Reasoning in Midstream

March 26th, 2011

This is a syndicated post, originally from The jVerse.

“Reasoning in midstream[1]” is a common phenomenon in public discourse that typically starts right around the time that bombs start dropping or legislation starts being penned in response to a “crisis”. It is the monotonous focus on the present state of a problem–a pending genocide, a health or financial emergency, or a security threat–disregarding the history or context in which the event takes place. In addition to discouraging discussion of root causes, reasoning in midstream also allows for attention to be drawn away from parallel dangers that are still in earlier stages.

By way of an analogy, imagine a society whose diet consists of only Snickers and Coke (a-cola, that is). After forty or fifty years, the toothless, diabetic and morbidly obese nature of the elder generation forces the society to examine the ailments of the worst off and explore possible solutions. Radical dentistry, amputation of gangrenous limbs and liposuction are proposed and touted as the only way to address these epidemics which, apparently, arose from nowhere. Perhaps an underemployed nutritionist suggests a change of diet, but the idea is dismissed as ineffective against the immediate problems faced by the older population.

Of course, without a change in diet, however insufficient against some of the immediate dangers facing some of the population, the problem can’t be checked in any meaningful or sustainable way. There’s most likely not much that can be done to help those that have been eating the lethal foodstuffs for 50 years. In this example, it’s plain (for us) to see that efforts would be most profitably invested in changing the diet to avoid the same problems in those that are currently 5, 15, 25, and 35 years old.

If this society limits itself to reasoning in midstream, however, solutions that aren’t directed at the immediate and spotlighted most critical cases are disregarded entirely. No ultimate causes of the current problem are sought and no thought to preventing future problems of a similar nature is given.

Leaping out of my flimsy analogy and into harsh reality, the most recent example of reasoning in midstream (let’s call it RIM from now on) that I’ve experienced has been around the topic of Libya.

Here, for the first time since Clinton and NATO decimated and subsequently occupied the Balkans, we have a progressive war for progressive goals lead by a progressive administration. This has caused tremendous cognitive dissonance on the left and lead to somber and thoughtful defenses of the necessity of aerial butchery. Where there is hesitation, progressives are plagued by the programmed question: “What possible alternative exists?”

What alternatives indeed? There are no good answers in the moment, because it’s the last 60+ years of malignant foreign policy in the region that have brought us to this terrible, yet easily predicted, outcome. Yet no discussion exists of the historical context of western intervention in North Africa. And so the policy is more of the same–remove the leader and arm some new “legitimate government” that will guarantee the continuity of the status quo.

Whatever happens, say proponents of RIM, don’t let’s think about the other dictators and puppet states, in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, Colombia, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Geogria, El Salvador, Djibouti, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, etc.–I left out the countries that don’t seem to be in immediate peril of revolution–who continue to receive the very same western military aid that has allowed Gadaffi to commit this most recent democide.

The goal of the imperial state and it’s licensed, regulated, and wholly corporately owned mass media is to push aside such radical questions and return us to the case at hand–to RIM. Surely we can’t let this moment pass, this horrible thing happen, surely something must be done . . .

When “something must be done,” we immediately know that we are being asked to support a heaping helping of more of the same upon a people that have had their enemies propped up by western imperialism and their countries and wealth sold out from underneath them to western interests.

Nothing should be done. The violence must end which necessitates not adding to it. The dictators past and future should not be armed by money expropriated from the western working classes. As I discuss in The Winding Up of Violence, places like Libya, and much of the rest of the western controlled world, are like pots of water (two metaphors in one blog post! Noooo!). As long as they are exposed to heat, armaments and violence, from outside the system, they will remain in a turbulent state.

Foreign perturbance must cease, and the region will settle in to a stable state governed by the will of the people living there. This will happen at some point. The amount of harm, destruction and dislocation that will have to be endured is a function of how long it takes for the west to withdraw and cease interference, which is an economic inevitability at this point.

The sooner we cease to reason in midstream, and to see the calls for increased intervention for what they are, the sooner the people of Libya, the Middle East, and the entire world will have an opportunity to craft a peaceful existence for themselves.

