I have not written much over the past few weeks for a variety of reasons. School work has picked up and the news has centered mostly on the various ways in which both parties are seeking to use “teh deficit” to continue decades long tradition of transferring our collective wealth into the hands of the 1%. Furthermore cataloging the various stupid shit that conservative pundits and activists say and pretending that the existence of such insanity will prompt a change within the GOP is also a waste of my time. However something did strike me about the argument here in leftblogistan over the nomination of John Brennan for CIA chief. It’s a familiar sense that the hippies have this one right yet again, and that those of us who fancy ourselves politically astute might want to start and listen to them before it is too late.
It has been almost 10 years exactly since the previous President decided to stake his place in history by engaging in our most pointless war on a series of lies that the media had breathlessly repeated for the previous year. I was a teenager at the time and was frankly amazed at the universal failure of virtually ever major institution that I as a citizen expected to act as a check against the narrative. Sadly despite the rather obvious progression that lead to this complete disaster we as a society seemingly learned little from the experience, as evidenced by the current intransigent nature of our discussion concerning National Security.
Democratic voters responded to the Bush Administrations draconian fervor to destroy the world by falling way to the left of their elected counterparts. While powerhouse politicians like John Kerry, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton allowed their judgement to be swayed entirely by idiotic village thinking concerning the imminent threat of Sadamm Hussein (i.e. they saw what happened to Max Cleland in 2002), voters were uniting around a virulently anti-war ideal. Howard Dean almost became the nominee for President in 2004 and Barack Obama’s entire career was provoked by being one of the few establishment voices against the conflict. Nevertheless here we are in 2013, talking about the legal potential for an American citizen to be killed within this country based on the mere belief that the individual provided material support to the nebulous enemy of terrorism.
Something has gone seriously wrong, and it is unfortunately our (meaning progressives) fault.
In a similar vein to those dull Democrats who actively seek out the “A” rating from the NRA for its political gain, the “Hawk” Democrat has in the last forty years become a standard part of our party. Their existence persists no matter how such beliefs run counter to the overarching philosophy of our voters, partly because of the media’s obsession with authoritarianism, but mainly because of the nature of the defense industry. Liberals like Sherrod Brown or even my own Congressman here in Long Beach know that the Defense Industry is one of the few domestic manufacturing employers left in the country, and Boeing/Lockheed/Northrup/etc have astutely spread out their offices and plants throughout the country regardless of whether the district was blue or red. The result predictably is the creation of a perpetual war machine that (like any other capitalist venture) demands growth in order to survive.
Regarding the drone issue specifically Liberals as a group have engaged in a series of circular arguments concerning the nuances of the policy itself (where the strikes should take place, the legal steps that must occur in order for due process to be fulfilled, etc). Those of us who see the drones as necessary evils of the post 9/11 era look at the Glenn Greenwald’s of the world as at best politically naive or at worst tools of the reflexive right-wing (who as a group obviously love to see a discordant opposing side). I too engaged in the difficult defense of the policy, especially around the time of the election when I saw such debates as counter productive towards the goal of preventing a Romney/Ryan White House from having access to the kill list. However now I see the error of my ways and wish to step back into sanity.
To put it succinctly: drones are a problem, but they are just a microcosm of the immense insanity that we have cultivated over the past generations.
Fortuitously while the conformation hearings for Brennan were going on I happened to be watching a few documentaries on the news media and their coverage of the War in Iraq (as well as a few on the War on Terror in a general). These works mainly consisted of interviews that I had either seen before or I had seen their subjects speak at other points after 9/11, but the context in which I saw them now allowed me to recognize my own faulty conception of the world that we live in now. Back in 2006 or 2007 I would have seen someone like John Brennan, Robert Gates, or Richard Armitage as lackeys of the Bush Administration and consciously dismissed virtually everything that they said as being consistent with the dominant culture of employing lies for the greater good of inflicting malice on the rest of the world. Now that those same people (or their analogous counterparts) are working with my guy or appear on the liberal MSNBC, I take them seriously and at least accept their justifications as being based on actual facts.
This phenomenon is a serious issue for liberals, and it needs to be corrected before it is too late.
Make no mistake, John Brennan is a terrible person and his policies and worldview are despicable no matter what Obama says about him. Brennan is yet another member of the extensive club of sociopaths in suits that have plagued Washington since the Cold War began (think Robert McNamara, Kissinger, and other killers who perfected the efficiency and corporatization of our foreign policy). Virtually every military or foreign policy decision that we as a country have made since World War II has been shaped by a culture of armchair warrior fanatics, whether it is Rumsefld and Cheney on the right or Diane Feinstein and Joe Lieberman on the left. Despite the fact that doves have been correct in their predictions concerning every single military intervention that the US has undertook, they remain a mocked minority throughout the political establishment.
As liberals we have a duty (especially since the other side obviously isn’t big on the whole self-reflection thing) to examine our own responsibility for the perpetuation of this incredibly awful set of policies. Let’s use the same jaundiced eye towards our own guy concerning war that we gave Bush (a task that should be rather easy given the repeating cast of characters). When we are being told that extra-judicial killings are being performed with the highest respect for the law, imagine that the person telling us that just happens to be Liz Cheney. The “imminent” threat of terrorism existed on 9/10/2001 and disappeared as of 9/13 of that same year- yet for some reason we keep on killing people.
Beyond the fact that this policy is counterproductive (and more than likely based on the same pile of lies and fear that we dismissed when it was presented in Bush wrapping paper) is that there is diminishing political value of such wariness. In the past thirty years only a handful of elections have been decided due to what was happening on the foreign policy front, but for some reason Democrats still feel reluctant to embrace the sensical idealism of supporting international human rights and peace as electable values. The Republicans will probably recognize the shift in a few years, as the Lindsey Grahams and John McCain’s of the world are pushed aside for the traditional Rand Paul styled isolationism (foreigners, in the GOP lizard brain, are to be either bombed or ignored dependning on the direction of the breeze that day). Furthermore it makes little sense to constantly defend the bloated defense budget while “compromising” on necessary entitlements that traditional Democratic voters actually like.
The truth of the matter is one that we as a society will always refuse to admit. The nature of the enemy in this never ending War on Terror is that it is impossible to destroy it. Terrorism is a chronic condition within a free and democratic society, and the best that we can hope to avoid it is to either do our best to address its systemic causes (i.e. stop supporting the assholes in the House of Saud and the Likud Party) and to punish those responsible in the same manner that we would any other crime (actual judicial due process versus the facilitating martyrdom of the extremists). However Americans do not like to confront their own mortality, and for some reason are convinced that they will die a preventable violent death rather than the much more likely preventable “natural” death related to their increasing poverty. As a result both sides of the political divide will continue to patronize to their base that they know the best way to kill our way into safety, regardless of the actual facts of the matter.