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.
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.
According to Ulfelder’s logic – which is not at base much different from the traditional and time-honored understanding of human nature – a definitive change in calculations in favor of escalating future mass atrocities is precisely what must occur if his preferred policy is adopted.
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.
Dismissing uncomprehended perspectives intuitively understood by others as “ridiculous” is ridiculous, and the habit of a vulgar ideologue.
…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.
If progressives believe, or know whether they believe, that exceptional measures were justifiable, but went wrong, then an entirely different replacement regime and set of reforms might make sense than if they believe common rhetoric about rule of law mattering more than all other concerns, whatever the costs or risks. On the other hand, if they believe the War on Terror was in fact a self-obviating success, then they might wish to replace the AUMF with a new legal and administrative regime that acknowledges and learns from authentic successes – successful warmaking against a real and legitimate, not simply ideologically constructed enemy – as well as from errors.
So, yes, a larger number of people died, and many more were injured, and a lot of time and money was wasted protecting a fighting retreat, because the political-military risks of an attempted immediate retreat – both within Afghanistan and far beyond, and for many years – were unacceptable, just as the decision for it, given the real existing correlation of political interests and forces in 2009, was actually impossible. Instead, the Afghan Surge worked – politically. Politically, it was a tremendous success. Militarily, it never had very good prospects, but its narrowly military-political failure – its inability to transform Afghanistan into Japan at bargain prices – has the further benefit of removing further illusions about what is and isn’t possible even for the best data-driven school-building expeditionary killing machine the world has ever seen.
Posted in War
Tagged with: Afghanistan
The Libya decision will be revealed, predictably, to have been a very American decision – instrumentalizing military force on behalf of political-economic popular sovereignty (i.e., “freedom”) against a vulnerable tyranny, in cooperation with allies, with “respect for the opinions of mankind.” It entailed risks and real human costs while shifting them from one group to another – as would every other decision. It may even have been the “wrong” decision from other perspectives. If so, that conclusion would not necessarily imply that there was a simply “right” or “better” decision to be made, or that the American president can be asked or expected to give every or any other perspective higher or equal priority.
Regardless of where we come down in the end on the wisdom and justifiability of the administration’s war policies, criticism that does not take the full debate and its real subject into consideration, that merely repeats what we already know – that war is awful and morally, culturally, and politically deforming; that it exceeds the terms of normal, lawful policy; that it makes us act like “barbarians” all on the way to Hell – does not deserve to be and likely will not be taken seriously.
Posted in Featured
, The Exception
Tagged with: Barbara Lee
, Popular Sovereignty
, The Exception
, War on Terror