Reculer pour mieux sauter


Over the last few days, it’s been fun, in a sour sort of way, to watch the Obama administration’s efforts to hedge and undercut the remarkable process that unfolded after Kerry’s ‘gaffe’.

Maybe it really was a gaffe, or maybe, as has been suggested, a deal was already in the works. I dunno, personally; they don’t invite me to these meetings.

Gaffe, or no gaffe, it provided a relatively un-humiliating way for Obie & Co. to climb down off the war wagon, once it became clear that the Israel lobby doesn’t have quite such tight control over the American and European public, or even the American and European political class in general, as it does over the White House, and Downing Street, and the Palais des Elysees, and of course the congressional ‘leadership’ — Boehner, Feinstein, Pelosi and so on.

I don’t think they’ve given up. There are plenty of indications: If the Syrians don’t do — or if Obama says they haven’t done — what they’re supposed to do, then the US ‘reserves the right’, etc., etc. (How can you reserve a right you never had?)

I almost never make predictions, but I would bet the farm that we will hear the war drums beating again about Syria before this tiresome administration folds its tent and grumpily steals away.

Nice piece by Diana Johnstone, a great favorite of mine, and Jean Bricmont, on Counterpunch. Read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

For now, the threat of war has been avoided, or at least “postponed”. Let us not forget that Iraq and Libya also gave up their weapons of mass destruction, only to be attacked later.

Syria is likely to abandon its chemical weapons, but without any guarantee that the rebels, much less Israel, won’t retain such weapons.

The popular mobilization against the war, probably the first one in history to stop a war before it starts, has been intense but may be short-lived. Those whose war plans have been interrupted can be expected to come up with new maneuvers to regain the initiative.

11 thoughts on “Reculer pour mieux sauter

  1. The war drums have barely stopped beating, though the mobilizations have been refreshing and encouraging. As have been the emerging alliances between the teabaggers and peaceniks.

        • I’ve held out vague hope that the teabaggers would actually connect the dots of their anti-gummint sentiment generally to anti-interventionism. Looks like that hope is being realized.
          Score two for them now: they’re the only group willing to threaten riots if someone cuts their Medicare (remember those glorious 2009 town halls?), and now they won’t budge on intervention. I’d call them wonderful social democrats if they weren’t so horrid about support for the poor.

          • I forget the author right offhand, but there was an excellent piece in CounterPunch about the same time as the Donkeycrats’ Obamacare dog’n’pony town hall tour asking why the Left — including single-payer supporters — weren’t also at the town halls heckling the Donkeycratic Party mouthpieces and busting the place up along with the Teabaggers. I and some Indymedia pals covered one of those events in the DC ‘burbs, and I was appalled to see that the only contingent even remotely resembling the Left was a bunch of whiners from MoveOn, along with some standard-issue Liberal types, shucking for the lame-assed “public option”.

            As someone who identifies as a totally hardcore Leftist — even anarchist, according to some — I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be welcoming Teabaggers aboard with the Syrian war drive opposition, and cheering the GOP/Tea Party Caucus in Congress who are trying to defund Obamacare. It saddens me at the same time to think that in all this brouhaha, the Liberals are supporting Obama’s sweetheart deals with the pharmaceutical and insurance industries and his requirement for my paying a tithe to insurance companies, and The Left™ is basically sitting on the sidelines with one thumb in its mouth and other other up its ass playing “switch”.

  2. It’s also refreshing and encouraging to see how few people, outside of the Lobby and the usual Beltway suspects, want this war at all — and people aren’t budging on the sentiment. I wouldn’t rule out Obie striking even in the face of all of this, but the public isn’t convinced. Scales have fallen from many eyes, methinks.

  3. Those of us who are growing excited over this latest turn of event (sic) may be forgetting that our impression of “public opinion” is given to us by the same media that provided all the other bits of recent fun, including Iraq WMD and Hope And Change.

    Imagine that the people churning this show out are intelligent enough to have planned longer than six months ahead. They gobbled a lot up during Dubya and Obama, but in order to stave off actual revolution (many years from now, but still on their radar) they need to make potential resisters believe that doing nothing accomplishes something.

    Ergo this little Syrian farce. What if the pinata was, in fact, meant to be broken open? Mr. Flugennock recently drafted up a little cartoon, linked here, which summarizes the extent of whiny American non-opposition. Do we really think that the internet-browsing cowards of America have retaken their country by registering their disgust via blogs and opinion polls? If so, we should have had single-payer healthcare oh, at least ten years ago.

    The media is telling you that the war is being affected by “public disapproval” because the idea is to make you feel that sitting quietly at home, working for decreasing wages, and further confining your actions to the web, is capable of accomplishing things in the non-computer space. Have a cookie, go back to the internet, and pat yourself on the back, blogger–the nightmare is over, because you won a victory against the war machine without even having to leave your barstool!

    Now, how believable does that sales pitch sound to you?

