Dick Cheney has the answer.
February 26, 2003 6:05 AM   Subscribe

How does one assure global stability in a world where there is only one strong power? John Perry Barlow (previously mentioned here) thinks Dick Cheney has the answer.
posted by ashbury (54 comments total)

 
I hesitated to post this since I don't really like being involved in any Iraq shouting matches threads, but I found the article interesting nonetheless. Does Barlow have any validity in his thoughts or is he way off base?
posted by ashbury at 6:06 AM on February 26, 2003


This pretty much tells us what we already knew, that Cheney is using the only thing he knows - cold war brinksmanship and projected (feigned or otherwise) madness to intimidate the enemy.

This may indeed be a valid method to frighten our allies and others into compliance with US wishes, but IMO, it will do absolutely nothing to address the issue at hand - a cross border terror network whose membership rolls may increase exponentially in the near term in response to such ruthlessness.

This worked during the cold war, because "the Russians loved their children too". I'm still not convinced that it will produce a positive result with regard to Islamic extremism.
posted by psmealey at 6:34 AM on February 26, 2003


For every complex problem there is a simple, easy to understand, wrong answer.

I know that it is the easiest habit in the world to have linear thinking, with problem solving achieved in 1 hour, just like on television. However, start out with an image of Dick Cheney *not* as someone sitting in an empty office when an aide walks in with a single "problem" that he has to "solve." In this case, a simple solution to the Cold War problem.

Instead, give him credit for having mulled over "the American position" in the world for 40 or more years, 24/7.
The linkages he has amassed, between individuals, countries, corporations, organizations, militaries, technologies and secret intelligence must be staggering.

Think of him as an immensely powerful spider, with a web that stretches over the entire world, but with only a finite number of strands that he can pull. But by varying his pull on several strands at once, he can affect events anywhere, and not just now, but in the future.

And what a future! He is not limited to 5 or 10 years, but is perhaps laying the groundwork for the next 200, elaborating on an astoundingly complex realpolitik that was created by the Dick Cheneys that came before him, and will be assumed and added to by the Dick Cheneys yet unborn.

Thousands of Mandarin lifetimes of work in making a piece of diplomatic "art" almost beyond comprehension--one that can protect itself from incompetents, fools, ideologues and fanatics and stay the course for the "benefit" as they see it, of America.
posted by kablam at 6:51 AM on February 26, 2003


Even granting that - and it's a stretch - the potential downside of such a foolhardy strategy is so staggeringly of the charts that it's unbelievable.

Accepting the "Mexican bus" metaphor: what if the other driver *couldn't*, for whatever reason, pull over and stop? What if he had forty angry passengers demanding that he stay the course, for just one example?

Technocrats and sangfroid-soaked "systems analysts" of the MacNamara era were fond of the term "cost-benefit analysis." Even if this notion of Barlow's were accurate, what are the potential costs of something so monstrously dependent for its success on unpredictable "externalities"?
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:00 AM on February 26, 2003


Very interesting read, thanks for posting it. I don't know what it is about Dick Cheney. You can't really put your finger on why it is you don't like him. I mean he's rich and powerful, no big deal, there's lots of people like that. He was super cordial to Joe Lieberman during the debates. There's just something so sinister (seemingly) about him and this article sheds a bit of light on that. Perhaps it's just the role he was destined to play, like the janitor who always frightened you in grade school that turned out to be an alright guy if you took the time to get to know him.

I'm glad he's on our side I guess.
posted by vito90 at 7:03 AM on February 26, 2003


Ashbury - thanks for posting this. It's a really long piece, with much extraneous material. John Barlow is a chatty fellow. So I took the liberty of annotating the piece a bit.

READER'S DIGEST VERSION

Subject: [IP] a pirce very worth reading till the end

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL byJohn Perry Barlow


"I remember a time years ago when I was as convinced that Dick Cheney was obscenely wrong about something I am now....I conspired with him on the right side of environmental issues.....We were densely interactive allies...He used to go fishing on my ranch. We were friends.

With the possible exception of Bill Gates, Dick Cheney is the
smartest man I've ever met....I believe he is personally
indifferent to greed
. In the final analysis, this may simply be about oil, but I doubt that Dick sees it that way. I am relatively certain that he is acting in the service of principles to which he has devoted megawatts of a kind of thought that is unimpeded by sentiment...

Here is the problem I think Dick Cheney is trying to address at the moment: How does one assure global stability in a world where there is only one strong power?.....

Historically, there have only been two methods
by which nations have prevented the catastrophic conflict which seems to be their deepest habit.

