Modernity is So 2006

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The American Conservative has a knack for coaxing fascinating essays out of journalists or thinkers shut out of the national conversation. Exhibit Umpteen: this terrific piece by Michael Vlahos, "a principal professional staff at the National Security Analysis Department of The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory."

This is our defeat-dynamic: We have set up non-state triumph in Iraq, no matter when or how we leave it. We have ensured the eventual collapse of our ancien regime nation-states. We have no relationship with revolutionary communities that will succeed them.

Tragically, the transformation of the American narrative is no simple, awful misstep. It is no neocon excursion that simply needs to be recalled, at which point a sound course will set things right. We created our inescapable struggle with Islam—and the world's awareness is unraveling American modernity, whose existence always depended on its confident future. This is finished.

Years may pass before this becomes clear. So cries for a rejuvenated liberal internationalism will shout down their own irrelevance. They will get all the airtime they want in the national conversation because they are performing an essential service. They reassure national elites that our historical disaster can be reversed by a stroke of policy. But over time, the oratory will wear so thin that reality will at last be naked: our universal story is now chaff to the wind like the grand narratives of all empires.

The whole thing's worth a read.

UPDATE: Well, I liked it.

NEXT: Past and Future Hawks

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  1. What the hell did he just say?

  2. That guy is gaius marius. I know it to be true.

  3. Rimfax beat me to it.

  4. Aresen and Rimfax and JasonL:

    Poke around here to see how he did this 🙂

    cheers!

  5. Let me add my, “huh?”

  6. That guy is gaius marius. I know it to be true.

    Unless he’s started using capital letters and stopped bemoaning the proliferation of “artists”, I don’t think it’s him, mr jason. Same sentiment, though.

  7. Worth a read? Weigel you owe me and a lot of other people ten minutes of their life back. WTF? I love the part about we are not so innocent on 9-11 as we were in 1941. Does this clown bother to read history? The U.S. was involved all over the world in 1941. We were sending arms to Britain and were cutting off oil to Japan because of their behavior in China. Not that I am going to defend Japan, I won’t, but this idiot ought to at least get his history right.

    Further, what the hell is he talking about the “death of the modern”? He needs to get the hell out of the lab and go out in the world. Go to the Middle East sometime, they all have Satellite dishes, cell phones and would take a Visa to the U.S. in a minute. Most of the people in the Middle East would love to personally live the American narrative, whatever the hell that is.

    What a waste of space.

  8. VikingMoose,

    Thank you. It makes so much more sense to me now.

  9. “… the oratory will wear so thin that reality will at last be naked: our universal story is now chaff to the wind like the grand narratives of all empires.”

    Yes, yes, yes, of course. A fool could see it. The End of History.

  10. Mr. Weigel,

    A double curse on you. One, for subjecting us to this. Two, for putting me in a position where I agree with John.

  11. Your fathers’ guilt you still must pay,
    Till, Roman, you restore each shrine,
    Each temple, mouldering in decay,
    And smoke-grimed statue, scarce divine.
    Revering Heaven, you rule below;
    Be that your base, your coping still;
    ‘Tis Heaven neglected bids o’erflow
    The measure of Italian ill. – Horace, Odes, Book III (trans. John Conington) – http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/dsndc10.txt

  12. Yes, but we have nukes now, so all that Late Roman Empire stuf is inapplicable.

    If and when the poor people become too much of a drain on the rich, then we will nuke them. And we will make it be their fault.

    The only mistake PNAC made was thinking we were at that point now. What is required is a Hiroshima type event. Maybe two. Probably not more than that.

  13. O.K., so it’s not just me? I was thinking I had some how become incapable of reading English.

  14. Were you wondering about the intellectual level of the Hit and Run crowd, Mr. Weigel? Are you surprised?

  15. My pleasure, Rimfax.

    For MBA types, the bullshit buzzword generator is another goodie. I watched a cow-orker (sic) actually put one of the phrases in a draft report to the client (only once and only for the draft).

    http://dack.com/web/bullshit.html

  16. Reading postmodern intellectual jargon is like reading tea leaves. You pretty much get the answer you were expecting in the first place.

