Shouldn’t “Facing Reality” be an Essential Part of “Reality Politics”?

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.

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Andrew Sullivan’s Discombobulated Reality

Andrew Sullivan takes issue with libertarian’s inability to “engage” in so-called “political reality.”

Does even the most devoted libertarian really believe that any responsible president of any party would not have tried to save the economy from a total financial meltdown? Do they recall that the Congress initially did turn it down and then changed its mind? And would it be possible for them to acknowledge that the bank bailout seems to have been far more successful than almost anyone believed at the time?

As readers know, the Dish is very libertarian-friendly. But sometimes they drive us nuts with their utter disengagement with, you know, political reality.

For the purposes of the post, I’m not interested in debating the relative merit of Christine O’Donnell. Rather I’m much interested in referencing a post, The Untamed Prince, Sullivan published earlier in the week. In that post Sullivan practically hoists the black flag in criticizing The Prince qua Prince ruling of the Ninth Circuit court regarding State secrets. Writes Sullivan:

Have I been radicalized by this? You betcha. Because this is so plainly not a nation under the rule of law anymore. And there are very few political issues more important than that.

Soon thereafter, however, Sullivan resumed his quest for salvation from the establishment center. For example, here’s Sullivan being newly inspired by the reality-based conservatism of Mitch Daniels. Mitch fucking Daniels?

What a poseur. Sullivan has changed directions on the 2-lane political street more times than a Friday night high schooler cruising the the only road that runs through the middle of nowhere town USA. He’s an emblem of Sartwell’s comedy: those who are compelled by “the masochist fantasy of transcendence through subordination.” Mitch Daniels, a movement turns its lonely eyes to you. Please!

Let us be clear. When you write this is not “a nation under the rule of law anymore” you are conceding Plutocracy. And do you know who defends something like TARP in a plutocracy? That would be the plutocrats…or those those who are quite fine with the Status Quo of the Plutocracy, or those who are subsumed by the communitarian propaganda of the party in power. Which is it for Sullivan? Or is Sullivan just a type of paranoid delusional seeking reality in the paranoid center.

Prozac is a wondrous thing…

Dem Party Files Chapter 11

Earlier in the week, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine billed a new major announcement for the Dem Party, one that would signal the future of the party and restore the tingle in the lower extremities of it’s members. A day later, the substance of this announcement was revealed: it was a new logo.

Quoting Kaine:

The new look demonstrates that we’re about the people.

Laugh the fuck out loud. And it’s now official: the Dems are intellectually bankrupt. Let’s see: Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy…gone. The Obama Netroots…gone, except for the people on the payroll. In the wake, what are we left with: a logo ripped off from a pizza joint in Ohio.

“The Change” needs more cowbell…

Civil War to be with the Dems, not in the GOP over the Tea Parties

Tom Knapp writes a mea culpa of sorts regarding his predictions of the Tea Parties. Although Knapp, being a knowledgeable libertarian, is quite aware there was a grassroot history with the “tea party” meme, he apparently, nonetheless, bought into the conventional thinking that the “Tea Parties” were an Establishment GOP astroturf phenomenon. Not quite.

A couple of years ago at Freedom Democrats, we predicted there would be a so-called “libertarian revival” in the GOP. This was because the “establishment GOP” was ideologically bankrupt; the ideology had become warped around maintaining “insider power.” Once, the “insider status” was lost, there would be an intellectual void to be filled: a raison detre to regain power. At the time, I saw an intellectual battle between Grover Norquist’s “Club for growth” vs “Sam Club Republicanism” taking place in the “think tanks” while on the ground, you would have the Paulista’s begin to challenge the Chrisitian Evangelicals in terms of local party organization. However, this was before the massive Obama Stimulus; no one saw that coming. When that happened, the “Sam’s Club, Crunchy Con” thing was wiped out by the “libertarian” thing to a large extent. Then there was sort of competition that developed in terms of grafting a sort of libertarian class theory onto neoconservatism, paleo-conservatism, or christian social conservatism. But then along came Glenn Beck. I must admit, I never saw this guy coming. Using Fox as his bullhorn, he has managed to unify these elements under a so-called “country class.”

