It’s amazing the extent to which mainstream opinion in so many different spheres of politics and policy is made up of people trying to find some way to apply obviously failed ideologies in some novel-ish way. I feel like the intellectual climate in American politics right now would be familiar to people who studied the Soviet Union in the early ’80s, when it was clear that what was going on just wasn’t going to cut it, but the will to stop believing just wasn’t there yet.

I just had a sort of sublime moment reading a post by one of our faves here, Daniel Larison. He’s written versions of the same post probably dozens of times, essentially it’s the one where some media figure says we should arm Syrian rebels to have some sort of proxy conflict with Iran, and Larison says that’s really not such a good idea. This one, though, struck me especially not only in how common and even hackneyed the arguments for arming the rebels were, but for how basic and intuitive the counterarguments are, how much effort it must take just to not believe them and go on with the tired old Contra-redux shtick we keep invariably hearing. I couldn’t help but have this moment of bewilderment contemplating the gulf between them. Obviously, screwing around with one country’s allies isn’t going to make them play ball on other issues. It’s incredible that the operating ideology of how the Middle East operates is still some variation of shock and awe/”all those people understand is force” after all we’ve been through. I would attribute it to racism, but I think it’s really just a lack of understanding of how power works on the part of insipid pundits who take their own power for granted. People like to be respected for the authority they have, even if that authority is merely just that they’re a human being, with power that doesn’t extend beyond their own skin. By denying that, or trying to take it away from them, you make them angry and scared, perhaps willing to do desperate things they would not otherwise do. I don’t know if I’ve said it this way before, but the only thing that’s really insane about the right-wing in this country is their assumptions. If you accept their received wisdom (and it’s all received at this point) about union goons and brown reconquistas and black helicopters, then where they take it from there is entirely logical. If nothing else, conservatism is based on a fear of losing power, for a certain part of the electorate. You could really break this country’s two coalitions into the (white) group that’s afraid of losing power on one hand, and the (nonwhite) groups that want to gain power and a rump (white) group that doesn’t care or sympathizes on the other. This is largely why a more moderate GOP is not yet in the cards–the only way they’ll compromise on power is if they worry they could lose it all, and they’re not all that worried about that yet.

The basic gist of it is that, people will do a lot to gain more power, but they’ll do anything to avoid losing it. Losing power in the form of an allied government would probably make any sort of deal with Iran completely impossible, since they’d feel the need to make up that power elsewhere, most likely through nuclear weapons. It’s in everyone’s interest for there to be less nukes on this planet, though (a) that is not worth fighting a war over, and (b) we tolerate less stable regimes having them than Iran. Still, the common sense solution here is just to leave well enough alone. If America merely made an effort to show respect even to regimes we despise, it would go a long way toward better foreign relations. If we actually stopped messing with other nations’ internal affairs, we might be on our way to peace as a country. It isn’t always that simple, but at the moment it really could be. The serious threats to America have not been lesser in a century.

Also, this is neither here nor there, but I initially thought the author of the piece was the Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin, which seemed like a really odd choice to write a warmongering article. It’s not, though, they just have similar names that got confused in my head. (Rachel Kleinfeld =/= Rebecca Kleefisch)

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