If conservatives are wrong about everything else, they may be right about this one underlying fact: A certain idea of American greatness may be slipping into the past. From that perspective, "steady incremental decline" may even begin to look like one of the better open paths.Comment →
The plural-realist or perspectivist thought (or anti-thought) can never be understood as generally valid except by reference to a standard that would govern the truth and consistency of all such assertions. This problem has always stood in the way of taking the "post-modernist insight" seriously: If it means what it is meant to mean, then it is at best provisional, and otherwise meaningless.Comment →
Though information technology now pervades both the most advanced "military estate" via the so-called "Revolution in Military Affairs," as well as every sphere of political and cultural life, it maintains within itself the same original principles of self-sabotage and self-superannuation.Comment →
We may need to consider that what Daniel Larison calls “hegemonism” is on some level embedded within the American project itself, its revolutionary liberalism, its Enlightenment universalism, its Jeffersonian “federative” imperialism. A divorce from such pretensions, or even a declaration of their fulfillment and therefore their obsolescence, does not merely require but likely entails, is likely already entailing, a political and economic crisis corresponding to the deeper conceptual or ideological crisis. Even a re-conception of liberal-universalism, a notion of some truer realization of its essence, leaves the fate of American nationalism, and of the American nation, meaning the real lives of its people, or the real meaning of the lives of its people, in question. The transformation to a self-understanding of “one country just like the others” might still be experienced as a greatest loss, spiritual as well as material, by many or in some sense all Americans, even the ones promoting it and perhaps able to look at the world it creates and call it good and necessary.Comment →
We seem to be moving gradually toward a more sustainable spheres of influence structure, an uneven geopolitical web to be intermittently traversed by ad hoc coalitions acting on interpretations of their own particular and joint interests, or regional interests, or global economic or ecological or humanitarian interests. In some ways, this result is what conservative opponents of American internationalism (whether liberal idealist, hegemonist, or just imperialist) have always wanted, but, as those same internationalists have often warned their critics, escaping global-governance idealism may not equate with more conservative outcomes. Less political globalism does not necessarily mean less global activism, least of all for a maritime military-economic power like the USA.Comment →
Foreign policy is theology by proxy, not merely because all important modern theories of the state are secularized theological concepts, nor merely because the relationship of the citizen to the modern nation-state is a sacrificial commitment, but because a stance implicitly on the fate of all humankind, on the world state of states and its possible purposes, and on the right relationship of each and all of us to each and all of us, is divined before it can be analyzed or expressed.Comment →
1. The conflict between liberalism and Islamism is a creedal as well as cultural, social, political, and economic conflict.
2. As an ideological articulation of an Islamic concept in relation to and within an expansionary global political-economic system dominated by liberal-democratic regime forms, Islamism will absorb and re-express contradictions internal to the liberal democratic concept.
3. The "Great Separation" of religion from politics is a paradoxical mythic-fictive foundation of liberal democracy whose necessary concealment cannot be continuously maintained in the encounter with unitary political alternatives as under typical forms of Islamism.
4. The generally occluded, intermittently exposed theological (Christian-soteriological) origin of the Great Separation and therefore of liberal democracy conforms to the instruction of the Qur'an on the political realization of revealed truth.
