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Friday, March 30, 2007

A "Nice Try" Narrative

New narratives are bright shiny objects for a deconstructionist, and Fade at House of the Rising sons (via Mike's Blog Roundup) alerts me to one from George Friedman from Stratfor (subscription required).

Shorter Friedman: The United States has been at the least stalemated in every conflict in which we've been engaged since World War II. He goes on to list Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Iran and Iraq [what, no Grenada?] Even so, we have grown ever more powerful in spite of these misadventures. He then throws up three possible "explanations" in order to lend a an air of thoughtfulness to his analysis, before proceeding to his conclusion that may have been actually very successful "spoiling attacks," such being a preemption of events which might have actually been a threat if they action not been taken.

To his credit, Fade doesn't exactly buy into this, and instead (with some snark) sees it as a useful narrative to assuade the warmongers in our midst that "Defeat is Victory," as it were. Such things make a deconstructionist wince, but I do have a sense of humour so, you go, Fade.

Now, one of Friedman's "thoughtful" straw-man explanations is:
1.That U.S. power is derived not from winning wars, but from other factors, like economic power. [Fade]
"The U.S. preoccupation with politico-military conflict has been an exercise in the irrelevant that has slowed, but has not derailed, expansion of American power."

This is actually closer to the mark than Friedman's "spoiler attack" narrative, except his assertion that these conflicts have "slowed, but not derailed" expansion is flat wrong. These military-industrial activities have accelerated our economic expansion. This is why they go on, and this is why they are profoundly immoral.

It is also a false conclusion to say that this has been helpful for the United States, and the unspoken corollary that they can just go on with no negative consequences for our "great power" is just flat wrong, as we can see the imminent crumbling of the edifice of our "power" quite clearly at this point.

A better explanation regarding the world situation can be found in Jonathan Schell's The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, in which the case is made that it is the people (as opposed to the State) who have been the victors of all of these conflicts, hardships and horrors suffered aside. I recommend this book, especially in these dark times, as it is a welcome dose of humanistic optimism in the face of all of the unforgivable actions of today.

I forgive Friedman his machinations of logic, because he fails to see one thing that many of us also fail to see: That the State is a fiction of our imagination, we created it, and it could disappear tomorrow with no ill effect on the survival of humanity or its enjoyment of life here on Earth (to the contrary, I submit it would have a good effect.) Those of us who think the State is a necessary or inevitable thing necessarily spend a lot of brain power trying to keep it as a permanent factor in their analyses of our world's events. While it is a factor, it is not a necessary one, and simply subtracting it makes the whole process much easier.

(I define "State" here as different from "government," as the former is a false corporeality with an identity and a flag to protect, while the latter is simply a gathering of humans getting things in their common interest done.)

Ultimately, when the State is ignored as just another unfortunate gathering of paranoid monkeys, best avoided and ignored, then we'll see some real progress towards peace.

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