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The fire last time, this time, next time...

By Owen Paine on Thursday March 12, 2009 08:29 PM

Of course, no historical parallel works very well. But I like the one between the US and Japan between 1930 and 1941, on the one hand, and what may evolve between the US and People's China now, on the other.

The Sino-American collision may evolve more slowly perhaps and more obviously, but -- the odd lack of popular interest in this relationship, both back then when it unfolded, and now, leaves its lessons unnoticed.

The Washington/Tokyo contretemps during that period is better known, of course, and it sure exceeds the Euro sturm-und-drang gaffery by yards in its instructive value.

The humanitarian crusade in Europe, and the inter-imperial tangle in east Asia need to be seen as quite distinct and nearly opposite qualitative actions, from the Yankee boy-hegemon perspective.

It's really too bad Pearl Harbor gives our inevitable war of Asian aggression such a romantic cover story.

Better than the war against African slavery? Well, no. Better than the war against Nazi horror camps? Well, no.

Better then the GWOT's twin-tower curtain-raiser?

Well... yes.

Comments (10)


OP: This is very clever, but questionable on a couple of counts. For one, the war against Germany (or vice versa) was itself a case of inter-imperial rivalry. In some ways Germany was also goaded into its aggression, as was Japan. Second, it doesn't feel likely that a US-China rivalry would erupt into war, except in some peripheral venue like Africa, among client states.

Instead of thinking about what governments might do, think about what western capital might do, and why.


"The Washington/Tokyo contretemps during that period is better known..."blah blah blah
should read
"less well know ..."

" it doesn't feel likely that a US-China rivalry would erupt into war.."

sen i'm not being quite that literal

i agree proxy strife
seems the only hot action likely
along the corridor to beyond the horizon

"the war against Germany (or vice versa) was itself a case of inter-imperial rivalry."
though of course
in form
you are politically correct
i choose not to see
the war against euro fascism
a different light
then most inter imperial wars
i like to see it more akin
the federal extinguishment
the slave south

a great bourgeois war
for popular liberation
and middle class democracy

i wonder if that mention
of 'the great cause'
might provoke tkt to leak in here ???


i stand self indicted

of the political crime
senile anti fascism


by using japan as an eviler then thou twin
of us yanks back them
i'm trying to provoke a bit of chatter
lesser evil empires
rampant powers and all that

then we could move on to
mini me and the hindustanis
wood cut facsimiles
of us
as local lesser evil bully boy


OP: there's always a good chance I've misunderstood you. I need to get new glasses.

I forget if its been mentioned here yet, but Financial Times (!!) has a new series called "The Future of Capitalism". Very interesting, to say the least. Get Al right on it!!


for the sake of argument, now that cost consciousness and snickering at patriots puts empires in the abstract, now that nukes and other WMDs are everywhere and everyone owns a piece of everything, what's war for? racketeering by other means? trade negotiations? iraq and afghanistan were perpetual targets for 30 years. cold war embers. does the hero dare blow on them to show his might? he does! "free bird! free bird!"

philippines? somalia? why do those names sound familiar?

what if i say the only new war the militaristic wing set off was on the domestic population. sure they've built equipment to fight against the russia of the future, they've probably returned the unaccountable military to the glory days of CIA black ops, and maybe were thinking of poking china with sticks until the suicidal gift horse ("trifecta," sire of "man o' war") and the ponzi scheme of a lifetime became the story -- but -- what's a real man to do in a world smothered by contracts and tight schedules? blow shit up. get reelected. steal the money. lay groundwork for the blitzkrieg empire of the feudal flare-up future.

"like gods, they were. out of the sky. and louder than we cried for justice did we scream in the fire." ah, dreams, of suborbital marines and subs packed with roboterror. years and years of high-paid work and remote-control fiscal discipline.

but what happens when the world is so complex and war so unprofitable that the only ones who'll pay to see you pull a trigger are the ones you want to shoot? and what happens after that, when the shortage isn't markets or raw materials, but fish -- fresh water -- arable land -- fuel -- and an effortlessly expansive future.

who can you kill so that you can eat yesterday's lunch again today?



"the blitzkrieg empire of the feudal flare-up future"

u are a black belt in
the paradox of shrift
(mundane department)

"an effortlessly expansive future"

on a finite
but limitlessly restructuring
spheroid crust
the hope of renewal
comes not from consumption
but the ever present forces of transformation

most of the morality of self limitation
smuggles in a higher aesthetic cargo

avoiding Clio's tariffs
not guile
but a prideful lack of foresight

tomorrow's beauty
is today
sublimely ugly


war as a century turns

this occ that ain't an occ biz
can't trump a victorian colonization

if we are not as full of gusto
as in TR's time
a big war looks remote

corporate earth
still needs its metronomes
traffic cops
top down sivilizin
ordered liberty

call in the robo-marines


Oh, oh. . . now we have two OPs! Has some cyberparthenogenesis taken place here?

It's always dangerous to agree with OP, because some future censor might come back and say "you're guilty of advocating stuffing monkeys in tubas!", but I happen to agree with both of you in this case.

Orwell saw it first: wars are merely distant spectacle aimed at the domestic population.


i live to serve & learn by screwing up; my fate is theirs

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