our letters column, cutely known as "Backtalk,"
there's a delightfully nutty and nasty missive from Stephen
Schwartz, professional Saudiphobe and author of the forthcoming
The Two Faces of Islam. Schwartz, an ex-Trotskyoid
known as "Comrade Sandalio", once had his
lawyer call us threatening to sue because we linked to one
of his Weekly Standard screeds: surely a first
in the legal annals of the Internet.
OF THE NUTBALLS
about a clueless crank! Schwartz takes me to task for, among
other things, getting all my predictions wrong. Hey, I never
claimed clairvoyance and yet, I did get an important
one right, to wit my October  take on the wartime zeitgeist:
telling us everything's changed since 9/11, it's a new era,
and I'm afraid they're right: it's the Age of the Nutballs,
where the bizarre reigns supreme."
& THE INTELLECTUALS
supremacy of unreason is the leitmotif of wartime, and there
is no purer expression of this logical (and moral) inversion than that coming from the pundits, who now are free to project their
own neuroses and exaggerated sense of self-importance on the
large screen of a far-ranging conflict. In wartime, the intellectuals
always come around: indeed, their active participation in
justifying and rationalizing military action before and after
the fact is a vital ingredient of any wartime consensus. This is a great opportunity for them to advance their
careers, and so
the race is on to
see who can provide the cleverest rationale for taking us
into the abyss of empire.
winner, of course, is Andrew Sullivan, whose new online Andrew
Sullivan Book Club is taking up "Warrior Politics:
Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos," by Robert D. Kaplan,
but he's immediately disqualified on account of all
that testosterone. The first runner-up is:
Postrel, on the strength of a single posting on her "dynamist.com"
that gives new meaning to the descriptor "Orwellian":
offers a useful analysis of why Bush's saber-rattling makes
strategic sense when you consider its dynamic effects."
then quotes at length an article by someone whose name, as
far as I can tell, is "Andreas," who offers us this
sage interpretation of the Axis of Evil speech: "While
Bush's speech made us all a little nervous," there's
no real need to worry, because:
point was to increase our threat power. It would not have
been effective if it weren't as jarring as it was. A credible
threat can save lives, avoid conflict and increase bargaining
power, however unattractive and realpolitik it may seem. A
threat can actually eliminate the need for action rather than
make it necessary."
declaration of war is the only way to achieve peace
they said irony was dead!
POSTREL, POSEUR AND BORE
Postrel, formerly the editor of Reason
which is, itself, formerly
a libertarian magazine, and is now just another magazine
is the author of The
Future and its Enemies, an overhyped tome of unusual
turgidity wherein she posits that libertarianism is really
something called "dynamism." It was never really
quite clear, even after plodding through her book, just what
this meant, except that you
couldn't fail to worship the shade of Abraham Lincoln,
couldn't be a conservative
in the cultural sense or be skeptical at the prospect
of cloning, and be properly dynamic. I once sat through
a lecture by La Postrel, in which she regaled the audience
with her views on the wonders of "change," and after
I woke up people were already filing out the door and I'd
had quite a refreshing nap.
THINK I'VE GOT IT!
now I think I've finally got this elusive "dynamism"
pinned down, for the essay Postrel links to is a perfect horror.
Theory and the State of the Union justifies Bush's
indiscriminate belligerence by comparing the President's performance
with that of Muhammed Ali, the American prizefighter, who
used to try to convince his opponents at the weighing-in that
he was complete crazy and likely to do anything. His
"threat power" was maximized:
you can convince your opponent that you have little regard
for rules, convention or your own well-being, you have a leg
up in the fight. Some think Tyson is up to this as well, although
it would seem to have backfired. You have to admit, though,
it is definitely scary. If I had to fight, I'd rather fight
someone with a sense of self-preservation."
GAMES WITH 'GAME THEORY'
terrorists utilize this "threat power" and
so must the United States, says "Andreas." "Threat
power is the ability of one player to damage another net of
the other player's ability to damage him. If you don't care
about your life (or your things, your family, convention,
public opinion, etc.), you can sustain little damage, in utility
terms. Any damage you can inflict is a threat power advantage."
