The first step toward a realistic peace is to be realistic about our
enemies. They follow a violent ideology: radical Islamic fascism, which
uses the mask of religion to further totalitarian goals and aims to
destroy the existing international system. These enemies wear no
uniform. They have no traditional military assets. They rule no states
but can hide and operate in virtually any of them and are supported by
some. -- Rudy Giuliani
So the Revolutionary Guard wears no uniforms? Iran's government rules no state? Hezbollah has no traditional military assets? Hamas is pretending to be a radical Islamic organization? Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia does not really want to reimpose Sharia law? States, governments, militia, and terrorist groups that have been around for decades want to destroy the existing international system? The closest you get to realism about our enemies in this description is that some number of violent people hate us, want to mess up the world, and could be anywhere at any time. This description gives us the truth, the partial truth, and a whole lot else besides.
Above all, we must understand that our enemies are emboldened by signs
of weakness. Radical Islamic terrorists attacked the World Trade Center
in 1993, the Khobar Towers facility in Saudi Arabia in 1996, our
embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.
In some instances, we responded inadequately. In others, we failed to
respond at all. Our retreat from Lebanon in 1983 and from Somalia in
1993 convinced them that our will was weak.
Signals, signs, messages, political astrology, international statecraft as Mimes With Guns, soothsaying, entrail-reading, guess the secret, brandish the weapon, speak the code. When will virtual foreign policy end? Our retreats from Lebanon and Somalia were not signs of weakness. Our will actually was weak. Reagan and Clinton took one good look at what life would be like if we hung around and rightly decided to high-tail it. Our will to stay was weak because our of our will not to get stuck in the middle of a Hobbesian basket case, and boy was that will strong. The pathology of signs and signals causes 'demonstrations of strength' to always, even cumulatively, end up feeling inadequate; finally the last attempt to make sure the enemy gets the 'message' is kicking them in the shins.
The purpose of this fight must be to defeat the terrorists and the
insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and to allow these countries to
become members of the international system in good standing. We must be
under no illusions that either Iraq or Afghanistan will quickly attain
the levels of peace and security enjoyed in the developed world today.
That is, to force Iraq and Afghanistan to become members of the international system in good standing. At least Giuliani does not say 'international community.' Only, this has already happened. Iraq and Afghanistan's governments are internationally recognized. No member of the international system worth mention is complaining. So the purpose of the fight is to beat the people we are fighting, whoever they are. Bringing us back to that first point about realism regarding our enemies. Let's get that right first, then talk peace and security.
America's influence and prestige -- not just in the Middle East but
around the world -- would be dealt a shattering blow. Our allies would
conclude that we cannot back up our commitments with sustained action.
Our enemies -- both terrorists and rogue states -- would be emboldened.
They would see further opportunities to weaken the international state
system that is the primary defense of civilization. Much as our enemies
in the 1990s concluded from our inconsistent response to terrorism
then, our enemies today would conclude that America's will is weak and
the civilization we pledged to defend is tired. Failure would be an
invitation for more war, in even more difficult and dangerous
After a half decade of one of history's most expensive wars, we'll have no proof that we back up our commitments with sustained action? If the international state system is the primary defense of civilization, why do we risk the integrity of that system to fight our enemies? What civilization have we pledged to defend? Ours? Ours America's, or ours the West's? What if American civilization is not tired but Western civilization is? Is that our cross to bear? Why? For how long? These are rhetorical questions behind which legitimate arguments remain to be made. And there are valuable points lurking behind Giuliani's rhetorical statements. Standing alone, they obscure and confuse more than they reveal. The best point he has to make is that leaving Iraq will cause a significant number of terrorists to 'follow us home.' I am not able to come up with any explanation for why that would not be so. This is the point for a pro-war candidate to emphasize -- not the will-o-wisp rhetoric of abstractions like 'civilization,' 'prestige,' 'will,' and 'signals.' And, of course, leaving Iraq would cause our prestige to rise in many Arab and Muslim countries -- including Iraq, where most citizens want us gone. Diminishing our influence would certainly make us more prestigious in various places around the world.
Much of that fight will take place in the shadows. It will be the work
of intelligence operatives, paramilitary groups, and Special Operations
forces. It will also require close relationships with other governments
and local forces. The next U.S. president should direct our armed
forces to emphasize such work, in part because local forces are best
able to operate in their home countries and in part in order to reduce
the strain on our own troops.
The current US president should direct our armed forces to emphasize such work. 'Policing,' like 'terrorism,' is a technique, meaning even though you can't fight a 'police action' against terrorists with tanks, you can do it with special forces, and should, too. This logic applies directly to Iraq.
