Friday, October 23, 2020

Trump's Defeat Will Be Meaningless


Trump’s Defeat Will Be Meaningless

Peter Schultz


            If you’re concerned with changing US politics, given the political consensus that exists in the US now, voting against Trump is as meaningless as voting for Biden, and vice versa. Either outcome, Biden’s or Trump’s election, will produce no real change in US politics. So defeating Trump will be meaningless because no basis has been laid to an alternative politics in the US.


            At least Ronald Reagan pretended to offer an alternative politics to that which preceded him but Biden neither intends nor wants to make such an offer. Biden’s choice by the Democrats was a huge neon sign announcing that they neither wanted nor intended any significant change from the politics that has prevailed since the election of Reagan in 1980. What may be called “the Reagan restoration” will be restored once more, as it was in 1992 and in 2008. Just as Trump’s defeat is meaningless, so too will Biden’s victory be meaningless. Despite all the hoopla, despite all the bitterness between the rivals, despite all the calls to “save American democracy,” this election is, in fact, meaningless.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Just Another Sucker: A Conversation


Just Another Sucker: A Conversation

Peter Schultz


            When I happened to mention that I had served in the Army, the young man said: “Thank you for your service.”


            I said: “Oh, don’t thank me. I was just another sucker going off to fight a war that made the rich richer and the nation worse off.”


            He said: “Oh, so you’re a Trump supporter.”


            I said: “Never!”


            He said; “Why not?”


            I said: “Because Trump is just another old rich guy telling poorer young people to go fight in wars that will make Trump and other rich people richer.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Academics and US Politics


Academics and US Politics

Peter Schultz


            This will be one of my shortest posts ever. Years ago, while in graduate school, I had a friend, an older chap, of British heritage, who was about as smart about political stuff as anyone I had met or have ever met since. He said to me once: “You know, Pete, these Straussians are so delusional. They think that eventually when they get to Washington, because they have read the classics and studied political philosophy, they will be running things. They don’t know that the politicians in D.C. will use them and they will be little more than shills for the ruling class.”


            Well, it took awhile but this seems to have happened. That is, some of those who think of themselves as politically astute because they have studied political philosophy have been co-opted. Some of these people have studied Leo Strauss; some of them have studied Eric Voeglin. But all of them have become shills for the likes of Joe Biden! Amazing.

Endless War Isn't War


Endless War Isn’t War

Peter Schultz


            In reading Robert Parry’s Secrecy and Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty From Watergate to Iraq, I came across the following sentence: “Following a global ‘lesser evil’ strategy, the United States….found justification in allying with fascists to defeat the Soviet Union….” The thought in that sentence seems utterly non-controversial. But then another thought popped into my head: “But the purpose of the Cold War wasn’t ‘to defeat the Soviet Union.’” Rather, it was about embedding, enhancing, and extending US power throughout the world. That war was about establishing the US’s imperial regime.


            Once I saw this I began to make sense of other phenomena that didn’t seem to make much sense. For example, “victory” in Vietnam was not crucial and, hence, was not determinative of US actions there. The war itself was enough to demonstrate and, thus, enhance US superiority. Even a defeat there could not make much of a dent in that perceived superiority. Similarly, “victory” in Nicaragua or Cuba was not crucial and, hence, not determinative of US actions in those nations. It is the projection of US power that matters because that confirms US superiority. And, of course, anything that threatens that image of US superiority must be taken on, whatever the outcome. US policies that lead to death, destruction, and dislocation are self-justifying as demonstrations of US superiority. That is, they need not be justified by their effectiveness. And, so, despite their acknowledged ineffectiveness, they continue, e.g., in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria.


            This points to a crucial difference between, say, WWII and what’s called the “Cold War” or the “War on Terror.” Victory was crucial to WWII, whereas in the Cold War or the War on Terror it is irrelevant, or so marginally important as to be irrelevant. Further, the use of propaganda during WWII and during the Cold War or the War on Terror is also different. Propaganda during WWII was used to help win that war and so, once the war was won, the propaganda could and would end. Not so with the Cold War or the War on Terror: Such propaganda is unending because it is used to perpetuate a regime, a political order, the imperial political order the US has created post-WWII. And because all political orders are, necessarily, unstable and tenuous, such propaganda will continue as long as the imperial political order it serves exists. “Public diplomacy” as a way of manipulating public opinion will be embraced by our elites in both parties, continually.


            Preserving US imperialism means preserving the power and authority of those who control that political order, those elites in both parties who have risen to power by virtue of their service to that political order. Hence, admission to those elites needs be denied to those who question US imperialism. No critique of that imperialism is permissible, at least not within its elites. Those who question that imperialism are, logically, subversives and must be dealt with.