5. The radical coercive potential of the modern nation-state will be turned irresistibly against those who would accept and implement this instruction, except under adaptive integration of an effectively liberal-democratic concept.Comment →
The Drones as symbol refer us to a tyrannical, imperial, not merely mechanical but super-biological or super-organic, invulnerable, temporally and geographically unbounded, and most of all cruelly lethal power that has already annihilated the human being ideally before it sends its "Hellfire" missile at him to finish the job, while also morally annihilating the distant human pilots and their masters, the latter group eventually including all of us who benefit or who possess a moral share in the program as citizens of a democratic republic.Comment →
...a residue or by-product of the same (world-)historical process realized as a nearly entirely dysfunctional passive aggressive national government care-taking the affairs of the passive aggressive polity that it passive-aggressively reflects, represents, and embodies, and that it is expected to preserve and to protect.Comment →
Getting caught up on the terms of the discussion can be misleading when the whole point of the new initiative is that the terms of the old discussion are no longer adequate. That people fall into the old terminology constantly should not be surprising, but the fact that they do is relevant to the main questions only as evidence of their very novelty, and illustration of how difficult it can be to discuss and cope with them at all.Comment →
If the implacable self-deception of that moment ten years ago produced a shallowly mistaken, embarrassingly unjustifiable, finally tragic assertion of a global regency and its prerogatives, the commensurate and necessary deception of this moment might be of a safe, simply chosen abdication.Comment →
We do not have an in fact unresolved history of war with Syria or Assad as we did with Iraq/Saddam, and we operate from greater confidence in regard to terrorist threats than in the early 2000s. If this confidence is misplaced, it is something that will have to be proved to us before we embark upon some new improved version of a newly vindicated Bush Doctrine.Comment →
The Republican neo-imperialists believe that the empire needs to be more aggressively defended and wherever possible expanded. The Democratic neo-imperialists believe that the empire needs mainly to be secured, or, if expanded, expanded via collaboration. The citizenry appears somewhat agnostic or passive on the main questions, except when unsettled by events suggestive of a possible un-managed and abrupt rollback that would also entail a downward adjustment in consumption and other disruptions of accustomed expectations - a possibility or set of possibilities that few outside the neo-imperial mainstream seem equipped to analyze concretely.Comment →
What the commercials want to tell or remind us is this: The US Navy is the US global-historical role and purpose objectified, American ideology concretely, defined by a presumption that the two meanings of "for good" become the same meaning over time, are always approaching each other via that arc "bending toward justice" that the President likes to recall in his seemingly most heartfelt speeches.Comment →
If we agree that we want a world in which nation-states do not use chemical weapons against their peoples, or a world in which chemical and other WMD use does not spread in interstate or other conflict situations, and the only way to ensure that worthy goal is to assert and enforce a transnational imperative, then we are neo-imperialists, and the only reason we do not confess as much is that we have inherited an ideological-terminological allergy.Comment →
The United State of America, by process of geographical and historical election, and by related ideological pre-disposition, plays a unique role in the administration of the global state interest, a role seemingly little understood by many whose occupations and pre-occupations are explaining, arguing about, and, in some places, denying it.Comment →
If any serious attempt to define the American national interest leads us to an overdetermining or geographically, political-economically, and ideologically mutually conditioning internationalism or transnational impetus, borne out in the great events and ideas and seemingly inexorable material processes of the last two centuries, resulting in the state of the world as we know it, then nation-state Realism in relationship to America turns itself inside out or upside down.Comment →
The President has put before Congress a vote on the international system in its America-centric or Neo-Imperial form, with his office, as it has developed, and the norm against mass annihilation of people, as interdependent critical features of that system, subject to simultaneous yay or nay.Comment →
Even worse, for the committedly anti-committal majority, which seems to include the President himself, the proposal of minimal means is burdened not only by threateningly maximal moral and historical justification, but by multiple additional independently intimidating justifications, each seemingly more disqualifyingly persuasive than the last.Comment →
Putin's argument against American exceptionalism is effectively that the American project as an ideological project is essentially over. The prophecy has been fulfilled: What in 1776 was a message of a few colonial upstarts - that "all men are created equal" - is now everyone's basic belief, even the belief of Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad. Belief in equality no longer sets Americans apart: Everyone believes everyone is equal - or equal before God - so there's nothing exceptional about believing so, and no need for Americans to go abroad seeking monsters to destroy.Comment →
The world's chieftain cannot serve the general interest effectively and reliably unless convinced that serving the general interest also serves "his" self-interest - that the two interests are finally the same or non-severable. When the chieftain falls into a depressive state - of apathy, or aboulia, or neurasthenia; doubting all, negating itself to negate all - the system fails, and the will to stasis is realized, or hypostatized, as crisis.Comment →
