Friday, December 30, 2022

Fletcher Prouty and Our Situation, Part Two


Fletcher Prouty and Our Situation, Part Two

Peter Schultz


            Having tried to delineate what might be called “the perfected-war regime” in part one of this offering, it is worthwhile to ask: What is required domestically in this regime of “perfected” or “limited” war, in this regime that seeks “full spectrum dominance” throughout the world?


            Most importantly, this regime requires that dissent be delegitimized, “pathologized” as C J Hopkins puts it. “Full spectrum dominance” applies at home as well as abroad, meaning that a consensus is required that overpowers dissent, whether the dissent be “liberal” or “conservative,” or “nationalistic” or “socialistic.” Why is this? Because dissent threatens to reveal how savagery, widespread death and destruction, define this regime. As an alternative to nuclear war, that savagery, if exposed, would undermine the regime’s legitimacy. Perfected war is best seen as “surgical,” “clean,” “technologically sophisticated,” and capable of great precision. It should be seen as almost bloodless, where enemies and threats are made to disappear either through renditions or via assassinations.


            But of course, there will be dissent, so the best kind of dissent is that which reasserts the need for full-throated, good “old-time” war making, that which seeks victories by way of the annihilation of enemies. Such dissent is tolerable, even beneficial, insofar as it hides the savagery of the perfected-war regime. In fact, such dissent can make the perfected-war regime look weak, vacillating, anti-American, and even cowardly. And those dissenters who assert the savagery of the new regime may be easily dismissed as “conspiracy theorists” or as anti-American. In one way or another, these dissenters are characterized as irrational and deserving of being “pathologized.” (Check out the James Webb story.) And those who recommend the savagery of the good, old-time variety, e.g., Michael Scheuer, are in fact bolstering the bona fides of that which they claim to oppose. “Making America Great Again” thus serves to fortify those policies which are, allegedly, undermining America’s greatness.


            Moreover, to achieve such a consensus, propaganda, what is now called “public diplomacy,” is requisite and, hence, perfectly legitimate. Propaganda becomes one of the supports for the perfected-war regime. And it is indispensable.


            Given the need for propaganda, “democracy” in any genuine sense isn’t possible in the perfected-war regime. Arguments, conflicts will arise over the legitimacy of the outcomes of particular elections, which may be and most often are fanciful. But that elections are “rigged,” controlled to assure the victories of the partisans of the perfected-war regime is impossible to deny insofar as any such dissenters are marginalized, ala’ Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich. And disenfranchisement is practiced in different ways to lessen the threat of a “popular rebellion” arising via the ballot box. Contra Malcolm X, this disenfranchisement which makes ballots disappear, as it were, ensures that ballots won’t be alternatives to bullets.


            So, the perfected-war regime has far-reaching consequences, both at home and abroad, as all regimes do. It would be interesting to take note of what happened or happens to those politicians who have managed to get elected but then, for a variety of reasons, take on this regime. Whether he did or he didn’t say it, the fact that JFK was said to have promised to break up the CIA into “a thousand pieces,” made him seem like an enemy of the perfected-war regime, as did his opposition to sending US ground forces into Vietnam, to say nothing of his plans to pull out of Vietnam after he was re-elected in 1964. And Richard Nixon, by seeking détente with the USSR and by going to Communist China, sought to defuse what were considered major threats to the US, thereby undermining the arguments on behalf of maintaining the military-industrial complex for the sake of defending the nation’s national security. Those officials who seek to redefine or restructure threats to national security as “non-threats” are working at cross purposes with the perfected-war regime, which needs such threats to justify its policies, to justify its embrace of full spectrum dominance or American hegemony.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Fletcher Prouty and Our Situation


Fletcher Prouty and Our Situation

Peter Schultz


            In his book on JFK, the CIA, and Vietnam, Fletcher Prouty wrote: “By September 2, 1945, this power elite had learned of its monstrous oversight….Unwittingly, they had encouraged their scientists and engineers to design and produce nuclear weapons….War, their most essential and valuable tool….had been taken from them.” [p.42] Oh, if only it had been so. But it wasn’t.


            In fact, instead of a kind of disarmament, there was more, not less, armament and more, not less, war. Why? Because the power elites developed new ways of making war, with new organizations, new weapons, and new tactics – which were hailed as “surgical” or “clean.” With these developments, wars multiplied as they became “limited,” or they, like the US Constitution which promised “a more perfect union,” promised “more perfect” wars, e.g., Rumsfeld’s RMA, Revolution in Military Affairs or counterinsurgency wars.


            Needing to justify this embrace of war-making multiplied, a switch was made from making war for victories to providing for the defense of the nation. So, the Department of War was replaced by the Department of Defense. Why? Because, among other reasons, defense requires, justifies confronting threats, whereas war justifies confronting enemies, that is, distinct, identifiable people. Moreover, defense privileges bureaucrats, civilians like McNamara’s Whiz Kids, whereas war privileges generals, admirals, and soldiers. The Whiz Kids want to demonstrate their “wizardry” and they don’t know war like warriors do. It’s abstract to them, even virtual or unreal, as in “signature killings” by which those killed are not even known or actually seen. Moreover, defense is perpetual as its requirements never end, while wars begin and end. Defense budgets keep growing. And while “exit strategies” are needed in wars, there’s no need for or even the possibility of exit strategies for defense. There is “No Way Out” of defending the nation. “Peace dividends” never appear. Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” is permanent and perpetual.


            And, lastly, this defense is undertaken in the name of “national security,” not in the name of protecting the United States itself, that is, the country as a physical place. Many are the threats to national security that don’t and can’t threaten the “homeland” itself, e.g., communism in Vietnam, or the USSR in Afghanistan, or even Castro and communism in Cuba. But these threats must be “dealt with,” plans approved for dealing with them, and covert operations – terrorist attacks, like downing Cuban airliners, included – undertaken, all for the sake of national security.


