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Archive for February of 2006
February 28, 2006
February 27, 2006
“It remains true that the greatest injustices proceed from those who pursue excess, not from those driven by necessity.”
Aristotle, quoted by a 'Favorite Architect' from another era
Back in 1992, Charles Dunlap published in Parameters
, the U.S. Army War College Quarterly Magazine, “The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012”
. In that pre-web era, this item caused a justifiable sensation. Dunlap, expressing concerns echoed by Charlie Moskos and other astute students of civil-military relations at that time, noted that:
The letter that follows takes us on a darkly imagined excursion into the future. A military coup has taken place in the United States--the year is 2012--and General Thomas E. T. Brutus, Commander-in-Chief of the Unified Armed Forces of the United States, now occupies the White House as permanent Military Plenipotentiary. His position has been ratified by a national referendum, though scattered disorders still prevail and arrests for acts of sedition are underway.
A senior retired officer of the Unified Armed Forces, known here simply as Prisoner 222305759, is one of those arested, having been convicted by court-martial for opposing the coup. Prior to his execution, he is able to
smuggle out of prison a letter to an old War College classmate discussing the “Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012.”
In it, he argues that the coup was the outgrowth of trends visible as far back as 1992. These trends were the massive diversion of military forces to civilian uses, the monolithic unification of the armed forces, and the insularity of the military community. His letter survives and is here presented verbatim. It goes without saying (I hope) that the coup scenario above is purely a literary device intended to dramatize my concern over certain contemporary developments affecting the armed forces, and is emphatically not a prediction.
-- The Author [Charles Dunlap]
Dunlap's vision reflected the estrangement of the Cold War miltiary facing partial de-mobilization after December 1991 when confronting an indifferent civilian world anxious to move on. The explicit rationale for Dunlap's warning — a post Cold War military asked essentially to take on new non-military missions in the civilian space — may not seem directly analogous to today.
Dunlap's exercise is worth recalling for three reasons: (a) the military, even more than in 1992, is being asked to assume a staggering array of responsibilities outside its immediate warfighting mission under the rubric of the 'Long War'; (b) the delegitimation of civilian political leadership and competence is exponentially more widespread; and (c) Dunlap's essential insight of a military estranged from the civilian world rings even more true in 2006.
Not only has the religious/cultural (and even socio-economic) divide widened between the military and civilians (as revealed briefly in developments at elite institutional training arenas such as the Air Force Academy, etc.). The sacrifices being demanded of the military as an institution are reaching a grotesque disequillibrium compared to the encouraged indulgence of the peace time civilian world.
Not Prediction Per Se But The Trend Analysis
Like Dunlap, the Stiftung believes the value of 'The Officers' Coup of 2012' is not its predictive element but its capacity to provoke careful consideration. OIF's failures as a politiical, strategic, diplomatic, economic, cultural and post-initial operational phase roll of the dice are undeniable. It is not too soon to begin taking stock to assess its impact on civilian military relations.
Read more »
February 23, 2006
A meeting can be more than a meeting. So it appears in this case.
The Bush administration is quietly exploring ways of recalibrating U.S. policy toward Russia in the face of growing concerns about the Kremlin's crackdown on internal dissent and pressure tactics toward its neighbors, according to senior officials and others briefed on the discussions.
Vice President Cheney has grown increasingly skeptical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and shown interest in toughening the administration's approach. He summoned Russia scholars to his office last month to solicit input and asked national intelligence director John D. Negroponte to provide further information about Putin's trajectory, the sources said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has sought to balance worries over Russian democracy with a pragmatic partnership on mutual issues such as Iran's nuclear program, responded by calling her own meeting with outside advisers a week ago. Some involved in the administration deliberations saw the move as an attempt to counter Cheney.
Where to begin? On the geostrategic level, a re-apparaisal of Russia makes sense *if* the U.S. had a coherent and overarching vision of a future global framework and how U.S. and Russian power trajectories fit within. Beyond empty bromides of 'freedom', 'GWOT' and the like. And beyond the immediately tactical and transactional - help on Iran, etc.
The Great Game across Central Asia continues, as does the soft rollback of the 'Near Abroad' of Russian security-cum-Imperial periphery. Partly by design and partly by happy circumstance, the U.S. has established a cordon sanitaire
through Ukraine down to Georgia. But responsible Statesmanship would be to use current (and temporary although not necessarily fleeting) U.S. power to build a durable and sustainable framework.
