Friday, June 13, 2014

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. . .

I returned from Europe on Sunday, and I thought I'd be blogging this week about some extraordinary negotiations that I read about in a lengthy spread in Le Monde Diplomatique, a French weekly that addresses current affairs with a real sense of history.   These talks between the EU and the governments of the United States and Canada are designed to create something called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which, as several articles explained in great detail, will be an unprecedented free trade zone within which governments lose most of their traditional power to regulate their economies.  But I shall have save that post for later, because today's headlines provide more proof, not that it was needed, that both the United States and the world face a great crisis comparable in scope, thought very different in form, from the one that shook the world from 1929 through 1945.

Abroad, the big news, of course, is the threatened collapse of the Shi'ite dictatorship we helped bring to power in Iraq.  Yes, the Maliki government has one elections, but the Dexter Filkins piece in the New Yorker that I linked here recently showed that its leaders have terrorist backgrounds and are using the same terrorist methods in power that Saddam Hussein did.  The difference is that they have not been able to stand up effective security forces, which are collapsing in the face of a Sunni offensive that began in Syria and is now assuming control over one major city after another.  With Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia watching carefully, anything is possible now, including a regional religious war.  How much of this catastrophe is ultimately the responsibility of George W. Bush is impossible to say, but at the very least, he accelerated the Sunni-Shi'ite conflict that seems likely to dominate the region for decades.  The President, according to one very reliable source, did not even know that there was a Sunni-Shi'ite conflict in Iraq only months before the invasion.  Although the US wars in Vietnam and Iraq were very different in origin, scope, tactics and scale, they are now linked by a bizarre chronological parallel.  The major US involvement in South Vietnam started in 1961, led to heavy fighting four years later, began to de-escalate five years after that in 1971, led to an American withdrawal in 1973, and culminated in the collapse of the South Vietnamese government two years later.  The invasion of Iraq took place in 2003, heavy fighting began about two years later and peaked in 2007-8, followed by an American withdrawal in 2010--and, it seems,. quite possibly, a complete collapse four years later.  Things have moved a bit more quickly in Iraq, but with a similar result.  And amazingly, American commentators and apologists now claim that Nouri al-Maliki had to be more inclusive, that the had to reach out to the Sunnis--the very things which were never going to happen, clearly, among any of Iraqi's three major groups.  Afghanistan and Pakistan are both threatened by more violence as well, and there is no end in sight in Syria.  Worse still, there is no major international effort to bring these conflicts to an end and create some kind of stability in the region.

On the home front, on Tuesday night, when I saw the Daily Kos email in my inbox reporting the defeat of Eric Kantor, I literally could not believe it.  I thought it must be some kind of a joke--but it wasn't. 
Since 2009 I have compared (not equated) the Tea Party and the Nazi Party--their tactics, their goals, and their impact.  The Tea Party has drawn on the same kind of hate-filled propaganda that the Nazis did, albeit with somewhat different targets. Their allies in the media, like Hitler and Goebbels, have pioneered new propaganda techniques using new media, in this case, talk radio and 24-hour news channels.  Like the traditional German conservatives who thought they could make use of Hitler, the Republican establishment has found that it cannot deal with the monster that it encouraged.  And the propaganda of Limbaugh and Fox News--both of whom are crowing over Cantor's defeat--has taken on a life of its own.  Listen for a few minutes.  Any cooperation at all with the Administration, any vote that seems to endorse business as usual in Washington, is now grounds for suspicion and a potential purge.  Congress will get more obstructionist, not less, as a result.  Any move towards immigration reform is dead.  Jeb Bush's potential presidential candidacy has just suffered a heavy blow.

Charles Blow of the New York Times  presented some interesting data on Cantor's defeat today as well.  He lost the election by a margin of about 35,000 votes to 30,000--but in 2012, he won re-election in the general election with 223,000 votes.  The average Republican was too lazy to show up and vote in the primary; the average Tea Partier was not.  This is what is pushing the Republicans relentlessly rightward, despite all the efforts of Karl Rove and company to try to keep them close enough to the center to win a national election.

