Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Zeitgeist for a New Century

One way or another, what goes around comes around and it did not take more than ten years for the securitization inflicted on Baghdad to come back and bite the citizens of Boston.

Since 9/11, we chipsters have repeatedly warned against the constabularization of military forces and the militarization of  the police.  We have warned that every wall has two sides and that, of necessity, a war on terrorism over there is  a war on terrorism in here. We warned that the grotesque images of our "post combat stability operations" in Iraq were merely the preview of peacekeeping operations at home.

To no avail.

The logical mind, duly focusing on concrete specifics, will protest that there is "no proven connection" between any bombing in Iraq and the pressure cooker explosion in Boston.  It will argue that the "tragedy" in Boston is an "isolated incident" sprung from the brain of a deranged loner acting from idiocyncratic impulses.  It will point out that the technology and procedures used by the police in Boston are no more connected to the technology and procedures used by peacekeeping forces in Baghdad  than a hammer in Iowa is connected to the use of a hammer in Okinawa.

In all this, l'esprit de geometrie, is specifically correct but fundamentally wrong.  It is not a question of facts but of symptoms.  What is needed is not a delineation of inferences but a perception of Zeitgeist.

Put another way, the fact that a hammer exists in the first place means that people will be hammering in Okinawa as in Iowa.

We were first alerted to the hammer by an 2002 article in the Moscow Times concerning a think-tank paper entitled "Rebuilding America’s Defenses -- Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century” (Sep. 2000) which the Times had called America's Mein Kampf and which we have repeatedly analysed and discussed over the past decade.  In actual fact, Hitler's notorious book was no more than a meandering discursive auto-biography. In contrast the PNAC paper was a prescription for total war.

Rebuilding America's Defenses outlined a weltanschauung in which both the means and the ends of American policy was simply and brutally global power projection on land, in the sea, in the air, in "space and cyberspace." 

We have discussed this paper so many times, we are loathe to do it again.  But perhaps the most important thing to grasp about Rebuilding is that it has nothing to do with causes and goals but simply outlines an ontology -- a manner of being.  As George Orwell, famously put it,

"Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."  (1984)
The PNAC paper was a sequel to the still semi-classified Defense Planning Guide, drafted in 1992 by Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and a cadre of zionist neo-cons whose smudge marks are all over the "securitization" of U.S. domestic and foreign policy.

Although both papers talk vaguely about promoting American "principles and interests" (Rebuilding, p. i) or establishing "democracy and free-market institutions world wide" (D.P.G, p. 1), these phrases are simply passing tissues over a what is simply a naked culture of "forward presence operations" and  "power projection." (D.P.G, p. 10; Rebuilding, p. 20.) 

In fairness, "power projection" is nothing particularly new in American policy.  It was the essence of Theodore Roosevelt's Big Stick policy.

But Roosevelt's Big Stick was tied to the achievement specific economic goals. Cheney's neo-con mavens advocate swinging the stick just for the hell of it.

This is not to say that the policy is devoid of political or economic goals. Nothing in life has the abstract neatness of a fictional account. It is to say, rather, that as the policy becomes increasingly entrenched, goals become correspondingly reduced to collateral or incidental benefits. The means simply swallow the ends. The ontological clue can be found in statements that  the potential for any other state to present a threat to American preeminence, becomes the raison d'etre for "preemptive response."

Cheney's Defense Planning Guide explicitly stated that U.S. defense policy needed to "refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential global competitor." (Id., p. 4.) or "of any potentially hostile entity." (Id., p. 26.) Accordingly, defence strategies needed to  maintain "mechanism[s] for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.  (D.P.G  p. 2.) 

Such a formula is simply the rubric for ongoing kick-ass actions around the world.  The policy is so utterly perverse -- so diabolical in fact -- that even 20 years on, and despite all the allusion's to 1984, most people still do not get it.

"Shaping the security environment" (Rebuilding, pp. iv and 6) in order to deter other countries from even thinking about having some weight and influence in the world is simply a bureau-burble for a strategy of ongoing degradation, debasement, and "negative reinforcement" much the way bullies and abusers intimidate slaves and wives into submission.