To be surprised or suddenly disturbed by increasing 'Revanchism' (in the classical sense) in Moscow given these developments suggests either disingeniousness or naivete. The Stiftung offers this view with not a little personal experience on the ground 'Over There' during the Cold War and its aftermath. Only those stoned on the Kool Aid of the 'Last Man' liberation theology (or drinking their own bathwater in other respects) would be caught unawares of eminently predictable Russian reactions.
On the purely internal Washington chatter level, this tug of war offers some amusement. Condi has marketed successfully her modest skills as a Soviet and Russian specialist into an outsized public reputation. And she, like Madonna in another context, enjoys the ferocious devotion of certain subgroups who feel marginalized in policy circles. Yet she is not a systematic thinker and after a year shows no real direction, no focus and no real capacity for crafting either.
As Sebastian Mallaby noted (and discussed with wicked humor over at Global Paradigms
), the prospects for Rice to be a late bloomer are not good. So we must make do with what we have.
The temptation on some other blogs the Stiftung reads now and then seems to be to impose simplistic templates on things — Cheney 'bad', ergo Rice 'good', etc. Would that things were so. It may be that Rice's limited strategic thinking but real tactical 'people' skills and her relationship with the President are most useful to the Nation in a 'reactive mode', responding to more fully developed and coherent systematic thinking developed by others. In this case, a tug of war may be actually the best hope for something beyond the tactical to emerge. (Recognizing the risks of what 'tug of war' did for a moribund Iran policy, of course).
On a related note, however, Russian self-esteem took another hit this past week. This image was plastered all over Moscow in banners promoting the Russian 'Defender of the Motherland' military holiday.
Note that the Russians inadvertantly featured the battleship U.S.S. Missouri all over Moscow as a 'defender' of the 'Motherland' (rodina). Read the link, adjust your tie (if you have one), recall the late Rodney . . . and maybe have some sympathy. Remember, perhaps one day, all this, too (gesturing to the Imperial City) shall pass. History tells us it always does.
February 22, 2006
The tone deaf politics of the port debacle, Harriet Miers, EOVP doings down to the present day, NSA warrantless surveillance, and post April 2003 Iraq are of a piece. Together all show that the Administration largely abandoned the pretense of participatory politics and their accompanying discipline. Instead, voice has been given to the Movement's true Self.
Can it return to politics? And does it have the will to do so?
At heart, the explanation for the Administration's difficulties circa 2006 may be as much pyschological as institutional/structural. Not to venture casually into Krauthammer territory — or even offer a Fristian distance-video-diagnosis. As the late Hunter Thompson said, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. We do not pretend to approach the credentials of those two.
But as you likely know, we contend that the Administration is best understood as a Counter Enlightenment ideological Movement. The psychology of the Movement and its leadership therefore is of paramount importance.
Joachim Fest once wrote of the pyschological dimension at work when a subversive Movement evolves from four phases: a fringe rage, to contestant in the game for political power, to governance and finally to War. We think there are interesting psychological parallels in Movement dynamics.
In the early phases, the Movement is largely undisciplined, with vitriolic fringe sects and sub-Movements. As the entity participates (and succeeds) in mainstream political discourse (you noticed that now familiar word 'mainstream', eh?), message and organizational discipline sets in. In a still functioning and stable domestic political environment, this would be akin to what we have witnessed 2001-2006. In a more fluid and de-stabilized era, it might require institutional and personal acts against political figures to reassure still needed constituents from the 'mainstream' order. We are not there.
Fest notes correctly (in our judgement) that war, however, serves to liberate Movements from the discipline and to-them-dreary pretense of politics. The 'Emergency' which served as pretext for the Movement to succeed in politics is now the demonstrable real thing. Earlier suppressed and hidden ideological imperatives, denied to placate the 'mainstream' are now given active voice. And a Movement once unshackled by 'War' and 'Emergency' is not likely willing to disown its true Self, and return to the hollow game of pretense and diminish itself in the by now all too familiar, 'smaller' and discarded game of political participation.
This of course explains the Adminsitration's obsession with both Lincoln and Churchill. Two leaders who in the Administration's hagiographical imagination surmounted mere legality, democracy and petty political discipline.
And it also explains this comment by Brent Scowcroft: “I consider Cheney a good friend—I’ve known him for thirty years. But Dick Cheney I don’t know anymore.” Revealing both about Cheney 'unbound' by politics and expressing his true Self, and the myopia of people, refusing or unable to understand the ideological in their midst.
