The appeal of authoritarianism
September 18, 2007 5:37 PM   Subscribe

Ian Buruma reviews World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, by senior neo-conservative Norman Podhoretz, in the New York Review of Books. The key to Podhoretz's politics seems to me to lie right there: the longing for power, for toughness, for the Shtarker [strong man] who doesn't give a damn about anyone or anything, and hatred of the contemptible, cowardly liberals with their pandering ways and their double standards. Since Podhoretz, himself a bookish man, can never be a Shtarker, his government must fill that role, and not give a damn about anyone or anything.

One comment by Buruma echoes a similar observation in Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism: he suggests that one reason for the prominence of Jewish neo-conservatives, despite the fact that most American Jews are liberals, may be the "traditional appeal of strong, benevolent empires, from the monarchy of Franz Joseph to George W. Bush's republic, as shields against bigots, racists, and tyrants".

Buruma notes that Podhoretz is a foreign policy advisor to Giulani.

Who still supports Bush at this point? Buruma describes how they feel:
... criticism of the Bush administration has indeed become more common as the war in Iraq has degenerated into bloody chaos. Much of Podhoretz's book reads like the heartfelt cry of a lonely man who feels increasingly abandoned by pretty much everyone. For not only are the hard left anti-Americans and the hard right isolationists undermining Bush's noble mission, but as Podhoretz describes it, the cause is opposed by conservative "realists," because they are coldhearted anti-idealists, by Democrats, because they are antiwar, and by "liberal internationalists," because they trust international institutions more than American power. Only George Bush and those unconditionally loyal to him are still on board. What's more, for Podhoretz they are the only source of truth.
Peter Beinart reviews Podhoretz and Ledeen in the New York Times.

More sympathetic reviews by William Buckley Jr. and Roger Simon.
posted by russilwvong (51 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Podhoretz. Christ, what an asshole.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:49 PM on September 18, 2007

There's a wonderful episode in Amos Oz's memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness, when he talks about being taken to an early Likud rally by his grandfather. Menachem Begin is up on stage ranting and raving about western powers' support for Arab states and their neglect of Israel. Getting more and more worked up, Begin screams: "they are arming Nasser day and night, but who is arming us? Nobody. Nobody is arming us." Being of an older generation, Begin uses the archaic verb lezayen (לזין), which indeed does mean "to arm/to reinforce". But in the new Jerusalemite street dialect well known to the young Oz, lezayen means "to fuck." Hearing the shtarker Begin up on stage, screaming how Eisenhower refuses to fuck Israel is too much for Oz. He bursts out laughing, is dragged by his ear from the lecture hall and becomes, inevitably, a peacenik.

So, what the hell. Give Podhoretz all the arms he wants. It sounds like he needs it.
posted by felix betachat at 5:53 PM on September 18, 2007 [7 favorites]

Oh snap!
posted by orthogonality at 5:55 PM on September 18, 2007

I'm so sick of the term 'islamofascism'. How many muslim extremists/terrorists embrace fascism in the first place?
posted by p3on at 5:58 PM on September 18, 2007

Only George Bush and those unconditionally loyal to him are still on board.

Bush is having a hard time holding onto even his most loyal supporter.
posted by Poolio at 5:58 PM on September 18, 2007

Podhertz is so brave sending other young men to the front.

How cowardly of people to oppose the plan of killing hundreds of thousands of Iranians because their government may get nuclear weapons.
posted by sien at 6:15 PM on September 18, 2007

Screw islamofascism, it's amerofascism that I'm worried about.
posted by doctor_negative at 6:23 PM on September 18, 2007 [5 favorites]

Islamofascism is just a half-assed way of saying "look these guys are as bad as Hitler and Mussolini" but, of course, the inaccuracy of the word doesn't prevent it's use by real right wing fascist douchebags.
posted by Megafly at 6:31 PM on September 18, 2007

Podhoretz is a comprehensive ass.
posted by toma at 6:34 PM on September 18, 2007

"The word Fascism has now no meaning except insofar as it
signifies "something not desirable."

George Orwell - Politics and the English Language - 1946

... tho I'm an admirer of much of what Buruma has to offer
posted by MrMerlot at 6:40 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

More from andrew sullivan this week: 1, 2, 3
posted by empath at 6:49 PM on September 18, 2007

The Buruma explanation seems simplistic to me. After all, how many former lefties switched and became avid conservatives? Here, a case with high profile. But if he wanted to be the shtarker, why would he earlier have been a liberal?