The more common of these has been symmetrical balance of power..... The other means by which long terms of peace - or, more accurately, non-war - have been achieved is the unequivocal domination by a single ruthless power....The best example of this is, of course, the Pax Romana...I grant that the Romans were not the most benign of rulers. They
crucified dissidents for decoration, fed lesser humans to their pets...But war...did not occur. The Romans had decided it was bad for business. They were in a military position to make that opinion stick.

(There was a minority view of the Pax Romanum, well stated at its height by Tacitus: "To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a wilderness, they call it peace."... there is a case to be made for global despotism. That case is unfortunately stronger, in the light of history, than the proposition that nations will coexist peacefully if we all try really, really hard to be nice to each other.

I believe that Dick Cheney has thought all these
considerations...and has reached these following conclusions: first, that it is in the best interests of humanity that the United States impose a fearful peace upon the world and, second, that the best way to begin that epoch would be to establish dominion over the Middle East through the American Protectorate of Iraq. In other words, it's not about oil, it's about power and peace.

Well, alright. It is about oil, I guess, but only in the sense that the primary goal of the American Peace is to guarantee the Global Corporations reliable access to all natural resources. wherever they may lie. The multinationals are Cheney's real constituents...He knows, as the Romans did, that war is bad for business...But what's more important is that he also knows that business is bad for war. He knows, for example, there there has never been a war between two countries that harbored McDonald's franchises...

what Dick Cheney really wants is peace.
Though much has been made of his connection to Halliburton...He is acting in the serviceof intentions that are to him as noble as mine are to me

How can this be? Return with me now to the last time I was convinced he was insanely endangering life on earth...."

[Editorial comment - I especially liked the "I believe he is personally indifferent to greed" comment on Cheney, and some of the interesting wording of this heartwarming testimony which thoroughly convinced me that Dick Cheney is the smartest man on Earth and that we should elect him emperor of the world...This is a serious historical argument with a logicalhole the size of a Mideast oil field. That logical hole is called "the case for gradually constructed international law, with enforcement mechanisms. In other words, the US could -instead of trashing almost every significant international agreement it was a signatory to before GW BUsh ascended to power- work rather to build a democratic international peace. The "bad guys" will not go away, but the US could use it's military muscle as an enforcer working with, rather than against, the global consensus. The current Bush policy of "Pax Americana" has already taught the world the 1) the US doesn't give a shit what anyone else thinks, 2) It's usefull to have a credible nuclear deterrent to deter US invasion.]

Dick for emperor! Dick for Emperor!
posted by troutfishing at 7:05 AM on February 26, 2003


So if Cheney's such a spider in the middle of the web, why does this approach remind me of the rigid, old Cold Warriors instead of modern 4GW? (IMHO Cold War strategy won the Cold War but will probably lose this war. But don't mind me, I'm just a little pawn.)

Barlow's article caught my attention too, as it really does sum up the interventionist mindset. The way I've heard this viewpoint expressed offline is more like, Q: "What opportunities are there to actually make life better for the Afghan people?" A: "None whatsoever. This is an excellent military and economic opportunity for the US. Sometimes these opportunities come up to extend your military and economic reach, you know."

A few opposing viewpoints to Barlow's No Logo and Snow Crash vision for America's future would be Rebecca's .mil reader, who expreses the serious reservations held by many on the military side (hit control-F, search for .mil), the Friedman op-ed "Tell the truth," which says it's time for a lot more diplomacy and a lot less bad attitude, Krugman's Marital Plan editorial, Huntley's Pax Democratica, and that speech by Senator Byrd which we've already discussed.
posted by sheauga at 7:07 AM on February 26, 2003


I don't know if it is madness that he is trying to project so much as ruthless power. The US has no equals on state-state level, and faced with a challenge by a non-state actor, the US is responding the only way it can: by pressuring state actors to help it crack down on the non-state actors. The message is simple: you play by our rules or you don't play.

I really have my doubts about the ability of anyone to reduce the threat of Islamist political violence by reducing its causes over the short run. Islamist grievances are widespread and largely mythic in scope ("the tragedy of Andalus", the "Sykes-Picot betrayal," etc.). Rather than reduce the motivation, the neocon approach is to check it in practice and reduce the returns from such violence. (Look at the wonders that Hamas has done for freeing Palestine! Look at the new tanks the Israelis have brought!) Public mockery of the Islamists would be a welcome addition to such a strategy. Remember, the Islamists perceived the post-Mogadishu US as weak. Denying them success by hunting them down and killing them sends a powerful message.

