When people ask me the "what do you do?" question in casual conversation, and I answer "I write a column on foreign affairs," my interlocutor is invariably impressed: wow, you mean you write about all that really heavy, important stuff, the sort of stuff that’s Greek to us everyday ordinary types? That’s great!
Well, actually, it isn’t all that great, or, rather it’s not as great as they might imagine, because, you see, all too often I’m dealing with subject matter that’s light as a feather, intellectually – and also, essentially, bullsh*t. Due to the fact that a lot of what I write about concerns the pronouncements of public officials, whose ability to generate b-s is unrivaled. Take, for example, the recently released "National Security Strategy of the United States," [.pdf] a document issued by successive US administrations since the advent of the cold war to obfuscate our real aims behind a smokescreen of catchphrases, bromides, and oily evasions, all woven together in a decorative wreath of grandiose phrases. All of this is meant to put a benevolent face on what is a policy of unrelenting aggression directed at any target that represents even a potential threat to American hegemony.
In short, the national security strategy document is pure propaganda, aimed – first and foremost – at the American people. It is they, after all, who are paying for the implementation of this grand strategy: a world empire of bases, occupied countries, and interlocking alliances that enables US hegemony. Reading these national security strategy documents in chronological order, from beginning to end, is not only sure to produce a splitting headache, but apt to impress the reader with the remarkable consistency with which our rulers pursue their dream of global domination.
Oh sure, there are stylistic and strategic differences between Republican and Democratic administrations: the former insist, at least in theory, [.pdf] on going it alone, while the latter prefer to "partner" with their European social democratic friends. The right wing, or radical caucus, of the War Party is stylistically Napoleonic, thick with grandiloquent phrases like "global democratic revolution," while the "left" partisans of the same murderous policy are notable for their sanctimony, invoking "humanitarian" goals as cover for brazen imperialism.
However, both camps share certain ideologies and themes which vividly illustrate the old saw that "politics stops at the water’s edge." And both employ the same methodology of deception in their mutual quest to put one over on the American people and drag us into their world-planning, empire-building schemes — in the name of "national security."
As propaganda, the Obama-ite national security canon isn’t all that convincing. This CNN story reports a lot of skepticism from the foreign policy community, and with good reason. As CNN put it,
"The report says the US has been hardened by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that in future the emphasis will be on diplomacy, with war as a last resort. ‘Our long-term security will not come from our ability to instill fear in other peoples but through our capacity to speak to their hopes,’ it says."
This from a government that is currently fighting two and a half wars – in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – and is threatening to launch a third, against Iran. This from a regime that is covertly sending out operatives to Iranian Baluchistan, Somalia, and god knows where else to wage covert wars of assassination, repression, and terror.
As my old friend and mentor Murray Rothbard used to say: Are we to be spared nothing?
Yes, we’ve been "hardened" by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although I doubt the author of this simile has been hardened in quite the same sense as I have. He (or she, although I doubt it) apparently believes this hardening is a good thing: that these wars have strengthened us, because, after all, wars do that. Unless, of course, you’re on the losing side.
I, on the other hand, have been hardened in the sense that I’m inured to my own dark expectations. I fully expect our rulers to start one unjustified war after another, even unto eternity, until and unless their reign is finally ended. Although I come to this conclusion on account of my own ideological inclinations, my pessimism doesn’t require any special insight or ideological lens to become visible to one and all. Indeed, it is the common view of most ordinary Americans – i.e. those who live outside the penumbra of official Washington – who oppose our crazed foreign policy but resign themselves to it as they would to a bout of miserable weather.
There are indications, however, that this passivity is coming to an end, and a new era of angry activism is upon us. The social and political currents are running fast and furious, and in an effort to head off those peasants with pitchforks at the pass, our rulers are careful to hold out the hope of "change," i.e. peace. But there’s a catch….
The catch is that this new era of peace is relegated to the vague "future." Before we can enter this paradise, we are told, we must fight and win the wars we are currently fighting. There is, to be sure, no rethinking involved: just a mechanical continuation of what has come before. That’s "change", all right – in Bizarro World.
This unchanging "change" is exemplified in some of the methods used by the current crowd, which resemble those of the Bush administration and their tall tales of WMD at their worst. The neocons had those aluminum tubes, to say nothing of those "al-Qaeda training camps" in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the Obama-ites have their Pakistani training camps and their supposed link to the Times Square would-be bomber, Faisal Shahzad. The Bush team had 9/11 to energize their holy crusade to bring "democracy" to the Middle East, and it looks like the Obama crowd is stuck with a feckless attempt at a mini-9/11 – attempted by an American citizen whose mortgage went bad, had marital troubles, and is now talking non-stop, saying just what his captors want to hear.
Although Shahzad may never credibly claim to be a "hero in error," as did Ahmed Chalabi, his "revelations" serve the same purpose: lying us into war. Whether this administration will be allowed to get away with it as the last one did is still an open question, although I am not optimistic we’ll break with precedent: the media is in Obama’s pocket, for the most part, and that part of it which isn’t is unlikely to report anything that threatens to interrupt our state of permanent war.
By the way, you’ll notice Rachel Maddow has shut up about Shahzad ever since the Justice Department laid out its narrative of a vast conspiracy stretching from suburban Connecticut to the wilds of Waziristan. There’s no questioning the official line on such an important matter: Rachel can pretend to be an independent journalist, rather than a mouthpiece for the administration, in other ways, such as kvetching about the oil spill and the fact that army chaplains aren’t officiating at gay weddings.
The "national security" policy of the United States has nothing to do with the security of its citizens, or territory: indeed, our foreign policy of perpetual aggression undermines both. What our rulers want to secure is their own rule, over as much of the earth as possible: in short, they pursue their own interests, separate and distinct from the "national interest" – indeed, the two are antithetical in every respect. Their every public proclamation and public relations effort is geared to deny this polarity between their interests, and ours, between the ruler and the ruled.
That’s the spirit in which one ought to read this latest declaration – and be sure to switch on your B-S Detector. Make sure, however, you set the alarm to "low."