his penchant for the obvious, Cohen, the half-baked intellectual
and would-be poet, calls this "a superpower paradox."
Although we can impose our will on the tiny nation of Serbia,
and throw our weight around on a global scale, when it comes
to defending American citizens sitting at home in their living
rooms, it turns out that the US government is at the mercy
of the many enemies it has made around the world. A paradox?
Well, yes, but in plain language what we are talking about
is a bullies' comeuppance.
anyone really all that surprised that "terrorists"
would strike back at the US after losing a few of their friends
to one of Clinton's stray missiles? There are a few people
in the Sudan, Afghanistan, Serbia, and Iraq, who probably
hold a bit of a grudge. Naturally Cohen doesn't acknowledge
any of this, but simply points to nameless faceless "adversaries"
who "seek unconventional asymmetric means to strike our
the rich literary allusions! The poetic sensibility! Here
the scholarly Cohen evokes the ancient story of Achilles,
the greatest warrior of the Trojan War, who, as an infant,
was dunked, head first, by his mother in the river Styx, and
rendered invulnerable except for the heel by which
she held him. As a metaphor for the Last Superpower, our learned
Secretary of Defense has chosen wisely if not knowingly, given
what we know about Achilles, who was temperamental, violent,
and doomed by his own belligerence and love of war.
that Achilles would die at Troy, his mother, the Nereid Thetis,
sought to prevent this by hiding him among the women of the
court of King Lycomedes. Found by Odysseus, he was persuaded
to join the Greeks in their NATO-like campaign against Troy
and was killed after being struck in his heel by an
arrow fired by Apollo (or possibly Paris, the son of the Trojan
petulance of this man-god, half mortal and half divine, is
dramatized in the opening lines of Homer's Iliad:
be now your song, immortal one,
Achilles' anger, doomed and ruinous,
That caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss
And crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
Leaving so many dead men carrion
For dogs and birds . . .
and ruinous" was there ever a more succinct description
of our globalist foreign policy than this phrase of Homer's?
PHANTASMAGORIA OF GHOULS
conjures a veritable phantasmagoria of ghouls, both foreign
and domestic: if it isn't "fanatical terrorists and religious
zealots beyond our borders," then it's "brooding
loners and self-proclaimed apocalyptic prophets at home."
Here the Defense Secretary is letting us know that it isn't
just the Iraqis and Serbs who are in his crosshairs, but also
antigovernment "extremists" and Christians (by "apocalyptic
prophets" he surely doesn't mean Bahais or Ethical Culturalists).
These demonic enemies are armed with anthrax, and smallpox,
"the horrible infectious virus that decimated entire
nations down the ages and against which the global population
is currently defenseless." Thank God er, I mean,
thank goodness for the United States Government,
which is there to protect us from these devils, both homegrown
and imported! Isn't that what we are supposed to think?
how can they protect us from the terrors unleashed by their
policies? Can they shield us from the curses of Iraqi and
Serbian souls crowded into the undergloom by US bombs? Left
as carrion for dogs and birds, their ghosts roam the earth,
restless and revengeful. As Cohen puts it, "In the past
year, dozens of threats to use chemical or biological weapons
in the United States have turned out to be hoaxes. Someday,
one will be real." What a monstrous admission! In other
words, we know US meddling in every civil war from
Kosovo to Taiwan is leading to a disaster of unimaginable
proportions; we know our hubris will be rewarded with
a great fall yet, like arrogant Achilles, we ride into
battle, dismissive of all warnings, and deluded by the myth
of our invincibility. Like him, we will get it in the heel,
and not even foreknowledge of this tragedy can prevent it.
In Cohen's view, a deadly and massive terrorist attack is
virtually inevitable, and all we can do is grit our
teeth and brace ourselves for the horrors to come. It has
all the hallmarks of a classic Greek tragedy: a terrible disaster
unfolds, and mere mortals, for all their struggles and defiance,
are powerless to stop it.
JOY OF GLOBAL MEDDLING
the benefits of being the World's Only Superpower!
What we have to look forward to is the day when our worst
nightmare becomes reality. Cohen asks: "What would that
day look like? A biological agent would sink into the respiratory
and nervous systems of the afflicted. The speed and scope
of modern air travel could carry this highly contagious virus
across hemispheres in hours. Indeed, the invisible contagion
would be neither geographically nor numerically limited, infecting
unsuspecting thousands with many, in turn, communicating
the virus to whomever they touch." Is this what they
mean by "globalization"?
more ominous is the title of Cohen's piece, with its Stephen
King-like scenario: "Preparing for a Grave New World."