            And, so, the goal of US policies has shifted. The goal is no longer the physical safety, the invincibility of the homeland – America First – but has become what is now called “full spectrum dominance,” because that’s what national security requires: Total dominance. Ipso facto, the US embraces a kind of totalitarianism, a world-wide hegemony including even outer space. And, by the by, the nukes make these policies seem prudent, reasonable, or rational. So, those who oppose this totalitarianism are made to seem imprudent, unreasonable, even irrational. And this while “Dr. Strangelove,” or “loving the bomb,” is seen as rational, along with a “failsafe” system, game theory, and MAD, Mutual Assured Destruction.  


            We have arrived in la la land, a land where no one needs or sees the point of philosophy, of contemplation, or even salvation. The students of philosophers, even some philosophers themselves, become political partisans, ala’ Heidegger, Strauss and their students; that is, they become spokesmen for political agendas. These agendas consume everything, politics consumes everything, even or especially philosophy and revelation. The unending debate  between Athens and Jerusalem disappears, replaced by conflicts between, say, Zionists and fascists, between communists and capitalists, or between GloboCap and something else, something that’s vague and hard to define, espoused by “Trump-like” figures who sound like clowns – because they are.


            After all, we are in la la land, “No Country for Old Men,” where those with principles but no sense of humor are the most powerful. A place where the thumotic – the spirited often posing as bureaucrats – trump the erotic – those lost in a wasteland that never ends, seeking “soulmates” when most don’t have souls worth speaking about any longer. It’s a most interesting situation.


Monday, December 26, 2022

Obama and Trump: Anti-American Patriots


Obama and Trump: Anti-American Patriots

Peter Schultz


            Obama and Trump are anti-American patriots. That is, both espouse anti-Americanism, Obama by apologizing for America’s past sins throughout the world, and Trump by calling the current political order “a swamp” that he was dedicated to cleaning up.


            But their anti-Americanism doesn’t cut very deeply or deeply enough to be illuminating. Rather, it cuts just deeply enough to eventuate in a renewed American patriotism. In other words, their anti-Americanism is a façade behind which is American exceptionalism. Their anti-Americanism doesn’t lead to insights, to what might be called intellectual virtue, but rather it leads to more flag-waving, to moral rather than to intellectual virtue. For both, being a “good American” is sufficient, and much more important than being an intelligent American.


            The virtue of anti-Americanism, insofar as it has any, is that it illuminates the defects of our political and social orders. That is, it shows why being a “good American” is not sufficient, that good Americans participate in or condone corruption or viciousness while being perfectly respectable. Americans can be perfectly respectable while opposing universal health care or condoning “collateral damage” that includes killing civilians, including children. Letting people die for want of health insurance or killing them via drones while they remain unnamed are respectable policies, and those who support them are respectable, are “good Americans.”


            Insofar as Obama’s and Trump’s anti-Americanism doesn’t challenge “American respectability,” it is little more than hypocrisy. And that hypocrisy means that neither Obama nor Trump would or could act reformers. Obama embraced wars and assassinations, even extending the policies of the Bush/Cheney administration, while “the swamp” Trump promised to drain grew as a result of his administration. The politics of both men reflect the hypocrisy of American moral values, a hypocrisy already visible in the Declaration of Independence, which justified the revolution by proclaiming that “all men are created equal” while enslaving blacks and killing the indigenous.


            Until the hypocrisy of our moral values is recognized, there will not, there cannot be genuine reform in the United States. Our moral virtue is compromised, and our well-being depends on our intellectual virtue, on our seeing clearly that the moral virtues we embrace lead us into war, imperialism, and even oppression.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Michael Scheuer, GloboCap, and Endless Wars


Comments on Michael Scheuer, GloboCap, and Endless Wars

Peter Schultz


            Pax Americana or GloboCap, call it what you will, is built on wars, “limited” or “endless” wars, ala’ Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Kosovo, Palestine, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia/Ukraine, Yemen, and so on. This must be kept in mind to understand US foreign policy over the past few decades, at least.


            Michael Scheuer in his book Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq, accuses the US and its elites of “shortsightedness, negligence, and stupidity” that left the US no more to maneuver after the attacks of 9/11. Basically, the US, because it has voluntarily tied itself to Israel and to Saudi Arabia, had undermined its own independence, its own national sovereignty in order to please the Israelis and the Saudis, the former to ensure domestic political success and the latter to ensure continued access to oil. But while Scheuer skewers our elites for shortsightedness, negligence, and stupidity, leaving them with no room for maneuverability were actually maneuvering? Scheuer even suggests this possibility insofar as “the ideological rigidity and close oil-industry ties of the Bush administration were such that they perceived no need maneuverability.” [31]


            That is, what Scheuer sees as stupidity and/or negligence was actually neither. Rather, the post 9/11 policies of the Bush administration were meant to serve and did serve the administration’s goals.  By tying itself to Israel, the Bush administration, like other administrations, was trying to guarantee that it would enjoy domestic success, that it would remain in power and able to control the government and its policies. And by not seeking energy independence and thereby forming an alliance with the Saudis, the Bush administration, like other administrations, could use the Saudis as a proxy that could do things the Bush administration could not openly do, e.g., control Islamist extremists who sought to destroy Israel.


            Scheuer also points out that from 1982 on, the US stood by, watching the growth of Islamist paramilitary training camps, and doing nothing. These camps, it was well known, were training Islamist insurgents and terrorists. These camps became “the world’s flagship training installations for religiously motivated extremists,” and yet “neither the United States nor any of its allies made any serious, systematic, or sustained efforts to destroy the camps….” [32-33] Reasons, nuances as Scheuer calls them, were always found whenever the intelligence community or the military suggested taking some of these camps out, destroying them.


