A PATH FOR PEACE
I received this email. It did not seem already to be on portland.indymedia so I passed it on here. It is a le3gitimate piece of local writing and perspective.
Dear Friends and Acquaintances,
It's been a tough year or two, watching the Bush Administration grab more and more post-constitutional power, and seeing that there are idiots enough in our land to lap it up.
I do believe that they purposely keep on the offensive on a number of fronts, partly because they know how narrow the foundations their radical conservative revolution are based on, and partly to keep us off-balance, demoralized, feeling like we can never do enough to break their spell. And it works; we feel demoralized, pessimistic. We are fatalistic that the peak of American freedom was reached and passed during some point in the Clinton administration and that we now face, most immediately, some terrible crisis related to our unsustainable use of oil, or perhaps some other breakdown of the dollar deficit/savings deficit-housing boom/job-outsourcing/unfunded government Bush economy.
And as I've begun to push the ideas outlined below, I've heard a lot of pessimism about possible immediate crises in the next ten years, and I can't deny that pessimism. But to make it through the day, it helps to be optimistic, to have a vision of how we might possibly succeed despite all the odds.
So I've been doing my cogitating on how we got into this mess and how we might get past the scary crises of unsustainability that Bush is leaving us, and my answers are finally gelling in a form I'd like to share with you. This letter is to offer my suggestion for what should be our big focus issue as we strive to create a successful new movement of resistance, and maybe you'll like it and maybe you won't.
However, for me, I would like to make it clear that this is my issue and, I hope, my life's work. I became a world affairs guy in my college days, and have managed to maintain a modicum of knowlege on the topic through my years, and this is the issue that I want to work on. For me it goes even deeper than college, I was very young when I wanted to know "the truth" on ALL human affairs, and by now I think I've got it as much as any human can have it. I have thought about the worst problems long and hard, and my 1980 book laid out the foundations of the connections between the four meta-sciences that govern our lives, and I know what I want to write to make the story clear in my next book.
I have also always expected the world to be getting smarter; now it's pretty clear that for at least a couple of decades America, at least, has been getting massively dumber. It is part of my mission to correct that.
So I'm sending you two separate but related pieces. The first is an expanded version of a proposal for a discussion workshop, "Anti-Imperialism (with a long-term goal) As a Grand Strategy for the American Left" , originally written as a 300-word piece but now with additional material in brackets [ ] . Some of you have seen this before, and I apologize for the duplication.
The second part, "Our Freedom, Other's Freedom" is an attempt at a persuasion piece, in 700 words, to try to bring the story of anti-imperialism to some hypothetical average citizen without assuming any particular knowlege or commitment on their part ... and of course 700 words doesn't go very far, and there's so many more things i would have liked to have said. But I think it's not bad for a first attempt, and it was submitted in a timely fashion to the Oregonian for possible inclusion in their Monday "local columns" deal that will fall next on the Fourth of July.
For a more activist audience, I would like to say that when I refer in the next-to-last paragraph to the "unconscious, unintended harshness of our Pentagon's tactical doctrine" this where you can see me bending over backwards and kissing my toes in an attempt to not offend centrist and rightist attitudes about "the troops," and that this is absolutely the most charitable, most tolerant language I could find to describe the situation. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that there was some Pentagon study that established that hair-trigger robo-soldiers are very effective at terrorizing civilian populations and that their current tactics were designed to be both offensive to others and defensive to the soldiers. Certainly at the top of this sick administration, and among its most rabid supporters, there is an explicit commitment to humiliating and killing non-Americans just because they are non-Americans and they think they can get away with it.
So things are bad, and they aren't going to be getting better very soon. But whether you agree with my concepts or not, whether you think we have any chance of survival or not, it's time to try a little harder. Whatever we as individuals do for ourselves, or as acting within the context of whatever larger political movements we may affiliate with, let's make it better. Right now we as a society are leaving a big pile of flaming dogshit for our kids. Let's make it better.
Best Love, Ron B. 503-774-0277
ANTI-IMPERIALISM (with a Long-Term Goal) AS A GRAND STRATEGY FOR THE AMERICAN LEFT
Problem statement: The worst nightmares of the American political Left are coming true, and yet our movement remains extraordinarily divided, fatalistic and ineffective.
