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How China Views the Ukraine Conflict

1:31 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Port, Odessa, Ukraine

Thought better of adding the following analysis under this USA Today piece, just another in the mountain of ‘The Russians are invading!” entries in the Western propaganda sweepstakes:

Yawn … for months there has been large-scale and official U.S. and NATO assistance to Ukraine’s military and large-scale unofficial Russian assistance to the other side. The real story behind the “RUSSIA IS INVADING!!!” distraction is that Novorossiya is now winning the civil war, probably because its people are very angry about Ukraine’s bombing of eastern Ukraine civilians. That’s the real story and it’s a big one you aren’t covering. Finally, and by the way, Novorossiya is as legitimate a government if not more so than Ukraine, which was elected during a civil war with voting by only one side in that war.

There are few independent perspectives on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and even Wikipedia is thoroughly POV as we say there, but maybe China is a reasonable place to look for a degree of neutrality and viewpoint independence. Here’s China’s latest and more or less official view of the cold and hot war over Ukraine:

Ukraine at risk of being West’s pawn
August 31, 2014

… Russia may have the strongest determination to refuse compromise. The EU may be the least determined to confront Russia. The US suffers the least in the Ukraine crisis. If it is not entangled in other troubles, the US will be more than active in challenging Russia.

The conflicting parties are expecting China to take a clear stance in this crisis. However, China has no deciding role in this conflict. …

The EU, Ukraine and Russia are becoming tired of the conflicts. But Washington is not worried much, as the drawn-out crisis will only exhaust the parties on the east and west sides of Ukraine.

No matter how much Ukraine resents Russia, they are still neighbors. Ukraine has to be cautious not to become a chess piece for the West to edge out Russian influence. Also, Russia should avoid making Ukraine its permanent enemy.

That’s very diplomatically put, because from the direct evidence it’s obvious Ukraine has been a puppet since U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland installed her favorite, Yats, as prime minister back in February. The following, rarely if ever heard in the West (except from Stephen Cohen (link under attack or otherwise not working)) is also solid common-sense analysis of the conflict by official China. See what being independent from the two conflicting sides does for power of analysis:

The disagreement between Russia and Ukraine over the settlement of the crisis lies in their competition [for] power in the region …

For Ukraine, the largely Russian-speaking region is where the country’s economic foundation lies. Rich in deposits of coal and iron ore, the eastern part of Ukraine holds almost the entire industry of Ukraine, making the cession of this region unacceptable for Kiev.

Kiev now urgently wants the rebels to hand back the territory they have captured in eastern Ukraine and demands a halt to what it says “arms shipments” from Russia to the fighters, a charge that the Kremlin denies.

Meanwhile Russia also wants to retain some sort of leverage over the region so Ukraine does not join NATO or the European Union. Moscow has frequently called upon Ukraine to become a loose federation with greater regional autonomy, an idea that Kiev repeatedly rejected.

The issue as whether or not to federalize Ukraine has become the key disagreement between Kiev and Moscow over the Ukraine crisis. But such conflicts that involve fundamental interests of both countries could hardly get concessions from either side.

Relying essentially on the understanding in the above two blockquotes, I have long thought that this conflict can be worked out in theory, with Russia and most people in eastern Ukraine getting nearly all of what they want and Ukraine getting nearly all of what it desperately needs economically. But the conflict is not just about Russia, Novorossiya and Ukraine. There are other players, unfortunately: the IMF, the U.S. and subordinate military-security complexes, and the ‘armies’ of the neoliberal globalization crusade. Let’s hope they butt out at some point and Ukraine can go back to being a neutral buffer between Russia and the EU/NATO. That certainly is the most economically rational path for Ukraine and the EU to follow … Read the rest of this entry →

U.S. Supplies the Munitions, Israel the Carnage: 1,371 Palestinians, 59 Israelis Die in Gaza Conflict

4:27 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Carnage at U.N. school as Israel pounds Gaza Strip

Israeli shelling killed at least 15 Palestinians sheltering in a U.N.-run school and another 17 near a street market on Wednesday, Gaza’s Health Ministry said, with no ceasefire in sight after more than three weeks of fighting.

Israel’s security cabinet decided to continue its offensive in the enclave and there was no sign of a halt to a 23-day conflict in which 1,346 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died. On the Israeli side, 56 soldiers and three civilians have been killed. …

That Reuters figure for Palestinian casualties has since been updated at Aljazeera to 1,361, with 6,780 injured. Among the dead are 315 children. I’ve added the ten Palestinians killed in the West Bank Gaza-solidarity protests.