Related:

  1. [1] Wes Bertrand describes the process more abstractly in the first chapter of his book Complete Liberty

[Read the original at The jVerse (2011-03-26)...]

Reasoning in Midstream

March 26th, 2011

This is a syndicated post, originally from The jVerse.

“Reasoning in midstream[1]” is a common phenomenon in public discourse that typically starts right around the time that bombs start dropping or legislation starts being penned in response to a “crisis”. It is the monotonous focus on the present state of a problem–a pending genocide, a health or financial emergency, or a security threat–disregarding the history or context in which the event takes place. In addition to discouraging discussion of root causes, reasoning in midstream also allows for attention to be drawn away from parallel dangers that are still in earlier stages.

By way of an analogy, imagine a society whose diet consists of only Snickers and Coke (a-cola, that is). After forty or fifty years, the toothless, diabetic and morbidly obese nature of the elder generation forces the society to examine the ailments of the worst off and explore possible solutions. Radical dentistry, amputation of gangrenous limbs and liposuction are proposed and touted as the only way to address these epidemics which, apparently, arose from nowhere. Perhaps an underemployed nutritionist suggests a change of diet, but the idea is dismissed as ineffective against the immediate problems faced by the older population.

Of course, without a change in diet, however insufficient against some of the immediate dangers facing some of the population, the problem can’t be checked in any meaningful or sustainable way. There’s most likely not much that can be done to help those that have been eating the lethal foodstuffs for 50 years. In this example, it’s plain (for us) to see that efforts would be most profitably invested in changing the diet to avoid the same problems in those that are currently 5, 15, 25, and 35 years old.

If this society limits itself to reasoning in midstream, however, solutions that aren’t directed at the immediate and spotlighted most critical cases are disregarded entirely. No ultimate causes of the current problem are sought and no thought to preventing future problems of a similar nature is given.

Leaping out of my flimsy analogy and into harsh reality, the most recent example of reasoning in midstream (let’s call it RIM from now on) that I’ve experienced has been around the topic of Libya.

Here, for the first time since Clinton and NATO decimated and subsequently occupied the Balkans, we have a progressive war for progressive goals lead by a progressive administration. This has caused tremendous cognitive dissonance on the left and lead to somber and thoughtful defenses of the necessity of aerial butchery. Where there is hesitation, progressives are plagued by the programmed question: “What possible alternative exists?”

What alternatives indeed? There are no good answers in the moment, because it’s the last 60+ years of malignant foreign policy in the region that have brought us to this terrible, yet easily predicted, outcome. Yet no discussion exists of the historical context of western intervention in North Africa. And so the policy is more of the same–remove the leader and arm some new “legitimate government” that will guarantee the continuity of the status quo.

Whatever happens, say proponents of RIM, don’t let’s think about the other dictators and puppet states, in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, Colombia, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Geogria, El Salvador, Djibouti, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, etc.–I left out the countries that don’t seem to be in immediate peril of revolution–who continue to receive the very same western military aid that has allowed Gadaffi to commit this most recent democide.

The goal of the imperial state and it’s licensed, regulated, and wholly corporately owned mass media is to push aside such radical questions and return us to the case at hand–to RIM. Surely we can’t let this moment pass, this horrible thing happen, surely something must be done . . .

When “something must be done,” we immediately know that we are being asked to support a heaping helping of more of the same upon a people that have had their enemies propped up by western imperialism and their countries and wealth sold out from underneath them to western interests.

Nothing should be done. The violence must end which necessitates not adding to it. The dictators past and future should not be armed by money expropriated from the western working classes. As I discuss in The Winding Up of Violence, places like Libya, and much of the rest of the western controlled world, are like pots of water (two metaphors in one blog post! Noooo!). As long as they are exposed to heat, armaments and violence, from outside the system, they will remain in a turbulent state.

Foreign perturbance must cease, and the region will settle in to a stable state governed by the will of the people living there. This will happen at some point. The amount of harm, destruction and dislocation that will have to be endured is a function of how long it takes for the west to withdraw and cease interference, which is an economic inevitability at this point.