It was from this premise, that Cheney's mavens derived their doctrine of what ultimately came to be called a full spectrum military.

Since a "potential threat" can arise in any number of different ways, it becomes necessary for America to have the capacity to respond or preempt that threat in as many different ways.  While some enemies might confront us on a field of battle, with flags a-fluttering; others might potentially endanger us by means of subversive agents and "Fifth Columns."

Accordingly, Cheney's memorandum and the PNAC paper outlined a full range of strategies for meeting these potential threats from "space to cyberspace." (Rebuilding, p. 27.) The inevitable result is the militarisation of civil society. Just as the military would have to engage in so-called "constabulary" operations abroad, the domestic police would have to engage in military operations at home.  The only difference between a soldier and a sheriff would be the colour of the uniform.

Among the missions of the new full spectrum military, the PNAC paper listed something it called "post-combat stability operations." If one's ear does not burn, he is not atuned to the times.

Traditional military "operations" are comprised of invasions and battles. Maintaining law and order in the aftermath of war, while a responsibility of the occupying power, has never been regarded as a military operation. The use of the word "operation" in connection with "stability" pointed to a peculiar proactive peacekeeping which was in actuality simply a lower level of war.  As Rebuilding itself put it, these "post-combat" actions were "lesser included" operations of sustained traditional infantry missions.

Of course, in such a case, there is no "post" to anything.  "Post combat" is just Orwellian double-think for ongoing combat operations. Keeping the peace is simply a form of war.  It was for this reason that the PNAC paper frankly acknowledged that "constabulary missions" were "likely" to "generate" violence. (Rebuilding, p. 11.)

What kind of world is it where peacekeeping generates violence?  It is a world in which mili-cops engage in the the use of "organic intelligence units," the "acquisition and management of information," in "political-military environments" including the "battlefied of the internet."  As needed "skin patch pharmaceuticals" will be employed to enable soldiers to to perform and cope with these expectedly high-stress missions.

All of the phrases in quotes are taken from the PNAC's dystopian blueprint.  Stripped of their bureaucratic varnish, they betoken a world of spies, provocateurs, recorded surveillance of public and supposedly private venues, data mining, censorship and propaganda within an overall context of force and violence.

Such a full-spectrum strategy is not calculated to bring about any wholesome result.  It is designed to do what it in fact does, which is to degrade civil society, or as the PNAC refers to it, the "security zone." 
Within the terms of this policy, Iraq and Afghanistan are not failures but successes.  The rubble that passes for "democratisation" is the intended result, because the destruction of the country's political infrastructure and national cohesion incapacitates the possibility of nationhood and with it the "potential" to present a threat. By the same token, it exposes the once nation to ad hoc exploitation (aka "investment") of the region's natural resources.

It is mistake to fall for the euphemisms. Whenever Cheney or Bush or Obama or anyone else speak of combating terrorism, democratisation and open markets they are referring to a policy of political incapacitation and economic penetration.

It is equally a fatal mistake to imagine that this policy of power projection and zonal degradation is something that takes place "out" there and not "in" here.  In the PNAC blueprint, places like Lithuania, Iraq, Afghanistan and South Korea are simply the America's security "perimeter."  Within the  “security-based” mentality, “security” begins at home and the Homeland is the preeminent zone of democratic peace,  requiring its security environment to be shaped as much as any other.

It is a lazy misconception to think that all those nasty things taking place abroad are the price they pay so that we can "enjoy the fruits of freedom" at home.  To think as much is to think teleologically whereas, as we have said, the policy is ontological and aims to practice security at home as well abroad.

Lastly, it is important not to loose sight of the imbecility induced by double-talk phrases like "potential threat." The word "threat" means a possible or potential harm. Thus a potential threat means a possible possibility of harm.  To say that the police are tasked with protecting us from an evil which is twice removed from any present reality is to render everyone a "potential suspect." 

It is astonishing the unthinking carelessness with which pundits, politicians, jurists and academics use destructive pleonasms like "potential threat" or "potential suspects."  The effect of such phrases on the infrastructure of thought is as devastating as an atom bomb on the infrastructure of a city.