            Assuming that these policies were chosen deliberately by US elites, how can they be understood as reasonable and not as the results of ignorance, cowardice, or stupidity? Scheuer assumes that the goals of the US involved or should have involved privileging US national security in the sense of protecting the US from attacks. But what if our elites did not view their world in terms of what might be called an “America First” agenda, an agenda that Scheuer clearly and enthusiastically embraces? What if our elites were committed not to an “America First” agenda but to a “GloboCap” agenda? That is, what if our elites were committed to fortifying and extending a global capitalistic order, which would require destabilizing, destroying, and then rebuilding according to neo-liberal principles more than a few nations? As the old saw has it: “You cannot make mayonnaise without breaking some eggs.” So, too, you cannot create or fortify “a new world order” without breaking some heads, without subverting and even sabotaging some nations, especially when those nations are not sufficiently capitalist or “neo-liberal.” George Bush the First proclaimed the creation of “a new world order” as the US attacked and expelled Saddam Hussein’s armies from Kuwait, saying also that “the Vietnam syndrome” was over. What Bush meant was that henceforward, the Vietnam war would be seen as just another war meant to create or fortify the new world order, Reagan’s “noble adventure.”


            Scheuer argues that our elites for past few decades don’t know what they are doing, that their policies are the results of “shortsightedness, negligence, and stupidity.” Far from it. Our elites know what they are doing, and they know that to do what they want to do, they have to foment and engage in war, lots of wars, perhaps even endless wars. To do this, they need enemies and, so, they are not committed to eradicating – as Scheuer is – Islamist insurgents and terrorists. As Scheuer points out, “For the US governing elite, Islamists were not a threat to US national security but a lethal nuisance that could be defeated at the pace and moment and with the means decided by the United States.” [20] As 9/11 illustrated, this was quite a gamble. But for the sake of fortifying a global capitalistic order, our elites rolled the dice, which came up snake eyes on 9/11. But even this didn’t displease our elites because 9/11 became our Pearl Harbor, that is, a clarion call to mobilize, to weaponize, and to get on with constructing our new world order. Insofar as war lay at the foundation of this order, we can expect that it will be a recurring feature of that order. And so, one may ask: Which would be better, whether the new world order succeeds or whether it fails? Neither alternative seems particularly appealing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Some Comments on C J Hopkins


Some Comments on C J Hopkins

Peter Schultz


            Hopkins writes: “…following the collapse of the USSR…the goal was not to conquer and colonize the former Soviet and Soviet-aligned territories; the goal was to aggressively destabilize, restructure, and privatize these territories, and absorb them into the global market.” This seems to me correct. But Hopkins doesn’t seem aware that such behavior had been going on for a long time before the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War.


            The key to understanding this is the Lockean concept of “property.” It might be said that Locke created our concept of property, with all its political and social implications. What creates property, according to Locke, is labor or what might be called “development.” That is, nature in its original condition doesn’t have value and only acquires value when it is “developed.” And the more developed it is, the more value it has. This means that the developers acquire ownership, are entitled to ownership, and can do with their property as they wish.


            Punch this up on the social screen to see what it means. Who has more of a right to, say, that land which is labeled “Vietnam,” the Vietnamese “peasants” who have lived on it for centuries, or those who would develop Vietnam by way of “modernization?” What do we Americans think? I doubt many have even raised this question because don’t we just assume that the developers have a greater claim than the Vietnamese themselves? Isn’t that the assumption we made to justify our “invasion” of Vietnam? By modernizing Vietnam, we would increase its value, make it more valuable, even though that value would accrue less to the Vietnamese themselves than it would to the capitalists who were the developers. And if it proved necessary to wage a war in Vietnam and kill quite a few Vietnamese in order to modernize it, then so be it, because, as the old saw has it, “you can’t make mayonnaise without breaking some eggs.”


            So, a new kind of imperialism arises, based not on conquest but on absorption and displacement. Traditional societies are absorbed into a worldwide capitalist order and traditional peoples are displaced, both figuratively and physically, one way of another. In other words, what Hopkins calls “GloboCap” was implicit in Locke’s creation of what we call “property,” a concept with revolutionary implications. Hence, the problems we are dealing with are not due to particular people or particular political parties being powerful; they are due to Locke’s political philosophy. Our problems are not political problems; they are philosophic problems. And until we deal with those philosophical problems, we will be unable to solve our political problems.


            This helps explain why, as Hopkins points out, although “Trump, Johnson, Corbyn, and Sanders were never actually a threat to GloboCap…in any material sense,” the capitalist classes saw and see the need to “crush” these unthreatening persons and their “populism.” Left “uncrushed,” the possibility exists that the real issue, viz., Lockean political philosophy, will be exposed. That issue needs to be disguised or disappeared; for example, by creating what was called “the Cold War;” that is, by manufacturing a conflict, said to be “existential,” between “the Free World” and “the Communists.” And when the Cold War ended with the demise of the USSR and absorption of Communist China into the global economy, another “existential conflict” was needed and, lo and behold, one was manufactured in the Global War on Terror, where it was claimed that an accountant living in caves could bring down the global capitalistic order. Further, Donald Trump had to be turned into another “existential threat” to American democracy, along with other alleged threats like Jeremy Corbyn and right-wing militias. And of course, now, Russia, always a useful pinata, is the monster that is about to undo the global capitalistic order.


            As Hopkins points out, our capitalistic worldwide order presents itself as non-ideological. “It has no need for ideology…ideology is rendered obsolete. Its ideology has become ‘normality,’ ‘reality,’ or ‘just the way it is.’” As a result, dissent is pathologized and dissenters are treated as pathological persons, who should be censored because they are dangerous. They represent “clear and present dangers” and, as a result, should be censored. If they persist, they should be institutionalized. They are “abnormal.”


            People shouldn’t be surprised by this state of affairs. After all, it was visible to some a long time ago; for example, Alexis de Tocqueville gave an account of what he considered to be one of the end states of modern democracy, viz., “soft despotism.” This was not the despotism of the boot heel, but rather of a tutelary power that provided material comfort for the many while rendering them soulless, content to conform and consume, a nation of well-behaved pigs, as it were. It might even seem to some that Tocqueville got it right.

Friday, December 16, 2022

CJ Hopkins and Our Current Situation


CJ Hopkins and Our Current Situation

Peter Schultz


            CJ Hopkins argues that in the face of what he calls “Global Capitalism,” which is a “global-hegemonic system” with “no external enemies,” we are “experiencing throughout the West . . . a neo-nationalist insurrection against Globalism.” In response to this insurrection, GloboCap has employed “official propaganda … designed not to deceive the public… [but] to be absorbed and repeated no matter how implausible or preposterous it might be.” GloboCap has propagated “an official narrative” that creates “a defensive ideological boundary between ‘the truth’ as defined by the ruling class and any other ‘truth’ that contradicts their narrative.”


