Thursday, December 04, 2008

Reality, "realisms" and ethics.

A darned interesting article by by: Marc Ash leads to this conclusion

t r u t h o u t | The Threat of Realism:


The debate in Washington right now is defined by what media pundits have taken to labeling as 'Realism.' As is the case with any 'ism' it has man-made borders. The cornerstones of this brand of realism appear to include:

- A notion that it is an American birthright to lead the world, and profit by doing so.

- A notion that the US can maintain over 700 military bases worldwide and not unify the world in opposition.

- A notion that an Iraqi government, or any government orchestrated, protected and funded by US occupiers can someday be sovereign.

- A notion that the occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan can end well.

Those are clearly false, unsustainable and quite dangerous realisms.
Indeed they are. And they are long-standing ones; as Marc Ash points out, the question as to which "side" was right in the US dispute with Cuba (and the larger struggle with various anti-American/anti-imperialist movements) is somewhat beside the point. The more useful and important question is this; what got us to the point where a nuclear showdown over a tobacco and gambling enterprise seemed like a good idea.

I grew up in the US, so I have to tell you that finding out what was really behind all of that was not easy. The issues are cloaked in ignorance and idiology. Nor do I doubt that of the other side; the Marxist cant of Castro and Che tended to conceal for everyone involved that the issues involved were not at all idiological. They were not even abstract manifestations of human rights.

And when the demagogues hauled out words like "The Free Market" and "Capitalism" and "Communism" and "Imperialism" - even before they got to the insults designed to motivate their respective power bases, well, the end result was nothing good for anyone.

I point to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the history leading up to it because it's relatively accessible and because it's an expression of basic US Foreign Policy that has not fundamentally changed in my lifetime. And sadly, the rhetoric of Hugo Chavez is not very different from that of Che or Castro because that side of the coin hasn't changed much either.

The problem is not one of economic systems; both capitalism and communism - socialism as well; all these systems can and do work rather well when applied intelligently by the professionally minded to situations they are suited to with the goal of maximizing gain for all. In other words, they need to be applied ethically, with the goal that everyone involved is better off at the end of the day by participation within the system than they would be by opposing it.

Or in other words, the goal of any sane government, any sane approach to foreign policy, any sane approach to avoiding expensive drama in any human context is to avoid approaches that are known to create opposition and will tend to create a highly motivated pool of pissed off individuals willing to act politically, economically and violently with the aim of frustrating your goals.

This has the effect of sharply limiting the goals one may legitimately aspire to. Oh well. It has been my observation over many years that accepting and working within limitations tends to boost creativity and generally produces better outcomes than plans that admit no limitations at all. For ideas that accept no human, practical, economic or ethical limitations simply do not fit into any human context. That means that some degree of violence will be required to make them work at all.

And aside from the ethics - it's metaphorically identical to having a furnace that must be firmly addressed with a sledgehammer in order for the feed auger to move coal into the firebox. The proper way of addressing this problem is not to sanctify the office of auger-banger, nor to devote great attention and effort to building better sledgehammers. The problem is that you are trying to heat your house with a hundred-year old coal fired furnace that was badly designed to start with and which has not improved with age.

Rip it out, recycle it and install something that works. This is what ethics tells us; that we must not invest ourselves in institutionalizing wrong answers. That creating an edifice of institutional justification for wrong actions will not make the action right - and all mysticism aside, wrong actions lead to undesirable outcomes, every single time, and almost by definition, at a cost that is exponentially higher than doing it right in the first place.

So instead of "realisms," worldviews in which "men of the world" take for grated that the actions of Great Men and the Legitimate Aspirations of Great States will lead to vast numbers of enemies, internal opposition and economic dislocation for the "lusers," we should take for granted that any person that takes those things for granted is dangerously, obviously and provably wrong.

CF: Cuba, Afghanistan (History, International, Military, Year Dot to Date), Carpetbaggers, The War of Northern Aggression and The Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire.)

It takes a good deal of willful blindness to look at the situations, history and people behind these conflicts and celebrate the outcomes as being the proper outcome of any defensible plan or legitimate, desirable outcome.

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