The establishment republicans are fine with this “country class,” as long as it is anti-Obama. When these “tea party outliers” win their primaries, they send “handlers” out to control the candidates. If the republicans regain control of the house and senate, it will be the usual suspects in leadership positions. There isn’t going to be any “civil war” because the GOP is held together now by a fuming anti-Obama sentiment. There possibly could be some major friction that develops over any attempts at immigration reform. And there will be some friction that will develop around 2011-2012 presidential candidates Palin, Romney, and Huckabee. But it won’t be anything like the Obama/Clinton nasty primary.

Frankly, I think the coming civil war is going to be much more with the Dems. From Day one, Team Obama eviscerated the Howard Dean 50 state strategy for one primarily concerned with the re-election of Barack Obama. Obama has saddled the Dems with an unpopular Stimulus program, an unpopular Health Care reform, likely huge congressional losses in the midterm, and will make entitlement reform the top priority the next term. You think there is conflict now between the Dem Political Class and the “professional Left”? I think you are going to see that crack widen considerably. Obama is going to end up having a significant primary challenger from his own party in 2012.

That’s my amateur political punditry. Take it for what it’s worth…

David Frum’s DoubleThink

David Frum’s piece, Frum’s 9-11 Myths, I gather, is supposed to be construed as a rejoinder to Ted Koppel’s recent piece. But notice something. It really doesn’t address Koppel’s argument. Rather Frum simply throws out 3 so-called myths that he claims have been debunked. But this so-called debunking really doesn’t address the substance of Koppel’s argument. Frum’s rejoinder or counter-argument is simply a strawman argument.

That being said, allow me to debunk Frum’s strawman argument. Below are the 3 points that Frum puts up for debunking.

1) We can’t stop terrorism without addressing the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

2) Invading Iraq will lead to a global surge of Islamic terrorism.

3) Terrorism is a product of poverty and despair.

Regarding (1). Who exactly claimed this? Not all Asymmetric warfare is the purview of Islamic insurgents and not all “Islamic Terrorism” is centered around “the Palestine question.” An obvious example is the India-Pakistan conflict that has been hot and cold since post WWII independence from Britain. “Muslim militants” engaged in asymmetric warfare in this conflict are motivated by the “India-Pakistan Question.” The Palestine question is a separate issue revolving around another territorial dispute that originates from the British Mandate.

Now if you want to address the criminal acts of state sponsored murder and genocide by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people and the asymmetric acts of retaliatory violence against Israeli civilians, you might want to see this dispute resolved. And my recommendation would be to keep Washington as far as way as possible. But it’s hardly the case that 4th generational asymmetric warfare that occurs around the world revolves around the “Palestine question,” as if that’s the only ruling class/people conflict at issue in the world.

(1) was a phony claim to begin with.

Regarding (2). There were some who did claim this. I’m not sure this has actually been debunked. Without doubt, the invasion of Iraq led to a regional increase in terrorism and the formation of asymmetric warfare insurgencies. Included in this increased terrorism activity was the formation of “al-qaeda in Iraq.” Before the invasion, there was no al-qaeda in Iraq. Post invasion, there was an al-qaeda in Iraq. Originally, it was comprised of mostly foreign fighters. Now it is a homegrown insurgency group.

My claim, for example, was never that the Iraq invasion would necessarily lead to al-qaeda attacks in the United States(which I suppose is what Frum really means in terms of increased ‘global terrorism.’). There has never been any al-qaeda in the United States; the “9-11 attackers” were a European export. My claim instead is that an attack on Iran would result in terrorist attacks in the United States; these attacks,however, would not be carried out by al-qaeda, but rather by Hezbollah.