Over the long run, obviously ending the I/P conflict, greater democracy, a free press not given to conspiracist claptrap, real job prospects, better housing, and, I would add, younger marriage for these hotheads is the solution. I would note that these (save my
"get the hotheads laid" suggestion) are the stated goals of the US National Security Strategy, published by the White House, a document that embraces a lot of what the moderate left has said for years.
posted by ednopantz at 7:15 AM on February 26, 2003


A semi-aside: I thought that NATO's attack on Serbia invalidated the "no two nations with McDo's have ever attacked each other" postulate. (And, for extra marks, who said that? Was it Huntington? I can never remember. Thank God I've forgotten most of first year poli-sci.) (Oh, and good post. Thanks. I've always like JPB; some of his songs are among my favourite Dead tunes.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:17 AM on February 26, 2003


Tom Friedman.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:22 AM on February 26, 2003


He knows, as the Romans did, that war is bad for business.

But what's more important is that he also knows that business is bad for war. He knows, for example, there there has never been a war between two countries that harbored McDonald¹s franchises.


Well.



the Internet will be run by Microsoft

No.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 7:28 AM on February 26, 2003


Great post, troutfishing. I always love seeing a comment with more substance than the posted article. Like many in troubling times, Barlow has let his fear push him into the warm embrace of strong arms. Once things cool down again he'll find himself dirty and used, as he well should. Next we can likely expect a treatise on how Barlow was wrong about the whole EFF thing and that Total Information Awareness is the way to go.
posted by holycola at 7:36 AM on February 26, 2003


Sometimes.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Public service announcement: 'Reader's Digest' annotated version above
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Annotated Version #2 ('Cliff Notes' Version)

Dick Cheney is the smartest man I've ever met....I believe he is personally indifferent to greed. In the final analysis, this may simply be about oil, but I doubt that Dick sees it that way. I am relatively certain that he is acting in the service of principles to which he has devoted megawatts of a kind of thought that is unimpeded by sentiment...

Here is the problem I think Dick Cheney is trying to address at the moment: How does one assure global stability in a world where there is only one strong power?.....Historically, there have only been two methods by which nations have prevented the catastrophic conflict which seems to be their deepest habit.....The more common of these has been symmetrical balance of power..... The other means by which long terms of peace - or, more accurately, non-war - have been achieved is the unequivocal domination by a single ruthless power.....

(There was a minority view of the Pax Romanum, well stated at its height by Tacitus: "To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a wilderness, they call it peace."...I believe that Dick Cheney has thought all these considerations...and has reached these following conclusions: first, that it is in the best interests of humanity that the United States impose a fearful peace upon the world.... the primary goal of the American Peace is to guarantee the Global Corporations reliable access to all natural resources. wherever they may lie. The multinationals are Cheney's real constituents...what Dick Cheney really wants is peace."

End of 'Cliff Notes' Version
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Editor's Comment: The more closely you juxtapose JPB's statements, the better they get!]
posted by troutfishing at 7:41 AM on February 26, 2003


Oh, but one more editorial comment: War is often very good for business. It has been the altruism of the US, in selflessly addressing world problems through numerous wars, 'interventions' (and so on), which has greatly facillitated it's development and testing of the numerous sophisticated, battle-tried US weapons systems which are the envy of the world and which underlie the US' role, now, as the #1 global arms dealer.

Global War! Dick For Emperor Go War! Go Dick!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
woo woo woo woo woo woo woo woo woo woo woo
posted by troutfishing at 7:49 AM on February 26, 2003


Let's throw out all the hero-worship and get it down to this:

Dick Cheney has reached these following conclusions: first, that it is in the best interests of humanity that the United States impose a fearful peace upon the world and, second, that the best way to begin that epoch would be to establish dominion over the Middle East through the American Protectorate of Iraq.

Now, apparently, the wisdom of this policy is up to The Dick Cheney to decide, because we the people are all (only other crucial excerpt) "chickenshits and control freaks."

If the public is so vestigial, why bother making a case to the public anyway?
posted by argybarg at 7:56 AM on February 26, 2003


argybarg - I should have included the [/sarcasm] tag.
posted by troutfishing at 8:10 AM on February 26, 2003


With the possible exception of Bill Gates, Dick Cheney is the smartest man I've ever met
STOP HANGING WITH DUMBASSES THEN.
posted by quonsar at 8:16 AM on February 26, 2003


LOL. I have heard a range of opinions on Gates over the years, but "smartest man I've ever met"? That's definitely a first.
posted by psmealey at 8:23 AM on February 26, 2003


So with all of his smarts, experience and connections, Cheney's strategy with Iraq is a game of Chicken?

Iraq is not destroying missles, Hussein will not accept exile.
Your move, Cheney. The Barlow piece gives me no comfort at all.
posted by CosmicSlop at 8:25 AM on February 26, 2003


CosmicSlop - No, Cheney's game is world empire, a "Pax Americana" and to (as JPB so baldly put it) "impose a fearful peace upon the world...the primary goal of the American Peace is to guarantee the Global Corporations reliable access to all natural resources. wherever they may lie."