            Hopkins’s account of our current situation is attractive, even seductive insofar as it claims that parts of the public see through the claims of GloboCap, having “lost all faith in the electoral system,” and know they are “living in a sham republic controlled by global corporations and obscenely wealthy individuals….” But what if this insurrection that Hopkins sees and defends is a fabrication of the ruling classes that Hopkins despises? After all, Hopkins knows the global capitalists need enemies against which to wage war because GloboCap is “a hard sell” given its unconcern with the public. And, so, first there were the Communists and the Cold War; then there were the jihadists and the Global War on Terror; and now there are the “Putin-Nazis,” as represented by Donald Trump, et. al.


            What Hopkins misses, however, is that this global-hegemonic system is an edifice that not only tolerates dissent but encourages it, incorporates it as part of the edifice. It may even be said that GloboCap – as even Hopkins says at times – creates its enemies, fabricates forces that are said to be existential threats to globalism. For example, after 9/11, Bush claimed that bin Laden, et. al., wanted to destroy “the West” out of hatred, when what bin Laden wanted was for the US to leave the holy lands, for “the West” to leave Muslims to live in peace. Bin Laden would have accepted co-existence with the West, ala’ the situation that existed in Europe pre-1492. But without existential enemies, global capitalism is harder to defend and maintain.


            So, for example, Trump’s “insurrection,” what Hopkins calls the “neo-nationalist” insurrection, actually fortifies global capitalism, as do other “enemies” or “insurrectionists.” Why? Because globalism is not only totalitarian; it is also consensual. It’s despotic, but it is an illustration of Tocqueville’s “soft despotism,” a disguised despotism that for the most part sits easily on the public. As Hopkins puts it, “the majority of Putin-Nazis don’t see themselves as Putin-Nazis. They see themselves as just regular Americans;” that is, as Americans who don’t mind living in “a profoundly authoritarian society [because they] worship leaders, police, soldiers, and, basically, anyone wearing a uniform or a Giorgio Armani business suit.” And if those “suits” went to an Ivy League university, like Yale or Harvard, so much the better.


            So, there is not a real insurrection against globalism, just as there was no real insurrection on 1/6 in Washington, D.C. – which is one reason it was allowed to happen. Like other phenomena in the United States, e.g., the war on drugs, the war on crime, and the war on poverty, Hopkins’s alleged insurrection against GloboCap is all smoke and mirrors. In totalitarian or “profoundly authoritarian” societies, a politics of smoke and mirrors is essential to disguise or soften the despotism that exists. But although disguised or softened, it is still despotism.


[To see through the smoke and mirrors, to see “real reality,” it is helpful to spend some time with the likes Cormac McCarthy, who knows and can convey the emptiness of our modern world.]

Wednesday, December 14, 2022




Peter Schultz


            Holocausts are not the result of hatred, although they are accompanied by hatreds. They are the result of self-righteousness and self-righteousness characterizes those who (1) are convinced they know what justice is and (2) are convinced that they embody that justice. So armed, even torture and mass murder are acceptable, are justified.


            Hitler’s holocaust encompassed more than killing Jews. It encompassed the British, the French, most of Europe, Russia, and communism. It was the result of Hitler’s conviction that he knew was justice was and that he embodied that justice. “Heil Hitler!”

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Political Delusions, Deadly Delusions




Political Delusions, Deadly Delusions

Peter Schultz


Below are quotes from an article in the Washington Post, today, 7/12/2022, which wants to distinguish those who would not bake cakes for gay weddings from those who would deny service to those who don’t agree with the LBGQT agenda, based on religious beliefs. Of course, this is delusional. And it is quite interesting that the alleged “liberals” are defending those who, in public restaurants, refuse to some people based on their political beliefs or what they assume are their political beliefs. And despite what Ms. Sepper asserts, this is about denying some Christians the rights enjoyed by non-Christians, because that is the only distinguishing characteristic of the group in play here. Certainly, there are people, non-Christians, who share the thoughts of these Christians regarding gay rights. But they, of course, would be served because how would the restaurant know of those beliefs? So, yes, it Christians being singled out here and Ms. Sepper is no more persuasive than was President Bush when he said the war on terror wasn’t a war on Islam, as he attacked several Islamic nations.


In fact, though it is even worse than that. The principle enunciated here by Ms. Sepper and others is the same principle that allows President Obama to assert that he has the right to incinerate any Muslim-appearing young man between the ages of 20 and 30, without any evidence of wrong-doing, assassinations labeled “signature assassinations” by our military. If this isn’t waging war against Muslims, I can’t imagine what you’d call it. Ms. Seppers is asserting that restaurants can make “signature refusals of service” based, not as she claims on “the group’s actions,” but on the fact that they are Christians of a certain type. “Oh, you are a member of that church? Yes. Well, you can’t eat here.” This is as clearly discrimination against certain groups based on their religious beliefs as is Obama’s “signature assassinations.” I wouldn’t be surprised, though, that those who refused to serve these Christians support Obama’s incinerations of Muslim young men and wouldn’t mind serving Obama his dinner.


It’s stuff like this that makes it impossible to take these allegedly “humanitarian warriors” seriously. Their “humanitarianism” is just as biased, just as characterized by rage and hate, as those they consider their enemies. And because of that, their “humanitarianism” leads to totalitarianism, where those who dissent are demonized and ostracized.  


The Quotes and the link:


“In her blog post, Cobb likened the restaurant’s move to establishments that refused to serve Black customers in the 1950s and ’60s, and she decried what she called a “double standard” by liberals who think a Colorado baker should not be allowed to refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.”