    But I think what he’s trying to say is that our toppling of the Iraqi nation-state (a more artificial construct even than most other nation states) is only the first step in the eventual dissolution of all nantio-states, or even the concept of the nation-state as a useful poltical entity. Just as the fall of Greece ended the city-state, and WWI ended the age of Empires, the fall of Baghdad means the end of nations as we know them.

    He posits the rise of “radical communities” where political, religious and economic allegiances undercut and overlap current geographical constructs. Corporate governance? Cell-phone nations? Internet communities? Who knows.

    Still, he could have said as much in plain English, but there is a precedent for retracting doctoral degrees.

  17. A child was born, with no state of mind
    Blind to the ways of mankind
    God is smiling on you but he’s frowning too
    Cause only God knows what you go through
    You grow in the ghetto, living second rate
    And your eyes will sing a song of deep hate
    The places you play and where you stay
    Looks like one great big alley way
    You’ll admire all the number book takers
    Thugs, pimps, pushers and the big money makers
    Driving big cars, spending twenties and tens
    And you wanna grow up to be just like them
    Smugglers, scrambles, burglars, gamblers
    Pickpockets, peddlers and even pan-handlers
    You say I’m cool, I’m no fool
    But then you wind up dropping out of high school
    Now you’re unemployed, all null n void
    Walking around like you’re Pretty Boy Floyd
    Turned stickup kid, look what you done did
    Got send up for a eight year bid
    Now your man is took and you’re a may tag
    Spend the next two years as an undercover fag
    Being used and abused, and served like hell
    Till one day you was find hung dead in a cell
    It was plain to see that your life was lost
    You was cold and your body swung back and forth
    But now your eyes sing the sad sad song
    Of how you lived so fast and died so young

    “The Message” – MC Melle Mel/Duke Bootee Fletcher (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five)

  18. No it is not you Tim. The whole piece is written in circles and filled with meaningless drivel. It throws out terms like “the American narritive” which sound like they make sense but when you think about it you are like WTF does that mean.

  19. VM,

    I find it to be (so far) perfectly comprehensible. 😉

  20. I, for one, am impressed Weigel manage to read the whole “terrific piece.” Over written, overwrought and overly long would be my take. Do those military think tanks pay by the word? Methinks the good Dr. Vlahos read a bit too much Hegel back at the Fletcher School.

    Okay, so maybe an overwrought reaction to the overwrought rhetoric of the Bush Administration’s, um, narrative is a reasonable tit for tat, but Bush will, in fact, be gone in a couple of years and our “Holy War Against Islamofascism” is not our carved-in-stone foreign policy for as far as the eye can see unless the eye in question is seriously myopic.

    Ya gotta love these Big Picture guys, though, especially when they argue for change from an implicitly historical determinism perspective. Geez!

  21. I’m with Grotius here. This ain’t the Sokal hoax.

  22. Hi Gro!
    I confess I didn’t read – just jumped to the generator. 🙂

    (am catching up on H&R in between some hectic moments this morning. That Ron Paul thread below is hilarious.)

    Mr. Crane: PUNK’S NOT DEAD.

    long ago in a dusty village,
    full of hunger, pain and strife,
    a man came forth with a vision of truth,
    and the way to a better life,
    he was convinced he had the answer,
    and he compelled people to follow along,
    but the hunger never vanished,
    and the man was banished,
    and the village dried up and died,

    at a time when wise men peered,
    through brass tubes toward the sky,
    the heavens changed in predictable ways,
    and one man was able to find,
    that he had thought he found the answer,
    and he was quick to write his revelation,
    but as they were scrutinized
    in his colleagues eyes,
    he soon became a mockery,

    don’t tell me about the answer,
    ’cause then another one will come along soon,
    I don’t believe you have the answer,
    I’ve got ideas too,
    but if you’ve got enough naivite,
    and you’ve got conviction,
    then the answer is perfect for you

    an urban sprawl sits choking on its discharge,
    overwhelmed by industry,
    searching for a modern day saviour
    from another place
    inclined toward charity,

    everyone’s begging for an answer,
    without regard validity,
    the searching never ends,
    it goes on and on and on for eternity

