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October 14, 2005

The Human Comedy Is Less Funny When It Involves Giant Servings Of Ultra-Violence

Dennis Perrin:

...the Iraqis are the ones who got it, and they continue to get it good and hard. But, really, must we spare a thought for those sad people when Western liberals are in such existential pain? If you think having to hit the polluted ground to avoid constant crossfire is bad, just imagine sitting in your garden and wondering What Went Wrong (or W3) on the other side of the world. It's an Abu Ghraib of the soul.

George Packer knows that sting. His new book on W3, "The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq," is getting a fair amount of media attention, most recently at Salon, where Gary Kamiya devoted seven full screens to the tome. If you don't sub to Salon (and why would you?), you'll have to sit through a brief ad to read the whole thing, but I strongly recommend that you do. It's perhaps the clearest take on the present war lib dilemma, in which Kamiya dispenses some lib myopia of his own.

In short, Packer, like all good libs, wants to see a democratic world that mirrors our own (y'know, a corporate-dominated society that serves those who own the economy), and no better or more necessary region presently exists than the Arab (and Persian) world, starting with Iraq. For over a decade, we've kicked and beaten the stuffing out of that country, so it was time to show some love -- tough love, mind you, but affection all the same.

Packer's intellectual tough love advisers were Kanan Makiya and Paul Berman. Makiya, an Iraqi exile who teaches Middle East Studies at Brandeis and runs the Iraq Research and Documentation Project at Harvard, was perhaps the more romantic one. Woody Allen put it in "Annie Hall," intellectuals prove that you can be absolutely brilliant and have no idea what's going on -- though in Kanan Makiya's case, "brilliant" is perhaps too loaded a word. The "no idea what's going on" part, however, he has down.

You are requested to read it all.

ALSO: Here's a 1993 interview with Edward Said mentioning Kanan Makiya.

Posted at October 14, 2005 10:43 AM | TrackBack

And yet, oddly enough, Red State Son is rarely mentioned on other bl*gs. It's almost as if the comfort of other lefties were threatened by Dennis Perrin or something.

Posted by: Sully at October 14, 2005 01:09 PM

You know back in 2000, I had this idea that if people really had a choice they wouldn't sit around and peck at a bunch of ossified post-WWII liberalism. The cold war was over. That sort of capital friendly social liberalism was deader than bugshit.

I was way, way, wrong.

People have a choice and what I never foresaw was conservativism becoming a revolutionary movement. They are winning and will win. They will win because they have ideas. They are crazy, totally wrong ideas, but they are the resistance while todays liberalism bunkers in, accepts their ideas and just tries it's ass off to maintain the status quo.

They are going to get their ass kicked, now into the future. The future is going to be worse, doesn't matter who wins. The only thing I've ever heard from a conservative is "You are the reactionaries now, we have the ideas". They do. They are slap your forehead against the concrete stupid ideas, but by God, they really are something different from post-70's neoliberalism which can't excite anyone who isn't picking sides against the stupid ideas of the right.

Posted by: Ed Marshall at October 14, 2005 08:30 PM

Conservates have ideas -- they always do. Because conservatism is simply the existing system mirrored in the realm of ideas, and the existing system by definition always exists.

But the ideas of conservatism, in the long run, can't be put into practice because the existing system is always changing. (Heraclitus: you can't step into the same stream twice. Marx: it's a dialectical system, which is constantly throwing up and resolving new conflicts.) So conservatives always trip themselves up eventually, though it may take a while for that to become evident.

It's usually much harder for the opponents of conservatism to come up with clear, universally persuasive ideas, since to do so requires, among other things, a clear vision of the future -- where the system is going -- which one needs a well-polished crystal ball to acquire (anyone who has a functioning crystal ball to sell, let me know; I'd find one handy). Also, progressives continually quarrel over ideological angels-on-a-ping nonsense.

But sometimes, when the present reality becomes unbearable (as in the 1930s), the populace will reluctantly listen to progressives. And I have a feeling that such a time is coming.

Posted by: jonj at October 15, 2005 11:38 AM

That's "angels on a pin," obviously.

Posted by: jonj at October 15, 2005 11:39 AM

What ideas? I hear one idea - that the American economic and political system is the best possible, the absolute peak of human civilization, the "end of history".

Are there other ideas? Why would there be other ideas once you have this idea?

Posted by: abb1 at October 15, 2005 02:29 PM

OK, if you want ideas contradicting the idea that the American economic and political system is the best possible ... then you have to look to the radicals. There are oodles of them on the Web; I assume you can use Google to find them.

The problem is that they obviously stand a snowball's chance you-know-where of practically influencing American politics. So what you want to look for, if you are interested in practical politics, are the moderate progressives' ideas. And again, there are oodles of them available for free from your nearest computer. Just Google for obvious key words, such as "moderate progressive," "Democrats," etc.

The reason almost no one, including apparently you, abb1, knows that progressives have any ideas is that the mainstream media have a policy of completely ignoring them, and most people are too lazy to look for information anywhere but in the MSM. But if you are connected to this blog, I would assume that you know how to look for information outside the MSM. So what's your problem?

Posted by: jonj at October 15, 2005 03:42 PM

I don't have a problem. People said that conservatives have ideas and I'm asking what these ideas are, apart from the obvious one that I mentioned.

Posted by: abb1 at October 15, 2005 05:08 PM

Interesting talk by Eric Foner in which he also mentions the "single sustainable model":

(the whole lecture and Q/A are worthwhile, but if you want to go directly to the section where he speaks about the model, they begin around minute 43).

Posted by: sk at October 15, 2005 08:13 PM