“Legal experts say neither of those are apt analogies. While it’s illegal to discriminate against someone because of their race or religion, the restaurant’s refusal had to do with the group’s actions, said Elizabeth Sepper, a professor at the University of Texas. “It’s about the overall positions and policies the group has taken — it’s not about Christian vs. non-Christian,” she said.”

Monday, December 5, 2022

Jack Beatty's Age of Betrayal


Jack Beatty’s Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900

Peter Schultz


            Here are some interesting passages from Beatty’s book, showing its relevance for us today.


            “While ‘industrialization adds immensely to national power, and may also promote the long-term betterment of the material conditions of the mass of the population. . . it also involves the creation of structures of power, and, indeed, conquest. This turn requires the economic and cultural subordination of the mass of the population and the redefinition of the terms of their social and cultural existence.’”


            This subordination was difficult in the United States because of democratic politics and mass suffrage, which had appeared before industrialization had achieved full power. Hence, the need for disenfranchisement of the people. New York State tried to do this formally by limiting the franchise, but this failed. But “It wasn’t necessary to assault democracy so frontally.”


            The party system was used to insulate America’s industrializing elites “from democracy through a politics of distraction, based on the manipulation of real hatreds and sham issues. ‘Parties as they exist today are bellowing imposters and organized frauds,’ a former Populist lieutenant governor of Kansas asserted in 1898, when his own party had decayed into an organized fraud. ‘They are either reliable machines of the plutocracy and corporations, or they are the handy tools of hypocrites and harlequins, and are as much responsible, through the deceptions they have practiced and the corruption they have defended, for the servitude of the masses to plutocratic usurpers, as are the lawless exactions of organized capital for their plundering.’ Distraction, deception, corruption – the editor omitted only force.” [pp. 22-23]


            That industrialization “requires the economic and cultural subordination of the mass of the population and the redefinition of the terms of their social and cultural existence,” helps me make sense of Teddy Roosevelt’s intense concern, while was police commissioner of New York City, with redefining the social and cultural lives of the working classes in the city. It also helps explain what our “cultural wars” are all about, viz., redefining the social and cultural lives of the mass of our population. These wars are part and parcel of the informal disenfranchisement of our democracy, a disenfranchisement required to insulate our oligarchic or plutocratic elites from the masses deemed to be “beneath” them.  


Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Essential Nature of the Conflict: Part Two


The Essential Nature of the Conflict: Part Two

Peter Schultz


            In the first part of this essay, I made the argument that the Cold War, for example, was a cover meant to hide the essential nature of the conflict between the global capitalist classes and those opposed to them. By implication, this conflict was and is the real conflict going on in the world, not, for example, “the West” versus “the communists.” So, the Cold War was created to hide this conflict and its implications.


            But there was and is another dimension to the Cold War and that was to help advance the agenda of the global capitalist classes. And this worked as follows.


            It was a criticism of the US’s involvement in Vietnam that the military objective was never clearly stated. As Fletcher Prouty put it, “Gen. Creighton Abrams asked the central question of President Johnson,” viz., “what [is] this country’s strategic objective…in Indochina.” But he got no answer from Johnson or anyone else, which meant “the best men like Abrams and Westmoreland could do was wallow in the quagmire of indecision while counting bodies on both sides.” [p. 239]


            But while there wasn’t such a strategic objective, there were political objectives. That is, with the advent of what was and is called counterinsurgency warfare or limited warfare, “the military would be used to further ‘political stability, economic growth, and social change….’” [Prouty. 183] This was, according to Prouty, “a totally revolutionary role for the US military.” [ibid] And many in the military, especially the Joint Chiefs, wanted no part of being “Cold Warriors.” They wanted to remain military people and did not want the military to become the means of furthering “political stability, economic growth, and social change.” And, of course, these terms, “political stability, economic growth, and social change” are empty terms. What kind of “political stability?” Certainly, not the kind of stability created by traditional village life in Vietnam. What kind of “economic growth?” Again, traditional village life in Vietnam would have to disappear in order to get a growing economy because village life was utterly unconcerned with and even rejected such growth. What kind of “social change?” Of course, these changes would look to displace traditional village life, perhaps replacing that life with a life characterized by workers manufacturing sneakers for the Nike corporation.  


            You can see where this is going. That the military was to be converted from a purely military organization to another kind of organization – one, as Prouty points out, that Mao made famous in his writings – that would serve to advance a particular agenda, viz., the agenda of the global capitalist classes. As the result of such a conversion, wars should be limited and need not be “won.” As Prouty puts it: “In Vietnam the United States won precisely nothing, but that costly war served the primary purposes of the world’s power elites. For one thing, they benefitted splendidly from the billions of dollars that came their way. For example, more than ten million men were flown from the United States to Saigon by contract commercial airline flights, representing more than $800 million in windfall business for those airlines.” [p. 235] And, as Prouty points out, “As the progression of events in Central America has demonstrated, the tactics of Vietnam have become the method of dealing with the problems of less-developed countries in the bipolar world.” [ibid] “Dealing with the problems of less-developed nations,” however, seems less than accurate insofar as the global capitalist classes seek to replace one set of such problems with another set of problems, for example, recurring and great debt that serves the interests of our global capitalist classes. 


            Another result of such an agenda is that the CIA gained power within the US government. Again, Prouty: “The US military establishment was neither designed nor prepared to engage in peacetime covert operations, nor did it wish to. As a result, this type of activity remained with the CIA by default.” Given its limitations though, which are insufficient to wage clandestine warfare on its own, the CIA can only incite incidents that subsequently require further US action, either through the military or through proxies, the latter of which leads to the US joining forces with the likes of jihadists and other less than reputable actors. And so the “New World Order,” the world order the global capitalist classes are seeking to create, begins to look less like a just order and more like an order resting on injustice and repression. It is certainly not a peaceful order, unless of course it succeeds in repressing all its “insurgents,” which seems unlikely.

Wild Stuff: The Essential Nature of the Conflict

Wild Stuff: The Essential Nature of the Conflict

Peter Schultz


            Consider two passages, one from C.J. Hopkins, volume II, and the other from Fletcher Prouty’s JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy.


