Monday, October 12, 2009

More Signs of the Creeping Militarization of US Society

Hi everyone, forgive my long hiatus. If anyone here is considering moving back from Tokyo, living in a house while it's being renovated, and finishing a manuscript all at the same time, I would advise... don't. But the worst of the storm is past, thank God, and it's good to be back at blogging. Lots to catch up on; here are three recent items that strike me as all being evidence (along with, say, the bizarre and unconstitutional reverence for "our" Commander-in-Chief) of the creeping militarization of American society.

1. On Fox News Sunday, Liz Cheney offered these thoughts on Obama's Nobel:

Well, I think what the committee believes is they'd like to live in a world in which America is not dominant. And I think if you look at the language of the citation, you can see that they talk about, you know, President Obama ruling in a way that makes sense to the majority of the people of the world. You know, Americans don't elect a president to do that. We elect a president to defend our national interests. And so I think that, you know, they may believe that President Obama also doesn't agree with American dominance, and they may have been trying to affirm that belief with the prize. I think, unfortunately, they may be right, and I think it's a concern.

Here are the main premises in the paragraph above:

A. America should dominate the world.
B. The president "rules" America.
C. Americans elect a president exclusively, or at least primarily, to "defend" our national interests.
D. The defense of America's national interests should not, and indeed cannot, make sense to the majority of the people of the world.

Let's examine the premises Cheney regards as axiomatic.

A. Is it necessary, desirable, or even possible for America to dominate the world? What are America's national interests, and is world dominance necessary for their defense? Do all countries require world dominance to defend their national interests, or is America unique in this regard?

B. Does the president "rule" America? (Hint: the president's job description is helpfully laid out right in the Constitution. Very handy document.)

C. Is it true that Americans exclusively or primarily elect a president to "defend" our national interests? What else do we want a president to do? What does it suggest when someone mentions "defense" as the only, or even the primary, role Americans expect in a president (as opposed to, say, advancing interests, or continuing to form a more perfect union... that kind of thing)? Especially when the same person suggests the president "rules" America?

D. Is it true that when the president defends America's national interests, his actions cannot and should not make sense to the majority of the world? Is a decent respect for the opinions of mankind incommensurate with the defense of our national interests, or a part of that defense?

2. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) supports a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which is good. But the senator also says, "It has to be done in the right way, which is to get a buy-in from the (U.S.) military (that) I think is now possible."

Huge majorities of Americans, including majorities of Americans with family members in the military, favor a repeal of DADT (it seems the military itself seems about evenly divided). Regardless: what, specifically, would the required military "buy-in" consist of? Was the military's "buy-in" also required when President Truman ordered desegregation? Are there other issues for which the civilian government and civilian population require the military's "buy-in?" Are there other institutions from which the President and Congress require buy-in, or is it just the military? What does Levin's notion suggest about current notions regarding military subordination to civilian leadership?

3. In a September 11 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Fouad Adjami, who writes like Peggy Noonan (this is not a compliment), claimed, "Wars are great clarifiers." Adjami was so certain of the truth of his statement that he didn't even bother to support it, and instead offered it up as an axiom.

Is it true wars really are great at clarifying things? Or do they tend instead to enflame and obscure? What does it say about a person's worldview when he believes it virtually goes without saying that wars greatly clarify things?

Against the creeping authoritarianism that today thoroughly infests the GOP but that shows increasing virulence outside it, as well, awareness, outspokenness, and familiarity with the Constitution are the best defense.

P.S. Glenn Greenwald has a terrific related interview with Jonathan Weiler, co-author of "Authoritarianism & Polarization in American Politics."


JCH said...

I really like your arguments Barry.

Do you think it is a case of willful, blind obedience to an aging ideology (religious or political) that makes these people say such asinine things; things which could easily be construed as racist (I am speaking mostly of Liz Cheney's comment)?

Or is it something more base like fear- of a world in which the established elite (and mostly white christian) cannot operate with impunity?

Bear in mind I am perfectly willing to concede that these possibilities are in no way mutually exclusive...

Reading these quotes immediately made me recall G.W. Bush's comments classifying our "War on Terror" as a crusade against evil in the eyes of God.

This continued alignment of our national politic with a view of war as a glorious undertaking which will right all the wrongs makes me so angry I lose my ability to think rationally.

Anyway, keep up the good fight, and I can't wait for the next book!

Kate Gallison said...

On the other hand, the quote that got you all riled up was on Fox News. Fox has a peculiar take on our national life. If it were generally shared, Obama wouldn't be in the white house.

JudokaJoe said...

Welcome back Barry,

Kate beat me to the punch. When watching Fox, I always have to keep their 'unique' perspective in mind.

Thanks so much for articles like this. I have many friends and colleagues that run the gamut from ultra-liberal to quietly apathetic and on over to guns, guts and God conservatives. I've sent quite a few over here with a "Well, yeah, I see your point... but you should check this out."

Looking forward to the new book!


Anonymous said...

Barry - having read this post I'm surprised you returned to the USA! I can't help thinking Tokyo was the safer bet! ;)

Joshua James said...

Barry's back!