The Politics of ‘Creative Destruction’

International Herald Tribune columnist William Pfaff recently reported that the Bush administration’s new Bureau of Reconstruction and Stabilization, a State Department subgroup, has been tasked to prepare for a frighteningly expansive future of warfare.

“The bureau has 25 countries under surveillance as possible candidates for Defense Department deconstruction and State Department reconstruction,” writes Pfaff. “The bureau’s director is recruiting ‘rapid-reaction forces’ of official, nongovernmental, and corporate business specialists. He hopes to develop the capacity for three full-scale, simultaneous reconstruction operations in different countries.”

Pfaff notes that this ambitious undertaking “occurs at the same time American military forces still are unable to pacify Iraq or Afghanistan, agricultural societies of less than 25 million people each, both largely in ruins.”

By the September end of the federal government’s fiscal year, the U.S. will have spent some $350 billion on the wars in those countries and on other “anti-terrorist” activities around the globe since 9/11. But the massive spending hasn’t ended there.

According to the Cato Institute’s Veronique de Rugy (04):

“Total federal outlays will rise 29 percent between fiscal years 2001 and 2005 according to the president’s fiscal year 2005 budget released in February. Real discretionary spending increases in fiscal years 2002, 2003, and 2004 are three of the five biggest annual increases in the last 40 years. Large spending increases have been the principal cause of the government’s return to massive budget deficits.

“Although defense spending has increased in response to the war on terrorism, President Bush has made little attempt to restrain nondefense spending to offset the higher Pentagon budget. … Congress has failed to contain the administration’s overspending and has added new spending of its own.”

And this at a time when America is already burdened with a national debt of $7.8 trillion.

In March, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan took a look at the government’s spending habits in conjunction with its current and future financial obligations and warned that the “large deficits [will] result in rising interest rates and ever-growing interest payments that augment deficits in future years.” His startling conclusion? “These projections make clear that the federal budget is on an unsustainable path….”

U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas puts it another way:

“Debt destroys U.S. sovereignty, because the American economy now depends on the actions of foreign governments. While we brag about our role as world superpower in international affairs, we are in truth the world’s greatest debtor. … Ultimately, debt is slavery.”

When it comes to an appetite for demolishing the existing order, whether militarily or economically, the Bush administration is clearly entering uncharted territory. But most Americans have thus far assumed that the decimation is to be wrought entirely abroad. They may, however, want to rethink those assumptions.

In his 2002 book The War Against the Terror Masters, in a rare moment of unguarded intellectual honesty, neocon guru Michael Ledeen unwittingly let slip what is probably the best two-word description of the underlying agenda that has been pursued by the neocons over the last several years and is ongoing today: “Creative destruction.”

Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. … They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission.”

Given the Bush administration’s astoundingly reckless spending habits, the retrospective knowledge of its eagerness to lie the country into the Iraq quagmire, and the neocons’ enthusiasm for tearing down the old order – “both within our own society and abroad”is it possible that our current bind is the deliberate result of a policy of destruction?

Is it possible that it is not just the Middle East that the Bush administration, Ledeen, and the other neocons want to destroy in order to reconstruct, but America as well? But why? Why would our own leadership want to deliberately put our country into a position of vulnerability?

In an article for popular libertarian Web site, Christopher Manion offers a clue. And as so often in the past, it looks like it may be crackpot socialist theory that is the driving force behind the neocons’ harebrained, post-9/11 scheme to remake America and the world.

“In the view of the leftist conservatives, the free world – Christendom – conjured up its historical contradiction (its negation), revolutionary totalitarianism culminating in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union has now disintegrated. To the neocon leftist conservative, this is not sufficient. The ‘thesis’ – our America of limited government, a thriving free market, and a virtuous, free people, respectful of others in the world – must also be negated, destroyed, just as the Soviet Union was, so that history can move forward – and inexorably upward. …

“[F]or Hegel and his Trotskyite progeny – the materialist secular leftists who constitute the neocon leadership – history is ‘the movement of the concept.’ The concept matures, conjures up its negation, and both are then annihilated (the ‘negation of the negation’) by what Hegel called the ‘Aufhebung,’ which means both destruction and lifting up.”

Like many Americans, Manion entertains doubts about Bush’s intellectual capacity to comprehend the trap into which we are being led, let alone the inclination to derail the neocon Master Plan:

“George Bush might be sitting at the table, but it is fair to say he is not theoretically engaged in this enterprise. His habits of mind do not include the independent prudential powers and analytical tools necessary to descry the ‘second reality’ that his chosen circle of ideologues have created, into which they want to drag America and, eventually, the rest of the world, kicking and screaming (and dying), if necessary.”

The “second reality” Manion mentions is a historical reference to the delusional fantasy often created by ideologues that their destructive ambitions actually have transcendental qualities. They construct this fantasy so that they can “settle in comfortably (to their) web of lies and never have to live in, or even look at, reality again. This serves the purpose both of self-deception and of mass deception and manipulation,” says Manion.