Can the Administration return to politics? Will it want to? It will mean accepting a diminished Self and the partial abandonment of its fully voiced true beliefs to accomodate real political discourse. In the American context, it will mean a return to separation of powers, compromise over issues such as the ports, NSA warrantless surveillance, etc. A heavy price for this crew. It will also mean jettisoning its false binary thinking of 'forward or back', 'victory or defeat' mindset. (It is worth remarking that one of the favorite phrases of a certain Movement historical figure was 'there are two possibilities' — to the point his entourage took to mimicking his 'forward or back' 'victory or defeat' mantra even when choosing dinner menus).
Of course, on the plus side, term limits and the calendar of electoral politics are correctives that did not exist to reign in Movements in historical elsewhen. And there is always the Legacy issue to consider — a factor that weighs heavily on incumbents.
Bush the Movement Leader and War President? Or Bush the politician? We know where the smart money would bet.
February 18, 2006
Dear Reader, please bear with the Stiftung as we experiment a bit today. Tweaking graphics and load times. UPDATE:
Post as promised follows:
'The Dream Warriors'
One ramification of the American specialization society is that each narrow silo of expertise seeks to interpret and explain phenomena within the narrowcast prism of its shared vernacular and the developed neural pathways of training and cognition
. This leaves us as a society potentially vulnerable to and ill-equipped to explain broad ideological developments — think of the blind encounter with the trunk, leg, tail, etc.
The elephant? The Administration as the first Post Modern ideological phenomenon in American experience. By Post Modern, we mean the specific and technical appellation of embrace of irrationality, romanticism and myth.
Across the board we see the Administration's pursuit of a Post Modern agenda — from foreign policy, law and regulation, science and technical policy, finance. And a Post Modern Power ultimately places value in controlling psychological narrative over objective, on-the-ground empiricism
. Thus Katrina, Iraq, etc. are not mere crises of 'competence' but emblematic of Post Modern Power.
The narrow silos of American experience and specialization such as foreign policy, defense policies, law, etc. have each sought to explain and debate the Administration within their vernacular and experience base. Not surprisingly, the explanations failed and the debates lacked impact. Most importantly, each silo failed to recognize the Post Modern phenomenon as a generalized challenge.
No one has asked the question: 'Can America succeed as a Post Modern Power?' So it naturally goes unexamined and unanswered. As do corollaries such as 'What are the costs?'
The most blatant example of this is foreign policy of course. There, informed opinion as represented by a figure at The National Interest insists in 2006 that the debate over American Power must occur within the choice of 'Realist' or 'Neocon' — there can be no third way (see Feb. 20th item).
Gvosdev is not alone. Wilkerson, Pillar and others do the same when analyzing the Administration: assuming the interpretive prism of their experience defines the debate — and thus it is no suprise that their solution is more of what they know — increased and 'reformed' bureaucratic processes. What unites Gvosdev, Pillar and Wilkerson is that all of them do not realize the implications of a Post Modern view of American Power.
Similarly, the Rumsfeld pursuit of a Post Modern agenda at OSD eludes most observers. There, his irrationality, romanticism and myth are harder to detect, being cloaked in their seeming opposites: 'transformation', technology such as netcentric warfare, data links, persistent intelligence and SATKA, etc. But the very use of technology is itself of the myth and romanticism of stand off, precision kinetic Force. And so, the inconvenient reality of messy heavy non-agile combat, language, culture in Iraq is simply ignored.
As mentioned supra, the same phenomenon occurs at NASA and NOAA regarding climate change
, at DoJ and the judicial branch, in administrative regulatory acitivites, at EPA, how energy conservation became a national priority because it filled a health care gap in a speech, etc.
The Stiftung reads The National Interest
and has since Bob Osgood and Robert Tucker helped launch it. So we do not mean to be unfair to Nikolas Gvodsev in particular. (Although it would be nice to see new lifeblood and expertise than the same old Eurocentric/Russianist perspectives in place).
But the truth? The Administration rendered the fiat of 'there is no third way' moot years ago with its Post Modernist agenda. Notwithstanding what John Mearsheimer may say in the pages of the The National Interest
. While neoconservatives played an important role in the Administration's policy, they were but one strand among many in the power structure that were and still are pushing a similar ardor for Belief over the empirical world.
The question of the Administration, American Power and 'what comes after' is beyond the current confines of a debate by the Usual and Aspiring Suspects. A Post Modern agenda with its priority on psychological dominance and control of belief systems — the life blood for irrationality, romance and myth — is wholly apart from the experience of either Realism (such as it is) or even Neoconservatism.
