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RE: <nettime> Violent Agreement
Kermit Snelson on Mon, 8 Oct 2001 04:10:14 +0200 (CEST)

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RE: <nettime> Violent Agreement

In response to Ben Seymour's excellent post, I'd like to address the two
main issues he raises in two parts:  1) speculation on the relation of the
S11 atrocities to current globalization strategies; 2) thoughts as to how
the anti-globalization movement might respond.


> Bull's review  seems to suggest that, anyway, after S11, the
> game is up, and that we are entering, somehow, a postneoliberal
> condition of globalisation

Bull's review [1], in fact, says precisely the opposite:  "Tuesday, 11
September 2001 may prove to be the date at which Neoliberalism and
globalisation parted company."  I think there is considerable public
evidence that such an ideological shift was already under way within
policy-making circles well before the S11 attacks, and has in fact
occasioned a species of internecine warfare.

An example salvo may be found in the current issue (Fall 2001, Number 65) of
the American political journal "The National Interest", whose editorial
board is co-chaired by Conrad Black and Henry Kissinger.  In its lead
article, "The Next NATO", James Kurth states:

    "The issue of the next round of NATO enlargement and of concomitant
American military commitments may not produce a new Great Debate in
Washington, but it will represent a new chapter in an old and ongoing debate
over American foreign policy.  This is the perennial great debate that is
variously defined as being between interests and ideals, between realism and
idealism, or between conservatism and liberalism (now joined, perhaps, by
neo-conservatism as well.)"

This conflict did not break out under Clinton because his administration had
a consistently "liberal" vision of globalization, epitomized by Tony Blair's
speech last week. [2] The Bush Administration, however, contains an
ideological fault line described by Kurth as follows:

    "Globalization itself has been defined by American leaders as the spread
of free markets, open borders, liberal democracy and the rule of law--in
short, an essentially high-tech Wilsonian world in which the main elements
of democratic peace theory are assumed to be valid.  The Clinton
Administration was particularly consistent in promoting globalization and
each of these elements.  The Bush Administration has been less explicit
about doing so, but its business wing is pressing for free markets and open
borders, while its neo-conservative wing [which, as we have just seen, Kurth
considers liberal - KS] is pressing for liberal democracy and the rule of
law, at least as they interpret it."

In a truly right-Hegelian move, Kurth proposes to sublimate this
"conservative" thesis and "liberal" antithesis within the Bush
Administration by means of a synthesis which he calls the "American way of
globalization."   This synthesis is based on the "clash of civilizations"
model published by the eminent foreign policy "realist" Samuel P. Huntington
in 1993.  In this view, it is considered premature that globalization be, in
fact, global.  Instead, it should focus in the near term on American
military domination of what Kurth considers to be "Western civilization" and
the consequent creation of what he calls an "American Commonwealth of
Nations."  The first move toward such a domination should be the
incorporation into NATO of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and
Lithuania, which are "Roman Catholic or Protestant" countries that he
considers to have represented "the easternmost extension of Western
civilization" for "a period of more than seven centuries and in at least
four successive incarnations."  On the other hand, Kurth explicitly excludes
Russia from "Western civilization", along with the "Orthodox or Islamic"
Balkan states.  Following this logic, Kurth says that admitting Greece and
Turkey to NATO in 1952 was a mistake.  Kurth wraps up his horrifying
argument with an even more horrifying conclusion:

    "[I]t no longer suffices for America to be located only on the North
American continent and to be composed only of American citizens; that
definition of America is obsolete... The extension of an American military
commitment to the Baltic states, up to the very border of a sullen and
resentful Russia that is armed with a sense of historical entitlement and
5,500 nuclear weapons, will present the United States with a strategic and
diplomatic challenge of unprecedented complexity.  At the same time, the
integration of the Baltic states into the American commonwealth will
represent the culmination of an American calling, of a 225-year project of
spreading American values and re-creating Western civilization in the
American image until it has at last reached its easternmost frontier, at the
"East of the West".  To bring both the challenge and the calling into a
stable synthesis, to create a Baltic order distinguished by both peace and
justice, will require of the American statesmen of the 21st century a level
of sophistication and determination that would have amazed those of the

As if this weren't enough, Kurth's editors have appended to his article an
epigraph from ancient Rome:  Cicero's "Our people have now gained power over
the whole world by defending its allies."

Fortunately, civilization in the true sense of the word appears so far to be
in good hands.  In the wake of the S11 attacks, world leaders with only one
exception have repeatedly rejected this "clash of civilizations" blueprint
for world domination.  That exception, Italy's Berlusconi, has been hounded
along with Huntington himself [3] into cowardly denial and retreat.
Russia's Putin, in a speech [4] that was received with joy in the White
House, said before Germany's Bundestag on September 25 that "talking about
any 'war between civilizations' is inadmissible", proclaimed that "the Cold
War is done with!" and proudly affirmed Russia's identification with Western
culture.  And long before the S11 attacks, no less an established thought
leader than Britain's Lord Dahrendorf affirmed (in the article immediately
following Kurth's, oddly enough) the fundamental value of democracy and its
indissoluble link with peace and the sovereign nation-state.  These
arguments also appear in the Hart-Rudman report [5], the first Congressional
re-assessment of US security institutions since the Cold War-era creation of
the Defense Department by the National Security Act of 1947.  Not only does
it also affirm the link between democracy and the nation-state and question
the vision of "Globalism Triumphant", but it calls for what amounts to a
point-by-point rejection of the Huntingtonian theory of civil-military
relations (more on this below.)

