Saturday, November 26, 2011


P. Schultz
November 26, 2011

I love to read American history because (a) I learn things that I was not taught in school and (b) I am often startled anew by the capacity of our government for duplicity. I am reading two books right now, one entitled Overthrow and the other entitled Instruments of Statecraft, both of which are about the United States’ practice of “unconventional warfare” or the “covert variety” in various places in the world. Without boring you with two much detail, here is an example of what I have learned.

This example is from the book, Instruments of Statecraft, by Michael McClintock. Basically, what startled me was our government’s policy in the Philippines after the Japanese had occupied those islands at the start of World War II. Of course, resistance movements arose among the Filipino people and there were even “stay behinds” – that is, American soldiers who stayed behind after the Japanese took over – who were involved with these resistance fighters. However, what was startling was that the American government refused to support those resistance groups, especially those called the Huks, who were most eager to fight the Japanese. The government, that is, the American government limited its support to those groups which did not threaten the “elite,” that is, the wealthy land owners, among the Filipinos even though this elite was, generally and broadly speaking, cooperating with the Japanese in the suppression of their fellow countrymen. This elite had the status of collaborators but was, nonetheless, protected by the policy of the American government, a policy that included a prohibition on attacking those Filipinos who were collaborating with the Japs. Of course, such a policy protected the Japanese as well as the elite Filipinos. And after the war was over, it was the collaborators who were rewarded with positions of power and not the Huk. Why not the Huk? Because it was feared that they were “communists.” In fact, some of the Huk were massacred with the approval and assistance of the United States.

Now, think about it. American policy, geared to protecting the elite of the Philippines because of the fear of communism, protected the Japanese who had occupied these islands as part of their war against the United States. And these same Japanese would be the ones killing Americans who were going to retake the Philippines! So, in essence, American policy was willing to sacrifice the lives of its own soldiers in order to protect the established order, both social and economic, in the Philippines! This strikes me as duplicitous. In fact, it strikes me as criminal. And you never read about this in your history books.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Real Reality

The Real Reality
P. Schultz
November 23, 2011

Here is a quote from an article in Al Jazeera, that says all that needs be said. Smoke and mirrors, that is about the crux of our politics today.

“The point is that the American people are being lied to about the deficit and their choices for fixing it (or not fixing it). And this dishonest campaign is being led by people with a long-standing animus towards the social safety net, who are seizing this moment of confusion to push through something without the permission of the people. This bait-and-switch is happening because financial and political elites insist on demanding "sacrifice" from ordinary people in order to preserve an unsustainable financial system, not an unsustainable debt.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The "Failure" of the Supercommittee

The “Failure” of the Super Committee
P. Schultz
November 22, 2011

            OK, so it is being trumpeted everywhere, the Supercommittee has “failed.” In the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, the headline is “Super frustration, super failure.” The people on the Supercommittee could not reach an agreement over what to do about the budget and this is, everyone agrees, a failure, even a failure of overwhelming significance.

            But it is worthwhile, as it always is, to question the conventional wisdom, here, that this result represents a “failure.” In the first place, this seems slightly illogical to me, to conclude that the lack of an agreement is a failure, at least from the point of view of the members of the committee. They know that public opinion of them and of the government is at an all time low. So, why would they then tolerate such a result? Surely it would have been possible to reach some kind of an agreement and, from the public response, almost any kind of agreement would have been better than no agreement.

            Ah, but isn’t that the point? Think about it: Conventionally speaking, there is this “Supercommittee” – so called – convened for the purpose of finding that apparently elusive “middle” which would provide some kind of solution, partial or not, of our current budgetary “problems.” On this Supercommittee are, apparently, people who know what they are doing and who are, allegedly, committed to serving the public interest, the common good, above all else. Now, however, we are “told” that even the people on this Supercommittee cannot reach an agreement about what to do and what are we to conclude? My bet is that what we will be told to conclude is that our problems are so huge, so complex, so intractable that it will require the most serious kind of effort to “solve” them. Because, after all, the Supercommittee couldn’t solve them and if the Supercommittee cannot solve them then they must be immense.

            For me, this is all a set-up and was a set-up since the creation of this Supercommittee. In fact, for me it is not too much to say that this committee was created for the purpose of “failing” because by failing the Supercommittee has cleared the decks for policies that will serve the few at the expense of the many but will surely be presented to us as our “last, best hope.” The logic will be: “Hey, no one wants to do these things but what choice do we have? Even the Supercommittee could not agree! We have no choices here, people. We all have to sacrifice.”

