The Good Ol’ Days
The Short Shelf-Life of Modern Political Nostalgia
© 2009 Ross Williams
Remember when it was prima facie proof of Republican and Bush corruption that many of the advisors collected around Bush and into his inner circle – frequently referred to as his "handlers" – were millionaires? Remember how those who disliked Bush and Republicans not for stated desires or enacted policies but because of knee-jerk "principle" caterwauled endlessly on the internet and blogs and the ironically-named lead-filled running shoe sob sisterhood of MoveOn.org because the preponderance of millionaires controlling the White House only showed that the super-rich were ganging up on the helpless poor?
Remember how people in some places actually took to the streets over it?
Well, those helpless poor have gotten their President now, and nothing has changed but the names on the 7-, usually 8-, and sometimes 9-figure personal wealth statements of the President's inner circle. It’s still the super-rich in charge of the country.
Remember when it was prima facie proof of Republicans' and Bush's inhumanity to his fellow [foreign] man that US foreign policy dared to shamelessly and openly cavort with known despots who failed to always think of the human rights of their citizens? despot-run nations such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? Remember how it was similar prima facie proof of Republicans' and Bush's foreign policy insularity that, ironically, the US deliberately failed and refused to engage such nations as Cuba, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea – all ruled by despots who also never considered the human rights of their citizens? Remember how US confrontationalism toward these other despot-ruled nations showed Bush's arrogance, ignorance, contempt for world peace and ambitions to world dominance and domineering?
Remember how both of these contradictory dogmatisms was among the cornerstones of the populist indictment of Bush as a “war criminal” who needed to be hauled in front of the World Court?
Well, those Human Rights Warriors have gotten their President now, and he's still in bed with the despots-in-charge of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – and will continue to be – and he's making kissy-face and trying to climb into bed with Cuba and Iran; he's still being confrontational to North Korea; and regardless of what the official US policy toward Venezuela is now, Venezuela is still acting as if the US is still the same old bully we ever were. …though I imagine Chavez has lost whatever ambitions to hump the female US Secretary of State that he once had. And I don’t blame him.
Remember when it was prima facie proof of Republicans' and Bush's foreign policy ineptitude and US-centric arrogance that he could not get along in good faith with our friends and allies? how Bush and the Republicans "squandered", by 9-12, the 9-11 goodwill ladled upon the US in torrents of foreign altruism?
Remember how it only demonstrated the cowboy nature Bush supposedly exemplified?
Well, those group-hug-harmonists have gotten their President now, and he's been publicly repudiated by the same set of friends and allies who don't like Obama's US-centric economic cowboyism any better than they liked Bush's militaristic hootenannying.
Change happens, but only one funeral at a time. And speaking of funerals, we’re having just as many for US soldiers as we did between May ’03 and the fourth week of January ’09. Yet we seem to have collectively stopped counting body bags. Remember when it was critical to count our fallen soldiers and publicly wail over each? Why, it seems like just three months ago …
Remember when every bong-laden Disraeli with a semester of PoliSci could prattle off the casualty figures in up-to-the-minute accuracy and, by punctuating their sermons with tears, convincingly describe how such historically low casualties in foreign occupations of non-pacified nations was indifferentiable from military disaster? Two combat deaths at a time in Iraq is a veritable Waterloo. Remember when we couldn’t get away from a daily recital?
Well, the choir-converting preachers have gotten their President now, and counting war dead would only serve to embarrass him – and we can’t embarrass the President, now, can we? – so the war dead silently pile up in Delaware where grieving families must resort to individual theatrics to get the same fleeting relevance as was once dispensed like water.
The point of all this tit-for-tatting is not to offer up the most recent episode of gratuitous partisan infantilism. The outright Republicans are doing that well enough on their own. Just as we saw the Democrats doing themselves for the previous eight years during Bush the Younger. Which was itself preceded by eight years of Republican ditto during Clinton. Which was preceded by a sustained period of Democrats’ same during Bush the Elder and a large portion of Reagan. …which was preceded by Republicans’ yadda [and Democrats’ whistling past the graveyard] during Carter. …which was preceded by Democrats’ blah-blah [and Republicans’ whistling past the graveyard] during Nixon/Ford.
I can’t do such partisan tit-for-tatting because for me to do so would either be a one-sided affair, or I would be required to go up against the world. Libertarians’ natural political enemies are totalitarians, and outright totalitarians are scarce in the United States. Instead what we have here are pseudo-totalitarians, quasi-totalitarians, totalitarians-by-degree – cryptotalitarians, as it were. Those who want to take away some of our liberties and dignities, a few at a time, for the political expedience du jour, and make us think it’s for our own good the whole way rather than for their own aggrandizement and governing convenience. …which is to say, “they” are both Democrats and Republicans.
