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Stan Goff

Stan Goff

Posted: September 10, 2009 07:21 AM

Getting Off the Road


Obama's WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER either.

It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.

- Ecclesiastes 7:5


The Game

"You lie!"

-Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC)

President Barack Obama is now under siege by a vocal right-wing - and I'll name it, racist - attack. The glaring absence of traditional forms of respect for opponents by leaders of the right wing (disruptions, swastikas, guns, Joe Wilson's planned "you lie" grenade) is an intentional tactic of incremental dehumanization (a refusal of recognition) to re-conjure the stubborn and still substantial vestiges of overt racism and to tickle the subconscious negrophobia of a substantial portion of the American Suburban Middle Class (ASMC).

Provocations can fan that negrophobia into doubt about Obama's ability to govern. It's an appeal to the inherent "deviancy of Black, and Black inability to self-govern" notion that remains hegemonic in this ASMC demographic. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to mobilize these same phenomena in her own campaign against Obama for the presidential primary before the last general election.

The pretext of the current campaign is "health care" policy, and the right-wing has a formidable material ally in the oligopolous insurance corporations (I don't call them an industry, because they don't make anything).

The tactic is simple and culturally familiar: football. It's called "sack the quarterback." The quarterback being President Barack Hussein Obama. So strategically, it's a game of obstructionism; and ideologically, it's a game of coded race-baiting. More basically, it's a game. The Game. That's important, because all policy and all elections are part of the Game.

I would say they employ la-tee-dah game theory, which the elite finances in academia; but the party heads on both sides are still playing football. It's their national sport, and the ideational framework for their tactical thought process. When the health care thing is said and done, Obama will direct a field goal in lieu of a touchdown. He may fail that, too.

Policy fights and elections in the US system of governance inevitably lead to the birth of legislative and electoral monstrosities. During gestation, policy fights lead both sides of the policy debate into hypocrisy, lies, and evasions. The rules of the Game trump the principles, and they trump honesty. Clarity is replaced by winning as the ultimate goal of persuasive argument.

The moral and-or practical issue that may lay at the heart of any public debate is sublated into the Game. We call it "spin."

This is how structural power operates. There will be no action, no decision, no change, that does not submit to the policy-game spin-structure. So the polarization of any social controversy around contradictory convictions mutates into tactical polarization that can only be expressed through legislative bodies via the two established party institutions.

In the run-up to the the decisive procedure of lawmaking or elections, the playbook for each side is standardized with competing talking points and arguments. These are not designed to represent any coherent world view or moral principle, but to score points. The points scored are shifts in polling data, these data themselves spun by the construction and presentation of the polls, not to debunk prevailing superstitions and prejudices, but to mobilize them to one's side.

These are tempo-tasks; and the deadlines, boa-like, suffocate and swallow up integrity.

These point-scoring efforts are directed at a cyborg-spectator - the overworked, overstimulated, debt-ridden, distracted, dependent, partially-attentive public, in particular the politically-formidable American Suburban Middle Class (ASMC).

Critical discourse is dumbed down into soundbytes. Each side accentuates the positive and eliminates the negative. We get these ghastly bastardized terms, for just one example, like "pro-life" and "pro-choice" as the semiotic stand-ins for highly complex social phenomena, because our tactical polarizations - the Game - supersede our moral convictions... the personal place where we first felt concern and empathy.

The Game is on now. The operators are in charge, assessing the public as a thing to be manipulated, private-school Svengalis exploiting human suggestibility.

Policy begets evasion. The arguments are so shallow they wouldn't float a match. Too many complexities and contradictions in that deep water. The public becomes the object of whole campaigns aimed at our suggestibility. The public has its attention focused on the Game, the spectacle, that is, the simulacra.

Nothing new, but we seem to forget this with some frequency, since we ourselves have submitted to the suggestion that nothing changes without the experts, without the technocracy, without the government. So don't lose your convictions; just drain them of any depth. What is the difference between representation and simulacra? Well, what kind of question is that? We are abstracted without being aware that we have been abstracted, never involved directly in the practice.

The paradox of this dynamic has become clear in the last few days, as conservative columnist George Will has called for a major reduction of US military forces from Afghanistan. Even though he has been denounced by the neoconservatives as a traitor, Will's argument against the war (he maintains all sorts of imperial prerogatives, like drone strikes, in his road map) is based on an instrumental analysis. This is not a war, he reminds the public, that can be won. Winning or losing. This is the instrumental criteria for the war. Right or wrong doesn't enter into the equation, because the rightness of US military occupations - if they work - is is a widely shared imperial-cultural assumption.

