A Last Word

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h/t thisisnthappiness.com

As little as that last post, though written as a “last comment” or at least my last comment for a very long and contentious set of discussion threads, can be known to be a last comment at all, whether if at all it will stand as a last word, or as little as an old favorite poem under the same title has ever turned out to be what it says it is, is this post what it purports to be, unless it happens after all to be. (It’s never happened, but it has happened, though it could never have happened.) Somewhere, I am confident, someone, Dostoevsky at least implicitly, maybe Monty Python, has parodied the self-legendary man preparing delivery of his last words, then discovering to his very highly qualified disappointment that they were not his last words at all, not even close: He’s actually on the road to recovery or possibly as fit as ever (not necessarily very). Even in such an instance of utter self-embarrassment before God or no one or one’s own nothingness, both impending or always already or thus finally established, one’s not so final words still would be in the genre if not perhaps in fact. We know as well that the tradition of last words is often a false tradition: Someone it seems always comes along to raise doubts as to whether the last words of the recalled personage really were uttered, or, if uttered at all, really were last, the really last words being presumably always only lost.1 The last not lost words will thenceforth be treated not as the last words of the living being, but the last words of the living being’s falsified and falsifying public character, a quotation to be re-quoted always as though in an extra set of quotes, and which in this way will record the death a second final time, with second final finality, of the more fully realized de-realization of the life as in theory lived by the one who has in theory died, but now, as ever, is restored to a properly un-real immortality among us, or anyway for as long as we care to care and happen to be – all in all and nothing, nothing in all, re-stating the ultimate original question of what we ever justifiably at all could ever have thought so ever could think had ever lived so would ever have lived at all. Therefore, we are compelled to say, or so we say, or so someone says, or something seems to seem to say someone or something says, last words though only ever never last words are still last words precisely as last words ever only are words that last a little as last until they do not at all as they never did.

A Last Word

Let us go hence: the night is now at hand;
The day is overworn, the birds all flown;
And we have reaped the crops the gods have sown;
Despair and death; deep darkness o’er the land,
Broods like an owl: we cannot understand
Laughter or tears, for we have only known
Surpassing vanity: vain things alone
Have driven our perverse and aimless band.
Let us go hence, somewhither strange and cold,
To Hollow Lands where just men and unjust
Find end of labour, where’s rest for the old,
Freedom to all from love and fear and lust.
Twine our torn hands! O pray the earth enfold
Our life-sick hearts and turn them into dust.

 –Ernest Dowson, 1896, 1899

All of which is to say, at last, finally, this, again: For multiple convergent practical, financial, personal-constitutional, and probably other reasons, I need to take a break from blogging as “blogging” – i.e., as responding to current discussion “out there” – and also from blog-commenting. I may continue to publish pieces here as time permits and dispirit weakens, will remain likely I suspect to engage in side-discussion and to respond to comments, but I gottalotta nothing to do right about now, too much to do to write about right about right about now.

Notes:

  1. Later thought: Seems to me that one of the best examples of the difficulties of the tradition would be the differing treatments of Jesus Christ crucified in the Gospels, then the complication of The Last Supper, then the further complication of the Day of Judgment, and further complications again of the reign on Earth or in Heaven… The last word of Christianity on last words is that in the most important sense there are none. []

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Noted & Quoted

(0)

Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey’s citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome. This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin on a successful referendum result in Crimea if that event had been held in 2017 rather than 2014.

Public disquiet and behind-the-scenes pressure on key illiberal allies is an imperfect policy position. It is still a heck of a lot more consistent with America’s core interests than congratulating allies on moving in an illiberal direction. In congratulating Erdogan, Trump did the latter.

For all the talk about Trump’s moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it’s time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts:

  1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States;
  2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works;
  3. The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values.
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He sensed that the public wanted relief from the burdens of global leadership without losing the thrill of nationalist self-assertion. America could cut back its investment in world order with no whiff of retreat. It would still boss others around, even bend them to its will...

There was, to be sure, one other candidate in the 2016 field who also tried to have it both ways—more activism and more retrenchment at the same time. This was, oddly enough, Hillary Clinton... Yet merely to recall Clinton’s hybrid foreign-policy platform is to see how pallid it was next to Trump’s. While she quibbled about the TPP (which few seemed to believe she was really against), her opponent ferociously denounced all trade agreements—those still being negotiated, like the TPP, and those, like NAFTA and China’s WTO membership, that had long been on the books. “Disasters” one and all, he said. For anyone genuinely angry about globalization, it was hard to see Clinton as a stronger champion than Trump. She was at a similar disadvantage trying to compete with Trump on toughness. His anti-terrorism policy—keep Muslims out of the country and bomb isis back to the Stone Age—was wild talk, barely thought through. But for anyone who really cared about hurting America’s enemies, it gave Trump more credibility than Clinton’s vague, muddled talk of “safe zones” ever gave her.

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As they war with the right, though, Trump and Kushner would gain no quarter from Democrats—unless Democrats were allowed to set the all the terms. This is Bannon’s central point. Democrats have no incentive to prop up Trump’s presidency for half-loaf compromises that many will suspect are contaminated with seeds of Trumpism. Trump can adopt or co-opt the Democrats’ infrastructure platform outright if he likes, but he can’t easily entice them to compromise with him, and he can’t entice House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to advance a trillion dollar direct-spending bill filled with environmental and labor protections that the GOP exists to oppose.

Which is just to say, Kushner wants Trump to chart a new course that leads to a substantive dead end for at least another 19 months. Bannon’s path, at least, preserves the hope of keeping his base consolidated through the legislative ebb. He can deregulate, scapegoat, and unburden law enforcement to turn his Herrenvolk fantasy into reality—all while keeping congressional investigators at bay.

There’s no real logical rebuttal to this, except to point to three months of chaos and humiliation as indicative of the futility of continuing to do things Bannon’s way. That is really an argument that Trump should get rid of both of his top advisers, but Trump is unlikely to grasp that in a contest between loyalists, both might deserve to lose. Family loyalty, and the beating his ego will take when the stories of his first 100 days are written, will pull him toward his son-in-law. And that’s when the real fun will begin.

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State of the Discussion

bob
Ignored
Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ Wade, your last paragraph is crucial to your argument. Certainly it expresses economically the source of the weight of a country's foreign policy, and [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
CK MacLeod
Ignored
Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ Not sure where you got the idea that I ever wrote “[President Trump] doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!" - bob's idea for a possible rallying [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
Wade McKenzie
Ignored
Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ The conversation that you and Bob were having at the time that I wrote my comment had everything to do with the recent missile strike [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic

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