Saturday, September 15, 2007

Happy Days Are Here Again

Fallout from the collapse of that wonderful "subprime" credit continues, as the US Dollar declines and we see more bank runs (such as what happened with UK's Northern Rock late this week). Of course predicting events like recessions and depressions would be well beyond my forte, I can't help but wonder just how much longer the house of cards can be propped up. The current credit crunch woes seem as I read it to bear some similarity to the aftermath of the Roaring '20s of the last century which led to social, political, and economic turmoil that lasted about a decade and included an effort by a sector of the elite class to hatch a failed coup attempt against a sitting US president (with a Germany or Italy inspired fascist state to replace the republic).

Of course there will be differences. The US was still a resource-rich nation, with access to an abundant supply of cheap hydrocarbon energy (e.g., oil), had the infrastructure for reviving its manufacturing base, and could still export far more than it imported. This time around, the elements needed to emerge relatively rapidly (and by that I mean a decade) from a depression will be missing. I suspect that there are a number of us who won't mourn the demise of consumer culture as it is unsustainable from an environmental point of view. What will concern us is the mass displacement of people as access to homes, jobs, etc., is lost. Those hoping that simply putting the nation into ever more warfare as a means to prime the economic pump are going to be proven deluded as there is no capacity to retool a moribund manufacturing sector for such purpose (I'd be against it on a matter of general principle to begin with), nor the coin needed to finance it in the first place. Where would our government borrow from? The US is already a terrible credit risk. Never mind that finding a willing pool of bullet stoppers (even among the newly unemployed) will be nearly impossible, nor would there be the means to pay them. It will also be much easier this time around to impose some form of fascist order, as the means for doing so have been largely put in place during the Bush and Clinton dynasties.

Petraeus: American Caesar?

The scuttlebutt is that the General in command of the legendary "Surge" in Iraq is being groomed for a Presidential run:

Sabah Khadim, then a senior adviser at Iraq's Interior Ministry, says General Petraeus discussed with him his ambition when the general was head of training and recruitment of the Iraqi army in 2004-05.

"I asked him if he was planning to run in 2008 and he said, 'No, that would be too soon'," Mr Khadim, who now lives in London, said.

General Petraeus has a reputation in the US Army for being a man of great ambition. If he succeeds in reversing America's apparent failure in Iraq, he would be a natural candidate for the White House in the presidential election in 2012.

His able defence of the "surge" in US troop numbers in Iraq as a success before Congress this week has made him the best-known soldier in America. An articulate, intelligent and energetic man, he has always shown skill in managing the media.

But General Petraeus's open interest in the presidency may lead critics to suggest that his own political ambitions have influenced him in putting an optimistic gloss on the US military position in Iraq .

Justin Raimondo sez:

President Petraeus – presumably inaugurated after a Democratic interregnum – is auditioning to play the role of the Republicans' Bonaparte. It is an indication of just how far down that path we have gone that hardly anyone finds this shocking.

With the ascension of what Lew Rockwell trenchantly calls "red-state fascism" as the official ideology of the GOP – with its valorization of all things military married to an aggressive foreign policy – a general at the helm of the ship of state would signal the beginning of a new era in American politics: the age of the Caesars.

The groundwork has already been laid: George W. Bush – with his aggressive aggrandizement of executive power at the expense of the other two branches of government – has all but crowned himself Emperor. As this country morphs from a republic into an empire, what better symbol of the new militarism than a military man in the White House? As President, Petraeus would embody the Bushian concept of the "unitary presidency."

Of course, as Raimondo correctly notes, Petraeus' ascension to the throne will depend on the degree to which the ballyhooed "Surge" works in securing Iraq as a US colony. True, there have been generals before in the White House, but the American Zeitgeist (and in particular the Zeitgeist among the elite political and economic classes) was much different back then. We're Empire now - if not officially in name, at least in practice; as such a military man with some political savvy would be attractive to this era's elites. That the dude has some baggage - let's just say if you follow the links I've already provided in addition to Raimondo's that the guy has some corruption issues - will make him fit right in over in DC.

Raimondo does end on an ominous note:

President Petraeus? Such talk is indicative of just how far from reality the debate over the Iraq war has taken us. And this is key to understanding the reason for our looming defeat: our strategy is based, not on military necessity, but political considerations – and it cannot be otherwise, unless, of course, we achieve the dream of the red-state fascists and become a military dictatorship. In which case, we'd have a Supreme Leader at the helm, with the power to not only oversee strategy and tactics, but also to commandeer the resources required to carry them out, without benefit of congressional interference. Under any regime, of course, some degree of popular support for its policies is required, but an American Caesar would have less trouble on this front – forgetting, for the moment, the possibility of an American Brutus …

This is not something the War Party likes to openly broach, although occasionally you'll find examples of the more rabid dead-enders blurting out the truth, yet it isn't hard to imagine circumstances that would loosen their inhibitions and let them come out of the closet, so to speak. Another terrorist attack, an alleged internal threat of rebellion, a massive antiwar movement that threatens to provoke civil disorder in the wake of an attack on Iran, Syria, or some other target – draw up your own scenario, and you'll find that you don't need to depend on a willing suspension of disbelief.

Anyone with any remotely libertarian sensibilities will realize just how dark this current decade has already been and how much darker the next several years promise to be. To paraphrase the late Hunter S. Thompson, Big Darkness is coming soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

If it's September 11, it must be time for another dose of Dolchstoßlegende

Neoconman Norman Podhoretz sez:
It is impossible at this point to predict how and when the battle of Iraq will end. But from the vitriolic debates it has unleashed we can already say for certain that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did not do to the Vietnam syndrome what Pearl Harbor did to the old isolationism. The Vietnam syndrome is back and it means to have its way. But is it strong enough in its present incarnation to do what it did to the honor of this country in 1975? Well acquainted though I am with its malignant power, I still believe that it will ultimately be overcome by the forces opposed to it in the war at home. Even so, I cannot deny that this question still hangs ominously in the air and will not be answered before more damage is done to the long struggle against Islamofascism into which we were blasted six years ago and that I persist in calling World War IV.
Of course he babbles incoherently about something or other prior to that closing paragraph - I suppose that's part of the charm of former Trotskyite wannabes turned overpaid quasi fascist pundits. By invoking the Vietnam Syndrome (the last US version of the Dolchstoßlegende) on the anniversary of the much-ballyhooed 9-11 attacks, Podhoretz makes his message clear: it'll be the "left's" fault if the US ends its occupation of Iraq. Never mind, of course, that way too many of those voicing antiwar opinions tend to be libertarians to characterize it as a "leftist" movement per se, or that there are precious few actual leftists left in the US after decades of Red Scares, McCarthyism, COINTELPRO, and other government efforts to repress any semblance of dissent. No, we live in this wonderful world of postmodern conservatism in which reality as such really is irrelevant to begin with. The "Iraq Syndrome" will be another one of those right-wing "creative" fictions used to deflect blame from the very corporate and government elites who were really responsible for the carnage caused by the Eternal War on Terra.

Hat tip to IOZ.

Busy Busy Busy

Not only is that a phrase bokononists use to contemplate the strange complexity of existence, but is also a statement of just how swamped I am. Among other things, I've had to play a bit of catch-up since a stomach virus bug slowed me down for much of the weekend - at least didn't get as sick as my wife and daughters.


Today I took some time out to donate blood, in honor of my sister who had to undergo surgery (last I heard, she was doing fine).

Maybe I'll get something else up before the night's over.