The idea of a post-Cold War "peace dividend" was a serious mistake --
the product of wishful thinking and the opposite of true realism. As a
result of taking this dividend, our military is too small to meet its
current commitments or shoulder the burden of any additional challenges
that might arise. We must rebuild a military force that can deter
aggression and meet the wide variety of present and future challenges.
When America appears bogged down and unready to face aggressors, it
I hope Giuliani does not mean that the idea of a postwar peace was a serious mistake. One might actually recall that the prize handed out to successful hegemons is the Pax Hegemonia. A superpower should be able to at least earn itself a breather. And once again with the kabuki dance. 'Appears' bogged down? What about when America actually is bogged down, as it is, right now, in Iraq? Does that invite conflict?
Constellations of satellites that can watch arms factories everywhere
around the globe, day and night, above- and belowground, combined with
more robust human intelligence, must be part of America's arsenal.
We must preserve the gains made by the U.S.A. Patriot Act and not
unrealistically limit electronic surveillance or legal interrogation.
Given Giuliani's idea of realism about our enemies, I really have no idea what this means. He supplies no hints. I, like almost everyone, supported the (atrociously, irresponsibly named) Patriot Act the first time around, and, like many reasonable people, thought it ought to have been scaled back methodically the second time around, to the point of mostly being eliminated altogether. I am forced to conclude that Giuliani 'appears' to be saying that we must preserve the gains made by the Patriot Act by expanding its reach.
Military victories are essential, but they are not enough. A lasting,
realistic peace will be achieved when more effective diplomacy,
combined with greater economic and cultural integration, helps the
people of the Middle East understand that they have a stake in the
success of the international system.
Guess what: greater cultural integration is everywhere you look in Europe. See how conducive that is to peace. Just count the flaming cars. And greater economic integration (with whom? Us? Us who? Global corporations headquartered in America?) is the source of both tyranny and terror in the third world. Economic modernization far too often means giving the people of third-world states a loser's stake in the success of the international system. Another kick in the shins will scuttle the efforts of any honest diplomacy, no matter how effective it would otherwise be.
Diplomacy should never be a tool that our enemies can manipulate to
their advantage. Holding serious talks may be advisable even with our
adversaries, but not with those bent on our destruction or those who
cannot deliver on their agreements. Iran is a case in point. The
Islamic Republic has been determined to attack the international system
throughout its entire existence: it took U.S. diplomats hostage in 1979
and seized British sailors in 2007 and during the decades in between
supported terrorism and murder. But Tehran invokes the protections of
the international system when doing so suits it, hiding behind the
principle of sovereignty to stave off the consequences of its actions.
This is not to say that talks with Iran cannot possibly work. They
could -- but only if we came to the table in a position of strength,
knowing what we wanted.
This is partially, maybe even mostly sensical, but raises more questions that it answers. Is Iran 'bent on our destruction'? If not, who is? How is it that Iran can both 'hind behind the principle of sovereignty' and attack the international system, the cornerstone of which is the principle of sovereignty? The answer is that Iran farms out its dirty work to illegal foreign proxy armies like Hezbollah. But that little charade is designed fairly specifically to destroy Israel, not the international system. Destroying Israel is a bad thing to do, but writing sloppy policy position papers is also bad, with potentially much farther-reaching effects for the US. Giuliani is on firmer ground when he reminds us that the greatest harm Iran has done to the international system was to invade the US Embassy and hold its residents captive -- a total, unmitigated outrage upon one of the most venerable and universal and sacrosanct tenets of international law ever to be conceived and maintained. I like the idea that Iran ought to be held to account for its hypocrisy, but as far as talks with Iran are concerned -- you know, the kind happening right now -- is Giuliani supporting them or criticizing them? Only the Shadow knows. Back to the astrological charts.
There is no realistic alternative to the sovereign state system.
Transnational terrorists and other rogue actors have difficulty
operating where the state system is strong, and they flourish where it
is weak. This is the reason they try to exploit its weaknesses. We
should therefore work to strengthen the international system through
America's relations with other great powers, both long established and
rising. We should regard no great power as our inherent adversary. We
should continue to fully engage with Europe, both in its collective
capacity as the European Union and through our special relationship
with the United Kingdom and our traditional diplomatic relations with
France, Germany, Italy, and other western European nations. We highly
value our ties with the states of central and eastern Europe and the
Baltic and Balkan nations. Their experience of oppression under
communism has made them steadfast allies and strong advocates of
This is a sound enough paragraph to end on a good note, about halfway through Giuliani's piece. This has been a critical analysis, and I've purposely left out chunks of Giuliani's argument that I agree with or seem to clearly pass muster. But the critiques I've laid out here are signficant. This piece should have been sent back for another rewrite. Good thing the election is not tomorrow.
