Friday, November 23, 2007

Manifest Conspiracy

When I opened my mail this morning, I was greeted with an email from a Green Party friend that is worth a comment. It was a teaser type introduction to a speculative commentary on the early days of the Iraq War.
Just who is this mystery man and why
has the traditional and alternative news
media given him such a pass?

Is it just a coincidence that he used to work
for Henry Kissinger?
The mystery man was Paul Bremer and the implication of the commentary is that this was all a major conspiracy to bleed this country dry while the captains of industry profited.

I believe this view to be flawed and possibly dangerous in that it does not address changing the real problems that we have as a country and which this party needs to address.

The answer to the question of whether it is "just a coincidence that he used to work for Henry Kissinger?" is a resounding "No." But that is no evidence of a conspiracy.

There is a long, mostly disastrous history of the idea of Manifest Destiny. It formed the intellectual rationale for the exploitation of the West, and went beyond that to provide theoretical justification for the imperialistic expansion of United States during the late 19th Century, some would say for the very fact that the United States of America has a history. The Wikipedia definition of Manifest Destiny makes clear this connection between our destiny and the ideal of Democracy.
Manifest Destiny is a 19th-century belief that the United States had a mission to expand, spreading its form of democracy and freedom.
Michael T. Lubragge, in an often cited essay on the subject, calls special attention to the religious sources of this idea and the connotations of religious language.
To some, the Manifest Destiny Doctrine was based on the idea that America had a divine providence. It had a future that was destined by God to expand its borders, with no limit to area or country. All the traveling and expansion were part of the spirit of Manifest Destiny, a belief that it was God's will that Americans spread over the entire continent, and to control and populate the country as they see fit. Many expansionists conceived God as having the power to sustain and guide human destiny. "It was white man's burden to conquer and christianize the land" (Demkin, Chapter 8). For example, the idea that the Puritan notion of establishing a "city on a hill" was eventually secularized into Manifest Destiny--a sort of materialistic, religious, utopian destiny.
Such language, such a vision was part and parcel of the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan, most clearly in his Farewell Speech.
I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still.
The 19th Century world in which Manifest Destiny defined our goals, was one in which unlimited expansion was possible and the resources of this world were inexhaustible. This was a world in which America could define it's own future without any other consideration. Hopefully, George W. Bush will be our last 19th Century President.

It is against this rather naive world view that Henry Kissinger chose to make fundamental changes in the manner in which American foreign policy was acted out. However, rather than to define a new role for America, he chose to invoke the practices of another 19th Century concept, that of realpolitik. Peter van der Maas defines the foundations of this realpolitik as two ideas:
  • First, "raison d'etat", where the interests of the state justify whatever means are necessary to pursue them. The national interest thus replaced the medieval notion of a universal morality that guided all men and nations.
  • The second key concept is the balance of power an international order in which no nation is dominant. Each nation maintains its independence by aligning itself, or opposing, other nations according to its calculation of the imperatives of power
The number of direct Kissinger proteges (e.g. Rumsfeld supordinate Peter Rodman) or indirect ones (e.g. Condoleezza Rice) spread through the State Department, National Security Council and beltway think tank staffs, neo-conservative or pseudo-progressive, goes far beyond any need for a puppetmaster to be pulling the strings.

The real danger to this country's future comes from the shared world views that are prevalent in Washington. We lack an alternative vision of what this country could be. Maybe the Green Vision is Gaia.

The death of novelist Norman Mailer gave Charile Rose the excuse to put together a reprise of the best of the many interviews Rose had with Mailer. On January 29,2003 Mailer gave the most concise and accurate description of what has happened in Iraq that I have heard. This was several months before the invasion. Maybe it is his insight into the American psyche that made him so prescient and shows conspiracy theory of the Iraq war to be so wrong. (starting about 22 min. into the interview). "I am worried that we are starting something that we can't finish without changing the nature of American Democracy by the time we are done." It played out exactly in that way. We should have listened to Mailer.


Wes said...

I doubt that many watched Charlie Rose last night, but he once again managed to touch on this area. The guest was Michael Oreskes, Editor of the International Herald Tribune and co-author of The Genius of America: How the Constitution Saved Our Country and Why it Can Again

Oreskes takes a position on the power grab of Cheney - Bush as being not surprising, but that Congress's abdication of the responsibility to fight back was disconcerting. Oreskes said that probably the single most important issue for this election cycle is that of how you protect the rights of the individual and still protect the citizens of this country from terrorism.

Mailer would surely have agreed.

This is a topic that I do not hear discussed by a single one of the presidential candidates of any party. Maybe, it is an issue on which our Green candidates should speak out.

Alex Walker said...

Careful Wes ...

The Gaia Theory, which I personally happen to think is a magnificent elegant way to conceptualize the problem, gets dangerously close to that kind of Green "religious" thinking that you so dislike.


This is as far removed from the "liberal" Democratic of "conservative" Republican thinking of conventional minds as you can get.

Wes said...

Alex, it is perhaps less "religious" when you happen to arrive at such conclusions through the study of science rather than reason your way there from the study of philosophy.

I still respond to Asmiov's exploration of multiple future societies in his "Foundation" and "Robot" series of SF novels. It is revealing that this scientist (Ph.D. - biochemistry) arrived at Gaia as the only solution for the future of humanity.