Friday, August 24, 2007

Divided We Are Falling

Reach Upwards has an interesting post on standing united. The article linked to an excellent article on propaganda by Ion Mihai Pacepa. I've been dismayed for the last several years, as the left has been undergoing a shrill propaganda campaign similar to those waged in the cold war. I had so hoped that our society could cast off the extreme damage caused by all that idiocy. It is now back and as shrill as ever.

I was thinking back to the last time I felt good about anything in politics.

I had actually become quite optimistic about the future in that brief period between the invasion of Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. During that brief period of time, both the international peacekeeping community and the United States government were actively engaged in rebuilding war torn Afghanistan.

I avoided using the the word "unity." The people working to rebuild Afghanistan were not unified in their vision. They were divided as ever by ideology. People with different visions of the future just happened to be in the same place at the same time working in complementary ways.

I contend that political unity is overrated. The reconstruction of Afghanistan was off to a great start because the people of different political views and partisanship affiliation all had a constructive roles to play.

I believe that the key to prosperity isn't the act of unifying people under the same ideology. The key to prosperity is structuring society so that everyone has an active and constructive role to play.

When people don't have an constructive role to play, they will play a destructive role.

The invasion of Iraq, of course, had the predictable effect of marginalizing the peace effort. Peacekeepers are a politically sensitive lot who will turn against any government that they feel is using their peacekeeping efforts as a tool of war.

The decision to invade Iraq when diplomacy was working alienated the peacekeepers and those who were supportive of the peacekeepers.

The radical left, using the techniques perfected in the cold war, has been able to use this marginalization and turn it into extremely deep division that America will be suffering from for decades to come.

Calls from the right for unity have the political effect of furthering the division between the left and right. The calls for unity have the effect of unifying people on the left in leftist camps, and unifying people on the right in rightist camps. They calls for unity lead to an even greater and more dangerous disunity.

Lets face it. There will never be a day when everyone is unified in the spirit of war. Quite frankly, there will never be a day when people are united in the spirit of any political issue.

To be blunt: "Unity of Spirit" is nothing more than a political slogan that effectively allows the dictatorial forces of the world to divide and conquer.

The path for real success is not to be found in calls for unity. The best path for achieving success is to create political and economic structures that give people of different political views a constructive role to play.

The early reconstruction effort in Afghanistan provided a rare opportunity when the elements for true progress were in place.

I actually wonder if Bush was simply naive and sincerely believed that it would be possible to escalate the war without alienating the peacekeepers, or if his political strategists saw further alienation of the left as one of the benefits of invading Iraq.

Regardless of what cause the mess. The way out of the mess is to give people outside the right a greater constructive role in foreign policy.

Bush's troop surge was successful in that it turned the Iraqi government one final slim chance for survival. The best bet for capitalizing on the surge and making it a success is to change strategy in a way that give groups other than the Bush Administration a constructive role in building Iraq.

My fear is that the partisan calls for unity have magnified foundational differences to the point where the players that could make a difference in saving Iraq will simply ignore any offer of a constructive role.


Scott Hinrichs said...

Our whole form of government was founded on the idea that disunity can result in good government when diverse groups can have their opinions represented and when diverse groups meddle as little as possible in each others' lives.

You are correct that we will rarely achieve significant political unity except on a very few issues. Only totalitarian societies have successfully achieved broad political unity for any significant period of time.

I agree that we need to provide all players a greater role in dealing with the important issues if we want to achieve any kind of satisfactory outcome.

Charles D said...

I agree that we cannot achieve unity until we have the kind of prosperity that gives everyone an active and constructive role to play in society. To achieve that, we will need to throw off the delusions of conservatism and embrace efforts to provide a more just distribution of wealth and to insure that every citizen has an equal voice in government regardless of his or her economic status. We progressives welcome you to our campaign to achieve these goals!

Another problem cited is the problem of achieving unity in war. There was no problem achieving near total unity in support of the war effort in WWII because we had a clear set of enemy nations, one of whom had carried out an attack on US soil, and others who were in the process of attacking and invading nations with whom we had long standing alliances.