On this count, he is right; and Obama - through the gamesmanship that won him the election - has painted himself into the corner of Lyndon Johnson, forcing him to live into the story, which he told the moderately-militaristic public during the election, that Afghanistan is "the right war."

Will says the war is unwinnable. He is right, in my opinion. Obama says the war is winnable without defining what that looks like, and he is already extending tours and flying in thousands and thousands more troops, making Afghanistan what the military calls "a target-rich environment"... for anyone opposed to the US/NATO occupation. More bases to attack. More outposts to attack. More convoys to attack. More lo-slo aircraft to attack.

Oh yeah. Unconventional war does not play like football. The spectators can shoot you from the stands. You can put 11-hundred men on the field, and the spectators can still shoot you. And its the spectators' ratios that go up. Because it is a "target-rich environment".

Meanwhile. Obama has blood on his hands, more all the time. I know that's a rude assessment, one that refuses the nuance of rationalization to those who still make an idol of Obama. Obama's supporters during the election (I won't call myself that, but I voted for him, as did a lot of other people, in solidarity with African America) are now being tacitly asked to accept a reformulation. The first formulation was Bush=war=bad. The counter-formulation is Obama=war=good.

Note how the issue "war" is sublated by the tactical exigencies of Democrat-Republican. There is no space left here formal opposition to military occupation of other countries, much less moral opposition to war. If any of us finds her/himself in these categories, we are - as the saying goes - shit out of luck. We are the skunks at the party... or at the two parties. George Will and I think this war cannot be won. I think making war is immoral. We will both become excommunicados, game-breakers.

George Will and the left-wing that is being called "spoiler" in the Democrats' own health-care-policy drama have this in common. They are both reviled as spoilers by the gamesmen. Without these spoilers, however, any form of revelation will soon be petrified. We'd be completely at the mercy of the Rahm Emanuels and James Carvilles and Karl Roves of the world. Obama already is; and that is why I reiterate a claim I made after his inauguration. Obama is the most unfree person in the world.

He lives in a bunker, surrounded by his Svengalis... all the time... even in public.

Ain't power grand.


The AFPAK War

I'm going to ask for my money back. I've seen this Afghanistan movie before. The first time, Vietnam was in the title.

As in an early scene from the Vietnam version, U.S. military officials are surprised to discover that the insurgents in Afghanistan are stronger than previously realized.

And our protagonist, Gen. Westmoreland -- sorry, I mean McChrystal -- sees the situation as serious but salvageable. As Westmoreland did with President Lyndon Johnson, McChrystal is preparing to tell President Barack Obama that thousands of more troops are needed to achieve the U.S. objective -- whatever that happens to be.

As in Vietnam, uncertainty about objectives and how to measure success persist in Afghanistan. Never has this come through more clearly than in the fuzzy remarks of "Af-Pak" super-envoy Richard Holbrooke who has purview over Afghanistan and Pakistan.

-Ray McGovern full article

Ray McGovern is a former CIA analyst. I am a former special operations solider. We are both formers. We both remember Vietnam (and a series of other covert ops-military adventures).

Vietnam didn't go well, ever, even when they told the most optimistic lies about it. Afghanistan has had hold of us since October 2001, and in the last couple of years, the war was expanded by the Bush-Obama CIA-run war in Pakistan. No point in spinning this, since everyone at least acknowledges that this is a war. It is one war, which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan, the AFPAK War, which also now includes Iraq (in case anyone has forgotten, we ain't out yet).

Tactically, the AFPAK War is an absolute disaster. Politically, it could become much worse. The country we are likely to destabilize in the region is Pakistan, nuclear-armed and sharing a hostile border with another nuclear-armed state, India. That's the visible tip of the iceberg.

Let's not lose sight of the original intent of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The military actions were part of the Bush administration's attempt to embody the fantasies of neoconservative eggheads passing time in think tanks full of simulacra.

The main fantasy was that the US could mount a coup de main against the entire region. In the aftermath of this swift military success, the long-repressed desire for a more "western" life, complete with monetized elections and penetrable markets, would burst forth from the grateful populations, who would then happily accept the tutelage and supervision of American bureaucrats and technicians into perpetuity... with binding contracts for access to and control over the oil.

The invasions were also supposed to demonstrate US military invincibility and the futility of opposition. You can judge for yourself how that went.

