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Sunday, February 07, 2021

Enemies, enemies everywhere

 Every Fourth Turning or great crisis identifies enemies--foreign, domestic, or both--and persecutes them. That spirit usually persists into the subsequent High for a few years before giving way to renewed consensus.   In the Revolutionary War the enemies were Tories, many of whom lost their property after the war and had to flee to Canada, and at the end of the 1774-1794 crisis, the emerging Federalist and Republican parties began to treat one another as deadly enemies linked to foreign powers--the Federalists to Britain, the Republicans to revolutionary France. In the Civil War the internal enemies were unionists in the South and southern sympathizers or Copperheads in the North, and animosities persisted through Reconstruction.  In the 1929-45 crisis the chosen enemies included "economic royalists," the Nazi and the Japanese governments (and by extension, Germans and Japanese-Americans within the US), and then, from 1946 or so until 1954, Communists and other left-wingers. We are watching the same pattern in this Crisis, but we have failed to agree on enemies, and still lackl the consensus that could bring this pattern to an end. 

If one believes, as I do, that the crisis began in 2001, then the first enemy, obviously, became foreign terrorists. The Bush II administration created whole new bureaucracies and legions of private contractors to fight them at home, while going to war against them abroad. The FBI tried to infiltrate them at home and sent a number of people to jail who had done nothing but discuss possible terrorist acts with FBI informers.   The FBI meanwhile cut back its efforts on a number of other crime fronts, including domestic terrorism and white collar crime.  A few individual terrorists did perpetrate attacks in the Bush II and Obama years--the killing of federal employees in San Bernardino and of soldiers in  San Antonio; a failed bomb in Times Square; and the Marathon bombings in Boston in 2013.  Islamic terrorism within the US has faded as a threat, however, while our attempts to defeat it overseas, while changing regimes we claimed had supported it, have led to endless wars and foreign catastrophes.

Oddly, when Donald J. Trump came into office in 2017 with a new enemy in view--illegal immigrants--that population had already become the federal government's number 1 enemy under George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  Such deportations climbed steadily from about 180,000 in 2002 to a peak of 432,000 in 2012, before falling quite steeply to about 300,000 in 2017.  They increased again under Donald Trump, but have not reached the 2012 peak.  Meanwhile, the Trump administration also made it much harder for potential immigrants to come into the United States and seek asylum.  The Biden Administration now wants to pass a law granting a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants within the US--that is, to potential deportees--but we do not know whether such a law has any chance of passing, or how much the new administration will change the asylum rules again.  Trump also tried to turn ANTIFA into a prime domestic enemy in the eyes of the public, but apparently without success.

Now, because of the attack on the US Capitol, a new enemy, right-wing domestic terrorists, have taken center stage.  Hundreds of them will rightly be indicted and prosecuted for entering the building, and the FBI is reportedly focusing more on their networks.  The assault upon them has extended to a sympathizer in Congress, Marjorie Taylor Green, who has been stripped of her committee assignments by the Democrats in the House (with a few Republicans joining in.)  Interestingly enough, this never happened to any of the few pro-Communist legislators in the Congress during the late 1940s, such as Vito Marcantonio of New York.  The spirit of proscription lives today, just as it did in earlier crises and their aftermath.

Unfortunately, in one key respect, this crisis is different.  Most of the earlier enemies--Tories, Copperheads, and postwar Communists---represented genuine enemies of the United States whose defeat became apparent to all, or nearly all, of us. The internment of Japanese-Americans who had done nothing wrong was a terrible mistake, but when Japan was defeated it was logical to release them and they resumed their lives as citizens.  But so far, none of the enemies upon which we have turned the federal government in the last twenty years really represented a deadly threat that was overcome in a clear American triumph.  Such triumphs in earlier eras created some kind of new national consensus and reaffirmed national unity.  That is still lacking today.  We must hope that the COVID-19 virus might play the role of a truly serious enemy that a determined government and public managed to defeat.  


8 comments:

Matthew E said...

A couple of points.

1. While it's true that they haven't been defeated in any significant way (one-half of your recipe), I think that the extreme right wing of US politics, which includes the Capitol insurgents but also the 45th president, his inner circle, most of his supporters and most of his party, was and is a deadly threat to the United States. I don't know how one goes about defeating them, though, and I don't envy collective-you the task.

2. If I read your last sentence right, you're looking for a defeatable enemy that can fulfill the requirements of the 4T so that we can get on with the 1T. I think that may be like trying to make your dog happy by grabbing his tail and wagging it back and forth. The new Trumpified GOP isn't going to go away or unify with the Democrats just because COVID gets defeated (assuming it does). The problems that they represent will still need solving, and I don't know what kind of a 1T there can be without doing so. I don't think the 4T can end until one side wins decisively.

Unknown said...

Thanks David. I agree with you that the shift into a 4th turning mood began in 2001 which might mean the shift into a new high is not so far off. Hope springs eternal.

Energyflow said...

