late classical scholar and Tory MP Enoch Powell wrote
in 1988 that US policy in Europe had rested on two pillars.
The first was that Soviet Russia and the eastern bloc
"were bent upon the invasion and conquest of Western
Europe." The second was that "the invasion
had been averted, and still continued to be averted"
by the Americans' commitment to resort to nuclear suicide
in response to it. Both notions were "contrary
to reason and observation," said Powell. The whole
thing was like "the proof that elephants roam the
railway lines because throwing bits of the Times out
of the carriage window keeps them at bay."1
Let's see Mr Karl Popper "falsify" that without looking into the premises!
American variant of this logical trap has to do with
the farmer who planted a money-losing crop (rhubarb?
alfalfa?) to keep the wolverines away. Asked if this
made any sense, he said, "You don't see any wolverines,
do you?" And it works. There is no ethnic strife
going on in Kosovo. There is no ethnic cleansing going
on in Kosovo. See? It's easy. Bang, bang NATO's
silver hammer came down on their heads and now they
all just get along.
maybe not. It has begun to trickle into the mainstream
press that all might not be well at the scene of recent
triumph. And this is where an important technique of
diversionary mystification comes into play, something
which the redoubtable Robert Whitaker refers to as "liberal
facts." These are things that are true for a season
and then go off into the Orwellian memory hole before
anyone has a chance to question them. Most people are
too polite, anyway.
subcategory of liberal fact might be called the "necessary
qualifier." If day after day stories
come in which call the happy ending of the late Balkan
unpleasantness into question, there's only one thing
to do: Use the Force, Luke. Who wants to hear "A
Serbian grandmother and three children were killed by
Albanian what? motorists? today"?
Much better to tack on the words "in apparent revenge
for previous Serbian genocide" before Mr.
and Mrs. American Gothic, out there in the heartland,
get the wrong idea.
what are the merits of such cases? Who knows? A layman
would get the idea that certain peoples in southeastern
Europe have never gotten along. While a professional
Balkanographer might make some sense of it, even he
can't have had an easy time of it. I am indeed grateful
that there are Balkanologers it saves the rest
of us from having learn the same South Slavic language
in several scripts.
of this was literally academic before the imperial
social workers, mad bombers, youthful optimists, and
telescopic philanthropists in Washington and at NATO
HQ got into the act. I'm sure it mattered a lot to some
people in places like Cincinnati, whose ancestors came
from that part of the world, but emotional involvement
in Old World controversies may not be the soundest basis
for an American foreign policy. See George Washington's
NEVER GO AROUND MIRRORS'
don't, myself, actually avoid mirrors. I even smashed
one up recently, so it could go in the trash (double-bagged,
mind you). I didn't worry much, because I'm grandfathered
in on the seven years of bad luck. But our present flock
of foreign policy makers ought not to go around mirrors,
ever. They might catch a glimmer deep in the
reflected background of how the world views their
grandiose moral pronouncements. They might even notice
some of their many declared and undeclared "enemies"
picking around in the rubble. In a really big mirror
they might glimpse way off to the side
some of those Iraqi children, whose mortality rates
have mysteriously shot off the scale since that other
late and ongoing unpleasantness.
why go on? I don't think these are the most reflective
people in the world. They don't have to think
a great deal about what action to take, as long as it's
action. For them, inaction noninterference
is the only forbidden thing. This is because they have
a preselected ideological slot for every incoming bit
of data which resembles a peg. If it doesn't look like
a peg, they hammer it in anyway with that silver hammer
FOREIGN POLICY RATIONALE GENERATOR, MODEL #2
does this work? Simple enough. Someone, somewhere, invades
the neighbors. The policy boys (or girls) just leaf
through World Operating Manual, vol. 2 (Worldville:
Last Remaining Super-Power Press, 1999) until they come
to "armed invasions, good and bad." From "good
invasions"they will be referred to "general
platitudes"- such as "deplore loss of life,"
"express hope for peaceful resolution," "refer
to high-minded public documents" (Pericles' Funeral
Oration, Gettysburg Address, UN Charter). They now crank
up their global platitude reconciler and issue a statement
covering their backsides and ignoring the US role in
bankrolling and training the armies in question, or
even planning invasion for them. This works just fine
when good powers invade bad powers, or even merely unimportant
ones (US-Indonesian relations somehow come to mind).
what if the criteria on pp. 1203-1216 show them they
have a "bad invasion" on their hands? Things
are still pretty straight-forward. Policy jockeys can
go to "Munich, 1938" always a favorite
or look under "how to tell if foreign rulers
are Hitler all over again." This is usually enough
to get the press campaign of vilification going against
the foreign miscreant, whoever he is, poor fellow. He
probably is a minor league despot with an unpronounceable
foreign name, which Dan and Tom can deliberately mangle
on the evening news.
Schmitler. They must now convince all those troglodytes
in Congress and the self-centered heartlanders, who
have no more vision than to mind their own business,
that a vital American interest or at least an
inoperable American abstraction is at stake.
In volume 3, Opinion Management and Matching Foreign
Policy Kit, in the same series, they can review
the useful summaries of press campaigns against David
Koresh, Randy Weaver, Saddam Hussein, and Manuel Noriega.
I know these fellows had their faults, but only the
latter two spent much time on the US payroll. (See the
manual under "disgruntled former employees.")