First, the passage from Prouty, regarding the cover up of the JFK assassination: “It [the cover up] was designed to make possible the total takeover of the government of the United States…and to make it possible for this cabal to control the series of Presidents from Lyndon B. Johnson to the present day.” [p.138]


Second, the passage from Hopkins concerning “the War on Dissent the global capitalist classes have been waging…. It isn’t just a question of delegitimizing dissidents by smearing them as anti-Semites, Russian agents, and conspiracy theorists. The goal is to conceal the essential nature of the conflict itself….The essential nature of the conflict is…neoliberalism versus neo-nationalism [with] the global capitalist ruling classes putting down a neo-nationalist insurgency….”


Leave aside the Kennedy assassination and the current battle between neoliberalism and neo-nationalists for a moment and focus on the essential conflict, viz., that of the global capitalist classes against insurgents. In this light, American politics then may be seen as repeated attempts by the global capitalist ruling classes to maintain their rule against insurgencies as they arise in one form or another. As Hopkins points out, this isn’t easy for the global capitalist ruling classes to do because their cause “is a really tough sell to regular folks.” Therefore, the global capitalist ruling classes have to cover up “the essential nature of the conflict,’ e.g., by turning global neoliberalism into “Western democracy” and nationalism into “Nazism.”


This way of looking at things has some rather important implications. For example, it may be argued that the Cold War itself was created to hide the essential nature of the conflict, to hide the essential character of the conflict between what is now called “neoliberalism” and its enemies. Further, the wars that arose after WW II, for example, the wars in Korea and Vietnam, were also used by the “global capitalist classes” to hide the essential character of their politics and the conflicts that agenda created. Anti-communism v. communism hides the essential conflict between the global capitalist classes and the insurgents resisting those classes.


Further implications include the controversies created by the Warren Commission and the 9/11 commissions. If not by design, the controversies these commissions created would further conceal the nature of the essential conflict because the question of the essential conflict, what is it, never gets addressed. Intense controversies arose over bullets, rifles, falling towers, watchdogs that didn’t bark (as one book puts it regarding 9/11). In fact, the essential conflict never even makes an appearance. And the more intense these controversies become, the better they hide the real conflict. And this would be true of any controversy that arose, e.g., whether Jeremy Corbyn is a Nazi, whether Trump is Putin’s bitch, or whether Obama is a natural born American citizen. And the more controversies like these that arise, the more invisible the real or essential conflict becomes, to the point that if you bring up the essential conflict, you will be dismissed as irrelevant at best or delusional at worse.


Of course, if Prouty’s argument that the JFK cover up made it possible for a “cabal” to “totally takeover” the US government is modified to say that that cover up was in service of such an agenda of trying to take over the US government, then it is feasible to see American politics as what Hopkins calls “the global capitalist classes” trying their best to gain or fortify their rule against various “insurgencies” opposed to that agenda. The global capitalist classes weren’t always successful and perhaps can never be finally successful and so they had to wage political battles, repeatedly, against the insurgents. So, what Hopkins sees going on now has been going on for a long time, only in different dimensions or disguises. The Cold War served the global capitalist classes well, and when it ended with the demise of the Soviet Union a new war was needed. And lo and behold, there arose the war on terror, which, again, has served the global capitalist classes well, while concealing “the essential nature of the conflict itself.” Of course, Trump proved to be another way of concealing this conflict, one which the Democrats were more than happy to use, with the Republicans not far behind. Both parties created “Trump,” as it were, because both parties share an interest in concealing the essential nature of the conflict.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

War Is the Health of the State


War Is the Health of the State

Peter Schultz


            I have been reading Max Blumenthal’s book, The Management of Savagery, which is his account of “how America’s national security state fueled the rise of al Qaeda, ISIS….” Like most commentators, Blumenthal argues that America’s national security state fueled the rise of these entities because America’s elites ignored certain facts and ended up involved in civil wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. And these wars gave rise to al Qaeda and ISIS, making then more powerful than they otherwise would have been.


            From this perspective, these civil wars were mistakes, i.e., were events that US elites could and should have avoided or even prevented. And this reasoning seems to make perfect sense, especially in light of the widely accepted thought that politicians and nations always should try to avoid war because war represents failure.


            But suppose, at least momentarily, that “war is the health of the state,” to borrow the title of an essay written by Randolph Bourne in the early 20th century. If we give play to this possibility, then it emerges that the civil wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria and America’s involvement in them were not mistakes. Or, even they were mistakes, they have contributed to the health of the US state, have contributed to its power and its wealth, as well as to its place in the world.


            Think about it: When has war not contributed to the health of a state? Did WW I contribute to or compromise the health of the German state? Both, you might say. And the same phenomenon appears regarding the Vietnam War. Did it contribute to or compromise the health of the American state? Again, both you may say. That war, Vietnam, has been used to help build up the power and wealth of the United States, especially after the onset of “the Reagan Revolution.” And it is still being used today to fortify American patriotism and unity, thereby making the American state healthier. And America’s embrace of war, of several simultaneously, has produced what some call “a war culture,” a culture characterized by reinvigorated patriotism and unity, as well as the whole-hearted embrace of “American exceptionalism” to the point that Americans refer to the United States as “the indispensable nation.” War politics produces a war culture, and a war culture contributes to the health of the state.


            From the viewpoint of the state and those who are invested with its powers, war politics is good politics. So, if your goal is a powerful and wealthy state, i.e., greatness, then war is the way to go.


            It could be then that Blumenthal and others are not clearly seeing the character of US politics, or of politics generally. Because US elites and its people pursue greatness, i.e., political health as it is commonly, even universally understood, the US doesn’t “stumble” into wars, isn’t dragged into “quagmires” that lead to war. Rather, the US embraces war willingly, vigorously, even whole-heartedly because war will make America great, will cause, display, and fortify America’s political health to such a degree that the US can feel free to call itself “the exceptional,” “the indispensable” nation. Oh, the glory in that! A glory that, as Pericles said of Athens, might prove to be immortal. So, as the death toll rises, remember there is glory, greatness to be harvested from those bodies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Triple Cross: A Comment


Triple Cross: A Comment

Peter Schultz


            In his book, Triple Cross: How Bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI, Peter Lance repeatedly points out how the FBI and the CIA failed to see Ali Mohamed for the al Qaeda spy he was. Throughout the 1990s and even earlier, there was evidence of Mohamed’s attachment to al Qaeda. In fact, in 1993, he revealed to an FBI agent that he was such a spy and yet the FBI and the CIA failed to follow up.


