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.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Reflections of Moral and Political Virtue


Reflections on Moral and Political Virtue

Peter Schultz


            I am reading the book The Yankee and Cowboy War, which is about American politics and particularly the connection between Dallas – that is, assassination of JFK – and Watergate – the coup that displaced Nixon. And in the course of my reading, I began to think about Aristotle and his teaching on moral and political virtue.


            Aristotle makes is clear that moral virtue is trumped by political virtue insofar as cities are defined by their respective political virtues, whether those virtues be democratic, oligarchic, or monarchical. That is, cities or political order are controlled, guided not by moral virtues but by political virtues, which of course vary from place to place. Democrats practice democratic virtues and oligarchs practice oligarchic virtues. It is the political virtues that rule.


            Now, in discussing the assassination of JFK, Carl Oglesby, author of The Yankee and Cowboy War discusses Chief Justice Earl Warren who was, of course, the chairman of the Warren Commission which was authorized to investigate the murder President Kennedy. Given the obvious shortcomings of the that Commission’s investigation, shortcomings that Warren must have noticed, Oglesby wonders about Warren’s situation, about the possibility that Warren was willing to cover-up certain aspects of the Kennedy assassination, even though Oglesby accepts that Warren was a man of “strong integrity.”


As Oglesby puts it, even or especially a man of strong integrity, like Chief Justice Warren, could have faced a conflict in which his integrity would be challenged were it to become evident that the investigation, if honestly carried out, would reveal the corrupt character, even the murderous or criminal character of the American political order. As Oglesby put it: “What if your strong integrity…is confronted with a choice…, a problem mere integrity might not know how to solve?” That is, what if the choice is between the truth (and the subsequent subversion of the established political order) and covering up a murder? Or to put that differently: What if your choice was between a potential revolution and covering up an assassination?


            What does “a patriot of unimpeachable integrity do” when his patriotism and integrity clash? Isn’t it likely, to say the least, that patriotism, political virtue, will prevail? And if political virtue countenances or justifies such corruption, how is it virtue? And, finally, if political virtue countenances such a cover-up, it would also countenance or justify the murder itself. It seems that neither moral nor political virtue are sufficient to render the human condition humane or just. Even “a patriot of unimpeachable integrity” like Chief Justice Warren will countenance injustice.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Politics: Officially Sanctioned Systematized Violence


Politics: Officially Sanctioned Systematized Violence

Peter Schultz


            An interesting definition of politics is “the officially sanctioned systematized violence,” a definition I have copied from Caroline Elkins book, Legacy of Violence, her history of the British empire.


            And modern politics are filtered through government, through bureaucracy or administration. To quote Alexander Pope: “For forms of government let fools contest. That which is best administered is best.” A quote, by the way, that Hamilton uses in the Federalist.


            So, government is a filtering process for politics but not one that changes the “systematized violence” at the root of politics. Rather, the filter “officially sanctions” that violence, by trying to guarantee, e.g., what’s called “due process.” But its essential to understand that that due process disguises but doesn’t change the violence at the root of government. However, “due” the process might be, depriving people of “life, liberty, or property” is still violence. It’s merely disguised violence. As the 13th amendment admits, incarceration, no matter how “due,” is still “involuntary servitude” and involuntary servitude cannot exist without violence, which is then disguised as “rehabilitation.”


            Every so often (at least), the disguises fail and the violence becomes visible. As Elkins writes of “Operation Progress,” used by the British in Kenya to deal violently with Kenyans who were rebelling against Britain’s rule, its “coercion [was] impossible not to see.” It couldn’t be hidden, not even after the British destroyed millions of documents after the Kenyans had achieved their independence.


            This is why secrecy and government go together so well because secrecy is essential for disguising the systematized violence that is the core of government. In other words, government privileges the violent over the non-violent, privileges “dispatch” over deliberation, privileges war over peace, privileges a “commander in chief” over a “caretaker in chief.”

Sunday, September 18, 2022

I Am Wiser Than Ever Before


I Am Wiser Than Ever Before

Peter Schultz


This is an email I sent to my friend, Matthew, today, on my 76th birthday. Happy birthday!