A "fearful peace", a "Pax Americana", and the rights of multinationals to plunder world resources. That's the Cheney plan.

The occupation of Iraq is just the opening move. - "U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said in meetings with Israeli officials on Monday that he has no doubt America will attack Iraq, and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards." - and then China, France, Russia, Columbia, Venezuela, Cuba............
posted by troutfishing at 8:51 AM on February 26, 2003


And (in his spare time) California, Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, Michigan, Iowa.....
posted by troutfishing at 8:53 AM on February 26, 2003


....Harvard Law and this guy thinks that 27BCE to 180 A.D. was a period of Peace? why 27BCE...because octavian changed his name? and in 180 Auerlius died and he spent most of his time conquering people. This letter or whatever seems faux to me. Then this guy quotes Tacitus...why is he all the vogue now, Tacy-man lived towards the end of this profs timeline (tac wrote "Historiae in 117BEC give or take) As a sideline...anyone see that PBS special on the burning of Rome by Nero....some german posits that it was not Nero but the Early Christians. The show was biased as it used Tacitus as the primary source (only source for that matter) and did not use Suetonius. Something wrong about that...something wrong about this Law professor.

Trout- no one can ever achieve that kind of authoritarian control in this day and age.
posted by clavdivs at 9:03 AM on February 26, 2003


A semi-aside: I thought that NATO's attack on Serbia invalidated the "no two nations with McDo's have ever attacked each other" postulate.

Further semi-aside: the Kargil conflict in Kashmir between Pakistan and India in 1999 - and every other time the two sides lob mortars at each other along the line of control since then, which is a routine event - further invalidates this postulate.

Back on topic: For a minute there, I was ready to believe that Cheney was misunderstood. It was such a comforting thought: We're in good hands after all. But then, after a moment's pause, it occurred to me that anyone who interprets Reagan's foreign policy as a well-played game of chicken either must not know that much about Reagan's foreign policy or else be willfully deluded, either of which cases make me doubt any other conclusions Barlow comes up with.
posted by gompa at 9:12 AM on February 26, 2003


With the possible exception of Bill Gates, Dick Cheney is the smartest man I've ever met.

I've never met Bill, but he doesn't read very intelligently at all. He's obviously headed a company that can clearly spot an asset, take control of it, and milk it for all it's worth. That's about it. The above statement nearly shot the credibility of the writer in my mind.

That case is unfortunately stronger, in the light of history, than the proposition that nations will coexist peacefully if we all try really, really hard to be nice to each other.

Perhaps a few people believe that, but I don't think that's a summary of the world order envisioned by those who might oppose a Pax Americana. It's a combination of this, combined with all countries keeping an eye on one another. Of course someone will break ranks out of greed or just insanity from time to time.

It is certainly unlikely at the moment that geopolitical stability can be achieved by the formation of some new detente like the one that terrified us into peace during the Cold War.

This is the goal?

Europe, old and new, is furious with the United States at the moment

For no other reason other than the fact that it is trying to throw its military supremacy around. They're still some of our best trading partners and otherwise allies. Yes, we have disputes about steel subsidies and the like, but despite our best efforts to really tick them off and flex and show that we ate our wheaties for breakfast, we actually still have a good amount of cooperation from them.

It is about oil, I guess, but only in the sense that the primary goal of the American Peace is to guarantee the Global
Corporations reliable access to all natural resources. wherever
they may lie.


I do agree with this. Those who have been impugning the Bush Administration with charges of greed because this war is about oil... that seems probably wrong (some possibility, but probably wrong). It seems highly likely that oil as a resource for a Pax Americana is a concern. F16s do not run on solar power or fuel cells. Petroleum fuel is the most portable high energy-and-power/mass solution we've got, and much military tech is based on it.

for war. He knows, for example, there there has never been a war between two countries that harbored McDonald¹s franchises.

I like the use of the word "harbored" in that sentence. Usually followed by "terrorist" or "fugitive," but this time "McDonald's".

Can anyone verify this fact?

What I was not thinking about, however, was the technique I once used to avoid being run off the road by Mexican bus drivers, back when their roads were narrower and their bus drivers even more macho.

National Policy is being run by people willing to treat this as a giant game of chicken -- and especially against a group of people who've already shown their willingness to crash the vehicles they drive straight into us?

That's my gut response, anyway. Let's try analytical. From a game theoretical standpoint, adding a bit of craziness/randomness to the picture can sometimes be strategic. But in a prisoner's dilema type game, signaling that you're likely to defect simply makes it more likely the other sde will too, triggering a long run of non-cooperation. Yes, I know that *generally* the best strategy in a one-shot prisoner's dilema is considered to be defection, but running games are a much more accurate description of the world. Cold war detente, on the other hand, was achieved by the changing the scoring of outcomes so that mutual defection was essentially so terrible a loss that your expected values came out on the side of not defecting -- and by making single defection almost impossible. On a nuclear level, anyway.