Conventional Political Wisdom Summarized

Conventional “Political” Wisdom Summarized
P. Schultz
November 22, 2011

            This may be my shortest blog ever. But here it is:

We have problems whose solutions will be provided by the government or other large, bureaucratic institutions like universities, corporations, or even churches that rely on experts/specialists who possess expertise, are rational and skillful, being neither emotional nor caring and who will formulate policies to be implemented by other specialists or experts and then evaluated by even other specialists or experts.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Instruments of Statecraft": Governing in America

Instruments of Statecraft, Michael McClintock
Posted by P. Schultz
November 20, 2011

This is a review of a book I just “discovered” reading another book that should be a must for anyone interested in how our political system actually works,  that is, not as it works in the dreams of those who like movies like “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” or TV shows like “The West Wing.” This other book is Ideal Illusions: How the US Government Co-Opted Human Rights, by James Peck. You can find this review on Amazon if you type in Michael McClintock and look for his book, Instruments of Statecraft.

"Instruments of Statecraft" is a powerful and significant book that unveils how US counterinsurgency doctrine was consciously modelled on the practices and achievements of World War II fascism. In his review of US Army manuals of the 1950s, author Michael McClintock notes that there is a frightening similarity between the Nazi's perception of world politics and America's behavior in the Cold War.
“McClintock reveals how the US has undertaken the worldwide task of removing anti-fascist resistance and other criminals (labelled "Communists" or "terrorists") from the theatre of national and international politics.
“McClintock points out that in the struggle against "Partisan Communism" the killing of anyone furnishing aid or comfort, directly or indirectly, to such partisans, or any person withholding information on partisans, was well within the provisions of acceptable superpower behavior.
“McClintock shows how the policies advocated by Kennedy's dovish advisors, and standard US practice in Central America were founded on the fundamental state terrorist policy of the utility of "evacuation of all natives from partisan-infested areas and the destruction of all farms, villages, and buildings in the areas following the evacuations" - standard US procedure in South Vietnam, for example. Engaging, illuminating and riveting,"Instruments of Statecraft" is a must-read for blind-faith patriots everywhere. “

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Political Problem

‎The Political Problem
P. Schultz
November 18, 2011

This is from an exchange on Facebook with a former student who likes to throw the word “nihilism” around to describe those with whom he disagrees. And it raised for me the issue of what the political problem actually is. That is, is that problem the problem of “nihilism” or what might be called “conventionalism?” It is often said that political philosophy made its appearance only when the distinction between the conventional and the natural was recognized and taken seriously.  This would suggest that the political phenomenon that is most common and, hence, most problematic is conventionalism, that is, the confusion of what is conventional with what is natural [or best].

The former student wrote, regarding his stay in France:

 "Anyways, I'm not sure where I am now- what the Tradition would say France represents. Skepticism, nihilism... hell? Not sure..."

I wrote in response:

“You know what amazes me? That so many take "nihilism" as an attitude that is adopted quite easily, that it is seen as almost "natural," that it is what human beings adopt unless corrected by some "Tradition," whether the Catholic Tradition or the Great Books Tradition. Nihilism is not the natural state of human beings to say the least. For human beings to arrive at nihilism requires an effort, even a great effort. The "political/human" problem is not nihilism but conventionalism, whether that conventionalism appears as nationalism or patriotism.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Human Rights?

Human Rights: What?
P. Schultz
November 15, 2011

Quotations from a book entitled Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-Opted Human Rights, by James Peck.

“…the rise of the American human rights movement since the 1970s has coincided with an unprecedented increase in inequality, with brutal wars of occupation, and with a determination to establish American preeminence via the greatest concentration military power in history….In the end, the movement must decide: Can it find a way to truly confront the abusive operations of wealth and power in all their many forms? Or will it consent to being a weapon of privileged power seeking to protect it interests – and its conscience?” [ p. 9 ]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Modern Politics

Modern Politics P. Schultz November 14, 2011

Some quotes from a book entitled Leo Strauss: An Intellectual Biography. 

Commenting on Strauss’ take on Hobbes, whom he, Strauss, considered one of the founders of modern natural right and, hence, modern politics: “Will takes the place of reason in legitimizing the political order…..” [p. 107] And then again: “Hobbes distinction between natural right and natural law is based on the emergence of this new form of individuality emancipated from the law, regardless of whether that law is imposed by a natural order external to man or by divine legislation. Now, the distinction between right and law presupposes a revolt against divine Law.” [p. 108]

“Will” not only takes the place of reason in legitimizing political order but it also takes the place of reason in legitimizing what we call “leadership.” Hence, leadership in the modern world is essentially, which is to say deeply, lawless, seen as beyond law “regardless of whether that law is imposed by a natural order external to man or by divine legislation.” And it leads to, inexorably and inevitably, the view that “Establishing a new order means overturning the old order root and branch. Only an energetic, even violent, anti-theological ire could lead men on to the desired transformation.” [p. 108]

Hence, the New Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society, and a New World Order look to uproot the old order and are, necessarily, “energetic” [NB: this is Hamilton’s word for the new executive he helped to create], “even violent.” The war in Vietnam was no aberration, it was no “mistake;” rather, it was part and parcel of the liberals’ agenda. And in this context, it should not be forgotten that the Defense Department, the Pentagon, was the created by “liberals,” not by “conservatives,” [that is, when there were still genuine conservatives around].