So we pose the questions again — 'Can American succeed as a Post Modern Power?' 'And at what cost?' 'And can we recover?'
February 17, 2006
Why do some people who blog feel compelled to mythologize themselves and what they do?
If you are here, probably you agree with the Stiftung that blogs are a stimulating and informative (addictive?) means of communicating. Great stuff.
But that is distinct from the trope of blogs as 'revolution'. So we actually enjoyed this item from the Financial Times mocking Gawker's fluffing by Vanity Fair.
A great quote:
Still, blogging would have been little more than a recipe for even more internet tedium if it had not been seized upon in the US as a direct threat to the mainstream media and the conventions by which they control news. And one of the conventions that happened to work in blogging’s favour was the way the media take a new trend and describes it as a revolution. The surge of hype about blogging was helped by the fact that many of the most prominent bloggers were high-fliers within the media establishment - such as Andrew Sullivan, a former editor of The New Republic, or Mickey Kaus of Slate, the online magazine Microsoft sold to The Washington Post Company just over a year ago . . .
Read more »
February 16, 2006
The Stiftung finally got around to collecting some of the images we make for more orderly presentation. And herewith the new Gallery
Most of the 80 plus images presented were created specifically for this blog and you, Dear Reader. A few pictures are included untouched by the Stiftung but we used and simply like them.
Our favorite? That would be hard to say. A number of them seem to stand the test of fleeting Time — Jane Curtain's dumbfounded look at Emily Litella, Cheney and Tenet in their pas de deux, Condi's U.S. commemorative postage stamp . . . the question posed by 'Ume ka?'
We hope you have enjoyed them as much as we did making them.
P.S. The animations didn't make the Gallery initial processes (we will try and fix that). So to see Joementum, Malkin baying at the Moon, Three Penny Opera, and Goss Ultraviolet in action, you will need to revisit the actual posts for the moment.
We have Goss Ultraviolet and Malkin now animating correctly. More to come.
Tom Engelhardt over at Salon
February 15, 2006
has an interesting reminder about the permanent U.S. strategic infrastructure footprint in Iraq. Back in 2003, he notes that the Administration was more open about its strategic footprint designs in Iraq. The Stiftung can confirm when making the rounds in OSD at that time there would be discussion about the forward infrastructure envisioned as necessary to entrench U.S. power in the heart of: (a) Islam; (b) the world's petroleum reserves; (c) Chinese containment, etc.
Now, not so much.
Read more »
February 14, 2006
Good news for Rationality and empiricism. And no, it has nothing to do with WWF-esque posturing in the blogosphere.
The ripple effect from Judge John E. Jones' decisive rout of the 'Intelligent Design' claptrap
last December is beginning to take effect. You will recall Judge Jones' exhaustively laid bare the clumsy deceit, animal cunning, ineptitude and spandex emotionalism of the “ID” proponents seeking to install “ID” in the Dover County School System.
Now, relying in part on Judge Jone's pathbreaking work, the Ohio Board of Education voted 11 to 4 Tuesday to toss out a mandate that 10th-grade biology classes include critical analysis of evolution.
As important, the Board also tossed the accompanying model lesson plan which highlighted ID. The ID contingent is adopting yet another stealth technique, trying to undermine evolution with the attack of 'negative implication' using “critical analysis” verbiage. (See 'The Attack of Negative Implication'
While we hope the quote by Eugenie C. Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, is correct, we have our doubts. He apparently 'called the Ohio vote “a significant victory” and said it should give pause to school districts and states considering changes in how evolution is taught.'
Rather, the Stiftung suspects that “ID” proponents may be more accurate seers at the moment. One of “ID”'s proponents in Ohio takes the long view.
Deborah Owens Fink, who along with Mr. Cochran voted against eliminating the critical-analysis language, said after the meeting that the vote was just another round in the culture war, not a knockout. “There are no permanent victories in politics,” Ms. Fink said. “You do not get paradigm shifts overnight. Whether the ultimate victory is today or it's tomorrow or it's two years from now, people demand that they get open discussion of this issue.”
Price can afford to be sanguine as the next challenges to “ID” come in anti-Rational bulwarks such as Kansas and South Carolina. But even so, in the end, Price, The Discovery Institute, Pat Buchanan, Dobson et al. will likely abandon the covertly dishonest legal path either way. If they succeed in Kansas and South Carolina, it will merely enbolden them. Should they be frustrated, they will brazenly demand achieving their rollback through pure Macht
and rage. In neither case will they be willing to return and lurk in the shadows. Even now their fury at the judicial branch for remaining an obstacle to their radicalization continues unabated. Expect further efforts at de-legitimization of the judicial branch ahead. ID proponents are hinting at this even more confrontational strategy already.