    ‘The Answer’ – Bad Religion (1992: Generator)

  23. I enjoyed the section about imperial super powers’ tendencies to treat symbolic threats to their sovereignty as being equal to material threats, and the distinctions between Pearl Harbor and Giuliani Day…blah blah blah.

    Then I got to the modernity part and decided it was time to check out the latest entries on ratemypoo.com.

    I try to be all smart like, but it’s tough to fight the density.

  24. Ahistorical claptrap, and poorly written to boot.

  25. BTW, for me this is really the money-quote:

    In fact, what empires have most in common is how their sacred narratives come to rule their strategic behavior-and rule it badly.

    The great myths and ideals of the Romans – about Cincinnatus, the farmer-soldier, etc. – were – if they ever were part of reality – long dead by the time of the time of the Second Century BCE (thus the Gracchi reforms) but they continued to be praised and discussed as if they had some real currency in everyday Roman life. This forestalled all manner of reforms and created a situation where events like the Social War and the civil war (between the shifting factions that eventually lead to the enthronement of Octavian) forced often deleterious changes upon the Roman polity. In other words, Empires are quite good at self-deception.

  26. Right back atcha, VM.

    Sometimes you’re better off dead
    There’s a gun in your hand and it’s pointing at your head
    You think you’re mad, too unstable
    Kicking in chairs and knocking down tables
    In a restaurant, in a West End town
    Call the police, there’s a madman around
    Running down underground to a dive bar
    In a West End town

    Too many shadows, whispering voices
    Faces on posters, too many choices
    If, when, why, what?
    How much have you got?
    Have you got it, do you get it, if so, how often?
    Which do you choose, a hard or soft option?
    (How much do you need?)

    In a West End town a dead end world
    The East End boys and West End girls
    In a West End town a dead end world
    The East End boys and West End girls
    West End girls

    You’ve got a heart of glass or a heart of stone
    Just you wait ’til I get you home
    We’ve got no future, we’ve got no past
    Here today, built to last
    In every city, in every nation
    From Lake Geneva to the Finland station
    (How far have you been?)

  27. I kind of liked it, although I thought
    a) it could have been about 1/5 as long as it was
    b) it needed more specific examples
    c) it needed an editor in general.

    The thing that really stuck out for me was “the same innocent nation in 2001 that we were in 1941, seemingly minding our own business”. Minding our own business like we were in Hawaii? Like we were in the Philippines? Maybe what he means is that in our own national mythology, we were minding our own business, as opposed to now, when any US intervention anywhere brings shrieks of “Imperialism!” and agonized breast-beating and self-examination over how evil we are (from some segments of the population, anyway). But that’s not the point he makes.

    There’s a lot worth saying about historiography, national identity and “creation myths”, and psychohistory. I’m just not sure that this is really the article to say it.

  28. There was a wicked messenger
    From Eli he did come,
    With a mind that multiplied
    The smallest matter.
    When questioned who had sent for him,
    He answered with his thumb,
    For his tongue it could not speak, but only flatter.

    He stayed behind the assembly hall,
    It was there he made his bed,
    Oftentimes he could be seen returning.
    Until one day he just appeared
    With a note in his hand which read,
    “The soles of my feet, I swear they’re burning.”

    Oh, the leaves began to fallin’
    And the seas began to part,
    And the people that confronted him were many.
    And he was told but these few words,
    Which opened up his heart,
    “If ye cannot bring good news, then don’t bring any.”
    -Dylan-

  29. TPG:

    It’s my thread, you’re just livin’ in it.