His drifting away from his teachers (Trilling) and other liberals noted more fully in his memoirs:
2000: Ex-Friends: Falling Out With Allen Ginsberg, Lionel & Diana Trilling, Lillian Hellman, Hannah Arendt, and Norman Mailer (memoir)

ps: Mailer, always the shtarker remains very much to the left.
posted by Postroad at 6:52 PM on September 18, 2007

The unkillable Daniel Pipes, now a foreign policy adviser to the Giuliani campaign, has begun advocating total destruction of Palestinian villages from which attacks may have been launched, in order to "impress Palestinians with the Israeli will to survive, and so bring closer their eventual acceptance of the Jewish state".
posted by stammer at 6:54 PM on September 18, 2007

The Nature of Fascism: or Essentialism by Another Name? by Roger Eatwell.

Fascism. A History (new introduction)
posted by acro at 7:02 PM on September 18, 2007

Shtarker, this is Kaos!.....
posted by storybored at 7:11 PM on September 18, 2007

World War IV? Did I miss something or did we skip III? Or is that what they're calling the Cold War now?
posted by octothorpe at 7:13 PM on September 18, 2007

After all, how many former lefties switched and became avid conservatives?

I know it's just anecdotal, but my parents did. They were Democrats (and not just casually, either -- my mom used to manage the election campaigns for prominent Colorado Democrats, like Dick Lamm, Gary Hart, et al., in the 1970s and 80s), and are now diehard, fervent neocons. According to them, all liberals are "America haters" (this evidently includes themselves up till 2001, and presumably my sister and me as well), anyone who criticizes the president is suffering from "Bush derangement syndrome" (which my mother claims is an actual condition recognized by the medical establishment, on par with bipolar disorder), anyone who disagrees with the war is a traitor, and white Christians are the most persecuted minority in America (my mom proudly said that she used this line recently to get out of jury duty). Oh, and also: Islam is being established as the state religion in America. Really. No, really!

I wish I was joking. I wish they were joking. But they're not.
posted by scody at 7:14 PM on September 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oh, and the best part of the "persecuted white Christian" thing is that my mom has, to my knowledge, not willingly set foot inside a church (aside from weddings and funerals) since she was a child.
posted by scody at 7:16 PM on September 18, 2007

I'm so sick of the term 'islamofascism'.

Islamofascism works for me, provided we start identifying Christofascism and Judeofascism along with it. There are too many religionists who wish to gain political control so as to enforce their religious rule upon others.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:20 PM on September 18, 2007 [4 favorites]

Lets compromise: Semitic-fascism. And old Aryan fascism.
posted by acro at 7:35 PM on September 18, 2007

scody: Jeez, and I thought my dad was bad...

Family reunions must be hell. I feel for you.
posted by papakwanz at 7:39 PM on September 18, 2007

scody, I'm sorry to hear that--it's really interesting, though--what do you suppose caused the flip for them? Did they not really mean it when they were Democrats, are they struggling with aging, is there any underlying cause you see, or did 9/11 really just freak them the fuck out and they've never recovered?

Podhoretz and his ilk, the core neoconservatives, seem to have had such a radical shift borne of self-loathing--like a gay man becoming born-again and gay-bashing, because of hate for his 'former' self. It just seems like so much of the hate and fear of neoconservatism (wrapped up in a nice bow of supposed noble idealism*) comes from within--most likely, I would guess, that the reality of the world we live in scares the shit out of them, and they hate that they're scared, and so we get all of this fucking acting out and projection, and so many people needlessly die.

(*-the idealism is, of course, bringing freedom and democracy to the world; the reality is that it's a way to destroy your enemies without actually being a genocidal bastard: we will make war on you until you either die or become like us. ...say, that sounds familiar.....)
posted by LooseFilter at 7:43 PM on September 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

You can get another perspective on just how detached from reality Podhoretz here: What Conservatives Say When They Think We Aren't Listening. The fact that Giulani has recruited him is fairly disturbing.
posted by homunculus at 7:48 PM on September 18, 2007

American war culture in a nutshell
posted by homunculus at 7:53 PM on September 18, 2007

What bullshit. This is Buruma's analysis of the neocons? He calls them "zany"? He offers up some half-baked armchair psychologizing?

