Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On the Other Hand

I haven't perused the "news" yet this morning, so there may be other things going on that I might have missed, but I reread the post just previous to this one, and I'm kind of astonished at myself.

I'm "proud" of career State Department personnel?

All in all, the cable dump is "good?"

What's that all about? WTF?

I look at that and I ask, "Who wrote that? Was that me?"

And "What was I thinking?"

(Someone else reading it might thump their chest and assert with confidence that I was doing nothing but expressing my "tribalism" as a former Federal worker. Heh.)

Indeed. As should be obvious, I was more than a little concerned that the latest Doc Dump would prove an utter embarrassment on the world stage. The United States Government would be seen as a completely duplicitous, hypocritical, and deeply craven institution without honor or even the conception of it. What we would see from the cables was that the game that was being played on the table has nothing to do with the game being played below it.

We may still see that, but so far, what's been shown in the cables is that pretty much that everything's been up front, on the table, and thoroughly hashed around, by people who actually do know something of what they are doing. If there is an under-the-table game going on (as I'm sure there must be by some of the more shadowy agencies), it is not the State Department's game, even when the Devil's Daughter was running things from her raven's perch as Assistant Secretary of State for Mideastern Affairs.

That, to me, is a relief.

That doesn't mean I approve of the policies coming out of the DC workshops and palaces. That's a whole nother topic.

If the United States is going to engage in statecraft -- as it must -- I would rather it be done well and competently. It appears that that's the case. And it also appears that policy can change, and the career people at State are able to maintain their professionalism at statecraft no matter how the rules of engagement with the rest of the world shift. These are actually important reassurances that competence has not been completely jettisoned in the panic over The International Terrorist Conspiracy.

What we need now, it seems to me, is a serious and thoroughgoing reevaluation of policy. That was supposed to have been one of the "changes" we would see from the New Regime in DC. It hasn't quite worked out that way.

To put it delicately.

Unfortunately, the major push for policy changes is coming from the Rightists, some of whom are now, it is clear, intent on crashing the whole apparatus. The Revolutionary Spirit we saw from the Right during the Bushevik years has not been dampened at all. The Rightist Revolutionaries got much of what they wanted during the Bushevik reign, but they didn't get it All. That's what they're now after.

And they won't be satisfied until they achieve Ultimate Victory.

Opportunists, mostly of the more Ferengi Branch of Libertaria, are taking advantage of what they see as a Power Vacuum to insert themselves into the fray so as to grab their piece of the pie when it all falls down. The attacks on Old Line Liberals are only going to increase in the short term.

For all intents and purposes, Liberalism is a failed cause. The lights are going out in the Enlightenment one by one, and they aren't going to be re-lit any time soon. At least not in the West.

We're entering a New Dark Age in a sense.

Maybe my focus on the competence of career State Department personnel is misplaced.

When self-doubt enters the picture... ack.


  1. The State Department.

    My great uncle was a chargé d'affaires in Brazil for years. He came from a family like the Kennedys, New Englanders, huge (nine kids), and it was expected to go into the civil service, if one wasn't an artist or a writer.

    All the sons went to Harvard. All the daughters went to the best women's colleges of the day -- which meant they were limited, but didn't let that stop them. My grandmother was an artist and she married an Irishman who also had a big family.

    It's quite amazing that even in my life, I've seen the change from government service being thought of as honorable, to it being seen as nothing more than enabling evil itself.

    It, of course, is essential, necessary and healthy that bad government be criticized severely and counteracted at all times. But I find it tragic that the entire enterprise has been successfully demonized. I think that leads to more bad government, not less, because it makes privatization all the more likely, and little by little, the only face of government left is the part that punishes, not the part that gives back.

    . . . .

    I think that's always been the plan on the right. Make government hated. Make people despise it. But don't kill it outright. Leave it in place to protect property, force open markets for the rich, go to war if needbe to do so, and keep redistributing those dollars upward.

    Some righties cynically manipulate this. Others just fall for it. But I think -- as you and others have talked about as well -- there is no opposition to this now. Liberals have given up, thrown in the towel, and are now in the mode of preemptive capitulation, perhaps in hopes that giving in a little bit means less draconian measures.

    I have a feeling they'll be surprised at how that fails. That it will (obviously) just encourage more draconian changes. Perhaps they don't really care, one way or another, at this point.

    The Dark Ages. I hope you are right about some spiritual reservoir getting us through this. From my own POV, I don't want it to be fundamentalist in any way, shape or form. Holistic, pantheistic, earth-bound and nature-centric would be my hope.

  2. Yes, the "honor" of it. I had had a relatively long and... interesting!... career prior to joining the Federal Service in 1997. I left in 2009 (what a relief!). And when I started, I did very have an image of "honor of service" -- which I felt was shared by almost everyone I was working with. These were people who not only believed in what they were doing, but they believed in "service" to the People. I could get into that.

    Came December 12, 2000, and it really did change inside the Belly of the Beast. Many people I was working with felt sick to their stomachs. They felt betrayed. They felt that abuse was certain, and soon. And many believed that war was inevitable. Probably with Iraq, and probably within a year of the inauguration. They felt betrayed by Gore and Congress as well. If the electeds refused to fight what were we on the front lines supposed to do?

