April 29th, 2008

The World’s in love with War again

Oh dear.

It does seems Butch & Sundance (Washington & Jerusalem) are assembling their case for Mo Bigger Wo.

Yesterday, Exhibit B: a passel of glossy photos to justify war upon Iran.

And now Exhibit C: US allegations of Iran training lebanese Army of God soldiers.

West Texas Intermediate crude’s working the $120 mark these days, $116 this morning.

It seems to me Mo Wo helps McCain (sorry to say) defeat the Donkey in November, whoever (s)he may be.


It seems to me the world has returned to where it was 100 years ago — a state of war between its ears. It’s come about through a broad philosophical embrace that has been decades in the making:

– A revival of the Futuristic love of the machine and its ability to supercede spirit and waste humankind. A century ago it was railroads and automobiles, cannon and machine guns; today, the computer.

– A perhaps cynical resurrection, for narrow cause (most obviously in Washington, the cause of Israel) of the notion that war is not only the inevitable relation of modern states (organized by Nation and living off industrialism), but that it is Right and Good that it is so — the most discredited sort of Social Darwinism, applied internationally,

In short: A revival of Nazism, now generic. Limits on domestic police power and international violence that the Nations and states of Industrial Civilization labored and suffered for 200 years to establish are being tossed out the window as we speed to dog knows where.

The world sped along similarly in 1937. The Germans had intervened in the Spanish Civil War and were bombing civilians from the air. The Japanese were raping China. The second world war, which will forever mark the supercession of man by machine, had in fact begun, as FDR noted that year at Chicago:

“The landmarks and traditions which have marked the progress of civilization toward a condition of law, order, and justice are being wiped away.

“Without a declaration of war and without warning or justification of any kind, civilians, including women and children are being ruthlessly murdered with bombs from the air. In times of so-called peace, ships are being attacked and sunk by submarines without cause or notice. Nations are fomenting and taking sides in civil warfare in nations that have never done them any harm. Nations claiming freedom for themselves deny it to others. Innocent peoples and nations are being cruelly sacrificed to a greed for power and supremacy which is devoid of all sense of justice and humane consideration.

“To paraphrase a recent author, ‘perhaps we foresee a time when men, exultant in the technique of homicide, will rage so hotly over the world that every precious thing will be in danger, every book and picture and harmony, every treasure garnered through two millenniums, the small, the delicate, the defenseless-all will be lost or wrecked or utterly destroyed.’

“If those things come to pass in other parts of the world, let no one imagine that America will escape, that it may expect mercy, that this Western Hemisphere will not be attacked, and that it will continue tranquilly and peacefully to carry on the ethics and the arts of civilization. If those days come, “there will be no safety by arms, no help from authority, no answer in science. The storm will rage till every flower of culture is trampled and all human beings are leveled in a vast chaos.”

The current revival of the Futuristic love of war is a movement that Bush-Cheney are certainly now leading. But its possibility, in the US, rests on the spiritual (non) foundation — Abgrund — mislaid in the 80s, during the Reagantime. Materialism. Egoism. The notions that everything is just business, and greed good, that self-improvement means going to the gym not the library …

One could go on. There was a distinct and multifarious cultural revolution, led by television and consolidated by corporate takeovers of the business organs of culture, that many of us remarked upon repeatedly in shock at the time, and that in retrospect seems to have undermined the republic, producing what any evening spent taking in the “news” makes manifest: a shallow, impassive, apolitical body politic upon which something as eccentric, rank and destructive as Bush-Cheney may light and feed without fear of disturbance.

The great banking crisis of 1907 — cured by JP Morgan and a few friends, and which led to the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank to keep such things from recurring — came back last year on the century mark precisely.

And it’s plain that the police state ethos has been on the rise in America as the currency has been collapsing … New York often feels like Berlin circa 1928, where and when Walter Benjamin mused in One Way Street.

But if we’re currently having our 1907, when may we expect our 1914?

FDR, again, at Chicago, 1937:

“The present reign of terror and international lawlessness began a few years ago. It began through unjustified interference in the internal affairs of other nations or the invasion of alien territory in violation of treaties …”

That would be March 2003. What’s to be done?

