October 24, 2011
"We came, we saw, he died," babbled our notoriously bloodthirsty Secretary
of State as news of Moammar Gadhafi’s grisly murder hit the headlines.
Throwing her arms up in a gesture of mock-triumph, she averred – perhaps
sarcastically – that she was "sure" her recent visit to Tripoli
had something to do with the Libyan dictator’s death.
It’s hard to imagine a more
inappropriate response to the revolting scene of Gadhafi’s last moments,
as captured on video: beaten and bloody, propped up on the hood of a
jeep and paraded through the streets of Sirte by screeching rampaging
savages, these scenes elicited revulsion even from some pro-rebel Libyans. Here’s Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph
on how the ghoulish scene went down:
"In Benghazi, on the main
square where it all started, they were slaughtering camels in celebration.
There they sat, eight of them, feet tied so they could not move, quivering
with fear as they were beheaded one by one. As soldiers fired rifles
in the air, members of the cheering crowd held up the severed heads
as trophies. They daubed their hands in the camel-blood, and gave the
V-for-victory sign with dripping fingers."
This revolting scene illustrates
why "democracy" – in any sense of the term that makes sense to
Americans – will never come to Libya, not in a million years. In the
politically correct world of our policymakers, and the view of the mainstream
media, people all over the world are identical in their essence: they
have "rights" that are supposedly universal, and first and foremost
among these rights is self-rule. To call any of them savages, as I am
doing without apology, is considered "racism," and to even suggest
they will soon revert to their historical pattern of saddling themselves
with yet another brutal dictator is derided as "cynicism," not to
mention sour grapes in the face yet another "foreign policy success"
by the Obama administration.
Let us look at these "triumphs,"
which, one and all, are marked by their lawlessness and bloodthirstiness:
the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki,
and now the lynching of Moammar Gadhafi by US-NATO proxies. The distinguishing
characteristic of all three acts is barbarism – a studied disregard
for the rules of war and the common decencies that define what it means
to be civilized.
That a US Secretary of State
hailed the horrific death of someone – anyone – the way Hillary
Clinton did in the case of Gadhafi would have been almost inconceivable in an earlier era: say, the 1950s or 1960s. That today no one so much as blinks tells us everything
we need to know about the age in which we are living: to call it barbaric
is to slander barbarians.
Insulated by distance, and
inured to "old-fashioned" concepts of right and wrong, Americans
are largely indifferent to this evidence of advanced moral degeneration:
after all, these things are happening in faraway places, not here in the
good old US of A. It’s images on a television screen, or a computer
screen: perhaps it is not real at all. They look at these images and
turn away – not out of revulsion, but out of ennui. It’s just another
day in the life of the American Empire.
Yet that empire is now embarking
on a dangerous course, one that involves placing every American –
and every Westerner – in mortal danger. In rampaging through the world,
imposing "order" and "democracy" on nations that have never
understood or experienced either concept, we are unleashing what will
turn out to be a whirlwind – one that will surely once again visit
our shores in the form of a terrorist act, or, more accurately, an act
of retribution against the heedlessly arrogant policymakers who made
us a target.
We live in a dangerous world,
say the interventionists: that’s why we can’t retreat into our castle
and imbibe the joys of what they call "isolationism." We have a
responsibility to exert our "leadership" over the rest of the world
– and never mind that all our efforts only increase the danger
to ourselves and others.
The peculiar blindness that
afflicts our elites – epitomized by Hillary’s unashamed variation
on Julius Caesar’s famous phrase – is reflected, I fear, in the
population at large. How else does one explain the response to the Obama
administration’s recent announcement that the President is – finally! – fulfilling his campaign pledge to get all US troops out of Iraq?
In counting on the complete ignorance of the general public as to the
crucial context of this announcement – the breakdown in negotiations between Washington and Baghdad over the terms of a "residual" force
remaining in country – administration strategists were not far off
the mark. The supposedly informed professional pundits, whose job it
is to know – and report – the facts, glossed over the deceit
of the administration’s grandstanding, even as negotiations with the
Iraqis for an extension of the deadline continue.
What both the administration
and their sock-puppet pundits are counting on is the complete ignorance
– and indifference – of the American public. And in that they
are not likely to be disappointed.
Which leads me to my point,
and it is this: moral degeneracy and stupidity go hand-in-hand. Whether
one is the result of the other, or vice-versa, is for students of evil
(evil-ologists?) to determine. I can only observe the growing phenomenon
of an almost invincible ignorance that characterizes Americans on every
level of the social ladder, from our politicians to ordinary people on the street. You can blame the education system, or the dumbing-down
effect many claim to see in the new technology – is it an accident
that Twitter, which limits the user to a few words, is the preferred
mode of communication among tech-savvy albeit dumb-as-a-brick Americans?
