Let’s do some "dot connecting" shall we. We can start with Strauss’ "crisis of the west," which I wrote about the other day. This is actually a persistent theme not only with Strauss, but with other conservatives with whom you are perhaps more familiar. Indeed, even a cursory reading of Strauss indicates that he believes that the entire modern project is fundamentally flawed. We need to return to the political philosophy of Aristotle and "the classics" — wherein we discover that society ought to be ruled by "gentlemen" for the purpose of bringing "virtue" to the proles. All of this freedom, democracy and broad based prosperity has just led to decadence and immorality.
Don’t underestimate the depths of their animosity toward modern society. They believe this "crisis" we’re in threatens civilization itself — another persistent theme on the far right. Which raises a question. How far are they prepared to go to save us from our decadent selves? A little Aristotle, as channeled by Leo, is instructive.
But the common good also comprises, of course, the mere existence, the mere survival, the mere independence of the political community in question. Let us call an extreme situation, a situation in which the very existence or independence of a society is at stake. In extreme situations there may be conflicts between what the self-preservation of society requires and the requirements of commutative and distributive justice. In such situations, and only in such situtations, it can justly be said that the public safety is the highest law. A decent society will not go to war exacept for a just cause. But what it will do during a war will depend to a certain extent on what the enemy — possibly an absolutely unscrupulous and savage enemy — forces it to do. There are no limits which can be defined in advance, there are no assignable limits to what might become just reprisals. But war casts its shadow on peace. The most just society cannot survive without "intelligence," i.e., espionage. Espionage is impossible without a suspension of certain rules of natural right. But societies are not only threatened from without. Considerations which apply to foreign enemies may well apply to subversive elements within society. Let us leave these sad exigencies covered with the veil with which they are justly covered. It suffices to repeat that in extreme situations the normally valid rules of natural right are justly changed, or changed in accordance with natural right; the exceptions are as just as the rules. Strauss, Leo; Natural Right and History, University of Chicago Press, 1953. p. 160
Remember, the Bush White House is jam packed with disciples of this joker. Indeed, Dubya’s speech writers may well have been inspired by this very passage. It seems that the President’s "highest constitutional duty" is to "defend America." And they have spared no ink in describing "terra" as a mortal, existential threat to the very survival of America. No wonder they have postulated a constitutional duty that is above the written laws of Congress, and arrogated to themselves the "inherent" power in the "unitary executive" to ignore acts of Congress, and even the constitution itself, if it interferes with the commander in chief’s "inherent authority" to defend us from the mortal danger presented by a handful of religious fanatics living in tents somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan. Too bad the President’s "inherent authority" hasn’t enabled him to actually capture the son of a bitch — who couldn’t be any more than 100 miles away from American soldiers occupying that country.
The easy analysis is to show how passages like the one above form the very intellectual foundation for all of this "unitary executive" crap. Nevertheless, we can further peel back the onion, and reveal yet another level of interpretation — one that explains what can only be described as a most curious pattern of conduct. Did you know that this existential war on terror — where our civilization is threatened to the very core of its being — has yet to cost American taxpayers a red fucking cent? Way back in World War II, when we fought the fascists in another existential struggle, the high marginal tax rate was increased to 94% where it remained until the mid-fifties. In those days, we had rationing of things like sugar and gasoline. We had drives for scrap metal and rubber. The government went on a crash program to develop synthetic rubber — not to mention its crash program to develop the atomic bomb. We still ran huge deficits, but here’s the thing, we financed them ourselves. Our own citizens bought the war bonds, and indeed, were deluged with entreaties to "buy bonds."
Where is that level of sacrifice in the form of taxation and rationing? In fact, some of Dubya’s tax cuts took effect AFTER the 9/11 attacks. Where is the marshaling of resources to solve such problems as dependence on foreign oil — including the peculiar susceptibility of our nation to oil price fluctuations as a result of disruptions in the middle east? Where are the bond drives to finance this effort — since we just couldn’t possibly ask any of Dubya’s cronies to pony up any cash to "save western civilization?". Bond sales? Fuggedaboutit. We sell our bonds to the Chinese fucking Communists, the same folks who have oil and gas deals with supposedly-soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. All they have to do, if we piss them off sufficiently, is dump just a few of dollars and/or bonds, and we have a budget and currency crisis, including Wiemar Germany style hyperinflation. All Iran has to do is sink a few tankers from the high ground they hold on the north side of the Strait of Hormuz, and we’ve got gas selling for 5 dollars a gallon. If "peak oil" is reached anytime soon, we’ll get there anyway.
We lost a city last fall, but not to terrorists. We lost a city to a hurricane meteorologists said was coming for years. We had forty eight hours actual notice that it was coming — forty eight hours more than any "terrist" is going to give us. We fucked up the disaster response nine ways to Sunday. Why? Our disaster response agency was headed by the former counsel for the Arabian Horse Association. Wouldn’t you think that a President who takes the "war on terra" seriously would put somebody who knows what the hell they’re doing in charge of the response to an attack on one our cities? Well, he didn’t. He put a crony in charge named "Brownie." No wonder Al Qaeda hasn’t attacked us again. Why do they need to? This administration is doing a good enough job destroying this country all by itself.
