When the Bubble Bursts

The Fed and American hubris

by , December 19, 2011

As the trial of Bradley Manning begins, the focus is on the boring and utterly irrelevant detail of his sexual “orientation”: the defense is, understandably, trying to get the charges dismissed by playing up this aspect of the case. His lawyers are making the argument that his disorientation as a gay (or transgender) man in a notoriously anti-gay institution was – somehow – responsible for his actions, and that his superiors should have taken note of this and denied him access to sensitive material.

Which is all well and good, but if you look at the government’s charges [.pdf] – well, that’s the interesting part of this case. Because the big charge, which carries with it a sentence of life imprisonment, is “aiding the enemy,” which begs the question: who is the enemy?

If we look at what Manning is accused of doing – revealing the inner workings of US diplomacy over a period of a decade or so, covering our activities on every continent – it’s clear that what the US government means by “the enemy” is the rest of the world outside official Washington.

Did Manning’s actions reveal the corruption of the Tunisian government, which led to the first uprising of the Arab Spring – the very same Arab Spring the US now hails as a giant leap forward on the road to “democracy”? Well then, who is “the enemy” in this instance – the Tunisian people? The Egyptians in the streets fighting the military? The protesters in Syria currently being egged on by the US State Department?

The most dramatic consequence of Manning’s “crime” was the release of a video that showed US pilots mowing down a Reuters journalist, his driver, and a car full of children, whilst chortling over their grisly deaths. Which “enemy” did this aid – the journalistic profession? The families of those slain Iraqis?

The revelations about US operations in Afghanistan were the most criticized: the anti-Manning/anti-WikiLeaks brigade claimed the Taliban would soon make use of this information to kill American soldiers. Yet that never happened: to date, not a single American death has been traced to the WikiLeaks revelations.

No, the real “enemy” here isn’t the Taliban, it isn’t al-Qaeda (or what’s left of it), nor is it any foreign government or entity: it’s the American people. That’s who the US government lives in deathly fear of – the fear that if only Americans knew and understood what was being done all over the world in their name, they’d put a stop to it once and for all.

Secrecy is the prerequisite for tyranny, and knowledge is the tyrant’s worst foe: that’s why whistleblowers – from Dan Ellsberg to Bradley Manning – are relentlessly pursued and prosecuted. That’s why anyone who tries to give context to their revelations – such as this web site – is attacked and spied on by the government and its shills. That’s also why the sickening smear campaign launched against both Manning and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has taken on the dual aspects of both a witch hunt and a crusade. You’ll note, too, that both Manning and Assange are being assailed as sexual perverts – that’s the peculiar style of our outraged elites, who combine their own prurient decadence with a vicious and very personal hatred for anyone who defies them.

The United States government is at war with the rest of the world – and so it’s only natural that they would charge someone who has revealed their dark shenanigans worldwide with “aiding the enemy.”

With the fall of the Soviet Union, US elites were imbued with a fatal delusion [.pdf] married to a false assumption: that they could fill the vast power vacuum opened up by the Soviet implosion, and that the Middle East and Eastasia would be low-hanging fruit easily picked. It was, they declared, “the end of history,” and “liberal democracy” would henceforth be the “final” form of human government. The argument between competing ideologies was over: actually, it had been over for quite some time, these neoconservative ideologues asserted: ever since Napoleon’s victory in the battle of Jena. It had just taken us a while to recognize it.

That this sort of nonsense reached its climax in the late nineties and the beginning of the new millennium, just as the economic bubble was approaching its delusional apex, is surely no accident. The puffed-up inflated sense of omnipotence and self-importance, which the Greeks called hubris, that inspired Charles Krauthammer to proclaim “the unipolar moment” coincided perfectly with the inflationary policies of the Greenspan years, when the Fed was printing money hand over fist, without thought for the consequences – an act of pure hubris for which we are today paying dearly. It was the age of inflation in more ways than one.

The bursting of the economic bubble has rendered Krauthammer’s “unipolar” pretensions rather quaint: it seems the boom-and-bust cycle also rules the marketplace of ideas, as well as Wall Street, and on the stock exchange of foreign policy views imperialism, as represented by neoconservatism, is today a penny stock.