Man, it's pretty amusing to watch the rest of the 'respectable Left' slowly wake up to the fact that the neocons are insane. All this time the assumption was that, yes, the neocons are hyper-secretive, warmongering nationalists but, ultimately, they are pro-bourgeois intellectuals (just like us!) who strongly support the global expansion-for-the-sake-of-expansion American capitalist project. But it's becoming ever so slowly clear that the neocons aren't interested in globalization, human rights, or the creation of any kind of new multilateral world order founded on free trade, global corporate governance, and human rights (in that order).

Lo and behold, the necons are only interested in one thing: never ending, all consuming, day in, day out, everyday and twice on Sundays war, war, war -- with Iraq, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, China, North Korea, Russia, Cuba, Lebanon, etc etc etc. Of course the who doesn't really matter; it's war for the sake of war, exerting power just to be (seen as) powerful. These guys are some seriously disturbed individuals who want nothing more than to break, burn and bomb anybody and everybody who has, does, or might one day oppose America/Israel. Instead of letting the dollar do the dirty work of 'dealing with' foreign countries these guys want actual boots, bombs and blood on the ground. It's the stuff of 19th century, blood-and-iron imperial total domination fantasizing...

And now it's too late. Morally bankrupt triangulators like Buruma and so many of the other liberal interventionists have already let the fox into the henhouse. With their support for the Iraq War they've given the neocons that critical final polishing, that all-important sheen of liberal respectability that allowed them to fool so many of the wise subscribers to the New York Times. Now the neocons have have gone mainstream in a big way, they are large and in charge, and they couldn't have done it at all without the likes of Buruma.

This dynamic is not without precedent. A weak-willed liberal status quo deceives itself into cooperating with/abetting a virulently nationalistic pro-war movement. This is done because "the times demand it" but really there's of a kind of "Paris is worth a mass" logic at work. The thinking goes: if we can just expand the circle a tiny bit to include these conservatives, if we compromise our principles just a little, then the new coalition could rule totally unchecked. What happens next is a total surprise. They are shocked, shocked to discover that this "radical new party of the future" is in fact a radical new party of warmongering extremists!

I just hope that when the bombs begin to fall on Iran, when America finally gets its eagerly-anticipated July Coronation, when the nation commits itself once and for all to global military domination now and forever, the likes of Buruma will be right there to offer up some half-assed, ham handed platitudes in the fucking NYRB. Nothing sharp enough to actually be mistaken for serious analysis or actually taking a side. No, just enough to get some of the blood off.
posted by nixerman at 8:04 PM on September 18, 2007 [12 favorites]

I was just reading the cover notes (liner notes? whatever they are, the things on the flaps) of this book a couple of hours ago.

More pointless bullshit.
posted by blacklite at 8:04 PM on September 18, 2007

scody - very interesting story.
posted by docpops at 8:17 PM on September 18, 2007

It seems the good old Pod is a particularly easy target. Probably because he was so visible as he steered Commentary from Dissent's stomping grounds over to creating a new conservative ideology. John Leonard sums it up better than I ever will -- without talking shop, but just by sheer dirty gossip -- in his review of the Pod's equally ridiculous memoir: Ex-Friends: Falling Out with Allen Ginsberg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Lillian Hellman, Hannah Arendt, and Norman Mailer:
Rereading Making It, one wants to calm P. down with a lollipop. It's OK, Norman, all of it--wanting money, status, power, fame. But what makes you think it's so brave to say so out loud? And why do you insist that everybody else wants these things just as much, all the time and forever, and if they claim they don't, they must be lying? Haven't you ever met anyone who had second thoughts on the subject? I know you don't get out much, but even in the library a little Great Gatsby is a purgative for too much Ayn Rand. A young fogy just as Oedipal about the old Partisan Review crowd as you are once told a friend of mine, "You have a job; I have a career." Imagine that! The luminous thing! A pogo stick! I have been known, myself, to spend television funny-money on fancy vacations; and yet I find, in ritzy hotels like the Danieli in Venice or the Oriental in Bangkok or the Peninsula in Hong Kong, that I really don't belong there, because of my shoes or something--as if you can take the boy out of his class, but not the class out of the boy.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 8:30 PM on September 18, 2007

I'm still tickled by the fact a century ago we were calling World War One "the war to end all wars." Yeah. That still makes me laugh.

