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The Perils of Omnipotence
February 5, 2002
by Jeremiah Bourque

What is contagion?

Some good friends of mine, very intelligent people, could not answer this question for me when I asked them. I already knew; I was trying to make a point, using Treasury Sec. Paul O'Neill's comments on that he does not believe contagion even exists. Quite simply, it is the concept that financial trouble in one nation will cause ripple effects in other dependent or related nations. Paul O'Neill holds that this effect is pure fiction, does not exist, and is a false pretext for bailouts of third world countries (i.e. Mexico). This effect is taken as a fact beyond dispute in the financial markets, having been heavily burned by the phenomenon about three to four years ago when third world markets tumbled in near unison, particularly including the "Asian Tigers".

For those who have spent most of their lives wondering what comprises the "second world" countries, it used to be the Soviet Bloc, but that no longer exists. Seriously, most people I've asked have no idea... for years, not even I did, and I'm a foreign policy junkie, relatively speaking.

In the same ignorant sense, Paul Wolfowitz has been brow-beating NATO and pounding the table, using an ancient Athenian empire version of impugning neutrality, saying that if you are not for us, which means doing whatever we think you ought to be doing against terrorism, then you are against us, and we will either do it for you, or replace you with a government that will. He has pledged the honor of the United States to wage war in perpetuity (as his 1992-ish famous policy paper for the Pentagon urged) for the health and prosperity of the United States, to preemptively crush all enemies that could harm it and to work constantly to prevent any power from even remotely being able to cause its role as the greatest nation on Earth to be questioned.

As the President and his uber-hawk deputy defense secretary are on the same page, this has gone beyond bad jokes, citing passages of The Prince, and commenting about the foul state of American diplomacy. This is diving deeply into a genuine belief that there is no such thing as overreach; that overreach simply does not exist, and is a figment of the human imagination.

The dangers of such a genuine belief are incalculable.

First and foremost, something that personally offends me, which was described in a running commentary on the State of the Union speech that I will likely have archived on the Democratic Underground for posterity (though it appeared only on the message boards there), is that the President of the United States genuinely and poignantly believes that the events of 9/11 were good for the nation. Indeed, there could not have been any more fortunate tragedy.

Not only does the nation's baby boomer generation get a golden opportunity to cast off its soft culture and become ennobled by war, but the twin pillars of the ideal Republican state, low taxation for the engines of the economy (wealthy investors and large corporations) and massive defense spending (strong military plus excellent defense industry profits), are in fifth gear. The nation's peoples are to be reassured by a heavy crackdown on immigrants, including the comprehensive tracking of all foreigners as suspected terrorists, and the sweetening of favored treatment for travelers who carry "papers" of some sort with them, in the old Soviet Union internal controls sense. In the name of liberty, we are destroying it, replacing liberty with the aura of all-powerful security and the ethic of a nation at permanent war.

I don't believe any fair reading of what the Founding Fathers wrote can be used to justify this, but somehow, George W. Bush has managed to justify it through other means, specifically religious ones. By making this a fight between God and evil, he has publicly vested unto himself the moral right to wage war without restriction, quarter, nor review.

Thusly, the final nails in the coffin of the Republic have been hammered home.

As expected, Congress cheered.

Unfortunately, I have vastly less confidence in Bush's ability to bring home the bacon than I would have had in Augusta or Caesar. I need not find the many ways to compare them. It is sufficient to say that the Roman Empire was far more secure, internally, for a very long time, than a never-ending worldwide projection of power on the arrogant assumption that we can win everywhere at once as long as we intimidate the enemy sufficiently through military shock, can achieve.

Instantly, one sees that this policy was created by civilians who have no idea how military strategy really works. The idea that further thinning out of our capabilities is good for us is madness, generally speaking. However, there are several reasons why the likes of Wolfowitz believe that this can win for the next forty or fifty years (which is the time frame in which he thinks).

- Special forces. By increasing the number of Rangers, Green Berets, SEALs, paratroopers, and so on, to about 100,000, the US will have a worldwide reach that can bring down any third world nation with a minimum of casualties.

- Bombs. The US has an unmatched ability to bomb its enemies. By bombing heavily in conjunction with other strategies, the US is invincible.

- Fortifications. The US is unmatched in creating fortifications for forward troops, confining them in their bases as prisoners of war (remember: prisoners of war live in military conditions by convention), keeping their casualties to an absolute minimum (i.e. zero or else you do not want to be the base commander), and patrolling in heavy vehicles only. These techniques will allow the US to maintain broad public support.