However, my thesis is quite different.
The evil is the irrational
– a desire to defy the laws of nature and get away with it.
It is, in short, the idea that one can cut corners on reality and attain
some benefit, usually short-term, without having to endure the inevitably
unpleasant consequences. Virtue, on the other hand, is a strict adherence
to the natural laws of Reason, a relentless realism in the face of endless
temptations to evade or somehow mitigate objective reality.
The American republic was birthed
by a group of men who epitomized the old-fashioned realist virtues,
and who – for that reason – warned their heirs and legatees against
the temptations of militarism and imperialism. In this the Founders
reflected the tenor of the times, and the revolutionary spirit of the
rebellious colonists – who distrusted all government, but especially
the sort lorded over by hubris-besotted monarchs, like King George III,
who, in their madness and impiety, could imagine no credible challenge
to their rule.
The American empire, on the
other hand, was birthed by a series of Presidents – Wilson, both Roosevelts,
and every modern chief executive – whose sole concern and "achievement"
has been the expansion of government power, at home and abroad. Far
from avoiding the temptations of militarism and imperialism, they sought
to redefine both as virtuous expressions of "humanitarianism" and
devotion to "human rights." After a long and gloriously peaceful
era of prolonged distancing from the quarrels and ambitious schemes
of the European colonial powers, the Long Peace ended with the ascent
of the first "progressive," the bombastic Teddy Roosevelt, militant
imperialist and Morgan
tool, who set the
US on a course of empire.
In the "progressive" lingo
of the times, the advice of the Founders in regard to foreign wars was
derided as archaic. The liberal editors of The New Republic,
echoing the rhetoric of the Wilson administration, considered World
War I to be a progressive crusade on behalf of liberty and the principle
of national self-determination. FDR disdained the "horse and
buggy" restraints placed on government by the Constitution, and his
"progressive" supporters argued for his foreign policy in similar
terms: "isolationism," they declared, was outmoded by the reality
of modern warfare. If we didn’t stop Hitler in Europe, his stormtroopers
would soon be marching down Fifth Avenue.
Reviled reactionaries such
as Col. Robert McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, argued
that Hitler and his blood-brother Stalin should be allowed to destroy
each other before the US intervened. (This horrified the progressives
of that era, who had abandoned their skin-deep anti-war views when Hitler
attacked the Soviet Union, and were mainly concerned with protecting
their precious "workers’ fatherland." Remember, this was a time
when such mainstream liberal voices as The Nation were defending the Moscow Trials.)
Having erased the boundary between republic and empire, the American giant strode into the postwar
era intent on expanding its influence throughout the globe. King George
III would have understood.
Yet still there had to be an
argument for overriding the Founders’ good advice, and neutralizing
what our arrogant elites disdainfully refer to as the natural "isolationism"
of the American people. There had to be some external threat, as in
World War II, to justify the tremendous expense, in treasure and human
lives, of building an overseas empire on a global scale. The cause of
anti-fascism had sufficed in the 1930s, but the defeat of the Nazi empire
and the humbling of Japan made the creation of new threats an immediate
task – which the cause of anti-Communism neatly fulfilled.
This gave the War Party a good
half century or so of virtually uncontested political supremacy, in
this country and in the West more generally: but the free ride came
to an end when the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Empire exploded.
Suddenly, there was no red Satan with a sword looming over the Kremlin,
no great external force that could possibly be construed as a credible
challenge to American power.
With this development, the
American elites gloried in what Charles Krauthammer declared to be "the
unipolar moment." The French spoke of America the "hyperpower,"
and the neoconservative brain-trusters over at The Weekly Standard
proposed that we drop the republican (small-'r’) pretensions and
openly proclaim our imperial ambitions. A much-touted "debate" between Niall Ferguson and Robert
Kagan, over whether the US is or should call itself an empire saw little
disagreement on the first part of that proposition and mere quibbling
over the second. To Western elites, the question isn’t whether they
should rule the world, but only if they can afford to openly acknowledge
This kind of arrogance leads
inevitably to a paralyzing stupidity because hubris induces a kind of
blindness. A megalomaniac, who overestimates his own powers, lives amid
an elaborate delusion, a self-enclosed and self-justifying belief system
that simply excludes contradictory evidence. In the last days
of the American empire, our elites live in a similar bubble, an alternate
universe whose boundaries are dictated by narcissism.