Yet there are powerful interests that are seeking to drive its price up by manipulating the market, and most especially the political market.

The two-party system is the War Party’s built-in security system, which ensures them a political advantage no matter how agitated the general public becomes. With only two parties to maintain control over, and draconian ballot access laws explicitly designed to effectively ban “third” parties from competing in elections, the War Party in modern times has usually managed to keep the US on a steady course of empire-building.

This political monopoly has rarely been challenged, in large part due to public acceptance of and even pride in the ever-expanding American Empire. Ever since the end of the second World War – the fabled “American Century” of Henry Luce’s imagination and Mitt Romney’s nostalgic yearnings – a certain hubristic bravado was expected and admired in American political leaders. As the Imperial Presidency took root in the fertile soil of the cold war, such old-fashioned republican (lower-case r) virtues as modesty, humility, and a sense of limits were seen as not only archaic but also signs of weakness rather than an admirable restraint.

In domestic affairs, this meant an activist government that sought to assume an important if not central role in American life: in foreign affairs, this meant an activist policy that sought to extend American influence across the globe.

As the President became the final – and sole – decision-maker in our relations with the rest of the world, the announced goals of US foreign policy took on an ever-accelerating grandiosity. From the Truman Doctrine, which declared that the US would henceforth consider itself the defender of the “free world,” it was a natural progression to John F. Kennedy’s vow that we would “pay any price, bear any burden” in fighting for ‘freedom” overseas, and this culminated in Richard Nixon’s crusade for “freedom” in Southeast Asia. When the Soviet Union collapsed, this developed into a form of megalomania, climaxing in “the indispensable nation” of Madeleine Albright’s imagination, and finally ending in the vulgar posturing of George “Bring it on!” Bush, who declared half-way through his disastrous presidency::

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

As the newly-elected President uttered those fateful words, the economic bubble had reached its peak: at the end of his presidency it would burst. Go back and look at that speech: the talk of the “fire in the mind,” a direct reference to the nihilistic revolutionaries of Dostoevsky’s The Possessed, the contention that History has “direction” and that the US government is its appointed agent – the inflated rhetoric is a perfect reflection of the artificially inflated “prosperity” of those years of easy credit and high times on Wall Street.

The Federal Reserve [.pdf], which controls the money supply in this country, is a “private-public” corporation whose principals are presidential appointees, but whose secretive actions are otherwise entirely outside of the democratic process and the public purview. They sit in a room and deliberate, in secret, determining how fast and far the bubble must be blown up to support our delusions of debt-based “prosperity.” And when the bubble bursts

That’s when they call out the troops – in order to keep the Fed’s printing presses rolling, pumping up the failing system with the “stimulus” of military spending. This is what corrals conservatives into playing the Keynesian game: while ostensibly opposed to “big government” and strongly in favor of cutting government spending, today’s fake conservatives are the first to howl when cuts in the “defense” budget are proposed. Spending a trillion taxpayer dollars on unnecessary wars is the kind of government “stimulus package” they can get behind.

The bombastic rantings of Newt Gingrich and radio-shouters like the neocon loudmouth Mark Levin are the last echoes of an economically exhausted American militarism. As Ron Paul has the temerity to point out at every one of these interminable Republican debates: we are broke. Imperialism is a luxury we can no longer afford.

One expects any day now to see in the news that one of our aircraft carriers has been foreclosed and repossessed by our Chinese creditors. I say let them tow it away and anchor it off the coast of Los Angeles, near Disney Land, where it will re-open as a museum filled with relics of the “American Century.” Perhaps it will serve as a warning to future generations of the perils of Empire. More likely it will remain largely unvisited, as Americans facing an uncertain future are less inclined to take an interest in the past.

Our politicians are still living in that past as they gad about the world proclaiming this and announcing that, drawing lines in the sands of lands they have no knowledge of and no right to rule. They haven’t woken up, as yet, to the new reality. Oh, but don’t worry – they will. And when they do, it will be too late for repentance, or a turnabout: they’ll keep doing what they’ve been doing until it kills them – and us.

Read more by Justin Raimondo