Comments on us v is (What’s So Funny… 2) by john c. halasz

Briefly, 1) yes, it's your blog, but the "other participants" were on the CT thread that you've cited here. 3) Yes, 2 oceans and abundant natural resources, (though the latter are somewhat relative to economic/technological systems). But geo-political considerations apply quite generally and are never completely explanatory. 3b),5), 8) I'm not po-mo. This is just standard hermeneutics (Gadamer). Any sort of tradition, as effective history, only survives and renews itself through its successive applications and re-interpretations. And any origins only become identifiable when enough distance has been gained from them, which implies also that they have somewhat lost their hold. History, insofar as it is not just one damned thing after another, concerns the conjunctural emergences and transformations of meanings, understanding, norms and world-views, together with their correlated social/institutional structures, which is the prime interest in such a study, (and why "origins" must be plural and periodic), insofar as it contributes to current self-understandings. And it also follows that there are no "eternal",  extra-worldly or trans-historical truths, reflexively, especially about history itself, which doesn't vitiate any sort of validity claim, but simply limits it, as always potentially and even inevitably, if unforeseeably, revisable. Further, there is a third alternative between reductive causal immanence and unjustifiable metaphysical teleology: teleonomy. 6) Economics is not your strong suit, eh? 7), 8) Power can't be reduced to the classical couplet force or fraud. There are also both functional and normative components to its generation and exercize, no matter how ideologically obscured or distorted they might be. Perhaps a purely Schmittian account has some functional and normative deficits which would qualify its explanatory and explicative "force". 7), 8), 9), This is what I honestly don't understand about your POV. The U.S. just has to be (itself?), regardless of any of its doings, (however attributed)? Whereas ISTM that heedless U.S. doings, (and the "Peter principle" governing its supposed elites), has severely undermined its hegemony and its reputation effects. The Mideast is a perfect example, since its actions destabilized the area to the point where neither its ostensible friends or allies, nor its selected enemies show much respect for U.S. interests or objectives. And I don't think your reading of Daesh/Al Qaeda, in terms of a supposed "clash of civilizations" and "transcendent values" is remotely plausible. Like Ebola, they are malignant and dangerous, but far more a threat over there than here, and the hysteria is rather misplaced, insofar as it ignores the contributions of "our " mistakes, which have undermined credibility and legitimacy in the region. But as I think I've remarked before here, Daesh/Al Qaeda are just a species of religious nihilism, generated from the shocks of the modern world, (rather in the manner of Arendt's take on Nazism, as a wildly slap-dash and incoherent ideology, hollow at its core, and thus self-consuming), rather than any enduring opponent, "justifying" the over-extension of the national-security state, when no such "security" is at issue and no such means are appropriate, relevant or effective. There are all sorts of "reasons" why some might seek to fight-to-death, but that doesn't make those reasons "transcendent". (That's what the "Darwin awards" are for). I prefer the term "devolution" to notions of corruption, degeneration , decadence, as repeating reactionary tropes, but the decline of the "American century" is as inevitable as a self-inflicted wound. Bottom line: reality is not a TV show.

Well, I suppose I just don't understand what your getting at and you're talking past me (and likely many other participants). If you want to criticize (?) others' "presuppositions", then just what are yours and shouldn't you be laying your cards on the table? (And if we're not talking about Syria/the Mideast and U.S. involvement/responsibility there, just what are we supposed to be talking about?)

But from what I can make out of your apparent assumptions here, they strike me as fairly dubious. For one thing the assumption of a continuous American "exceptionalism" from the very origins of the country seems tendentious and teleological. There are no origins, except retrospectively and somewhat mythical, (as opposed to a welter of confused contingencies), and the history of the country is subject to emergences and transformation, resulting is periodizations or "epochs", though only retrospectively identifiable. (History involves both continuities and discontinuities, if it is to be regarded as intelligible, which is what is wrong with Foucault's structural mutations, just as much as traditional unreflective historiography of "the West" as originating in ancient Greece and Rome, as transmitted through the Renaissance and resulting in a triumphant and distinctive Western "humanism").