The latest post at the Aljazeera live blog will leave you speechless:

BREAKING UPDATE: Al Jazeera’s @PattyCulhane reports the #Pentagon confirms delivery of two types of munitions to #Israel in the last week: 120mm mortar rounds and 40mm grenades, while calling for a ceasefire in #Gaza

A must read corrective to Israeli and U.S. mainstream propaganda is From Gaza: I Would Rather Die in Dignity Than Agree to Living in an Open-Air Prison (July 28). Mohammed Suliman, Palestinian human rights worker in Gaza, opens by contrasting a bustling, lively but impoverished Gaza to what it’s like now, and closes with an eloquent explanation of ‘why we fight’:

… A ceasefire might be negotiated and agreed upon. Hamas might soon stop firing rockets, but then will Israel cease to exercise its violence against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank on a daily basis? The reality is that if Palestinians stop resisting, Israel won’t stop occupying, as its leaders repeatedly affirm. The besieged Jews of the Warsaw ghetto had a motto ‘to live and die in dignity.’ As I sit in my own besieged ghetto, I think how Palestinians have honored this universal value. We live in dignity and we die in dignity, refusing to accept subjugation.

We’re tired of war. I, for one, have had enough of bloodshed, death and destruction. But I also can no longer tolerate the return to a deeply unjust status quo. I can no longer agree to live in this open-air prison. We can no longer tolerate to be treated as sub-humans, deprived of our most basic human rights. We are trapped here, trapped between two deaths: death by Israeli bombs and missiles, and death by Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

We want to be able to get in and out of Gaza freely, whenever we choose. Why should our students not be granted their right to study at universities of their own choice? Why should our patients be left for their own death as Israel deprives them of receiving medical treatment in hospitals outside of Gaza? Our fishermen want to fish in our sea waters without the prospect of being shot at and killed. We deserve the right to access clean water, electricity and our most basic needs. And yet we can’t because Israel occupies. It occupies not only our land but our bodies and our destinies. No people can tolerate this injustice. We, too, are humans.

I apologize, by the way, for not updating sooner (huge computer problems). Below is something from yesterday (another reminder of the huge “don’t you wish U.S. artists had cojones” file (Selena Gomez is an honorable exception), a statement by a hundred Spanish artists — the media has focused on Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz — protesting the carnage and genocide (warning: translated by me and Google Translate):

Read the rest of this entry →

Crimea: So, no evidence of a Russian invasion means ‘no invasion’?

2:18 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

(Note: I continue to examine the Ukraine/Crimea issue for two reasons: (1) we’re at the founding of a new cold war with all the bloated military expenditures that implies, and (2) this is the media’s worst big lie deviance from reality since the WMD b.s. of 2002-2003.)

Caricature of Putin in a santa hat, holding a sack of gifts labelled US Defense Budget After Crimea

US propaganda is spinning Crimea into a boost for the military-industrial complex.

If you’re an avid observer of Western imperial propaganda and in that context a ‘news’ consumer still waiting for solid evidence that Russia “invaded” Crimea a couple weeks ago, then, as Nora at MoA (original source here) says, this from the mipmam (mass imperial propaganda masquerading as media) is just priceless:

U.S. military satellites spied Russian troops amassing within striking distance of Crimea last month. But intelligence analysts were surprised because they hadn’t intercepted any telltale communications where Russian leaders, military commanders or soldiers discussed plans to invade.

… U.S. officials haven’t determined how Russia hid its military plans from U.S. eavesdropping equipment that picks up digital and electronic communications.

… Images showed what U.S. officials described as typical military movements at Russian bases in Crimea.

Looking back, some U.S. officials now suspect Russia might have been trickling more highly trained units into Crimea in small numbers. But U.S. intelligence analysts didn’t pick up any such indications before the takeover, officials briefed on the intelligence-gathering effort say.

So, okay, the most sophisticated spying technology in the world found ABSOLUTELY ZERO evidence that Russia was planning or carrying out an invasion of Crimea. On the now tiny island we call reality-based land this might indicate THERE WAS NO INVASION (STUPID!).

But NO, honoring the evidence would’ve meant abandoning the Big-Lie-Putin-bashing “Russia INVADES Crimea” meme you’ve seen plastered everywhere. So the propaganda show must go on and veer from reality. And it successfully did so.

