about.  But a continual pressure of information can clue them, over time.   This is what blogs are for.  

Is it enough?  Well, no, nothing is enough, but we can hope to enlarge the window of possibilities, so that other unseen factors about which we know nothing might have their effect.  I am remembering how the media, at the end of the Vietnam war, lost their narrative line, and the trance nearly broke.  They quickly got it back though--but this time, in advance of the crises that we already know will come (they are nearly here) and will certainly be worse, we need to arrange THAT THE TRANCE DOES NOT RECOVER WHEN IT IS BROKEN.  How?  I don't know yet, but whatever it is, information from OUTSIDE of the US (and channelled free from the media) is part of the groundwork.  

I need to say that personally I read blogs firstly for information, and also to think.  So naturally I am here. ;)  American blogs are good, but lie under the shadow of happy-face and denial.  So I am there, too, but differently.  For example, how is the American left supposed to put itself together?  Nobody has any answers.  One of the reasons we have no answers is that we won't think about the fact that our leaders will be assassinated.  (Or co-opted.  Or swifted boated--no, you know what I mean:  The life-destroying smears that are the step beyond swift-boating.  These things are probably related.)  It is not even a question.  This is the whole lesson of the (end of the) sixties in the US, which you may already know.  But because we won't think about it, we can't deal with it, nor learn how to develop low profile structures that are less vulnerable to focussed violence.  

To return to the main topic:  There is certainly a confusing issue of sides.  For example were Hillary Clinton to become the Democratic candidate, she might well be more competent in her militarism--and hence more dangerous--than the Bush people.  There may be no way to know, and it is a possibility that has to be allowed for.  Certainly we can hope that she is not a candidate at all.  But the problem does not end there.  Many people are putting their hope on the Democratic party, especially with the Congressional success, and perhaps not even blindly, but are people ready to shift modes smoothly OUT of electoral politics if that line of activity dead-ends?  Or to be effective IN it if it does not dead-end?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 04:52:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ne provoques pas inutilement, s'il te plaît...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 02:50:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pas mon intention du tout...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 07:18:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dans ce cas, excuse-moi.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 07:31:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for pointing to an important problem: for a paradigm change to occur, a crisis is not enough. Too many people believe in the intrinsic virtues of a crisis, without understanding that, to make potential positive outcomes possible, at least three conditions are required:
  • the crisis must be deep enough to shake the foundations of the existing system;

  • a sufficiently appealing and convincing alternative political solution  is available (not only a new narrative, but also a set of concrete new policies and institutional changes);

  • there is a credible and charismatic group of persons who can personify the new system and lead the change

Unless these conditions are fulfilled, the outcome of a crisis is almost always to fall back into old solutions, i.e. an authoritarian regime.

That means the progressives have to work on building credible alternative narrative and solutions in order to be ready when the crisis happens. In this perspective, developing an alternative to the dominant media is critical.


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 04:57:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many Americans have been moved by the stories emerging of the terrible suffering of our returning injured veterans.  There suffering has been terrible and is particularly dispicable for what it shows about our government.  But there is one subject you will never hear reported in any depth on any corporate media outlet and that is the suffering of the Iraqi people from what we have done.  But hey, we are only talking about two orders of magnitude difference in death and destruction.

When Americans talk about Vietnam they talk about the 60 thousand dead Americans, but nothing about the two million dead Vietnamese and the environmental destruction by agent orange and napalm.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 05:28:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The cultural and intellectual rot in the US is staggering.
...a cacoon of propaganda
...any broad notion of community has pretty much disappeared
The non-stop corporate message
The typical American sees no connection
The Republican Party has become so deeply criminal

An excellent overview of the country that is very, very hard for anyone to admit.  True, we are talking about a world issue based in the US and WE need the US public to rebel, but I cringe as I read it because it is about all of us.  The public behavior you describe applies in LA, KC, NYC, Madrid, Paris, London and probably in Shanghai:  We act as robotic consumers more than we act as persons.

About the forces to bring about change, I think they are also applicable across countries and I would put "bottom up change" first because there is no political spine in most places.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 09:14:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is an interesting post and debate about militaristic imperialism by Matt Stoller on MyDD.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 03:45:05 PM EST


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