            It’s interesting, to say the least, that despite all of the examples of failures of these agencies, Lance never asks whether all of these “might have beens,” as he calls them, are the result not of intermittent failures but of fundamental flaws endemic to these bureaucracies. That is, is it possible that these agencies are fundamentally defective and not just capable of making “mistakes,” as are all human beings and human organizations?


            Bureaucracies are institutions created in order to control things. This is their primary function regardless of what they are “regulating.” Hence, the intel they gather is assessed through the lens of control. If intel is gathered that is deemed not to represent a threat, not to represent significant danger than it is not important or, at any rate, not important enough to invest a significant amount of time and money in. It is, in all likelihood, to be “filed away” in case it proves to be significant later.


            What does this mean? Among other things, it means that bureaucrats and bureaucracies lack or suppress imagination. Bureaucrats are, it might be said, invested in “the effectual truth,” to borrow a phrase from Machiavelli’s The Prince, and not the whole truth. The whole truth only emerges through the use of imagination. What is called “evidence” is only what is evident, so evidence always presents only a partial picture of what is going on or what went on. There may situations where such partial pictures are beneficial, e.g., in criminal trials where the important thing is to determine if someone committed a particular act.


            But in other situations such partial pictures are misleading, are even blinding, as it were. To put it bluntly, the effectual truth gets human beings to nuclear weapons; but it doesn’t and it can’t get human beings to thinking, after witnessing the use of such weapons, “Now, I am become death, destroyer of worlds.” The latter requires imagination, inspiration, even religious inspiration. And such imagination or inspiration is essential to understand the world that nuclear weapons have created, or what those armed with nuclear weapons are likely to become.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Failure in Vietnam and the Rise of "Reagan"


Failure in Vietnam and the Rise of “Reagan”

Peter Schultz


How did the failure of the US in the Vietnam War fuel the rise of Ronald Reagan and his kind of conservatism? That failure fueled Reagan’s rise to power because that failure wasn’t perceived as a failure of the underlying political paradigm. According to that paradigm, call it “political realism,” power in the form of advanced technology and managerial skills will enable the US to control the world, both at home and abroad. As Prouty has put it, the US created “a great machine” in the guise of the Department of Defense, the CIA, NSA, and DIA, armed with the most advanced weapons and entrusted it to people educated in our elite institutions to be its managers.


Insofar as the US failed in Vietnam but didn’t see that failure as attributable to our politics of realism, then Reagan – or any other politician, conservative or liberal – could claim that our national security state, our “great machine,” needed strengthening, not dismantling. Which is of course what has happened.


In a way, Reagan et. al. turned Eisenhower’s warning about “the military-industrial complex” on its head. For Reagan et. al., it wasn’t the complex that was dangerous; it was the incompleteness of the complex that was dangerous. For Reagan, the military-industrial complex was the key to US survival and hegemony, and should therefore be embraced, fortified, and extended as far as possible. Reagan’s “conservatism” and Eisenhower’s represent two very different kinds of political regimes, with Reagan’s being imperialistic and Ike’s being, at least dimly, republican. Reagan’s conservatism points toward endless wars, wars that need not be won to serve their purposes, while Eisenhower’s conservatism points toward “a crusade for peace.”


That both Kennedy and Nixon ran against Eisenhower in the 1960 presidential election illustrates just how “unrealistic” Eisenhower’s politics seemed then – and seem now.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Ramblings on Tom and Huck


Ramblings on Tom and Huck

Peter Schultz


            Tom Sawyer has a destination and is satisfied with it, viz., the American dream of wealth, a beautiful girl, and fame.


            Huck Finn has no destination that satisfies or fulfills him and so he “lights out for the territories” leaving the Widow Douglas and “sivilization” behind.


            What if it isn’t only the realities of civilization, its dark side, that the reticent [“ancient’] philosophers are hiding with their art of writing? What if they are hiding philosophy as well?


            Philosophy, although the source of the most complete happiness, exposes truths that don’t make us free, that don’t even make us better. There’s beauty in the pursuit of truth even though the truth itself isn’t beautiful. That pursuit is beautiful because it requires love/eros/passion and inspires by being creative or imaginative. Inspiration and creativity are human pleasures of the highest order.


            So, the adventure [the pursuit] is more rewarding than the destination. Adventurers are closer to fulfillment than those who have “arrived,” those labelled “the successful.” Moreover, seeking and maintaining success requires foregoing the adventure(s), requires becoming or being “sivilized,” as Huck would put it. But, of course, a society of adventurers is unsustainable. Athens needed Crito even more than it needed Socrates, and Socrates knew it. Whatever else Socrates might be, he wasn’t a necessity. Whatever else “philosophy” might be, it isn’t a necessity.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

No Country for Old Men and Raleigh


No Country for Old Men and Raleigh

Peter Schultz


            In Cormac McCarthy’s novel, No Country for Old Men, just before Anton Chigurh kills Wells, puts a bullet in his head, he says to Wells: “If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?”


            Americans desperately want, even need to deny that the rule we followed has brought us to “Raleigh,” i.e., to mass murder involving family members as well as strangers, by mass murderers who are only fifteen years old. But we deny it all the time, claiming that events like the recent ones in Raleigh, N.C. are madness, aberrational behavior attributable to some kind of “brain sickness,” and not attributable to the rule we have followed. Modern psychology is a kind of knowledge that obscures the concepts of social or political responsibility and causality, thus making it useful in a corporatized, militarized, technologically sophisticated society that relies on cruelty, e.g., mass incarceration, in order to function and appear decent.  