I wish I knew how this country could better deal with the problem of
Islamic extremism, but the longer this thing goes on, the more it seems
to me that it's something that simply has to be endured until Islam
makes the messy transition to modernity. I'm not saying that we have to
cease resisting it. By no means! What I am saying is that as we devise
strategies to keep ourselves safe from the convulsions of the Muslim
world, we should understand that the violent Muslim response to
modernity, and hatred of America as the chief exponent of modernity,
should be grappled with as a not unreasonable response to the threat modernity poses to traditional Islamic civilization. Roger Scruton was saying this five years ago, but nobody seems quite to have grasped the point.
There are three modernities at work here, each increasingly incorporeal. First, there's the modernity that gets spread by private-sector individuals -- enterprising folks engaging in Adam Smith-style truck and barter, and also, increasingly, the lifestyle branding and identertainment that corporations have turned to in order to make a killing in the feelings market and transcend the banality of selling goods on the basis of their practical usefulness. I don't want to get trapped in the semantics of how 'postmodern' identertainment is, because the foundations of it were clearly laid in the golden age of modernity, the 1950s. The integration of lifestyle pitches into marketing and consumption doesn't require a full-on trip down the rabbit hole of marketing psychology. Long before every product had a vibe, a philosophy, a catchphrase, and an image, the suburban lifestyle became a marketable aspiration; the real-world consequences of modern bourgeois individualism, in its urban and suburban varieties alike, are profound enough to trace this first kind of modernity, the one that Marx and Tocqueville talked about. This kind of modernity is the consequence of actual people doing deliberate things.
The second, more ghostly modernity is the one promoted as a matter of explicit US and international Western foreign policy. This modernity is the consequence of real but often disembodied and quasi-public institutions setting exchange rates and loan conditions. It blends politics and economics deliberately in order to spread and institutionalize the main features of the modern Western social order -- representative democracy, the rule of law, and politically stabilized flows of free capital. The way this kind of modernity sustains itself and spreads is less the consequence of many actual people doing what people do than it is the result of a few policy planners. But international organizations have pathologies of power, and in the upper reaches of the bureaucratic layer cake unaccountability and headlessness cause 'modernization' programs to interact with the real world of modernity v.1 in sometimes unpredictable and hard-to-control ways. Even when a currency crisis (1998, for example) can be accounted for as a level of risk, managing the damage caused by the actualization of that risk is another matter. Modernity v.2 is a self-conscious phenomenon actively constructed, whereas often the only individuals in Modernity 1 who are actively self-conscious about the phenomenology of what they are doing have their hands in Modernity 2. Corporate personhood, the component of the rule of law that holds modernity together structurally, works something like a farm league for graduates from Modernity 1 to Modernity 2. But it also, along with its public counterpart, Institutional personhood, distances people from their own actions. By working through corporations and institutions, people may shield their own individual selves from responsibility (liability) for their acts and policies; they may also increasingly understand the behavioral outputs of their corporations or institutions as the 'responsibility' of legal agents with no actual self. What corporations and institutions do -- even when they are yours -- seems ironically under self-conscious Modernity 2 to be less the product of conscious acts than the emanation of impersonal forces.
Modernity 3, the most ghostly of all modernities, is this strange force that is dominating the discourse here with Gerecht, Obama, Romney, and others. Modernity 3 is like 'Globalization,' something that nobody is really responsible for, something that not even specific institutions are responsible for. Modernity is a world-historical movement, an inevitability of the development of the human species based on everything that has happened up until whenever the wheels of Modernity 1 were set in motion. Modernity is a phase, like being a teenager, something that, say, 'the Islamic world' (whatever that is) has to suffer through messily. I like Rod's analyses generally but I worry here that he accepts too uncritically the notion that there's a 'modern world' and a 'not yet modern world,' the modern world is spreading unstoppably and inevitably, and the not yet modern world has to deal with it. This is a crude representation of what is really going on, which is namely that specific institutions and individuals are deliberately penetrating those areas of the world not yet domesticated by modern political and economic order. The world is very much a four-dimensional virtual patchwork quilt in this respect. How can it make sense to discuss what's happening in 'the Middle East' (whatever that is) as if 'the Islamic world' were suffering through an acne-like rite of passage, complete with acting out and angst, when representative areas of that 'world' include Dubai, Baghdad, Cairo, Tehran, Mogadishu, Baku, and Kuwait City?
