A Few Moments With Paul Craig Roberts
I'm on the West Coast, so trying to catch the Sunday talking heads live is just brutally absurd. Sometimes though, I imagine it might be worth it if we could see pundits who were actually capable of, say, thinking beyond talking points. Or if someone might offer analysis that goes a little deeper than "some people say." It would be especially delightful if we could look forward to scathing reviews of shrubCo, such as those delivered by Paul Craig Roberts.
The destruction of New Orleans is the responsibility of the most incompetent government in American history and perhaps in all history.
...The Bush administration is damned by its gross incompetence.
...The neoconservatives have brought these disasters to all Americans, Democrat and Republican alike. Now they must he held accountable. Bush and his neoconservatives are guilty of criminal negligence and must be prosecuted.
Wouldn't it just make your morning to hear that as you drink your coffee? Sadly, we must content ourselves with the internets, as what passes for journalism these days is just pseudo-intellectual infotainment. If Judy Bachrach freaked them out, can you imagine the short circuit upon hearing shrubya declared a tyrant?
Americans must recognize the Bush administration and the Republican Party for what they are. They are tyrants. They are bringing evil to the world and tyranny to America.
The talking heads might well explode like so many Harry Mudd robots, incapable of reconciling unfamiliar input. Imagine a Sunday lineup that included something à la this excerpt:
No administration in my lifetime has given so many strong reasons to oppose and condemn it as has the Bush administration. Nixon was driven from office because of a minor burglary of no consequence in itself. Clinton was impeached because he did not want the embarrassment of publicly acknowledging that he engaged in adulterous sex acts in the Oval Office. In contrast, Bush has deceived the public and Congress in order to invade Iraq, illegally detained Americans, illegally tortured detainees, and illegally spied on Americans.
Good news - you longer have to imagine! I emailed Dr. Roberts and he agreed to grant an interview of sorts; his answers to three of my questions are almost a column unto themselves. I know this is neither television nor Sunday, but you are reading this via an electronic screen and it will still be here when the talk show
And now, without further ado, those promised moments with Dr. Paul Craig Roberts (all emphasis mine):
C: At what point did you part ways with the Bush administration?
PCR: I can't say that I was ever in company with the Bush administration, or any other, with the exception of Ronald Reagan's administration in which I served. Political parties and administrations are collections of interest groups who put their interests ahead of those of the country. Reagan did convince me that he was primarily concerned with two enormous issues on the outcome of which the country's fate rested. One issue was stagflation and the threat of simultaneous increases in both unemployment and inflation. The other issue was the cold war. Reagan dealt decisively with both issues and thus served the country well.
The current Bush administration is associated in most people's minds with the US invasion of Iraq and the faulty justification for this war. I, like most Americans, was disturbed by the events of September 11. However, it was clear to any informed person that Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with September 11. When I saw where the Bush administration was going with the terrorist issue, I wrote that an invasion of Iraq would be a strategic blunder of disastrous dimensions. This fact is beginning to dawn even on distracted Americans.
C: In your column "America's Hegemonic Miscalculation," you raise many interesting points about unforeseen consequences of international military aggression and wonder "what hath Bush wrought?" regarding Iraq. I suppose it could be argued that most of the snafus resulting from the invasion (insurgency, civil war, Islamic state, etc.) were not anticipated. But your broader point is that we should be wary of the long-term consequences of, in your words, "the first adventure of neoconservative Jacobin ideologues willing to use any means to impose their "democratic" agenda on the rest of the world, especially the Middle East."
You cite this misadventure as a turning point in history - do you have any thoughts on what some of the long-term consequences might be?
PCR: Yes, the consequences are dire. America has never faced a greater threat than the neoconservative ideologues--who are not conservatives but Jacobins (see Claes Ryn's book, "America the Virtuous"). These neocons or neocrazies as some call them have total control of the Bush administration. They have their own agenda and are using the Bush administration to advance their agenda. It is not clear to me that Bush himself is aware of what is happening and why. In brief, neocons believe that America as interpreted by them has a monopoly on virtue and the right and duty to impose American virtue on the rest of the world, especially on the Middle East, which they see as a Muslim threat to Israel. They have made this abundantly clear in their writings.
