Wednesday, July 03, 2024

On Being Babylonian

If you’ve been paying attention to politics in Europe and south of the border, you’ll know that the so-called rules-based international order — the neo-liberal status quo in the West — is staggering around like a drunk looking for somewhere quiet to vomit. Tens of millions of voters across Europe, Canada and the US simply aren’t buying anything their leaders are telling them anymore.

Projecting power around the globe ain’t what it used to be, folks.

The Davos puppets setting policy for the current White House and its NATO allies know they have lost Ukraine, know the loss of Taiwan is just a matter of time, and haven’t the slightest idea what to do with the situation in Palestine. Tiny Yemen now poses a credible threat to the US Navy, while Russian nuclear subs cruise unmolested less than 300 miles from Miami. The eighty-year reign of the US dollar is coming to its end much faster than anticipated, and the economic fallout at home stands to be massive.

Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast

Until total government control of the internet can be established across the West, even the state mouthpieces in the US media can’t sell the current foreign affairs fantasy storyline to the public anymore. The plausibility gulf between what the public can see in real time on social media and the way CNN spins it is taking on the proportions of Colorado’s San Luis Valley. There’s an election bearing down on us like a runaway train, and the administration’s poll numbers are looking apocalyptic.

In short, it’s time for a narrative shift. Somebody has to get out there and lower John Q. Public’s expectations of the current administration to something within a few light years of reality without sparking a revolution, and Foreign Affairs magazine has just the writer for the job: former Obama speechwriter Ben Rhodes, a man with connections to both the White House and George Soros’ Open Society organizations. Rest assured his latest article “A Foreign Policy for the World as It Is: Biden and the Search for a New American Strategy” is telling you exactly what Uncle Joe’s gang in the Oval Office and their would-be Great Resetting friends want you to hear and believe.

The metamessage in a single sentence: “Okay, things are actually a lot worse than we’ve been telling you, but please vote Biden anyway — or whoever we have to replace him with before November.”

Bring on the Bafflegab

Sadly, elites write like elites … in bafflegab, which is how they have pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes for so long. I’m no expert in Greek or Hebrew, let alone bafflegab, but it seems to me a little vernacular is in order, and I can certainly provide that. Herewith the most interesting reframings of the narrative and necessary concessions to reality in Rhodes’ article alongside my plain English interpretation of his Left-speak.

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “The Biden administration’s mindset of restoration has occasionally struggled against the currents of our disordered times.”

TRANSLATION: “We have no idea what we’re doing.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “An updated conception of U.S. leadership — one tailored to a world that has moved on from American primacy and the eccentricities of American politics — is necessary to minimize enormous risks and pursue new opportunities.”

TRANSLATION: “We can’t afford to attack Russia or China directly. They might attack back.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “A Biden victory in this fall’s election would offer reassurance that the particular risk of another Trump presidency has passed, but that will not vanquish the forces of disorder.”

TRANSLATION: “Please elect Uncle Joe, but expect more of the same, and maybe worse. Also, this whole mess is Trump’s fault despite his having been nowhere near the Oval Office for three and a half years.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “Indeed, after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, American rhetoric about the rules-based international order has been seen around the world on a split screen of hypocrisy, as Washington has supplied the Israeli government with weapons used to bombard Palestinian civilians with impunity. The war has created a policy challenge for an administration that criticizes Russia for the same indiscriminate tactics that Israel has used in Gaza.”

TRANSLATION: “American rhetoric about the rules-based international order is rank hypocrisy, and it’s no fun being hoist by our own petard.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “Gaza should shock Washington out of the muscle memory that guides too many of its actions.”

TRANSLATION: “We’re throwing Israel under the bus, but not until after American Jews vote Democrat in November.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “But to properly outline the dangers of a second Trump term, it is necessary to take Trump’s arguments seriously, despite the unserious form they often take.”

TRANSLATION: “Voters love the fact that Trump didn’t get us into any new foreign wars.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “Although Trump’s tougher line with China demonstrated the United States’ leverage, it was episodic and uncoordinated with allies.”

TRANSLATION: “Trump’s tougher line with China worked superbly.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “If [Trump’s] first election represented a one-off disruption to the democratic world, his second would more definitively validate an international trend toward ethnonationalism and authoritarian populism.”

