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  • Monday, September 12, 2005


    Revolution Now!

    I've been slowly reading Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century by Stan Goff. Slowly not because it's difficult to understand, but to digest his points. His military background gives his ruminations and conclusions on the pragmatic uses and abuses of armed force weight and power. He couples this with a decidedly sympathetic attitude toward genuinely oppressed people using military arms to empower themselves and take control of government. The result is short of inciting armed revolution but it still gives a strong refutation to the path of liberals and even progressives in the US.
    There is a naive and dangerous faith among people of good will in the churches and coffeehouses and campuses of America and Europe that "righteousness" will win out. Failing to grasp the full context of the nonviolent struggle against British colonialism in India and against Jim Crow in the U.S., where neither could have happened except against the backdrop of a well-armed socialist bloc, there is an ahistorical faith in nonviolent resistance combined with moral imperialism that leads progressives to distance themselves from aggressive armed resistance. Support for the Zapatistas has been so broad precisely because the EZLN has limited its objectives and avoided combat. Liberals and many anarchists are down with that. For entirely different reasons, each of these constituencies opposes any contest for state power. This is lethal when it is the state that is bent on your extermination. And it's why I'm not and never will be a progressive. [p. 41]
    This is key to understanding the lack of responsiveness in the U.S. government (Congress and the Presidency) to non-violent protests of various types. The ways in which our government holds power over us are myriad and the goads to obedience are often less than subtle. The US left's outrage when violence is committed against any protest marchers is hollow because they mostly eschew and repudiate violent tactics. Taking the moral high ground against an institutional embodiment of violence like the US government is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. Or, more appropriately, bringing your strong pacifist beliefs to fight a violent sociopath with a gun. You may stay true to your moral compass but you'll be dead. And, unless you're one of the few exceptionally charismatic personalities who would make a fine martyr, your death will be noted only by a small circle of friends. [Let's give a round of applause to Mr. Phil Ochs.]
    One cannot defend oneself against an unleashed army from "moral" high ground. One needs real high ground -- as in key terrain -- and one needs cover and concealment, well-covered avenues of approach, well-appointed automatic weapons, appropriate tactics, and reliable logistics.[...]

    When any conflict, regardless of its social and political content, escalates to war, war itself asserts a stark logic. All other objectives are sublated into the choice between destroying the enemy's capacity and will to fight or perishing as a viable military force. Military operations are shaped and directed by political objectives -- a fact the U.S. military has yet to grasp in all its complexity -- but the conduct of war is brutally physical. It is the desolate and hideous application of physical laws to the project of open and absolute destruction. When a people or a movement is the target of that destruction, it must employ the same cold pragmatism in its defense, or it will drown in its own blood.
    I've never been a total philosophical pacifist. I've seen non-violence and passive resistance work well in some situations but for me it's always been a tactic for change, not a end position. And, no, I'm not advocating taking up arms against the US government or shooting politicians I disagree with. But I am questioning the effectiveness of protest marches to attain political goals.

    An example is the hunger strike. There has been a long tradition in Ireland of hunger strikes for justice. My understanding is that it was a last resort to attain justice or restitution when you've been wronged. Although we often hear of hunger strikes in prisons due to inhumane conditions, it also used to be a very personal tactic. You went and camped on the doorstep of the person who had wronged you, refusing food (and I think water) until either the person corrected the wrong or you died. Like the albatross around the neck of the ancient mariner, your corpse was the sign to the world of exactly how grievous the injustice done to you by that person. Their honor was forever sullied in that town. Perhaps businesses would no longer allow the person into their shops or do work for them.

    In our mobile society, this is less of a personal issue. The person would just move away, avoiding any opprobrium in the community. Plus it is difficult to sully the honor of people who don't have any.

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