Sunday, February 26, 2017

Is war inevitable with this U.S. administration?

In an essay entitled, “A World Without War,”* American public intellectual, Noam Chomsky writes these words:

Concentrated power pursues the war relentlessly, and very self-consciously. Government documents and publications of the business world reveal that they are mostly vulgar Marxists, with values reversed, of course. They are also frightened—back to seventeenth century English in fact. They realize that the system of domination is fragile, that it relies on disciplining the population by one or another means. There is a desperate search for such means: in recent years, Communism, crime, drugs, terrorist and others. Pretexts change, policies remain rather stable. Sometime the shift of pretext along with continuity of policy is dramatic and takes real effort to miss: immediately after the collapse of the USSR, for example. They naturally grasp every opportunity to press their agenda forward: 9-11 in a typical case. Crises make it possible to exploit fear and concern to demand that the adversary be submissive, obedient, silent distracted, while the powerful use the window of opportunity to pursue their own favoured programs with even greater intensity…..

And a little later, he cites phrases used by the American press to depict the World Economic Forum: ‘movers and shakers,’ the ‘rich and famous,’ ‘wizards from around the world,’ government leaders and corporate executives, ministers of state and of God, politicians and pundits.’

And then, these two very unsettling paragraphs:

The wizards of Davos modestly call themselves the “international community,” but I personally prefer the term used the world’s leading business journal, the Financial Times: “the masters of the universe.” Since the masters profess to be admirers of Adam Smith, we might expect them to abide by his account of their behaviour, though he only called them “the masters of mankind:---that was before the space age.
Smith was referring to the “principle architects of policy” of his day, the merchants and manufacturers of England, who made sure that their own interests are “most peculiarly attended to” however “grievous the impact on others, including the people of England. At home and abroad, they pursue the “vile maxim of the masters of mankind”: “all for ourselves and nothing for other people.” It should hardly surprise us that today’s masters honour the same “vile maxim.” At least they try, though they are sometimes impeded by the freaks—the great beast,” to borrow a term used by the Founding Fathers of American democracy to refer to the unruly population that did not comprehend that the primary goal of government is “to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority,” as the leading Framer of the Constitution explained in the debates of the Constitutional Convention.

There is now a paradoxical dance going on with two rival dance partners in the United States: the “opulent” supported by the “freaks”….in a theatre of cognitive dissonance advocating a scorched earth approach to government. The argument from the White House podium to bring back jobs, would never be accomplished without a substantial enhancement of the coffers, and the pockets and the bottom lines of the “opulent”. And war, as usual, is likely to be deployed in the pathway to “victory” that Trump promised in his address to the CPAC on Friday. (After all, war is one of the most assured paths to generating economic activity, dependent as it is on massive generation/manufacture/deployment of materiel and personnel.)

The failed capacity of the “freaks” to discern the underlying motivations of the Trump gang, whose lead spokesman, Steve Bannon, openly admits his goal is to “deconstruct the administrative state.” “Running hot” at times, (Bannon’s words about himself) is not something the “freaks” seem to be willing to tolerate: witness the mass protests, including the pre-Oscar protest in Beverly Hills yesterday when Jodie Foster took the podium to urge the crowd, “This is our time to resist!”

Of course, there are those among the readers in this space who will push back against the Chomsky “world view” dubbing it “just another version of the class war” that has plagued the United States for centuries. And yet, with the ideological and political and world view divide that currently generates a cacophony on every television channel, and on many city streets, and also in many town hall meetings hosted by Senators and Congressional representatives, these does appear to be a deep chasm: over racism, sexism, Islam, refugees, law-and-order, militarism (increases to the nuclear arsenal), voting rights, Israel-Palestine, Putin and Russia, and trade.

Make no mistake, the occupant of the Oval Office is an outsider to the “business baron class” and resentful of his exclusion; however, he is quite happy to “invite” chosen business executives to the White House (to bring jobs back) while surrounding himself with their “aura, reputation and status” for his administration. There is little doubt that the “freaks” could not matter less to Trump, to Bannon, and to the corporate executive class. They are demonstrably mere pawns in a much larger and very troubling conflict, the dimensions of which are so far indetermined. Yet with the record of the way in which opponents are and have been destroyed, through character assassination, dismissal, firings, cover-ups, and sheer contempt, contempt even of judges and the legal system, and declaring the news media the ‘enemy of the people demonstrates a kind of absolute power (at least in the eyes of the president), it is not rocket science for the public and the rest of the world leaders to be anxious, nervous, tenuous, and even frightened.

The obsessive need for an “enemy” by this president and his administration extends to the “leakers” in the FBI, to the female Muslim who had stayed on after working in the Obama National Security Office and has departed given her racist treatment by the new administration, to the FBI careerist who left after ten years because the political arm of the White House holds a higher position on national intelligence than the career professionals, and the woman who resigned here seat on the FEC (Federal Election Commission) because the agency is “dysfunctional”….and without exaggeration, to anyone and any power who opposes the president.

To the adage, “all politics is local” must now be added, “all politics is personal” in view of the attacks on personalities that so characterizes the modus operandi of this administration.

Can war, of the civil and the international and the street-fighter sort be far off on the horizon?

If their M.O. is about “war”….the limits to that “war” are unlimited…and we are all “freaks” throwing stones, writing graffiti, and not thinking big thoughts about the important issues….as viewed by the “people in power”.

*Noam Chomsky, this chapter is the written version of the opening address of the World Social Forum on January 31, 2002, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and appeared on ZNet on May 29, 2002; reprinted in C.P. Otero, ed. Radical Priorities, 3rd ed. (Oakland: AK Press, 2003), found also in “The Essential Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, New Press, New York, 2008, beginning p.325.

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