Unregulated Global Corporatism will be the only permissible ideology, every human will have access to McDonald¹s and the Home Shopping Network, all ³news² will come through some variant of AOLTimeWarnerCNN, the Internet will be run by Microsoft, and so it will remain for a long time. Peace. On Prozac.

Wow.

I've been critical of some of the ideas in the article, and I still am, but I think it was well-written. It, like many of the other Pax Americana articles, but with a more personal touch, gives a more plausible explanation for the Bush Admin's policy. The Bus Driver explanation is solidly grounded in human nature, too. I don't know. If you follow the game theoretic explanation some more, you come to the point where you realize that since the big "other player" in the game we're worried about right now (radical militant Islam) has a far higher tolerance for losses than Russia did (or we do) but does not have the same capacity to inflict losses, the best way to win may be to punish them harshly until we reach that tolerance. I see two basic problems with that: that display and the already displayed lack of willingness to cooperate with other players in the game hurt our politcal power and an already existing cooperation.

I think the bottom line is that there are two competing visions: one in which world nations cooperate in order to achieve the peace, one in which the U.S. enforces it by the force of its own might. Bush and Cheney and co. seem to have concluded that the latter is the better option.
posted by namespan at 9:13 AM on February 26, 2003


clavdivs - does technology facillitate freedom or authoritarian control? The Office of Information Awareness" crew are certainly working on "control" possibilities. MKUltra, Project "Mockingbird", COINTELPRO....these were secret authoritarian control projects (carried out within the US) until brought to light by the Church Commission.

And are we somehow in an age distinct from that which held prior to WW2? - Or have the methods of fascism and of totalitarian government merely been refined since then?

I find, for example, the fact the major US media have mostly failed to cover the recent State of Florida court case settlement with the NAACP - in which Florida admitted to massive election fraud in the 2000 election ( the illegal purging of 90,000 voters from the Florida voting rolls, with the "purge" lists still used in the 2002 election), and other types of fraud as well - to be more than passing strange. Isn't this story worthy of note? You can read about it at length on GregPalast.com

Or do we now take it for granted that we no longer live in a democracy or a democratic republic?
posted by troutfishing at 9:23 AM on February 26, 2003


By the way, anyone interested in taking a look to see where Cheney's at should read the PNAC Statement of Principles

Key Points:
"-we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future;
-we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values;
-we need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad;
-we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles....

Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next."

Signatories to the PNAC Statement of Principles: Elliott Abrams    Gary Bauer    William J. Bennett Jeb Bush Dick Cheney    Eliot A. Cohen    Midge Decter    Paula Dobriansky    Steve Forbes Aaron Friedberg    Francis Fukuyama    Frank Gaffney    Fred C. Ikle Donald Kagan    Zalmay Khalilzad    I. Lewis Libby    Norman Podhoretz
Dan Quayle    Peter W. Rodman    Stephen P. Rosen    Henry S. Rowen Donald Rumsfeld    Vin Weber    George Weigel    Paul Wolfowitz


Get the Picture? Notice, also, that the goals - to "strengthen our ties to democratic allies" and " "promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad" - have more or less vanished from US Foreign policy, while the goals congruent with the Neoconservative vision of the new "Pax Americana" are being agressively pursued.


-
posted by troutfishing at 9:38 AM on February 26, 2003


i have been quite depressed about this whole mess. it seems to only reinforce the Hobbesian idea that the world, no matter our optimistic opinions of it, is still the jungle we fear. what do we have to show for our 'progress,' the age of enlightenment, the promotion of democracy and human rights? more war-death in a 100 years than in the history of the world.

so we are no better than monkeys with fancy tools. you know where this leads; there is always a big monkey in charge. it is a natural absolute. that big mutherfucker who cows the rest of the males and knocks up most of the females, spreading his genes/memes. i guess you could say it is peaceful, as long as you don't piss off the big monkey. the only period of relief for the rest of the monkeys is when the hegemonic monkey is busy fighting off a formidable rival (think the USSR/US years). if this is true--if nature abhors ruler-less social order--i don't know that we have any choice in the matter. i sincerely hope i'm wrong. a supranational, cooperative organization like the UN sounds so much more appealing--i just fear it may be a natural impossibility.
. . . eagerly awaiting the counter-argument . . .
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:19 AM on February 26, 2003


The show was biased as it used Tacitus as the primary source (only source for that matter) and did not use Suetonius.

Suetonius--now there's a reliable source. Not.
posted by y2karl at 10:28 AM on February 26, 2003


Dick Cheney is a man of principles. Disastrous principles.