Zany as this sounds now, using 20-20 hindsight, this seemed a perfectly credible plan in many quarters - including for the vast majority of the Democratic Party's federal elected officials. The idea of this outcome was the main premise of the invasions, and it was explicit.

When this premise was dis-proven by the actual outcomes of the war, the decision was taken not to abandon the war, but to rewrite the premises, conduct triage, and drive on. The new premise was "if you broke it, you bought it." Powell called it the Pottery Barn rule. Okay, so we didn't push a button and transform Arabs and Muslims in other countries into Democrats and Republicans. But we are in Southwest Asia now; and if we leave, the results would be terrible because (a) it would compromise US security by giving mad geniuses safe havens from which to plan mass casualty attacks against the US, and (b) if "we" leave, there will be a horrible bloodbath between those bloodthirsty ignoramuses. The (b) point simultaneously mobilizes fake empathy and real racism; and it was the argument that the Democratic Party latched onto like a lifeboat. Antiwar was off the table.

[Anti-war emasculates, and emasculated parties cannot win. That's performance-art patriarchy, even if the prez were a biological woman.]

Liberal racism was never more apparent than in this unacknowledged orientalism: those people need "us" to show them how to be civilized. No mention of the massacre at Haditha, the systemic detainee abuse, the thrill-killing by mercenaries, the revenge destruction of Fallujah, or the organized rape-murder by a Marine unit of 14-year-old Abir Hamzah and the murder of her entire family. These facts did not fit with this ostensible civilizing mission (so they were treated as minor aberrations).

Afghanistan was put on the back burner by serial defeats in Iraq, tactical and political. Those defeats ultimately led to an internal withdrawal strategy by US troops (pulling turtle-like into massively fortified bases), focusing on Baghdad, and abandoning or buying off other regions. Geo-politically, this was followed by the most profound defeat of all, the rise of Iran as a key regional political actor, with only Iran's partisans left as US allies in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, resources were stripped from the far more austere and tactically disarticulated operations in Afghanistan; and various Afghan forces arrayed against the US - in particular the Taliban - watched and waited. When the US was clawing its way out of the quicksand in Iraq, the Taliban began a series of tactical initiatives in the south. The US invaded Iraq in March 2003. By October of 2006, when I wrote "Reflecting on Rumsfeld" for Truthdig, I made the rather obvious point that "the Taliban now controls whole towns throughout the south."

The Taliban has been on the move ever since; and they totally have the initiative right now.

This was the stage for Barack Obama to mount his campaign, and he committed himself early to weaseling on war. He couldn't risk being male-baited as antiwar, but he had to be anti-Bush. Solution: Call Iraq the wrong war, Afghanistan the right war, and blame Bush for inappropriate emphasis.

A sensible tactical decision, given that most people in the US had never opposed the occupation of Afghanistan and most were turning against the debacle in Iraq. That the tables got turned on him with the so-called "success of the Surge" by Republicans was still insufficient to overcome the bitter public feeling against George W. Bush for not being a winner; and Barack Obama rode his campaign juggernaut into the White House with the Afghan monkey already on his back.

Barack Obama may have had a choice in this matter, I'll contend... in some parallel universe. But whoever was going to be President of the United States did not have a choice, given the actual conditions. So President Obama never had a choice. These folks know political operations, and they know their constraints.

Antiwar emasculates, and Obama had had to overcome the race question enough to jump through the electoral hoops. Overcoming black stereotypes was edgy enough at this juncture, there could be no question of his martial masculinity. He had to show his balls as his bona fides. But there is another reason that President Obama has to stay at war.

War is necessary for our way of life.

No viable candidate for POTUS can be antiwar right now, because so many American voters secretly know that preserving our current way of life requires war. And we don't know any other way of life.

Show balls to the public. Show balls to the military-intelligence establishment. Show everyone, I am a man who can kill.

Within hours of assuming office, Obama gave the green light to an attack by CIA armed aerial drones inside Pakistan that killed civilians. The war in Pakistan is not the Department of Defense's show, but the CIA's, a covert operation. The CIA war in Pakistan is ostensibly to deny refuge to anti-US/NATO fighters operating in Afghanistan; but the script always includes the urgency of stopping a Pakistani insurgency that might... drumroll, please, get hold of the Pakistani state's nukes (though we are comfortable with states themselves, including ours, having them). No one remembers Cambodia these days, where we went after "sanctuaries."

No change. Fear, fear, fear makes the world go 'round.

