The Liberal Warfare State

By Don Thompson

    George W. Bush’s re-election has forced many on the left-leaning side of the fence to ponder seriously about what another 4 years of George Bush will do to the U.S. and the world.  It seems to me the most troubling issue surrounding Mr. Bush’s re-election is the vast lack of awareness among voters as to what’s really at stake. The Republicans have become masters at finding the carrot/wedge issue (for this campaign that was Gay marriage) that gets socially conservative voters to the polls, and once the candidate is in power it’s a typical bait and switch: the right wing tackles its real objectives, such as dismantling Roosevelt’s New Deal.

     In many ways the conservative movement of recent history is a counterpoint to Roosevelt, with Reagan being the anti-Roosevelt, if you will. And if anything, Bush is the anti-Kennedy. I don’t need to draw too many parallels between Joe Kennedy Senior and Prescott Bush’s tribes to make the point. On the other hand, Kerry was in a sense the shadow Kennedy, the echo of Kennedy (with the initials JFK), as was Edwards the echo of Bobby Kennedy (remember, together they were “John/John”).  These signs are not completely coincidence or trivial:

the national mindset seeks the “brand” of a great leader – and in a consumer societies brands are what political life is all about. Kerry was very much the Kennedy brand from Massachusetts, while Bush was the cowboy brand from Texas.

    There is a cultural dialog between Massachusetts and Texas, as each reflects different poles of the American personality – different brands of political consumerism.  Perhaps more than anything, these poles delineate different stands on the appropriate use of power.  Does a leader use power within the context of a global community, or is it the sovereign right of the Imperial Nation State to wield whatever influence necessary to keep the peace, promote prosperity, and protect its interests?  This debate runs deep into the psyche of the nation: or at least the Republicans would like us to think so, and not ponder too much about what their neo-con intellectuals are really up to.  When John Kennedy made his well-known speech at the American University, saying he sought no “Pax Americana” he was trying to nullify or at least counter-balance the Imperial tendencies of the conservative pole of the ruling elite – and some said he was even murdered (in Texas) for taking that stand. But soon enough that speech was forgotten, and Lyndon Johnson (a Texan) has us deep into Vietnam, establishing our peculiar kind of democratic morality, even if that country didn’t necessarily want it. The Vietnamese believed then, as the many Iraqis do now (particularly Sunnis), that the American brand of democracy (force fed at gunpoint), is a ruse and a sham, and that the real reasons for these American “adventures” are economic and to expand the U.S. sphere of influence. But after Johnson the Democrats turned face, became “weak” and embraced the left. So the Imperial Elite had to turn to the Republicans for all of its answers. The apex of this movement can be found in the neo-conservative tracts of The Project for the New American Century and other think tanks formed during the 1990’s while Clinton was still in office.

Fundamentally, the neo-con Republicans, for all of their talk of family values, are the party of Social Darwinism and survival of the fittest – and that translates into the need to show force and not yield overwhelming military might.

From this view, struggle is the birthright of nations and men, and without it societies will atrophy and die. On the other side are the utopians, who actually believe there may be some final, stable societal model that more or less answers the question once and for all “what is good government” – that humanity can finally come to some kind of peaceful coexistence and overcome its desire to kill one another. Europe has in some ways become this model, although the EU is quickly devolving many aspects of the social democratic utopia that found its expression in the liberal welfare states of the U.K. and continental Europe. Its counterpoint, a work in progress that we see today in the U.S., is the liberal “warfare” state. Let me explain.

    40 or so years ago, the conservatives in the U.S. (whether Democrat or Republican), seeing the anti-war movement, civil-rights movement, women’s and environmental movements stripping them of their relevancy, felt cornered by a conspiracy. For many on the right, this was captured neatly in a fascinating little book called None Dare Call It Conspiracy.  At the center of this conspiracy theory was the fear of One World Government under the United Nations, originally dreamt up as the League of Nations by a ranting humanist and academic named Woodrow Wilson. To answer this conspiracy, conservatives came up with their own counter-conspiracy, replete with its own think tanks, media and other institutions necessary to counter the onslaught of the leftist utopians who had the ear of The New York Times, American Civil Liberties Union, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and so on. All of these organizations were (according to the conspiracy) in lockstep with European Bankers and the U.N., and leading us toward institutionalized international cooperation, an end to wars, promoting “sustainable” development – in short, all kinds of nasty stuff that conservatives think can lead people to a weak-kneed dependency on governments and an ever more hedonistic emphasis on individual liberties.