"Yet somehow, in Washington's collective mind, Cheney's numerous stumbles and missteps have not displaced the reputation he enjoys as a sober, reliable, skilled inside player. Even the Newsweek article, so eager to convey Rice's competence, seemed never to explicitly note the obvious subtext: Cheney's evident incompetence. If there were any justice or logic in this administration as to who should or shouldn't keep their job, there'd be another high-ranking official in line for one of those awkward conversations: Dick Cheney."
posted by homunculus at 10:28 AM on February 26, 2003


_sirmissalot_ -re: "i sincerely hope i'm wrong. a supranational, cooperative organization like the UN sounds so much more appealing--i just fear it may be a natural impossibility."

Some would argue that, unless this is made into a possibility, our species (or at least industrial civilization) is done for. But humans also have altruistic instincts which can under the right circumstances and with the proper stimulae (as with our more atavistic instincts) be awakened and brought to the fore. All is not hopeless.
posted by troutfishing at 10:38 AM on February 26, 2003


And, in retrospect: The charactorization of humans as "half angel, half devil" does indeed seem to be, in a sense, borne out in studies of human instinctual response. We are both capable of great good and great evil.

And which will mark the new millenium?
posted by troutfishing at 10:42 AM on February 26, 2003


Both, just like all the other millenia.
posted by wanderingmind at 10:55 AM on February 26, 2003


Hey - you're deflating my dramatic rhetoric! Poopyhead.
posted by troutfishing at 11:02 AM on February 26, 2003


surveying human history, it would seem the devil has a decided advantage. not to be negative or anything.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:08 AM on February 26, 2003


actually in an iterative prisoner's dillema, a slightly modified Tit for Tat strategy, which allows for occasional "forgiveness", tends to prevail. This would suggest that if anything, we're programmed for altruism, as long as we don't think the other guy's gaming us. And we have a desire to punish anyone who purposefully screws us, even if it means taking a slight loss.

Problem is, Ashcroft had all the tits covered, so we're left with just tat.
posted by condour75 at 11:52 AM on February 26, 2003


i agree with you Karl...to an extent. Now, Suetonius was secretary to Hadrian...so that means he was a young man in the time of Domitian. Domitian was the worst of the worst (ask Titus) So, we can expect some...interesting embellishments....but there is more to it then that. Robert Graves gave us one of the best translations of Suetonoius. So, Suetonius vilifies Gaius...why? I would venture the nature of totalitarian control...from Tiberius...who barely even lived in Rome towards the end (and why is that)...to gaius then to Our favorite roman...Claudius. Other authors agree that ole claud set the mold for stability concerning imperial rule...why is that....why give the purple to a supposed fool....because the praetors thought it was funny....no, they wanted someone to control within the established ascension rules...that male hier thingie for which ole claud fit the bill. My point, the imperial system was wanted by the praetors and more important the senate. Where was the senate during this time of Gaius' madness. Helping him. Old Gaius went loony toward the last 2 years of his 4 year "term". Modern research proves that Gaius did make rational decisions.

this is what gets me....imperial systems are irrational, the romans even knew this but times called for a strong man enter our beloved Julius. Why did rome turn Imperial? who knows...to compete with rival empire(s).... to rule the known world, to establish a loose confederation of lesser, subservient nation states.

Karl, my whole observation concerning the show was of historical method, the one that school taught us in our sophomore year...get more then one source...why was suetonius not used by this show to support Neros so called innocence and lending credence to the Christians did it theory...because suetonius describes nero pretty well...I mean Nero would go out and mug for fun. Talk about no recourse for the poor guy or woman who was the victim...Nero has a proven track record of wanting to build more palaces....clearing out some of the excess stink holes down old palatine way there. I thought about the christians angle...don't gell with me. The early christians where already on the subversive list and why inflame the emperor...er ya.
christians burn=they die
rome burns= they die

no wonder they hid in caves.
(trout-come on, give more then David Wise material to work with here)
posted by clavdivs at 12:16 PM on February 26, 2003


er...christians burn Rome= they die
posted by clavdivs at 12:19 PM on February 26, 2003


"The hidden hand of the Market will never work without a hidden fist - McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell-Douglas ... "- Thomas Friedman, NYT Magazine, 1999
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 12:19 PM on February 26, 2003


actually in an iterative prisoner's dillema, a slightly modified Tit for Tat strategy, which allows for occasional "forgiveness", tends to prevail.

