Monday, January 30, 2023

Vietnam and 9/11: The System Worked


Vietnam and 9/11: The System Worked

Peter Schultz


            This is about how the system worked regarding Vietnam or why our elites need not consider that war a failure.


            While Vietnam is often written off as a failure, it may also be seen as an illustration of successful bureaucratic or governmental behavior. How so?


            First, it is essential to recognize that bureaucracies, that governments are created for primarily for purposes of control. Control is the primary task of any bureaucracy or government. Hence, governments seek “the consent of the governed,” because when that consent is acquired from the governed, control is guaranteed. Elections work well in this regard as they are taken to be expressions of “the consent of the governed” and, when over, those elected are legitimately entitled to control the governed. In this sense, that the government managed the governed, that is, got their consent to wage in Vietnam was a success. This success was especially notable in that the government managed, successfully, to get the consent of the governed for a war that was, at best, distantly related to national security. For whatever reasons, our elites, our bureaucrats wanted to wage war in Vietnam, and they succeeded in doing so – with the consent of the governed.


            Moreover, the government, the bureaucracy successfully navigated the conflicts that the war created, defeating the anti-war movement as evidenced by the elections of LBJ in 1964 and, especially, of Richard Nixon in 1968. One may argue with some plausibility that LBJ’s decision not to seek re-election in 1968 was part of his strategy to displace and, thereby, defeat the anti-war movement that was being led by New Left types, black power advocates, and other, allegedly “radical” groups. LBJ stepped aside to seek peace, he claimed, thereby displacing the other “peaceniks,” leaving the way clear for either Nixon or Humphrey, both supporters of the war, to prosecute the war further, which Nixon did, even while claiming to be on the way to “a peace with honor.”


            One short-coming commentators have is their assumption that governments and bureaucracies are set up, devoted to avoiding war. But making war is one means, even being an excellent means, of asserting control, of managing the governed by means of manufacturing their consent. From the viewpoint of control, wars are, at the very least, “an attractive nuisance.” From the viewpoint of control, wars are rational, i.e., useful in guaranteeing the control of the governed. Hence, those who oppose wars are easily portrayed as “irrational,” as “idealistic dreamers,” even as “subversives.” War works for governments, for bureaucracies. As Randolph Bourne argued, “War is the health of the state.” Which helps explain why our elites were seduced in waging the Vietnam War and, of course, other wars. Once you understand that the primary purpose of government is control, and that war is an excellent means of achieving control, you don’t need to rely on theories about the war-making proclivities of capitalist nations, which is not to say those proclivities aren’t real.


            For those opposed to the US’s proxy war in Ukraine, they would be well-disposed not to argue that the US’s involvement there is a failure. The problem is not that our government has failed in Ukraine; rather, the problem is that our government has acted, in its own reckoning, successfully there. As Ronald Reagan was wont to say, “Government isn’t the answer to our problems. Government is the problem.” Of course, Reagan didn’t govern as if he believed this as he was more than willing to make war; that is, he was more than willing to empower the government and see it as solving problems via war. That Reagan’s critique of government was merely smoke and mirrors is also evidenced by the fact that the national government was larger and more powerful when Reagan left office that it was when he entered the presidency.


            Opposing war, either in Ukraine or elsewhere, requires opposing government or “the state.” Empowering government means, willy nilly, making war. Pacifists and pacifist types who embrace powerful governments, for whatever purposes, will never achieve the peace they seek.


            To understand 9/11, then, what are called “conspiracy theories” aren’t necessary. Those theories – some of which seemed to me to be plausible – reflect the thought that our government, our bureaucracies were created not to make war but to prevent war. Because it is assumed that they were meant to prevent war and didn’t, then what happened on 9/11 needs to be explained and the search for responsible parties should be commenced. “The watchdogs didn’t bark,” as one book is entitled. Why not? Was this result of a deliberate muzzling of those watchdogs?


            But there is no need to look for such a muzzling. The attacks succeeded merely because the government, our bureaucrats were acting in their normal fashion, thereby maintaining control, or so they thought. And those “running around with their hair on fire,” as was said about some people after the attacks, could easily be dismissed as irrational – as indeed they were. Whether the pursuit of control, behaving rationally would prevent attacks on the US homeland was not the key issue for bureaucrats. The key issue was maintaining control and that meant acting rationally, sensibly, calmly. It’s not that the watchdogs didn’t bark; they did. But they were ignored because it was rational to do so. Rationality is the linchpin of bureaucratic behavior.  Thus, conspiracy theories aren’t needed to understand why the attacks of 9/11 succeeded. All that is needed is an understanding of ordinary, commonplace bureaucratic behavior.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Voting: It's Important


Voting: It’s Important

Peter Schultz


            Voting is important as it indicates what the American people approve of. So here are some of the things your vote legitimized if you voted in the mid-term elections in 2022:


            A humongous “defense” budget.