    Some resigned on the spot. Some stayed for a year or so and quit. 9/11 did not restore confidence. Far from it; morale got much worse. Some people held on because of all they had invested in their jobs and careers, but many became functional automatons. And as the people who believed in "honor" left, the internal situation got more and more disheartening. Oddly enough, the political appointees from the Bush/Cheney White House were actually pretty good, and from my perspective, they did not try to politicize the agency at all (of course I heard about things I never saw, so I can't say for sure.)

    Nevertheless, by the time I left, so many things had changed for the worse... nothing got better with the advent of the Obama Administration. Arguably, it didn't change at all.


    Oh, the continuation of my ruminations about the Madhouse/Dark Age we're entering is in the post after this one.

    It's a riff on a commemorative piece in the New Yorker by Jeffrey Toobin on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the dreadful Bush v Gore ruling.
    Have you read "How the Irish Saved Civilization?"

    We must not give up!


  3. Yes, read Cahill's book several years ago. Loved it.

    What person of Irish descent wouldn't?


    A sidebar to Cahill's book. While we have those monks to thank for saving so much of our European cultural heritage (Islamic cultures did much later as well), we also have them to blame a wee bit for distorting and sometimes destroying Irish myths and legends. The Catch22 of it is that we may not have gotten many of those myths at all, even in Christianized form, if not for the monks, etc.

    Still, I wish they could have preserved them without the editing. And, of course, I wish the Vikings had not felt the need to burn up centuries of culture. I suppose that most of we Irish have some Viking in us as well . . . Someday, I want to run one of those DNA searches. I'd like to see if it all matches up to what we were told as kids.

    Irish, Scot, Spanish and Cherokee.

    Will take a good look at your new article. Personally, I think Salon (or some other website with a big audience) should give you some space. On Salon, it would be a nice contrast to GG.


    Take care

  4. I've been reading The Wrecking Crew by Thomas Frank. It's very interesting, and it goes into great deal of right wing shadow government diplomacy (in Apartheid South Africa and on behalf of the Contras among others) and the shift from anti-communism to free market libertarianism as the propaganda basis for their actions.

    Michael Hudson has pointed out that no matter what the government is going to continue, and it's not really going to get "smaller." It's priorities have changed, and it will still need to be paid for with taxes.

    The tax burden will be shifted to people who work for a living, leaving the rentiers to enjoy their income untroubled.

  5. "The Wrecking Crew" is an important volume for understanding the predicament we're in.

    The tax burden is being shifted to working people -- where the rentiers have always believed it belongs anyway. Taxation is punishment for the failure to succeed. And if you must work for someone else, you obviously haven't succeeded.

    The bloat in the Security State is absurd; that bubble, too, needs to burst. On the other hand, the United States has got an expanding Empire to superintend. Under the circumstances, the State is not about to wither. Not in OUR lifetimes. But its focus is wildly different than even 30 years ago.

    Thirty years from now, our domestic situation is liable to be so much different than it is now, it will be an unrecognizable world, with completely different concepts of the State and Authority.

    We're already witnessing the inversion of language and meaning.

  6. The State will be like Foucault's Discipline and Punish. Instead of being the friendly neighbor, it will be the ogre god come to getcha if you don't obey your private masters.

    That ogre god will be hated and feared. And eventually, the pitchforks will be raised. It's a matter of who wins. I think it's likely the State wins, and gets even more ogre-like. Or, we get a military coup, etc. etc. I'm not sanguine about the direction of things, and the catfood commission doesn't bode well along those lines. Looks like the Dems will cave and go all "austerity" and spin that.

    I fear for future generations. I'll probably be long gone. But I really fear for future generations.

  7. That's kind of what I'm getting into with the Koch pages. I haven't really studied them and their perfidy previously -- just skimmed the Mayer piece in the New Yorker, for example, and noted in passing their names appeared over and over during the campaign season, and of course Ames and Levine dogging them.

    But the more I look into them, the uglier it really is. These men are so authoritarian and so nasty in their "science of liberty" that I can understand much better the attitudes and behavior of the obnoxious cultists who are now popping up everywhere with their constant yammering of Koch/Libertarian talking points. And denial that they're any such thing.

    Fascinating to me is that like the neocons, the Kocheviks base their "science" or "ideology" or whatever you want to call it on an inverted Marxism. In the case of the neocons, inverted Trotskyism, too.

    And I'm getting the impression the Kochs see themselves as at least minor divinities.

  8. I agree with Cuchulain: I wish you had a wide audience of readers, Ché. You think and write about important stuff that is hard for some of us to pluck and coalesce. It's much easier to go about mindless of the big pictures because those pictures are so dire. I appreciate your diving into the poisonous shrouded layers, though, so I don't need to. How do you keep sane covered in slime after coming up into the sunshine??

  9. Thanks for your very kind words lea-p and Cu-hool. I truly appreciate it.

    The fact that anybody reads my turgid, lugubrious prose -- and responds -- amazes me. I've never sought a wide audience, though. My preference is to stay behind the scenes.

    If my prattle has an influence from the wings, or even just floats away on the wind, that's fine with me!

    But thanks again. :D