In the past few days, one NATO airstrike killed what appears to have been dozens of civilians who were grabbing gasoline from beached petroleum trucks. General Stanley McChrystal went to the site after days of furor to front for the delaying investigation and do damage control - no pun intended. American casualties are creeping up in serial efforts to dislodge the Taliban from regions they now control, north and south. The main highway, running between Kabul and Kandahar, is manned by Taliban checkpoints. The botched election is a grim joke in Afghanistan and a scandal before the rest of the world. And five days ago, troops from the 10th Mountain Division, acting on typically faulty intelligence, raided and rousted a hospital run by a Swedish charity... another PR humiliation, and another incitement to anti-American feeling in Afghanistan.

"I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal," said Obama in March, "to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan."

Nicely alliterated, and there's that obligatory masculine presidential balls-display, but it says exactly nothing about how to recognize and identify defeat. We don't recognize it for ourselves in Iraq, but the US is being gradually expelled there... like the bodily evacuation of a chronically constipated person, but expelled.

When you can't describe your objectives, there is always data. The public likes it, because it's over-the-head reassurance that you are a genuine technocrat, somebody who might know what the hell is really going on. Obama is good in this role.

So how is it that white-righty George Will is calling out the "good war" in Afghanistan?

What may be bothering George Will, and what makes me wearier than I can describe, is that Obama is making Rumsfeld-talk: metrics, the super-set of body counts. It means there is no clearly defined objective, no one person who can officially surrender, only graphs and scatterplots that walk off into an indefinite and bloody future.

First, we need to understand criteria. George Will's criteria for winning wars are cribbed from Colin Powell's old post-Vietnam doctrine:

--Is a vital U.S. interest at stake? --Will we commit sufficient resources to win? --Are the objectives clearly defined? --Will we sustain the commitment? --Is there reasonable expectation that the public and Congress will support the operation? --Have we exhausted our other options? --Do we have a clear exit strategy?

For reasons I have explained at length in other venues, I believe the Powell Doctrine is flawed, as well. Even McChrystal could tell Powell that there is a political field excluded here; though McChrystal shares the delusion that this field is both manipulable and controllable. It is manipulable. They did have something called an election. It is not controllable, as we just saw.

These tactical decisions are Obama's choice, not just President Obama's choice.

The Game has taken over his mind; and now all is lost.

Baudrillard, when describing the Jesuits' groundbreaking contributions to political strategy, wrote:

It is in the Renaissance that the false is born along with the natural. From the fake shirt in the front to the use of the fork as artificial prosthesis, to the stucco interiors and the great baroque theatrical machinery... In the churches and palaces stucco is wed to all forms, imitates everything -- velvet curtains, wooden cornices, charnell swelling of the flesh. Stucco exorcises the unlikely confusion of matter into a single new substance, a sort of general equivalent of all the others, and is prestigious... because [it] is itself a representative substance, a mirror of all the others [a general simulacrum -Manuel DeLanda]. But simulacra are not only a game played with signs (emphasis added); they imply social rapports and social power. Stucco can come off as the exultation of a rising science and technology; it is also connected to the baroque -- which in turn is tied to the enterprise of the Counter Reformation and the hegemony over the political and material world that the Jesuits - who were the first to act according to modern conceptions of power - attempted to establish.

Games.

The above quote is the epigraph for the third chapter of Manuel DeLanda's book, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines. In DeLanda's book, he describes the effect of ubiquitous simulacra (simulations, specifically war games) on human interpretive skills. DeLanda makes a linguistic distinction between various forms of communication (signs), between counterfeit, replica, and simulation, and how those signs affect our perceptions of how the world works through games.

...[W]e saw how war games evolved in three stages: from variations of chess in the clockwork era ("counterfeit"), to games played on relief models of a real portion of terrains ("replica"), to computerized versions where maps and models have been replaced with digital images ("simulation"). We saw how the difference between fiction and reality was blurred with this last step, because the images with which war games are confronted (images on radar screens and computer displays) are essentially the same as those in a real crisis...

...There are many other examples of counterfeits, replicas, and simulations in the realm of visual as well as nonvisual communications. But for our purposes here, what matters is that in this century [20th -SG], intelligence agencies [including the DOD's -SG] have existed in a world of simulacra: not only do they exploit the power of images for the purposes of propaganda, they themselves live in a world of make-believe.

This is the delusional aspect of executive power, but the delusions are manifest in the conduct of the war. They are not the cause of war.