  30. I know this pain
    Why do lock yourself up in these chains?
    No one can change your life except for you
    Dont ever let anyone step all over you
    Just open your heart and your mind
    Is it really fair to feel this way inside?

    Chorus:
    Some day somebodys gonna make you want to
    Turn around and say goodbye
    Until then baby are you going to let them
    Hold you down and make you cry
    Dont you know?
    Dont you know things can change
    Thingsll go your way
    If you hold on for one more day
    Can you hold on for one more day
    Thingsll go your way
    Hold on for one more day

    You could sustain
    Or are you comfortable with the pain?
    Youve got no one to blame for your unhappiness
    You got yourself into your own mess
    Lettin your worries pass you by
    Dont you think its worth your time
    To change your mind?

    (chorus)

    I know that there is pain
    But you hold on for one more day and
    Break free the chains
    Yeah I know that there is pain
    But you hold on for one more day and you
    Break free, break from the chains

    Some day somebodys gonna make you want to
    Turn around and say goodbye
    Until then baby are you going to let them
    Hold you down and make you cry
    Dont you know?
    Dont you know things can change
    Thingsll go your way
    If you hold on for one more day yeah
    If you hold on

    Dont you know things can change
    Thingsll go your way
    If you hold on for one more day,
    If you hold on
    Can you hold on
    Hold on baby
    Wont you tell me now
    Hold on for one more day cause
    Its gonna go your way

    Dont you know things can change
    Thingsll go your way
    If you hold on for one more day
    Cant you change it this time

    Make up your mind
    Hold on
    Hold on
    Baby hold on

  31. JD,

    Yes, it could have been shorter.

  32. I love the part about we are not so innocent on 9-11 as we were in 1941. Does this clown bother to read history? The U.S. was involved all over the world in 1941

    By any measure, the US government was far more in the aggressor role via a vis the Arab world pre-9/11 then it was vis a vis the axis powers pre-WWII. Witness support for the Israeli occupation, support for authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Jordan, and a cozy relationship plus US troops in SA with its authoritarian ruling family.

  33. Anyway, this isn’t particularly dense language. Now Heidegger, his language is made nearly out of adamantium.

  34. For the record,
    I thought it was good. It made some sense, although it could have been shorter.

    What the author doesn’t see is the internal crack-up of Islam. Without a common enemy like ‘America’, Islam would shrink by 25% over the next 30 years, I think. The author sees half of the story, but doesn’t seem to be aware of how we’re prepetuating them.

    A good read of Dr. Rene Girard’s Violence and the Sacred would be in order all around, I think.

  35. adamantium.

    Take it up or leave it
    I’m not gonna change a bit
    If it means heartache
    Then leave it out for your sake
    I tried and I try tried
    To take care of my insides
    Nobody’s perfect so leave me if you object

    I want those who get to know me
    To become admirers or my enemies….

    When you’re a pirouetting, highkicking
    Thighslapping cruiser
    When you’re a hipgrinding spellbinding
    Clean cut seducer
    You have to be careful so people take note
    I take it serious, but I still like a joke

    I want those who get to know me
    To become admirers or my enemies

    Keep your philosophy
    It doesn’t apply to me
    If it means heartache
    Then leave it out for your sake
    I tried and I try tried
    But still you say that I lied
    Nobody’s perfect so leave me if you object
    -Adam Ant, “Friend or Foe”

  36. From the footnotes:

    “If you are strong, and you are fighting the weak for any period of time, you are going to become weak yourself ? it’s only a question of time. ? The problem is that you cannot prove yourself against someone who is much weaker than yourself.”

    Says a certain Mr. Martin van Creveld, who is much more succinct than the author.

  37. matt,

    Yeah, I love Girard’s stuff.

  38. The American Conservative has a knack for coaxing fascinating essays out of journalists or thinkers shut out of the national conversation.