    This counter-conspiracy has at its heart the desire for a revitalized Judeo-Christian, Anglo-Saxon empire centering on the U.S. and Britain (notably, along with Australia, countries that made up the Iraqi “coalition”). The agenda, laid out quite explicitly in neo-con tracts such as Niall Ferguson’s Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire–and critiqued extensively by people such as author Gore Vidal and Lewis Lapham of Harper’s—is to gut the liberal welfare state, entrench the U.S. in perpetual war, and to squeeze the middle class so that the only option for young men and women in some parts of the country is to join the military where disenfranchised Blacks and Hispanics become war fodder – “the new Celts” (as in Roman times) for the American Imperial Force (no, I didn’t make this up!). The name of the game is keeping sufficient fear in the populace, and through constant fear and perpetual war they – the neo-cons – can maintain power and hide their dirty little secret, the 800-pound gorilla in the room: that the white Anglo-Saxon race is in decline, it is not reproducing as it once was, and is in fact in serious retreat.

    Ask any good demographer of the political landscape, and they will all tell you that the current changes in population by race and urban lifestyle will tend to favor the Democrats and socially progressive policies.  This fact is multiplied many times when looking from a global perspective. While the current commentators on CNN and Fox may tell you about a “mandate” for the political conservatives, quite the opposite is true. Lacking a mandate, conservatives must turn to fear as a mechanism of maintaining control. Lacking good ideas and/or the conscience of the nation or the lessons of history, the neo-cons must manipulate, gerrymander and con (no pun intended) their way into power. My greatest fear is that this has all led to a level of corruption we can’t even ponder, even if we continue our internal myths to the contrary, forever believing we are “the world’s greatest democracy.” 

Ironically, the world’s greatest democracy may not be the U.S., but the Ukraine, whose population seems to care enough about voter fraud to do something about it on the streets.

    You may ask yourself, why would they (the neo-cons) want to do such things? Why would they want such a global scenario when it obviously can harm so many people?  The core reason may lie at the center of the human question: do we function predominately on the basis of hatred and fear, or do we evolve to function primarily on the basis of compassion? The natural evolution of mankind, if such an evolution exists, must logically be toward tolerance, increased democracy, and compassionate social policies that assure stability and the common good.  Eventually, this democracy should extend into the corporate boardroom. But this evolution is quite obviously a threat to our current economic masters and their consumer economies that rely so much on fear and desire as the leitmotif  of their existence, economies that promote a methodically engineered mental space that keeps people ignorant of their slavery to the elites as if offers fake “freedoms” (freedom of choice between goods and services instead of freedom of mind). The neo-cons promote the welfare of the oligarchs and elites, believe in an almost Mafia-like adherence to family as the core organizing principle for peoples, and tend to favor a resurgence of small, entrenched, aristocratic-like pools of wealth and influence (hence the need to kill the Estate Tax). Why? Because they believe in these pools of influence and believe that they create a world more favorable to their interests. Theirs is an “us” vs. “them” mentality. And make no mistake about it – we are the “them.” These trends are already well in place in this country today and have been for decades. The disparity in wealth in this country has become almost laughable. There are maybe a few hundred “influentials” who wield a majority of the world’s economic decision making power – it’s no wonder so many people today are taking anti-depressants. Isn’t it interesting how in both the conspiracy theories of the left and right, the rich always seem to come out on top?

    The end game of the Liberal Warfare State is the support of liberal free market policies (thus the “Liberal” part); the creation of economic spheres where labor is cheap, pliant and hopefully under a dictatorship (China); a continual low level war against terror;  keeping the lowest level of the labor pool in this country in check and militarized (can you say video games?); an ever more “Romanized” and violent entertainment geared toward keeping the masses in an ignorant and cynical place; manipulating elections through a variety of techniques (some fraudulent); virtual control of the corporate news media (all owned by the “influentials”); enhancing the power of the police state; keeping society divided by values-based “wedge” issues; and allowing the Internet as a method for the disenfranchised intellectual to vent his or her spleen (I guess I’m one of those intellectuals).  In the mean time, global trade agreements create a meta-state of corporate power where the influentials reside and run the show. If anyone will recognize this New World Order of the Liberal Warfare State, it is George Orwell. Or better, the CIA in Latin America in the 1980’s (the “Petri dish” for a lot of this stuff). And guess who’s going to be the new Intelligence Czar – a product of that 1980’s CIA “Iran-Contra” Central America: John Negroponte (the former Ambassador to Honduras, 1981-85).

The only threat to the Liberal Warfare State is popular awareness of its existence and a desire to reveal it and end it among an aware population that rallies to the cause. Aware and engaged people have always been, and will continue to be, the only enemy of the entrenched status quo. So in this sense the new U.S. that landed on our doorstep on September 11, 2001 is a new opportunity to continually unite progressives. If that happens, Mr. Bush and all of his colleagues, and their dreams of Imperial Glory, will not last that long, and we can get on with the business of human evolution. If not, we may well be in for a long, dark ride.



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