I know I sent this to you already, but it just dawned on me that Hedges’ argument doesn’t illuminate monarchy as a political phenomenon, that is, as a fundamental political alternative or as a fundamental, not just a historical human phenomenon. What does its appeal teach us about politics, about we humans? Question: which illuminates or reveals the world, viewing it politically or viewing it historically? 


E.g.:Is slavery a permanent or fundamental feature of the human condition or was/is it a historical feature? If it's the former, doesn’t that have consequences for how we need to live? Plato: Only the dead have seen the end of war. Meaning: there will never be a war to end all wars and those who think there will or can be are delusional. 


Meaning: Isn't progressivism a kind of delusion? Or as Fowler put it in The Quiet American, isn’t “innocence” a kind of madness and shouldn’t the “innocent” be forced to wear bells like lepers? Or maybe they should be encouraged to read Machiavelli, e.g., as an ironist who was illuminating real reality, thereby offsetting the “reality” created by the Catholics, who, e.g., were innocent/delusional enough to believe there are “saints,” ala’ Joan of Arc!  


Aren’t those we call “liberals” and “conservatives” all progressives? Wasn’t even Edmund Burke a progressive, an innocent? [Just remembered: Twain wrote a book Innocents Abroad, which I haven’t read. He also wrote Life on the Mississippi, which is another critique of progressivism, innocence.] Even our “realists” are progressives, are innocents or delusional, possessing a kind of madness that comes to light in such acts as the bombing of Dresden or Vietnam or Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Truman could authorize the latter only because he was a progressive. Otherwise, he was just a mass murderer of immense proportions, of inhuman proportions. And he thought I am sure, like the rest of us, that the indigenous were “the savages.” Wow! Talk about being delusional.  


Thinking politically illuminates the madness of the world or, if you will, “the divine comedy,” ala’ Dante’. And yet doesn’t this possibility, viz., that we can see if we wish to the madness, point to something in the human condition that is, while not socially redeeming, beautiful? As WEB DuBois, put it: dwelling above the color line is beautiful and it’s a beauty that is redemptive. Or as Machiavelli put it: He could retire in the evening to his study and converse with the ancients - and he had been tortured. 


Hedonism, when defined as the pursuit of the beautiful, is the quest. Politics is an arena where “the best” are nothing more than “stentorian baboons” seeking to turn us into citizens - or disguised savages. Note: Lincoln’s greatness led to the savagery of the Civil War. 


And I am wiser at 76 than ever before. 


Thursday, September 15, 2022

Genuine Radicals


Genuine Radicals

Peter Schultz


            I have been reading a fine history of the British empire, Legacy of Violence, by Caroline Elkins, and have been impressed by the depth of the inhumanity that underlay, that was the foundation of the British empire. The levels of bloodshed, torture, and tyranny that was required by that empire were astounding.


            As a result of that, I began to doubt my admiration for Jane Austen, who clearly understood that the British empire was inhuman and reflected a British society characterized by narcissism, racism, patriarchy, and oligarchy. How could she write the novels she did in light of the barbarity she knew existed? Did she cop out?


            But then it struck me: Austen’s novels are a reflection of just how genuinely radical she was. Despite the barbarity that characterized Britain, society and empire, Austen saw through it, while seeing it for what it was. And by seeing through it, she also saw that barbarity isn’t the only thing that characterizes human beings and human life. In fact, amidst the barbarity, human beings are capable of love, genuine, deep love. Amidst the barbarity, human beings – genuine human beings, that is – seek beauty, seek the beautiful and even create or expose it via the arts, romantic love, or the artistic presentation of romantic love.