A comfort to their temporary setbacks is that they have 3 more years of the Administration appointing to the federal bench. True, Judge Jones in Dover was a Republican and a 43 appointee (and thus a pleasant surprise). But his 'failing' to follow the ideological imperative and endorse Creationism will be a lesson to the Administration — more careful vetting.
This is our 'Long War'.
February 13, 2006
A sign of contemporary Amercan decadence is how much of American society no longer understands that it even has an ideology, or what its principles were or are. Core precepts of rationality, empiricism and individualism animating the American liberal democratic experiment are either assumed away or ignored. Conscious ideology and values long surrendered to a haze of atavism, consumption, indulgence and exhaustion.
So it is perhaps no surprise that the Bush Administration has been so successful in its efforts to destroy the tottering liberal democratic experiment from within. Easy pickings.
Readers of this site know our thesis: the Administration is a front for a patient coaltion long hostile to the Enlighenment. Its ostensible targets are excess, ala the Janet Jackson moment, etc. But those are propoganda tools and show pieces — the goal was and is to roll back time and political consciousness. The roll back destination and purpose varies with each component strand in the Administration's ideological base — but all strands share a malignant hostility to rationality and the American Present.
Read more »
February 06, 2006
Like battered children returning to the abusive parent for validation and denied affection, there remains a quasi-permanent chorus of Wishmongers in the Imperial City who cheer any perceived sign of “Realism” from the Administration. Global Paradigms
identifies some of the latest noises from the battered.
As just one example of how long this chorus has been singing off key, the Stiftung remembers sitting down with a semi-prominent blogger, policy entrepreneur and card carrying member of the Wishmonger Chorus in early 2003
over dinner. He triumphantly declared the neocon moment “over”. Powell had been “unleashed”. (The mind boggles at what precisely that would mean — gelatinous reputation-enhancing self serving posturing in motion?). And so on unto the present day.
The Wishmonger Chorus were wrong then. They are wrong still.
The neocon virus is alive and well within the Administration and the Republican Party. In fact, its success is that most spouting the neocon formulations among the leadership and among the base do not even realize the source of their world view and policy preferences.
Moreover, the radicalism of this Administration transcends the neocon strand. This simple truth eludes the Wishmonger Chorus — most notably their embrace of the erratic (and perhaps unhinged) Larry Wilkerson, whose desperation to claw his way back for another 15 minutes of low level fame might well include a stint on Survivor: Foggy Bottom or even American Idol.
Read more »
February 03, 2006
Few things are as scandalous as the Administration's indifference, disregard and willful disrespect shown for the people of New Orleans, Alabama, Mississippi and the rest of the Gulf Coast obliterated by Katrina. This is not a Democrat issue. Or a Republican issue. It goes to the core of our civil society.
Read more »
February 01, 2006
Oh to have drinks again with John Lehman. How he must have watched Tweedledee and Tweedledum before the Senate Intelligence Committee's annual dog and pony show yesterday. To breathe in the spectacle of Lehman's pique, rage, bewilderment, and ultimate contempt would be still an 'E ticket' ride. Lehman's doubtless withering critique would be spat out in staccato bursts, like Lewis Black on ibogaine and pale ale.
Read more »
How to explain the compulsive need to gush PR lauding Condi?
As Exhibit A, we have Condoleezza Rice Completes Washington's Geostrategic Shift, by one Dr. Michael A. Weinstein for PINR Dispatch
The Stiftung reads PINR now and then. But this item deserves extended comment.
Here, Weinstein seemingly boldy asserts that:
Rice's announcements culminate a major revision of Washington's overall geostrategy that has been in the making since 2004 when the failures of the Iraq intervention exposed the limitations of U.S. military capabilities and threw into question the unilateralist doctrine outlined in the administration's 2002 National Security Strategy.
If by this, Weinstein asserts that Rice has modulated U.S. policy to reflect a weaker geopolitical hand, it would be accurate and unexceptional. But Weinstein goes further.
He claims “[t]hat picture [of the 'Wolfowitz Indiscretion' qua U.S. policy 2001-2005] changed in 2005 when Rice became secretary of state and moved to fill the policy vacuum by implementing her realist vision based on classical balance of power.”
If only it were so.
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