- Patriot Act extended: no reforms have been made from the Bush/Cheney era
- Warrantless wiretapping? Obama just signed an extension for five more years
- increased secrecy, repression and restriction of releases from Gitmo, let alone that it hasn't been shut down
- a new scheme for indefinite detention on Unistat soil
- a new theory of Presidential assassination powers, even of Unistat citizens
- Miranda rules diluted
"The voice of history of often little more than the organ of hatred or flattery." - Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
You may have heard that Unistat is getting out of Afghanistan at the end of next year. Last month the Pentagon's top lawyer said we should see the Afghan war as "finite" but clearly, that was for the consumption of dupes and starry-eyed wishers. There's every reason to believe Unistat will be in Afghanistan for 10 more years, possibly forever. We are not "exiting" at the end of 2014. If you believe that, I know a Nigerian Prince who has some money he wants to share with you. The devil is in the semantics of the thing. And O! what semantics. You want semantics? I'll give you semantics.
"This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile." - George W. Bush, on 9/16/01, to the press, South Lawn of the White House
Medievalism/Neomedievalism and Neoconservatism
In 1977, British political theorist Hedley Bull published The Anarchical Society: A Study of World Order in Politics. Considered a "realist" thinker in International Relations, Bull was concerned with the rise of non-state and post-state actors in a field of thought that was governed by Cold War nation and state-based approaches. Bull's book has since become a classic in the field, and apparently every textbook in foreign relations now includes sections on neomedievalism.
Here's some of what Hedley Bull was onto in 1977. He had the foresight to see non-state and post-state actors on the world scene as playing a big enough role that we must begin to think in new ways. But first: who or what are "non-state actors"? Some would be: international terrorists, corporations and their own paramilitary squads, drug cartels, NGOs, and, even though he didn't mention them - because they didn't exist then, but he probably would have included them - computer hackers.
Some alternative paths, or solutions for world order with the rise of non-state actors, for Bull:
- world government
- "solidarity of states" (probably a strengthening of the UN)
- a disarmed world
- ideological homogeneity among existing states
- a modern medieval model
name of Medieval Studies, defending well
Holsinger, whose field of Medieval Studies covers roughly the 5th-15th centuries, includes the rise of Islam, the fall of the Roman Empire, the Crusades, Charlemagne, Mohammed, the Koran, courtly love, the Book of Kells, the English kings Shakespeare would immortalize in plays such as Richard III and Henry IV, Marco Polo, Petrarch, St. Francis of Assisi, the Aztec Empire, Dante, Chaucer, feudalism, the Jin dynasty, Hildegard of Bingen, and Genghis Khan; Holsinger objects to the appropriation and semantic use of "medieval" by the post-9/11 Unistat political regimes. In one place he admits it's now so pervasive that the word "medieval" may not recover from its new meaning, but that his Medieval Studies colleague, Carolyn Dinshaw of NYU, tongue in cheek, proposed starting a group Concerned Medievalists For Peace, in the wake of 9/11.
The Holsinger book is - to me - the most interesting work on the deeper political workings of the Pentagon, neoconservatives, and the utter disasters of Unistat foreign policy since I read Nicholas Xenos's slim book, Cloaked In Virtue, on the cult of neocons that emanated with Leo Strauss, and how he taught a secret inner "true" reading of philosophers like Hobbes, to his initiates. The great irony, since I became aware of the Neo Cons (after Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind came out), was that Strauss was one of the many great Jewish intellectuals imported from Europe during the rise of Hitler.
(short article, not by Xenos: "Leo Strauss's Philosophy of Deception")
"History is the only laboratory we have in which to test the consequences of ideas." - Etienne Gilson
What Holsinger does is show how the rhetoric of "medievalism" has been applied by NeoCons to get us into this mess. The infamous "torture memos," for instance. I've read some maddening things on how the lawyers inside Bush's White House twisted semantics in order to override the Geneva Convention III (the POW issue) to redefine prisoners of war as "enemy combatants" which overrides Geneva, all International Law, and even human rights. Obama has gone along with this.
about the truth - as I see it - of Unistat foreign
and domestic policy: read him!
Because the terrorists were stateless, or from "failed states" they aren't recognized under law. They are separated from us not only by religion and region, but by time: they are medieval. Therefore, modern ideas about law don't apply to them. Let us write the laws for them.
Holsinger goes on to show, in remarkable detail for such a short book, how the semantics of "medieval" has been used to circumvent...any semblance of sanity or humanity. In the name of "security."
What a terrific little book Holsinger has written. I just have one basic difference with him. On pp.15-16, Holsinger writes that Plato's Gorgias has "one of the great critiques of the rhetoric of anti-intellectualism in the Western tradition [...] In the words of Socrates to Gorgias, a professional rhetor, 'the rhetorician need not know the truth about things; he has only to discover some way of persuading the people that he has more knowledge than those who know."
This has always been true and always will be true. It's up to the citizens (or post- or non-state actor) to educate themselves so rhetors (in this case, anyone from the Unistat State Dept) will not believe them, and seek better ways to live on the planet with "medieval" people. I'm impressed with Holsinger, but I don't believe he knows "the truth." And I don't believe Socrates or Plato knew "the truth," either. I think Gorgias was pointing out something that Plato didn't like (and I would guess, Socrates didn't like it either, but what about his schtick: The classic "I don't know anything; I'm just askin' you" routine?) and preferred to not think was "the truth": that no one has a privileged fulcrum point from which to see The Truth, with no occlusions having to do with historical accident, class interest, personal interest, psychological disposition, etc.
(These "medieval" people are people who happened to use a money-transfer scheme - hawala - that eluded all of our ultra-sophisticated computer-tracking efforts, because they knew about our computer systems. Yea: they're "medieval." They used cell phones and shredders and FAX machines. They just want us OUT OF THEIR PART OF THE WORLD. Is that so difficult to understand? Also they're pissed we support Israel so one-sidedly; they despise us, not for "our freedoms" - you have to be a total imbecile to believe that! - but because we propped up vicious tyrannies in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Also they know we backed Iraq in the seven year Iran-Iraq war, that the CIA got rid of Iran's democratically-elected Mossadegh in 1953 and installed the brutal Shah and trained his secret police-killers, SAVAK. I could go on. They hate us for our policies. Some of these medieval people subscribe to a strain of radicalism that led to 9/11. But by no means all. All of this is "the truth" as I see it.)
Meanwhile, Unistat grows more and more medieval, in debt, the Robocop to the world, having lost its moral standing in the rest of the "free world," and seems intent on carrying out a neomedievalist foreign (and, in some ways, domestic) policy that looks more and more like the Catholic Church trying to run the globe, circa 500-1450. And thus we drift ever closer to catastrophe.
Glenn Greenwald, from a week or so ago, in The Guardian. Germane to this rant.
Late 2010 interview with the co-author of The Death of Neoconservatism
Five Ways Obama is Just Like George W. Bush
Monopolizing War: It's what we do best
Americans Are The Most Spied-On People In World History (Even the East Germans under the Stasi!)