Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “neocons”

What will Caliban do next?

Zero Plus Zero Equals Zero – by Philip Giraldi:

If the next president is John McCain, one might well expect a continuation of the Bush Doctrine, with its disregard of world opinion and its emphasis on preemption and the use of the military to solve complex international problems. If it is Barack Obama, he will hopefully have a predilection to negotiate before bombing and a greater willingness to listen to the views of America’s foreign allies. But on key issues such as the Middle East, where Obama is advised by neocon-lite Dennis Ross and other Clinton administration holdovers like Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke, one can expect little change. There might even be a regrettable tendency to demonstrate an Obama administration’s seriousness by picking a ‘small crappy little country and throwing it against the wall’ just to make a point, something that leading neocon Michael Ledeen has recommended (hat-tip to A conservative blog for peace.

The first decade of the 21st century has been marked by the Caliban versus Taliban wars. At least that is what it seems like, in the light of Robert Browning’s poem, Caliban upon Setebos:

Thinketh, such shows nor right nor wrong in Him
Nor kind, nor cruel: He is strong and Lord.

Am strong myself compared to yonder crabs
That march now from the mountain to the sea;
Let twenty pass, and stone the twenty-first,
Loving not, hating not, just choosing so.
Say, the first straggle that boasts purple spots
Shall join the file, one pincer twisted off
Say, this bruised fellow shall receive a worm,
and two worms he whose nippers end in red;
As it likes me each time, I do; so He.

And Caliban seems to be an appropriate metaphor for the USA — much strength, little intelligence, arbitrarily throwing some crappy little country against a wall like a crab, just to make a point, or even to make no point at all, as in the case of Iraq.

The martyrdom of the Iraqi Church

Let this be a kind of postscript to the Blogswarm post of the 5th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraqi-American War, to which there is no end in sight.

Did the neocons think about this when they unleashed the dogs of war in Iraq? Do they care?

One ancient Christian Church will have no difficulty identifying with the Passion of Jesus during Holy Week: Iraqi Christians, who – thanks to Muslim persecution and Western indifference – may be forced underground, as they were in the days of the Roman Empire.

Iraqi Christian woman
An Iraqi Christian outside the Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad

Thousands of Iraqis attended the funeral of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, whose remains were discovered two weeks after his kidnap. A few years ago, the crowds would have been bigger. That is because half of all Iraq’s prewar population of 1.2 million Christians have left the country since the invasion of the country. Did that possibility ever occur to the American neocons? Do they even care?

blog it

Hat-tip to the Western Confucian.

Liberalism, neoliberalism and neocons

Since electronic communication made it possible to communicate regularly and frequently with people in other continents I’ve discovered that many Americans seem to regard “classical liberalism” and neoliberalism as the same thing.

For most of my life I’ve regarded myself as a Liberal, and was for a time a card-carrying member of the Liberal Party until it was forced to disband by the Prohibition of Improper Interference Act.

But I was (and am) a political liberal, not an economic liberal. I had always thought that “classical liberalism” was primarily political liberalism, and though there was sometimes a connection with laissez faire economics, it was not a necessary connection. Neoliberalism refered to economic liberalism, pure and simple.

A recent post by Dionysius Stoned, on Foucault, Governmentality and Neoliberalism, has, however, helped to clarify things for me. In this post Dionysius Stoned says:

Lemke points out that Foucault’s lectures suggest two key points of disjuncture between classical liberalism and neoliberalism. The first concerns the relation between the state and the economy. Here Foucault points out that if classic liberalism, resting on “the historical experience of an overtly powerful and absolutist state”, had seen in the latter the role of ‘defining’ and ‘monitoring’ market freedom, this conception is “inverted” under the neoliberal model. Here, rather than the “state supervising the market,” the market becomes the organising principle underlying the state…[n]eoliberalism removes the limiting external principle and puts a regulatory and inner principle [of the market] in its place”. The second difference relates to the basis of government. Arguing that neoliberalisim takes as its “central point of reference and support” the figure of homo economicus, Foucault discussion goes on to show how this conception nevertheless departs from that of classic liberalism. Following off from the prior shift that recodes the social as the economic, neoliberalism enables the extension of economic precepts, “cost benefit calculations and market criteria”, to a whole spectrum of human practice. This conception of homo economicus – honing in on an image of an economically motivated individual who always makes decisions on the basis sound (“rational”) cost benefit analysis – no longer resembles that of the classic liberal philosophers. If the latter, moving from a reductive conception “man’s nature,” had believed that the “freedom of the individual is the technical precondition of rational government” – which government could not constrain without calling into question its own foundation – neoliberalism would no longer take as its point of reference “some pregiven human nature.” Lemke explains:

Neoliberalism no longer locates the rational principle for regulating and limiting the action of government in a natural freedom that we should all respect, but instead it posits an artificially arranged liberty: in the entrepreneurial and competitive behaviours of economic-rational individuals. Whereas in the classic liberal conception, homo oeconomiscus forms an external limits and the inviolable core of governmental action, in the neo-liberal thought of the Chicago school he becomes a behavioristically manipulable being and the correlative of a governmentality which systematically changes the variable “environment” and can rightly expects that individuals are characterised by “rational choice”

Now I’m not an economist and some of Foucault’s terminology is way beyond me (I can form no clear conception of a “discursive field”). But translating it into the terms of a discipline closer to home — theology — that tends to confirm what I have long thought: that neoliberalism is idolatry, because it seeks to make man bow down and worship economic forces and give them rule. It pretends not to do this, of course, by using the rhetoric of “rational choice”, but tends to assume that a “rational” choice is one governed mainly  by economic values and considerations.

Then there is another blog post, by “The Antidote”, on the subject of South Africa’s neoCon spin factory, from which it appears that neocons are practically indistinguishable from neoliberals. As with classical liberalism and laissez faire economics, I am not sure that there is a necessary connection between neocons and neoliberalism, but they seem to coincide most of the time.

And if you remove the “neo” it seems to make little difference either. American “liberals” and “conservatives” alike seem to have a penchant for bombing countries where the name of the capital city begins with B.

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