Regarding (3). There are some who do claim this. However, I would claim that terrorism, or more accurately, asymmetric tactical violence, is much more of a product of class conflict. However, class conflict should never be pigeonholed into classes defined by income. The wrong question to ask is whether the West is behind global poverty. The proper question to ask is whether the West is behind global political class rule. That answer to that, of course, is yes.

So (1) is really phony claim to begin with. (2) really hasn’t been debunked. (3) is not a universally held claim. You can debunk (3) but it can be recast in better terms that make it a claim much more difficult to debunk.

After these 3 points, Frum dedicates the rest of his post to triumph the security success of the War on Terror, informing us how trivial the attacks have become. In other words, Frum is making a claim that the Institution of “the War on Terror” has resulted in a devolution of al-qaeda and asymmetric warfare in general. But this runs counter to the claims made by the Institution itself. The government is warning about the evolving threat of al-qaeda. So is the threat devolving or is it evolving? Frum claims the WOT institutionalism has devolved the threat of terrorism while the WOT institutionalism itself claims it is evolving. This is classic “doublethink.” And the institutionalism itself seems to be particularly preoccupied with the evolving “homegrown threat.” So, we fought them over there so we wouldn’t have to fight them here, but apparently, as it ends up, we are nonetheless informed we are going to have to fight ourselves over here.

Such is the logic of permanent war…

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Conspiracy Theory

Gary Chartier gives Two Cheers for Conspiracy Theories. It’s not the full three cheers, so it’s only qualified support for conspiratorial ruminations within anti-authoritarian politics.

Here’s my take.

I’m a Hayekian more or less in terms of institutional and social analysis. This means I look at things like incentives, rules, and institutions, and modeling methodologies such as game theory and complexity theory, to think about how dialectical social evolution results from a by-product of human design and undesigned spontaneous order. So how should one model politics? Start with assumptions of rationality: Politicians share the same traits as psychopaths. Now, I don’t think politicians are actually psychopathic(psychopathy is a neurological abnormality of reduced activity of the amygdala in the medial temporal lobes of the brain that results in an inability to feel empathy; a psychopath is a psychopath in any institutional setting, including the family). Rather, the institutional incentives of political institutions reward psychopathic behavior. Politicians, in sense, trade/exchange political favors and artificial rents; any consequences of such “trade,” however, are not borne by them; instead, they are dispersed across the larger population. So you have a institutional setting where agents don’t have to bear the burdens of their decisions, which means this institutional setting is not one about reinforcing “empathy,” but rather one about reinforcing power. Thus you wind up with an institutional rule, in a very real sense, consisting of a bunch of coordinating psychopaths.

So, definine politics as a “game of coordinating psychopaths” and apply a evolutionary game treatment to it. In evolutionary game theory, you are looking for evolutionarily stable strategies that have the property that if almost every member of the population(the population in this case being the population of politicians) follows it, no mutant can successfully invade. I think you would end up with something very similar, in terms of the dynamics, if you were to assume a pure propaganda model–that is, history is being designed by some secret group such as “the Bilderberg Group.” In the end, you probably end with roughly the same thing. The difference would be that I would contend there is a “knowledge problem” for any secret grand design of history. No one or nor group is smart enough to “centrally plan history.”

But this doesn’t mean that they are not actual conspiracies. On the contrary, there most certainly are. For example: The Bush Admin, particularly Cheney and his cadre of neoconservatives, conspired to legally implement a unitary executive regime that would be necessary for the prosecution of a permanent war in the middle east, southern asia, and northern africa. This was clearly laid out in the writings of the PNAC members going back to the 90s. However, this doesn’t mean the PNAC was behind 9-11.

With the massive growth of the intelligence State, I think one is quite justified to assume beforehand that “the discrediting” of individuals or groups who threaten “the intelligence State” is likely the result of Psychops. That’s what an intelligence State does.