it's interesting to bring game theory into this. here is an interesting article setting up bush vs. saddam in a classic 2x2 matrix.
(i've thought of posting this on the front page, but figured it would get deleted as too iraq-y.)
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 12:32 PM on February 26, 2003


clavdivs - "David Wise material"? Would that be my mention of the PNAC Principles signatories, the findings of the Church commission, or the findings of the Florida court which tried the NAACP vs. the State of Florida case? (the Greg Palast link) I know you want to talk about Roman history - not my strongest suit, I'll have you know - but I'm more concerned with the present at the moment. Historical comparisons are fine, but.......
posted by troutfishing at 12:48 PM on February 26, 2003


The problem with those centrally-imposed-through-fear peaces is that when they collapse (as they always do), all hell breaks loose.
The Soviet empire succeeded in forcing historically aggresive peoples to coexist in a tense peace, but looked what happened when it's benovelent influence was lifted.
My worry is not about the US imposing its hegemony on the world, I've no doubt of that, it's what's going to happen once the US loses its power.
posted by signal at 12:52 PM on February 26, 2003


if this is true--if nature abhors ruler-less social order--i don't know that we have any choice in the matter. i sincerely hope i'm wrong. a supranational, cooperative organization like the UN sounds so much more appealing--i just fear it may be a natural impossibility.
. . . eagerly awaiting the counter-argument . . .


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
posted by condour75 at 12:57 PM on February 26, 2003


in other words, mandate is derived from consent of the governed. If "the governed" extends beyond borders -- which it does, if coercive economic and military force can extend beyond borders -- then it stands to reason that the governed should have a say in the governing body. Therefore, continued unilateral military action by the single superpower may ultimately precipitate a countermovement for world suffrage.
posted by condour75 at 1:07 PM on February 26, 2003


trout, i don't know...i get a sense from you that the horrid deeds of past times somehow make up a faschist comparison to the current administartion. Rome or MK ultra...they are in the past. As far as 2000 and florida..well, we stole that fare and square. We don't live in a democracy, we live in a republic.
don't get me started on the Church commission.

My worry is not about the US imposing its hegemony on the world, I've no doubt of that, it's what's going to happen once the US loses its power.

The hegmony is already there, we have and have had bases around the globe for over 50 years. Our bases make Romes garrison policy look small compared to the size of romes empire.
power...how do you define that...influence, export-import, the number of naval vessels and satelites, our aid programs, our technology...define power before the worry of losing it. Me, the power is in the people, the decisions, all that life shit. To me the question translates "what happens when our people start losing."
I guess the real question is what is there to lose.

on topic: Nixon had a little thing going called the madman theory. Thing is, what happens when you have an actual mad man pretending to be a mad man.

Thanks Henry. Didn't think of that one huh.
posted by clavdivs at 1:22 PM on February 26, 2003


_sirmissalot_: Thanks. I liked the link... fairly thorough application of game theory to situation, and best of all, an explanation of wrinkles (I really hate it when people act as if game theory application doesn't have wrinkles). Would have been happy to see it as an FPP.

coundour75:
in an iterative prisoner's dillema, a slightly modified Tit for Tat strategy, which allows for occasional "forgiveness", tends to prevail. This would suggest that if anything, we're programmed for altruism, as long as we don't think the other guy's gaming us.

My worry is that by playing the game I described -- inflicting a high degree of punishment on people who don't cooperate as we like (Iraq), and ignoring interests of our democratic allies -- will lead to the widespread opinion that the US is gaming everybody, and nothing but Tat left for us abroad.

Clearly we can't just start dispensing favors to Al Qaeda and even hostile Iraqi dictators and hope they'll be our friends. But we could at least mitigate the "gaming" problem by looking out for the interests of those who have been our friends. The seeming repeated failure of the Bush Administration to do this is what I find most alarming.
posted by namespan at 2:20 PM on February 26, 2003


_sirmissalot_ -- What do we have to show for our 'progress,' the age of enlightenment, the promotion of democracy and human rights? more war-death in a 100 years than in the history of the world.

You could actually argue (and some have) that the bloodbaths of the twentieth century -- gulags and concentration camps -- have their intellectual roots in the Enlightenment: so-called dark-Enlightenment theory. The obsession with control and oversight implicit within the Enlightenment project results in an overbearing Rationalism that leads inexorably to Totalitarian 'solutions', and ultimately, the Terror.