            So, in a way, madness was invented or discovered in part because it served to obscure or disguise the cruelty of our civilization. And, of course, the invasive and pervasive spying on people, even or especially ordinary people – another result of the rule we have followed – is another way of controlling or minimizing the effects of this cruelty. But this all Sisyphean because the more violence that is created – and violence is “the rule we have been and are following” – the more surveillance and psychiatry we will need.

One Way of Reading Jane Austen


One Way of Reading Jane Austen

Peter Schultz


            One way of reading Jane Austen is to see her novels as illustrating the conflict between eros and will, between the erotic and the willful, between those seeking the beautiful and those seeking power, between the natural and the conventional. By and large, in Austen’s Britain, the willful often prevail, while the erotic often struggle.


            British willfulness is evident both domestically, where their erotic activities like marriage are treated as political or economic activities, as well as regarding foreign affairs where the Brits have created an empire in order to dominate the world. Moreover, the willful, like Willoughby, are allowed to damage the erotic, like Marianne, without suffering any social consequences and little more than a slightly troubled conscience, which is no doubt allayed by his wealth and social status. And it is Marianne who is deemed problematical, much more so than is Willoughby.


            A question for or about Austen: for Austen do the erotic win out? Or, insofar as they do win out, does their eroticism suffer damage? One could say that at least in Austen’s novels the erotic do win out, thereby elevating the erotic at the expense of the willful. Perhaps Austen hoped that this would, at least marginally, affect British society as well.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Fletcher Prouty, the CIA, and Modern Politics


Fletcher Prouty, the CIA, and Modern Politics

Peter Schultz


            At one point in his book, The Secret Team, Fletcher Prouty quotes the motto that adorns the entry way to the CIA building in Langley, Virginia, a motto drawn from the New Testament and chosen by Allen Dulles: “The Truth Shall Set You Free.” Of course, this is from the gospel of John and the words quoted were preceded by the words “You Shall Know the Truth and….” It is worthwhile to analyze this rather famous quotation from the gospel according to John.


            It is a rather nice thought, isn’t it? It implies that (1) the truth is accessible to us and (2) once accessed, the truth will set us free. And that’s rather nice. I mean, just think of how Oedipus might respond to these assertions. He learned the truth but it didn’t set him free. In fact, the truth he learned was that he had murdered his father and married his mother. Not so nice.


            More generally, it may be asked (1) what if the truth isn’t accessible to us and (2) even if it is accessible, what if it doesn’t make us free? What if, in truth, we are not free, if freedom is an illusion? In other words, the CIA, allegedly bottomed on what Prouty calls “realistic appraisals,” actually rests on naivete’ or an illusion.


            Prouty seems unaware of this possibility. For example, he argues that had JFK used the NSC properly – as Ike used it – he, JFK, would have gotten “more realistic appraisals” regarding the planned Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba. Here, Prouty uses the word “realistic” to mean “factual.” And in that sense, there is nothing controversial about Prouty’s argument. However, being realistic in a political sense rests on assumptions that are naïve’, challengeable, and not the result of an assessment of the facts.


            Being “realistic politically,” being a “realist,” means being powerful and using that power energetically, as Hamilton would put it. I use to ask early on in my presidency course, that students give me one word that describes what a president should be and, invariably, that word was “powerful.” The word was not intelligent, not imaginative, and certainly not caring, but powerful. For the students, who are good reflections of other Americans, they were just being realistic, as most of the rest of us would be as well if confronted with that question.


            That we think of being realistic as being powerful and using that power energetically explains a lot about American politics and its blind spots. For example, anti-communism, which Prouty argues was behind more than one CIA mistaken analysis, is just one manifestation of this realist mindset. That mindset is built around enemies, potential and actual, and so much so that, as Prouty notices, realists at times create enemies, even deadly enemies. So not only were Communists seen as deadly enemies but so too are crime, drugs, viruses, poverty, and even some Muslims. And, of course, it follows that in confronting such enemies realism requires that we prepare for war, whether cold, hot, or domestic. Realistic politics is ultimately an armed or militaristic politics that embraces secrecy both to assess and to oppose covertly our enemies. And the highest officer in the land is designated “the commander in chief,” and certainly not “the caretaker in chief.”


            Prouty shares this realistic view of politics. For example, in his assessment of the Bay of Pigs invasion, he asserts that it would have succeeded if US power had been properly applied. And he seems to imply he would have been alright with that invasion if it had been successful. But because of his realism, he fails to ask: If it had worked, would that have benefitted the United States, Cuba, or the world? You see, because they embrace power as the indispensable political virtue, realists like Prouty assume that the answer to this question was “Yes.” Whereas JFK’s answer to this question was, apparently, “No.”


            Why no? Because JFK was not naïve’ enough to think that every successful application or exercise of power would benefit human beings or improves the human condition. But this naivete’ lies at or near the core of modern politics – and perhaps at or near the core of all politics. Think about it. We tend to think that every successful manifestation of our power – powerful governments, cities, weapons, armies, prisons, asylums, even vaccines – benefits us and improves the human condition. There is a wonderful documentary film entitled “Divided Highways,” which is about the creation of the interstate highway system in the United States, the largest public works project ever undertaken by human beings anywhere. And what makes the film intriguing is how it illustrates that the creation of this highway system, despite the power it reflects and creates, is or should be controversial. Could it be that the United States would be better off without this powerful highway system? It’s a legitimate question, only it isn’t for realists. Realists naively think that exercising power is the crux of ameliorating the human condition. They think that this is the truth and that this truth will set us free.


            So, and here is a thought Prouty does not and probably cannot wrap his head around: JFK wanted to the Bay of Pigs invasion to fail and because he wanted it to fail he sabotaged it by withholding crucial applications of force in the form of bombers taking out Castro’s air force completely. In other words, JFK acted as if he thought that a successful invasion, which would result in the overthrow of the Castro regime, would not be beneficial to the United States, to Cuba, or to the world. Why can’t Prouty – and others – wrap their heads around this possibility? Because being realists, embracing realistic politics, Prouty and others cannot conceive of the possibility that the successful application of power would not be beneficial.