            A proxy war against Russia in Ukraine

            Proxy and direct military action in Syria

            Proxy and direct military action in Africa and the Middle East

No universal health insurance

            Hundreds of military bases world-wide

            Continued sanctions against Cuba

            No deal with Iran regarding Iran’s development of nuclear weapons

            Continued mass incarceration

            Weaponizing space

            Pursuit of full spectrum dominance

            Billions of dollars of weapons sales world-wide

            Supporting Taiwan against Chinese aggression

            Checking alleged Chinese aggression


            These are just some of things your vote indicated you approved of when you voted in the 2022 mid-term elections. The neat thing is: This is true whether you voted for Republican, Democratic, or some combination the two!

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Political Problem in a Nutshell: Rule


The Political Problem In A Nutshell: Rule

Peter Schultz


            All politics, every political order, involves, requires rule. Someone, some group, or several groups must rule (governed, we say). All such arrangements necessarily involve some kind of hierarchy. But all hierarchies are illusionary, the illusion being that human beings aren’t essentially alike, that some are “more equal than others.” Socrates’s “noble lie” in the Republic that some humans are, say, the gold standard, while others are made of lead or other less valuable matter. Because hierarchies, all of them, are constructed, are human artifacts, aren’t natural, all forms of rule are essentially built on and maintained by force or fraud (think of “propaganda” as fraud). The most dangerous political people are, perhaps, those who are self-righteous, those who come to believe that they are in fact superior beings who are entitled to impose their superiority on their inferiors, either by force or fraud.


            Are there forms of human life, which are not solitary, where rule is unnecessary, where it is irrational, where it undermines or corrupts the value of the forms? Friendship comes to mind. Genuine love comes to mind. Teaching comes to mind when the teaching isn’t reduced to “schooling,” that is, to “socialization” or “indoctrination.”

Sunday, January 15, 2023

What's It All About, Alphie?


What’s Is It All About, Alfie?

Peter Schultz


            I have been feeling dead for some time now, several years at least. It comes and goes. And I have wondered why, before realizing that I have been feeling this way because, at some level of consciousness, I sensed that along with the death of my older brother, Charlie, who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1967, the American republic was also dead.


            And then I realized that this has been agenda since the end of WW II, viz., to kill what was left of the American republic. This is what Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nukes were about; this is what the Cold War was about; this is what the Korean War was about; this is what the Vietnam War was about; this is what JFK’s assassination was about; this is what Watergate was about; this is what LBJ’s Great Society was about; this is what J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI’s COINTROPOL was about; this is what the assassinations of Malcolm X, MLK, Jr., Fred Hampton, and RFK were about; this is what 9/11 was about; this is what 1/6 was about; this is what the Trump presidency was about; this is what the pandemic was about; this is what the Ukraine war and the Biden presidency is about.



Friday, January 13, 2023

G-Men and American Brutality


G-Men and American Brutality

Peter Schultz


            I have been reading a book, G-Men: J. Edgar Hoover and the American Century by Barbara Gage, a Yale historian. It is chocked full of detail, overwhelming and boring detail at  times, but is quite good nonetheless and quite comprehensive historically. Gage makes one mistake, however, in that she is committed, as most are these days, to psychologizing Hoover and his politics, tracing his actions to his childhood and his personality. So, she writes of “Hooverism” and distinguishes that from “McCarthyism,” for example, pointing out that while being anti-Communist, Hoover, unlike McCarthy, “disciplined” his anti-Communism by bureaucratizing it. The problem here is that Hoover’s politics, like McCarthy’s, reflected fundamental American values and, so, their politics should be described as “Americanisms.” That is, instead of psychologizing Hoover, Gage should have politicized him, thereby seeing in him and his politics the character of what might be called “the American political order.”


            If she had done so, she might have realized that one word that may be used to describe the American political order is brutal. That is, it turns out that the American political order and, therefore, its elites rely on and even honor brutality or the overwhelming use of power, social, economic, political, and military power in order to maintain what is claimed to be “a republic,” or a “democracy.” While Hoover liked to describe himself as rational, as a professional and not a partisan bureaucrat, he was never very far away from engaging in brutality. He did so during the Palmer raids in the early 20th century; he did so when he refused to confront the lynchings in the South after World War II; and he especially did so when he confronted Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 60s when he tried to drive King to commit suicide after invading King’s privacy and revealing his private sexual affairs – and he did reveal those affairs to persons in the Congress, not one of whom blew the whistle on Hoover. Hoover wasn’t the only one capable of brutality, obviously.