    • You’ve out-Smithed Smith!

      The only problem with this scenario is that they’re really not that crafty, not that unified, not that promethean in the etymological sense. Or so I think, anyway. That’s one of the things I like about the Diana Johnstone essay linked to in the post; she understands the improvisatory character of imperial policy.

      This aspect of empire is very visible in retrospect, as we examine the Romans, the Spaniards, the Brits. Why shouldn’t it be true of the current Empire too?

      • Ironically, American notions of selfishness may be trapping us in this instance. Approach this from the standpoint of estate taxes: wealthy old people hate estate taxes, and want to not pay them, even if they personally dislike their heirs. If these people were really “selfish”–even if they also liked their kids–then they’d want to blow all their money on more foie gras and concerts (or at least more hookers and living bidets). They wouldn’t care one bit about estate taxes once their own parents were dead.

        And yet, they do care. Why? It’s because they’re thinking selflessly, in a curious sort of way. Their passion is not actually themselves, or even the people their fortunes are benefiting, but instead, the perpetuation of evil itself.

        Ergo it is not really a problem for them if “America” crumbles, and another hegemon takes its place. If you trace the genealogy of the American Empire, it has an unbroken lineage stretching back to Greece. Athens conquered other city states, continued the ritualization of chattel marriage, and fostered slavery, taxes, and the idea that the uneducated popularity-voting of a special class of citizens produced a positive all-powerful state.

        The physical Athens “fell,” but the essence of Athens survived in Rome, which raped its way to France, to England, to America, to ________. The beast is still alive. Everything they wanted–everything they believed in–is still right here, in America (including the neoclassical architecture you’ve noted with such affection).

        The rebirths and switches of location is what has allowed the imperial strain to survive. America will eventually fall, yet this will not be a happy occasion, as the virus will merely find a new host–its plan from the beginning. When our Great Leaders “bungle” something, they’re manifesting history in such a way as to create the facts that will justify why the new empire is better than the old. They are willing to throw themselves on the sword now in order to guarantee that their granddaughters’ Lunar Supremacy Council can take things up another notch.

        Bound by our own belief in brief candles, we find ourselves unequipped to deal with those who are playing a game of many lifetimes.

    • Turns out that cartoon was more on the nose than I’d planned.

      Code Pink had a rally the evening of Obummer’s speech at which they celebrated Medea “Media” Benjamin’s birthday with — you guessed it — cupcakes, followed by a viewing of President Sparkle Pony’s speech on a big screen that someone had managed to haul in.

      Mind you, I didn’t waste any time or footage covering that waste of time, but from all accounts, it was just an excuse for Medea to throw herself a birthday party while mocking Obummer on TV, and then patting themselves on the back for “stopping the next war now” before having more cupcakes and going home.

      Last time I checked the blog at, they had no further plans to keep up the protests while the State and its media dug in and cranked up the hard sell — see my comment on this morning’s Washington Post — or if they were planning to go back to non-business as usual.


  4. The Johnstone/Bricmont piece in CounterPunch sounds right on the money.

    Y’see this morning’s Washington Post? They’re already cranking up the hard sell. On the front page of today’s Outlook section, a ham-handed pro-intervention screed is headlined “When Force Offers The Best Chance For Peace” with the kicker “Sebastian Junger Says Being Antiwar Sometimes Means Joining The Battle”. Whoa, there, Sebastian, careful you don’t sprain your back trying to twist “antiwar” around to mean “pro-war”. It reminds me of a parent trying to get her toddler to eat a serving of overcooked, mushy broccoli by taking a little bite of it herself, making happy yummy noises and saying “mmm, see? Mommy likes it!”

    Elsewhere on the front page of Outlook, they’ve enlisted an art critic (for you more intellectual Liberals) to ask why shocking images of suffering children don’t galvanize more popular outrage; over an image of a wailing Afghan child whose parents have just been shot by US troops, and the infamous Naked Napalmed Vietnamese Girl the featured foto is of — you guessed it — a gassed Syrian child, from video footage obtained and released by the US Government (no doubt as part of the recent bloody-shirt-waving campaign).

    Why don’t images of suffering children galvanize more popular outrage? Perhaps it’s because of the inherent hypocrisy of the US government and media — because of all the time and effort they put into trying to suppress images of the Iraqi children murdered by Bush’s bombs, the Afghan and Pakistani children murdered by Obama’s drones, the Palestinian children murdered by Israel; because of how they try to suppress images of suffering children who don’t support the party line, but have no problem howling “won’t somebody think of the children?” when it suits them.

    What especially gives me a Hot Dog Burp Of Disgust is that before you even get to the Outlook section bilge, on the front page of today’s Sunday Washington Post, they rub the image of a suffering child — rendered fatherless by yet another ‘hood murder — in our faces as part of their insufferably interminable “Guns In America” series.

    Jeezus… and clowns like the ones at the Amazon Post wonder why newspapers are dying.

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