The Difference Between the Way Things Are and Where the Public Is At
By Dennis Loo (6/26/16)
I am going to cover a few complex things here so you will probably need to read this several times.
To begin with, the two elements that I cite in the title tend to be confounded as one and the same thing in most people’s minds: the situation in the nation or world is viewed by most people as the way it is because public opinion is the way it is.
These are in fact two separate things and not that closely related to each other.
The objective situation – e.g., the reigning public policies in the various nations and the dominant economic system of capitalism – are not a result of most of the public wanting these to be in command.
The ruling ideas and the governing policies are from the ruling class (those who actually run things) and the system’s logic that they lead. Those who lead are fundamentally personifying that system logic. The people in charge are not truly in charge but compelled to follow the system’s logic, even while there is some scope for their subjective choices. But that scope occurs within the parameters of the dominant system. The leaders do not have a choice, for example, to overrule the operations of the laws of profit over human and planetary needs.
The globalization/”free trade”/deindustrialization policies that economic and political elites have been spearheading for decades are not the result of public demand. In fact, the repudiation of the EU by the UK voters is the most recent example of the public catching on that these job losses for them are against their interests. It is now the majority sentiment worldwide that the existing system and its leading political parties are bankrupt. What happens to that sentiment is what is now in play. It’s a sentiment that needs to decisively break out of the ties that keep it confined to electoral politics and existing channels, which are cul-de-sac dead ends.
The scapegoating that right-wing figures such as Donald Trump are engaged in by blaming immigrants, minorities, and women for these economic problems has some traction right now and is based upon the historic entitlements of whites and especially white males against these groups who are being scapegoated. But the hostility felt by most people now to globalization is not fixed as simple knee jerk racism and sexism as Trump and other right-wing leaders want to keep it.
This formula that mixes the anti-globalization sentiments with reactionary politics can be reforged, not easily or without complexity, but a reforging is in fact the only way these problems can in fact be resolved. The only way this reforging can occur is through a revolutionary analysis and leadership. Some of those who are now in Trump and similar right-wing leaders’ sway can under the right circumstances and under the right alternative leadership be won to stand against those they are following now and the system they represent.
When Reagan’s “Drug War” was declared it was a ruse to divert attention away from the exporting of manufacturing jobs abroad and the decimation of unions by the corporate world. The “War on Terror” is both a cover for and a result of the extension of the western capitalist/imperialist regime over as much of the globe as they can get. The insecurity the average person feels due to this WOT is the fundamental destabilization caused by the system doing its thing.
What does it tell us about the nature of the contemporary and near term future world that disasters that arise out of the very context of our collective lives are a) certain, b) unlikely to be properly foreseen, c) extremely unlikely to be adequately prepared for, and d) more dangerous than any planned hostile actions?
It tells us at least two things.
First, the system we live in—global capitalism—is inherently unstable and dangerous whether you look at it from a local, national or international perspective. The spheres of the local, national and international are so intertwined that they cannot sensibly be separated as though events in one sphere do not impact the others.
Second, stability and security are more things of the past than of the present and, especially, the future. Massive dislocations and dramatic, startling changes to the status quo are not the stuff of science fiction but that which the DOD itself now finds it must take seriously. Granted, [Nathan] Freier’s document is not a policy document but a think tank document. But his evaluation of the situation compels serious reflection.
Several factors stand in the way of properly grasping the reality that we face. These factors include—not necessarily in order of importance:
• Bureaucratic practice and thinking, which by definition involves the routinization of ways of doing and seeing things based on what has previously happened and not what hasn’t yet happened, thus, narrowing down and aggressively anti -imaginative approaches trump their opposite. Bureaucracies, we should note, run things in the modern world. They are, in core respects, the modern world;
• Neoliberal policies—politics in service to globalization—dominate (both the GOP and the Democrats are Friedmanites) and therefore aggressive globalization which continues creating and deepening the bases for disasters and hamstringing human responses to disasters are not going to be modified or stemmed;
• Preparing for the future and hedging against unanticipated disasters are diametrically opposed to neoliberal policies of allocating resources most sparingly and cheaply for profit-making—e.g., allowing more hospital bed space for a disaster is considered inefficient and unprofitable, devoting resources to developing flu vaccines is less profitable than drugs that require daily doses and are therefore neglected leaving us extraordinarily vulnerable to a flu epidemic.