TRANSLATION: “As rich globalists, we find the prospect of a worldwide trend toward voting out globalists terribly scary, so we will madly project our own ambitions to authoritarian rule on the other guy in hope you find the prospect of not running the show as scary as we do.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “Despite tensions over U.S. industrial policy, the Biden administration has effectively reinvested in alliances that frayed under Trump.”

TRANSLATION: “Trump didn’t buy our baseless, unscientific global warm-mongering. Now we’re back on track to use the environment as the biggest excuse to impoverish you and take away your freedoms. Please don’t catch on, or we’ll have to weaponize another virus scare instead.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “Although the [Russo-Ukrainian] war has reached a tenuous stalemate, the effort to fortify transatlantic institutions continues to advance.”

TRANSLATION: “Everything we did backfired on us over there. We lost big-time, and significant numbers of our paper allies now realize we don’t care about them at all and want nothing more to do with us without iron-clad guarantees.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “On several issues that engender controversy in Congress, the administration has constrained or distorted its options by preemptively deferring to outdated hard-liners.”

TRANSLATION: “If you re-elect Biden, we’ll be even less likely to listen to the saner voices in our camp. Oh, and we’re DEFINITELY throwing Israel under the bus.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “The temptation to succumb to Washington’s outdated instincts has contributed to a second liability: the pursuit of maximalist objectives.”

TRANSLATION: “Expecting us to accomplish anything we promise is unrealistic.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “When [last year’s Ukrainian counteroffensive] inevitably came up short, it made the broader U.S. policy toward Ukraine look like a failure.”

TRANSLATION: “The broader US policy toward Ukraine failed catastrophically.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “Gaza also showcases the danger of maximalist aims. Israel’s stated objective of destroying Hamas has never been achievable.”

TRANSLATION: “From the River to the Sea!”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “[The US] should abandon the pursuit of primacy while embracing an agenda that can resonate with more of the world’s governments and people.”

TRANSLATION: “The US should hunker down and hope we don’t get nuked.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “None of this will be easy, and success is not preordained, since unreliable adversaries also have agency.”

TRANSLATION: “Everybody has a plan until he gets punched in the face. We have almost no control over our own fate but don’t worry, if you re-elect us we’ll keep finding our country new ways to self-sabotage.”

*   *   *   *   *

CONCESSION: “The United States should focus its support for democracy on the health of existing open societies and offering lifelines to besieged civil society groups around the world.”

TRANSLATION: “Please, SOMEBODY, vote for globalism, multi-culturalism, open borders, eating bugs and worldwide poverty! We’ve put BILLIONS into this! We can’t lose now!”

*   *   *   *   *

Five Woes

Not coincidentally, my morning reading just prior to coming across Rhodes’ article online was in Habakkuk 2, in which the prophet pronounces five woes on the conquering Chaldeans:

  • Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own — for how long? — and loads himself with pledges!
  • Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm!
  • Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity!
  • Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink — you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness!
  • Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach?

Relax. I’m not saying the US is the worst nation that ever existed or that its representatives have never done anything creditable or acted in good conscience throughout the years. That would be a major historical distortion. Moreover, I’m not saying Russia, China, India, Iran or North Korea are better places to live even now. Maybe here and there, but overall, not by a long shot. By and large, the US has conducted itself the way sovereign, fallen nations have always operated when they had an unearned advantage, though they’ve done it with a uniquely cloying sense of moral, financial, military and even faux-religious superiority.

Politics ain’t pretty, what can I say? But does anyone really feel comfortable these days calling ourselves the good guys? I have serious trouble with it.

How to be Babylonian

Let’s compare the current state of the US to Habakkuk’s woes, shall we?

  • Pile up levels of debt to fund your standard of living that can and will never be repaid?
  • Maximize your lifestyle and security through the labor of people too poor to fight back?
  • Build cities through organized crime and political corruption that have become euphemisms for self-indulgence, sex, runaway violence and drug abuse? [New York, Chicago, Hollywood, Las Vegas, Washington … with Seattle, Portland, Baltimore and now ... Vancouver(!) catching up.]
  • Use other nations as your military proxies and grind their people into dust pursuing your own political agenda?
  • Worship gods (globalism, abortion, climate change, feminism, human sexuality, tolerance, equality, diversity) that offer not even a scintilla of truth?

Current US foreign policy — and Canada’s by association — is nothing short of Babylonian, and it’s getting worse. If the judgment that fell on Babylon were to fall on the West, could we really say straight faced that it wasn’t richly deserved?

The better question: Will anyone cry, “Fallen, fallen!” over the mess left to our children?

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