And this means that for me, a libertarian, to go toe-to-toe and tit-for-tat in partisan harangue I’d either have to go up against the chimeric, phantasmagorically non-existent American Dictator Party, or I’d have to take on both of the myopic, cyclopean dinosaurs of Democrats and Republicans. Doing the former is somewhat masturbatory and otherwise self-delusional; doing the latter is kinda messianic, not to mention that it’d be like rasslin’ pigs in mud: it’s what pigs do, and you do yourself no favors by volunteering to play on their home field.
Instead, I will remain aloof and above it all, stand on the sidelines and issue the same scold I’ve issued for as long as I can remember: there is no difference between either of them and we are deluding ourselves when we claim there is.
Dig it, dimwits: All rulers are rich, always have been and always will be. They either started out rich, or they killed the rich people, took their jobs and stole their money thus becoming rich. Either way, while they rule they are rich. And once becoming the rich ruler, they surround themselves with more rich people, forming a cabal of rich, rule-making, rule-enforcing, rule-ignoring power-mongers.
This is not the same thing as “all rich people are rulers”. This latter premise is only syllogistically valid under those economic schemes in which money is deliberately kept from the hands of masses. Despite how we may feel at this particular moment, that is not happening here … yet. It is, though, happening in Venezuela. And North Korea. For Democrats to have ceaselessly whined for eight years about how rich the Bush Administration particulars were was self-indulgent foolishness. And if the Republicans now pick up the same idiot gauntlet and fling it back [and they are] they’d be advertising themselves as no different [and they aren’t].
Dig it further, dimwits – and I’ve said this before – cavorting with despots, in a world where three-fourths of the nations are ruled by them, is mandatory if we wish to know what the hell is going on. The Human Rights records of these various places is irrelevant. Deliberately not cavorting with a specific despot is only sane if you have another country do the cavorting for you – as we have arranged with regard to Iran for thirty years, Cuba for almost fifty years, and North Korea for sixty.
There is nothing specifically alarming about Barama cozying up to Cuba and Iran. With Cuba it’s long overdue, in fact. But this no alarm cozy is in theory only, and follows on the maxim: keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Cozying up to Iran is fine for Barama to do … as long as he understands that Iran is our declared enemy, which is to say: Iran has declared they are our enemy. See, idiot ideological posturing is not simply a Republican-American personality flaw; it predates the Republican party by a few millennia.
I’m not certain the White House fully comprehends Iran, though I’m positive that most, if not all, the career diplomats and military wonks feeding the White House do.
But for street-level Democrats to incessantly whine for the previous eight years because Saudi Arabia has lousy human rights and we’re their friends – boo hoo – is to once again indulge the same self-deceptive faux-martyred foolishness. Not to mention that it’s one short step shy of that form of self-important racism once so popular under the names “White Man’s Burden” and “Manifest Destiny”. …which we implemented in our dealings regarding Serbia/Kosovo, and which many wish to implement in future dealings regarding Sudan/Darfur. Just sayin’.
If we wish to engage despots, then engage.
If we wish to engage despots by kicking their asses all over a battlefield in a pre-emptive war for regime-change – and because they’ve pissed us off – then we are just like we’ve always been, and just like everyone else has always been, besides.
If we wish to engage despots for the purpose of bettering them for any reason, including “human rights”, and by any means, including warfare, then we are self-righteous at a minimum and quite possibly racists to boot, but not particularly any different from how we or anyone else are or ever were.
If we wish to engage despots who have declared themselves enemies of our nation, then as long as we continue to see them as our enemy … engage.
If we wish to engage enemy despots but forget they are enemies, then we are lazy, careless and suicidal.
If we wish to engage enemy despots and actively deny they are enemies, then we are delusional and suicidal.
If we wish to not engage specific despots because we have a prideful prejudice against them or they don’t treat their people politely, then as long as we have a backchannel [which often consists of using another despot as our proxy], then withdraw.
If we wish to not engage specific despots for any reason and are too arrogant and self-righteous to get a backchannel, then we are lazy, careless, delusional and suicidal.
If we wish to whine about any of it because the wrong party is doing the engaging [or non-engaging as the case may be], and for reasons not supported by our personal or collective political belief systems … then we are infants.