Rather than blaming Modernity 3 for our problems, let's work our way down. As a matter of public policy, we need to dial down the full-bore push for the globalization of Modernity 2 that did such a number on Russia (a reckoning we will only enjoy more of over the next 20 years) and is currently divvying up Serbia and has on balance a very poor record of success at even what it has tried to do, namely quasi-public institutional democratization and liberalization.
And as a matter of private policy, we need to be much less interested in trying to make large sums of money off of making strangers in foreign countries live more like we do. Certain improvements in medical technology aside, very little that enables 'modern lifestyles' is necessary to living a full, healthy, thriving life. We should stop kidding ourselves on this point. We should also stop kidding ourselves that whenever anyone in the world buys something, it must mean that they wanted it in some finally justifying sense, and that there is no need to investigate the significance of whether they would have wanted it otherwise.
The blowback that results from the large-scale psychological ailments of modern (not just 'modernizing') socities may be inevitable, but modernization is not; and neither is modernity, which can be experienced briefly, protractedly, or not at all, may be shortcutted around, and may, of course, be gotten beyond, before it manages to overwhelm the world.
It's pretty raw red meat, but Newt's latest salvo suggests that he could be fairly helpful in prodding the guys who are really running to get on with it and criticize the President in increasingly specific terms.
America is the cutting edge of a modernity that has convulsed Islam as
a faith and a civilization. This collision will likely become more
violent, not less, as Muslims more completely enter the ethical free
fall that comes as modernity pulverizes the world of our ancestors.
Barack Obama's newly devised "Mobile Development Teams," which will
bring together "personnel from the State Department, the Pentagon, and
USAID . . . to turn the tide against extremism" are unlikely to make
America more attractive to devout Muslims who know that America is the
leading force in destroying the world that they love. The senator can
leave Iraq, shut down Guantánamo, apologize for Abu Ghraib, and build
"secular" schools all over Pakistan, and he will not change this fact.
This is the deep well from which al Qaeda draws.
What Gerecht fails to imagine, what Obama has so far failed to articulate, and what Romney seems to have flatly ruled out is that America can be a helpful presence in the world that has at least much less to do with 'modernity.' (There's a whole argument here about what modernity is, but in a nutshell, I take modernity to be a logic of social order that ties political liberalization and democracy to economic expansion and capitalism, with the autonomous individual and the corporation with legal personhood as the key social units.)
As many points as the paleos can score against internationalism, modernity has nothing necessarily to do with 'being international.' Pre-modern empires carried on in 'international' fashion for a long time -- both domestically and in their political and economic foreign relations. Followers of Hardt and Negri and Naomi Klein would emphasize that the form of globalized empire facing the world is partially modern but more properly called postmodern. This has some bite, but the important point is that a foreign policy in which the US ceases to be used deliberately as the literally cutting edge of modernity could remain a real foreign policy, not simply a pulling up of stakes.
Where is the creative thinking required to articulate an actual policy from this premise? I'm working on it.
About this Brownback/Mother Theresa/"All for Jesus" straw poll 'Christianist' chant thing: the damning charge against the religious right is not so much that they dare to both really be Christians and participate in American politics on a basis that does not make a mute or a mockery out of their faith, but that they actually do the reverse -- selling out repeatedly to craven GOP operators who incessantly play the Jesus card in order to preserve and cultivate an irrational base of political support that will steadfastly refuse to oppose whatever they do while in power.
The two main issues are: (1) whether top Republican politicians knowingly and deliberately 'dupe the rubes,' throwing them bones like DOA gay marriage amendments and pro-life lip service while busily destroying civil liberties and blowing up the world; (2) whether politically active conservative Christians are totally hapless supporters of whoever says "Jesus" the most times in succession or are actually aware on some level of the wicked Faustian bargain that has exaggerated their strength in the public square.
The sarcasm level here should suggest how seriously I take these grand-conspiracy claims, namely, not totally, but enough to actually state them in a way that could be interpreted as totally unsarcastic by the right crowd. The problem with fitting Brownback into this paradigm -- and thus, the problem with the paradigm -- is that Brownback is actually a serious Christian candidate who would change Republican policies. You cannot have your cake and eat it too: a serious "all for Jesus" policy, whatever it looks like, will actually undermine the Faustian-bargain component of Republican politics. Or any politics.
The truth is, there is no such single thing as a 'Christian policy,' because Jesus was not a politician, and the answer to WWJD provides opportunities for right- and left-wingers alike to score points: save the poor, refrain from abortion, etc., etc. Touting Jesus-ness while running for president has not necessarily anything to do with falangism, regardless of a candidate's party.
Bottom line: were I running for President, I would not ever repeat the lines "All for Jesus" four times on the stump. But I would rather have Sam Brownback as president than John Edwards.