Friday, July 5, 2024

Poltics and Vicious Circles


Politics and Vicious Circles

Peter Schultz


                  One question not asked frequently enough is: What is it possible to do politically? Humans are political animals. They are pointed toward the polis, the political, the assumption being that the polis/ the political is the key to ameliorating, improving, or even perfecting the human condition. Hence, it seems only natural when humans are led to affirm the political, instinctively as it were.


                  Harry Truman, et. al., during the Cold War, affirmed the political, arguing that by way of overwhelming military power and a policy of containment, the United States would be able to ameliorate the human condition by defeating communism and establishing an American-inspired worldwide peace. And, yet, when acting the Truman administration and other Cold Warriors found their actions limited, e.g., by the threat of World War III which would, of course, be a nuclear war. So, Truman, et. al., had to compromise, improvise, act prudently. And, as a result, Truman’s actions were easily made to look like “appeasement”, or the result of internal subversion caused by communists in the US government or by communist sympathizers. By affirming the political, by thinking and saying that the United States could defeat communism and bring about world peace, Truman, et. al., created a vicious circle of apocalyptic rhetoric and compromising, improvising, appeasing actions.


                  It was easy, therefore, for the “McCarthyites” to attack Truman and the Democrats on grounds of betrayal and selling out because the “McCarthyites” did not need to formulate an alternative to Truman’s Cold War policies. In other words, Truman’s affirmation of the Cold War and its politics allowed the McCarthyites to play the role of realists, of patriotic realists who would actually win the Cold War. In brief, Truman facilitated McCarthyism.


                  Because Americans were not offered any alternative to the Cold War, US elites were caught in a vicious circle with no way out. In order to avoid or negate charges of betrayal and selling out, of appeasement, US elites had to become ever more belligerent and war-like, ala’ the Korean War, the Vietnam War, anti-Cuban terrorism, and a super-heated arms race.


                  The same phenomenon followed the 9/11 attacks when Bush, et. al., launched the Global War on Terror. By doing so, Bush facilitated the rise of Donald Trump who, like the McCarthyites of Truman’s day, did not need to formulate an alternative course of action to Bush’s GWOT. As the outcome of the GWOT floundered, it was easy for Trump to accuse both the mainstream Republicans and the mainstream Democrats of betrayal, gross incompetence, or the rejection of traditional American values, values that had once “made America great.” Only by embracing those values, Trump argued, could America regain the greatness it once had and defeat its enemies worldwide. In brief, Bush and Obama, mainstream Republicans and Democrats facilitated the rise of Trump. They, like Truman, created a vicious circle and all Trump had to do was dance around it. There was no way out.  

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