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Could a Nobel Peace Prize injure the sphincter muscle?

“None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to this act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.” – Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2006

It is getting harder and harder to write about all of this stuff nowadays, every time I start, the old gag reflex kicks in.



This would all be simpler if we conceded that gradually after WWII and picking up speed dramatically after 9-11, the United States has evolved into a corporate-military-security state… in short a “regime”.

And like our fellow old Cold Warriors, the Soviet Union, (which also was a corporate-military-security state-regime), we need to wrap our realpolitik in millenarian ideology… “We are building global democratic capitalism comrades“.

The “end of history” and all that… while we force-feed political prisoners in our Guantanamo gulag, kill American citizens without trial, etc, etc.

The present news cycle: with the absurd “where’s Wally?” of the Snowden affair… and the Egyptian coup d’etat that is not a coup d’etat, where an army that literally lives off American aid (in exchange for not troubling Israel) massacres the supporters of a legitimate, democratically elected government that they have overthrown manu militari, without the White House even giving them a sharp tug on their leash… impossible for anyone, anywhere to believe that the USA has not colluded in all of this… all of this brings us face to face with our hypocrisy… rubs our noses in it really.

Perhaps hypocrisy is to be preferred to cynicism, because as La Rochefoucauld famously said, “Hypocrisy is the homage which vice pays to virtue“,  which means that if good didn’t exist, bad people wouldn’t have to pretend to be good… Which is probably the best you can say about America’s present performance on the world stage.

America’s post-September 11th national-security state has become so well financed, so divided into secret compartments, so technically capable, so self-perpetuating, and so captured by profit-seeking contractors bidding on the next big idea about big-data mining that intelligence leaders seem to have lost their facility to think independently. Who is deciding what spying projects matter most and why? The New Yorker

These days, President Obama reminds me a bit of Mikhail Gorbachev, more by the hopes that so many people around the world misplaced in both men and their Nobel Peace Prizes, rather than any personal resemblance between them.

Gorbachev, when he was in power, was infinitely more experienced, not only politically, but though his life trajectory and with a much deeper understanding of the system he wanted to reform and also a much more sincere commitment to reforming that system and not just making beautiful speeches filled with “soaring rhetoric” about how nice “change” and “hope” were.

Gorbachev, unlike Obama, didn’t just “talk  the talk”,  he “walked the walk” and in so doing proved that intervening in huge, complex and corrupted systems, is likely to end in disaster. Obama has proved that talking is much more personally productive than walking. But like a great African American said, many years ago, “he can run, but he can’t hide”.

Another wise old fellow once said something to the effect that the present cannot judge itself anymore than we can judge a person by what he thinks of himself, that time alone will be the judge of our present affairs, but that old man also said that the present is always pregnant with the future and in time it will be clear that everything that is to come tomorrow was present in some form today, right now, under our noses waiting to come to fruition. Sobering thought that… nu?

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David Seaton

David Seaton