Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The Philosophy of Disaster 

Richard Scheer, columnist for the LA Times, says we have reason to fear our own country more than any other at this time. In his latest column, he says:

"In its latest bid to frighten the planet into a constant state of shock and awe, our government is accelerating its own leading-edge weapons-of-mass-destruction program: President Bush's allies on the Senate Armed Services Committee have approved ending a decade-old ban on developing atomic battlefield weapons and endorsed moving ahead with creating a nuclear "bunker-buster" bomb. They also rubber-stamped the administration's request for funds to prepare for a quick resumption of nuclear weapons testing.

What's going on here? Having failed to stop a gang of marauders armed with nothing more intimidating than box cutters, the U.S. is now using the "war on terror" to pursue a long-held hawkish Republican dream of a "winnable nuclear war," as the president's father memorably described it to me in a 1980 Times interview. In such a scenario, nukes can be preemptively used against a much weaker enemy — millions of dead civilians, widespread environmental devastation and centuries of political blowback be damned...

Building a new generation of battlefield nuclear weapons sets the stage for another round of the most dangerous arms race imaginable. What has been forgotten in all of the patriotic hoopla is that it is our country that pioneered the creation of weapons of mass destruction over the last half-century. And it was our dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, that sparked the arms race of the Cold War.

Then I found this article, from TomPaine.commonsense, by Jim Lobe, who also writes for the Foreign Policy in Focus , concerning the influence of a German, Jewish, political philosopher, Leo Strauss, whose writings are currently in vogue in the Executive branch and the with the military hawkes.

This is the philosophy of Strauss that seems to coorespond with the push to develop a winnable nuclear war:

"In Strauss' view, you have to fight all the time (to survive)," said Drury. "In that respect, it's very Spartan. Peace leads to decadence. Perpetual war, not perpetual peace, is what Straussians believe in." Such views naturally lead to an "aggressive, belligerent foreign policy."

Strauss argued for the need for deception when carrying out state policy, because the leaders of the "democracy" know what is best for its citizens. (Is this why the fucking Patriot Acts?)

Strauss encouraged the encouragement of religion, and was not a great believer in the seperation of church and state. Religion served a purpose as a glue that can hold society together. Yet Strauss did not believe there was any moral good in the world, and did not believe in God. This man must have been the ultimate cynic, yet also very self contradictory. He believed that most people are wicked; that is why the need for a strong government. If he didn't believe in God, I wonder what force could be behind this wickedness, in his universe?

Here is what Lobe wrote:

"Secular society in their view is the worst possible thing," because it leads to individualism, liberalism and relativism, precisely those traits which may encourage dissent that in turn could dangerously weaken society's ability to cope with external threats. "You want a crowd that you can manipulate like putty," according to Drury.

Strauss was also strongly influenced by Thomas Hobbes. Like Hobbes, he thought the fundamental aggressiveness of human nature could be restrained only through a powerful state based on nationalism. "Because mankind is intrinscially wicked, he has to be governed," he once wrote. "Such governance can only be established, however, when men are united -- and they can only be united against other people."

"Strauss thinks that a political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat," Drury wrote in her book. "Following Machiavelli, he maintains that if no external threat exists then one has to be manufactured. Had he lived to see the collapse of the Soviet Union, he would have been deeply troubled because the collapse of the evil empire poses a threat to America's inner stability."

As for what a Straussian world order might look like, Drury said the philosopher often told the story by Jonathan Swift of Gulliver and the Lilliputians. "When Lilliput was on fire, Gulliver urinated over the city, including the palace. In so doing, he saved all of Lilliput from catastrophe, but the Lilliputians were outraged and appalled by such a show of disrespect."

In many ways, this demonstrates both the superiority and the isolation of the leader within a society and, presumably, the leading country vis-à-vis the rest of the world.

Drury suggests it is ironic, but not inconsistent with Strauss' ideas about the necessity for deception by elites, that the Bush administration defends its anti-terrorist campaign by resorting to idealistic rhetoric. "They really have no use for liberalism and democracy, but they're conquering the world in the name of liberalism and democracy," she said.