Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Rule: A Central Political Myth


Rule: A Central Political Myth

Peter Schultz


                  “The Taliban believed Washington had decisive leverage over Karzai, because he could not survive without their aid; the truth was, Karzai had established decisive leverage over the Obama administration, by taking their pledges of Afghani sovereignty at face value….”


                  “From the Taliban’s perspective, Karzai was merely an American puppet, one that depended on American support for money and physical survival.” [584, Protectorate S, Stephen Coll]


                  What is going on here? That is, how did It happen that Karzai proved to have more leverage vis-à-vis the Obama administration than vice versa? And, by the way, the same phenomenon was visible in Vietnam where Diem had more leverage vis-à-vis the Americans than vice versa, explaining why Diem was eventually overthrown. What is this phenomenon about and what does it teach us about politics?


                  To cut to the chase, this phenomenon illustrates that the idea of “rule” is a myth. That is, it is an idea that hides as much as it exposes. What it hides is the extent to which rule depends upon the consent of the ruled. Once Karzai withdrew his consent from American attempts to negotiate with the Taliban to reach a settlement in that war, the US capacity to rule disappeared. The “ruler” cannot “rule” without the consent of “the ruled.” So, viewing Karzai as “a quisling of no legitimacy,” as the Taliban did, was a fundamental error because even “quislings” cannot be ruled successfully without their consent, which is why “Karzai had decisive leverage over the Obama administration.” And which helps explain why politicians, e.g., like Diem in Vietnam, who withhold their consent are often overthrown and replaced by consenting, cooperating politicians.


                  So, when the USSR lost the consent of governed in the Soviet Union, that union collapsed. And when some Southern states seceded from the United States, that union also collapsed. Moreover, that union would not be “reconstructed” successfully until the South, after having its demands for an apartheid regime met, consented to rejoin the union. The United States couldn’t be united, genuinely united that is, without the consent of the South, and that consent would only be forthcoming after the North agreed, as it did in the 1876 presidential election, that the South would be allowed to create a social and political order based on white supremacy. And that regime of white supremacy would only be replaced when the South agreed that is should be replaced in the latter part of the 20th century.


                  The importance, the indispensably of consent explains why voting in the United States is treated as an absolutely essential duty, perhaps the only absolutely essential duty of American citizenship. It is a duty that only reprobates fail to honor. Why? Because by voting, regardless of whom they vote for, people are indicating that they consent to established order. They are registering their consent, thereby legitimating the existing political order. Non-voters, withholding their consent, subvert the government, undermine those who are ruling. Elections, if unattended by large numbers of non-voters, would undermine the legitimacy of the “ruling” elites. Hence, the constant drumbeat about the duty, the responsibility of voting.


                  Similarly, with the pervasive propaganda programs directed at the American people, programs meant to win their “hearts and minds.” Without the consent of the governed, the government cannot govern. So, while it might appear that the United States, as a superpower, can leverage the likes of Karzai and the Afghanis to do what it wants done, these appearances are deceptive. And, so, the United States finds itself repeatedly forced to turn to war, i.e., violent repression, in pursuit of its goals. And these wars won’t end until, e.g., the Afghanis – or that matter the Taliban – are satisfied. In attempting to impose its will, to rule the Afghanis or the Taliban, the United States guarantees endless wars and, eventually, failure.



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