Monday, February 19, 2007

Pogo meets Iraq

David Seaton's News Links
There is a lot to chew over in this article from Foreign Policy Magazine. It makes some important points that provide a practical program for thinking about the disaster of Iraq.

Americans have a big problem accepting that other people(s) are really as different as they are, that their cultures and social structures are as intractable as they really are. That as William Faulkner, "the past isn't history, it isn't even past."

I suspect that behind a lot of this, there is a deep fear of how precarious the American identity has become as it has ceased to simply be WASP, with becoming WASP-like the measure of American-ness, while at the same time the "others" who were always invisible or comic relief have become visible: Visible and vocal. You might say that the WASP identity was the "Marshall Tito" to America's inner "balkanization".

Among the neocons, who midwifed the war in Iraq, that identity crisis
seems to be greater than for others. Neoconservatives seem to have a pressing need to believe that they, instead of being, in reality, a tiny minority with very special interests, are in fact "universal" in their beliefs and especially in their needs. In the druggy sixties this was known as forcing others to "take your trip". DS

What Iraq Tells Us About Ourselves - Foreign Policy
(hat tip to Teresa O'Neill)
Abstract: How did the highly educated, wealthy, and powerful American people make such a horrendous, catastrophic series of blunders? As Pogo, the cartoon opossum, once famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us!” Yes, that’s right: We, the American people—not the Bush administration, nor the hapless Iraqis, nor the meddlesome Iranians (the new scapegoat)—are the root of the problem. It’s woven into our cultural DNA. Most Americans mistakenly believe that when we say that “all men are created equal,” it means that all people are the same. Behind the “cute” and “charming” native clothing, the “weird” marriage customs, and the “odd” food of other cultures, all humans are yearning for lifestyles and futures that will be increasingly unified as time and globalization progress. That is what Tom Friedman seems to have meant when he wrote that “the world is flat”—that technological and economic change are driving humankind toward a future of cultural sameness. In other words, whatever differences of custom and habit that still exist between peoples will pass away soon and be replaced by a world culture rather like that of the United States in the 21st century. To be blunt, our foreign policy tends to be predicated on the notion that everyone wants to be an American. In the months leading up to the start of the Iraq War, it was common to hear seemingly educated people say that the Arabs, particularly Iraqis, had no way of life worth saving and would be better off if all “that old stuff”—their traditions, social institutions, and values—were done away with, and soon. The U.S. Armed Forces and U.S. Agency for International Development would be the sharp swords of modernization in the Middle East. How did Americans come to believe that the entire world is embarked on the same voyage, and that we are the navigators showing the way to a bright future? Our own culture is a rich blend, brewed from such elements as enlightenment, optimism, Puritan utopianism, a Calvinist tendency to not forgive sinners, and the settler’s lack of respect for the weak and “native” peoples of the world. In the United States, such threads have pushed us to believe that we are all in a melting pot of common ideology. This belief system has been fed to us in the public schools, through Hollywood, and now in the endless prattle of 24-hour news networks. It has become secular religion, a religion so strong that any violation of its tenets brings instant and savage condemnation. So called “neoconservatism” isn’t some kind of alien ideology; it’s merely a self-aware manifestation of the widespread American belief that people are all the same. The repeated assertion by U.S. President George W. Bush that history is dominated by the existence of “universal values” is proof in the pudding.
By Col. W. Patrick Lang, Jr. READ IT ALL


RLaing said...

Well, we know the most capitalistic society on earth could not possibly have invaded Iraq for anything so tawdry as profits, so what's left? Nothing but this inane sort of mushy-minded pablum, I suppose.

I can't even be bothered to satirize it.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

The world sees the United States (correctly) as totally hypocritical. What most people don't understand about us is how sincerely hypocritical we are.

The less we believe in anything but the bottom line the more we need to dress it up. In the case of Iraq, both ideology and the opportunity to make big bucks alike were waved in front of the elites and the man in the street to get them on board. Both were red herrings.

In the case of Iraq, it was never necessary to invade it in order to make a lot of money there. The neocon agenda isn't about that at all. Their principal objective is to cut down any regime that actively (money, weapons) supports the Palestinians.

RLaing said...

Actually, it was necessary to invade to make money there. Before the war, U.S. oil majors were going to make no money, and now they are going to get 75% of the profits.

125 billion (proven) barrels x $60 per barrel = 7.25 trillion dollars. Iraq crude is of the very highest quality, and so cheap to refine, but let's be generous and say a trillion in costs. That still leaves 6.25 trillion, 75% of which is a cool 4.7 trillion. Moreover, Iraq is one of the few oil-rich regions of the world not yet fully explored, so there could be much as the same amount again waiting to be found. Also, the long-term future of the price of oil is nowhere but up.

It's the pretended concern for Israel that's the red herring, not the 'big bucks'.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

If it weren't for the US policy of sanctions against those it doesn't "approve" of, the US companies could have been making money just like the Russian and the French did. Just as American hoteliers could be raking in the money from the Cuban tourist business, just like the Canadians and the Spaniards do

If the Americans just were in business for business, rather like the Chinese are today, the oil would have flowed and the money would have rolled in without any problems or fuss.

Of course, Saddam would still be alive, but then again, so would many thousands of other more innocent Iraqis.

What is really disgusting is the mixture of greed and hypocritical, judgmental, sermonizing followed by infinite brutality.

RLaing said...

One more go, and then I'll drop it, I promise.

Without direct, physical control of the country, U.S. oil interests would have had to compete with the Russians, French, Chinese, Iranians and who-knows-who-else for the rights. It is not likely that they would have gotten 75% of the profits under such circumstances. They may not, of course, get them anyway if US troops leave the country, which is why I think the entire political establishment is terrified of any move in this direction that has teeth.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

First of all your comments are quite welcome. I certainly enjoy them and I'm sure others do too.

Finally what we are getting to in Iraq is something like the moral of a traditional children's story like "The Goose that laid the Golden Eggs": "Excessive greed leads to ruin".

Really if Dubya had spent more time attending the Brother's Grimm and Mother Goose instead of torturing frogs and pulling the wings off of flies and cheating at baseball, this would be a better world.

I am worried that a lot of people on the left are attributing to complex conspiracies what are in fact really attributable to the "Seven Deadly Sins" multiplied by stupidity.

Americans are especially vulnerable to this sort of thing as they are mightily repelled by the idea that it could just be true that "Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, meaning nothing."

Now I don't think that everything is "meaningless" I only think that it is impossible for us to really ever discover the inner meanings, we do not have enough 'bandwidth'. For example, my cat knows that her food comes in tin cans from the fridge, however she cannot imagine how the food comes to be in a can or the role the fridge plays in the scheme of things or how its systems operate. She just propitiates me by rubbing up against my legs, which is very effective.