Thursday, April 26, 2007
The End of Government
HONESTY. God, how I love this book cover. The sharp knowing eyes. The wry knowing smile. The dark suit that is somehow an all-encompassing foreground and background. The grandiloquent, allusive title that is nevertheless dwarfed by the name of the author. It's perfect. How can it not remind us all of MacArthur's West Point valedictory -- Me, Honor, Country?
Don't know how to break it you, all you boomer, X, Y, and XY generations of the once great nation called the United States. It's over. Today's Drudge item is as perfectly emblematic as the cover:
"(T)he hardest part of all this has been just listening to this for almost three years, listening to the vice president go on "Meet the Press" on the fifth year [anniversary] of 9/11 and say, 'Well, George Tenet said slam dunk' as if he needed me to say 'slam dunk' to go to war with Iraq," he tells Pelley. "And you listen to that and they never let it go. I mean, I became campaign talk. I was a talking point. Oh, look at the idiot [who] told us and we decided to go to war.' "
Boo. Hoo. He was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America. And we're supposed to feel sorry for him because he once made a remark that became symbolic of the failure of his entire organization to do its job for the people he was sworn to serve? Is there anyone out there who believes that the thousands of anonymous intelligence operatives who risked death and torture for their country in the certain knowledge that their contributions and sufferings would never be known by the public are somehow honored by this kind of narcissistic self pity from the director of the CIA? If a CIA agent is trained to die without any hope of rescue or recognition, why in hell should a CIA director complain if his own reputation is tarnished in the prosecution of American foreign policy as the duly elected president conceives it?
But he's far from the only one. There has been a constant stream of subversive, self-aggrandizing books by those whose whole power to serve the U.S. government resided in their capacity to listen and speak honestly to the President, whose confidence in their input rested largely on the knowledge that candid conversations about matters of state would not be spilled into the public trough.
Thanks to the likes of George Tenet, Colin Powell, David Frum, Richard Clarke, and God only knows how many other narcissistic crybabies, it will never again be possible for a president of the United States to converse with advisers without contemplating the self-serving books they will write, and publish, while he (or she) is still in office.
Sorry. I can't forget what everyone else -- and I do mean everyone -- has forgotten. The United States of America is the most powerful and benevolent nation the world has ever seen. The decisions that have to be made on behalf of our own ctizens and the world are frequently difficult, complex, morally contradictory, and nearly impossible to make. The leadership of no other nation in history has ever voluntarily confronted the murderous intentions of its rivals without permitting itself the option of annihilating them by any means possible. Thus, the much pilloried Bush adminsitration has continuously faced a situation without precedent in human history -- fanatical, mortal enemies bent on the destruction of the nation they serve, enemies who could be reduced to ash in approximately 60 minutes without significant risk of retaliation, but who will not be exterminated because we choose not to do so for moral reasons.
The question that must be asked is why this heroic moral choice should lead to the end of the most basic principles of loyalty, honor, and integrity by those who have been so privileged as to participate in the experiment.
The answer is apocalyptic. Such lofty expressions of merciful intent lead inevitably to the lowest, most venal reactions by those who detect the weakness inherent in mercy. They know they can get away with personal treachery to further their own interests.
George W. Bush's real weakness is that he is not Hitler, Napoleon, Stalin, Saddam, Castro, or Pol Pot. That he is far more like Portia than Caesar is a promise of doom. In the days of Octavian, Powell, Tenet, Clarke, and Frum would never have lived to write their whining memoirs about their superiority to those from whom they took their orders. And the citizens of the Republic would have been safer abroad as a result. But there will be no American Augustus to lay the groundwork for a second American Century. There will be, however, (count on it) an American Cleopatra, Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero, and an inevitable sacking of the capital of the world.
Rejoice, all you nihilists. Your fondest, deepest wish, the slashing of your self-hating throats by oppressed barabarians, is one step closer than it was yesterday. Happy?
Sure you are. It's called thanatos. The only spiritual abstraction you can imagine...
Thanatos. Jason Bourne without the doubts and inhibitions. Or the mercy.
Enjoy the ride, everyone. It will, of course, be televised. Cool.