Dig it deeper, dimwits: any nation’s policies must be geared toward what that nation considers its own benefit. Altruism does not exist in foreign policy, whether the specific policy is for diplomacy and militarism, or for trade and commerce. It is the mark of gross ignorance and naiveté to see altruism in any foreign policy; Kennedy’s Peace Corp was not meant to make third world countries more habitable because the US is kind and benevolent, it was meant to make third world countries more habitable for the sake of making third worldERS more friendly toward Uncle Sam and thus allow us to win allies in the Cold War without having to use and over-use geopolitical arm-twisting. [The results were mixed].
When a foreign nation complains about what the United States does, it is not a referendum on US partisan politics. It is a statement about the United States itself, transcending our politics. France complained about the US going into Iraq in 2003 not because of Bush being a bully, but because it would interrupt the cozy little French Connection built between Iraqi Oil and French Profiteering on same. Germany is now complaining about the US model for world economic recovery not because of Barama being a semi-socialist, but because Germany is being asked to contribute more than they want to.
The United States is the top gargoyle on the gothic cathedral, the alpha dog in the junk yard, the chief dung beetle in the manure pile. Other nations resist doing what we want them to do for the same reason that little sisters resist doing what big brothers want them to do. Unless it’s because they resist for the same reasons that teenagers resist doing what parents tell them to do. If you comprehend the basic dynamics of those two relationships – big brother/little sibling and parent/teenager – then you understand 95% of the interactions in international politics. It’s not a secret, nor is it a mystery.
Other nations resist us because we are the United States. We resisted French and British [and Spanish and Ottoman and Mexican and Japanese and German] hegemony when they were in a position to impose it and we were in the position of resisting or having to comply. Positions are simply reversed today. They will again shift in the future; history works that way. It is no more complicated than that, and has nothing to do with our circumstantial partisan arrangements. It is because other nations are just as self-serving we are. Go figure.
Crying about us being self-serving while ignoring everyone else being self-serving is … you guessed it … delusional, self-indulgent foolishness.
Democrats’ complaints for the prior eight years were monumentally immature and advertised a near-universal lack of comprehension of anything outside the boundary of their own navels; Republicans’ complaints for the eight years prior to that, and which are again starting to congeal on the national landscape, are the same. I can’t even say they are the equal and opposite criticisms, for they are not opposite to any prior whining. The only thing that’s changed is the party being criticized and the party doing the criticizing; the criticisms themselves are identical: “the people in power aren’t us, so what they do is wrong.”
Perhaps this all qualifies as me taking on the whole partisan American political world and if so, then so be it; but – and let me directly address both Democrats and Republicans now – if the two of you can’t grow up, can you at least try to remember something beyond the party changes of our presidents? Please?
 Plank’s second law
 Fear not; one of the many functions I perform in my real job in data-analyzing US wars is to track all the dead, burnt bodies of US soldiers as they are transported back to Dover AFB. “We” have not lost track, but apparently CNN and the NY Times has. It seems pointless to count war dead now that the object of their counting has left office, doesn’t it.
 though not the whole Reagan administration. Democrats, apart from being notoriously soft-skulled, are also soft-hearted, and the Hinckley episode made them temporarily forget that they despised the guy for being “only an actor” who was, even so, a better politician than any of the professionals they threw up against him. Much like Barama today.
 Take, for example [please], the leaders of the world’s two most impoverished peoples: the Palestinians and the North Koreans. Li’l Kim is fabulously wealthy while his adoring peasants starve, and Yassir Arafat died a few years ago leaving his widow a billionaire while his countrymen hold bake sales to raise cash to buy Katusha rockets to lob at IDF.
 …to the degree North Korea was willing to cavort with anybody.
 it’s tough to be kind to people who are constantly trying to violently overthrow the government – ask the Shah of Iran
 This was at a time, remember, in which France was doing to no less than a half dozen nations of west and central Africa what the United States was preparing to do in Iraq. There is nothing particularly alarming about hypocrisy in any nation’s foreign policy – after all, they are looking out for themselves – but it becomes tiresome when the ignorant masses willfully fail to recognize it for what it is.
 And, conversely, other nations do what we want for those very same reasons; when smaller siblings believe push has come to shove, they are going to side with big brother; when teenagers finally mow the lawn and clean up their rooms it’s because they either want something, or they are afraid of the consequences of not doing it. Not siding with big brother only means younger sibling doesn’t believe push has yet to come to shove; not mowing the lawn only means teenagers don’t want anything and they aren’t afraid of consequences.