To paraphrase (and modify) FDR, what we have to fear is the system itself proceeding along as it is. The economic crisis and the implacable wars are the most obvious conditions we confront today. But the matters which are being ruled off the table by public officials are the most perilous of all: a) re-establishing the rule of law through prosecution of its violators and b) the very logic and operations of globalization and its exacerbating of the existing economic and political inequalities and manifest threats to the planet.
Nathan Freier, in an online debate at the Strategic Studies Institute in April 2009, said in his final remarks,
[F]or strategists an inescapable set of plausible worst-case scenarios [of crippling instability for “strategic states” can be readily foreseen.]
Many would require rapid, comprehensive employment of significant U.S. land forces. The principal landpower mission would be stopping and reversing hemorrhaging human insecurity in advance of irreparable harm. In many cases, pursuit of minimum essential strategic and operational objectives like this requires resources and capabilities far in excess of those available to the entire Marine Corps.
In designing future land forces, let’s first be realistic about the worst-case future demand signal. I suggest it is likely to be response to a fatally broken strategic state. Then let’s be realistic about what can be achieved. Here, I argue for pursuit of limited objectives that will still require significant land forces to achieve unpalatable but nonetheless manageable strategic and operational outcomes.
Having laid out a convincing case that strategic shocks are unavoidable, and difficult or impossible to foresee, let alone properly prepare for, the best that Freier can offer to deal with this is the deployment of significant US land forces, beyond what the entire Marine Corps is capable of, producing unpalatable outcomes. What if this crisis occurs while the US is already engaged in one or more wars as it is currently? The incapacity of the US to police this contingency is readily apparent.
The logic of Freier’s analysis conflicts with his prescription of US military responses. His analysis of “known unknowns” and the threats of “context” (shocks in the absence of hostile design or intent) points to the unmanageable and inherently dangerous, unbridled forces of globalization and movements such as ethnic warfare, fascistic nativist movements, and desperate people suffering from an epidemic, natural or man-made, that globalization spawns. In comparison to that, the deployment of military force, however large, can provide small comfort even for those who are convinced of the justness and propriety of US military action. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 133-136)
Nathan Freier and I are proceeding from diametrically opposite perspectives yet we arrive at some of the same conclusions.
Think outside of the parameters you are accustomed to thinking and consider seriously what you would normally think impossible or highly improbable. That is the only way you’re going to grasp what is really going on.
A Disorderly New Order
Walmart’s rock bottom pricing and insistence on lowering prices every year on staples forces suppliers to employ the cheapest labor the globe offers. This produces job losses domestically and hollows out the economic activity and viability of Main Street businesses around the country. It accelerates deindustrialization and the consequent rise of illicit and gray—and black-market economic activities, since licit activities are disappearing. In Detroit, for instance, real estate depends heavily for its viability upon drug dealers who represent one of the only thriving economic activities around. In China, millions of involuntary migrants undergird them country’s race for economic power, even as the government treats them as hooligans. The drug trade in the US represents a highly profitable—and therefore violent—business because the drug war drives the value of the drugs up and therefore spawns drug dealers aplenty, both domestically and internationally. The drug war itself, therefore, has contributed substantially to the funding of anti-state terrorist groups that profit from the opium, for instance, of the poppy fields in Afghanistan.
Muslims’ antipathy for the West grows directly out of the policies being carried out, especially by the West and the US, not by the fact that “they hate our freedoms,” as Bush claimed. Neoliberalism, in other words, creates and expands the populations and activities that it then turns around to label as dire threats to its brave new disorderly order. Put another way, the forces insisting that order is under siege and that repression and extralegal measures are necessary to cope with that disorder are the same forces creating disorder in the society by dispossessing increasing ranks of the people, endangering the planet’s biosystem, and provoking greater and greater levels of social insecurity.
Neoliberal regimes’ ever-growing inequities produce dissension and dissatisfaction, not because the disaffected elect to feel disaffection—although the already privileged tend to see it that way, as if there is bounty for all if everyone would simply put their noses to the grindstone, there being no structural logic to the dispossession of so many for the wealth of the few. Rather, the disadvantaged’s status brings them into conflict with those that the system favors. The position of the disadvantaged is what makes them criminal, dangerous, and potential terrorists. (GDS, Pp. 153-4)