Monday, February 20, 2006

Messiahs and Imperialists

Some notes on why a state of "minimum and permanent level of international tension" is desirable to U.S. policymakers: Messiahs and Imperialists:
... the main differences among the different schools are tactical—liberal internationalists, for example, tend to value multilateralism and a sense of prudence, they believe in the magical healing powers of global capital, and they don't usually descend into the trance-like messianism of George W. Bush...

... a president with a divine sense of purpose is hardly the scariest religious impulse in American foreign policy. That honor belongs to the various forms of millennialism in the United States, which can hold that it's America's duty to bring about the millennium...

... the standard bearer of a "non-apocalyptic view of means and ends, capabilities and challenges" tends to be the "realists" within the foreign policy establishment—those, like Jeanne Kirkpatrick or Condoleeza Rice, who believe that America must remake the world in its own image, but should be cautious about how to do so. ... But even if these "realists" don't drink from the same millennial Kool-Aid as the neoconservatives, they very much serve their own master: namely, American militarism.

On the one hand, there's the widespread, quasi-religious idea that America is the chosen nation called on to transform the world, with all the genuinely noble and appallingly ugly impulses that brings. On the other hand, there's a security establishment that doesn't buy into these millennial fantasies, but still remains committed to the endless "maintenance and expansion of U.S. global military power." Zbigniew Brzezinski, who is held in high regard by the Democratic establishment, sees the world as a "Grand Chessboard," which gives a sense for what that's all about. If this is all correct, then any hopes for a sensible foreign policy in the near future are probably foolish.

The wages of fundamentalism

This is a good article on the Taliban in every country - evidently a byproduct of evolution: The Wages of Fundamentalism.

From the article:
There are warning signs, however, that American science is losing its edge, and may even have peaked. One reason is that as religious and political fundamentalism tighten their grip, they are beginning to sap America's intellectual vitality.

Yet history shows that fundamentalism leads only to stagnation and disaster.

Christianity in the Roman Empire led to half a millennium of dark ages, ending only with the rediscovery of Aristotle in the 12th century. ... And Islamic fundamentalism beginning in Baghdad around 1067 led to a millennium of backwardness, which still afflicts the Islamic world.

By contrast, the very history of modern Europe - the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, the modernist battles of the 19th century - may be characterized as the victory of rationalism and science over religious dogmatism.

Turkey has tried to rid itself of fundamentalist Islam twice - and failed twice.

Above everything else, Europe is not fundamentalist. This is why, in their hearts, many Europeans have misgivings about Turkey's entry into the EU. Europe has no shortage of problems of its own making, and has no need to import fundamentalism of any variety.

Just a reminder that any sort of ideological Christian fundamentalist entrenchment is likely to result in conditions as bad as those of the "barbarians at the gates," whether real threats like fundamentalist extremists abroad, or imaginary threats like evolution, obscenity, environmentalism, or liberalism (which was, after all, the offspring of the Enlightenment and the foundation of our nation - prior to the term's corruption by the 80s right-wing media machine).