If we are to have a world in which we can breathe freely and live in amity without fear-the peace-loving nations must make a concerted effort to uphold laws and principles on which alone peace can rest secure. The peace-loving nations must make a concerted effort in opposition to those violations of treaties and those ignorings of humane instincts which today are creating a state of international anarchy and instability from which there is no escape through mere isolation or neutrality. … There must be recognition of the fact that national morality is as vital as private morality.

The last sentence rings and echoes momentously. For to dare speak of National — that is, International — Morality is to fly in the face of the so-called Empiricism of the British Foreign Office that permitted and justified that tiny island nation’s domination of so many far flung peoples. It is to reject the Realpolitik of Metternich and Lord Palmerston’s bedrock bon mot that States have no Friends, only Interests.

The National Security Apparat of the United States had inherited the British Empiricism in its mother’s milk, and since its ascension to global power in the first war had embraced it with many a journal article and book and campaign. All the more remarkable, then, to see FDR elaborate his challenge:

“There is a solidarity and interdependence about the modern world, both technically and morally, which makes it impossible for any nation completely to isolate itself from economic and political upheavals in the rest of the world, especially when such upheavals appear to be spreading and not declining.

“There can be no stability or peace either within nations or between nations except under laws and moral standards adhered to by all. International anarchy destroys every foundation for peace. It jeopardizes either the immediate or the future security of every nation, large or small.

“It is, therefore, a matter of vital interest and concern to the people of the United States that the sanctity of international treaties and the maintenance of international morality be restored. …

“The situation is definitely of universal concern. The questions involved relate not merely to violations of specific provisions of particular treaties; they are questions of war and of peace, of international law and especially of principles of humanity. …

“The moral consciousness of the world must recognize the importance of removing injustices and well-founded grievances; but at the same time it must be aroused to the cardinal necessity of honoring sanctity of treaties, of respecting the rights and liberties of others and of putting an end to acts of international aggression. …

“It ought to be inconceivable that in this modern era, and in the face of experience, any nation could be so foolish and ruthless as to run the risk of plunging the whole world into war by invading and violating, in contravention of solemn treaties, the territory of other nations that have done them no real harm and are too weak to protect themselves adequately.

“Yet the peace of the world and the welfare and security of every nation, including our own, is today being threatened by that very thing. …

“War is a contagion, whether it be declared or undeclared. It can engulf states and peoples remote from the original scene of hostilities. … If civilization is to survive the principles of the Prince of Peace must be restored. Trust between nations must be revived.”

One can see and hear the entire speech here.

And note that Vladimir Putin recapitulated in conscious paraphrase a good part of it at Munich in February 2007 — substituting, however, for Japan and Nazi Germany, the United States.

Continue, then, to expect things to continue to get worse before they get better. We lean beside Benjamin at his window in Berlin.


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  1. ed says:

    Georgia says on the verge of war with Russia.

    May 6th, 2008 at 7:56 am

  2. Drew says:

    Memorable, here, is the conceptualization of Bush-Cheney as something “eccentric and destructive” which thrives upon the structural decay — social, political, etc. — of the republic. Resting and feeding.

    June 4th, 2008 at 6:24 am

  3. Conversation » Obama’s new Space policy:Shades of JFK says:

    [...] war was the inevitable condition of modern states, taking clear cue here from FDR’s speech at Chicago in 1937. (Vladimir Putin would do the same in 2005 while trying to organize international opposition to the [...]

    June 30th, 2010 at 11:08 am

  4. ed says:

    If one grasps the state-crafty daring of FDR at Chicago in 1937 …

    And then Eisenhower’s farewell address of 1961, where he warned of the unwarranted aggregation of power by the “military-industrial complex,” coining the term and concern for public usage …

    And finally JFK’s remarkable speech at American University in 1963

    Then one begins to appreciate the depths to which we’ve been pulled by the Bush-Cheney doctrine and practice of war.

    And it’s more than sad that Obama seems unable and perhaps may be unwilling to make a turn.

    June 30th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

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