    And it’s the best place to find consistently well argued foreign policy analysis. And said analyses often take a non-interventionist, libertarian perspective.

  39. dude is no judith butler, to be sure. she is a fucking brick of whatthefuck.

    i thought this was interesting, actually, though it should have been shorn with love and care.

  40. Weigel, I suggest you send this guy a copy of George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language”, which I think is the best essay ever written on the subject of writing.

    This guy writes bad English. He confuses his reader and hides his meaning. Is he afraid to say what he means?

    For example, the first paragraph quoted would have been much clearer if he had written:

    “We have set ourselves up to lose: The extremists will claim victory whether we leave now or later. We have hastened the fall of the dictatorships we have supported. We have no contact with the revolutionaries who will replace them.”

  41. Disguise you’re happy drive your will
    Down design your backseat take
    This pill now you’re up in flames
    And it’s your world now try to be strong
    Though i now you won’t try at all
    It won’t be easy you can take down anyone
    Love up in flames and it won’t come down
    Stop crying those tears it won’t help
    Anyway i’m buying your fears
    Your short on love it’s no use to beg
    I can’t hear you anyway stand up and
    Fall you’ve been set up there’s no
    Easy way you’re nothing at all inside
    Of the truth you live no lives in
    Spite of the truth you spread more
    Lies you’re doubting the question
    You won’t back off i get it no shit
    Don’t do it dumb dog nail’em not a
    Chance i lean forwards i fall backwards
    I lean forwards time crawls backwards
    Round and round and round it goes
    Where it stops nobody knows you probably
    Will stare though you say you can’t see
    Impossible pair it’s fate they can’t
    See how i love you till the end my
    Love for you will never end

    The Nailing – today is the day

  42. I think it makes a lot of sense: elevating a bunch of cave-dwelling sociopaths to Existential Threat always seemed insufferably stupid. It hands them a victory they haven’t earned. Essentially, we told al-Qaeda’s sympathizers and potential allies that these guys really DID have a chance of winning, or else why would we mobilize our whole society to fight them?

    The guerrilla war is not a quest for military victory, but political legitimacy. This is a very libertarian idea. It asserts that governments exist because people obey them. People obey them only because they recognize them as the legitmate authority. Legitimate authority requires credible means of retaliation against dissenters. Does al-Qaeda have such means of retaliation? Check out the glowing endorsements of their enemies. In the world of power politics, hatred is much more useful than admiration.

    We did them this service because our founding myth has distorted our foreign policy to the point of being self-defeating. In our youth we asserted that we were always victorious in wars because of the power of freedom. Now freedom has become a hothouse flower that cannot survive unless we are victorious. The one-world vision in which every person everywhere identifies freedom in precisely the same way we do and will instantly rally to our cause is what passes for foreign policy in Bush’s head.

    But it isn’t so. Satellite dishes and the internet may be popular, but they are endorsements of technology, not ideology. Terrorists use the internet for recruiting and fund raising; the Iraqi insurgents use cell phones to set off bombs. Technology is not modernity. Remember who the 9/11 terrorists actually were: they were educated and had lived in the West. And they rejected it in terms that no one could misunderstand. Except, of course, Bush and far too many posters on this board. “If only they knew us better, they would not have attacked us.” But these were all guys that DID know us. That was the problem.

  43. No shit!
    Someone else reads Girard? Excellent. Desire, Deceit, and the Novel did more to teach me how to conduct my affairs after high school than any book other than the Bible.

    This, in the footnotes of the article, struck me as being especially Girardian:

    “If you are strong, and you are fighting the weak for any period of time, you are going to become weak yourself ? it’s only a question of time. ? The problem is that you cannot prove yourself against someone who is much weaker than yourself.”

  44. Here’s my favorite quote:

    “If you are strong, and you are fighting the weak for any period of time, you are going to become weak yourself ? it’s only a question of time. ? The problem is that you cannot prove yourself against someone who is much weaker than yourself.”

