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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

no blank cheques « Previous | |Next »
March 19, 2004

I've been watching the general conservative reaction to the Madrid bombings and the Spanish elections with interest. The issue for then is the global conflict between free states and fundamentalist terrorists.

This conservative discourse overlooks the domestic context in Spain. The conservative Partido Popular (PP) government had the economy humming along but turned a blind eye to corruption and administrative dysfunction. Economic growth has been viewed in the context of European Union (EU) enlargement and EU subsidies. The Spanish people were overwhelmingly against the Iraq war and the Aznar government’s support of it even though they oppose the threats posed by terrorism.

However, there is a also the international context. The bombings look to be the largest terrorist attack on European soil in the continent's modern history.Something has just shifted in the international relations, though I'm not quite sure what the fallout is. The tides are starting to flow differently? The chickens coming home to roost in Spain? A tectonic plate has shifted? A watershed?

Peter Hartcher over at the Sydney Morning Herald suggests that the occupation of Iraq is seen as something diferent from the war on terror. The war was not fought as a counter measure to 9/11. Does this mean a more isolated Washington?

Behind the conservative's “al-Qaida victory” interpretation of the Madrid bombingsthat has shaped responses here in Australia, we can see the new conservative discourse more easily. It is a combination template of a watered down "free market"+ a strong security state at home and empire abroad. The social conservative culture is one of patriotism, the flag, suburbia and the nation united. As the recent election commercials of President Bush illustrate, this conservatism creates fear about hostile external threats:


"The ad claimed (falsely) that Kerry had a plan to raise taxes by $900m. Then came a triptych of rapid images: a US soldier - was he patrolling in Iraq? - a young man looking over his shoulder as he runs down a city street at night - was he a mugger or escaping an attack? - and a close-up of the darting eyes of a swarthy man - was he a terrorist? The voiceover: Kerry would "weaken America". The images were racial and subliminal, intended to play upon irrational fear."

The empire acknowledges no limits on its global ambitions, has a preference for unilateralist initiatives, discounts consultations with its friends, is hostile to the United Nations and talks in terms of the "war of civilisations". The empire's allies- those who act as a proxy for the U.S. such as Britain, Australia, and Canada--are compelled to give Washington a blank cheque.

Washington allows a loyal Australia to do the onerous chores of policing the vast South Pacific, and even taking some initiative on Indonesia. Policing is another name for deputy sheriff.

The Spanish people said no to the blank cheque. They said no to the uncritical faith in fictions and to a flamboyant unilateralism premised on false promises and information.

The upshot for Australia? We need to cut through the extensive media manipulation and conceptual confusions around the war with Iraq has made the fight against terrorism synonymous with a project of empire, territorial occupation and unnecessary violence.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:35 PM | | Comments (10)
Comments

Comments

Ah yes, the tired lefty cant about those evil American imperialists. Gary sounds like Jane Fonda during her activist pre-workout video phase. Perhaps there's a communist anti-aircraft gun upon whose seat he might want to sit.

The fact of the matter is that the United States seeks no empire. It seeks to promote the diffusion of representative democracy to places where liberty has never taken root. It is quite a daunting task, to transform an authoritarian society like Iraq, or a tribalistic society like Afghanistan into nations where individual rights and freedoms are respected. But, just because the task is difficult doesn't mean that it shouldn't be attempted.

You are blathering on as if 21st century United States is a 19th century Britain bent on resurrecting an American version of a "Cape to Cairo" imperium. Pure and utter balderdash. Rubbish.

I guess Gary would have prefered to see the Solomons continue to be racked by brigandry and violence. Anything but sending Aussie troops and law enforcement officers to engage in "policing the vast South Pacific."

Heaven forfend!! After all, if the people on Guadalcanal want to keep blowing each other away, who are we to stop'em, eh?

And Rwanda? The UN was right to turn a blind eye as 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered by machete-wielding Hutu. After all, we wouldn't want to be accused by Gary of "policing," now would we?

Let's pull NATO forces out of Kosovo and let the Albanians and Serbs rip each other to shreds now that violence has erupted anew.

What Gary is preaching is a malign form of neo-isolationism that allows evil to flourish unabated.

Do you actually read a text?

I suggest you start reading the links. The link to empire was to a conservative writer not to a lefty.

In terms of your absolute black and white view of the world Max Boot is one of your mob as is the Murdoch/Kristol Weekly Standard.

The argument is that the best for America to combat international terrorism is to embrace an imperial role.

Sorry Gary, but you seem to be the one who suffers from an apparent inability to read text closely. In his Weekly Standard piece, Boot specifically states:

"Unilateral U.S. rule may no longer be an option today. But the United States can certainly lead an international occupation force under U.N. auspices, with the cooperation of some Muslim nations...

"The United States, in cooperation with its allies, would be left with the responsibility to feed the hungry, tend the sick, and impose the rule of law. This is what we did for the defeated peoples of Germany, Italy, and Japan, and it is a service that we should extend to the oppressed people of Afghanistan as well. Unlike 19th-century European colonialists, we would not aim to impose our rule permanently. Instead, as in Western Germany, Italy, and Japan, occupation would be a temporary expedient to allow the people to get back on their feet until a responsible, humane, preferably democratic, government takes over...

"This could be the chance to right the scales, to establish the first Arab democracy, and to show the Arab people that America is as committed to freedom for them as we were for the people of Eastern Europe. To turn Iraq into a beacon of hope for the oppressed peoples of the Middle East: Now that would be a historic war aim."