The sooner we cease to reason in midstream, and to see the calls for increased intervention for what they are, the sooner the people of Libya, the Middle East, and the entire world will have an opportunity to craft a peaceful existence for themselves.

Related:

  1. [1] Wes Bertrand describes the process more abstractly in the first chapter of his book Complete Liberty

[Read the original at The jVerse ()...]

WikiLeaks Removes the Cloak

October 25th, 2010

This is a syndicated post, originally from Center for a Stateless Society.

Late last week, major media outlets announced, to the bated breath of the world, the latest disclosures of classified materials on the war in Iraq from Wikileaks. The documents — almost 400,000 files comprised mostly of the U.S. military’s daily field reports — detail a staggering civilian death toll and a record of abuses hitherto papered over by the Defense Department. Perhaps the most harrowing feature of the news is that, if U.S. military history has anything at all to teach, we’re likely seeing just the tip of a shameful, gory iceberg.

As these new numbers bear out, the state’s metastatic indifference toward human life infects everything it comes into contact with, its only concern being the solidification of its dominance. “In the war’s bloodiest months,” reports the New York Times’s Sabrina Tavernise, “[the WikiLeaks documents show that] more than 3,000 Iraqi civilians were dying,” with bodies turning up everywhere from “a brick factory” to “a sewage treatment plant.”

The reports limn a scene of blunt horror, with mangled bodies littering the streets as U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and MPs indiscriminately murdered their way through the country. Further, the leaked documents expose the consistent and habitual abuse of detainees, corruption of government officials and unchecked torture that mark the United States occupation of Iraq.

Instances of the erratic violence caused by contractors hired by the U.S. government to satisfy its security needs also fleck the reports, the firms exhibiting the same unaccountability as the troops. Now, as troop levels decrease, there will be ever more perquisites doled out to influential, well-connected contractors, and — although they won’t be wearing U.S. military uniforms — these mercenaries represent the same fetid murder industry and its interests.

Right on cue, in the face of all the execrable crimes that have been laid bare this week, the mainstream media is prepared to rally to the cause of unending war. An Associated Press report of the slipped field chronicles, for instance, reads, “Leaked Iraq war logs highlight risk that scheduled US military pullout could lead to chaos.”

Spin of such a kind, in its servile devotion to state power, mimics the rubbish of war accomplices like former ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who responded to the leaks by saying it is “profoundly important” that the United States maintain a strong presence in the country. But one wonders, chaos as opposed to what? The Arcadian tranquility that blankets Iraq today?

War is the definitive big government program, the most harmful and prodigal of them all, seizing inconceivable amounts of wealth from the productive class to profit moneyed corporations. For anyone even slightly bothered by the state’s other redistribution programs, war, the gold standard of corporate welfare, should be absolutely abhorrent. To say of war (or any other state program) that it is ineffective, however, is to mistake the havoc caused by its implementation for the defeat of its actual purpose.

Measured against its stated purpose, the war in Iraq is an utter failure, but it is, rest assured, accomplishing its true mission for the state’s profiteers. Although this disconnect between the state’s claimed and actual objectives can, with little scrutiny, be discovered in all that it does, nowhere is the discrepancy more glaring than with war.

The heroism of WikiLeaks is its iconoclasm, the undaunted need to air truth in a society that lionizes and worships soldiers and military culture. There is nothing in any way honorable or virtuous about cooperating with the state’s military secrecy, nothing noble about pouring scorn on Julian Assange for being the advocate of every innocent person who has died in Iraq.

“It is a hypocritical cloak,” wrote Emma Goldman, “to cover the country’s crimes.” Goldman understood that by derogating bold voices like that of Assange, we are “helping to perpetuate the war among the classes, a war which, in reality, is at the bottom of all other wars.” The members of the state’s court, whom Jefferson called the “tinsel aristocracy,” have made a king’s ransom from this war, and they will not ungrudgingly stop imposing bloodshed. Still, if there is an end to be had, it will be a result, at least in large part, of the efforts of organizations like WikiLeaks, true heroes who don’t shrink at threats or shaming.