            So, the American Century Gage writes about may be described as a brutal century, because that is the character of American politics and the elites that possess and use that political power. As it was at its outset, relying on and embracing slavery and the dispossession of the indigenous, so was the American political order during what is called “the American Century.” It’s rather interesting then, to say the least, that this century is looked upon, commented upon as being a century of “progress.” Of course, the century could be both, brutal and progressive, and we fail to see the brutality because we don’t fully understand that progress requires brutality to succeed.


            But failing to see the brutality as endemic to the American political order, interwoven into fundamental American values, is nothing to sneeze at. I have a feeling that many Americans actually do sense this brutality but turn away or try to turn away from that recognition, in this way and that. Gage’s wonderfully complete history of Hoover is one way of accomplishing this, of disguising the fact that brutality lies at the very core of “Americanism,” thereby transforming it magically into “Hooverism” or “McCarthyism.” Another way of accomplishing this is to turn away from those who see and talk about this brutality, to refuse to engage with them, exiling them as it were, thereby silencing them and, perhaps, doing to them what Hoover was trying to do to MLK, Jr., viz., drive them to distraction or worse. As the denouement of King’s life illustrates, when measures such as these prove insufficient, then there are other measures that may be taken in order to silence those who call out the brutality and its practitioners, which of course King was doing in the year preceding his assassination.


Was Hoover guilty of King’s murder? Of course not, at least not in any legal or bureaucratic sense. Bureaucrats are all about procedures and so cannot be easily linked to outcomes, something Hoover understood quite well. In that way, their brutalities are disguised, even made to disappear. But although “disappeared,” the brutalities are real and the subsequent brutalizations, of both the bureaucrats and the non-bureaucrats, are also real. Welcome to “the American Century.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

A Few Unrelated Thoughts


A Few Unrelated Thoughts

Peter Schultz


I am reading this book, G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century, by Beverly Gage, who teaches history at Yale University. Two things: (1) The book reads like Gage is trying to liberate herself from American myths but just can’t “get there.” Hoover’s racism and anti-Communism, e.g., aren’t “American” but “Hooverian.” (2) Gage psychologizes Hoover based on his upbringing by a dysfunctional father, failing to see that Hoover’s politics stem from fundamental American political values. By psychologizing Hoover, Gage maintains her belief in the fundamental goodness of America and its political values.


What if racism isn’t the problem? What if hate is the problem? That is, the hate was there first and it then attached itself to race. If so, we don’t need “Critical Race Theory” so much as we “Critical Hate Theory.” Question: if hate is the basic phenomenon of American life, where did it come from? Possibility: it accompanies the alienation that is part and parcel of the philosophy underlying the Enlightenment. We have become “strangers in the universe,” we have no real home there, which angers us and leads to hate of those who remind us of our own alienness.


“The owl of Minerva flies at dusk.” “Dusk” has often been interpreted to refer to the demise of social or political orders. Why is wisdom, “the owl of Minerva,” likely to appear then? Because that’s when it becomes clear that all political orders are built on illusions. Per example: the current controversy over Prince Harry’s revelations about the “royal family,” which he called “a death cult.” That the Windsors aren’t “royal,” are perfectly ordinary in their dysfunctions is now perfectly clear and the monarchy is exposed as a grand illusion or a series of grand illusions.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Harry and Sally And An Earlier Generation


Harry and Sally And An Earlier Generation

Peter Schultz


.”When Harry Met Sally”, they met love and didn’t know what to do. An earlier generation knew what to do, and did it, “for better or worse.” 


12 years and 3 months later, Harry and Sally knew what to do, “for better or worse.” 


Question: why didn’t Harry and Sally know what to do? The answer involves “Casablanca,” the White House, or America’s politics (and the U. of Chicago). We are erotically as we are politically. If we think and act as if the political world is a battlefield, then we’ll think and act like the erotic world is a battlefield (a world where women fake orgasms with unavailable men who equate passion with having great sex. Some, ala’ Helen and Joe, try to fake love, unsuccessfully, because love, unlike great sex, can’t be faked). 


(Think of Still Life with Woodpecker, where a bomber, Woodpecker, finds love and embraces it and “the still life,” a peaceful life. Think of Pyle and his “erotic project” in The Quiet American, which reflects his political project for Vietnam. Think of Good Morning Vietnamwhere Adrian K’s erotic project cannot succeed, just as America’s political project cannot succeed.)