UNCLE CHUTZPAH GETS BACK INTO THE RING
Now that the humanitarian warrior Bill Clinton has been replaced by a compassionate conservative extremely close to the oil industry, military-industrial-complex, and Christian Right/"pro- life" (fetal, that is, not post-fetal) forces, what may we expect in foreign policy? Funny thing is that Clinton, though a tremendous blow-hard, did a lot of killing with only a moderate amount of windbaggery (Herman, "Clinton Is the World's Leading Active War Criminal," Z, Dec. 1999). The compassionate conservative and his National Security team are talking more pugnaciously, but haven't done much death dealing yet, and I don't expect them to surpass Clinton on this front, although this is little more than a guess, and they haven't had much time to act. An elemental theory of their pugnacity is that it is based on their need to justify an enlarged military budget, close to their interests, big donor links, and rightwing ideology (the MIC is not part of "government," which needs shrinking, it protects our "national security," always under dire threat). North Korea and the rest have to be troublesome and threats have to be manufactured to meet the demand for plausible rogues and super-rogues (China, Russia); otherwise, justifying the growing military budget could be difficult.
So Uncle Chutzpah is getting back into the ring for eminently practical reasons, although admittedly some of the compassionate conservative's advisers are a bit nuts. Paradoxically, though, because some of them are nuts and obviously ready to kill, and don't have to prove their super-patriotic and looney credentials, they may have less need to actually dispense death than a Bill Clinton, and they might even be obliged to show a reasonableness and restraint that a weak and opportunistic "liberal" might consider a political liability.
As Uncle does get back into the ring it is fun to watch how he continues his long practice of arrogating to himself rights he denies others, while at the same time getting very indignant when these inferiors presume to do what he does all the time. The recent ouster of 50 Russians upon discovery that the Russians spy on us-- my God, how amazing, and how audacious of them! They apparently fail to understand that only we can spy. And the Chinese, objecting to our spy planes on their coast, do not recognize that our planes themselves are "sovereign" territory, while the Chinese mainland has a more dubious status. They must accept the fact that Uncle Chutzpah has long done this kind of spying and will continue to do it to advance our "national security," until they can pose a credible military response to Uncle's intrusions.
Uncle's officials' sense of a natural right to dominate goes back into the nineteenth century, but I used to read to my students a beauty from 1954, shortly after the Chinese Communist victory, when U.S. officials and pundits were already claiming that the CHINESE were planning on subverting everywhere:
Representative Frederick R. Coudert. Did I correctly understand you to say that the heart of the present policy toward China and Formosa is that there is to be kept alive a constant threat of military action vis-a-vis Red China in the hope that at some point there will be an internal break- down?
Walter S. Robertson, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs. Yes, sir. That is my conception.
Coudert. In other words, a cold war waged under the leadership of the United States, with constant threat of attack against China, led by Formosa and other Far Eastern groups, and militarily backed by the United States?
Coudert. Fundamentally, does this mean that the United States is undertaking to maintain for an indefinite period of years American dominance in the Far East?
Robertson. Yes. Exactly.
(Hearings before the House Committee on Appropriations, Jan. 26, 1954.)
I used to substitute names and words into this exchange making it a Chinese exchange, then asking the students if the exchange demonstrated that the claims of intended Chinese subversion and aggression were not justified. Naturally, they all said: clearly and obviously. And most of them were pretty shaken when it turned out to be an Uncle Chutzpah statement.
Uncle has also long denied anybody else the right of self- defense once he chooses a violent course of action. When Uncle decided he was going to overthrow the elected government of Guatemala in 1953-1954, and organized a little proxy army in the then friendly-fascist state of Nicaragua preparatory to an invasion, the Guatemalan government's importation of a shipment of small arms from Czechoslavakia caused hysteria in Washington and the mainstream media; that government thought it had a right to defend itself when Uncle was organizing for its ouster! The New York Times's--and on and off State Department and Pentagon official--Leslie Gelb, listed Vietnam as an "outlaw" in 1993, noting that "they shot Americans"--who had invaded their country from across the ocean to impose a government of U.S. choice, but whose people had no right to shoot at the invaders. There is imperialist chutzpah for you. And of course Nicaragua had no right to resist the terrorist contra army under U.S. sponsorship in the 1980s. When the World Court found the United States guilty of the "unlawful use of force" in this case and declared that it should pay reparations, the court had obviously overstepped its authority and was therefore properly ignored. Only when it agrees with Uncle has it (and the UN) found its proper vocation.
The media of course always go along with Uncle in his principle that he is above the law. The media apologetics for the overthrow of the democratic government of Guatemala in 1954 was total; Gelb's statement on Vietnam being an outlaw because they "shot Americans" invading their country was hardly out of line; the New York Times editorialized that the World Court was biased when it ruled in favor of Nicaragua in 1986. And when Madeleine Albright stated that "We will act multilaterally when we can, unilaterally as we must," implying that the United States was not to be bound by UN or legal strictures, this elicited no unfavorable mainstream media reaction.
The media have reported that China's lost pilot was "an aggressive 'cowboy'" (Philadelphia Inquirer, April 6, 2001), and that "Chinese Pilot Reveled in Risk, U.S. Aides Say" (NYT, April 6, 2001). Well, if U.S. officials say this this is surely worth featuring, rather than the Chinese claim that the collision resulted from an aggressive action by the pilot of the spy plane. This reporting also contrasts dramatically with the media's treatment of a more compelling report back in 1989 that Will Rogers, the U.S. naval commander of the Vincennes, which shot down an Iranian civilian airliner in 1988 that killed 290 civilians, was also an irresponsible cowboy. David Carlson, Commander of the USS Sides, a naval vessel that had been in the vicinity of the Vincennes, wrote in the naval publication Proceedings (September 1989), that under Rogers' command the Vincennes was "consistently aggressive" and that "'Robo cruiser' was the unamusing nickname" that naval people had given to his boat, which shot down an airliner that was strictly on its assigned course. The New York Times never mentioned this case of a "Robo Cruiser," nor did it ever report that this cowboy was given a Legion of Merit award in 1989 for "meritorious service" for his work on the Vincennes.
Some allegations of "cowboys" merit front page mention; others deserve black hole treatment, on principles of selection that are all too obvious in what Michael Massing calls "a great newspaper" (The Nation, April 16, 2001).