            Which is to say: Endless war is not war. Rather, it is just a kind of politics, the kind of politics that serves to perpetuate and fortify imperialism. Endless war is merely imperial politics dressed up to look like war. All the flag waving, all the patriotic displays, all the calls for sacrifice are merely tricks that our imperial elites are using to fortify their own power and the political order they serve. Being “unpatriotic,” e.g., by taking a knee during the national anthem or refusing to stand for it, isn’t being unpatriotic. It’s merely dissenting from a kind of politics and political order that never fails to be inhuman.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Oligarchic Politics Redux: Carter and Trump

Oligarchic Politics Redux: Carter and Trump

Peter Schultz


            Our oligarchy, when shaken in its legitimacy, behaves in a fairly predictable manner. Consider the examples of Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump.


            When these men were elected, Carter in 1976 and Trump in 2016, the oligarchy was being challenged in ways that required a response in order for our oligarchic elites to regain their legitimacy. In 1976, the oligarchy turned to or accepted Jimmy Carter, while in 2016, it turned to or accepted Donald Trump for redemption. Both of these men were suited for their roles because both could be made to appear – perhaps because they actually were – dangerously incompetent. Both could be charged with bringing the US to “the eve of destruction,” as it were. They made it easy for the pros of covert action who are spread throughout the Washington establishment to undermine their presidencies. Moreover, the mainstream media could be counted on the serve these pros and their political agenda.


            And if Biden defeats Trump, as seems all-too-plausible to think will happen, then it may be said that both of the failed presidencies of these “redeemers” of the oligarchy will be followed by the election an old white guy of the “golly gee” variety, the kind of guys, who looking back in wonder of “the good old days,” could be easily blamed when things go awry, as they did during what was dubbed “the Iran-Contra scandal.” What “crisis” or “scandal” will afflict a Biden presidency? It’s impossible to know but what we can know is that if and when one does come, Biden’s defenders will trot out what might be called “the Reagan defense,” incompetence wrapped up in a veil that hints at mental dismiss.


            But it is good to keep in mind that Reagan’s presidency was defined by much more than the Iran-Contra scandal or that that scandal was a reflection of an imperialism that relied on and, thereby, led to the creation of Islamic fundamentalist extremists, as well as relying on drug-dealing, right wing insurrectionists throughout Latin America. These aspects of the Reagan presidency have been forgotten because the Democrats, during the Clinton presidency, refused to pursue the sometimes-criminal conspiracies of the Reagan years, some of which were under the control of George H.W. Bush. And, of course, the Bush pardons at the end of his presidency served to end any investigation into these matters. It is even plausible to argue that Bush threw the 1992 presidential election to Clinton, with Ross Perot’s help of course, in order to end any such investigations. Whether Bush did that or not, the results were to his, Bush’s, liking.


            Insofar as we can expect something like another Reagan presidency from Biden, we should be troubled at his prospects. For those thinking Biden can be pushed to “the left,” I would say: Forget that. A resurgent US imperialism is much more likely. It will be an interesting situation.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Modern Politics and Society: Violence and Criminality


Modern Politics and Society: Violence and Criminality

Peter Schultz


            So let’s say that violence and criminality lie at the base of modern politics and society. This seems like a fairly reasonable supposition given how, at least in the US, our politicians have been “in bed” with criminals continually. There is the fact that FDR made a deal with the mafia don, Meyer Lansky would provide protection along the east coast of the US and FDR would move Lucky Luciano to more comfortable accommodations in the prison system and then free Luciano and send him to Italy after WWII ended. There is also the fact that the US Army, when it invaded Sicily, used the mafia there to combat communists who had resisted Mussolini’s government as well as the German Nazis.


            And regarding violence, it is good to remember that the US was created by virtue of a revolution, that is, a revolutionary war that constituted at the time treason. The American Revolution was a treasonous war. And, of course, the US was perpetuated by means of the Civil War, one of the bloodiest wars ever fought.


            So, then our supposition seems at least plausible. But now a further supposition: Let us suppose that Plato and Aristotle knew that human societies rested on violence and criminality, something allegedly “discovered “ by Machiavelli. The difference between Plato, Aristotle and Machiavelli is that while Plato and Aristotle recognized that violence and criminality lay at the root of what we call “civilized” societies, they kept that hidden, while Machiavelli chose to expose it.


            This may not be a minor differentiation, although it might seem like one. By exposing the basis of human societies as violence and criminality, Machiavelli conveyed a certain legitimacy on those phenomena, and once that is done, everything changes. That is, after Machiavelli, what humans take to be good and bad changes, and what they take to be the best life changes as well. Violence and criminality, if committed on a large scale, come to be respectable, even admirable.


            Consider the Civil War in the United States. This war was one of the bloodiest wars ever waged and yet, afterwards, it was looked upon with favor by those who waged it, both those in the North and those in the South. In fact, even more amazingly, Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, tried to render the war sacred, as a sacrifice, an especially bloody sacrifice, that was necessary to preserve the union that was called the United States, as well as ensuring that “government[s] of, for, and by the people” would not perish from the earth. Of course that war involved both great violence and great criminality and yet Lincoln would have us remember it as sacred, that which could not be “hallowed” further. Is it needless to point out that in this way, Lincoln was claiming great virtue for himself, even the greatest virtue? That is, the greatest virtue arises from and is intertwined with great violence and great criminality. This is, to say the least, a sobering thought.