Strictly speaking such redundancies mean nothing. But the poison lies in the fact that they induce the sense that nothing contains something.   A potential threat "exists" (we've just mentioned it, right?) even if it is unseen, unknown, unspecified.  Given that it is "exists" (as a potential) we must take action against it even if it there is no evidence of  any specific "threat" (i.e. the potential).  Given that the potential threat is inchoate action against it encompasses countermeasures against any arbitrarily asserted possible potential.

It was thus that back in 2008, CIA chief McConnel informed Congress that the "enemy" had "acquired" the capacity to "blend in" with the rest of us.  Of course the enemy had "acquired" no such capacity.  Suits, jeans and baseball caps have been around for quite some time.  McConnell's discovery was simply the realization of what it means to say that we are all potential suspects.  As Pogo famously put it:  We have met the enemy and he is us.

Enthralled to such destructive constructs, two successive Administrations have already sought to dispense with constitutional limits on data mining all currently available information on U.S. citizens. Law Enforcement is already at work erecting security perimeters and audio/video monitors around and within the country. Police agencies of every type are already “organically” penetrating alleged “suspect” and “target” groups, without ever specifying exactly what makes them suspect and, once an arrest is made, the alleged criminal conduct more often than not has all the clarity of an entrapment sting.

The notion that the State should “control” the internet and wage net-war on it, basically extends power projection and security shaping into the realm of information and thought. This has nothing to do with preventing a possible terrorist act or even sleuthing it after the fact.  It has everything to do with disorienting the capacity for grounded reflection.  Like a person spun around to the point of staggering dizziness, disinformed society is one that simply cannot function as social organism; it is simply humanoid putty.

However, as Plato might remark, the civic constitution is simply a mirror of the human soul, so that the corruption of one becomes the corruption of the other.  It was therefor hardly surprising the PNAC's American Kampf ended with a Strangelovian orgasm forseeing the day when

"Future soldiers may operate in encapsulated, climate-controlled, powered fighting suits, ... “and  [s]kin patch” pharmaceuticals help regulate fears, focus concentration and enhance endurance and strength."
Such "regulation" is required because the human conscience rebels against inhumanity and there comes a point when even brutalization no longer works sufficiently. This is particularly the case when the enemy alien is replaced with the suspect neighbour.

It follows that if the America's rulers are willing to turn U.S. soldiers into drugged up killers, they will see no objection to pharmaceutically enhancing domestic security forces. All the images we see in Guantánamo, Afghanistan and Iraq today are a foretaste of the Homeland tomorrow.  It will be so.

The denouement was foreseeable at least since the first kevlar-encased cops began appearing on our streets after 9/11.  But it goes deeper than that.  No cancer seizes hold without a precursor of bad habits. Beyond mephisto-phelian memoranda, the degradation and brutalizing of American civil society has its roots in a culture of aggression and avarice; in the worship of success and hardness.

Why do people love flowers?  Because they are beautiful, soft, fragile and helpless. These are the qualities that inhere in their beauty. The theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar put it this way

"[When] the whole of worldly being falls under the dominion of 'knowledge', and the springs and forces of love immanent in the world are overpowered and finally suffocated by science, technology and cybernetics,  [t]he result is a world without women, without children, without reverence for love in poverty and humiliation – a world in which power and the profit-margin are the sole criteria, where the disinterested, the useless, the purposeless is despised, persecuted and in the end exterminated ..." (Love Alone pp. 114-15.)
In the United States, flowers are a commodity you give mothers, wives and girls to keep the peace, before going back to being tuff among men. Power projections and profit-margins which are two hydra-heads of the same impulse have long been the most salient characteristic of U.S. culture.  This is not to say that the impulses of power and profit have not existed elsewhere or in other times.  Nor is it to say love of beauty does not exist in America.  All cultures rest on a fulcrum between beauty and the brute. But in the United States brutishness has been turned into a cult which overrides and will eventually extinguish other values.

The most obvious manifestation of the cult is our cultural worship of hardness, action and militarism-as-sport.  This is not simply a question of "gun violence."  It is rather a question of an impatience or contempt for what is soft and at-rest. 