If these developments continue, it seems that soon the only ones left
fighting for the replacement of the nation-state system with a perverted,
"de-territorialized" notion of US constitutional federalism will be Negri
himself, together with his increasingly disgraced fellow Spinozists over at
the editorial board of "The National Interest."


> This complicity may, as Kermit might concur, be inherent to
> political conflict per se. However, I think the implication
> that what liberal humanist fundamentalists call extremism and
> he calls fascism (following Foucault at his most sloppy 'naughty
> binaries!' poststructuralist) is the inevitable outcome of such
> imbrication is misleading and becomes an argument for inertia
> (or certainly has done).

I do not, in fact, believe that ideological complicity such as that between
Negri and the theorists of the "American way of globalization", or that
between Taliban East and Taliban West, is inherent to political conflict per
se.  My hypothesis is that when such complicity appears, there is a
possibility that the "conflict", such as it is, may have been contrived by
those with a professional or aesthetic interest in the conflict itself, not
the ends.  Professional wrestling in the USA may provide a conceptual
analogy ;), as might the American legal profession.  This is not conspiracy
theory, however.  In the sphere of statecraft, I believe that all great
conflicts of history have been genuine; despite their pretensions, those who
contrive conflicts have never risen above the sordid (yet surely deadly)
level of terrorists and provocateurs.

Nor do I concur that "extremism" and "fascism" are two words for the same
thing.  Unlike extremism, fascism is the systematic infection of political
theory with aesthetic or other values.  You will never find a fascism that
lacks an aesthetic manifesto (socialist realism, the Nazi campaign against
"degenerate art"), a demonology, and an appeal to religious or moral values.
It is no accident that Negri ends "Empire" with a paean to Saint Francis of
Assisi.  But genuine Marxism is, as Ben says in a truly brilliant paragraph
of the post to which I'm responding, "value-free and impersonal."  This is
true of all truly revolutionary guides to political struggle and, indeed,
all forms of progress.  Malcolm Bull, in his review of "Empire", also makes
the point very well:  "For Arendt, it was the other sort of revolution,
motivated by compassion rather than the desire for freedom, that led
inexorably to terror and totalitarianism.  She may not have been altogether
wrong.  All those do-gooders are more dangerous than they look."

And I hope by now it's clear that Malcolm Bull is hardly arguing for inertia
and apathy in the struggle against globalism.  On the contrary, I see his
review as a truly optimistic call for liberals and progressives to recognize
that things are finally looking up, and to get back to work!  For instance:

    "But the debate about social control prompted by the hijackings is one
that others on the Left should hurry to join. The issue here is not American
hypocrisy (Nagasaki, not Pearl Harbor, is the relevant comparison): let the
Swiss cast the first stone - London has statues of war criminals all over
the place. It is rather that, without yet realising it, the world's only
superpower wants to achieve something that presupposes greater economic and
social justice.  Current US policy may be unacceptable, but the long-term
project holds an unexpected promise."

On the other hand, it is precisely the "clash of civilizations" school that
has openly argued for pessimism, political non-participation and apathy, and
that has also gone on record as considering "value-free democracy", together
with America's inherent optimism and individualism, to be the country's
worst moral disgrace and national security risk.  Consider these samples
from the article "Was Democracy Just a Moment?" in the December 1997 issue
of one of the USA's most venerable magazines, "The Atlantic Monthly",
written by Huntington acolyte Robert Kaplan [6]:

    "The philosopher James Harrington observed that the very indifference of
most people allows for a calm and healthy political climate. Apathy, after
all, often means that the political situation is healthy enough to be
ignored. The last thing America needs is more voters -- particularly badly
educated and alienated ones -- with a passion for politics."

    "Of course, the computer in some ways enhances the power of the
individual, but it also depletes our individuality. A degree of space and
isolation is required for a healthy sense of self, which may be threatened
by the constant stream of other people's opinions on computer networks."

     "Precisely because the technological future in North America will
provide so much market and individual freedom, this productive anarchy will
require the supervision of tyrannies -- or else there will be no justice for
anyone. Liberty, after all, is inseparable from authority, as Henry
Kissinger observed in A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh, and the
Problems of Peace 1812-1822 (1957). A hybrid regime may await us all. The
future of the Third World may finally be our own."

These are not the harmless views of a crank.  Kaplan's forthcoming book,
with the unbelievable title "Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a
Pagan Ethos" will be issued by Random House next year with (according to
Amazon.com) enthusiastic endorsements from former US national security
advisers Henry Kissinger and Robert McFarlane.  It is against views like
these, more than anything else, that the world (along with most of its
current leadership, thank heavens) is currently struggling.  And it is about
time that liberals and progressives put aside Negri's incoherent musings on
Saint Augustine of Hippo's "City of God" and join in the real fight.


[1] http://www.lrb.co.uk/v23/n19/bull2319.htm
[2] Labour Party conference, Brighton 2001 http://www.labour.org.uk
[3] Interview with Huntington, Chicago Tribune, 1 October 2001
[4] http://www.russianembassy.org
[6] http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/97dec/democ.htm

Kermit Snelson

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