But who wants to live in such a world, let alone prepare for
it? Cohen admits that there is no defense against this kind
of "asymmetric" warfare: "Welcome to the grave
New World of terrorism " he writes, "a world in
which traditional notions of deterrence and counter-response
no longer apply." Let Cohen and his cohorts keep their
"Grave New World" I'd rather be six feet
WAR AT HOME
understand how we got to this point and who brought us here
we have only to ask: who benefits? Whose power is inflated
by the possibility of looming disaster? According to Cohen,
those busy little beavers in the federal government, spearheaded
by the armed forces, are preparing to take emergency measures
in the event of such an attack. A special "Task Force
for Civil Support" to coordinate anti-terrorist plans
and "ensure that we have the military assets necessary
to help respond domestically while still meeting our foremost
mission" is all set and rarin' to go. The really scary
part of all this is the clear implication that America's fighting
forces may very well be engaged at the time in yet another
"humanitarian" mission abroad, with the terrorist
attack a response to US military action. Cohen envisions a
war fought on two fronts, possibly including an insurrection
or some type of civil disorder on the home front as the death
toll rises. Are we supposed to be reassured by the cheery
news that "Special National Guard teams are being positioned
around the nation to advise and assist communities upon request"?
But what if these communities don't want to be "advised"
and "assisted"? Upon whose request will they
be brought in, and under what circumstances?
the last time they brought in the National Guard to quell
a revolt over an unpopular war, it was at Kent State University
but, then, you're probably too young to remember. Well
then, pay attention: It was a Monday, May 4, 1970; around
noon: 1,000 students had gathered in the Commons, a field
in the middle of campus, protesting the Vietnam War. Refusing
an order to disperse, the students were attacked by National
Guardsmen, who gassed them and then, to everyone's horror,
fired into the crowd. Four students were killed, and scores
wounded; one was crippled for life.
sudden national emergency cedes all power to the military
and the feds: what are you, some kind of paranoid?
How could you possibly find this the least bit suspicious.
Why, next thing you know, you'll be raving about black helicopters!
What are you, some kind of right-wing extremist?
a relief to know that Cohen believes that "we must not
trample on American lives and liberties in the name of preserving
them." Whew! For a moment there, I thought it
was all over but the shouting. Yet the next sentence is hardly
reassuring: "Fears about the military's role in domestic
affairs are unfounded," he burbles, "as evidenced
by a long history of reasonable and successful military support
to communities ravaged by natural disasters, such as fire
and flood." But we are not talking about a flood
here, or a fire, but a man-made disaster; that is, a war
in this case, a war that we will have lost. For even
if we retaliate massively against the perpetrators, what kind
of "victory" can we have if the ebola virus has
claimed casualties in the hundreds of thousands and even millions?
BOURNE WAS RIGHT
writer Randolph Bourne, the shining star of American liberalism
at the turn of the century, trenchantly summed up the libertarian
case against imperialism by observing that "war is the
health of the State." In the conditions of war, the economy
and all social institutions normally in the private sphere
are subordinated to and absorbed by the government. Cohen's
master plan for the terrorist Armageddon, which will require
expanded "information gathering by law enforcement at
home" as well as more covert action abroad, underscores
this antipathy. But don't worry, says Cohen, you needn't fret
about losing what little is left of your liberty: "There
need be no fear or foreboding by the American people of the
preparations of their government." After all, why worry
when tens of thousands are inevitably doomed to die a horrible
death? You might as well resign yourself to it, and put your
trust in the federal government or, if you prefer,
you can just commit suicide and get it over with.
but really, you haven't a worry in the world because
"the greater threat to our civil liberties stems from
the chaos and carnage that might result from an attack for
which we had failed to prepare and the demands for action
that would follow." What are these demands, and who
is making them? Could it be the American people demanding
the abdication of the ruling elite, now that they have brought
the country to ruin? In the midst of the devastation wrought
by their perpetual wars, defeated and discredited by the consequences
of their own hubris, our rulers' first fear is not invasion
from abroad but revolution from within. But if everything
goes according to plan, the Clintonian "Task Force for
Civil Support" working in tandem with FEMA, the Justice
Department, and National Guard units, will make short shrift
SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO JOHN QUINCY ADAMS
Cohen scenario seems too science fictional to be taken seriously,
and too possible to discount: it is surrealistically realistic,
a sure sign of the times, and an ominous one indeed. John
Quincy Adams' admonition not to go abroad "in search
of monsters to destroy" will surely be proven correct:
for it seems those monsters have, in turn, invaded our own
shores, and will (sooner or later) visit destruction upon
SENSE OF JUSTICE
there will be a (relatively) comfortable bunker, plague-free
and secure, from which the Secretary of Defense and his cohorts
will direct the pacification effort. But just maybe the emergency
will catch him unawares. After all, if the past few years
have revealed anything it is that our intelligence efforts
are not all that dependable (just ask the former inhabitants
of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade). It could be that Cohen
is out of town giving a speech to the local Foreign Affairs
Council. Perhaps his topic will be "The Role of America
as the Last and Only Superpower," in which he explains,
in his uninspired and perfunctory way, why it is necessary
for the U.S. to lord it over the whole world. Just as he is
nearing the climax of his peroration, when the phrases of
"global responsibility" and "human rights"
roll unconvincingly off his lips, just at that moment the
deadly virus will strike the hall and that will be
the last act of hypocrisy every committed by William S. Cohen.
No, it won't be pretty but asked to choose between
aesthetics and justice, I choose the latter every time.