The Constitution is being actively destroyed by an Administration which is conducting an extraordinarily ill-advised foreign war, and which may have stolen two elections, with active help from Congress and the mainstream media, and only passive resistance from the judiciary.
The American left must focus on educating the public on Anti-Imperialism and Anti-Militarism issues as a Grand Strategy, towards the goals of re-building our own influence, re-building a viable and sustainable opposition, and finally taking government power for policies we leftists can be proud of.
Supporting Reasoning & Considerations
1. While there is evidence that Americans care most about domestic issues, frankly these divide us leftists. America's embrace of Imperialism and Militarism since World War II are a cause we can unify against, and these issues most clearly give the lie to conservative myths. What good would it do to construct a domestic paradise if remains based on Imperialism abroad?
2. The various tendencies and groupings of the American Left can each use their favorite aspects of the story of Anti-Imperialism as a primary focus, reinforcing each other's message that Imperialism damages America the most. A group such as Global Exchange will continue documenting American economic imperialism worldwide, groups with a primarily domestic focus can lament the waste of resources that might otherwise have been channeled to their issue of concern, or connect the oppressions they see within American society to the larger oppressions caused by American (and non-American) Imperialism and Militarism.
3. Anti-Militarist analysis will be useful in showing the false assumptions underlying a perpetual "War on Terror." The experience of the many other nations that have experienced significant anti-civilian campaigns by political actors, demonstrates that the best policy is to pursue individual perpetrators with police power, while negotiating a political settlement with moderate leaders of the dissatisfied tendency.
4. Those who allow, in principle, the idea of "national defense" in the current world environment can reach the 95% of the American public that also believes in this concept, while beginning to point out how very far removed the current American military is from any rational concept of "national defense" from any realistic threat. [ I have always considered myself to have many centrist tendencies and beliefs, and an allowance of the intellectual concept of legitimate national self-defense is one of them. In the current legal environment of sovereign states constrained only by their free acceptance of international law -- which of course our Shrub administration has shown it does NOT accept any constraint on its stated goal of eternal military domination of the entire earth and near-space -- I fully accept the principle that states have a right of self-defense. For Americans, the wisdom will come in learning (see the work of historian Chalmers Johnson) how far our American defense establishment is removed from what a rational concept of defense from actual threats might be, if we could disentangle ourselves from our myths enough to understand what a 'rational self-defense' might look like.]
5. Those who favor an end to all violence everywhere may focus on an ultimate long-term goal: FOUR GENERATIONS OF EDUCATION TOWARDS A DECENTRALIZED, DEMOCRATIC WORLD GOVERNMENT. Stating the goal in these ‘gradualist’ terms will begin to ease the fears of the average citizen; the long-term, global perspective allows us to focus on all the local and domestic -reform issues we will encounter along the way; and if we do begin to work at it, it may not take 4 generations to get there.
[ Yes, there I said it, the ultimate goal is an ideal form of world federalism -- a goal the right thinks is already discredited. What is discredited is a world government on the right's model -- tyrannical, devious, pretending to a false democracy, favoring a small elite and depriving local areas of input into decisions that affect the local conditions. No one wants that kind of world government. Thus our mission as progressives means that we MUST reform every local government as a necessary prerequisite on our four-generation journey towards a true decentralized, democratic world government. The beauty of stating the goal as being over four generations is that today we can say to the fearful, who may have strong local majorities in places, 'we're not for world government TODAY, you can have your fears, have your legitimate national defense, go and wallow in the joys of your national sovereignty like hogs in shit. But control of other nations either directly or indirectly ends up hurting our nation more, and the use and threat of use of military power as the primary focus in international relations is also counterproductive myth that will be overcome by our efforts to increase human education and human intelligence. Hugo Grotius (the 17th Century Dutchman who founded modern international law) was smarter than all the neocons and radical rightists and ultranationalists of all nations, combined, and we will follow his lead in establishing and instituting the rule of law on a world basis -- when our grandchildren are ready for it. ' ]
6. More immediate, attainable short-term goals are to join up with other global citizens and movements working against Imperialism and Militarism, and present worldwide campaigns to achieve interim goals on the way to the long-term goal: ban weapons in outer space, end all development of new weapons systems – aren't the ones we have enough? – and to end all increases in, and begin to steadily decrease, global military spending. [Such work implies the same conclusion reached above, a thorough reform in nearly all government institutions in all nations except perhaps Scandinavia or the odd Asian or African social paradise, as pat of our goal of four generations of education towards a decentralized, democratic world government. ]
7. We have seen how far American Conservatism can progress by fixing on long-term goals (increasing Imperialism and ending the New Deal reforms) and working at them for decades. Let us be smart enough to focus on the long-term goal of removing Imperialism and Militarism from our grandchildren’s world, and see how far we may travel.
