Thursday, March 8, 2007

Least Harmless Historical Analogy Weekend

So high-ranking State Department official Eliot Cohen says the U.S. is in World War IV. In response, let me offer a possible candidate for Least Harmless Bloggy Misuse of an Historical Analogy of 2007.

Let's play devil's advocate and suppose for a moment that Cohen is right. Do you think that makes Iraq America's Belgium (for Germany in WW I), Manchukuo (for Japan in WW II), or Afghanistan (for the Soviet Union in WW III)?

Or wait, is it possible these are decent analogies? How likely is it that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq will end up being one of those initial successes that turns out to be the seed of a larger defeat?

BTW, the Manchukuo one (the puppet government Imperial Japan set up in Manchuria after their 1931 invasion and occupation) actually comes from Capra's Why We Fight series of WW II propaganda films, which argued that difficulties in holding Chinese territory and exploiting resources in it drove the Japanese government to decide to invade SE Asia to gain access to its natural resources, which necessitated a quick strike against the U.S. at Pearl Harbor and in the Philippines to deter their biggest rival in the region. (Not to mention my sense that many [though thankfully not all] of Capra's critiques of fascist regimes could be levelled against the Bush-Cheney administration.) I know, I know, weak, right?

Discuss (when you can tear yourself away from commenting on Berube's first official Pandagon weekend posting). And if you think these are bad, wait till you hear why my reading of Thomas Bender's A Nation Among Nations suggests links between the unexpected rise of revolutions in the 18th C western hemisphere following England's decisive defeat of France in that century's global war and the rise of liberation movements that attempted to put an end to European colonialism following WW II--and its implications for our not-really-all-that-postcolonial world now that the U.S. since the 1990s has been in roughly the same position as England was in the 1760s, geopolitically speaking.

6 comments:

spyder said...

Given that it is still Thursday on this side of the International Date Line, and that the US decided two years ago to change the start dates of Daylight Saving Time to this weekend, we shall endeavor to comment when it is Friday. Okay, well it is Friday for half the planet, but still only Thursday morning for left coasters and the good folks in Hawaii.

My take on this (i just can't wait until tomorrow is today then) is that it is less about the nations and more about the Neo-Feudal Lords of Capital. And interesting development this morning(whatever day that might be) is the proposed legislation demanding a full accountability of the use of private contractors to fight the Iraq/Afghan wars. Private feudal armies are being fully weaponized across the surface of the land of the Earth. They owe no allegiance to a national identity, nor to a revolutionary movement, but rather to accumulation of wealth, some at the point of RPG's and M-60's.

Globalization is colonialization by the wealthy elites.

The Constructivist said...

spyder, comments like these are why you need the privileges of the author-function at Mostly Harmless! btw, you may be interested in the following talks I just gave. (You have to download the .pdfs, but be my guest.

Here's a thought that may someday become a post: I totally agree with your analyss, but would add that nation-states are competing for "most favored nation" status by/with the forces of capitalism. You could argue, for instance, that the US serves the global capitalist system as the buyer of last resort and the discipliner of oil regimes of the first resort, is funded by Japanese, Chinese, and European capital, and is providing the shock troops for the "WW IV" against a probably trumped-up potential threat of the oil regimes going all radical (not in a marxist way) and dictating terms to the consuming nations.

While I'm planting seeds, I wonder if US elites are stuck in a liberal guilt/conservative paranoia cycle at this state of affairs, which explains why the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were targeted by Wahhabi extremists. That is, mainstream liberals are as paralyzed by their guilt (which as Audre Lorde once put it, is your feeling bad about a situation you have no intention of doing anything to change) as movement conservatives are driven by their paranoia (fear that the whole world is out to get us; that what we've done in the past will come back to haunt us; etc.). It's pop psych 101 I know, but may explain why Democrats are so cautious and Republicans so aggressive.

Or is this another idea that should be consigned to the dustbin under my desk?

black dog barking said...

While I'm planting seeds, I wonder if US elites are stuck in a liberal guilt/conservative paranoia cycle at this state of affairs, which explains why the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were targeted by Wahhabi extremists.

In The Curve of Binding Energy McPhee relates an idle conversation with nuclear bomb builder Ted Taylor. They are discussing the potential effects of a crude terrorist planted device and Taylor selects three hypothetical targets: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House. (The book was first published in the early '70s.)

When I told my high school age son about this stunning coincidence he shrugged and said those were the obvious targets.

JP Stormcrow said...

Private feudal armies are being fully weaponized across the surface of the land of the Earth. They owe no allegiance to a national identity, nor to a revolutionary movement, but rather to accumulation of wealth, some at the point of RPG's and M-60's.



Mercenaries, abuseless, disunited, unfaithful
They have never enough to keep them in a battle
Other than a meager wage
Which is just about enough to make them wanna kill for you
But not enough to make them wanna die for ya


Spoken intro to John Cale's Mercenaries (Ready For War) (which I mentioned on an earlier apocalyptic songs thread here if I recall.)

So kind of another Conspiracy Theory Weekend. I do like to go back now and again and review the "Great Pirates" sections of Buckminster Fulller's Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.

And you must admit that the "George W Show" is one of their truly masterful creations. I think Mitt Romney is from the same mould and has excited the conservative base precisely because of his willingness to take whatever shape is necessary - his total enthsiasm for self-abasement is just what is needed to "run" that agenda.

spyder said...

Or is this another idea that should be consigned to the dustbin under my desk?

Actually i think you are quite right in many ways. A close and dear friend, who happens to be one of the last remaining analog system geniuses (and Tesla scholar), said something similar to me in the wayback machine of Mr. Peabody era (early 70's): "the problem is a mind virus that replicates the addiction of capitalism among human populations." Now we always thought he was sort of silly in that super-geek, nerd, sort of way, but as time has worn on, his take then seems more and more apropos.

On September 11, 2001 i too shrugged my shoulders and said "mais oui?" as regards the most obvious symbolic targets of capitalism. Your suggestion that much of the acquiesence to the militarized response on both sides of the political spectrum being based on fear rings very true for me. The mind virus requires obedience and subservience to the lords of capital (corporations are individual citizens, right?), and the greatest of all fears is to fall out of favor (become poor). The most well-intentioned liberals fear being part of the "not-haves" as much as any selfish Randian/Straussian reichwing fascist.

If there is any evidence for this, i would suggest we start with the glowing wonderful reporting on the newest Forbes billionaire list. More and more extremely wealthy control more and more wealth. All of that must come from somewhere? When 900+ individuals have assets significantly greater than the entire annual US Federal budget, we have a non-aligned, globalizing, ruling elite.

The Constructivist said...

Which might help explain why so many of them are trying so hard to come up with more effective and creative modes of philanthropy--or to rethink the concept entirely--b/c they're clear that their wealth depends on avoiding major disruptions to the system that helped produce their wealth, such as epidemics that start among the poor but know no borders, riots, or revolutions. On a more immediate level, they know that there's a lot of money to be made bringing the poor into the world of consumption.

My paranoia idea was simpler, though--the U.S. remains the only nation ever to have used atomic bombs, and moreover, we dropped them on overwhelmingly civilian populations with ambiguous justification at best. So if we helped legitimize the principle of total war, and were the only nation to move from firebombing to atomic bombing, then it stands to reason that U.S. civilians are a special risk for this principle being applied to them--the ultimate target may be the leaders of the evil U.S. empire (in the eyes of the targeters at least), but if a few million lives have to be sacrificed to "send a message," so be it. (This is scarily akin to Cheney-logic, it seems to me, which may help explain his obsession with doing it to them before they do it to us.)