No matter how much we think the verbiage of war is the cause of war, the fact is that war is hard-hearted and expensive, and there is generally something material as the uber-incentive to actual war. There is nothing original in saying it, that this war is about energy. But for some reason -- perhaps because it's so obvious -- it is quickly overlooked in how we talk about the war.


Energy War

This is a resource war, an energy war more specifically. That Energy War is an outcome, the offspring of the whole supra-structure of modernism. In 1973, Ivan Illich wrote in Energy and Equity:

It has recently become fashionable to insist on an impending energy crisis. This euphemistic term conceals a contradiction and consecrates an illusion. It masks the contradiction implicit in the joint pursuit of equity and industrial growth. It safeguards the illusion that machine power can indefinitely take the place of manpower. To resolve this contradiction and dispel this illusion, it is urgent to clarify the reality that the language of crisis obscures: high quanta of energy degrade social relations just as inevitably as they destroy the physical milieu.

You won't make many friends in the suburbs by making this patently obvious statement. It's analogous to correcting a rebellious adolescent; and it's met with the same stiff-necked stupidity. Except that middle-class America (in particular) is exercising that willful ignorance in a way that is now undermining the very eco-energetic architecture of the planet.

Crude Oil Imports to US (Top 15 Countries)
(Thousand Barrels per Day)

Country

CANADA 2,001
VENEZUELA 1,119
MEXICO 1,099
SAUDI ARABIA 902
NIGERIA 769
ANGOLA 435
IRAQ 374
RUSSIA 305
COLOMBIA 286
BRAZIL 269
ALGERIA 232
KUWAIT 170
UNITED KINGDOM 154
ECUADOR 148
NORWAY 120

The United States is actually 23rd in the world for per capita oil consumption (distinguished from energy consumption), at 68 barrels a day. We are 6th in per capita energy consumption, but with a consuming population that far outstrips the four countries who use more per head: Canada, United Arab Emirates, Trinidad and Tobago, Qatar, and Luxembourg. In straight oil consumption, we are far and away number 1: over 28,680,000 (2007). Number 2, China, with a population of 1.3 billion souls, drinks merely 7,578,000 bbl/day. The largest oil consuming institution in the world is the United States Department of Defense (from Energy Bulletin):

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is the largest oil consuming government body in the US and in the world

"Military fuel consumption makes the Department of Defense the single largest consumer of petroleum in the U.S"

"Military fuel consumption for aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and facilities makes the DoD the single largest consumer of petroleum in the U.S"

According to the US Defense Energy Support Center Fact Book 2004, in Fiscal Year 2004, the US military fuel consumption increased to 144 million barrels. This is about 40 million barrels more than the average peacetime military usage.

By the way, 144 million barrels makes 395 000 barrels per day, almost as much as daily energy consumption of Greece.

The US military is the biggest purchaser of oil in the world.

We are approaching a situation where we will fight for oil in order to have oil to fight for oil.

The oil is not in Afghanistan; but the region is. The main players are there, Russia, Iran, China, and of course Pakistan and India. We don't merely consume energy, we compete for it with others. And we don't merely get our way in the world, i.e., with the neoliberal Washington Consensus holding sway across the globe, by stationing troops abroad. Troops don't have that capacity. The trick is, in that other game within which the Game is played -- geopolitics. A US military presence in South and Southwest Asia is a strategic redeployment of the post-Cold War US armed forces designed to exercise the maximum leverage with the rest of the world. The status of friend and foe changes, but the constant imperative of preserving US power overall remains.

The imperial hand must remain on the tap.

If this fails, as the war in Iraq failed, and I think it will fail, then it is a marker of something more profound than a setback in a single place. It is the continued unraveling of American power and of the stillborn Pax Americana. Which means that things will inevitably change inside the US, and for the American Suburban Middle Class,

We unpacked the Game above. Now let's try to unpack energy and the peculiar world power exercised by the American suburban middle-class. This is the terrain that the Game is played on.


The Middle Class

(1) The most powerful political bloc in the United States can be named inexactly but usefully, "the mostly suburban mostly white middle class." Shorthand, the American suburban middle class. Abbreviation: ASMC.

(2) This ASMC bloc is financially, agriculturally, geographically, and psychologically dependent on the US's highly entropic (energy-wasting) techno-social grid.