Yet the critical differences between the Republican right and the Nazis persist.  First of all, the Tea Party has never stood up armed militias marching the streets and beating up political opponents--partly because there is no comparable organized force on the left.  Secondly and more importantly, unlike the Nazis, they have no positive program. They simply want to destroy modern government in the United States.  Yet they may do so, if they can actually get into power.  That is not all that likely.  The demographics are still against them in national elections, and their candidates do not do well even at the state level.  Hillary Clinton was undoubtedly one of the biggest gainers from Tuesday's vote.  But as I have said many times, the rhythms of American politics guarantee that sooner or later the Republicans will come into office again, and there doesn't seem to be much hope of their regaining their sanity before they do.

There's a big reason why extremist Republicans keep gaining ground.  Not only do they dispose of extraordinary profit-making propaganda instruments, but they are the only element in our political life pushing seriously for a vision of a new order.  They are living in a fantasy world and have nothing to offer but disaster, but in times of crisis, simple allegiance to the long-standing status quo is not a very strong political position.  The Democrats have become, above all, the party of the economic status quo, with very little that is new to offer.  That is why they have not been able to mobilize their majority on behalf of a policy agenda. They have however managed to prevent anyone else from doing so.


8 comments:

Zosima said...

A good summary of American politics. Not much to disagree with, so I will make some differences of emphasis.
The Republican party is a victim of its own success --it’s the party of war, and/or excessive military spending, tax cuts for the rich, and making sure that business interests dominate workers interests. They’ve had a complete victory on all those fronts since Reagan, and esp. since G W Bush. Dem presidents like Clinton, Obama, and soon Hillary, are mere administrators of Republican policy, with very minor tweaking (Obama/Romney-care came out of a conservative think tank). All the Reps. have to do from now on, is just block any rollback, and they don’t need the presidency to do that. If we just recognize that we are in Reagan’s 9th term, everything becomes clear.
The Tea Party is overblown, it’s just a vehicle for the cultural conservatives to let off steam (Cantor lost over immigration). Cultural conservatives have lost on every issue but guns. Why? Because wealthy people and corporations know that overt oppression of women, gays, or racially minorities is not a money-maker, so they won’t allow it. They also like immigration because of the cheap labor, so they’re not going to allow anyone to stop it. Status quo, stagnation, is a victory for the party of business. I expect it to continue without significant disruption.

CrocodileChuck said...

Both mainstream political parties in the USA* are not only the oldest on Earth, but the oldest in history.

New balls, please.

* along with Australia's

Jim Rush said...

You mention that there is no armed militias from the left for the tea party to violently stand up to.

I wonder why there is no left-leaning organization who are willing to stand up to the tea party, and able do so without being targeted by the United States Government? I do remember in the fifties and early sixties growing up in California, it was thought to be common knowledge that if the commies ever won even decent treatment(much less an election for dog catcher) in America that we would all be enslaved the next day. Really. And I wondered then why all the European countries, who were much closer to the Soviet Union, seemed to have no such fear. Communists openly competed in their elections. Europeans didn't seem to be worried at all. But if I mentioned this I was suspect as a comsymp. Remember that phrase?

One reason is possibly that if you found any left-leaning group carrying automatic weapons into Starbucks or anywhere else, they would be arrested for all kinds of things. Because they would obviously be a bunch of revolutionaries who were about to enslave America. But the right groups can do this with no fear, as they are simply practicing their rights.

Dr. Kaiser, I really enjoyed your latest book. Could you or someone recommend a book on the above question?

Thanks
Jim

David Kaiser said...

I'm delighted by the comments we have been getting here and the level of discussion. I want to answer Jim Rush's question about left-wing activism. We seem to be about the same age. In my opinion, in our youth, left wingers decided that electoral activism, especially on economic issues, was simply not the way to go. They found other outlets for their idealism. As you may know, some key Republican operatives, led by Karl Rove, cut their teeth in the Young Republicans in the Nixon era. Meanwhile, LBJ had essentially closed down the Young Democrats because they opposed Vietnam.

David Kaiser said...

