Monday, October 03, 2016

bruce wilder 10.02.16 at 7:49 pm

Anarcissie @ 239: We basically have a whole class of people, at the top of the social order, who seem devoid of a moral sense — a problem which the upcoming election isn’t going to touch, much less solve. I don’t blame Clinton for this . . .

JimV @ 317: I am sorry if I mischaracterized BW as implying that HRC is evil, . . .

Peter T @ 320: Whatever the merits of their individual stances, there is no reason to suppose that either Obama or Hillary can exert more than loose control over this mess [the multi-sided regional civil war engulfing Syria and northern Iraq]

stevenjohnson @ 324: The recent leak that Clinton is against nuclear armed cruise missiles and isn’t committed to Obama’s trillion dollar nuclear weapons upgrade appears to suggest she’s not quite on board with plans for general war.

LFC @ 330: I disagree w the notion that the pt of nuclear ‘modernization’ is to make plausible the threat of “imminent general nuclear war.” If U.S. military planners took hallucinogenic drugs and went nuts, they could “plausibly” threaten “imminent general nuclear war” right now with the US nuclear arsenal as currently configured. They don’t need to upgrade the weapons to do that. The program is prob more the result of rigid, unimaginative thinking at top levels of Pentagon and influence of outside companies (e.g. Boeing etc) that work on the upgrades.

I don’t know if that seems like a somewhat random collection of precursors to assemble as preface to a comment. I was thinking of picking out a few upthread references to climate change and the response to it (or inadequacy thereof) as well.

I am a little disturbed by the idea of leaving the impression that I think Hillary Clinton is “evil”. What I think is that American politics in general is not generating realistic, adaptive governance.

I am using that bloodless phrase, “realistic, adaptive governance”, deliberately, to emphasize wanting to step outside the passions of the Presidential election. I think the Manichean narrative where Trump is The Most Horrible Candidate Evah and Everyone Must Line Up Behind Clinton as an Ethical Imperative of a High Order is part of the process of propaganda and manipulation that distorts popular discussion and understanding and helps to create a politics that cannot govern realistically and adaptively. This is not about me thinking Trump is anything but a horrible mess of a candidate who ought to be kept far from power.

I see Clinton as someone who is trapped inside the dynamics of this seriously deranged politics qua political process. I don’t see her as entirely blameless. Politicians like Obama and either Clinton, at the top of the political order, are masters (keeping in mind that there are many masters working to some extent in opposition to one another as rivals, allies, enemies and so on) of the process and create the process by the exercise of their mastery, as much as they are mastered by it. I see them as trapped by the process they have helped (more than a little opportunistically) to create, but trapped as Dr Frankenstein is by his Creature.

Clinton must struggle with the ethical contradictions of governance at the highest levels of leadership: she must, in the exercise of power in office and out, practice the political art of the possible in relation to crafting policy that will be “good” in the sense of passably effective and efficient — this may involve a high degree of foresightful wonkery or a lethally ruthless statesmanship, depending upon circumstances. Beside this business of making the great machinery of the state lumber forward, she must strive to appear “good”, like Machiavelli’s Prince, even while playing an amoral game of real politick, gathering and shepherding a complex coalition of allies, supporters, donors and cooperative enemies.

Machiavelli, when he was considering the Princely business of appearing “good”, was contending with the hypocrisies and impossible idealism of authoritarian Catholic morality. He barely connected with anything that we would recognize as democratic Public Opinion and could scarcely conceive of what Ivy Lee or Edward Bernays, let alone Fox News, Vox and the world wide web might do to politics.

We are trapped, just as Clinton is trapped, in the vast communication nightmare of surrealistic news and opinion washing in upon us in a tide that never ebbs. We are trapped by the politics of media “gotchas” and Kinsley Gaffes (A Kinsley gaffe occurs when a political gaffe reveals some truth that a politician did not intend to admit.)

I don’t think Clinton lacks a moral sense. What I think is that Clinton’s moral sense is exhausted calculating what to say or do within the parameters of media-synthesized conventional wisdom policed by people who are themselves exhausted trying to manage it. Matt Lauer’s interview with Clinton was notorious for the relentless and clueless questioning about the email server, although I, personally, was shocked when he asked her a question that seemed premised on the idea that veterans should be offended by admitting the Iraq War was a mistake.

I would think it is easy to see that the media circus is out of control, especially when a clown like Trump graduates from The Apprentice to the Republican nomination. YMMV, but I think this is a serious problem that goes beyond vividly imagined sepia-toned parodies of Trump’s candidacy as the second coming of Mussolini.

While we’re getting ourselves agitated over Trump’s racism or threats to bar Muslims from entry, apparently the Military-Industrial Complex, left on autopilot, is re-designing the nation’s nuclear arsenal to make the outbreak of nuclear war far more likely. And, the closest Clinton gets to a comment, campaign commitment or public discussion, let alone an exercise of power, is a PR “leak”!!!

The chaotic civil war in Syria and Iraq seems like another example where the U.S. is having a hard time “thinking” things thru realistically. Clinton offered up a sound-bite last year, saying that she favored imposing a “no-fly” zone, which was exposed as kind of crazy idea, given that the Russians as well as Assad’s government are the ones flying, not to mention the recent experience with a no-fly zone in Libya. One interpretation is she’s stupid and vicious as a badge of class honor, blissfully consistent with the bloodthirsty record of Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger. Unfortunately, that might be true, though I think if it is true, it is more likely a product of being caught up in the amoral bubble of political and media process that has enveloped the whole foreign policy establishment than any personal psychopathy. What’s most alarming to me is that we cannot count on personal character to put the brakes on that process, which is now the process of governance. I am writing now of the process of governance by public relations that was has been exposed a bit in profiles of the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, Ben Rhodes.

In Syria, it has become almost comical, if you can overlook the bodies piling up, as the U.S. has sought a the mythical unicorn of Syrian Moderate Democrats whom the Pentagon or the CIA can advise, train and arm. This is foreign policy by PR narrative and it is insanely unrealistic. But, our politics is trapped in it, and, worse, policy is trapped in it. Layer after layer of b.s. have piled up obscuring U.S. interests and practical options. Recently, U.S. forces supporting the Turks have come dangerously close to blowing up U.S. forces supporting the Kurds. When you find yourself on opposing sides of a civil war like Charles I you may be in the process of losing your head. Some of the worst elements opposing Assad have been engaged in a transparent re-branding exercise aimed at garnering U.S. aid. And, U.S. diplomats and media face the high challenge of explaining why the U.S. supports Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

But, hey, Clinton will get Robert Kagan’s vote and a better tomorrow is only a Friedman unit away, so it is all good.

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