Or something.
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:57 PM on February 26, 2003


It may be a dumb question but why would religious fanatics like Osama bin Laden be worried about what the crazy, unpredictable US would do to them? After all, they think they've got God on their side and if things don't work out in this world, they'll still win in the next. Can you really pretend to be crazier than someone who really IS crazy?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:08 PM on February 26, 2003


Power is too difficult to asses, and the willingness to vindicate it too various, to permit treating it as a reliable guide to international order. Equilibrium works best if it is buttressed by an agreement on common values. . . agreement on shared values inhibits the desire to overthrow the international order. -- Henry Kissinger
posted by Opus Dark at 3:57 PM on February 26, 2003


Clavdivs -re:"trout, i don't know...i get a sense from you that the horrid deeds of past times somehow make up a faschist comparison to the current administartion. Rome or MK ultra...they are in the past. As far as 2000 and florida..well, we stole that fare and square." - Somehow, I don't think MKUltra, or similarly sinister gov. abuses of authority, are in the past. And, you know, the sort of government and military culture which makes such behaviors possible doesn't simply wink out of existance because some nosy congressman decides to dig up some dirt. I appreciate your honesty about the 2000 election....so why don't we just drop that word "democratic" and admit that we're living in a mere "republic"?........

As a student of Roman history, what do YOU think? - are there any parallels between the contemporary US and Rome at the transition point, between republic and empire?
posted by troutfishing at 7:47 PM on February 26, 2003


I like how Henry was picked to head the comittee to look into 9-11. Now, why is that. Shared values...shared interest. spare me, Henry should be driving a moped rickshaw in Phenom Pehn. Dumping tons of weapons into Cambodia then abandoning the people is a value?

"Cambodia is the Nixon Doctorine in it's purest form"

-Nixon.
the key word is buttress in Henrys qoute. To me, only an ass would pretty package this-we gotta a big stick and you have value we find in common what you gonna do?- as

Equilibrium works best if it is buttressed by an agreement on common values
posted by clavdivs at 7:49 PM on February 26, 2003


hey trout...well, yes the dirty workshop always stays open...it would be imprudent not too.
abuse of authority....
age old. Remember what happened to our lovable president Nixon.

because some nosy congressman decides to dig up some dirt
I heard that the former head of MI was watching Jack Straw....JACK STRAW...what where these people thinking.

a strict parallel? To many but i fancy you could guess at least one. But a direct comparison?...little if none. We have more power in a f-111 then Rome had in all her legions.
posted by clavdivs at 8:06 PM on February 26, 2003


We have more power in a f-111 then Rome had in all her legions.

They, clavdivs, they have the F-111s, all the F-111s. Not we. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. They have the B-2s, daisycutters, the whole model airplane store of the mind--and gun catalogs, too. For the next hour or years, they will control all that you see and hear. They have all the weapons and people trained to use them. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. They have the Homeland Security Department. They control the horizontal and the vertical.

We----we have nothing. Or near to, next to what they have.

Believe me, there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to take an adventure.

excellent link, _sirmissalot_.
posted by y2karl at 10:57 PM on February 26, 2003


cladivs - what's going on? such a civil political discussion...

Of course the dirty workshop never closes but it is, I think, a question of degree... So: dirty workshop as defense vs. dirty workshop as a fundamental instrument of government policy.

As an aside - On the note of "massively assymetrical" warfare (AKA squashing enemy soldiers like bugs) I just read an acoount of how the US dealt with a lot of the entrenched Iraqi troops (hapless conscripts) in the first Gulf War:

"Daniel had seen the aftermath of modest firefights in Vietnam. "The bodies would be stacked up like cordwood," he recalled. Yet this ferocious attack had not produced a single visible body. It was a battlefield without the stench of urine, faeces, blood and bits of flesh. Daniel wondered what happened to the estimated 6,000 Iraqi defenders who had vanished. "Where are the bodies?" he finally asked the First Division's public affairs officer, an army major. "What bodies?" the major replied.

Months later, Daniel and the world would learn why the dead had eluded eyewitnesses, cameras and video footage. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers, some of them firing their weapons from first world war-style trenches, had been buried by ploughs mounted on Abrams tanks. The tanks had flanked the lines so that tons of sand from the plough spoil had funnelled into the trenches. Just behind the tanks, straddling the trench line, came Bradleys pumping machine-gun bullets into Iraqi troops.

"I came through right after the lead company," said Colonel Anthony Moreno. "What you saw was a bunch of buried trenches with people's arms and legs sticking out of them. For all I know, we could have killed thousands."

Two other brigades used the same tank-mounted ploughs and Bradleys to obliterate an estimated 70 miles of defensive trenches. They moved swiftly......What happened in the neutral zone that day is a metaphor for the art of war in an era when domestic politics is often more important than the predictable outcome on the field of battle." (UK Gaurdian, Feb 14, 2003)
posted by troutfishing at 4:58 AM on February 27, 2003


Karl, ever see what a flaming ball of dung mixed with animal fat hurled 700 yards can do. Just switch your televison to the why-back channel and revel in the splat.

the iraqi trench stories?...I heard those two-three days after that 100 hour video game. Look, do you want me to mourn them...how can I. Was it wrong...no. Was it terrible-yes.
posted by clavdivs at 7:25 AM on February 27, 2003


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