"Resolving conflict worldwide" and "changing dictatorship into democracies" count in this context as simplistic, even childish reductions of any questions truly before us. When we focus on such simplisms instead of treating them for what they are, every movement of any kind falls subject to strategic hypochondria, a condition under which even a move consequentially "inward" also becomes impossible: A hypochondriac nation will resist turning consequentially in any direction at all.Comment →
The mass annihilation of civilians in war, the conversion of citizens or subjects into eradicable vermin, ought to refer us to events at the inception of the American-centric international order as we know it, its immediate predicate in a shared experience of total war and a victory both in and against it, and its older predicate in the longer movements of history.Comment →
To the extent we cannot construct or re-construct the principles for a collective right to life in the age of weapons of destruction of the masses and disruption of global-ecological homeostasis, those principles may be expected to construct or re-construct themselves for us, and through us.Comment →
Every alteration in the American way of war corresponds directly to a re-definition of the American concept - concretely. A long series of expediencies and exigent measures tend to become simply who you are, whatever you might prefer to think or may have previously had in mind.Comment →
Soon, in whatever state or state of states or unstate we are found, today's neo-isolationists of left and right may find themselves exposed to ironies mirroring those now felt by the neo-conservatives of just the other day, who thought they were advancing a needed heightening, deepening, and expansion of engagement, but instead reinforced an older impulse to wash one's hands of it all.Comment →
As a matter of history, the administrative state, the FDR state, that the Tea Partiers are glad to shut down temporarily, and that some would like to shut down permanently, is the same state that arose contemporaneously with the fall of the Weimar Republic, in relation to common and overlapping challenges, and that was consolidated in political competition and eventually at war with its immediate successor (which technically still functioned under the Weimar constitution). A serious discussion of an actual or potential crisis of liberal democracy in the leading liberal democratic nation-state, and on the system level – the level of basic responsibilities and assumptions of government – cannot help but take into account prior, concretely related crises, even if particular circumstances initially appear vastly different.Comment →
Writing in Al-Hayat, Hazem Saghieh urges his mainly Arab readers to prepare themselves for "the Great Frustration." ((h/t Hussein Ibish as @ibishblog.)) He has the specific post-Arab Spring predicament in mind, of course, but the Great Frustration would be another good name for the neo-imperial condition in general, in relation to alternatives that once upon a time or during all previous history could not, at least from any sublunary perspective, have seemed merely "tragic or comical"- the author's description of attempts to integrate fractured polities by force, as if he knows some other means - but would have embodied the highest imaginable "resolution" known to our tragicomical species, the founding or downfall of nations and empires. ((Saghieh's reference to Bonaparte is indicative here: Bonapartism like Caesarism announces the transition from consolidated republic to imperial super-state, and Bonapartism specifically represented Caesarism in a world whose limits had actually been traced, so were conceivably reachable under a corresponding extremity of effort.)) The syndrome extends fully to nominally domestic politics, and not just in the countries of the former Third World, but is perhaps easier to discern on the international plane, where the denial of such destinies, of any new destiny at all, is written into the law above laws, and has been ever since the presumed final historical exam that ended in industrialized genocide, the nuclear incineration of cities, and the re-accelerated Americanization of the Earth. Like Saddam and Nasser, an Al-Sisi has nowhere to go, though after the others better knows it, and may simply accept the sense of relative security also enjoyed by fellow tragicomic impotentates from Tehran to Damascus to Washington DC and back round the time zones again: Such leaders are checked by local manifestations of a unitary geopolitics - here Israel, there oil, over there the free transit of container ships, but really the same problem under local conditions. As we know but are wont to forget, conquest in the traditional style, like the kind of full-scale disorientation and collapse that once upon a time might have invited if not demanded it, implicitly threatens transnational order on the same basis that over the longer arc of history the rise of the imperialist nation-state summoned the neo-imperialist world-state into concrete existence. The latter is never quite located. It is as it displaces, and is revealed, like God to the agnostics, apophatically: For ambitious individuals, peoples, and political movements in their frustration, in their diminution to tragic or comical or tragicomical, in the inconsequentialization and sub-ordination of the particular amidst the merciless and all-overwhelming pursuit of an inexpressible and relentlessly unsatisfying, yet indispensable and finally determining, supremely common interest. Fractured nation-states or pseudo-states or failed states or Hell-states beyond the limits in multiple senses of the term stand as typical exceptions, as active "sacrifice zones," until the broad awakening to danger in viral or ecological or moral or mass murderous human form re-connects world extremes to world centers. Except at such moments, the form of resolution resembles a vast suspension of resolutions: The interposition of frustrations great and small testify to the continued existence of an actual hegemony, everywhere politically effective, nowhere politically visible, in other words negatively effective if otherwise seemingly absent, at least until some new challenge to its inherited shape requires its concrete re-extension or its epochal failure: opposites eventually identical.Comment →
By completing a deal, we therefore co-effectuate the realization or authentication of an objectively liberal-democratic tendency or potential in the Islamic Republic. We do not, of course, completely liberalize-democratize the IR. We offer it a partial and reversible, but all the same real and indispensable, for the moment undeniable, validation.Comment →