  45. matt,

    Well, you are likely more versed in Girard than I.

  46. Intersting post James, but like the author of this piece we are discussing , I can’t seem to see what you’re solutions are.

    Should we never respond to an attack such as the U.S.S. Cole or the Twin Towers because to do so ‘elevates’ the enemy beyond his ‘powers’.

    I do like Matt’s take: “What the author doesn’t see is the internal crack-up of Islam. Without a common enemy like ‘America’, Islam would shrink by 25% over the next 30 years, I think. The author sees half of the story, but doesn’t seem to be aware of how we’re prepetuating them.”

    Seems we aren’t the only culture in need of ‘enemies’.

    What I find most interesting is your alluding to freedom, and how it can mean different things to different people or cultures. To me , freedom is for example the ability to speak your mind about anything at any time in all circumstances, however Mr. McCain and Mr. Feingold obviously have a different view.

    Maybe what should be of most importance is finally giving power to INDIVIDUALS instead of Nations or governments or politicians. Of course this is a pipe dream.

  47. The essay has a grain of truth because it attacks a certain silly historicism that has arisen on the American right (civilization vs its barbaric enemies) regarding our conflicts with Islamic extremist factions, but at the same time it advances an equally silly historicism (hypocritical modernity vs its authentic enemies) in its place. Whether it meets the standard of “interestingly wrong” largely depends on your standard of “interesting.”

  48. Next time I here a conservative yammering on about how liberals are whiney and negative and conservatives are active and positive…I’m going to send them to Vlahos’s piece.

  49. I have the same argument with a friend of mine all the time. His position is that we overelevated these barbarians and that they are no where near the threat the Nazis and Soviets were. They have no tanks, missiles or nuclear weapons. My response is that in the 21st century you don’t need any of that. All you need is a dedicated group of fanatics willing to make modern life miserable. Give it a few decades and chemical and biological weapons are more available because the technology will be so old and so readily available by that point. How long before a good biology PHD can grow deadly virus’s or biological weapons in their garage? I don’t think that day is that far off if it isn’t already here. If it ever gets to that point, we could end up living in some wierd version of the road warrior. Right now terrorism is tweedle de and tweedle dumb building a fertizler bomb in OKC and Islamic loosers pulling off a Wiley Coyote trick on 9-11. What happens if it ever becomes more than that?

  50. I’m an editor, and I’d rap the knuckles of any employee who submitted this crap to me as acceptable English.

    That said, I think that Vlahos is reaching if he uses Iraq as a larger pivot point in American history. It might end up being a pivot point on a smaller scale (the death of the Republican ascendancy begun in the ’60s).

    The long-term effect of 9/11 will be far more interest to watch. There’s no question that it fundamentally altered Americans’ attitudes about the rest of the world, but that effect is ongoing and subject to change.

    The problem with trying to do the historical “meta-analysis” that Vlahos does is that we are too close to the events as they happen to be able to put them in proper context. Everything happening recently seems big/major/important/world-changing as compared to things that happened 100 years ago. In historical context, though, our current struggle with radical Islam might end up being seen as little more than a 21st Century version of the war against the Barbary States.

  51. madpad:

    The other goodie is that conservatives argue with “reason, not emotion” and that liberals base their arguments on emotion.

    that’s another goodie!

  52. “Next time I here a conservative yammering on about how liberals are whiney and negative and conservatives are active and positive…I’m going to send them to Vlahos’s piece.”

    Why do you think he is a conservative? Maybe some kind of esoteric version of Pat Buchanan, but I can’t see how you could call him a conservative.

  53. Should we never respond to an attack such as the U.S.S. Cole . . . because to do so ‘elevates’ the enemy beyond his ‘powers’.

    What was the USS Cole doing there in the first place? Would you want the SS. Khomeni parked in Gitmo?