Have we learned nothing from Freddy and Jason and Michael? There comes a point when you just have to stop counting them, cuz it looks really cheezy.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:33 PM on September 18, 2007

He offers up some half-baked armchair psychologizing?
Pot, I've got kettle on the phone....
posted by Sangermaine at 8:54 PM on September 18, 2007

I don't think anyone's figured out the neocons. People who suddenly switch American parties and refer to it as "repenting" are bluffing, possibly hiding a foreign influence.
posted by Brian B. at 9:02 PM on September 18, 2007

Holy fuck, homunculus, that article is fucking scary.
posted by papakwanz at 9:18 PM on September 18, 2007

that article is fucking scary.

posted by LooseFilter at 9:24 PM on September 18, 2007

from homunculus' link: "One member of Cheney's national security staff, David Wurmser, worried out loud that Cheney felt that his wing was "losing the policy argument on Iran" inside the administration -- and that they might need to "end run" the president with scenarios that may narrow his choices. The option that Wurmser allegedly discussed was nudging Israel to launch a low-yield cruise missile strike against the Natanz nuclear reactor in Iran, thus "hopefully" prompting a military reaction by Tehran against U.S. forces in Iraq and the Gulf."

Holy fucking shit. Our Vice President is encouraging another country to start an international incident in the hope that our troops would be caught in the middle?

Well, it's official. Dick Cheney has gone from being "amoral neocon" to "Tom-Clancy-novel supervillan".
posted by Avenger at 9:44 PM on September 18, 2007

acro: Can we go with Semitic-Fascism and Classic-Fascism?

islamonazi has a good ring to it, as does Zionazi.

We should all get better names for those who disagree with us.

Anyone who disagrees with me is now a refusienik.
posted by sien at 10:23 PM on September 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

that article is fucking scary.


Thirded. And I grew up in the Deep South, and thought that I'd heard all the racist bullshit that could be mustered. Apparently not...
posted by eclectist at 10:55 PM on September 18, 2007

Postroad: There are many who would argue that Wolfowitz is a former liberal.
posted by the cydonian at 11:11 PM on September 18, 2007

I'm so sick of the term 'islamofascism'.

Well, since the roots of the word 'fascist' lie in the latin fasces, or 'bundle of sticks', how about instead of 'islamofascists' we use DIPsticks, for Dastardly-Islam-Promoter, er, -sticks?

Not only does it make them seem a bit less fearsome and a little more silly (which is always good), it kind of gives us the sense that we can judge how things are going by deep they've been sunk into the oil.

It'sd be pretty hard to get folks scared about dipstickism.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:14 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

The fact that Giulani has recruited him is fairly disturbing.

Well, Giulani is fairly disturbed, so, six of one, twelve dozen of another. (Come to think of it, McCain's been getting seriously Dorian Gray lately, more wizened, more crazed and he's got that weird thing going on with his jaw. And that Gothy vampire deer in the headlights pallor he's got going on now--what's up with that ?) But is America ready for a President Rudolph ? Well, that's one I want not to find out.
posted by y2karl at 5:34 AM on September 19, 2007

Avenger: The worst part is that these people think this is a GOOD thing. They actually, honestly, truly believe that this shit is good for the country.

They don't need to be locked up. They need to be pithed.
posted by mephron at 9:09 AM on September 19, 2007

Nixerman - Buruma says in the piece that he was against the Iraq war (though it's true that he's a 'respectable' liberal rather than on the left), and the NYRB was pretty good on it from the start. There are more morally bankrupt right-wing liberals out there.
posted by Mocata at 9:54 AM on September 19, 2007


Buruma may not have been for the war but he certainly wasn't against it. As late as 2005 he was providing ideological cover for the war. And on this front he certainly hasn't changed; you'll note he sneaks the old "there were plenty of good reasons to invade Iraq..." canard into his review. That he didn't "support" the war is a true statement only for certain values of "support." What irritated me so much about this review is not so much what it is (fluff) but what it is not. It is not a strong denunciation of the neocon philosophy and the war. Simply, Podhoretz is a complete psychopath. He's really one of the most deceptive, dishonest and straight up, certifiably evil men to come out of the foreign policy right. He's at the very heart of our national disaster. And despite this, the best Buruma can do is to call the man "zany" and then offer up a half-baked apology for the man by harking back to playground fights. Are we actually supposed to take this seriously?