Hardly the stuff of empire, although that term admittedly does appear in the title of Boot's piece. It does not, however, appear in the body of Boot's article.

As a prolific author of newspaper opinion pieces, I can tell you authoritatively that the use of that term could very well be the work of copy editors at the Standard. With over 60 opinion articles published in some of the biggest newspapers in Australia and the US, in not a single instance was my recommended title accepted by the sub-editors. They always insisted on attaching their own, often quite silly, titles to my pieces. Thus, I would suspect that the use of the term empire is the later work of a copy editor at the Weekly Standard.

But, back to the issue at hand. Gary, of course, completely ignores the thrust of Max Boot's article. He takes what is accurately portrayed by Boot as an American drive to diffuse human liberty, and transmogrifies it into a ugly Drang Nach Globalen worthy of 19th century Britain.

Whether this distortion is deliberate or merely the result of carelessness I can not say. What I can say, however, is this warped portrayal of Boot's leitmotif serves Gary's polemical purposes quite well.

Thus, Gary writes: "The empire acknowledges no limits on its global ambitions..." And what is wrong with a limitless ambition to vanquish a retrograde form of Islamic radicalism whose visciousness is only overmatched by its medieval outlook on the world.

My god... do away with a Afghani Taliban regime that didn't allow women to leave their homes unescorted by a male relative? How utterly disgustingly imperialistic of America!

The Max Boot article is entitled
'The Case for American Empire'

He then summarizes his argument: "The most realistic response to terrorism is for America to embrace its imperial role."

Sorry, Gary, but you haven't been paying attention. With over 60 magazine articles and newspaper opinion pieces to my credit, not a single one of my title suggestions was accepted by the copy editors. They always insisted on coming up with their own.

You are quoting, not from the body of Boot's piece, but from a subtitle that was likely written by one of the Standard's editors.

Nota Bene - nowhere in his piece does Boot advocate empire. Au contraire, in fact.

Quoting from Boot's piece again:

"Unlike 19th-century European colonialists, we would not aim to impose our rule permanently... This could be the chance to right the scales, to establish the first Arab democracy, and to show the Arab people that America is as committed to freedom for them as we were for the people of Eastern Europe. To turn Iraq into a beacon of hope for the oppressed peoples of the Middle East: Now that would be a historic war aim."

So how, with a straight face, can you conceivably argue that Boot is espousing a new American imperium? He specifically states that the US goal is the promotion of freedom, not fealty.

Sorry Gary, but your line of argument is quite disingenuous.

If THE EDITORS at the Weekly Standard put the heading and subheading around the Boot article, then that is their interpretion of the Boot article.

And Boot has gone along with the imperial narrative His name is there.

I am responding to that interpretation which frames Boot's article within an imperial strategy.

If you disagree with this framing, then I suggest you take it up with the Weekly Standard.

'Sorry, Gary, but you haven't been paying attention. With over 60 magazine articles and newspaper opinion pieces to my credit, not a single one of my title suggestions was accepted by the copy editors'

So who are you, you deeply respected and important person you (even if you do say so yourself)? Where are these articles, can we read them? Oh please?!

'The Max Boot article is entitled
'The Case for American Empire'

He then summarizes his argument: "The most realistic response to terrorism is for America to embrace its imperial role."

Game, set and match.

'Sorry Gary, but your line of argument is quite disingenuous'

Irony isn't in your genetic make-up is it?

Sorry Glenn, but no can do. I work in the political realm where I sometimes have to be somewhat circumspect about my personal views. So, you'll just have to make do with my nom de plume.

And, as for your tennis commentary shtick, it is quite drole. You seize upon a sensationalistically written headline written by copy editors, and use that to adduce an interpretation of Boot's piece that is diametrically opposed to what Boot actually says.

Moreover, as for Boot "going along" with the copy editors' choice of title, your inexperience in the world of newspaper/magazine opinion is showing. As a rule, editors don't consult the authors about title, but rather they impose one from on high. I never knew under what title my pieces would ultimately run, other than to be 100% certain that it wouldn't be the title I submitted.

Logic would seem to indicate that you look at the author's own words to interpret his meaning, not the interjection of a third party. But, then, you lefties have never been particularly long on logic, have you?

For what I hope is the last time, let me quote directly from the body of Boot's piece to dispell this silly thesis of a new American imperium:

"Unlike 19th-century European colonialists, we would not aim to impose our rule permanently... This could be the chance to right the scales, to establish the first Arab democracy, and to show the Arab people that America is as committed to freedom for them as we were for the people of Eastern Europe. To turn Iraq into a beacon of hope for the oppressed peoples of the Middle East: Now that would be a historic war aim."

If you guys were capable of reading beyond the title of Boot's piece, you would realize that your argument is constructed upon sand. But, then, this is yet another example of the intellectual superficiality that pervades the contemporary left.

'Sorry Glenn, but no can do. I work in the political realm '

A rather chilling thought. Are you Ross Cameron? Whoever you are, you're a pompous ass.

Glenn, It is truly heartening to observe your passionate dedication to the principles of civil and constructive debate.

And, by the way, you forgot to include elipses at the end of your quote from my former posting. Tsk, tsk. But, then, that sort of sloppiness is also evident in your superficial reading of, and highly tendentious citation from, Boot's Weekly Standard piece