Those defending the meme also ask, “What about those scary ‘Russian-speaking’ (90% of Crimeans speak Russian as their first language) military dudes in Crimea with no insignia on their uniforms?” Well, if you were a Crimea-posted former member of the Ukraine armed forces who’d decided on loyalty to the new state of Crimea, you would have a nice uniform but wouldn’t have any insignia to wear, right? (Note that Ukraine posts its soldiers in their home regions whenever possible, so most of its military folks in Crimea were Crimean.) So the facts as we know them perfectly match the following possibility, that Crimean self-defense forces were the ‘mysterious’ armed men who occupied key facilities in Crimea just after it declared independence:

The Crimean popular army made up of locals and former Ukrainian armed forces braces for possible impact with right-wing radicals making their way toward the region. … They team up with members of the disbanded Berkut security forces and other units loyal to the Crimean government. Just the past week has seen officers resigning en masse to join up with this people’s army.

And finally, considering that it already had nearly 20,000 troops legally in Crimea under a longstanding agreement with Ukraine, what possible motivation would Russia have for “invading” Crimea? Mass defections from the Crimea-based Ukraine military, 20,000 Russian (mostly naval) servicemen ready to go, Crimean police completely on the side of the new Crimean government … there was no reason on earth to “invade.”

In sum, the entire “invasion” scenario was invented from absolutely nothing to serve as a Russia-bashing and Putin-demonizing BIG LIE. And now this complete poppycock has become ‘truth’ in the West, and the reality-based have to hold their tongues and go along or be ridiculed.

Finally, and unfortunately, this B.S. is important, because on an immediate level it is being used by the U.S. and President Obama to push European countries already in deep austerity to boost military spending, on the ridiculous premise that Russia has suddenly become a crazed demonic entity intent on world empire. And eventually, casting Russia in the enemy role has the potential to generate budget-busting U.S. defense expenditures, especially when the neocon Republicans inevitably return to power. You know, that military-industrial complex problem we have.

Several days ago I proposed a more reasonable way of seeing through the mipmam’s Crimea hysteria. This is the most reality-based way to look at what actually occurred:

Read the rest of this entry →

Israel, Oil, & Military-Industrial Complex Drive Syria Regime Change

11:31 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Anyone with any sense of who and what drives U.S. foreign policy has been blackly pessimistic as the Congressional ‘bomb Syria’ vote approaches. But the charade of a debate goes forward in our campaign-contributions-driven Congress, Secretary of State Kerry giving them assertions not evidence (If the evidence underlying the assertions were real don’t you think Kerry would’ve shown it to us immediately?), but ‘our’ representatives magically in a buying mood for that b.s. I could pause and point out that even the assertions indicate a catastrophic accident occurred, where Syrian conventional bombardment hit rebel sarin gas stores, and that this matches what on-the-ground Ghouta residents say happened (in the year’s most important ignored news story — thanks mintnews.com).

But hell, discussing evidence and assertions … what does it matter when three of America’s main determiners of foreign policy all are bent on destroying Syria? By my count the U.S. has four main foreign policy power constellations: (in no particular order) the Israel lobby, the oil and gas lobby, the military-industrial complex, and the finance industry. Finance is sitting this one out but the other three are gung ho for regime change or Syria destroyed (transformed into squabbling, unstable mini-states).

ISRAEL LOBBY: While I agree with Ohio Barbarian (in The Pro-Israel Argument Against American Military Intervention in Syria) that chaos or regime change in Syria doesn’t help the people of Israel, it is nonetheless what Israeli neocons have long wanted. And they are employing the full force of their Israel Lobby in order to get what they want

This goes back at least to 1996 and “A Clean Break,” the neoconservative game plan that they’ve with great success gotten the U.S. to implement. Syria is mentioned with great deja vu:

“Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which Americans can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including … by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces…”

Back to the present, we of course have plenty to choose from, beginning with this news yesterday on the pinnacle of the Israel Lobby, AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee):

AIPAC comes out for strike on Syria– and mentions Iran more often than Syria:

As NJ Senator Robert Menendez said at the Kerry hearing today in the Senate, Syria is about Iran. And it is for AIPAC too. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee broke its silence today, urging a vote for the Syrian strike.

… why does Obama need AIPAC? Could it be because AIPAC can get 70 Senators’ signatures on a napkin in 24 hours?

But, as I said, there’s much to choose from. Read the following from July, 2006, when Israel was slaughtering Lebanese villagers and razing ‘Shia’ apartment blocks:

Seeing a major opportunity to regain influence lost as a result of setbacks in Iraq, prominent neoconservatives are calling for unconditional U.S. support for Israel’s military offensives in Gaza and Lebanon and “regime change” in Syria and Iran, as well as possible U.S. attacks on Tehran’s nuclear facilities in retaliation for its support of Hezbollah.