This is all really quite extraordinary. After six years of Bush and 9/11 but somebody peering in from pre-9/11 would look at this dynamic and be completely shocked. But the only thing more remarkable than the fact that Podhoretz is taken seriously at all -- and that his atrocious work even merits such a stupid review in the NYRB -- is the absolute inability of the likes of Buruma to seriously confront him. What's going on here is theater, not unlike what you see on Cable news, where, instead of any kind of serious debate, both sides simply going through the motions for the benefit of the camera. When you consider the extraordinary danger that Podhoretz's philosophy poses to the Republic, again, it's simply amazing that anybody, and especially somebody with 'liberal' on their calling card, would choose to discuss playground dynamics rather than call the man out and denounce him.
posted by nixerman at 12:48 PM on September 19, 2007

scody, I'm sorry to hear that--it's really interesting, though--what do you suppose caused the flip for them? Did they not really mean it when they were Democrats, are they struggling with aging, is there any underlying cause you see, or did 9/11 really just freak them the fuck out and they've never recovered?

Well, I've had six years to think about it. 9/11 was certainly the final straw, but I see now that it had been building for a long time -- resentment over taxes (they owned a small business for many years), growing older (especially as my dad was severely ill the year before 9/11, which had been terrifying for them), and living in Santa Fe (which is the kind of crunchy liberalism that would drive me nuts) I think all contributed to a general (and not all that unusual) drift to a more conservative mindset.

The hard swing to the extreme neocon right, though, is more complex. I think some of the explanation is located in some general personality traits, especially of my mom's. She is someone -- even in her most "card-carrying liberal" days -- who simply cannot abide ambiguity, complexity, or multiple points of view. It's anathema to her. She sees the world in absolute black & white terms. Related to that, she has always demonized anything that she leaves behind -- whether a city or a haircut or an idea. With few exceptions to her, it's not possible simply to outgrow something, and yet have that something remain neutral; that something must be labeled as bad. Growing one's hair out means that previously having it short had been stupid. Leaving one's city for a new one means that the previous city is a terrible place, filled with awful people. So naturally, under such a paradigm, it is impossible to conceive that opposing political views -- even views that had been personally held -- could be in any way legitimate; they must be negated utterly, as either delusion (at best) or evil (at worst). And of course, the likes of Fox News, Ann Coulter, Podhoretz/Pipes/Kristol/et al. (her exclusive sources of information about the world) all totally confirm, celebrate, and ultimately enforce this worldview. (There's also a family connection to the Cheneys that's too complicated to go into here -- suffice to say, my entire family is originally from Wyoming.)

I once tried to get her take on their previous liberalism. She's fudges it; she likes to claim, for example, that if JFK and RFK -- who, for decades, she essentially considered saints -- were still alive, they'd be Republicans. (Yeah, I know: tell that to Ted Kennedy.) My dad is more of a mystery to me; he tries not to rub politics in my (and my sister's) face quite as much; I think he's able to accept, on some level, that it's at least somewhat legitimate for us to hold differing views, even if he no longer holds them himself. As far as my mom's concerned, our views are not legitimate -- though I get points for being more "respectful" than my sister (read: I bite my tongue when she's on one of her rants, while my sister takes the bait and argues).

At the end of the day, I just can't say how pricipled they really were in terms of their former liberalism -- my mom always sort of scoffed at environmentalism, for example, and her commitment to civil rights was forever frozen in a sort of simplistic early '60s vision of being pro-integration (because frankly, she's pretty racist). So it makes sense that they've adopted a kind of conservatism that's unmoored from the classic principles of conservatism that's held by all the lifelong Republicans I've always known (such as other family members and friends' parents -- all of whom are among those GOP "traitors" who no longer support the war and think that Bush is incompetent).

It's been sad for me, really. The irony is that they appear to be the happiest they've ever been.

posted by scody at 1:26 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Scody's story about her parent's seems a perfect fit to this New Republic article posted a couple weeks ago, on how abstract fear has very strange political consequences...

This is why propaganda works...
posted by stratastar at 1:27 PM on September 19, 2007

Nifty post.
Benevolent empires as a shield - intriguing concept. I wonder what the outlook is of other nested societies (e.g. amish, romany, etc)?
I know the Quakers consider government much like fire.