And is it any wonder that many can today defend torture and, what is worse, do so with a good conscience? But what is surprising is that someone who provided constitutional sanction for torture would be invited to speak at a Catholic college, that is, a college that claims to believe in divine Law and even “a natural order external to man.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ambition and the Founders

Ambition, The Founders, and American Politics

            In one sense, the whole difference between the Federalists’ and the Anti-Federalists’ approach to republican government revolves around the ambitious. “Ambition” at the time of the founding was an important word and one with more than one meaning. But it is certain that it was seen as one part of the human psyche which had significant implications for politics and for government. It was recognized that men of ambition were men who sought power, that is, eagerly sought power, even perhaps at the outer reaches “lusted” after power. These men were also thought to have along with their ambition “talents” that would allow them to accomplish much. One issue was, however, how to deal with “the ambitious” when it came to government and politics and here is where the Federalists and Anti-Federalists differed in rather basic ways.

            It would not be too much to say that for the Federalists the goal was two fold: First, how to get these men into government and, second, how to control them once they were there. For the Anti-Federalists, on the other hand, the goal was, first and foremost, to keep these types out of government and then, if or insofar as that failed, how to shackle them if they did get into the government. Let me say a bit about the Federalists first.

            How do you get the ambitious government? Well, by creating offices that would appeal to them. That is, it is necessary to create offices of significant, if not great power, enough power that these offices would convey upon their occupants considerable social status. Moreover, the ambitious should be able to hold these offices for long periods of time, meaning that the offices should have relatively long terms and no term limits. The ambitious have “plans,” we might say, and the most ambitious have the most ambitious plans. Therefore, it is necessary to provide them with “the room,” as it were, to undertake “arduous enterprises “ for the public benefit, as Hamilton said in one of his papers on presidency in the Federalist. As Hamilton noted there, men, especially ambitious men, will not be drawn to offices where it would be impossible for them to complete their projects, preferring not to undertake ambitious projects if they would have to let others complete them. Not much or not enough glory in that.

            The Anti-Federalists, on the other hand, while agreeing with the Federalists about the character of the ambitious and about the appeal of powerful offices to those men disagreed as to the desirability of creating such offices and of drawing such men into government.  These types of men are dangerous in that they are seeking glory most of all, meaning glory for themselves as well as for the nation. This pursuit of glory or of “fame,” to use Hamilton’s concept, leads nations to reject “simple government” for complex government, to reject a responsive government for the sake of a powerful, that is, self-moving, government. Such a pursuit also leads nations to involve themselves in the affairs of other nations in order to create an “empire,” leading these nations into wars more often than not.

            Hence, the Anti-Federalists sought to create offices that would not appeal to the most ambitious of men, offices with short terms and with severe term limits. The most ambitious men would, therefore, not find such offices attractive and they would, as a result, not enter into government. Of course, it is necessary to emphasize that the Anti-Federalists realized that such limited offices only make sense when the scope of government is limited as well. If the goal is to create a government capable of undertaking great projects, like waging a war on terror, then the idea of offices with severely limited power(s) makes little sense. Hence, for the Anti-Federalists government would be limited to maintaining or, let us say, “conserving” society rather than remaking it according to some grand project, say like a “New Deal” or a “Great Society” or a “New Frontier.”

            But once the ambitious are attracted into the government, even the Federalists saw the need to control them. That is, they like the Anti-Federalists saw the ambiguity of the ambitious, that the most ambitious could be dangerous to the well-being of a community. This is evident given what we call “the impeachment process” that is embedded in the Constitution, because it provides a way to remove officials from their offices against their will and even against the will of their supporters, however many these supporters might be. But there is more to the Federalists’ attempts at control than such an extreme step as impeachment, trial, conviction, and removal from office.

            It has recently occurred to me that another way the Federalists were hopeful of controlling the ambitious was by turning them into “professionals,” that is, “professional politicians.” As professional politicians, these men would be wedded to “the system” because their status as “professionals” would be intertwined with the status of that system. Hence, they would be committed to maintaining “the system,” to ensuring that there would be continuity in the government and that “the system” would be immune to fundamental change. A “professional” class of officials, legislative, executive, and judicial, would render “revolution” extremely unlikely, if not impossible.

            Here it is possible to contrast the Federalists with the Anti-Federalists as well insofar as the Anti-Federalists may be said to have wanted to preserve the idea of “citizen politicians” rather than “professional politicians.” That is, if terms in office are short and term limits severe, those who enter the government will not be, because they cannot be, “professional politicians,” that is, those who have made a career out of politics or government. Of course, citizen legislators, for example, are not invested in “the system” in any way like professional legislators are invested in it. Their “status” does not depend on their “official existence.” Hence, they would be more open to systemic change, even fundamental systemic change, than would professional legislators.