We might look at Terminator or Matrix for technology as the enemy of biological life, including humans. Jobs get mass automated away in very large numbers by 2030 and the capitalist who owns Amazon, Walmart, manufacturing, restaurants, retail have the problem of losing customers and profits as employment drops. Technology accelerates continuously making retraining implausible. There is a massive disconnect then between progress up till now understood by us as improved living standards, social stability and middle class democracies globally and technological progress which is for the animal, plant and human world rather dystopian as none of us are needed. Having watched a video on aboriginal occupation of Australia and the multimillenial die off of the megabeasts along with brushfire technique of land clearing which was all very destructive, followed by tens of thousands of years of stable land management based on hard won life experience I can only hope that we will find a similar equilibrium and not end as the Easter Islanders. Paring back of technology, reclaiming deserts, extracting CO2 thereby, reducing consumerism and belief in materialism and progress technologically depends on a reconnect to nature in a sort of religious/ spiritual way. The enemy is us said Pogo in the cartoon. Achieving identity through creation of an ' other' is not useful except to reduce population in an overcrowded environment. So WW3 would reduce surplus population or unbridled progress would create a dystopia of unhappy people on UBI playing computer games out of boredom, hating another group to help satisfy their need for group belonging. Perhaps all of that will happen, wars, conflicts, technology then decline as boredom and social weakness sets in(see Rome) by century's end resulting in a true renewal. If alternating saeculum between good and bad outcomes are to be expected then I presume this one will prove inconclusive, divisive and bitter. Deplorables will be suppressed by techies, minorities and reparations will be paid. Texas, etc secession or rejection of Facebook, google pravda type hegemony over free speech is conceivable though. Recall how blacks fared in the South after reconstruction. The Left' s power will be rejected at the state level as a parallel internet will come about and much of federal control in gun law changes, etc flouted in the 95% of the counties that supported Trump( geographically urban areas are isolated). High tax and wage burdens plus rents, housing costs will force the poor urbanites to join the rural deplorables, draining the Left' s power base. So it will take a long phase to see who really won this war. By then US power( USD and military/ trade hegemony) will be much less pronounced by, say 2040s and the youth will look for hippy type new age spirituality, music trends, not hardship, hatreds of groups, conformities(1950s type behaviors). Biden does not seem moderate, going out with a bang in his old age, one termer. This will increase animosity. It seems truly a civil war without the bloodshed, fought by online griping. Most are too unfit, old, overweight to fight anyway. Quite civilized, boring if you ask me. Cancel culture as civil conflict? Where are the gulags or house to house combat? People are such wimps nowadays. Ah the good ole days. ' I love the smell of napalm in the morning'.

Bozon said...

Professor
This seems a very useful squib on this variegated recent history.

More generally speaking, We have sponsored Democratic globalization, and racial and economic equalitarianism, since Jefferson's nonsense in the Declaration, really.

This is an old quote.

' "...(because our security problems do not arise from a competition among the great powers, but rather out of the seething underclass, domestically and in the Third World, that has been seduced by the cult of consumption at a time when the future dictated by its demographics moves this class ever farther from realizing its fantasies)..." The Shield of Achilles, p. 258.

"Bobbitt does not agree with Huntington, but Huntington is right about the causes of what Bobbitt is talking about, not Bobbitt." '

All the best

Bozon said...

Professor:
Re Enemies, enemies everywhere,
I thought this was rather good.
You are welcome to publish it here if you like, or just read it.

"Its back against the wall, its balls to the wall, there is nothing, nothing left, now, no alternative, no plan B, no pivot, for it to do, but finally, finally, reluctantly, cornered at last, turn, turn and fight, fight its way out of what it has built around it, fight for its life, fight for survival, like a wild animal in the jungle at night, surrounded by other predators, none of which can truly, or for very long, ever, ever, be trusted, each, emaciated, old, almost toothless, mangy, half starved, obligate carnivores, preying on ruminants, other game, and now, increasingly, as market and attacker capitalist wild game profit margins finally collapse of their own shrinking weight on each other, each more hungry, half famished, almost as well armed, way more numerous, and fully as dangerous, as itself."

All the best

Bozon said...

Professor:
Re Enemies, enemies everywhere,

Why not share this comparative essay, first day of second impeachment hearings?

Randall Collins, The Sociological Eye
THURSDAY, JANUARY 28, 2021
ASSAULT ON THE CAPITOL: 2021, 1917, 1792

Just a thought,
All the best

Bozon said...

Professor

Having read Collins' account, and his "lessons learned", many other good questions remain.

One huge one or series of ones, I see, given your discussions, his, and yours of the growth of BLM black violent activism, and large scale white support for it, is why, in a city filled with Democratic and restive blacks and democratic activist whites anxious for the change of power to occur, why did we not see violent confrontations between these leftist forces who have shown themselves, over and over again now, willing to disrupt whatever they disagree with?

Why did these agitated and violent Democrats not defend their winning side against the Rightist mob, as their leaders tried to take power on their behalf?

If they trusted their government to defend their interests, it was misplaced.

All the best

Bozon said...

Professor
One conclusion which it is tempting to reach, is that Democrats, perfectly willing to protest against, and tear down, any establishment thing they disagree with, are nevertheless unwilling to rally to defend against violent protest attack any establishment thing they ostensibly believe in.

Further, this may explain in part Trump's rhetoric on January 6, reasonably but falsely believing, that left Democratic demonstrators would meet his protesters head to head outside the Capitol, and was merely rousing his side in that demonstration confrontation having no intention of them breaching security of the building itself.

This is speculation.I am not trying to exonerate Trump, but rather to account for what otherwise seems unaccountable.

All the best