And just cuz I like the word ‘stoopid’ in a headline: Syria is About Iran & Israel, Stoopid

OIL & GAS LOBBY: The stakes are high and this lobby surely will do its best to get the U.S. to bomb and kill Syrians for its interests.

Iran, Iraq, Syria sign major gas pipeline deal

July 25, 2011: “Iran, Iraq, and Syria have signed a deal for the construction of the Middle East’s largest gas pipeline, which would transit Iranian gas from Iran’s South Pars gas field to Europe via Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea.”

War against Iran, Iraq AND Syria?

On July 23, 2011, Pepe Escobar writes: “Against the interests of Washington, for whom integrating Iran is anathema, the pipeline bypasses two crucial foreign actors in Syria – prime “rebel” weaponizer Qatar (as a gas producer) and logistical “rebel” supporter Turkey (as the self-described privileged energy crossroads between East and West).” …

“Europeans – who endlessly carp about being hostages of Gazprom – should be rejoicing. But instead,” …

“It’s not far-fetched to imagine the EU totally forgetting about a pipeline that will ultimately benefit its citizens and issuing – under US pressure – a directive branding Iran-Iraq-Syria as a terrorist axis; lobbying for a no-fly zone applying to all; and recruiting jihadis all over for a Holy War against the axis, supported by a fatwa issued by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.”

Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern

This is a recent article in the Guardian by Nafeez Ahmed, subtitled “Massacres of civilians are being exploited for narrow geopolitical competition to control Mideast oil, gas pipelines.” It also provides the story going back more than a decade of neocon plans to undermine Syria in order to get at Israel nemesis Hezbollah. Ahmed is executive director of the UK’s Institute for Policy Research & Development.

MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: Hell, I don’t have much that is immediate on these folks other than Rep Alan Grayson: “Nobody Wants This Except the Military-Industrial Complex”. And note that the Israel Lobby’s neoconservative “search for enemies” serves the Pentagon’s most pressing need, and neoconservatives have close ties to the Pentagon.

In an essentially all-capitalist world, one that is (unfortunately) increasingly united on the policies of generating profits for millionaires and squeezing the poor, the best policy for every economic sector except for oil and gas and arms is peace. So the real ‘need’ for massively bloated military power is minimal, and the last couple decades’ conflict of the ages — the Islam fanatics thing — has been mostly hype and false flag b.s. brought to us by the U.S., Saudi Arabia (Al Qaeda’s homies), and Israel (which has its own military-industrial complex that needs to NOT solve the Israel-Palestine conflict).

A little more Grayson: “I did notice, for what it’s worth, that the manufacturer of the missiles that would be used has had an incredible run in their stock value in the last 60 days. Raytheon stock is up 20 percent in the past 60 days as the likelihood of the use of their missiles against Syria becomes more likely. So I understand that there is a certain element of our society that does benefit from this, but they’re not the people who vote for me, or by the way the people who contribute to my campaign. Nobody wants this except the military-industrial complex.”

Thanks Mr. Grayson for at least mentioning one of the three elephants in the room.

‘Chairman Steele, Afghanistan truth is taboo!’

7:42 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

For a brief and shining moment, well more or less just July 1 & 2, a major mainstream political leader told the truth everyone knows about Afghanistan: it’s unwinnable. And he even held his ground for, like, a day. As a consequence, Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele was attacked without mercy by both parties and all of official Washington. That’s even though we all know Steele is right, and we all know our first priority, saving Afghan lives, and second priority, saving foreign soldier lives, mean we need to get international military forces quickly removed from Afghanistan. Here’s Steele, taboo busting:

This was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in. . . .

It was the president who was trying to be cute by half by flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan. Well, if he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan.

Wow, refreshing, a normal person might at first react. Admittedly, you could question the beginning of the statement, since we all know Bush started the Afghan war; but it is also true that after deposing the Taliban Bush kept the war on low or simmer for the rest of his time in office. And Obama has turned the heat way up, doubling the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan (and unleashing McChrystal’s assassination squads there, btw). In that reasonable benefit-of-the-doubt context, Steele’s first two sentences above are accurate. But oh, what a second paragraph: right on Mr. Steele, and take that, warmongers!

