Scintillating article with an unfortunate headline from Pankaj Mishra in the Guardian, “A generation of failed politicians has trapped the west in a tawdry nightmare”. Unfortunate because the important point is less the failure of the contemporary crop of politicians as it is the always already failure of force. There is only ever one reason for force which is nothing about “succeeding”; it’s about making the forcer feel superior – ie, safe – for a fleeting second. What the forcer overlooks is the cost of his moment of illusion. He may think he’s ready to pay it, and that’s more delusion.
There are few who are willing or able to write like Mishra today: to say what is so without cowardice, drama or self-aggrandisement. This is what he says of the West’s record of wars in the last 14 years.
“It is possible to feel slight relief that at least the current chief operator of America’s war machine was originally formed, intellectually and emotionally, by an experience of the world common to most of humanity: one of powerlessness and marginality. As his approval ratings sank last month, Barack Obama exasperatedly insisted that American leadership
is not just a matter of us bombing somebody.
He is worldly enough to realise that, as his hero James Baldwin wrote during the futile American bombing of Indochina: ‘Force does not work the way its advocates seem to think it does.’ Instead of impressing its victim, it reveals to him
the weakness, even the panic of his adversary and this revelation invests the victim with patience.
Thus al-Qaida assumed its most vicious form where it had never existed, and then morphed into Daesh and me-too franchises in numerous countries. The auto-intoxicated teenage murderer now confounds the leaden cold war holdovers stalking ‘extremist ideology’. ‘It is ultimately fatal,’ Baldwin warned, ‘to create too many victims.’ For then, ‘however long the battle may go on’ the wielder of superior firepower
can never be the victor; on the contrary, all his energies, his life, are bound up in a terror he cannot articulate, a mystery he cannot read, a battle he cannot win.
This is the treacherous impasse to which 14 years of escalating wars and bombing campaigns have brought us. The refusal to learn from their failures should have broadly suggested that ‘the establishment’, as a secret Pentagon memo in 1967 to President Lyndon Johnson suggested, ‘is out of its mind’. But such brutal self-assessments belong to another time of shame, guilt and responsibility, when tainted public figures tended to slink, or be pushed, into obscurity.
The modern west has been admirably different from other civilisations in its ability to counterbalance the arrogance of power with recognition of its excesses. Now, however, it is not only the bankers who radically expand our notion of impunity. Their chums in politics and the media coax, with criminal irresponsibility, the public into deeper fear and insecurity – and into blaming their overall plight on various enemies (immigrants, budding terrorists in Calais’s jungle, an un-American alien in the White House, Muslims and darkies in general).
Unsurprisingly, we witness, as [Tony] Judt pointed out,
no external inputs, no new kinds of people, only the political class breeding itself.”
Read the full article here: A generation of failed politicians has trapped the west in a tawdry nightmare by Pankaj Mishra