Our policy-makers won't have to worry much over mere
details and "facts." As the deconstructionists
like to tell us, interpretation is all. Anything can
be spun. If the bad invader attended Texas Baptist College
in 1951, they can spin that into clear evidence of abiding
evil. Of course, the same fact would be evidence of
a long-standing commitment to high ideals in the case
of a good invader. Some day, this whole method will
be laid bare, I'm certain, in The Screw-Up Letters,
the imaginary memoirs of one of the minor demons who
make US foreign policy the entertaining and lethal spectacle
we have come to know and wish we didn't. And policy
"wonk": isn't that kind of like that British
word, or am I thinking of that funny internal combustion
SAID JESTING PILATE
for those who have been trying to avoid it
is all about the relativity of truth, or indeed the
non-existence of truth. I don't think it's true, but
so what? I might be my very own "hermeneutic"
community, so my truth would be true for me but maybe
not for a lot of people like Smith and Jones and Wallace
but I stop here lest my list of hypothetical
persons be taken as evidence of ethnic bias. Of course,
the "absences" and "silences" being
as important as what's in the "text," I suppose
I am guilty of all the things I didn't say as well.
All it takes, really, is one bone-idle, overtheorized
lit prof to expose the crimes of us all.
Marxist-tinged deconstructionists enjoy relating post-structuralism,
deconstruction, and the other fads to the conditions
of life under "late monopoly capitalism."
How late? Five minutes? Two weeks? Or for the Germans
especially a century? Yes, indeed, late capitalism
makes us live in "seriality," sliding in and
amongst our different, decentered selves. Question:
Is Mr. Darwin answerable for these signifyin' monkeys?
nice try, fellows, but I think most of us know
that if you kick a ball, it goes somewhere, and this
will be true in Spain, Waziristan, or South Boston,
and we needn't send observers around to study it. The
interpretive community of physicists may believe this,
too, but their belief as such is not the basis
of this particular truth. In fields which deal with
human action things are a bit more contested than in
basic ("naïve") physics, but I think
this has do with the social scientists' failure actually
to study human action rather than with the impossibility
of arriving at useful truths about these things. But
I cannot do a commercial here for Ludwig von Mises and
Austrian Economics, and I move on.
further afield than I usually go in this space, but
bear with me. Taking a leaf from the Marxists' book,
I assert that such mind-numbing phenomena as "de(con)struction"
have a necessary, organic relationship to "late
US foreign policy." What could be less controversial?
Who lied to whom about the Bay of Pigs? Or about that
funny spy plane before that? Or about what happened
in the Gulf of Tonkin? Or about who did what to whom
in Kosovo? Was it the people who lied to the rulers?
Did a wayfaring band of mummers and gleemen do it?
fifty years of American globaloney to use that
Old Right word who could be surprised that some
observers have been so unmanned (or unwomanned, as the
case may be) as to doubt the existence of any forms
of truth at all? Surely some of you remember the famous
issue of National Review in the late sixties
which featured "government documents"allegedly
refuting the Pentagon Papers? You will recall
that when the hoax was exposed, the Buckleyite response
was, in effect, "Well, given that the Vietnam war
is a really good idea, documents like the ones we made
up ought to exist." So it's not just the
left which rejoices in the relativity of truth.
COMMUNITIES OF INDIGNATION
think it was that wonderful old Catholic reactionary
Sir Arnold Lunn, who used to write in National Review
(strangely enough) about the problem of "selective
indignation." Colossal massacres in "newly
independent" African "nations" routinely
passed below the radar screens of the alert western
media, which only noticed them if there was a cold war
angle, but a handful of demonstrators shot in South
Africa became the crime of the century, repeated endlessly
until the South Africans committed some new ones. Now
it isn't that the South African approach to crowd control
was good or even morally neutral. The point is the selectivity
whereby massacres of hundreds of thousands of people
elsewhere on the continent were seen as uninteresting.
Today, anyone who bothers to read the South African
press will find reason to wonder if there is very much
truth or reconciliation in the report issued by Bishop
Tutu's commission of the same name. The report is simply
an assignment of all blame to one party in the recent
perhaps that's true enough. And perhaps no Kosovo Albanian
said as much as a discouraging word to a Serb until
late last year, but I doubt it. Such matters require
a lot of careful study to sort them out. This is why
we have social scientists, historians, and other practitioners
of the academic sorceries. It was formerly thought that
serious scholarly work might get us closer to the truth
even in fields where the so-called "scientific
method" (really, only the method of natural science)
might need replacing with methods appropriate to the
study of human action.
who watched MSNBC during the Balkan bomb festival must
have noticed the pained look on the faces of real Balkan
scholars, who knew that Uncle's and NATO's agitprop
presentation of the underlying issues rested on ignorance,
deception, and wishful thinking. I don't think the President
took time to feel their pain, however. As for the targets,
he wouldn't much care if a bunch of religious fanatics
killed themselves by getting in the way of some bombs
in Belgrade. I reckon that's selective synaesthesia
there is. But method is important in the social sciences
and the natural sciences alike. A methodological tip
is in order: You will never, I repeat never,
get near the truth of anything by taking government
statements at face value. This probably goes double
for the government alluded to, once or twice, in this
essay. This is important to remember the next time Uncle
starts stirring up selective indignation about misdeeds
overseas that require our immediate attention. You have
to remember that, collectively, Uncle and his friends
form their own interpretive community, one with zero
interest in any truths other than missile throw-weights,
the physics of jellied petroleum, and the benefits of
Open Door mercantilism to their friends in business
(yes there are "good" capitalists just
as there are good invaders).
yes, we can believe the future's ahead and truth can
be found. The post-modernists can't see it. I bet Uncle
Sam is blocking their view. He's big that way. As for
the Marxists, now is as good a time as any to thank
them for keeping the useful term "mystification"
 Enoch Powell, "The Decline of America,"
The Guardian, December 7, 1988. 557
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