Among the consequences is a complete change in how the world views America. For example, in the Asia Times (Jan. 12, 2006, "Dismal days ahead in Iraq"), a young Iraqi woman is quoted as follows: "We used to love the American people but not anymore. Hatred is spreading all over now, and everyone wants revenge on America. Bush is bringing disasters to the people of your own country, not only to Iraqis." Another Iraqi says: "The Americans destroyed everything in Iraq. Bush should be among the greatest terrorists along with his colleagues in Britain, because they are all criminals who have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis."
Polls show that huge majorities all over the Middle East now feel this way about America, a country that formerly they looked up to and respected. Polls also show that our former European allies now see us as a rogue state dangerous to the world's stability.
In short, Bush and the neocons have isolated America. This is an especially bad thing when you are running up massive foreign debts that the rest of the world is financing. Once the dollar's role as reserve currency gets into serious trouble, Washington cannot look to the rest of the world for support. Indeed, the world can collapse the US superpower by devaluing our currency. US living standards are on a precipice.
Bush's invasion of Iraq has damaged the image of American military might. 150,000 US troops are essentially tied down by a few thousand rag-tag lightly armed insurgents. After three years of fighting and enormous destruction in Iraq, the US does not exercise control over the territory and has failed to impose its will.
Furthermore, prior to Bush's invasion of Iraq the country was ruled by secular Sunnis. The outcome of the invasion is to turn Iraq over to the majority Shi'ites, who are largely religious fundamentalists. The Iraqi Shi'ites are allied with Iran, which is also Shi'ite. What Bush has done is to create, in the words of our ally, the king of Jordan, "a Shi'ite crescent from Iran through Iraq to Lebanon." This is a great concern to the Sunni regimes that are our allies if not our puppets.
Saddam Hussein served as a restraint on Iranian power. By removing him, we have strengthened Iran. Now that the Bush administration recognizes its blunder, it thinks it can mitigate its mistake by attacking Iran. Alarmed US officials have leaked the word that Bush has plans to attack Iran with tactical nuclear weapons, as we have no remaining forces to risk in a ground war. I fear that Bush and the neocons are insane enough to attack Iran with nuclear weapons. If this mistake is made, the US will not recover from it. The rest of the world will put us on a par with Nazi Germany and organize against us.
Neocons, wallowing in hubris, confuse America's power with military power. However, America's power has always been based on our "soft" power: the recognition of our moral, diplomatic, and economic leadership. Once the world no longer accepts our leadership, military power will not go very far.
Another dire consequence is that the Bush administration has told so many lies and broken so many laws that it has to protect itself by constructing a police state. That so many Americans think the Bush police state will only be used against "terrorists" shows how distracted from reality they are.
Really, what American ever expected to hear the president, vice president, and attorney general of the US justify torture, indefinite detention, the right to break the law against spying on Americans, or claim that the president is above the law? Bush is leading us back to a legal system prior to the existence of our civil liberties. The Bush administration has made it clear that its intention is to discard our Constitution's separation of powers and to concentrate power in the executive. The Alito appointment to the Supreme Court will give the five votes needed to create an unaccountable executive with power to rule as he chooses.
C: I had asked Roberts a question about popularly-elected democratic representation as it relates to the following quote from H.L Mencken:
"We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
PCR: H.L. Mencken was on to something. In his humorous way he anticipated Hans Herman-Hoppe's point that democracies are poorly governed because the rulers only have a short-run interest in the country's success, whereas a king must think of the state of the kingdom that he is leaving to his son. Democratic governments grow large by gaining powers to tax and to regulate. The income tax (1913) and the New Deal (1930s) gave government the power to tax and regulate on a vast scale. Once that happens, government degenerates into interest group politics.
(end of correspondence)
Hamilton actually made similar arguments in Federalist no. 71, suggesting that a limited presidential term for the presidency wouldn't quite induce the president to properly invest himself in the office. Unfortunately, shrubya proved to be an extraordinary exception, but it is still an interesting idea. It's probably more interesting than the Sunday pablum, in any event.
Enjoy your coffee.
Tags: Paul Craig Roberts, Bush, Iraq, Iran, neocon, H. L. Mencken