SO if you want to discuss the U.S. ascendency to global hegemony and its strange from of "neo-imperialism", (without assuming some sort of pre-destination), then perhaps some periodization is in order. And post-WW2, there are two, the Bretton Woods era, and the neo-liberal era, which emerged as a result of the failure of BW and the stagflationary crisis that resulted from it. There is also, of course, the Cold War era that overlaps the two, which ended with American triumphalism, (though with no accounting for its risks and damages, which likely continue with us). But the key point is that the Bretton Woods framework, in Keynes' conception, but also partly in White's, was intended to allow each nation a measure of control over its economic policies, to suit its own peculiar circumstance and allow for its development, with some degree of success. But the neo-liberal era of U.S. sponsored "globalization", (which corresponds to the switch from net creditor to net debtor status and resulted in the unprecedented condition that the global hegemon was an importer rather than exporter of surplus capital), has persistently undermined the sovereignty of nation-states and their capacity to conduct domestic policy, in favor of the extra-territorial power of finance capital and MNCs.

So ISTM that you're rationalizing such a "logic of disintegration" (Adorno) under the guise of intrinsic Americanism, when it is not self-evidently in the national and public interest of Americans, at least conceived as a majoritarian system. But nor is the legitimacy of such a system automatically guaranteed by any sheerly autonomous proceduralism, as if such were immune from manipulation, hollowing-out and "corruption". Yes, power is said to derive from the people, as "sovereign", as is the case in our "democratic" age with nearly all regimes, even the most despotic, but that, of course, is something of a legal fiction. But likewise, the location of "the people" in the essentially private interests of individuals rather than in the public status and compact of citizens,- (rather Hobbesian, that!),- rather undermines the claim to republican self-government, (and at the limit, encourages all sorts of infantilism and paranoia and their manipulation). And it encourages the faith, not uniquely, though especially American, that political problems are susceptible to technological solutions.


I can't quite shake the impression that your perspective seeks to disable all criticism, in the name of the sheer facticity of American power and its demand for "sacrifice", (which is especially absurd in the face of the clusterf*ck that is U.S. Mideast policy over the last 2 decades).. But perhaps rather than appealing to Schmitt, you should be heeding Arendt, with her emphasis on the key role of judgment. (The two could be considered 2 halves of a broken whole, when considering the political)."Great" leaders are to be distinguished by the quality and efficacy of their judgments, regardless of the cause, party or ideology that they serve. Obviously, few completely measure up, (Bismarck or Venizelos might serve as examples though), but the point is that they are just as well subject to the judgments of lesser mortals and to be held accountable in such terms. And when the leadership so persistently fails in its judgments and forfeits the trust, (another version of legitimacy), that they have claimed from the people, then they have dissipated the very power that they have claimed. IOW there is much to be said for the power of self-restraint, for observing limits.

But then perhaps my POV is just unreconcilable with yours. I'm first generation, the offspring of post-war European immigrants and have the betwixt-and-between perspective of an immigrant. I lack the self-confident complacency of "native" Americans and their unreflective assumption that voluntaristic individualism is somehow the natural and "universal" order.

I didn't further reply because I was busy,- (had to organize a meeting),- and by the time I was free, the thread had been over-run by some of the usual spam commenters.

However, here you seem dangerously close to counter-Enlightenment, as if unthinkingness were to be elevated into a supreme virtue,- (and then what next, stupidity and ignorance?)

And I don't think you have much sense, in the current Mid-east crisis, of how much the U.S. has already lost in terms of credibility and legitimacy, from both ostensible allies or friends and opponents and irremediable enemies. (This is also more general, as with the German finance minister blaming the U.S. for the GFC, which is not entirely incorrect, but, of course, blame-shifting for German stupidity in dealing with the Euro crisis).

You don't get to make drastic "mistakes" and then simply declare "time out" and ask for a do-over. The "mistakes" already have consequences and implications, and trying to cover up that fact, at home or abroad, is bootless. And by now, the concatenation of mistakes piling up has left few viable options. In the case of Daesh it is not simply enough to defeat it, but a viable source of local/regional "legitimate" rule in the aftermath needs to be formed. And the U.S. has no basis in the region for doing so. (Aside from the fact that one pick-up costs $30.000 and one bombing run costs $500,000).

Power, however generated or arrived at, can be used effectively or heedlessly squandered. There is something like a conservation law involved. And whether it is Albright/Clinton or Cheney/Rumsfeld or the shallow Obama and his patently hypocritical moralizers, too much has been presumptuously and imcompetently squandered for any "grand strategy" based on geo-political alliances to be recuperated and rendered effective, rather than just reactive and ad hoc. Gratuitous moralizing stands revealed as just empty moralizing, and abstracting into ahistorical "theological" history, as opposed to actual temporal history, just rationalizes the problems away.