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October 21, 2005

My Crazy Boss Isn't Crazy Like The Other Crazies

The transcript of the recent speech by Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, is well worth reading if you are the type of weirdo who likes this kind of stuff. As Billmon puts it:

Like Richard Clarke, Wilkerson strikes me as reasonably representative of the technicians who actually run the empire -- and his assumptions largely appear to reflect those of his class. American supremecy is a taken as a given, requiring no legal or moral justification. Not because America has any grand historical mission to spread the blessings of democracy to the heathen, but because American power maintains the world order and keeps the peace, or at least something approximating it...

It does appear to have dawned on Wilkerson that the U.S. hegomony isn't viewed as quite such an execise in utilitarian benevolance by the rest of the world, but I'm not sure he understands exactly why this is. I think he puts far too much blame on the cabal's shenanigans -- although these admittedly have made things worse -- and not enough on the fact that empires, even the practical, no nonsense type favored by the realists, are anachronisms in the modern world.

So, Wilkerson thinks everything would be A-OK if only non-crazy imperialists like George H.W. Bush, Colin Powell and himself were running things. This makes him less terrifying than the insane imperialists, but still blind to most aspects of our small, blue planet. For instance, here's one specific thing Wilkerson said:

I like to use the world gracelessness, and I use that word because grace is something we have lost in the modern world... walk in with a foreign leader and find something you can be magnanimous about. You don’t have to win everything. You don’t have to be the big bully on the block. Find something you can be magnanimous about, that you can give him, that you can say he gets credit for, or she gets credit for. That’s diplomacy. That’s diplomacy. You don’t walk in and say, I’m the big mother on the block and if everybody’s not with me, they’re against me, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The difference between [Bush] father and son, in my mind, sort of comes from that attitudinal approach to the world.

The problem here is that when you get down to it, you really can't be a non-bully imperialist. It's like being a quadriplegic quarterback. As Wilkerson's hero Powell himself once said:

I like to use the term decisive force...

It's the equivalent of being the biggest bully on the block. "I've got my knife, I've got my gun, I've got my stick ball bat, are you sure you really want to challenge me?"

So on one side you have the people Wilkerson hates, who say "We should be huge bullies all the time!" Then you have the people Wilkerson loves, who say "We should only be bullies some of the time!" The one unthinkable option is not to be bullies at all.

Posted at October 21, 2005 10:31 AM | TrackBack

>>>Find something you can be magnanimous about, that you can give him, that you can say he gets credit for, or she gets credit for.

This sounds like advice for talking to a small child. "Okay, you didn't make it to the potty in time, but... I'm proud of you for trying!" That's not usually what I mean when I use the word "grace." It's more like "patronizing." Maybe we can give said foreign leader credit for being, you know, an adult?

Posted by: inkywretch at October 21, 2005 12:17 PM

I am one of those who thinks that bullying tactics by the govt are a symptom of what is basically the attempt to sustain an unlivable way of life. I mean America is 5% of world population gorging 50% of resources. Can you see a problem here? I think deep down many of the conservatives know that everything the United States does will negatively affect the lives of everyone on the planet, but they try to justify it by saying that America has a superior way of life and that it is worth defending because of it. And that is one problem that I have as a foreigner, on the one hand I am impressed that you have created the most successful society in human history, yet on the other I am aware of the costs that such a society has to pay up in terms of lives and exploitation so that it may exist. But I am not making an excuse for it, I just think that not being a bully is not an option if there remains this supply of indirect demand.

Unless you find a way to rebuild your infrastructure, restore balance to your lives, and eliminate your waste, then your corporations will find that there is no demand for the lifestyle that they are trying to support. Cease the profits, and your society will change.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at October 21, 2005 08:32 PM

Somewhere in his speech he plants a mine in his entire story: He mentions an award-winning high school girl who calls attention to the fact that the U.S. gobbles up 60 percent of the world's resources. Having duly noted that, he presses on, on behalf of a well-run empire.

Lyndon Johnson once spoke unto the troops about the Vietnam War, saying that the world was trying to get what we had and that we wouldn't let 'em. As opposed to the other way around.

Posted by: Tirebiter in Sector R at October 23, 2005 08:15 AM