Since WWII, however, the US government has launched scores of military actions and invasions and scores more "covert" actions to overthrow governments around the world. In none of these cases did we suffer an attack by the nation invaded, nor was there an attack or threat of attack on any long standing ally.

These military actions, sometimes rising to the level to be called "war", were waged without a Congressional declaration of war, and in virtually every case, the Executive Branch was unable to make a coherent argument to support their unconstitutional actions.

All this nation has to do to achieve unity in wartime is to refrain from waging war unless the nation is attacked and then go through the Constitutional process to obtain the consent of the people's representatives.

We have a process handed down from our nation's founders for unifying the nation in support of war, and a clear mandate from them to reserve war making for situations that actually threaten the land and people of the United States. Our government has chosen to ignore that process, particularly since 1945.

It would seem that any conservative American, one who believed in our Constitution and Bill of Rights, and in the greatness of our system of government, would be among the most vocal opponents of this unconstitutional power grab by the Executive Branch.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Efforts to "justly" distribute wealth so that all may have an equal voice have universally led to repression. Our Constitution never suggests that economic equality is warranted or desired. Nor have any broad efforts to achieve a more equal distribution of wealth ever led to such.

The fact is that the best method for creating and distributing wealth has proven to be the capatalist system. It certainly isn't perfect. Nobody has ever claimed such. While capatialism will never produce economic equality, its income spread is about the same as is actually produced by collectivist systems.

The main difference is that that in capatalist systems, about 35% of income is concentrated in the top 10% of population. In collectivist systems, the top 65% of income is concentrated in the top 11% of population.

Economic equality begins with the best of intentions, but ends up causing repression and poverty.

y-intercept said...

DL, I am glad you caught on to the declaration of war thing. It used to be foundamental to conservatives. The parties seem to swap issues period.

Of course there is one problem with the Declaration of War thing. There are times when we engage in UN "Peacekeeping Missions." Sadly, todays conservatives would probably be selective and play the game of demanding a declaration of war for a peacekeeping mission while using the War Powers act for real wars.

As for the question of giving people a constructive role in society. There is no better tool for accomplishing that than the free market.

Centralizing things into a bureaucracy pretty much, by definition, cuts people out of the loop.

Historically, the more centralized the government, the greater the gap in equality. As the government gets bigger and bigger, people without political connections get pushed to the side.

BTW, you do know that the US has a tightly regulated market that push of the cost of entry in too many markets. I wish we had politicians pushing down these barriers. Instead both the Reps and Dems seem set on putting up more barriers to entry.

Charles D said...

First of all, reach, our choices are not a unbridled capitalism and a soviet-style communism - neither of which is good for society. We can however, as we did in the mid 20th century, insure that our capitalists receive adequate profit to provide incentives while insuring that no American is suffering hunger or homelessness as a consequence. The marketplace is here to serve society, not the reverse.

Y, you seem to be confusing the free market with democracy. They are 2 different ideas operating in two different spheres. We cannot affect our government's penchant for war by marketplace choices - except in the marketplace of the ballot box.

You are right that the cost of entry in many US businesses is so high that it prevents entry to small entrepreneurs. That is not a result of regulation, but is a result of the lack of enforcement of anti-trust and trade regulation that allows huge corporations to shut out potential rivals by their sheer size and wealth. If you tried to open a discount store, for example, you could manage with the regulation (which is far less than in other developed nations), but Walmart would open down the road from you and shut you down in no time at all.

Also, Y, let's not confuse UN Peacekeeping missions with US militarism. First of all, UN peacekeeping form a small percentage of US military interventions. Second, the UN has never been able to create a Peacekeeping mission without US support. If they attempt to keep the peace where we want war to continue, the US simply vetoes the effort or refuses to participate.

Warmaking is big business in America. We are the world's largest supplier of arms and our military expenditures are larger than the next 10 nations combined. This is primarily because our government is run by the corporations and for the corporations, and we the people are irrelevant.