I going to comment on a recent article, Blaming Obama, written by Justin Raimondo at Antiwar.com. The thrust of his article is a critique of a piece, Trapped, written by Harvard Professor Stephen Walt at his blog at Foreign Policy. Walt, to an extent, is attempting to exonerate Obama for his foreign policy actions because Walt thinks Obama is “trapped” in an institutional framework that is far too powerful even for the President of the United States to confront.
Raimondo’s essentially rejects Walt’s claims and argues that Obama is to blame for his actions because he is, in fact, ideologically aligned with this institutional empire. However, I am going to take a different critical approach to Walt’s piece. I am going to accept his argument as a premise to my own argument. And I’m going to outline a logical conclusion in part from such a premise that is, IMHO, a better counter-argument, from a libertarian perspective, than the one Raimondo constructs.
To start with with, it should be noted that Walt is no partisan toadie. He has appeared as guest before on antiwar radio. Walt’s argument more or less is that ideology has driven a plutocratic institutional foreign policy. That is why the blog tagline reads: “A Realist in a Ideological Age.” Here, his argument is that Obama is captive to this Plutocracy. So we start with a premise of Plutocracy. However, I would challenge Walt’s contention that the plutocracy is driven by ideology. Here, I appeal to Orwell’s political theory.1 There is nothing ideological about plutocracy or oligarchy. Indeed, the objective of such is to destroy ideology by destroying language, to make ideology conceptually impossible. The “Age of Plutocracy” leads to the destruction of ideology so that, in the end, there can be no “Age of Ideology” in a Oligarchical World. To think you can counter Oligarchy by countering ideology with “Realpolitik” is mere DoubleThink.
If we assume Obama , a so-called “transitional political figure,” thrust into power behind a popular grassroots phenomenon, is nonetheless powerless against and captive to the Plutocracy implies that the function of “Realpolitik,” in the end, is the use of politics to legitimize the plutocracy. Walt, in his argument, can only conclude, in the end, that Obama is better than the alternative of another Bush. But from my inferred purpose of “Realpolitik,” Obama has served it’s purpose, which is the legitimization of the Oligarchy. In particular, the legitimization of the Unitary Executive conducting permanent secret war. So, in this sense, Obama has actually been “better” for the Plutocracy.
The reality of “reality politics” is that in a post-liberal era, that is an era marked by catastrophic liberal institutional failure, the institutional alternatives are Oligarchy vs Anarchy. In this era, the only real ideological struggle is class conflict. For the sake of humanity, you should probably hope that ideology wins out over “Realpolitik.”2,3
1Orwell’s political theory revolves a ruling class whose objective is not necessarily wealth, but domination and a persistence of a world-view, a persistence of the hierarchical structures of the ruling class(it doesn’t matter who wields the power; as long as the institutions, the hierarchies remain unchanged). This achieved via permanent war and corruption of the language. The objective of the corruption of language is to make consistent thought impossible. This inability for consistent thought is the “goal of the revolution,” so to speak. In Nineteen Eight-Four, of course, holding a consistent thought(2+2=4) is a crime.
2Note: Libertarianism, as a political critique, particularly as a class critique against the State, is highly ideological. However, as a social theory for the institutional arrangement of social orders, sans the State, I hold it to be much less ideological. In a sense then, both Oligarchy and anarchism would lead to a post-ideological world of sorts. Of course, “post-ideological” means something quite different in one context as opposed to the other(in one, no consistent thought; the other, a lack of dogmatism). In the end, it perhaps boils down to which “post-ideological” world you would prefer to live in.
3Put another way: Reason wins out over DoubleThink.