Andrew Bacevich: High Crimes and Misdemeanors of the Fading American Century

NB: The author of this piece is what might be called an enlightened conservative critic of American military interventionism abroad. Though I empathise with much of what he says, I can see where his argument resonates with (and exemplifies the problem with) a certain kind of left-wing stance on the unfolding American political crisis. What about the System? is what it says, much like a recent comment on the Trump impeachment made by Slavoj Zizek. It is necessary to engage with this posture and spell out its implications. (The global nature of the implosion of institutions based on the division of powers and answerability before the law exposes the nationalist pretensions of all the political patriots).

Bacevich's article refers to the hypocrisy of the 'elite' - as if Trump, and Murdoch and the Republican Party aren't members of the global elite. (Its ironical how ruthless mafiosi portray themselves as victims and representatives of the underdog). It ignores the systematic efforts of the ultra-right to deprive the poor of voting rights (gerrymandering), pack the courts with ideologically 'correct' judges; instigate violence against ethnic minorities and political critics, propagate racism, mysogyny and murderous hatred; and manipulate the news media to the point where the very concept of truth disappears completely. 
In a word: we are witnessing a violent insurrection against democracy, not against capitalism! This is what intellectuals such as Zizek fail to speak up about. One reason is that there has always been a strong authoritarian streak in Marxist-Leninist politics

How exactly do critics of the System propose to deal with the situation? Does it help to say 'what about the crimes of the anti-Trump elite'? Would they rather the concept of law-governed democracy disappeared? The argument misses the basic political problem: that Trump, and leaders like him, represent the uprising of a prominent section of the global ruling classes (yes, the elite) not only to evade accountability, but to demolish the concept of accountability altogether - i.e. to rule with a refurbished monarchy. Contrary to the view that 'free markets' and free istitutions complement each other, capitalism and democracy are not complementary - now that the Cold War is long over, capitalism is undermining not only the natural enviroment, but many tenuous democratic institutions too. Enroute to tyranny, the new breed of neo-fascists will pervert established institutions of justice, election machinery, criminal law, etc., in order to completely destroy their true functions.

Trump's politics resonates with that of India's 'Sangh Parivar' government (hence the Howdy Modi circus); not to mention with that of Duterte, Erdogan, Boris Johnson, Putin, Netanyahu, M. B. Salman, etc. For too long a time radical democratic thought has side-stepped the complex problem of law and governance, replacing it with talk about Systems; and failing to reflect upon whether the ideal society of their conception will be devoid of institutions of justice and accountability.

George Orwell summed up the problem in 1937: We have got to admit that if Fascism is everywhere advancing, this is largely the fault of Socialists themselves. Partly it is due to the mistaken Communist tactic of sabotaging democracy, i.e. sawing off the branch you are sitting on; but still more to the fact that Socialists have, so to speak, presented their case wrong side foremost. They have never made it sufficiently clear that the essential aims of Socialism are justice and liberty. With their eyes glued to economic facts, they have proceeded on the assumption that man has no soul, and explicitly or implicitly they have set up the goal of a materialistic Utopia. As a result Fascism has been able to play upon every instinct that revolts against hedonism and a cheap conception of ‘progress’. From The Road to Wigan Pier, (1937), ch 12. DS

Andrew Bacevich: High Crimes and Misdemeanors of the Fading American Century
As I wrote about a month before the 2016 presidential election, “As a phenomenon, Donald Trump couldn’t be more American... What could be more American, after all, than his two major roles: salesman (or pitchman) and con artist? From P.T. Barnum... to Willy Loman, selling has long been an iconic American way to go. A man who sells his life and brand as the ultimate American life and brand... come on, what’s not familiar about that?”

And then, in that fateful October, I added: “In relation to his Republican rivals, and now Hillary Clinton, he stands alone in accepting and highlighting what increasing numbers of Americans, especially white Americans, have evidently come to feel: that this country is in decline, its greatness a thing of the past... Under such circumstances, many of these voters have evidently decided that they’re ready to send a literal loose cannon into the White House; they’re willing, that is, to take a chance on the roof collapsing, even if it collapses on them. That is the new and unrecognizable role that Donald Trump has filled. It’s hard to conjure up another example of it in our recent past. The Donald represents, as a friend of mine likes to say, the suicide bomber in us all. And voting for him, among other things, will be an act of nihilism, a mood that fits well with imperial decline.”

Looking back, so much of what I wrote then has become the essence of now.... read more:

Too Inept to end the fruitless US Forever Wars: Trump v. the National Security State
NB: This is another interesting article by Bacevic, but for some reason, neither Turkey & Saudi Arabia, (nor the latters' brutal war against Yemen with Trump's approval), get a mention. Bacevich is projecting his wish to see the end of US imperialism onto Trump. He fails to see that Trump is only interested in making money for himself and his family. He's for sale. Its not imperial fatigue that is the hallmark of this regime, but 'law-fatigue' - he aims at putting an end to lawful governance altogether. DS

see also
Pratap Bhanu Mehta: Serial authoritarianism picks out targets and tires out challenges
How the UK Security Services neutralised the country’s leading liberal newspaper
A Final Warning by George Orwell

Popular posts from this blog

The Almond Trees by Albert Camus (1940)

Kevin McDonald - ISIS isn’t Medieval: Revolution, Terror and Statemaking are Modern

Haruki Murakami: On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning

After the Truth Shower

A Message to the 21st Century by Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997)

Rudyard Kipling: critical essay by George Orwell (1942)

Satyagraha - An answer to modern nihilism