This accounts for the surrealistic
tone of our political discourse, in which all talk of meaningful cuts
in the military budget is disdained as unrealistic, while in the next
breath we have a debate over what to do about our impending bankruptcy.
It explains not only how Obama can brazenly lie via omission in announcing
the withdrawal of US "combat troops" from Iraq, without being called
on it, but also how Ron Paul can come under fire for pointing out the
obvious: that terrorism is a consequence of having abandoned the foreign
policy of the Founders, who warned against going abroad "in search
of monsters to destroy." For our megalomaniacal policymakers, the idea that actions have consequences – and that misguided policies have highly unpleasant consequences – is near treasonous. They are above the law of cause and effect.
In seeking to recover and revive the realism of the Founders’ generation, Rep. Paul has certainly taken
on a heroic albeit thankless task, and I don’t envy him. Indeed, some
very small part of that burden is on my shoulders, and those of my co-workers
here at Antiwar.com, but there are times when I wonder about the odds
of achieving even some small measure of success in my lifetime. Because
the corruption of the ruling elite, its blindness and narrow-mindedness,
seems to be seeping down into the general population to a degree I never
The major argument of the first
anti-imperialists – the organizers of the Anti-Imperialist League, who
opposed Teddy Roosevelt’s expansionist ambitions in Cuba and the Philippines
– was that imperialism would corrupt our republic, and change the
character of our people forever. They feared an American Empire would
fatally subvert the republican mindset, which set limits on political
power, and unleash our baser instincts. With the addition of subject
peoples, who had no concept of limited constitutional government, the
American union would lose its uniqueness: the old republican mindset
would give way to a political culture that set no limits on government
power. They pointed out that the economic interests who benefited from
US intervention – in Hawaii, for example, the sugar tycoons – were
corrupting the US government, bending American foreign policy to the
requirements of their profit margins.
As the Empire enters its second
century, this narrative of economic, political, and moral corruption
takes on a new dimension: a fresh layer is added to the encrustations
left behind by a decadent elite. Arrogance is no longer an upper-class,
elite style, and surely you’ve noticed the sense of entitlement that
suffuses the Davos crowd has trickled down to the masses, who riot at
the very idea that their bankrupt governments can no longer afford to
support them cradle-to-grave. Economic and political illiteracy are
rife, and as for knowledge of foreign affairs – one might as well
be talking about Einstein’s theory of relativity or the latest developments
in molecular biology. During the Vietnam war, the details of every
development were on every American’s lips: today, I doubt whether
one American in five could locate Afghanistan on a map.
Knowledge is disdained, and
slogans predominate. Where else but in America could we see the rapid
rise of a supposedly conservative anti-tax candidate on the strength
of a three-number formula – nine-nine-nine – that actually increases
taxes on most ordinary Americans? It’s all about who can come up with
the most simplistic phraseology: whether it’s "change," "nine-nine-nine,"
or "a new American century."
In a republic, citizens take
part in the political process out of a sense of duty, and self-protection.
They make it a point of honor to understand the issues, and knowledge,
for them, is power. In an empire, however, things are quite different:
since the citizens can only influence the course of events to a limited
degree, if that, little emphasis is put on acquiring knowledge, and
more on acquiring power and influence with the powers that be. If one
is aligned with a rising faction, as opposed to siding with the losers,
then that’s all one needs to know, and no further investigation is
required. Politics, then, is reduced to a battle between rival factions
over who gets what share of the loot.
This accounts for the increasing
emphasis on the "horse-race" aspect of politics in the media, and
the lack of any real debate over principles and policies. It accounts,
indeed, for the dumbing down of American politics, and the cheapening
of the discourse in recent years. Indeed, I would take this analysis
of the dumbing down phenomenon much further, and venture to say that
the intelligence of American people, in general, has undergone a precipitous
decline. I’m not just saying they’re less educated than ever, although
one could make that case: I’m saying they have less intellectual capacity
than previous generations, and this trend shows no signs of abating.
Quite the contrary, it seems to be getting worse.
How did this happen? We return
to the link between virtue and rationality – and the nature of evil
as inherently irrational. A President who can hail a death as brutal
and bloody as Gadhafi’s, a Secretary of State who can shriek her appreciation
of such a revolting spectacle – these are not marginal exceptions
to the general rule. Instead, these responses are reflective of America’s
inner cultural and political rot – an America that long ago betrayed
the Founders, ditched realism, and is now the complete captive of a
As the Obama administration
outdoes its predecessor in its relentless pursuit of empire, what we
are witnessing is the return of barbarism, open and unashamed. It is
the culmination of a trend that has been long in the making, and one
that will go unnoticed as long as it continues – because evil, after
all, is blind to its own nature.