The entirely laudable strategy behind the Bush speech is to
"Show them you will hit them wherever it hurts most.
Theory just puts it in an analytical framework."
put this in an analytical framework, Andreas
and you too, Ms. Postrel: because Americans do care
about their lives, their things, their families, their conventions
(otherwise known as morality), public opinion and their
constitutional form of government. Which is why this "crazy
man" strategic perspective can only be deployed by a
terrorist or a totalitarian.
now I get what "dynamism" is all about: sucking
up to the State. Power, after all, is so dynamic and
its highest expression is war.
yes, the level of punditry is very low, and getting
out this screed by Mark Krikorian, executive director
of the Center for Immigration
Studies, wherein he opines:
can Islamic societies modernize? There's only one realistic
answer: Let the fundamentalists take over. They will so thoroughly
screw things up, so completely alienate the bulging cohorts
of young people in the Islamic world, that these societies
will turn away from Islam itself, at least as it exists today."
has the nerve to add: "And this isn't just clever punditry."
Sheesh, you can say that again! Imagine, if you will,
the above with "African" replacing "Islamic"
and "Mugabe supporters" substituting for "fundamentalists."
Somehow I don't think the snotty little neocons who run National
Review would have published it.
the terrorists have already struck without us knowing
it, and put something in the water supply that lowers
the general level of intelligence: how else do we
explain this snippet by Ur-blogger
respectable people scoffed when the Bush administration suggested
as a reason for not airing Osama Bin Laden's videotapes
that the tapes might contain hidden messages for al
Qaeda terrorists. I almost scoffed myself. But the possibility
turns out to be extremely real, according to this UPI story
about captured al Qaeda Plans."
then goes on to quote a
rather laconic piece reporting on documents purportedly
recovered in Afghanistan, including Osama's personal "codebook"
wherein phrases from the Koran are given hidden meanings:
example, 'Allah-u-Akbar' 'God is great' uttered
at a certain point on a televised videotape, could mean 'lie
it was so thoughtful of Al Qaeda to leave behind so
many documents, and in such good condition indeed,
some with the Evil One's nameplate, or at least his fingerprints
all over it. For how else did Martin Arostegui, the author
of this UPI story, know that the alleged codebook was
"apparently used by al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to
give instructions to his international network"?
now we know, the revelation's out there: every time
some Arab says "Allah-u-Akbar" he's really
relaying instructions to his fellow terrorists (aren't they
all terrorists?) to "lie low." Sounds like some
pretty good advice to me.
See what I mean about everything
having changed? Since 9/11, people seem a whole lot stupider.
Which brings to mind that story about how some scientists
have come to the conclusion that natural selection has stopped
selecting and evolution is over: having gone as far
up as we can, are we on the way down?
we're on the subject of evolutionary retrogression, how about
Karzai?! The fashion-plate
"interim President" of Afghanistan that is,
in the interim between the last civil war and the next
took Washington by storm, according to a
swooning report in The Idler:
reporters were delighted. Smiles and beaming everywhere. Karzai
had the room in the palm of his hand. How endearing, how clever,
how flattering, how charming, how modest and how intelligent
by the head of the House of Gucci as the best-dressed
tribal chieftain on earth, Karzai was
subtle...that he managed to criticize the American government,
and the Bush administration, without anyone seeming to take
of course the reporters noticed it: why else do you
think they were smiling? The Idler lauds Karzai for
being anything but "an American puppet," and goes
on to report:
his opening statement, while announcing that he was grateful
for America's help, Karzai declared that 'we warned' America
about the Taliban before September 11th but that no
one listened to his warning. Among
those who had ignored him, it went without saying, was President
George W. Bush."