“Lo and behold, the necons are only interested in one thing:”

I suspect war is a side effect of the drive to myopic ideological uniformity. (similar to what LooseFilter sed) Externally it appears schizophrenic, but it’s fanaticism. Perhaps drawn from fear, or loss of identity, or any number of combined factors, but certainly it is by design unlike the chaos from madness. Political expediancy (here) is principle. Whatever is required to hold on to power is the order of the day.
Including a claim to be defending leftist, rightist or indeed, any principle.
The irony is that this ethos would be largely inert if it were not driven by the need for a sort of (to borrow Buruma’s term and conceptualization) a negro of one’s own. And that’s a self-reciprocating relationship as any dysfunctional one is, that attachment to negative attention especially if it’s directed outward so one can bask, but even if it’s directed closer to home. (There are wives f’rinstance convinced their husbands don’t care unless they beat them, and every bully has his hangers on whom he abuses from time to time)

What’s key from the piece is that yes, they need a surrogate tough guy, but also (consider ‘One Flew Over the Coocoo’s Nest) the tough guy is driven to act by them.
So the form becomes, in order to gain power - gain any credit with them - one must ‘prove’ one’s strength through callousness - and then ironically, one is given adulation. (Granted McMurphy ultimately acted because of compassion, but that was the early game)
Ironic because if one truly is strong, and doesn’t need those hangers on nor care about them, one is not driven to perform any action on their behalf.
Thus the movement only gets the phoney tough, the insecure who must bully away their inferiority complex or (as we’ve seen) press on heedless of the consequences to display stubbornness as a virtue.
Decisiveness is required in the face of terrorism, as it was against the Nazis. Toughness is a fabrication. An illusion those not willing to decisively execute a principle - perhaps with their lives - console themselves with not having.
One is not willing to disregard death or peril because one is merely tough, but because of the conviction that it is right to act in such a manner. Such conviction and the decisiveness to act comes from looking at the reality of the situation.

That’s where Buckley is off base. Focus is not a substitute for principle (any more than force is a substitute for conviction).

Certainly had we stopped the Nazis or Communists when they were small millions would not have died - but that was not a matter of misreckoning. There were solid political blocks in getting involved in those situations.

Certainly more Realpolitick should have been practiced - but even more certain is the fact that the German people shouldn’t have been put into such desparate straits after the end of WWI. So where then does one take the boot off the neck?

And indeed - how does one begin to apply it and to which necks? Before Hitler began invasions what kind of military force should we have brought to bear? And could we have brought much to bear in the first place?

In the case of Iraq and our current GLWOT we have the power to prosecute a pre-emptive war based on “maybes” but it’s not merely an issue of power. Grant ourselves the power time travel - should we kill Hitler as a baby? Abort him? Hackned metaphor there but the question is valid - Where do we cede principle to the exercise of power?
(homunculus' link raises the same point - should we provoke an incident? Where do we lose sight of principle in acting?)

Those types of questions have been put on permanent hold in favor of acting with abandon merely because we -can- act.

And it is that lack of conviction and adherence to the illusion that is the hallmark of neocon thought that creates the ambiguity (and ultimate impotence) in action and blurs meaning.

Again - answering Buckley - if Islam has an ethos that attracts strong followers the answer is not opposition by force but by engagement on that level such that our own ethos does not appear without principles and baseless.
Our society is not going to be shown as stronger merely because of it’s vigor in prosecuting its interests. From such a premise it is little wonder they’re willing to have an endless war.
War is a means not an end. The Norse knew that when they created the Gotterdamerung for their Gods. The Christians with Armageddon and the last judgement. All war has meaning only in its ending.
Otherwise there’s only the trappings of meaning - loyalty for the sake of loyalty, strength without purpose, symbol without meaning, power without conviction.
The Orwell references are apt - the boot stomping on the human face for no reason other than it can. For no other reason that it’s “us” stomping on “them.” The flaws are obvious, but yeah, easily mistaken for madness.

*calls storybored on his shoe*
posted by Smedleyman at 1:29 PM on September 19, 2007

Here's that link again
posted by stratastar at 1:31 PM on September 19, 2007

Sorry: here's a non-gated version
posted by stratastar at 1:33 PM on September 19, 2007

(Anyone with any degree of introspection having experiance in using force would realize that one typically has more to fear from one’s own actions than the actions of others. The danger is blinding oneself to that. It’s very easy for any ideology to do that much less one that reviles introspection.)
posted by Smedleyman at 2:02 PM on September 19, 2007

The irony is that they appear to be the happiest they've ever been.

That sounds right to me--human beings are at root feeling creatures, I think, but we get distracted by our very vivid cognition. By bringing their ideas in line with their feelings and emotional needs, it seems your parents have found some peace. Which makes it no less ironic, unfortunately. But thank you for sharing that, I find that reading individual stories like yours helps me better to understand what is making our world like it is.

posted by LooseFilter at 3:51 PM on September 19, 2007

Podhoretz secretly urged Bush to bomb Iran; 2; 3
posted by acro at 8:24 PM on September 24, 2007

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