- Wealth. The US has an unmatched ability to bribe, cajole, seduce, and otherwise manipulate the greedy low-lifes that dominate the third world. No one is without a price that the US cannot meet, save religious fanatics (which is why we are fighting them). Jealousy of the US will be turned into worship of the money that it can provide to the elites of target nations.

- Freedom. While immigrants and non-citizens will be gradually stripped of their freedoms, American citizenship will be once again made an elite, largely exclusive club that will make Americans proud of themselves, and particularly vengeful against any who would raise a hand against them. In this manner, the masses will be brought to support perpetual warfare against those who threaten their decadent way of life, cloaked in the American flag, while internally, puritan movements work to heal the rot caused by the complacency caused by the evils of peace.

While formidable explanations for why American dominance will be maintained, the vision is conveniently narrow in focus, as best described by the term "tunnel vision". Furthermore, the underlying assumptions here are themselves founded on colossal arrogance that is arguably becoming greater than that of the Greeks or the Romans themselves, since men like Bush and Wolfowitz have become accustomed to the notion that America is the most powerful and wealthiest nation in history. This leads to the cynical belief that the maintenance of these two facets of the nation are worth eternal war; not only this, but that the war is actually highly desirable, politically, economically, and morally.

The concept seems to be German in nature. Not Germans of the 20th century, mind you, but in the era of Rome: Be so feared that no one dares camp within a certain number of miles from your tribe. Intimidate until the fear is so great, and so overwhelming, that none shall dare raise a hand against one's own side.

The strongest way for this to be fought is through culture. That is, the "enemy" will use culture against these ambitions of eternal omnipotence. This is easily explained.

To the American supremacist, the Earth is essentially divided into two parts: the male and the female. America is the male part, while the rest of the world is the female part. It is the role of America to be masculine and dominate, while it is the role of others to be feminine and submit. It would be good for the rest of the world to simply relax and enjoy it.

Unfortunately, this will drive young men across the world (a type of individual that is increasing rapidly in number, especially in the nations where war has not recently culled their numbers substantially) to anger, including anger so great as to drive them to expend their own lives to take down Americans, be they the civilians that both sides seem to expect to be happy sheep led by their ideologically pure shepherds, or the great bonanza of taking out American soldiers. It should be noted that many suicide bombers hit civilians not because they prefer it, but because the chances of killing entrenched troops within an armed camp or fortified outpost are low, low enough to compete with Death Valley for elevation. The point is that engaging in cultural rape will eventually result in the raped rebelling, rising as the initial molecules of boiling water, even as the rest remains fluid.

Ultimately, this must be the logic behind the claim of the 100,000 terrorists. This is probably the result of a simple mathematical calculation. It is to make the assumption that 0.1% of the 1 billion Muslims worldwide - even though this includes the elderly, the disabled, women, and children - will inevitably turn to resistance of American supremacists across the globe. If these 100,000 predicted terrorists can be crushed and disabled, then the 99.9% will surrender and submit.

Is it really going to be that easy? Well, when you truly and genuinely believe in the realization of omnipotence, I suppose that you think that anything is possible, if only you apply your manliness to it.

Now you know that I really wasn't kidding when I talked about "penis size politics." Were I Jewish, I'd use some sort of relevant expression. Right now, my reaction is more that of disbelief. For if Republicans have ceased believing in the Republic, are they not now, then, literally, Imperialists?

The world is a changing place, but not even I believed that they'd complete this kind of ideological swing this quickly. I suppose that's because I underestimated the power of God, that is, religion, to provide the glue required to hold Washington together in what is now literally a crusade. We have combined the Imperialist belief of what the American way of life is, best expressed by what some writers have mentioned lately as the universal belief within Enron, "Government has only one legitimate role: National defense. It should leave everything else to the private sector." Of course, that included energy deregulation and the waiving of oversight of Enron's derivatives business. However, ultimately, dismantling the rest of the government in order to prop up national defense is viewed as both an economic role for the government, and a moral, religious role. Consequently, Bush has unified both wings of the Republican (?) party behind his project.

On deeper reflection, I think that the real Whopper today is simple: I don't see a whole lot of people discussing the real stakes here. The joke is no longer on the President; it is on us and our constitutional republic. Even the technicalities of the law, which I think more people ought to care about, are not the point here. This is about whether we are a peace-loving people. Today, looking back on the State of the Union, we are most definitely not, nor will we ever be mistaken for being so by the other dwellers on this shared sphere in the emptiness of space.

I'm not in a mood to laugh.

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