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April 14, 2009

The “Arc of Instability”: Court Intellectuals (as usual) pimp Obama’s war

Filed under: State,U.S.A,War — rmangum @ 10:42 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

t_879_593_6351Justin Raimondo has a great new article up on “‘Progressive’ Warmongers“, which reveals the spinelessness, hypocrisy and partisanship of progressives, even “anti-war” progressives, in supporting Obama’s Afghan incursion. There are even progressive think-tanks serving the same role for Obama that neoconservative ones did for Bush II, such as the Center for American Progress. He quotes from a recent CAP report laying out a 10 Year Plan for occupation. Here is a rather striking passage:

Al-Qaeda poses a clear and present danger to American interests and its allies throughout the world and must be dealt with by using all the instruments in our national security arsenal in an integrated manner. The terrorist organization’s deep historical roots in Afghanistan and its neighbor Pakistan place it at the center of an ‘arc of instability’ through South and Central Asia and the greater Middle East that requires a sustained international response.

Let us first point out, as Raimondo does, that the whole argument runs counter to the left-liberal critique of Bush’s strategy in the War on Terror. Presumably “all the instruments in our national security arsenal” includes invasion and occupation, and liberals have always pointed out, quite reasonably, that this is an old paradigm for fighting a nation-state with identifiable borders and flags and uniforms and whatnot, whereas this going after Al-Qaeda requires a smaller and smarter use of intelligence agents- you know, cold war type shit. Even worse is speaking of Al-Qaeda’s “deep historical roots” in Afghanistan without pointing out that in the first place they aren’t any deeper or more historical than the Mujahedin who formed to fight the Soviet invasion in the 1980’s, and in the second place those warriors were armed by none other than the United States of America. Liberals and progressives never tired of bringing up these facts when Bush II was in power, but I guess they can be conveniently consigned to the memory hole now that we have become an Obama-nation. (An interesting pop-culture presage to all this is Aaron Sorkin’s 2007 movie “Charlie Wilson’s War”, which gives credit for funding of the Mujahedin to a Democratic congressman instead of Reagan and the Republicans. At the end, Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson gives a speech, with typically Sorkin-esque sanctimony, wondering why the U.S does not stay in Afghanistan now that the Reds are gone to bring them the blessings of infrastructure and the public schools that have so edified our body politic. “We always leave,” he moans. We do? Our 700 foreign military bases say otherwise.)


Raimondo discusses all these points better than I do, but what really makes me laugh is the language used. “Clear and present danger” is about the hoariest piece of alarmist rhetoric in the speechwriter’s arsenal, so vapid they might as well tell us that it requires us to move to Threat-Level Orange. But the real cherry on top is the phrase “arc of instability”. This too is obviously cribbed from the right-wing hawk’s playbook. Remember the “Axis of Evil”? Of course you do, and if you liked that, you’re going to love the Arc of Instability! Come on guys, I thought progressive liberals were supposed to be the litterateurs of the political spectrum! “Axis of Evil” (penned by neocon weasel David Frum) shows a knack for what will resonate in the popular mind. It could serve as the title of an old WWII movie or a Tom Clancy novel. “Arc of Instability”, on the other hand, reveals how mired in a technocratic mindset are these progressives. (Okay, so “Arc of Instability” could well be a Tom Clancy title too, since he is not immune to technocratic titles like the undramatic “Op-Center”.) Apparently they conceive the global political theater, seething with centuries old hatreds that threaten to become nuclear Armageddon, as a geometry problem. One speculates how much fun The Daily Show or The Colbert Report could have with such a phrase, but it’s not likely we’ll be treated with any such skewering, since they, particularly the former, have more or less been serving up apologias for the new regime with only de rigeur irony about Obama-infatuation for leaven.

Of course some progressives are not fooled by Obama, and retain their anti-war stance. But there is nothing inherently anti-war in their politics. This represents an old conflict. Progressive intellectuals split over World War I, which was supported by Herbert Croly and John Dewey for pretty much the same reasons neoconservatives support the war in Iraq today, and opposed by Randolph Bourne, who famously called war “the health of the state”. (Though he never took the logical next step for an anti-warrior by becoming a libertarian- quite the opposite- and according to a recent Telos article he opposed American intervention because he was enamored with the German state.) In case you’re wondering where the score stands on that one, the anti-warriors haven’t made a point.aria09040220090401085210

I keep hearing about how smart Obama is, how thoughtful and articulate. Sure, compared to his predecessor, but look at what a paltry accomplishment that is. Obama, elected with overwhelming support from the anti-war crowd (but who forgot to insist that he end the war), wants to move the war to Afghanistan, which has been called “the graveyard of empires”, at the very moment our economy is tanking and when the last thing in the world we need is more imperial hubris. It all sounds pretty damn stupid to me.



  1. How does a mild (yes, mild) recession eclipse anti-war as a talking point during our last election season? However it happened, it did, and now Obama can be amnesiac about his promise to end war. The second the State shuts down our pocketbooks with their calculated bungling, we scurry in fear to the military elite to project our economic fears onto hapless little countries. Weimar Republic, anyone?

    Comment by Michael — April 17, 2009 @ 3:14 am | Reply

  2. The recession is mild because the government has used every means at its disposal for easing the pain in the short run: credit infusion from the Fed, “stimulus spending”, artificially propping up financial institutions which should fail and thus lining the executives’ golden parachutes, propping up prices which should fall by buying “toxic assets” (and does anyone really think a McCain administration would have handled things any differently?). But this is only deferment. We will soon become desensitized to such narcotics, and we will feel more pain than we would have had the government done nothing (and by the way, the “do nothing” philosophy means only that the government do nothing, not that you and I and the millions of other economic actors should do nothing). At that point, yes it may well be Weimar-time.

    Comment by rmangum — April 17, 2009 @ 6:48 pm | Reply

  3. If Libertarianism suddenly replaced every other political philosophy on the planet tomorrow and all of the federal stop-gaps out there that were designed to curtail the recession were removed, would we be worse off in the short run and better in the long run? Would the recession cease to exist? If it did persist, what would that recession look like and how would the new Libertarian citizens find their way out of it?

    Comment by Michael — April 19, 2009 @ 1:56 am | Reply

  4. According to the Austrian theory of the business cycle, yes we would have to experience the a bigger recession in the short run, but the market adjustments would be of a much shorter duration. But this does not require libertarianism to replace other ideas, nor the creation of New Libertarian Man. There is a historical precedent for this, in the depression of 1920-21, during the much-maligned Harding administration. Harding did not raise taxes or increase deficits. The Fed did not infuse new credit. The recession was as deep as that of 1929, but it was over within the year, and disappeared into the mists of time. Few considered this “do nothing” approach to be radical then, though it certainly would be now.

    As for how those not in the government should respond, it should be like this: those investors who did not get caught up in the speculative orgy, the should be able to scoop up whatever cheap assets they felt still worth something. Those who lost money should take their lumps and learn from their mistakes. The market should be a profit and loss system, not a heads-I-win-tails-everybody-loses game for Wall Street. Those who want to buy a house but were previously priced out of the market should be able to get one now at rock-bottom prices (always the silver lining of deflation, but you’ll never hear kind words about it in the mainstream media), which should all fall until the market clears. The rest of us should save what we can, and buy what we are able. There are no shortcuts.

    Comment by rmangum — April 19, 2009 @ 6:35 pm | Reply

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