Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Upcoming books to look out for

Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges (Oct. 26)

The liberal class plays a vital role in a democracy. It gives moral legitimacy to the state. It makes limited forms of dissent and incremental change possible. The liberal class posits itself as the conscience of the nation. It permits us, through its appeal to public virtues and the public good, to define ourselves as a good and noble people. Most importantly, on behalf of the power elite the liberal class serves as bulwarks against radical movements by offering a safety valve for popular frustrations and discontentment by discrediting those who talk of profound structural change. Once this class loses its social and political role then the delicate fabric of a democracy breaks down and the liberal class, along with the values it espouses, becomes an object of ridicule and hatred. The door that has been opened to proto-fascists has been opened by a bankrupt liberalism

The Death of the Liberal Class examines the failure of the liberal class to confront the rise of the corporate state and the consequences of a liberalism that has become profoundly bankrupted. Hedges argues there are five pillars of the liberal establishment – the press, liberal religious institutions, labor unions, universities and the Democratic Party— and that each of these institutions, more concerned with status and privilege than justice and progress, sold out the constituents they represented. In doing so, the liberal class has become irrelevant to society at large and ultimately the corporate power elite they once served.
Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Andrew Bacevich (Aug. 3)

From Publishers Weekly
U.S. Army colonel turned academic, Bacevich (The Limits of Power) offers an unsparing, cogent, and important critique of assumptions guiding American military policy. These central tenets, the "Washington rules"--such as the belief that the world order depends on America maintaining a massive military capable of rapid and forceful interventions anywhere in the world--have dominated national security policy since the start of the cold war and have condemned the U.S. to "insolvency and perpetual war." Despite such disasters as America's defeat in Vietnam and the Cuban missile crisis, the self-perpetuating policy is so entrenched that no president or influential critic has been able to alter it. Bacevich argues that while the Washington rules found their most pernicious expression in the Bush doctrine of preventive war, Barack Obama's expansion of the Afghan War is also cause for pessimism: "We should be grateful to him for making at least one thing unmistakably clear: to imagine that Washington will ever tolerate second thoughts about the Washington rules is to engage in willful self-deception. Washington itself has too much to lose."
Both Bacevich and Hedges have a history of writing thoughtful, introspective books about American culture; with Hedges having written both about the general culture and our militarism, while Bacevich focuses more specifically about American militarism.

Both offer the sort of intelligent, incisive criticism that is almost completely devoid from our media culture, drowned out in a cacophony of vapid irrelevance, stupidity, relativistic he said, she said "reporting," and plain demagoguery. Their works are the sort of books that while the subject material may be depressing or frustrating, their clear thinking and thought-provoking commentary still serves as a breath of fresh air, reminding one of how much is actually missing from what passes for debate and commentary in the mainstream press.

To get a hint of what I'm talking about, check out this excerpt of the previous Hedges book Empire of Illusion and this discussion between Bacevich and Bill Moyers about The Limits of Power.


Anonymous said...

"Bacevich argues that while the Washington rules found their most pernicious expression in the Bush doctrine of preventive war, Barack Obama's expansion of the Afghan War is also cause for pessimism:"

This quote, and some of the stuff Greenwald says, worries me a lot. While I agree with most of what they are saying, liberals are constantly undermining themselves by equating Obama with Bush. Yes, Obama is doing some pretty bad stuff. However, he is not as bad as Bush.

The effects of this same false equivalence that caused some liberals to vote for Nader in 2000, are being felt even today all around the world.

However entrenched Gore may have been in the Washington establishment, is there even a sliver of doubt that things would not have been better with him as President on 9/12? Does anyone think we would have been in Iraq if he was president?

Additionally, Obama has indeed retreated from Iraq. Leaving cold turkey from Afghanistan also was a political and military non-starter (I might not agree with it, but I cannot see how he could have done it). That being said, isn't it clear that at least we are taking steps towards exiting?

Does anyone expect us to have been exiting either of those countries under President McCain?

Its important to hold Obama's "feet to the fire", but its also important to recognize that currently the Democrats are indeed much better than the Republicans.

C2H50H said...

"Isn't clear that at least we are taking steps towards exiting?"

No. It's not clear at all, especially since the number of troops has been increased, without, apparently, any benefit, merely increased casualties on all sides.

As for "better than Bush" or McCain, for that matter -- praise like that should sting any person on the receiving end, and it's called "damning with faint praise" in the vernacular.

We didn't elect Obama to simply carry through his campaign promises. Nobody with the awareness of a moderately alert plant could possibly expect that of a modern politician, and Obama, whose primary promise was to change the way Washington does business (major FAIL on that one, BTW), can't be expected to fulfill all the promises made during the campaign.

Why a lot of us voted for Obama was because, compared to the opposition, we saw an intelligent, reasonably capable person, who acted on rational bases rather than trying to fit all situations into his ideological idee fixe or just doing what Darth Cheney said.

On that basis, and knowing what he knows now, and has known for some time, Obama needs to wind down this stupid war ASAP. If he doesn't, the only reason will be for a temporary electoral gain for himself at the expense of the safety and security of this country, not to mention all the dead and maimed soldiers.

And I, for one, will hold him accountable for that.