Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

A European perspective on Booman

by Frank Schnittger Sat Sep 27th, 2014 at 08:45:00 AM EST

Crossposted from the Booman Tribune

Given Steven D's impassioned pleas for content in Booman's continued absence through illness I thought I'd break my vow of Omertà on all things USA which normally applies between Presidential election cycles.  You see I have a certain resistance to writing about things I know little about and also have a strong sense that a countries own citizens have the primary right and responsibility to determine its policies free of interference from outsiders - well meaning or otherwise.

I make the exception of Presidential elections and some global issues like human rights and climate change because the election of "the leader of the free world" effects us all dramatically and often traumatically and because the USA state, whatever about its own citizenry, makes no bones about the fact that it regards the whole world as its back yard when it comes to dumping its externalities on others.

I also want to pay tribute to the extent to which Booman has informed my thinking on all matters of US politics. He's up there with Paul Krugman as perhaps the most influential blogger and thinker shaping my world view on key issues of economics (Krugman) and US politics (Booman).  Just as I sometimes take issue with Krugman's politics (his recent ham-fisted interventions on Ukraine and Scotland in particular), I sometimes take issue with Booman's take on economics which sometimes seems more influenced by the Chicago School of economics than by Keynes, Krugman, Stiglitz or Piketty.

But it is with Booman's (often implicit and perhaps unconscious) embrace of American Exceptionalism that I have generally had the biggest problem:  I simply don't believe that America has some God given right or grace to impose its beliefs and values on others, or that it is in some way an inherently more moral nation.

Up until the mid 1960's this would not have been a major point of departure for me. The USA had been born as a genuine revolution against colonial oppression, had fought a civil war (in part) against slavery and continued forms of colonial oppression, had struggled against continued racism, and had sought to promote personal freedom against more totalitarian ideologies abroad.

The USA had been slow to enter the First and second world wars, and when it did, did so for generally the right reasons.  The post 1945 Marshall plan and generally non-punitive stance towards the defeated German and Japanese nations (despite the atrocities they perpetrated) did it great credit, and enabled the re-construction of Europe and Japan and the development of a more liberal and inclusive political cultures here and there. Even the cold war against Stalinism was defensible, and thanks to the much under-appreciated contribution of Gorbachev, eventually led to a good outcome.

But sometime around the mid 1960's the USA's influence on the world - always open to debate - seemed to me to switch from being predominantly for the good to being predominantly for the ill-being of mankind - the achievements of The Great Society and cultural icons like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen notwithstanding. Perhaps it was the assassinations of of JFK, RFK and MLK that were the pivotal moments, resulting in the escalations of the war in Vietnam and the gradual morphing of a racial struggle into a class struggle in the USA, making it now perhaps more of a class ridden society than the European societies it had so rightly denounced in its fight for independence.

Ironically it was the defeat of communism abroad and the resultant fear of social democracy at home which seemed to free the American elite from any concern for social justice, and allowed them to focus on a totally self-interested and self righteous quest for their own aggrandizement without regard to all others and without fear of political consequences. Perhaps best epitomized by the rise of Reaganism and neo-conservatism, the American elite engaged in a concerted campaign of installing brutal dictatorships abroad in support of their own corporate interests and waging a class war on their own people at home.

Far from the reluctant engagement in world wars of an earlier era, the USA now has military bases installed in over 100 notionally independent states abroad, and is not slow to use their influence in the promotion of their corporate interests. Globalization has essentially meant that the nation states of the post colonial era have been replaced by the mostly US corporate super-states of the new millennium. Citizen's have become employees and markets and it is the $ rather than the electorate which rules.

And so we had the totally bizarre over-reaction to 9/11 which threatened to puncture this dream of complete invincibility and imperiousness to any legitimately different interests abroad. Target governments did the USA's bidding or else had USA rule imposed on them either directly (Afghanistan, Iraq) or indirectly through compliant national elites hooked on US corporate "investment" in their territories. The total destabilization of the post colonial world order this has wrought is most immediately visible in the chaos in the Middle east today, but can also be seen in multiple US arms industry fueled conflicts in the "third world" today.

Meanwhile the planet is gradually getting burned up carrying a human footprint it cannot sustainably handle resulting in rising and acidifying seas, floods, famines, droughts and local resource scarcity conflicts mediated by machine guns rather than traditional authority or democratic institutions. In order to deny this reality the US elite has fostered totally bizarre religious cults denying climate change, evolution, and science in general, whilst promoting alliances between white supremacism, Zionism and millenarian cults which seem to see the destruction of the earth as a good thing - a sign of the second coming - or at the very least an inevitable and unavoidable outcome of the human condition.

So where are my differences with Booman in all this, you might well ask.  Perhaps they are differences of emphasis and degree rather than fundamental in any sense. Perhaps living in the USA and seeking to influence its political culture from the margins means that Booman could not, even if he wanted to, take on the shibboleths of American Exceptionalism, the excesses of Zionism, or the stark reality of a class struggle which only one side - the elite - is really fighting, and where everyone else, including his beloved Democrats have already lain down and played dead. I might have to make a similar accommodation with political realities if I were in his place.

Is it true that one cannot take an explicitly  anti-Zionist, anti-corporatist, and anti-imperialist position in US politics today without being, at best marginalized, and quite possibly brutalized or imprisoned as a result? Is that the state of human rights in the USA today where SCOTUS has ruled that corporations are people with the right to religious beliefs, where money is free speech and the more money you have the more speech you are allowed?

If so, Booman, for all my differences with him, is a prophet shouting in the wilderness. I hope his voice will be heard for many years to come. May he have a full and quick recovery. We have need of more of his kind. His humanity shines through.

Thanks for posting this at the Frog Pond.  I hope it gets a fair hearing and provokes some thoughtful discussion.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?
by budr on Sat Sep 27th, 2014 at 05:44:40 PM EST
I wasn't aware he was ill.

tbh I haven't visited BT for a few years. Nevertheless, I feel your view is correct; Booman is utterly focused on a narrow perspective of DC and feels very village-y. So American Exceptionalism would be a natural product of that.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Sep 29th, 2014 at 04:47:14 PM EST
Booman is certainly very US-centric, but I don't think he is necessarily too focused on DC. He regularly presents very insightful articles on particular state races or the balance of power on this or that issue. I've learned more about the real workings of the US political structure from Booman that from any of the other political sites I've visited. Between BooTrib and EuroTrib, I feel like I actually know at least a little about what's really going on in the world.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?
by budr on Tue Sep 30th, 2014 at 03:26:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yea, he's a political junky who'll follow any race - even for the mayorship of Wasilla if he thinks it throws up some interesting issues or patterns.

He's not quite it the Nate Silver league when it comes to number crunching and I don't think he is too well up on economics, but when it comes to analysing issues and races, he's up there with the best.

It's foreign policy where I generally have issues with him because I don't think he can think outside a US centred box - but the US itself is big enough to accommodate a US specialist and I appreciate him for that.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Sep 30th, 2014 at 03:38:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]