Setting the Agenda for the Intelligentsia

The NYT today publishes a more candid than usual article in its campaign to set the terms of public discussion of US war policy — in a way that will favor that policy.

“Where Is U.S. Foreign Policy Headed?” appears on the inside back cover of the book review. The article — by a well-known liberal Yale law professor — concludes that “It may not be a bad thing that almost no one in foreign policy circles is proposing anything new.” Especially anything like ending the war.

But there is a danger: “a striking division between elite ideas and broad public opinion…” Obama is supposed to have taken care of that, as he advertised he would in the Audacity of Hope. But there are problems — shown by the fact that in both foreign and domestic policy the ideas of the US public — however inchoate — are substantially and increasingly to the left of either party. And it’s the job of those parties to constrain and contain those ideas.

In desperation, we can contend that that “broad public opinion” is benighted and reactionary and therefore condemnable as “neo-isolationism” (“They’re tea-partiers!”), as the article does:

a return to the inwardness [sic] of the post-World War I years, when the
country refused to join the League of Nations. Even as intellectuals call for
cosmopolitanism, more and more Americans are declaring themselves
anti-outsourcing, anti-foreign-products, anti-immigration,
anti-international-law — and pro-protectionism.

We can’t have that, but what can’t be done, within the limits of allowable debate, is to examine the nature and sources of US policy (e.g. the word “oil” does not appear) — or its real effects.

To do so would be to see that in the US a rapacious moneyed elite — whose interests not only differ from but contradict those of the majority at home and abroad — maintain their power by misleading the domestic population (“manufacture of consent”), whom they exploit as they exploit the rest of the world, in conflict and cooperation with other similar elites. USG insistence on control of the Mideast, and its willingness to commit murder and cause havoc there, are part of that conflict — with incalculable results.

Today more than 130 people are killed and more than 500 wounded in attacks in US-occupied Baghdad. In the streets of US-occupied Kabul, Obama is burnt in effigy while crowds chant “Death to America!” Meanwhile, the US dismisses an international report on Israeli crimes in the occupied territories. Thus the terrorism that is the US excuse for invasion and occupation in the Middle East
is maintained.

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“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.” –Noam Chomsky