[Read the original at Center for a Stateless Society (2010-10-25)...]

WikiLeaks Removes the Cloak

October 25th, 2010

This is a syndicated post, originally from Center for a Stateless Society.

Late last week, major media outlets announced, to the bated breath of the world, the latest disclosures of classified materials on the war in Iraq from Wikileaks. The documents — almost 400,000 files comprised mostly of the U.S. military’s daily field reports — detail a staggering civilian death toll and a record of abuses hitherto papered over by the Defense Department. Perhaps the most harrowing feature of the news is that, if U.S. military history has anything at all to teach, we’re likely seeing just the tip of a shameful, gory iceberg.

As these new numbers bear out, the state’s metastatic indifference toward human life infects everything it comes into contact with, its only concern being the solidification of its dominance. “In the war’s bloodiest months,” reports the New York Times’s Sabrina Tavernise, “[the WikiLeaks documents show that] more than 3,000 Iraqi civilians were dying,” with bodies turning up everywhere from “a brick factory” to “a sewage treatment plant.”

The reports limn a scene of blunt horror, with mangled bodies littering the streets as U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and MPs indiscriminately murdered their way through the country. Further, the leaked documents expose the consistent and habitual abuse of detainees, corruption of government officials and unchecked torture that mark the United States occupation of Iraq.

Instances of the erratic violence caused by contractors hired by the U.S. government to satisfy its security needs also fleck the reports, the firms exhibiting the same unaccountability as the troops. Now, as troop levels decrease, there will be ever more perquisites doled out to influential, well-connected contractors, and — although they won’t be wearing U.S. military uniforms — these mercenaries represent the same fetid murder industry and its interests.

Right on cue, in the face of all the execrable crimes that have been laid bare this week, the mainstream media is prepared to rally to the cause of unending war. An Associated Press report of the slipped field chronicles, for instance, reads, “Leaked Iraq war logs highlight risk that scheduled US military pullout could lead to chaos.”

Spin of such a kind, in its servile devotion to state power, mimics the rubbish of war accomplices like former ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who responded to the leaks by saying it is “profoundly important” that the United States maintain a strong presence in the country. But one wonders, chaos as opposed to what? The Arcadian tranquility that blankets Iraq today?

War is the definitive big government program, the most harmful and prodigal of them all, seizing inconceivable amounts of wealth from the productive class to profit moneyed corporations. For anyone even slightly bothered by the state’s other redistribution programs, war, the gold standard of corporate welfare, should be absolutely abhorrent. To say of war (or any other state program) that it is ineffective, however, is to mistake the havoc caused by its implementation for the defeat of its actual purpose.

Measured against its stated purpose, the war in Iraq is an utter failure, but it is, rest assured, accomplishing its true mission for the state’s profiteers. Although this disconnect between the state’s claimed and actual objectives can, with little scrutiny, be discovered in all that it does, nowhere is the discrepancy more glaring than with war.

The heroism of WikiLeaks is its iconoclasm, the undaunted need to air truth in a society that lionizes and worships soldiers and military culture. There is nothing in any way honorable or virtuous about cooperating with the state’s military secrecy, nothing noble about pouring scorn on Julian Assange for being the advocate of every innocent person who has died in Iraq.

“It is a hypocritical cloak,” wrote Emma Goldman, “to cover the country’s crimes.” Goldman understood that by derogating bold voices like that of Assange, we are “helping to perpetuate the war among the classes, a war which, in reality, is at the bottom of all other wars.” The members of the state’s court, whom Jefferson called the “tinsel aristocracy,” have made a king’s ransom from this war, and they will not ungrudgingly stop imposing bloodshed. Still, if there is an end to be had, it will be a result, at least in large part, of the efforts of organizations like WikiLeaks, true heroes who don’t shrink at threats or shaming.

[Read the original at Center for a Stateless Society ()...]

Know Your Enemy

July 29th, 2010

This is a syndicated post, originally from Center for a Stateless Society.

Neoconservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer has been exercised lately (“Terror and Candor,” National Review Online, July 3)  about the “cowardice” of the Obama administration in refusing to identify “Islamic extremism” as the  enemy in the War on Terror.

When we survey the destruction inflicted on this country by terrorism, Krauthammer says, we should look the enemy square in the face and pronounce him guilty by name.

Fair enough.

Reporting after the earthquake in Haiti revealed a massive toll of death and homelessness (230,000 and a million, respectively), and the immense damage to transportation and utility infrastructure. When power, sanitation and clean water supplies are cut off, water-borne epidemics ensue quickly. With a population weakened by hunger from a breakdown of the food distribution system, the rider on the pale horse gets busy.

Let’s compare the toll on human lives and infrastructure from that natural disaster to those of a couple of entirely manmade disasters. NATO deliberately targeted power and water infrastructure in Serbia, in order to demoralize the civilian population. As NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said, “If President Milosevic really wants all of his population to have water and electricity all he has to do is accept NATO’s five conditions and we will stop this campaign.” And in Iraq, the death toll from two decades of strategic bombing, sanctions and infrastructure damage is into the millions. The United States unleashed the equivalent of two Haiti earthquakes on two defenseless countries. The penalty for disobedience to the new hegemon is death from the skies.

The neoconservatives of the Project for a New American Century agitated for both wars with everything they had.  The organization’s name says it all: Their goal is to lock the United States permanently into place as the world’s sole military superpower, and destroy any nation that challenges that supremacy. In the case of Iraq, despite all the lies about WMDs and ties to Al Qaeda, all the neocons really cared about, in the words of Michael Ledeen, was a demonstration effect:  To “pick up a crappy little country” — any country, it didn’t matter which one — and “throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” Well, I guess a million people who died from incineration, starvation, or excreting their collapsed intestines with dysentery, know those guys meant business.

So if we’re naming enemies, neoconservatism’s death toll stacks up pretty favorably against that of “Islamism.”

But neoconservatism is just a more virulent, more explicit and shameless, version of the bipartisan “national security” policy that’s dominated the American state since WWII. Just as much as the neoconservatives, the “moderates” and “liberals” agree that — in Noam Chomsky’s words — “we own the world.” They all agree that the United States should be the sole military superpower, enforcing a system of world order. They all agree that the U.S. has legitimate “national security” interests that extend to telling countries all over the world what to do, and maintaining an Empire of hundreds of military bases in dozens of countries. Like the “liberals” in Vietnam, they think Iraq was a “mistake.” But they don’t dispute the “right” of the United States to initiate such wars when it’s “necessary.”

It’s as true of Hillary Clinton, Madeline Albright, and John “Plan Colombia” Kerry as it is of Dick Cheney and Richard Armitage. When liberals talk about “putting the grownups back in charge,” those are the kinds of people they mean. People who are just as willing to inflict megadeaths when “necessary,” but don’t quite — you know — get into it so much.

The real enemy behind the untold millions of deaths inflicted by Empire are what C. Wright Mills called “Crackpot Realists”:  The sane, sensible, serious people who know what needs to be done to keep the only world they know running, and just quietly do it. As C. S. Lewis put it, the greatest crimes in human history were committed by men with clean fingernails and pleasant, well-modulated voices, sitting in tastefully appointed offices. For these people, a global system of corporate neoliberalism enforced by the United States, the G20, the World Bank and UN Security Council is the only conceivable way of doing things. And to keep this system going — as the only possible basis for what they call “peace and prosperity” — they do what’s “necessary.” When there’s “collateral damage,” they regret it. But they don’t flinch from the task. Because, after all, America is the indispensable nation.

To quote science fiction writer Ken MacLeod:  “You know how this stuff ends? It ends with your cities in rubble, your capital occupied, and your leaders hanged.”

Krauthammer says “the first rule of war is to know your enemy. If you don’t, you … ignore the real causes that might allow you to prevent recurrences.”

Indeed.

[Read the original at Center for a Stateless Society (2010-07-29)...]