The acceptance of reality has long been a staple of conservatism. Remember Ronald Reagan’s famous quote: “Facts are stubborn things.” But not for the Bush administration.

Former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind found out as much in a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. Recalling the incident in the Oct. 17, 2004, issue of The New York Times magazine, Suskind wrote:

“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”

In effect, the neocons are saying to their duped supporters and anyone else foolish enough to listen: Don’t worry about the reckless spending, the bloody wars, the imperial overreach and the mounting burden on Americans. It’s all part of the plan. We create history. We create reality. And we can create a new historical reality where none of that matters.

Back to Manion: “Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and Mao made it clear that bloodthirsty, violent revolutionary conquest could alter the truth whenever the ‘correlation of forces’ required.” But “the construction of an ‘alternate reality’ with a different logic and different content is required for the successful ideology. Why? Because reality poses a problem for the power-hungry politician.”

The idea that the Bush administration can “create its own reality” should thus be seen for what it is: pseudo-intellectual cover for what is obviously a naked power grab in the service of a deeply anti-conservative cause – the advancement of a “historical imperative” wherein the country and the world are decimated in order to fulfill socialist theory and “advance history.”

In his article on America’s vast new bureaucracies and huge warfare ambitions, William Pfaff noted:

“One of the most significant aspects of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century was that they ‘made reality’ out of fictions. They were based on ideological fantasies that were false, but these fantasies were made into the reality upon which national policy was based. They thus came catastrophically true – until their inner falsehood brought disaster.”

Those who believe it is a stretch to link neocons with Marx-inspired revolutionary ambitions should read Michael Lind’s excellent assessment of neoconservatism that appeared in the Feb. 23, 2004 issue of The Nation – a magazine that, given its deep liberal roots, recognizes leftist thought patterns when it sees them:

“The idea that the United States and similar societies are dominated by a decadent, postbourgeois ‘new class’ was developed by thinkers in the Trotskyist tradition like James Burnham and Max Schachtman, who influenced an older generation of neocons,” says Lind.

“The concept of the ‘global democratic revolution’ has its origins in the Trotskyist Fourth International’s vision of permanent revolution. The economic determinist idea that liberal democracy is an epiphenomenon of capitalism, promoted by neocons like Michael Novak, is simply Marxism with entrepreneurs substituted for proletarians as the heroic subjects of history.”

Paul Gottfried, professor of humanities at Elizabethtown College, recognizes the overlapping interests as well. In an article examining those who most regularly hurl the epithet “Islamofascist,” Gottfried notes that in addition to the neocon Right, some of the most prosaic offenders reside on the Left.

“Clearly, some who rail against Islamofascism, like (Christopher) Hitchens and Peter Beinart and Andrew Sullivan of The New Republic, have domestic fish to fry. They all see the possibility of tying together the war against Islamic theocratic fascists abroad with one against the hated Religious Right at home,” wrote Gottfried in the July 4, 2005, issue of The American Conservative.

“[P]lunging one’s country into foreign crusades has often been a means for changing things at home,” Gottfried adds. “The enemies of Islamofascism are not the first to play this game.”

No wonder so many in the Democrat establishment continue to support the internationalist “democracy” project being undertaken hand-in-hand with (or under the guise of) the “War on Terror” long after the Iraq war has been exposed as having been built on a foundation of half-truths and outright lies.

Envisioning a future in which the Republican machine collapses under its own weight (and the weight of the Bush administration’s incompetence), they understand they will be the heirs to the shiny new police state the administration has constructed. This explains why they go along with so many foreign and domestic neocon initiatives, feign opposition to a few others, and only dig in their heels when the ability of the state to exercise power is independently threatened – for instance, over the confirmation of potentially conservative federal judges who might be inclined to limit the power and prerogative of the federal government in the future.

In retrospect, doesn’t it make perfect sense that those inclined toward totalitarianism would seek to infiltrate the opposition conservative/libertarian Right in order to co-opt its weak links (the half-baked conservatives) and destroy the rest?

After all, when highly centralized, big-government policies designed for purposes of social-engineering (both at home and abroad) are instigated by unreconstructed leftists, they can be easily identified by traditionalists for what they are through linkage alone – and summarily rejected. But when they are advocated from the right, and ushered in through a Trojan horse like the “War on Terror,” they can be passed off as essential to national security and even “conservative.” Many of those who would normally be opposed are thus enlisted; the rest are dismissed as paranoid or “unpatriotic.” And instead of burning the seeds of socialism, former skeptics become enthusiastic Johnny Appleseeds and go about spreading them to the winds with a naive gaiety.

And so we have come full circle. The sacrifices made by millions of Americans in both blood and treasure over the course of generations to defeat messianic totalitarian ideologies may well have been in vain. “History’s actors” – who are in reality hyper-ambitious, totalitarian-minded ideologues – couldn’t destroy America from without, and so they have found a way to worm themselves into the American leadership to do it from within – and for our own good, no less.

Author: Steve Breyman

Steve Breyman will teach "War in Afghanistan" at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute fall semester. Breyman is a veteran of the U.S. Army.