Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Cold War Redux

From Pandagon (via Atrios):
The torture brigade isn't really concerned about winning the war. They're playing a videogame in which they don't realize that they may never run out of bullets, but as long as they keep doing what they're doing, they're never going to run out of enemies. The strategy, however, will never change, as they can point to their score and the corpses on the ground and declare that victory is almost around the corner.

The Cold War gave America an identity on the world stage. No longer the young upstart in Europe's shadow, we were the country that was not Communist. "We" were not "Them." It was that identity that fueled the "military-industrial complex" that Eisenhower warned against. It is why "9/11 changed everything."

Because the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, took that identity away; and the attacks on 9/11 gave it back. But the identity depends on the generation of an endless supply of enemies. During the Cold War it was the fearful proliferation of Communism. In "educated circles" this lead to the "Domino Theory." In the American "heartland," it was the fear of "commies under the bed." Both ideas are mocked now, and were mocked then; but they were no less powerful, for that.

Now we are told to fear "terrorists," who are proliferating, in no small part due to our actions. And that's a good thing, because it confirms our identity as those who are "not-terrorists." More convenient that terrorism is associated with statelessness, so that states can never be "terrorists," just as the U.S. could never be "Communist." Insofar as torture produces more terrorists, it proves our need to promote and allow more torture, because our "enemy" is so evil, so pervasive, and so prevelant, that no quarter can be given.

Which, of course, means we need a military-industrial complex to fight them off. It also means our national identity continues to come from the borders, rather than the center. Washington warned us against "foreign entanglements" for precisely this reason, knowing that the more our country formed itself in response to "others," the more this country would lose any hope of a new national identity. He wanted us to focus on a center, not the boundaries. Because when the focus is on the edges of the widening gyre, things truly fall apart, and the center, long neglected, truly cannot hold.

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