The banner of women's liberation in the 60's was "we are just as good as men" -- a motto which implicitly accepted that there was nothing more contemptible than to act "just like a woman."  It took 30 years before it dawned on them that femininity was an inherent virtue in itself; but by then the disconnect was so pronounced women had only the a false, fantasmagorical and equally exagerated notion of what "feminine" really is.  Emphatically heterosexual as American culture is, it basically hates women.

But men fare no better.  The idealisation of a hyper masculinity which is impossible to achieve renders men mere spectators of an alienated self they shamefully feel they ought to be.  The performance deficit is made up with a full spectrum of pseudo combat activity from junk car racing, to paint-ball to football, most of which ends up being a mere spectator sport.  The brutalisation of the American male psyche is so complete that the average male secretly worships the hyper-robocop that comes astompin' on him.  It is trés gai.

This is not to deny that men, by nature, have hormonally aggressive impulses which are best channelled and displaced.  It rather to say that aggressive impulses which include the desire to penetrate into things and to accomplish a result are not limited to forms of destructive violence but also manifest themselves in action which is quiet and creative.  Instead, a technological, consumer culture of aggresive and primitively domineering action is cultivated.

The failure of reverence occurs in subtly and seemingly innocuous ways; as for instance when excursions into our magnificent outdoors becomes the occasion for equipping and endurance contests.  What is really occurring is a technocratizing of the simple beyond what is minimally necessary, so that the means crowd out the end. Thus, whereas Saint Francis walked El Camino barefoot, techno-man fusses over which is the lightest, strongest, most aeriated  walking boot.  In the end, the pilgrimage gets turned into: "Do the Camino on Bike!"

The brutishness of American culture at all levels is unbalanced and unremitting.  It has been perhaps since its inception and was something Alexis de Tocqueville commented on, in various contexts, in his great work Democracy in America.   In so saying, I do not mean to suggest that the issue is solely a sociological one concerning "cultural attitudes."   On the contrary, the driving force behind the cult of power is a specific kind of political-economic based on profit margins.   I mean only to focus on the psychological attitudes and the strategic methods employed and necessitated by an economic system.

It is not psychologically susprising that despite all the worship of brutishness, Americans themselves are actually scared and cowardly.  This is hardly a mystery.  The addiction to anything which is inherently false produces the opposite effect of that sought. As Gibbon repeatedly noted in his history of Rome's decline, displays of power became the cover for an enervated expectation of security.  We have become a Ninnie Nation, and Official Brutishness is simply the compensatory circus.

The Emperor Honorius, who spent his days tending chickens was no more a general in the field than George Bush, surrounded by chickenhawks in the palace, was a  fighter pilot.  But the cultivated and obligatiory image of hardness was presented as a form of vicarious exercise to a supine public which is convinced it is the deserving master of the world.

It is through this lens that the events in Boston need to be viewed.  The issue presented by the Boston Bombing is not whether the alleged suspects acted alone, in connection with terrorist group or whether they were the patsies or scapegoats of a false flag operation (as some blogs have inevitably theorised).  The issue presented by the Boston Bombing is not whether it was necessary to search for the culprits or whether the city was or was not under partial or total, de jure or de facto lockdown.  Other times and other places have survived a declaration of martial law.  The issue is the stick which lies in waiting.

In a sense the United States is already the perfect paradigm of the degraded zones of democratic freedom we are securing and extending abroad. 

Overseas we must inflict power projections and post-combat operations in order to induce a despairing, submissive, lumpen attitude which does not even aspire to self-realisation.  In the United States the process has evolved in reverse.  Over time and especially since the World War, our culture had induced a acquiescent, misinformed lumpen attitude which, while drunkenly thinking of itself as living in the land of the free and home of the brave, actually begs to feel the projection of power during post-crime operations.

The heteronomous result is that not only are the good citizens of Boston demanding more surveillance cameras they are reassured when armed mili-cops come pounding on their doors demanding entry.  Few Americans and even fewer Bostonians were appalled at the sight of militarised police conducting post-event stability operations in the same manner as was done in Baghdad.  If one asks why, the answer must be that the brutalisation of the American psyche is already so complete it welcomes the degradation which has already been achieved.

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