            As a genuine radical, Austen didn’t expect her art, no matter how beautiful, to defeat or end the barbarity found, for example, in the political arena, just as Plato and Aristotle, e.g., didn’t expect their art, their creations to defeat barbarism. Genuine radicals realize that there are alternatives to the barbarism that characterizes the human situation. Genuine radicals also know how to actualize those alternatives via their arts, which arts may be characterized as inspired. But genuine radicals also know these alternatives will not, cannot change or transform the barbaric character of the human condition, except of course for those who see through that barbarity to the beauty that is also part of the human condition. Genuine radicals, like Austen, are and remain outsiders, outliers as it were, who seek to guide humans toward the beautiful and even to allow them to participate in it.


            Genuine radicals seek to teach via their arts, whether that art consists of writing dialogues, writing plays, writing treatises, creating poetry, music, comedy, paintings, or buildings. They avoid the political arena because it isn’t an arena where beauty flourishes or even survives. At bottom, the political arena need not be barbaric or savage, but most often it is, even to the point that its barbarity can be made to seem glorious, e.g., in the case of the British empire headed by allegedly “glorious monarchs” from what claim to be “royal families.” Being political animals, humans are easily deceived into thinking that some people, because they are “royalty,” deserve to rule others. Genuine radicals see through these myths to see the genuinely beautiful, which is real, permanent, and fundamental even though rather impotent politically. Power, especially political power, has its uses but it is impotent regarding access to the beautiful.


Friday, September 9, 2022

Regarding Fletcher Prouty, JFK, et. al.


Regarding Fletcher Prouty, JFK, et. al.

Peter Schultz


            This is regarding a conversation I had with my friend, Matthew [09-08-22], during which we were discussing Prouty’s book The Secret Team, about the CIA and its invasive penetration and even control of American politics.


            In discussing JFK and his attempts to keep the United States from committing massive military forces to Vietnam, which put Kennedy at odds with most of his advisers, who were working tirelessly to manipulate events that would make it impossible for Kennedy to succeed, Prouty has this to say about clandestine operations: “Clandestine operations are the desperate efforts of a closed society….”


            Except for the word “desperate,” Prouty is correct. But clandestine operations aren’t the desperate efforts of closed societies or political orders; rather, they are the normal efforts of such orders. And that this is the case is illustrated by the fact that Kennedy was running a clandestine operation to keep the US out of Vietnam, just as LBJ ran a clandestine operation, after Kennedy’s assassination, to get the US into Vietnam with massive military forces. Moreover, we know that Kennedy was not at all opposed to clandestine operations, as he was a big fan of Ian Fleming’s novels and he helped reanimate the Army’s Special Forces.


            So, while Prouty argues that Kennedy was seeking to put “the genie of clandestine operations…back into the bottle,” he was doing no such thing. Kennedy was running clandestine operations in Vietnam and he was running such an operation to get the US out of Vietnam, just as he was willing to run such operations in Laos in order to try to stabilize or neutralize that nation.


            This means that Kennedy had no principled objections to such operations. He just thought they shouldn’t be used to make war – massively – in Vietnam or Laos. And a question arises, viz., how likely is it that, once embraced, clandestine operations will be limited? That is, while it is often claimed that JFK was going to withdraw from Vietnam once he had won the 1964 presidential election, what were the odds that he would be able to accomplish that, having already embraced such operations in order “to save” Vietnam?


            Practicing a politics of duplicity – as it might be called – Kennedy sought to keep us out of Vietnam, while LBJ, also practicing duplicity, sought to take the US into Nam. But neither JFK or LBJ was appealing to principle(s) of any kind, although JFK seems to have been because for many of us his goal, allegedly peace, is more attractive than LBJ’s goal, a triumphant nationalism. But Kennedy had no principled basis for preferring peace to war, which is where people like Oliver Stone go wrong, thinking that Kennedy was committed to peace as a matter of principle. He wasn’t, unlike Gandhi or MLK, Jr., for example. And because he wasn’t committed to peace for principled reasons, he was willing to practice a duplicitous politics to try to keep the US out of Vietnam, which made him no different that LBJ who acted duplicitously to make war in Vietnam. It is difficult not to think that, as Prouty put it, “events marched relentlessly on toward Vietnam [and] the only ones who stood in the way were the President and his closest intimates – and they had been neatly outmaneuvered.