Our Freedom, Other's Freedom
We Americans are so proud of our freedom, so happy to celebrate our freedom. It is a great thing, and I relish it too. I love this land and I think I could love 80 or 90% of its people, if given half a chance.
Today, however, I'm here to ask a dangerous and unsettling question: why is it that freedom-loving Americans are so unconcerned about their government’s foreign policy, which in all too many cases either fails to support freedom in the world, or actively supports bits of terrible oppression?
Now before you scream at me, notice that I am not accusing Americans in their totality of supporting un-freedom in foreign lands. I don't think the American people would knowingly do that. I am convinced, after meeting many of you in my years of retail salesmanship, that most Americans have a healthy "live and let live" attitude toward most foreigners. Most of us have no intention to deny any other people the right to choose their own form and parties and personalities of government.
Unfortunately, for many decades since World War II – and long before that in Central and Latin America – our government has come up with temporarily convincing reasons why we need to prevent this nation from "going Communist" or "opposing American interests." Our government doesn't like to take direct colonies, but it has a way of supporting dictators we particularly like and overthrowing republics and other regimes we don't particularly like.
All nations have a legitimate right to defend against attacks. But we are so far removed from that, that today our government’s official policy is to maintain an eternal, global military domination over all other countries on earth. Can you really persuade yourself that others don't take this to be arrogant and threatening?
A lot of our imperialism is done simply by keeping the American public in the dark. The public as a whole doesn't care much about foreign policy, and the American press doesn't report it in an even-handed way. As a historian, I've studied the foreign reporting of the Associated Press: in cases where the current Presidential administration is trying to "sell" a certain line of argument in foreign policy, the AP’s reporting varies significantly from British and European news agencies, and always in the direction of favoring the current administration. But of course, the rest of the world can see very clearly what we're doing – and they don't always call it "advancing freedom."
The rest of it is done through mythology: of course America always favors freedom – no matter what the facts are on the ground. America always promotes democracy, which is always good and always ultimately successful.
Well, it simply isn't so.
The case of Iraq shows the ironies of our position in especially clear detail, for those who care to see. A majority of Iraqis in early 2003 probably did wish for the demise of Saddam Hussein and his dictatorial regime – even though in the Cold War battles of 1965-90 Iraq’s Baathist regime was counted on the "American side" in most global imperial intrigues.
Nevertheless, the venality and incompetence of this particular Administration’s favorite contractors, and the unconscious, unintended harshness of our Pentagon’s tactical doctrine lost the initial goodwill that Iraqis greeted us with. Would you respond well to robo-soldiers barking orders in a foreign language, kicking down your doors, being impolite to your womenfolk, confiscating your guns and money, and sometimes punishing a whole town for the crimes of a few? Why is it our soldiers weren’t ordered to act that way in occupying Japan and Germany?
In short, the good things that Americans do in the world are being obscured by the not-so-good things that we do – and maintaining an imperial, foreigners-be-damned-unless-we-need-to-borrow-their-money foreign policy seems to be hurting our domestic strength and tranquility, too. In my humble opinion, the best way to maintain our freedom might be to have more respect for others’ freedom. Didn’t someone once say, "do unto others, as you would have others do unto you?" We ought to practice some of that in our foreign policy.
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