main beef with the Bushies is that they don't appreciate the
need to appoint him Supreme Warlord:
came out for a strong central government in Afghanistan, with
a national army that could be used to crush the power of local
warlords a policy that differs from the current publicly
stated policy of the U.S. State department in favor of a 'loose
federation' of local governments."
about biting the hand that feeds you: so a Republican President
submits a budget
in deficit to pay for the "liberation" of Afghanistan,
and this is how Karzai pays him back? We've heard of the treachery
of the various Afghan warlords, always
ready to switch sides at a moment's notice, but this
has usually been confined to their own territory: Karzai brought
it to Washington, and naturally was feted by the liberal media.
but here's my absolute favorite graf out of the whole account:
asked about an 'exit strategy,' the Afghan leader told reporters
that he would like to keep American Forces 'prisoner' in Afghanistan
because the United States had abandoned his country
in 1989, permitting its destruction by the Taliban. He didn't
labor this point, either, but everyone in the room knew that
in 1989 the President of the United States was George H.W.
Bush father of the same George W., who had ignored
his warnings before September 11th."
IN THE FOG
is what the billions we are pouring into Afghanistan buys
us: utter disdain. Yet the President singled out Karzai for
special approbation in his state of the union address, even
as Mr. Interim President was dissing Dubya all over town.
If the present administration cannot tell its friends from
its enemies, then we are all lost in the fog of war. So Karzai
wants to keep us "prisoner" in his country, does
he? I'm afraid we've already been taken prisoner. As Garet
Garrett put it, in his classic pamphlet "Rise of Empire":
time comes when Empire finds itself a prisoner of history.
... But the history of Empire is world history and belongs
to many people. A Republic is not obliged to act upon the
world. Empire, on the other hand, must put forth its power."
argument that the general level of intelligence is rapidly
falling will surely be tested, in the near future, by the
news that President
Bush and Tony Blair have been nominated for the Nobel Peace
Prize. While the BBC reports that "the pair are
unlikely to win," with IQ levels dropping fast, by the
time they take a vote the odds could shift in their favor.
Even those who see 9/11 as the pivot point between the End
of History and World War III may smile at the anomaly:
a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for a President who just declared
war on a wide-ranging "Axis of Evil."
REAL AXIS OF EVIL
has been much mocking merriment over this Axis business, with
all three of the accused angrily denying any resemblance to
Italy. But there is such a thing as the Axis of Evil
and it consists of three individuals, not whole countries:
whose infamous "Wolfowitz
memorandum" foreshadowed the widening conflict;
to have won his battle with Colin Powell over the
direction of US foreign policy; and David
Frum, the Canadian-born neoconservative
from the Weekly Standard to writing
the President's speeches, including this
state of the union address.
his book, Dead
Right, Frum made the case that the American Right
had abandoned its traditional program of limited government
and free markets in favor of moralism and "xenophobic"
nationalism: today, as he pens moralistic phrases like "the
Axis of Evil" and, through the President, exhorts America
to take on the world, his 1994 book turns out to have been
a self-fulfilling prophecy.
conservatives, as they surrender their freedoms, their tax
dollars, and their intellectual integrity to the thoughtless
pursuit of empire, do not seem to notice any difference in
themselves, only in the exterior world which is said to have
irretrievably changed and here is yet more evidence that the
level of human intelligence is plummeting, and, with it, the
hope that the American republic will survive.
like to introduce you to a new member of the Antiwar.com staff,
Jeremy Sapienza, whose
column at LewRockwell.com has always been one of my
favorites and whose website, anti-state.com,
is the epicenter of the growing market anarchist movement.
Jeremy joins us as Assistant Webmaster. And, while I'm at
it, I might as well announce all the other new job titles
we've bestowed on ourselves: the irreplaceable Sam Koritz
is now Copy Editor and Letters Editor, and the indispensable
Eric Garris, in addition to his duties as Webmaster, is now
also Managing Editor. Whew! Am I glad that's over!
At any rate, we're going to continue to bring our readers
the best, most rapidly-updated news site on The War
only faster and better.
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