They had been outmaneuvered in large part because they were willing to practice deception when their only real chance required that they confront, on the basis of principle(s), the war itself and its implications for an American republic. Kennedy would have been better off, even before he was assassinated in 1963, to make the war and his opposition to it, the issue of the 1964 presidential election. If he had done that, then his death couldn’t have been easily used to promote a massive US war in Vietnam. Besides, there are some political battles worth fighting even if you will lose them or even if you die fighting them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The British Empire and Political Life


The British Empire and Political Life

Peter Schultz


             I have been reading a book entitled Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire, by Caroline Elkins, and it confirms my understanding that politics is biased toward, bends in the direction of violence, imperialism, war, injustice, and tyranny. The reasoning is quite simple.


            Great Britain was at its best when it had an empire that spanned the world. As one saying had it: “The sun never set on the British empire.” As reflected by its empire, Britain had achieved its greatest political, social, economic, and military accomplishments. And yet, undeniably, Britain’s empire was built on violence, injustice, imperialism, war, and tyranny. That is, “the glory” of the British empire was achieved only by means of violence, injustice, imperialism, war, and tyranny. Which is to say that the peak of the political life rests on violence, injustice, imperialism, war, and tyranny.


            So, if you wish to make America great, if you wish that the United States would achieve greatness, become the greatest empire that has ever existed, then you are embracing violence, injustice, imperialism, war, and tyranny, whether you recognize this or not. It’s just the way of the world, or, as Kurt Vonnegut would put it, “so it goes.”

Monday, September 5, 2022

A Question and an Observation


A Question and an Observation

Peter Schultz


            What was it about being an American and an upstanding American at that, that led my brother, Charlie, to think he had the right to go to Vietnam and kill Vietnamese?  Did he learn this at Metuchen High School? Did he learn in the Indian Guides or the Boy Scouts? Did he learn it at Muhlenberg College? Did he learn it from the Star Spangled Banner? Just wondering where that idea came from.


            The observation: If you expecting a lot from living in America, remember that even Elvis Presley got screwed! As George Carlin use to say: “It’s called ‘the American dream’ because you have to be asleep to believe it." 

Sunday, September 4, 2022

This and That: JFK and Vietnam


This and That: JFK and Vietnam

Peter Schultz


            To understand what was going on during the Kennedy presidency with regard to Vietnam, you have to forget about Vietnam. The war in Vietnam and America’s role in it was nothing more than a battle between imperialists, those who wanted to impose an American hegemony on the world, and those who were opposed to such a hegemony. JFK was in the latter group and, as a result, he was quoted as saying that were he to win the 1964 presidential election he would break up the CIA into a thousand pieces. His positions on the war in Vietnam and America’s role in it reflected his rejection of the imperialistic agenda of others, including even several of his advisers.


            Hence, if it were true that Kennedy was assassinated by a conspiracy operating within the US and even within the US government, this would make sense insofar as Kennedy was correctly perceived as a threat to the imperialistic project embraced by many in the government and other US elites. Insofar as this is true, then it is fair to say that JFK “died” when he made it official that he would be pulling out of Vietnam, that is, in October, 1963. His death was absolutely necessary in order to ensure that he would not be able to win the 1964 presidential election and carry out his plans to leave Vietnam and pursue policies that the imperialists were opposed to. The imperialists knew that Kennedy’s agenda was acceptable to the American people, who didn’t understand why the US was making war in Vietnam, a place many of them couldn’t locate on a map. His re-election had to be prevented at almost any cost.


            Kennedy facilitated his own death because, like the imperialists, he was practicing a politics of deception. While his deceptions were geared toward avoiding war in Vietnam, the imperialists’ deceptions were geared toward Americanizing the war in Vietnam. Because both were practicing a politics of deception, the most important issue – whether the US was justified in making war for the sake of US hegemony – was never addressed in the political arena. So even if Kennedy had been able to win in 1964 and had pulled American troops out of Vietnam, the imperialists and the imperialistic agenda would not have been defeated. It would only have been postponed.