And thanks for the comments about the book, Jim. I don't the think the book I'm looking for about the Left has been written.

ed boyle said...

Why is everyone on the right "anti" everything? The "know-nothing" party of pre-civil war times perhaps. Same trend everywhere in Europe but they can be isolated. If UKIP in Britain, FN in France and similar parties elsewhere try to get into parliament it is on their own steam. A 3rd party in USA seems to hijack and hinder the GOP. If the Democrats get too cozy then a left wing protest group would hijack them. This would seem more needed as the Democrats are right of center in fact. the Republicans are stone-age adherents of whatever was yesterday. This will only be of use when TEOTWAWKI occurs and everybody has to hunker down somewhere with army rations and heavy heavy weaponry in a bunker and grow their own food.


Ironically the Tea Party and Repubs are probably closer ideologically to Vladimir Putin than the democrats (anti-gay, very religious and patriotic) but this is a global trend as we see in Turkey, Arab countries, maybe in India eventually where women's rights falling(rape and lynch frightening trend) and religious party getting absolute majority for example. China is also getting more radical and bristling about borders, resources, etc. and even pacifist Japanese talking of constitutional changes to allow more military involvement.

Moderates are by definition quiet and unemotional whereas radicals are concerned and angry. Their voters think similarly and go to vote. One angry man can dominate a discussion and motivate a crowd, which is uncertain which way to turn in a difficult situation. So of course as times get more desperate the center disappears, with its rationalism and calm. ISIL, SVOBODA, TEA party, FN, BJP are all winners of this trend. Of course these are all nationalist, isolationist traditionalists. Although such people can put up a moderate face their basic programs are all "anti". They represent a certain group against another group or groups. This is not all-inclusiveness theory of a Kennedy.

Generational theory -to come back to flog that old beaten horse - predicts just such trends before the crisis war. It is all economic. Too many births in post war boom and resource wars in later cycle leads to ideological extremism and war around 80-100 years or 4 generations out, i.e. after 1940-45. We see the maddening escalation of violence and radicalism all about us. Hillary Rodham Clinton accuses Obama of being too easy on the Russians. Maggie Thatcher would have been proud of a new Iron Lady. She will likely be more right wing in office than GW Bush was as the times have gone farther to the right.

Why can't the Left globally lead? They have lost ideological initiative perhaps or is it their lack of will to power, to kill the enemy with defamation and lies, their terrible sense of fairness and respect for rule of law. If you believe in Jesus rule of "love your neighbor" then taking a gun to force your neighbor to show love is somehow strange and discordant. But the ten commandments are another matter. "Off with his head, sharia law, etc." How did Lenin manage this mental split. He needed a class enemy. The Left needs a new enemy. Perhaps gas guzzling car drivers could be sabotaged (tacks under tires), Methane producing cows poisoned, the rich guillotined, banks boycotted. Some try to pull out of the system and become like monks, living outside of consumerism, i.e. hippy acesticism, victory gardens, alt-energy lifestyle. Why vote if "they" are corrupt. But the violent will prevail and gain control as they are more cynical and energetic. The right is now in this situation and globally gaining power. Without Obama the dems will not vote in numbers ("just one white guy against another, its all the same difference-all corrupt, imperialists") and the War Party will gain absolute ascendancy in Washington and provoke a war at any cost as their moral duty. McCain will be seen as a moderate in such times and reason will be for the weak. I would suggest an underground fallout shelter in South America for this case.

Bozon said...

Professor

Great post.

Things seem to be moving faster, everywhere, than some have thought they would.

World events, it seems to me, are now, unfortunately, largely out of the hands of the West, except either by desperate and foolish, or largely useless, measures.

It has been primarily our own doing, and a relatively long time coming.

all the best

Bozon said...

Professor

Thanks for this post.

I always loved Yeats.

The Tea Party seems to me to be much like the party Jefferson espoused at the beginning, a party of primarily local squires(....albeit in a now globalized, rather than localized, political world).

That is, in part, why they hate big government, because Jefferson claimed to.

The fact that he went through with Louisiana, or that he changed his views on slavery, are viewed as other matters.

all the best