    The answer to the Twin Towers thing was to have a better air defense system. Both in the highjacked planes and outside the highjacked planes.

    It is only the imperial thinking that makes us miss these obvious points.

    These points should be called “common sense” instead of “blame America first.” There’s the stupidity. Right there.

  54. oopps: “Gitmo” should have been –Havana.–

  55. “The answer to the Twin Towers thing was to have a better air defense system. Both in the highjacked planes and outside the highjacked planes.”

    I don’t think allowing the planes to be highjacked and then shooting them down is a very good option. Further, security can only go so far. The terrorist only has to get through once. No amount of security is going to protect you from a determined enemy if you just ignore the enemy and let him keep taking shots at you.

    The Cole was there at the invitation and permission of the Yemni government. Last I heard they had some say over who goes in their territory. I guess we should have checked with Bin Laden’s diplomatic mission before landing there.

  56. Would you want the SS. Khomeni parked in Gitmo?

    So I guess you would be okay with the U.S. bombing said SS Khomeni with no warning and no declaration of war just because we “didn’t like it”.

  57. Why enforce brevity?

    This morning, Vlahos’ article was worth my time, even if it rehashed Girardian generalities in bloated prose.

    On a different morning it might not be. But on that morning, as on this one, Vlahos will have a better than average understanding of the who, where, when, and why of our ‘clash of cultures’ with ‘islamo-fascism’.

  58. I don’t think allowing the planes to be highjacked and then shooting them down is a very good option.

    Cockpi doors are. So are emergency remote controls. I didn’t say “shooting them down.”

    The Cole was there at the invitation and permission of the Yemni government.

    Yeah, as I noted in my quickie correction post, I had meant to say “Havana.”

  59. John responding to Dave W:

    Would you want the SS. Khomeni parked in Gitmo?

    So I guess you would be okay with the U.S. bombing said SS Khomeni with no warning and no declaration of war just because we “didn’t like it”.

    Perfectly said. Not that the answer couldn’t be yes.

  60. The American empire has never really been an empire…we are rich because we are free (relatively) and because we are rich we spend our wealth on sometimes disastrous foreign boondoggles…life sucks bla bla bla.

    as time goes by the boondoggles pile up in history books and one hopes eventually it will become common sence to stay away from them…when this day comes does not signal the end to “America” but only an adaptation.

  61. doubled: maybe the solution is to put matters in their proper context. These men are no threat to our freedom and only occasionally to our lives. They should be hunted as you would hunt a lone wolf, not dreaded as you would a pack.

    After 9/11, British security experts with loads of experience in Northern Ireland winced in dismay at the thundering war rhetoric of Bush. Counter-terrorism is properly a quiet campaign fought in the shadows by police agencies and intelligence services. It is policy of threat management, not threat elimination, because elimination is unlikely. It is not a grand national undertaking and casting it as such is begging for a war without victory which, to an imperial power, is a defeat.

    Rising powers take care not to get entangled in losing propositions. It’s how they rise. But once at the top, the truly imperial power presumes all propositions are potentially winning ones, and that is their undoing.

  62. “After 9/11, British security experts with loads of experience in Northern Ireland winced in dismay at the thundering war rhetoric of Bush. Counter-terrorism is properly a quiet campaign fought in the shadows by police agencies and intelligence services. It is policy of threat management, not threat elimination, because elimination is unlikely. It is not a grand national undertaking and casting it as such is begging for a war without victory which, to an imperial power, is a defeat.”

    That is all true as long as terrorists never get hold of anything beyond car bombs. What happens if they can get WMDs? That changes the equation a whole lot. Further, the British ended up stuck in Northern Ireland doing a slow bleed for nearly 20 years. They didn’t exactly deal with the problem quietly.

  63. Would you want the SS. Khomeni parked in Gitmo?

    So I guess you would be okay with the U.S. bombing said SS Khomeni with no warning and no declaration of war just because we “didn’t like it”.

