If I may vulgarize the implications of Orwell’s argument a bit: substitute Republicans for Kipling and Democrats for the opposition, and you have a good synopsis of the current state of American politics. ( Democrats Should Read Kipling, WILLIAM KRISTOL, Published: February 18, 2008)
Scott Horton on neocon prince Bill Kristol’s latest serving of warmed over droll in the NYT, Still Writing as Bad as I Can
What Kristol is busily working at, and indeed forms one of his most enduring formulas, is the Dolchstoß (”stabbed in the back”) legend. Following the tactic mastered by the German right in the violent and anarchistic wake of World War I and mimicked around the world in successive decades, any failed military escapade must be blamed on the meddling of liberals who lack faith in the virile leader and his generals. When this tactic is pulled off well, a military defeat has no consequences for those whose miscalculations produced it—rather it will provide an opportunity for them to bolster their political position. Kristol is already busy rehearsing his arguments for the fall campaign, in which Americans will be asked to choose between the heroic (in my view, genuinely heroic) figure of John McCain and the “Defeatocrats.”
Other bloggers have covered the Kipling and empire angle as does Horton in the rest of the essay. Kipling and Kristol’s cherry picking of Orwell a la Jonah Goldberg is pretty much irrelevant to the heart of the Right’s case as Kristol makes it. Kristol, a born elitist, a product of entitlement from day one wants terribly to be regarded as a deep thinker – having never competed in the marketplace of ideas Bill probably genuinely believes he is smart and has something to say worth paying for. A Conservative of heraldic order and pedigree, K-man could have written the whole column in a few lines: Conservatives are the only ones qualified to govern everyone else is chaff. That just won’t do. He has space to fill at the Paper of Record so he takes Kipling and Orwell by the nape of the neck and drags them into his fetid little turn of social darwinism. Kipling I don’t mind, but the Right keeps trying like a crazed tick to attach itself to Orwell. On destructing Kristol or anyone else at The Weekly Standard one finds nothing much in the way of substance so the game of hiding behind carefully culled bits and pieces of history has become SOP.
No, Orwell very accurately reminds us, Kipling is “not a fascist.” “He is a jingo imperialist, he is morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting.” Kipling’s virile defense of empire can be conjured in the image found in his works, of “a soldier beating a ‘nigger’ with a cleaning rod in order to get money out of him.” 11. George Orwell, “Rudyard Kipling,” in: The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol. 2, p. 184 (S. Orwell ed. 1968).
For more than a decade, Congress has essentially operated in the dark when passing science and technology legislation. It remains in the dark because of what Chris Mooney, the author of The Republican War on Science, terms “a stunning act of self-lobotomy.” As Mooney details in his book, congressional Republicans made eliminating the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), Congress’s authoritative scientific advisory body, a top priority when they took power in 1994. (For an excerpt, see the September/October 2005 Bulletin article, “Requiem for an Office” [PDF, 771 KB].)
It would nice if we had a government whose policies were more rationalism based then shot from the hip ideology.
Other experiments in the study used groups of different sizes, with different ratios of ‘informed individuals’. The research findings show that as the number of people in a crowd increases, the number of informed individuals decreases. In large crowds of 200 or more, five per cent of the group is enough to influence the direction in which it travels.
Maybe I’m extrapolating too much, but this might explain why the Right’s pundits have enjoyed some degree of success. You can keep a relatively small number of people misinformed much of the time and the rest follow. Isn’t that really the purpose of the Limbaughs and Coulters, to misguide and misinform; the opposite of what pundits are supposed to do.
Analyzing how wars are won has taken a back seat to measuring the level of violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, as if a mere downturn in violence is the key path to victory. Perhaps one reason for this is that any proper analysis would indicate neither war is winnable, at least by the United States. That Bush administration officials and military commanders are talking about both wars lasting into the indefinite future only confirms that winning them is more than illusive. It is impossible.
Berry gets into the details in between, well worth a read, but his conclusion is,
It is not a stretch to conclude that Iraq and Afghanistan are among the most impossible countries to be politically instituted by foreign forces. And creating a functioning state is what winning is, as defined by the Bush administration. Bush even goes further by adding the element of democracy to the governments he seeks in both. The traditional, divided, antagonistic, and parochial social fabric of Iraq and Afghanistan provides infertile ground for democracy. Whatever political construct finally emerges will only come once foreign forces leave.
One way that an occupying force wins is the total annihilation of the enemy. A solution that we continue to hear in various forms from the Right. In Iraq and Afghanistan that would mean killing most of the population. Even Bush seems to have a problem with that or the surge and counter-insurgency would have meant tripling the forces in Iraq alone. As much as the Right would like to continue to absurdly frame Iraq as a necessary to stopping another 9-11 it is an occupation that requires a never ending battle with the population that we’re supposedly there to save from something – repression, Islamic radicalism. That is not what is going on in Iraq or Afghanistan. We’re caught in the middle of a few hundred years of tribal revelries.
All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting. ~ George Orwell