Monday, January 16, 2006
Follow up to this post by Bat. Today, Justin Raimondo has an excellent riposte to a recent World War IV fantasy by Niall Ferguson, the famous poetaster of Empire.
In particular, he notes the racist stereotyping involved:
In trying to prevent this war's outbreak, therefore, one may as well attempt to cap a volcano. So, too, the demography of the Arab world – which imparts to it, according to Ferguson, a potentially deadly and threateningly youthful "vitality," as opposed to the "senescent" West. The belligerence of those combative Middle Eastern folk – Israel, of course, excepted – is due to a primitive animal vitality, rather like that of the savages depicted in Kipling's panegyrics to the British imperium, on whose behalf "the white man's burden" must be taken up.
Even the "Islamist" angle is depicted as if it were a force of nature, some inherent energy that emanates out of the very soil of the Middle East and insinuates itself into the minds of the people, like a poisonous mist. Absent from this analysis is any concept of cause and effect, of Islamic radicalism as a reaction to Western colonialism and interventionism. Certainly the British, in Ferguson's view, are completely blameless, although they ruled the region (excepting Syria) since the fall of the Ottomans up until their own inevitable decline into post-imperial "senescence."
However, suffice to say that Ferguson's counterfactual is a putative future war between Iran and the settler-colonial state. As the imperial historian explains, looking back on the present:
Prior to 2007, the Islamists had seen no alternative but to wage war against their enemies by means of terrorism. From the Gaza to Manhattan, the hero of 2001 was the suicide bomber. Yet Ahmadinejad, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, craved a more serious weapon than strapped-on explosives. His decision to accelerate Iran's nuclear weapons programme was intended to give Iran the kind of power North Korea already wielded in East Asia: the power to defy the United States; the power to obliterate America's closest regional ally.
You see the point. Israel is threatened with incineration. The Americans, weak of will and flabby of paunch following the refusal to demonstrate sufficient steely resolve in Iraq, aren't anxious to have another war. Because the West - so, heh heh heh, enfeebled by its 'democracy' - chooses to allow Iranians to overthrow their malevolent regime, Iran is left alone, with its own nuclear devices, and with manic, Hitlerite glee, prepares the destruction of Israel. It points a nuke toward Tel Aviv. Israel already has its nukes pointing at Tehran. "As in the 1930s", an "anti-Semitic demagogue" breaks with its treaty obligations: the West tries appeasement, then economic coercion. The first flash, a ripple of destruction, and then a mushroom cloud. A colossal suicide bomb, as it invites destruction in equal measure. The Evil Ones thrive on the prospect of annihiliation, and Israel gives it to them. Meanwhile, Iran's Shiites overrun American bases, and the Chinese make noises about siding with the theocracy. The war lasts until 2011. The West is broken, and the Oil Age is over. The fundamentalist ascendancy teems over in the brown countries.
The punchline: "Yet the historian is bound to ask whether or not the true significance of the 2007-2011 war was to vindicate the Bush administration's original principle of pre-emption. For, if that principle had been adhered to in 2006, Iran's nuclear bid might have been thwarted at minimal cost."
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the counterfactual: if we don't smack those dirty brown people about, they will get some of our nuclear material and use it, and undermine our civilisation. It's lovely, of course, the cheap turn there: "the historian is bound to ask". For this mimics exactly Ferguson's strategy for normalising and rendering acceptable British crimes during its Empire. If Britain had not subjugated the savages, they would have continued to live in shitpiles and kill one another. They would never have known the Holy Profit or the sanctity of Supply and Demand. Without slavery, they might never have seen the fruits of the Protestant work ethic. The Enlightenment ideals of the Empire enjoined it to the betterment of man, even if it was itself a racist, hierarchical and violently coercive affair. By such means do intellectuals infused with colonial virtue render the slow death march of empire tolerable. Ferguson is a man for whom F Scott Fitzgerald might have written: "See that little stream, we could walk to it in two minutes. It took the British a whole month to walk to it, a whole empire walking very slowly, dying in front and pushing forward behind. And another empire walked very slowly backward a few inches a day, leaving the dead like a million bloody rugs." (From Tender is the Night).
And as Curtis White notes, this is all part of the Speilbergian ethical order: "[A]lways choose death, for if you do not, death will come anyway, later, multiplied." (See passim).