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randwolf

I'm giving up politics for 9/11

Or at least, most of my political blog reading & writing.

I simply don't have time any more, or won't, very shortly. Beyond that, it seems to me that the time for counsel has passed—those who can be persuaded by debate have been. The situation has clarified itself: the new dynamics of US politics are clear, and the world order has been irrevocably altered, and prediction is less important; we are on the new course, and discussion of the best course is no longer relevant. Beyond that, I've reviewed some of my half-remembered writings from the 2000 election, what I wrote immediately after 9/11, and what I wrote during the run-up to the war. Here are some samples:

2000.12.09: The previous times we've seen such sophistry from the Court [referring to the decision which handed the 2000 election to W. Bush], violence ensued, though not immediately. The worst such was part of the conflicts that led up to our Civil War.

2001.04.15: I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop; the one where support is found for abrogating all remaining restraints on executive power in the USA.

On 9/11 itself: 11am ET/1am following day: The right wing has their Reichstag fire now. I'm scared. [...] I think we shall see substantial extensions of the authority of FBI and CIA as a result of this, at the least, and possibly laws which erode the enumerated rights of the Bill of Rights—which may make it through review in the Rhenquist court. As for rights not enumerated—privacy in particular—I think they are going to be very hard to defend.

Noon ET: This sort of [terrorism] was evolved during the Cold War, when nuclear deterrence made quick escalation something to avoid at all costs—so terrorists could afford, as it were, to tease the bull. The Cold War is over, and instant major war seems to me likely. And, call it what you will, it is likely to be a rationalization for yet more encroachments on our civil rights.

3:30pm ET: What will come out of this, I believe, will be a new world order—the real damn thing. The gods protect us from ourselves.

2001.11.15: [relating to "the other shoe dropping" and an awful DoJ policy] thud

2002.11.06: The Guard's already serving pretty heavily. And they're going to need lots of grunts, to fight the ground war they want to fight, especially if the war spreads. With 'nam, I've read, the gov. figured they'd just win it and go home. It didn't work there and I don't think it'll work here, either. Oh, and all those garrison troops in Iraq? They're going to be exposed to all the dirty tricks that terrorists have dreamed up in the past century. This is going to be grim.

2002.11.07: Why, we didn't even know we needed to attack Iraq, six months ago. (Well, maybe it was eight.)

Now, notice: these were accurate predictions, years in advance of almost everyone else except the real crazies. I knew that war was likely, though I didn't know Iraq would be the target, and I knew that oppression at home was likely. Was I complemented for getting it mostly right? Did my readers take heed and act? Hah! Oh, I probably changed some minds, but mostly what I heard was versions of "no way, not possible". A few people have admitted I got it right, but most of them? No, they've come around to agreeing with me, but still think I was wrong. There's still people who aren't speaking to me, because of what I wrote in that period. Writing about it was a lot of work, and it still is, but I no longer see the need for me to do it—there's plenty of people tilling that ground, now.

But that's not why I'm giving this up, or not mostly. Somewhere or other, there's an observation that too much study of the devil's ways risks seduction. I seem to have a flair for this sort of policy and strategic analysis. Well and good, but if I were to make it my the work of my remaining life, the grimness would consume me. The ability to do this work, I think, has two parts: first, an ability to imagine social consequences and, second, an ability to think past ones natural horror at the nature of the possible consequences. Because in the dynamics of coercive power and tyranny, there is no compassion. I think that is part of the reason, really, that so many of our policy-makers and politicians seem so heartless; they stop thinking compassionately, and then it hurts too much to start again. I am over 50, and I want to spend the rest of my life concentrating on creative work and play. I want to use my powers for good, as it were. And maybe, in the long run, that will be of greater value than anything I could contribute to world politics.

And, will this resolution last? I hope so. And if it does not, you'll be the first to know.


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