For over 7 year now we have watched while all manner of crimes have been committed by this president and his administration, with help, I'm sure, from Neoconservatives lurking outside of officialdom, in the shadows, like....say...Michael Ledeen, where all kinds of sin can be so easily committed; the forged Niger documents come to mind.
Have we reached the end of our collective tether? If so, are we going to simply go along with what has been and pretend all is normal, with politics as usual, just as most of us have for the last over 7 years (actually for the last 4 decades, but that's a long story) and allow ourselves and our nation to be swept along by a history we did not create nor did we want, or are we going to become a force of history, all of our own, yelling STOP, with pitch forks, torches and our flag, held high?
We are the people, we are the law, we are America. It's about time, don't you think, that we started acting like it!
In today's political environment John McCain should possess polling numbers below Barry Goldwater's in 1964, and face a similar electoral-count massacre of 486 to 52. Like his Arizona predecessor, McCain celebrates the trigger happy abroad and economically retrograded at home, only this time around -- and quite dissimilar to Goldwater's milieu -- the nation is bathed in the immediate backwash of two unfettered terms of right-wing abominations.
One would think we would have had enough -- that in the radioactive afterglow of modern conservatism, few within artillery range of the Bush-Goldwater mindset would even consider endorsing another four years of this madness. Yet there sits McCain, as snug and crazy as a bedbug with competitive numbers. In many polls, he's actually ahead.
It's enough to make you question not so much his sanity, but ours.
True, the maverick label still sticks to McCain and many voters find that appealing. But they clearly aren't listening to the man. If they were, they'd find he's offering up the same radical orthodoxy -- now there's a profound but existential contradiction in terms -- of George W. Bush & Friends. Like Voltaire's quip about the Holy Roman Empire, modern American conservatism is neither modern, nor American, nor conservative.
Well, it's modern in the sense that it walks among us, of course -- as did the remnants of Voltaire's Holy Roman Empire in his day -- but only in that sense. Otherwise, on the foreign affairs side of the policy equation, our modern conservatism that has come to be known as neo-conservatism is as outdated, useless and costly as the British Empire, which the Brits were smart enough to jettison before its antique uselessness and smothering costs brought down the motherland.
And that's all that John McCain is selling -- precisely that which the imperial George Bush has peddled for so long and vast swaths of Americans finally, we thought, swore off of. No more. Let us out of this nightmare. If there's some rational benefit to it, it's microscopic beyond our human powers of discernment. We want out, and not through the exit of radical orthodoxy, but radical change.
That was the national cry that went up, yet what's going down is depressingly familiar. This is not news or isolated insight. I'm saying nothing that millions of tuned-in Americans don't already know. McCain is peddling merely what Bush peddled -- a rejected, discredited ideology that left unchecked will be the ineluctable ruin of America. I repeat: rejected, discredited. I'll also repeat: and there sits McCain, as snug and crazy as a bedbug with competitive numbers.
This we know, but I'm getting to a larger point here, so bear with me.
It's also true that McCain is attempting to peddle the ideologically discredited with a bit of a twist. He has rediscovered the concepts of alliances and international cooperation, those once-towering hallmarks of American foreign policy that got buried in the rubble of the go-it-alone Bush Doctrine. But if one actually listens to the man, one finds they are just window dressing, a trifling of ideological marketing designed to make the buyer think the new model is somehow different from the old.
Consider, for instance, these lines from McCain's foreign policy speech delivered Wednesday:
The United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone. We must be strong politically, economically, and militarily. But we must also lead by attracting others to our cause, by demonstrating once again the virtues of freedom and democracy, by defending the rules of international civilized society and by creating the new international institutions necessary to advance the peace and freedoms we cherish....
We have to strengthen our global alliances as the core of a new global compact -- a League of Democracies -- that can harness the vast influence of the more than one hundred democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests.
Someone may want to remind the good senator that we already have such a Wilsonian league, but we'll leave that peculiar disconnect for another day. For what we should note instead is what then flowed from all this civilized brotherhood in the advancement of international peace and domestic virtue:
Those who argue that our goals in Iraq are unachievable are wrong, just as they were wrong a year ago when they declared the war in Iraq already lost.
It would be an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a great nation, if we were to walk away from the Iraqi people and consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing, and possibly genocide that would follow a reckless, irresponsible, and premature withdrawal. Our critics say America needs to repair its image in the world. How can they argue at the same time for the morally reprehensible abandonment of our responsibilities in Iraq?
In other words: Shove it. They're our goals, it's our character at stake, our sole responsibilities and we cannot walk away. And if our international critics don't like it, well, they can just direct their attention to this paragraph's introduction.
Same old, same old -- the very same neoconservative cowboyism that has been so costly in American lives, treasure, reputation and global influence. In response to Bush's version, the American people finally and rightfully said they would buy it no more. And yet they now largely embrace its latest salesman. What gives?
We know what gives -- a seemingly hopelessly divided opposition that ensures a President McCain by default. And that brushes up against the larger point I promised.
The last time there was this much anger and division among an anti-war crowd and within the Democratic party, we got Nixon. Just a Warning to the Wise; that is, if Wisdom still exists in America. One has to wonder when McCrackers has the poll numbers he has.
There's a debate among historians as old as empires, and it goes like this: Is history the stuff of impersonal, inalterable forces that sweep us helplessly along despite our knowing and desperate cries of "Stop"? Or do we determine our path through what historians call "human agency" -- the individual power to shape, for want of a better term, our destiny? In short, do we make history, or does it merely make fools of us?
Which brings us to the present, as well as the future.
We have watched in agonizing slow motion the disastrous consequences of Bushism, and we have screamed "Stop!" Yet despite our meager but best efforts, the madness now seems altogether plausible in its continuation. And someday, a few decades or so from now, after Americans have destroyed themselves, historians will ask: Did they not see what was coming? If so, was it nevertheless unstoppable? Was it but a force of history that swept them along into its dustbin?
Or, after we chose in 2008 not to destroy ourselves, will those historians sit back in admiration as well as in partial answer to the age-old question about human agency and say: They saw what was coming and God bless 'em, they changed course. Those in the great majority opposed to the madness took the proverbial bull by the horns by overcoming their comparatively insignificant, internal differences, and thereby unified as a force of unstoppable history themselves.
And who is it, now, who will soon go a long way in providing an answer to that? Pennsylvanians, that's who -- those at the original epicenter of the American Experiment.
For personal questions or comments you can contact P.M. at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE FIFTH COLUMNIST by P.M. Carpenter
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.