(3) Geography limits the domain of the state, but the flows of energy, material, and signs (like money) that constitute that techno-social grid are inter-national. So the geographically-delimited state (the USA), led by [fill in the blank] cannot claim sovereignty and its prerogatives over many of the sources of those flows, nor can it exercise the kind of control the state is legally entitled to and granted at home. (see point 7 below for a reiteration)

(4) The levels of consumption required to maintain political quiescence among the ASMC are only possible because of those unequal flows of resources into the "core" and the export of waste and other disorders back to the "peripheries." We get oil from the Persian Gulf and ship trash to Africa. Without this stuff, the way-of-life of this politically powerful demographic, the ASMC, will be destabilized.

(5) Destabilization of the most powerful political bloc (political identity) in the country constitutes a direct threat to the positions of those who exercise political power.

(6) Therefore, US political leaders have to find ways to ensure - even in the face of certain social or ecological catastrophe at some point - that the flows that keep the ASMC happy are maintained.

(7) Reiteration: David Harvey talks about the contradiction between the geographic logic of the state and the financial logic of capital. There is also a mismatch between the national logic of the state and the inter-national logic of war.

This is Catch-222. This is now Obama's AFPAK War, his Energy War, our Energy War.

The ASMC remains largely unanalyzed, except by a few urban theorists - one of my faves being Matthew Lassiter and his study of sunbelt suburbia, The Silent Majority.

In that book, Lassiter shows how the ASMC perceives itself. ASMC by other names is a very real, very potent political identity. The Game operators in both the political parties know this, respect this, and kowtow to it. Note how the term "the middle class" is a shared word field for politicians of every stripe now. The ASMC is a self-conscious, self-replicating, active political identity. That is why it is the center of gravity for political maneuvering inside the US.

For the time being, the ASMC is content to support and idealize the state and its actions - including war. But their real interest is in survival-with-privilege. The ASMC sees no acceptable alternative to its status quo, and it is a class of people who have been disciplined to suppress their imaginations for everything except fantasy and entertainment commodities. The ASMC is also smart enough to know, in their secret private spaces, that they have lost the ability to survive without their global life-support-system. They literally do not know how to subsist. That anxiety suffuses them; and canny political operators know how to massage that anxiety into fear.

The ASMC is also quite intelligent enough to know that we need war to ensure oil. No reason to raise the topic in polite company, but they know it... we know it. The Masters of the Lie are salving our psyches with carbon-trading schemes, hybrid cars, and ethanol - believed mostly by people who call themselves liberal. Most of us, including the ASMC, have at least a sense that the truth is more cruel. Coal we have right here in the US, so we can shit all over West Virginia with impunity... prerogative of the state, you see. But oil! We can't keep the cars rolling or agribusiness booming without that. We are so dependent that if we run short of oil, we can run short of food. The ASMC... is right. We can't preserve our current way of life without an Energy War.

The zeitgeist is flying miles above the heads of Barack Obama or any other political leader. The reason the topic has to come up as "Obama" anything is there was a cult of personality that developed, and a lot of people hung their hearts on "change" they didn't ever, really understand.

Now something called Obama is the issue we have to understand to understand the war.


Moral War

Standards are like paths picked through fields of equanimity, worn into hard wide roads over time, used always because of collective habit, expectation, and convenience. The pleasures and perils of picking one's own path through the field are soon forgotten; the logic or illogic of the course of the road is soon rationalized by the mere fact of the road.

-Patricia Williams

George Will's objection to the war in Afghanistan is that it is instrumentally flawed.

My objection is that it is a war. That moral objection doesn't hold much sway in modernity; but we have already seen that the instrumentalists of the world, George Will with his columns or Barack Obama with his presidency, have far less power than they pretend, less still any freedom, and at the end of the day, they can only adjudge themselves based on the cold, dead criterion of instrumental success. They are compelled to win the Game.

So I register my personal objection to the war, explicit in my faith: "Blessed are the peacemakers." My faith tradition is prophetic, from Isaiah and Zeremiah, et al in the OT, to Jesus and after. Dorothy Day and Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King are part of this prophetic tradition, too. Contrary to the popular understanding of this term, prophets serve a revelatory, not predictive, function.

Prophets do not align themselves with power, but speak truth it. Revelation is unmasking. It can't be done when we tell partial truths in the interest of policy agendas and elections. What is prophetic is precisely what remains outside the Game.

Peacemaking is not practiced by power or through it. It stands apart from power in order to speak to it.

"[T]he logic or illogic of the course of the road is soon rationalized by the mere fact of the road."

We need to get off the road.