As you’d expect, military-industrial complex and warmonger Republicans are on the anti-Steele warpath. And the other war party, the Democrats, are also attacking Steele, nearly accusing him of treason (yup, that sounds Bush-era familiar). As if we haven’t known it for awhile, the party and President swooped into office by peacenik votes is also the other ‘support the war or it’ll make the troops feel bad’ party:

Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse ripped Steele for calling the war in Afghanistan unwinnable.

"The American people will be interested to hear that the leader of the Republican Party . . . is betting against our troops and rooting for failure in Afghanistan," Woodhouse said.

"It’s simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement. Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and that his words have consequences."

Chuck Hagel, Vietnam vet and former U.S. Senator from Nebraska, had a response for this kind of extreme rhetoric back in 2005, standing up to a Bush administration that attacked the patriotism of those who questioned or opposed the Iraq war:

Hagel [said] in a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations that the Vietnam War "was a national tragedy partly because members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the administrations in power until it was too late."

"To question your government is not unpatriotic — to not question your government is unpatriotic," Hagel said, arguing that 58,000 troops died in Vietnam because of silence by political leaders. "America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices."

But, yeah, of course, a day after those quotes were revealed Steele got his warhawk garb back on, and he’s now back dutifully talking soldier-and-civilian-killing nonsense about Afghanistan. Official Washington has calmed, though Steele may still be punished for breaking an official taboo (reminds me of the one about German imperialism broken recently by its now former President, Horst Köhler), but hey, he’s back on board, and what a relief for imperial war and pointless death:

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama made clear his belief that we should not fight in Iraq, but instead concentrate on Afghanistan. Now, as President, he has indeed shifted his focus to this region. That means this is his strategy. And, for the sake of the security of the free world, our country must give our troops the support necessary to win this war.

As we have learned throughout history, winning a war in Afghanistan is a difficult task. We must also remember that after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it is also a necessary one. That is why I supported the decision to increase our troop force and, like the entire United States Senate, I support General Petraeus’ confirmation. The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan.

Truth about Afghanistan still strictly verboten in the two party duopoly. And I expect official Washington will be very unforgiving to Mr. Steele the taboo breaker. On the other hand, Obama’s doubling the intensity of the war in Afghanistan and the resulting increased slaughter? NOT a problem for the powers that be. Slaughter in Afghanistan, by the way, looks a little bit like this:

Photobucket

P.S. – This is a helluva good site; in particular its news and howling on the latest war supplemental (etc.) is irreplaceable. So, support Firedoglake if you can. And you probly can.

Inverted totalitarianism: what we’re up against

10:44 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

How to persuade the reader that the actual direction of contemporary politics is toward a political system the very opposite of what the political leadership, the mass media, and think tank oracles claim that it is, the world’s foremost exemplar of democracy?

S.S. Wolin

I said: That [corporations are people] ruling was a nightmare in theory, but even if the SCt had ruled the other way, we’d just get more of what we have now, which is a completely corporation-dominated politics.

Donkeytale responded: That ruling was more than a nightmare in theory. It has huge practical implications. Watch and see.

And I elaborated: . . . corporations already more or less rule this country. The only thing they and theirs’re afraid of at this point is riots and shit like that, so they will occasionally throw the rabble a bone. This is the way it’s been for awhile; we’ve long been post-democracy in the U.S., the death knell was two or three decades ago.

BTW, I’m not saying we had anything more than a ragged, corrupt, semi-democracy from the 1930s to the 1970s, but it seems to me simply a fact that union members had more sway over the political system back then, and for awhile almost 50% of [working] U.S. adults were in unions. But it’s a minor point . . . At this point popular control through the normal electoral channels is close enough to nothing to be meaningless. That’s what matters and will matter going forward, and that all happened before the SCT’s big decision.

Only later did I stumble on Monday’s Chris Hedges essay, Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction, which is an extended rant/riff on Sheldon Wolin’s Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Hedges’ essay is a fiery, intellectually intense deja vu of that little exchange with donk. He begins:

Corporate forces, long before the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, carried out a coup d’état in slow motion. The coup is over. We lost. The ruling is one more judicial effort to streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power. But it does not significantly alter the political landscape. The corporate state is firmly cemented in place.

The fiction of democracy remains useful, not only for corporations, but for our bankrupt liberal class. If the fiction is seriously challenged, liberals will be forced to consider actual resistance, which will be neither pleasant nor easy. As long as a democratic facade exists, liberals can engage in an empty moral posturing that requires little sacrifice or commitment. They can be the self-appointed scolds of the Democratic Party, acting as if they are part of the debate and feel vindicated by their cries of protest.