    As I noted at my correction, and again in responding to John, I meant to say Havana. the original idea was that Castro gave permission for the Iranian warship to be there, that the US would object and Castro and the Iranians would tell the US — our harbor, fair play.

    Of course, the imperialist history of the US makes the whole example inapposite if we use GITMO because the US started a war on false pretences to win that piece of real estate.

    I will have to be more careful next time. If you go back to the original post and substitute –Havana– for “Gitm” you will see what I was driving at.

  64. I understand what you meant Dave W. Even if Iran sent a ship to Havana, that wouldn’t give us the right to bomb it. Iran is doing everything but giving blowjobs to Chavez, does that justify war against him?

  65. The correct remedy for blowjobs is impeachment, not war.

  66. Sorry, I gave this article another stab and I’m even less impressed than I was before. It not only fails to back up any of its assertions, its assertions are almost self-evidently logically false.

    The very first sentence is utter nonsense. For starters, the two wars are won. It is the occupations that are failing (arguably not in Afghanistan). Call me pedantic, but for overblown text like this, distinctions should be everything. Secondly, it is precisely our overemphasis on our understanding of history that lead the naivete of the failing occupation in Iraq. Our vision of history is quite clear. The reality of the situation in Iraq does not conform to that of historical “conquest”. Admittedly, this is petty dissection, but the later emphasis on “empire” drives home far better than I can the falseness of this intentionally mushy statement. The rest of the opening paragraph is more empty assertions buttressed by a non sequitor quote from CIA Director Hayden.

    The second paragraph leads with boilerplate postmodernist nonsense. Please pardon my lack of imagination, buy how can a “storyline” make an “accumulation of success” “concrete”, much less how it can assure “trancendence”? Next, we meet the “empire” word. I can’t help but wonder what that word might actually mean to the author. Then we see a laundry list of failed bona fide empires, minus the only example that has the least relevance to the US of today, the British Empire, which is still quite extant if quite reformed into a semi-constitutional republic. This paragraph ends with the assertion that each “empire”, presumably including the modern US, acquires a “collective conviction” that it is surfing historical progress, pardon the paraphrasing. Where does this “collective conviction” exist in a nation where dissent is the rule, even when the political elites are slow to reflect it? Doesn’t this far more accurately apply to the Soviet Union, where political enforcement allowed the perpetuation of a national narrative, however false? Is he suggesting that the Soviets choked on their own Kool Aid or just that the US is about to do so?

    Obviously, I could go on and on. It is such mind-numbing nonsense. I was only compelled to read it through because so many commenters appeared to find some value in it. I find it to be the worst kind of shit.

  67. Rising powers take care not to get entangled in losing propositions. It’s how they rise. But once at the top, the truly imperial power presumes all propositions are potentially winning ones, and that is their undoing.

    I think what is missing from this discussion is the unique character of the American rise to power….it is not dependent on military conquest to sustain itself or to grow…it does suffer from the tendency to seek it…but the juice that primes the pump is not threatened in anyway if it looses a war.

    Two take away sub-points…it will be more willing wage war…and conversely will be less invested in actually winning a war.

  68. “The very first sentence is utter nonsense. For starters, the two wars are won.”

    so the british won the revolutionary war, they just lost the occupation?

  69. joshua corning,

    …it is not dependent on military conquest to sustain itself or to grow…

    The U.S. spent much of the 19th century – when it was growing into a major power – conquering via force weaker political entities just like the European empires did. So at least at one point in this nation’s history we were in part dependent on military conquest to grow our power.

  70. The American Conservative, the only other political magazine that comes close to the monthly quality and irreverence of Reason

  71. So at least at one point in this nation’s history we were in part dependent on military conquest to grow our power.

    Yeah cuz New York would have went out of business without Lewis and Clark….I call bullshit.

    Did the boarders of the US grow because of military conquest? Yes. Was that expansion necessary or would not have happened through other means? Fuck no.

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