But wait, let’s look at what else they are doing. They are "data mining" your phone calls and emails. That’s just in case you get a call from the terrorists who have no particular need to attacks us, what with the excellent job of destroying the country being done by Dubya and cronies. They are checking into what books you check out of the library. They are developing a capability to scrutinize every purchase you make. They are building detention facilities for "illegal immigrants" — as if the barbed wire around those facilities will know the difference between immigrants and ordinary Americans. They already have a detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, where they house people without charge, without trial, and without any assistance of counsel. In numerous cases, they have already decided that the detainees are NOT enemy combatants, but they refuse to let them go. The icing on the cake is the Bush administration’s asserted right to subject American citizens to such detention — an assertion rebuffed by the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, that was before appointment of our esteemed new justices, Robert and Alito.
The justification for this breathtaking assertion of "wartime powers" is to protect us from the "terrists." Why, they’re so concerned about protecting Americans from terrist attacks that they have approved outsourcing port security to a firm based in the United Arab Emirates. That would be the same UAE that was a base of operations and financial support for Al Qaeda. According to MSNBC, the UAE has even served as a transfer point for smuggling nuclear components to Iran and North Korea. No, I’m not kidding. We can’t find an American firm to handle American port security. We have to bring in folks from a country that smuggles nuclear parts to the "axis of evil." But don’t worry, the Bush administration tells us that they have "received assurances" of the security of this operation — assurances you can believe, what with their sterling track record of competence in foreseeing approaching calamity.
But wait, we’re not through. This "war on terra" — and while we’re at it, the war in Iraq — has cost the government hundreds of billions of dollars. Hurricane Katrina promises to cost at least a hundred billion more. The price tag for the Medicare prescription drug plan is 150 billion more than they told us — and is turning out to be a cluster fuck from hell. All of this is in light of those tax cuts, which have ballooned the deficit to nearly 500 billion dollars a year. And remember, those deficits are financed with bonds sold to foreign governments, like say, the Chinese communists. Which brings us to what could very well be the last straw on the camel’s back, namely Iran’s new oil exchange — they call it a "bourse" — set to start trading next month.
The Iranian oil bourse is expected to do a brisk business. You see, the dollar is considered to be overvalued, because of our massive trade deficits, budget deficits, and balance of payment deficits. The only reason foreign governments prefer the dollar as their "reserve currency" is because oil transactions with OPEC are denominated in dollars. You want to buy oil, bring dollars. That’s all they take — until next month, that is, when Iran’s exchange starts dealing in Euro’s. Such an alternative for oil purchases give foreign governments a reason to switch from dollars to euros. The selloff will create inflation unseen in this country in recent memory. Among other potential crises, US bonds will lose their lustre as a "safe haven" investment. When that happens, the government can’t pay its bills, unless it simply prints money, and injects it directly into the economy — as distinct from the roundabout way they do it now.
What we’re talking about is an economic meltdown of the US economy, where economic meltdowns have an interesting characteristic. They tend to generate social and political unrest. In functioning democracies, such political unrest usually ushers in serious regime changes. The one we know from history as "the New Deal" would be an example, only our Straussian neoconservative pals in the White House had no use for the New Deal. In the Great Depression, our super wealthy weren’t selling pencils, or standing in line at the soup kitchen. They had all the money, while ordinary Americans were getting a strong dose of "virtue." The only fly in the ointment was that little thing called "democracy," which created New Deal liberalism, bringing entirely too much prosperity to ordinary Americans. When Strauss wrote about the "crisis of the west" in 1963, he wasn’t talking about any crisis for you. Life was good for you. He was talking about a crisis for oligarchy — a perceived mortal threat to the rule of "excellent gentlemen," like say, George H.W. Bush.
Do you get it now? It isn’t "happiness" that is the mark of the good regime, according to Strauss. It is "virtue" imposed on the decadent masses by the "excellent" people who own everything. The Great Depression wasn’t a problem, it was what wealthy elites wanted — which explains the irrational hatred for New Deal liberalism among cheap labor conservatives from its very inception right up to the present. As for democracy, Plato and Aristotle — you know, "the classics" — thought it was a bad idea. Well, don’t you worry. Today’s neocon Strauss cultists have democracy all taken care of. It seems we have "electronic voting" to insure that suitably "excellent" gentlemen remain in power. That way they can maintain the debt society they are creating — to keep us all "virtuous" doncha know, just like we were in the 1930′s. That’s also why we have the "unitary executive" and the police state apparatus all set up and ready to rumble. They have no intention of letting anyone like FDR spoil the party, this time around. That’s why it isn’t "terrorists" they’re set up to deal with. It’s you.
The popular narrative among progressives these days is the profound incompetence of the Bush administration. But every example of their incompetence does a little more to erode our infrastructure, saddle us with more debt, siphon off more cash into the pockets of their cronies, expose us to more danger from fanatics, while it subjects us to more "surveillance" and eventually "martial law." None of these fuck ups cost Dubya’s, his fellow bonesmen, or any of these Strauss cultists a red cent. In fact, they’re making money from these "mistakes," while they create conditions designed to make it impossible to ever reverse the massive transfer of wealth to these "gentlemen." That transfer of wealth from ordinary Americans to the super wealthy that has been going on for twenty five years since the beginning of the so-called "Reagan revolution" — all with the assistance of the same bunch of neocon Strauss cultists who are in the drivers seat right now.
So which is it? Are they the most grossly incompetent administration in American history, without even a close second? Or are we witnessing the most insidious, cynical, determined, and treacherous betrayal of a nation in the history of human civilization?