Barring a catastrophe a terrorist attack on American soil, a calamitous gaffe, or the documented revelation that he really is a Muslim after all it looks like Barack Obama is going to be the 44th president of these United States. Not only that, but I’d bet the farm we’ll have a Democratic Congress, one with a working majority that relegates the Republicans to the role of back bench naysayers whose dissent barely registers. Last year, Paul Craig Roberts expressed the hopes of many American voters when he wrote:
"If we are fortunate, Republicans will complete their self-destruction before they extinguish the Constitution and destroy America."
It looks like he’s going to get his wish.
What killed the GOP was the war and its inevitable aftermath the economic blowback that is even now whipping across the landscape and downing Wall Street’s mightiest edifices. Not only that, but the general air of uncertainty and fear generated by the war and its economic and psychological ripple effects have created a crisis of confidence, one that threatens our well-being in an immediate way.
Entrepreneurs don’t like uncertainty, because business relations require regularity, or at least some degree of predictability. They also assume a degree of honesty, but truth has been in short supply lately, as the history of the Iraq war, from conception to inception, sadly demonstrates. After the American people found out they’d been deceived that there were no "weapons of mass destruction," that we never had a chance of being greeted as "liberators," and that, far from paying for itself, as Paul Wolfowitz infamously averred, we’d be stuck with a $3 trillion bill they cut the GOP loose and haven’t yet looked back.
This has always been the Republicans’ war, no matter how enthusiastically most of the Democratic leadership initially supported it. The war we’re supposedly "winning" has been the overarching theme of the McCain campaign, and he doesn’t seem comfortable talking about anything else unless it’s why we must guarantee the borders of every obscure ex-Soviet "republic" for all time. The prime-time speakers at the Republican convention echoed the party line on the war, ad nauseam, and the entire event was one long paean to militarism and the glory of war. There were more uniforms in that convention hall than at the graduating ceremonies of West Point and Annapolis combined, and all the talk was of valor on the battlefield. Perhaps they should change their name to the Praetorian Party.
They put all their eggs in one basket, and those eggs were hatched by the cowbirds of conservatism, the fabled neoconservatives. The history of this crew is too well-known to go into here in any detail: indeed, their narcissism has provided researchers with an overabundance of material that documents their hegira from far Left to far Right. Suffice to say that this vexatious faction entered the bloodstream of the conservative movement during the Cold War years, when pro-war (that’s the Vietnam War) Democrats jumped ship and joined the GOP in protest over "McGovernism," i.e., a Democratic Party that rejected the politics of LBJ, Hubert Humphrey, and the neocons’ favorite Democratic politician, Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-Boeing).
The sudden infusion of a bunch of highbrow leftist intellectuals into the conservative movement was welcomed by the organs of respectable conservative opinion, such as National Review. A few dissenters, such as Russell Kirk, Pat Buchanan, and the editors of Chronicles magazine, warned their fellows of trouble to come, but they were ignored. The neocons were bringing not only intellectual respectability and attention from liberal redoubts in the media and academia, but also hauling in plenty of dough. The big conservative foundations poured money into neocon projects and subsidized their up-and-coming intellectual dromedaries, driving out dissenters and imprinting the movement with their peculiar obsessions first and foremost, an unmitigated militarism.
Whatever else the neocons believed in and this often seemed to change with the political seasons the one constant was and is a firm belief in the efficacy of U.S. military intervention around the world. The leading neocon magazine, the Weekly Standard, once published a screed by Max Boot entitled "The Case for American Empire" a title that seems curiously archaic today. However, back in the neocons’ heyday, when the Iraq war was still a "cakewalk," the big disagreement among Those in the Know was whether America should formally acknowledge being an empire (Niall Ferguson) or not (Robert Kagan). This intra-neocon fight was just a strategic dispute: no one disputed the wisdom of global intervention.
When Ron Paul warned his fellow Republicans that the empire is unsustainable, he was vilified by the neocons and the party establishment, derided as a kook, and practically drummed out of the party by the arbiters of political correctness, neocon style. They didn’t even let him on the convention floor during McCain’s coronation, and they refused to count his votes.
Now that the disaster Paul predicted has befallen them, one can only stand and watch their spectacular implosion with the utmost satisfaction. What’s particularly entertaining is the speed with which the neocons are now deserting the sinking ship of the GOP, like those small mammalian creatures they resemble in mien and spirit. Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, David Frum having destroyed the GOP and the conservative movement, they leave it a dried-up husk and move on to their next unwitting host.
It’s in somewhat dubious taste to say "I told you so," but that hasn’t stopped me yet, so I’ll say it again, as I did in February of last year:
"We are in for some very dramatic times. With the leading figures in Congress and among the presidential candidates so far from the popular will on the major question of the day the war and with major economic problems on the horizon (if Alan Greenspan is right, Tuesday’s huge drop in the stock market may be a hint of things to come), this country could be headed for some major turmoil.
"The consequences of our foreign policy do not just redound overseas: the political and cultural ‘blowback’ of the Iraq war, and whatever other wars come out of our initial intervention, is already straining the limits of our constitutional form of government, as well as putting tremendous economic pressure on a system that could break down at any moment. We have borrowed our children into penury, and now we’re working on their children, who are going to inherit much less than we had to start with.
"With all these rising crises looming, the American Empire promises to be the shortest-lived imperial expansion in world history. After a long and brilliant record as a successful ongoing project in limited government and representative democracy, will the American experiment end in a flashy display of military prowess punctuated by a noisy economic and political implosion?"
The events of the past few weeks have definitively answered that question in the affirmative.
I predict it won’t be long before we’re hearing the rhetoric of war employed by the re-designers of our economy: instead of a "war on terrorism," we’ll soon be fighting a "war on recession" and it will be considered close to treasonous if anyone so much as mentions the D-word in this regard.
In any case, the new reality or, rather, the newly realized reality imposes radical restraints on us that rule out foreign wars of aggression, or "liberation," and require a concentration of our resources at home. Yet such a sudden change is going to take some getting used to by the lords of Washington, who are accustomed to thinking of the world as their playground. In the wake of such a sea-change, very often people go right on acting as if absolutely nothing had occurred, oblivious to the new reality until they run right into it, head first. That’s what’s happened, so far: the imperial pretensions of our presidential candidates, for example, show no signs of abating. They’re still talking about bailing out the Georgian economy (the one in the Caucasus), when people right here in this country are being foreclosed out of their homes. They don’t understand the full implications of what’s happening to their beloved empire, but they will soon enough.
The first politician to grasp the new reality, and successfully adapt to it, will go far. It’s a pity that none of the current crop seem to get it.