Here’s another great paragraph by Hedges derived from Wolin:

Hollywood, the news industry and television, all corporate controlled, have become instruments of inverted totalitarianism. They censor or ridicule those who critique or challenge corporate structures and assumptions. They saturate the airwaves with manufactured controversy, whether it is Tiger Woods or the dispute between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien. They manipulate images to make us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge, which is how Barack Obama became president. And the draconian internal control employed by the Department of Homeland Security, the military and the police over any form of popular dissent, coupled with the corporate media’s censorship, does for inverted totalitarianism what thugs and bonfires of books do in classical totalitarian regimes.

Read it, it’s a fantabulous consciousness raising rant! I’m going out and getting the Wolin book, myself. Chalmers Johnson wrote an enlightening and enthusiastic essay of Wolin’s book back in May, 2008. (A minor point, btw, is that Wolin’s sense of the ‘real democracy-ness’ of the New Deal days matches my own) (emphasis added):

. . . Wolin introduces three new concepts to help analyze what we have lost as a nation. His master idea is "inverted totalitarianism," which is reinforced by two subordinate notions that accompany and promote it — "managed democracy" and "Superpower," the latter always capitalized and used without a direct article. . . .

Wolin writes, "Our thesis is this: it is possible for a form of totalitarianism, different from the classical one, to evolve from a putatively ‘strong democracy’ instead of a ‘failed’ one." His understanding of democracy is classical but also populist, anti-elitist and only slightly represented in the Constitution of the United States. "Democracy," he writes, "is about the conditions that make it possible for ordinary people to better their lives by becoming political beings and by making power responsive to their hopes and needs." It depends on the existence of a demos — "a politically engaged and empowered citizenry, one that voted, deliberated, and occupied all branches of public office." Wolin argues that to the extent the United States on occasion came close to genuine democracy, it was because its citizens struggled against and momentarily defeated the elitism that was written into the Constitution.

"No working man or ordinary farmer or shopkeeper," Wolin points out, "helped to write the Constitution." He argues, "The American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy. It was constructed by those who were either skeptical about democracy or hostile to it. Democratic advance proved to be slow, uphill, forever incomplete. . . ." Wolin can easily control his enthusiasm for James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, and he sees the New Deal as perhaps the only period of American history in which rule by a true demos prevailed. . . .

On inverted totalitarianism’s "self-pacifying" university campuses compared with the usual intellectual turmoil surrounding independent centers of learning, Wolin writes, "Through a combination of governmental contracts, corporate and foundation funds, joint projects involving university and corporate researchers, and wealthy individual donors, universities (especially so-called research universities), intellectuals, scholars, and researchers have been seamlessly integrated into the system. No books burned, no refugee Einsteins. . . ."

The main social sectors promoting and reinforcing this modern Shangri-La are corporate power, which is in charge of managed democracy, and the military-industrial complex, which is in charge of Superpower. The main objectives of managed democracy are to increase the profits of large corporations, dismantle the institutions of social democracy (Social Security, unions, welfare, public health services, public housing and so forth), and roll back the social and political ideals of the New Deal. Its primary tool is privatization. Managed democracy aims at the "selective abdication of governmental responsibility for the well-being of the citizenry" under cover of improving "efficiency" and cost-cutting.

Johnson describes Wolin’s surprisingly optimistic conclusions and his own, far less so:

Toward the end of his study he produces a wish list of things that should be done to ward off the disaster of inverted totalitarianism: "rolling back the empire, rolling back the practices of managed democracy; returning to the idea and practices of international cooperation rather than the dogmas of globalization and preemptive strikes; restoring and strengthening environmental protections; reinvigorating populist politics [yada yada] and rolling back the distortions of a tax code that toadies to the wealthy and corporate power."

Unfortunately, this is more a guide to what has gone wrong than a statement of how to fix it, particularly since Wolin believes that our political system is "shot through with corruption and awash in contributions primarily from wealthy and corporate donors." It is extremely unlikely that our party apparatus will work to bring the military-industrial complex and the 16 secret intelligence agencies under democratic control. Nonetheless, once the United States has followed the classical totalitarianisms into the dustbin of history, Wolin’s analysis will stand as one of the best discourses on where we went wrong.

Consider reading both essays and maybe buying the book. I think Wolin’s perspective (along with his new vocabulary) may be the first satisfyingly complete grok of the deep, systemic ‘democracy problem’ we’ve all seen most clearly since 2000 in the U.S.